Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Corpi Flessuosi

This is one of my three costumes for Turandot, and by far the most beautiful. I'm wearing a skin-colored bodysuit underneath, so once it's onstage with the lights, the effect is quite sensual. I am one of the courtesans (corpi flessousi, or "willowy bodies") offered to Calaf in hopes of getting him to tell us his name. Amazing costume! The 8-inch platform shoes were cut tonight, replaced with embroidered slippers. We are now able to move much more sensuously, as we aren't as worried about falling over!

The whole opera really came together tonight. We had a small audience, so that extra element was in play. As one of my castmates said, once there's an audience, we all care a bit more. It's not just another run-through, it's a performance. For better or worse, he's right.

Very tired now. Off to bed! Five hours of rehearsal tomorrow afternoon, and a Girls' Night with the other lady apprentices while the men have another Barber of Seville dress rehearsal. Fun times! Posted by Hello

MIT survey on blogging/bloggers

Patty over at oboeinsight posted a link to MIT's survey of bloggers and blogging. Should be interesting to see the results of the survey (expected in early July); I wonder what exactly they're looking to learn.

Anyway, if you're a blogger, take a few minutes and put in your $0.02.

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Blog Roll

I’ve been adding new blogs to my Links sidebar recently, so I thought I’d give a little review of what’s over there. The Music Links are all pretty self-explanatory, but here’s a recap:

The Rest is Noise – Alex Ross’s blog, notes on his book in progress, and his New Yorker articles

The Standing Room - musings on music of all kinds, and the occasional rant against the San Francisco parking situation; also my first "out of bloggy" experience!

Tomness, Les Histoires de moi, and Canadienne – fellow singers - a baritone, a mezzo, and a soprano - chronicling their careers

oboeinsight, In the Wings, Notes of All Kinds, Of Music and Men – an obosit, two pianists, and a former-Seattle Symphony Concertmaster

Prima la Musica, An Unamplified Voice, La Cieca, Kinderkuchen for the FBI – opera fans and insiders (insight-ers?)

Ionarts, Arts Journal Music – music news and reviews from around the world, ionarts focusing on the DC area

In the non-music category (generally), I greatly enjoy the food blog Orangette, the writer of whom lives in Seattle. (I dream of someday joining the inner sanctum and being invited over for a Sunday morning breakfast…) She also contributes to the online “magazine” Saucy.

Fashion is relatively new interest. A Dress a Day, Manolo’s Shoe Blog, and I Am Fashion provide insights into past, present, and future fashion trends. Also, drool over the lastest runway collections at Vogue.com. Someday I will wear a couture gown, preferably one that has been sent to me for free from the designer!

I have two dear friends who blog: Chiara at Ampersand and Calin at The Dilettante Traveler. (She has said that she will come see me perform anywhere in the world; I think it’s a pleasant excuse to plan a trip! So far she’s followed me to Boston, Tanglewood, and LA, with trips planned for Santa Fe and London. Watch for some blog cross-references!)

Happy reading!

Saturday, June 25, 2005


Just got home from the Turandot run-through. I’m starving, of course, and very tired. My hair looks fabulous, as it always does after being in pin-curls under wigs and hats all night. Gorgeous soft curls! I’ll get a picture one of these nights. But the trouble with pin-curl hair is that it only happens after a show, which means it’s very late, which means I’m too tired to go out and be cute with my fancy hair. Oh, the injustice!

All in all, the run-through went well. There are still a few holes and awkward moments, but it will come together just fine. It is a visually stunning show, to be certain. Turandot’s last costume is exquisite! My Act Three costume involves a wig that falls to the back of my knees, a sheer black kimono with gold embroidery and enormous sleeves, and – get this – 8-inch platform sandals. Ha!. I have an escort with me at all times, but there was still a moment or two where I felt more than a little precarious! I’m hopeful that with a few small blocking changes all fear of falling can be eased. At least from my mind; I can’t speak for the other two courtesans! They each have their own concerns, I think. But we look amazing!

Time for a quick snack, another go at my face with some soap, and then to bed. I have a rehearsal at 1:30 tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll be doing my best to sleep in. We’ll see if the puppies will cooperate…

PS I've had a request for updates on voice lessons! I'll try to get to that tomorrow, too. Had another one today that went very well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Balm for the Soul

For various reasons, I was in a pretty bad mood when I got to rehearsal this morning. (It is very stressful trying to close on a house from a thousand miles away! I finally told our insurance company that I can not be the main contact person for our new policy. A) I don’t always know the answers to their questions, and b) it is really hard to think about all that when I’m away from home AND up to my ears (haha) in three operas a day.) This morning I had two frustrating conversations with a very nice insurance agent, the last of which started five minutes before I needed to be heading out the door. Not a great start to the morning.

But this morning’s rehearsal? Turandot Sitzprobe (sit and sing, no staging). All I needed was the sound of that Puccini orchestra swarming around me, and all was again right with the world. It was a rough day in many ways – I really miss my community of friends! – but in every hour of rehearsal I was reminded of the power of music to soothe.

Tonight I’m having dinner with friends, and I’m sure there will be some griping about the days events. But around it all will be hanging the ghosts of those beautiful melodies, those exquisite harmonies, that magical gift of music.

Monday, June 20, 2005

I know that guy!

Congratulations to my friend, composer Judd Greenstein, who is given a nice mention in the New Yorker this week! (And thanks to Alex Ross for posting his articles on his blog! I always find them there before I actually see the issue.) Not only were Judd and I Fellows at Tanglewood together last summer, but he is the mystery composer I mentioned a while back, with whom I am planning a recording project for next year. Details of the project are still getting worked out, but I am sure that it will be an exciting collaboration. And hopefully not the last!

Way to go, Judd!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

First Two Weeks

A pictures tells a thousand words, right, so these six pictures should make up a bit for my lack of posting over the week. Right? It’s been a full week, with staging rehearsals for Turandot (we had our first ‘stumble-through’ yesterday, with a week to polish it up before tech rehearsals start); chorus rehearsals and cover coachings (1st Niece) for Peter Grimes, which I think starts staging on the 23rd; a rough voice lesson, followed the next day by an incredible lesson with a different teacher (more on that later); and my ‘re-audition,’ where I sang one aria in order to reacquaint the music staff with my voice so they can start thinking about assignments for scenes. I’m really hoping for a good bel canto duet or scene, maybe from Don Pasquale or Elixir of Love. A romantic scene with a tenor would be great, because we have so many tall tenors here!! It would be really fun to get to wear heels and still gaze UP into my partner’s eyes . . . I’ll let you know; we hope to get our assignments this week.

Also this week, I’ve have to get used to not having Erik here. He was here for ten days, and fell very quickly and naturally into his role as ‘house husband!’ He made me breakfast and coffee every morning, helped with dinner, and did all kinds of errands and chores while I was at work. It was great! A real glimpse into what we hope our future will look like at some point. But this week I was often running out the door a little late, forgetting breakfast or my snacks for the day.

Tomorrow we start music rehearsals for Ainadamar. I talked with the coach last night, and when he learned that I’d performed the opera before, he said I could chime in at any time during rehearsal to let him know if he was getting something wrong! Well, I’ve actually thought about this, and I’ve decided that I am not going to be that annoying singer: “That’s not right. When we did it at Tanglewood/in LA, we did is this way.” That can get old really fast!! So I told him that I am planning on keeping my mouth shut (except to sing), but that if he had questions, he could ask me anything. He seemed to agree that that was a better way of approaching things! Staging rehearsals start the week of July 4th for this opera. Another coach mentioned that my singing role, which was offstage in past productions, may not necessarily be offstage this time. That would be great, but we’ll wait and see. Regardless, I am looking forward to seeing what Peter Sellars has to bring to the table. And it will be so good to see Dawn and Osvaldo again.

Time to round up the dogs and head to bed. Another busy week starts at 10am!

The Crosby Theatre

These are wind blockers - or rather, deflectors - that are positioned on the western side of the open air theatre. It still gets windy enough inside that music stands come equipped with big clips to hold your pages down. And forget having coiffed hair . . . Posted by Hello


That percentage? That's humidity. It is so dry!!! I've never had problems with dry skin, but now I slather on the lotion every day. And forget trying to sing if I haven't been drinking enough water, which, here, is three liters. Yikes. Posted by Hello

Rehearsal Hall

On days that Barber of Seville is rehearsing in the theatre, the crew moves sections of the Turandot set into this room, which is also used for orchestra rehearsals. It's pretty amazing to have almost the full set in a space other than the theatre. A great time saver. Posted by Hello

The best perk

After three to six hours of rehearsal, taking a dip in the pool on the campus is a most refreshing way to end the day. I'm being extra careful about sun exposure, but I am determined to have a tan by the end of the summer!! Posted by Hello

Home away from home

This is my room. You can see my desk by the window, and my makeshift practice station. It all works very well. I can watch KD chasing geckos in the garden while I sit at the desk. The framed pictures on the wall are costume sketches that Pam, my hostess, made while she worked at the Met. Posted by Hello

Who's that diva?

Here I am, looking like a real live opera singer - in black, with a scarf, wearing full makeup, and holding my little dog!  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


If you are in New York City, or nearby and love art song, take a trip to Lincoln Center tomorrow night for the finals of the Naumburg Foundation Competition. Two colleagues of mine, one real and one in the computer, will be singing! There are only four finalists, two sopranos and two baritones, and each will be presenting a 35-minute recital program. (Tom lists his program and notes on his blog.) I know it will be an amazing evening of music.

The concert is at 7pm in Alice Tully Hall. Tickets are only $10!! Buy them here.

I so wish I could be there to cheer them on! Good luck to all!!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Diva Inside

I was paid a great compliment yesterday. I was talking with two new colleagues, baritones both, about Santa Fe’s season next year. I mentioned that I intended for this to be my last summer away from home, but that when I saw that they were doing Magic Flute, I was tempted to reconsider. DG asked if I wanted to sing one of the Three Ladies, and I said, no, that I’d want to cover (or sing!) the Queen! He then replied, “Oh, you’re a soprano? I thought you were a mezzo – you’re so grounded. You’re not flighty enough to be a coloratura!” Haha! I was amused and flattered.

Then today I had a coaching with Nico Castel, a wonderful resource to have “on hand” for part of the summer. I sang through “Qui la voce,” my newest aria and first real attempt at bel canto style singing. Whenever I would get to a cadenza (an interpolated passage of notes, usually not written by the composer, and usually very florid), Mr. Castel and Pedro, the accompanist, exchanged glances and raised eyebrows. I was pretty sure that was good, but you never know! Then, when I got to the sustained high note at the end, I chickened out and didn’t hold it very long. After complimenting me on most of my singing, Mr. Castel said, “But that last note? It’s too short. After all those fireworks you gave us, we were left wanting! I call it ‘cantus interuptus.’” (Get it?)

So, what to do? I’m still nervous about sustained high notes, and I think he may have hit on a big reason why. I am so proud of my non-diva attitude offstage, that I don’t bring out the Diva that needs to be there to sing those notes. Mr. Castel talked of the anticipation that can be built in the audience when a singer has given them thrilling moment after thrilling moment in an aria and the brings them to what they know will be the final high note, the climax. By taking some time to really prepare yourself to sing that note well, you can also create a feeling of expectancy in that moment. And so I gave it a shot. I sang the penultimate passage, which ends on a high C, then took a moment as Pedro held the dominant chord in tremolo. I brought my hands in front of me, in true diva style, took a big breathe, and let it rip. And I could tell by Mr. Castel’s reaction that it was just what he’d been waiting for.

So while I’m maintaining my “Diva Next Door” persona offstage, it’s time to embrace the Diva onstage. The Diva who leaves her audience breathless, who makes them wait for the notes she knows they came to hear. And who can deliver them every time.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Santa Fe vs. Seattle

Anne Carolyn asked me to post a blog entry about my time in Santa Fe and the past couple of weeks. I have happily been playing the role of husband-in-tow. A role I wouldn't mind making a more permanent position.

I have been struck by both how different Santa Fe is from Seattle, and how wonderful it is. I thought I would go over some of the differences.
  • In Seattle, Anne Carolyn makes me breakfast and coffee while I get ready for work. Here I am the house husband and our roles are reversed. While she is off staging blocking and coaching arias I've been doing laundry, and running errands. (lots of reading and vacationing too)
  • In Santa Fe bread does not mold. Your sandwich will however start to get dry like it was slightly toasted before you finish it. The humidity here is currently 16%.
  • In Santa Fe at night with the windows open you can hear crickets. Where I grew up in the Seattle area you could hear frogs at night. I do not envy the frog that finds itself in Santa Fe.
  • In Seattle a drought means that we are several inches short on our rainfall and the snowpack in the mountains isn't what it should be. In Santa Fe a drought is where it is so dry that half of the extremely hardy Pinion trees die off. (with the help of a bark beetle that can do some damage when times are dry)
  • Speaking of water, there is no standing water to speak of in Santa Fe while Seattle is between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington with a half dozen other lakes in the city limits. On the maps here there are dry riverbeds marked. "Arroyo" is the special name for these.
  • From what I can tell there may be only one tree indigenous to this area: the pinion. A big one might come close to 2 stories but most of them are less than 15 feet. The amount of trees native to the Seattle area is too long to list here... Fir, Cedar, Maple, Alder, the list goes on and on.
  • In Seattle you can tell the age of a house by it's architectural style. Not so here. The majority of structures (not just houses) could be put in the broad category of "Adobe". There is a smattering of other SW styles as well as your typical doublewide, but adobe is the clear winner.
  • Seattle: traffic? -oh yeah. Santa Fe? -not so much.
  • While I am sure they exist, it is hard to imagine a cube-farm in Santa Fe. Cube-farms are rampant in the greater Seattle area. (if you are fortunate enough to not know what a cube-farm is, think Dilbert)

Don't get me wrong, Seattle is a beautiful and wonderful place but I have discovered that so is Santa Fe.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Some wonderful quotes and thoughts on practicing over at oboeinsight, the blog of Patricia Mitchell, principal oboist for Opera San Jose and freelancer in the Bay Area.

Some of the best quotes are from golfers! Here are two great ones:

Practice puts your brains in your muscles.
-Sam Snead (1912 - 2002) US golfer

The formula for success is simple: practice and concentration then more practice and more concentration.
-Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1914 - 1956) US sportswoman, golfer

I have enjoyed golf the few times I’ve played. A friend once recommended that I simultaneously take up tennis, rather than tackle the sports one at a time, as the two would offer cross-training possibilities. Looks like there may be cross-training between golf and my current profession…

Does that mean golf lessons would be tax-deductible?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Santa Fe sunset

It almost looked like a forest fire! About ten minutes after it faded, a strong wind picked up. It was so blustery I almost expected it to hail! Posted by Hello

Erik and Friends

Doesn't he looked well rested! Erik in our "summer home" with KD and Madison. His two week vacation ends this weekend. I will certainly miss him...  Posted by Hello

The blushing bride

This is a picture of my mother's mother (Mamma), her three daughters, their daughters, and my mother's daughter-in-law and granddaughter! We certainly all look related. Posted by Hello

Are you sure you're going the right way?

KD was a tireless navigator! Posted by Hello

On the road!

Erik seems to be catching up on some sleep...  Posted by Hello

In Santa Fe!

Where to start? The past two weeks have been, as expected, very full and not a little stressful. Our drive from Seattle to Santa Fe (via Boulder, CO) went fairly smoothly. KD was a fabulous traveler, but we did manage to get a flat tire in eastern Washington while it was 95 degrees. All in all, it only added about two hours to our trip, and we made it to my folks house with no further trouble. Two days were spent in Boulder helping to prepare for the Event of the Year - Sally's wedding! She and Steve were married on Sunday, but before that, Erik and I made it all the way to Santa Fe for my first few days as an Apprentice.

We arrived Wednesday evening to meet Pam, my host for the summer. She and her sweet puppy, Madison, are sharing their beautiful home with KD, Erik and me. There is a fenced yard with lots of room for the dogs to run, and there are several seating areas all around, so there is always a spot in the sun or in the shade, which ever you'd prefer. I'm enjoying getting to know Pam, who had a 20 year career as an opera director in houses all over the country, including the Met. There are prints of Zeffirelli costume sketches in the living room - a gift for an opening night of Tosca. She is now working as a graphic designer, having opted to leave the opera world "while [she] still loved it." I think we will be very happy here.

Then, bright and early on Thursday morning, I started my Apprenticeship. It felt like the first day of school! Butterflies in my stomach, and so many questions:
* What should I wear? (I decided on black capris, white cotton blouse, and a teal shawl.)
* What will we do today? (General meeting and tour of the grounds, followed by a read through of the Turandot choruses, lunch, and more Turandot.)
* Will the people be nice? (Of course they were. I have several old friends and colleagues here already, and am quickly making new ones. There is a general atmosphere of fun and enjoyment of our work, but with an understanding and expectation that all the hard work will get done. It feels like a good place to work.)
* Am I prepared? (Yes, it seems, at least for Turandot. We start Peter Grimes rehearsals in earnest tomorrow, so we'll see about those tricky choruses.)

After just two days in Santa Fe, we started our 48-hour Wedding Marathon. We left Santa Fe at 5:30 Saturday morning, flew out of Albequerque, and arrived in Boulder in time for the Bridesmaids' luncheon. We pretty much stayed at full throttle for the next two days! The luncheon; a rehearsal with the church pianist, Kris, for my song Sunday morning (I sang "The Holy City," a favorite song of my granddaddy); the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner; church Sunday morning, at which half of the sanctuary was filled with family, half of whom cried while I was singing. I kept my eyes squarely on the back wall and thought of random vegetables in order to keep froom getting choked up myself!); then preparation for the wedding (I did a lot of makeup, including the beautiful bride); the wedding; the first reception, large in guest list and small in scale (cake and punch); lots and lots of pictures; the larger reception, smaller in guest list and larger in scale (buffet, dancing, etc.); and then we hit the road and flew back to Santa Fe! Erik was a invaluable helper, keeping me sane and taking care of last minute tasks. There was so much family there, I think I only spent about 15 minutes with each of them. It was a crazy weekend, but full of love and happiness amidst the madness.

Yesterday, we started staging rehearsals for Turandot. I really like the director, Douglas Fitch, who is the main set designer, also. I was surprised to learn that this is his first time directing an opera, because I think he is handling rehearsals very well. He has a good team, and we wrapped up Act I today. Tomorrow brings Act II and another working rehearsal for Peter Grimes.

I'll write more soon about costumes (I have three for Turandot alone!), altitude adjustment, and some new trouble with my jaw. And I'll post some pictures!
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