Saturday, December 30, 2006

'06, '06, a hell of a year

2006 is almost over, and one place I will definitely NOT be on NYE is Times Square. Even if it weren’t supposed to be raining, I would hate to be in that crowd! Something a bit more sedate and contemplative for me this year… And, hopefully, festive, too, as I’ll spend the afternoon cheering Jay Cutler and the Broncos to a wild card spot in the playoffs (hopefully!)!!

Last year, I did a year-end recap of the concert, listing the first line of the first post of each month. When I did the exercise again this year, it didn’t quite seem to capture the magnitude of what this year has been for me.

When I think of where I was last year at this time, it feels like a lifetime ago. Living in a beautiful house in Seattle, married and starting to face the end of my marriage, uncertain about my professional future. Now, I’m in New York City, in a tiny apartment, single and dating but not “looking” (which is a really weird combination), still uncertain - but much less so now that I have a team behind me - about my career path, and about to start a job at the Big House. How can any meme capture that monstrous and substantial shift?

I’ve gone back over my writing from last year and the first part of this year, up to the hiatus, and I can sense the burgeoning change in my life as it comes through in my words. There was a patina, a layer of gloss over everything, both here on the concert and in the rest of my life. I’ve shed that now, I think, mostly, and my whole life feels more honest as a result. I’m not sure how much of that process you readers were really aware of, but thanks for being there nonetheless.

New York still doesn’t quite feel like home. In the cab on the way home from the airport, as the skyline appeared, I thought about how I’d just spent 8 days on a gig – hotel room, new instant (and some, hopefully, lasting) friendships, music-making at a very high level, shopping – then 8 days with my parents – sleeping in my sister’s room, making vegetarian versions of dishes I’ve eaten at home for years, the warmth and familiarity of my family but in a place that was never home for me, shopping – and now I’m back “home.” Except it kind of feels like I’m here for a long-term gig. Maybe I am; I have no idea what will make me stay or leave NYC. A job? A relationship? Maybe it will happen in 2007, but probably not. I’m just doing my best to stay open to the possibilities, while staying true to this new, honest way of living my life. I’m not pretending to have all the answers anymore!

Happy New Year, everybody. May 2007 find us all living our lives with honesty and love, without fear and surrounded by music!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Blogroll Update

Here are a few more blogs I’ve added to my Bloglines feeder over the past few months, and a couple I’ve been reading for a while now but have somehow neglected to get on the blogroll. As always, the full blogroll can be found here; I’ve updated the sidebar blogroll, as well.

Campbell Vertesi - Young (newlywed) bass expounds on the state of opera.
eighth blackbird - The new music darlings are blogging!
Foodie NYC - local food blogging
Jessica Duchen - London-based music writer and novelist
MetBlog - the New Met
Musical Perceptions
Opera Chic - Opera Chic goes to La Scala and you don’t
SoHo the Dog - My new favorite music geek
Sequenza21 - Reports on contempory classical music

iTunes knows what’s up

Entertainment Weekly might have ignored classical music in their year-end review, but iTunes didn’t! I was impressed to see that the New Music Tuesday email from iTunes included “year’s best” lists for classical and jazz in addition to the usual suspects (twelve categories all told). The Staff Favorite lists in the iTunes Store also showed a wide range of genres, featuring Dvorak’s Serenades and Mozart Symphonies mixed in with Justin Timberlake and Neko Case (love!). I think it’s safe to say that a lot of young people prefer to mix it up a bit when it comes to their listening choices; I don’t know many people who only listen to one type of music. How boring would that be? As for me, I got an iTunes gift care for Christmas (didn’t we all?!), and I plan to buy Romeo et Juliette (Slatkin, Domingo, Swenson), Cold War Kids, and Stevie Wonder (still a toss up between Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life). I don’t know the numbers, but I’m guessing that most iTuners are on the younger side of the music-buyers’ spectrum, so this is yet another indicator of classical music’s continuing life. If we kids are still buying it, well, then, it must be doing alright!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sonny says...

... Merry Christmas!

The snow storm in Colorado was beautiful - since we watched it from the warmth and safety of home! The front yard turned into Narnia, and the lake behind my parents' church is a picture postcard of winter beauty. There is still plenty of snow, most of it still lovely and pristine, and it just started snowing again! A fresh blanket for Christmas Eve.

I have a few presents to wrap and a last few batches of cookies to bake. Between services tonight, we'll have eggnog and listen to Amahl. Then to bed so Santa can come!

Hope you are surrounded by love tonight and always.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

PBO notes

Before I get to anything else, here’s the answer to the “what’s up, Bach” question from last week. (Sorry for the pun; expect more, since I’m with my dad for a week…) I can’t find my source, so now I’m wondering if I made this up, but somewhere I read that the last third of the soprano-baritone duet in the E-flat Magnificat (Virga Jesse floruit) was completed by a student of Bach’s, from J.S.’s sketches. (Meaning, he wrote a sort of “outline” for the music and the student filled it in.) Stephen Stubbs seemed to know about it, too, so maybe I’m not totally off base. But regardless, the last two pages seem to be written in a different musical “language,” so much so that I had a hard time learning the notes!

I’ve gotten to the point with Bach where I can look at a melisma (long run of notes) and say, “Ok, this is that kind of Bach run; got it.” I know Bach’s language, and don’t have to think too much as I’m learning a new piece. Just like verbal language, musical languages have characteristics and qualities that are unique to individual composers. Mozart, Britten, Reich, Weill. These composers all have languages that are their own, easily recognizable and, once you’ve mastered them, easily read.

But this?! I was lost. I had to learn the final melisma note by note, analyzing the harmonic structure, playing around with the phrasing, trying anything to get the notes to stick. So strange! As Stephen put it, when he heard it for the first time, “Hmm, I’m not sure Bach would have done that.”

Can anyone verify that there’s some truth to this? I know that the E-flat Magnificat was written first (Bach later took out the more specific Nativity movements to make it less seasonal and transposed it down to D Major to create the version most often performed today); why would someone else have finished a movement at that point in Bach’s life? Of course, I know modern composers who have asked students/collaborators to finish compositions, so maybe this is more common practice than we think. Ideas?

Other Messiah blurbs:

In “The Trumpet Shall Sound,” there is a phrase that gets passed back and forth between the trumpet and the violins. I noticed at the dress rehearsal that the violins copied BB’s ornaments, and I thought they’d rehearsed and marked in what he was going to play. But then in the first performance, he played something different – and so did they! He mixed it up every night, and they were all right there with him, literally “playing” along. It was a moment I looked forward to every night: Stump the Violins, if you will!

I had one of those moments every singer dreads: I got lost! It was during the first full Messiah performance, and, of course, during “If God be for us,” the aria I know the least. I started to sing the end to the second melisma when I was in the middle of the first. I had about four measures of complete floundering! Ack!! I made eye contact with Stephen, as if to say “Help!” but what could he do? We had to keep going… I had to laugh, though, when I got to the end of the phrase and looked ahead to see what was next. The text? “Who is he that condemneth?” Ha! I sang that line a bit tongue in cheek, and I could have sworn I heard a small chuckle in the audience, too!

Ah, the joys of live performance…

Holiday Geekery

SoHo the Dog wins this week's music geekery prize!

He has analyzed the Presbyterian hymnal, noting the starting pitches of Christmans hymns versus non-Christmas hymns. (Follow the link for the discovery.) I think he must either be finished with his Christmas shopping or procrastinating!

He gets really math-y about it, too, but manages to come up with a hypothesis that is spiritually very sweet. I could even see my Dad using it as a sermon illustration... if he were preaching to music geeks!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


All the talk at our final performance Monday night was of the horrible review we got in the local paper. Ouch!!

There was much laughing and assuring each other that what the reviewer said was untrue. I have it on good authority that I don’t generally have pitch problems, so I’m taking MP’s tack and assuming it was the strangeness of the Baroque pitch and period instruments that gave the reviewer that impression. The recitatives (talky parts) before “Glory to God” were accompanied by harp, which was cool, but I definitely had to concentrate a bit more to hear my pitch center. It’s not insignificant, the change in the aural atmosphere from strings to harp or piano to strings. So while I recognize that I might have had a moment of pitch uncenteredness in the early rehearsals, that hardly qualifies as having trouble staying on pitch.

As for “too operatic” an approach, I have no idea what he means. Vocally? Dramatically? We couldn’t figure it out. But we all had a blast at Monday’s touch-up rehearsal and warm-up, deliberately playing up the things he said were bad! DW, the countertenor, made me laugh loudly and inappropriately with his “blank face!” And there were plenty of fake yawns in the rehearsal; hopefully no real ones in the performance…

I was upset about the review for about an hour, and despite the fun and games during the rehearsal, I needed some reassurance from my colleagues that I was, indeed, on pitch. It’s hard not to let a negative review get under your skin! But, art is subjective. This was one man’s opinion based on one evening’s work. If we believe the good reviews, to some extent we have to believe the bad ones, too.

My friend BMB summed it up well. When she adjudicates young singers, she indicates that her opinions are just that, based on one hearing. If her comments are in line with what other people have been saying to the singer, they should maybe take them into consideration. But if they seem to be out in left field, she tells them to feel free to ignore them! So, following this logic, I’ll choose to ignore the review.

But I’ll also choose to sing on pitch.


I’m in Boulder, safe and sound and snuggly warm. It is snowing hard outside, with eight inches already on the ground and no sign of stopping. Sonny, my parent’s boxer-mix, was very “helpful” when Dad shoveled the driveway – he’d attack the fully-loaded shovel from behind, knocking all the snow out! Thanks, dog.

It’ll be my turn to shovel in a few hours. So until then, I’m trying to catch up on Messiah thoughts. I promise I’ll get to the cool Bach trivia! And my folks have a camera cable, so I’ll post some pics.

Happy Winter!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006


I have a wonderful concert gown that I bought for last year’s concerts with Seattle Baroque. I bought it with CT the DT at a bridal shop in Wallingford, so it was my first gown that didn’t come from Nordstrom Rack or (C)Ross Dress for Less! (Two of my best gowns were less than $30, both at Ross!! Shhhhh…) This gown is beautiful cinnamon color, and is actually a skirt and a separate bustier. I instantly fell in love with the silhouette of the skirt; called a “souffle” skirt, it is gathered and tucked in mysterious ways and looks like an holiday confection. Since I’m on the thin side, I like a gown that gives me a bit more presence on stage, and this fits the bill. I wear it with a velvet bolero-type jacket (to cover my shoulders for sacred music) and a long black ribbon tied in a bow at the waist. (Hmm, I think I have a picture from last year's concerts at Benaroya around somewhere; I’ll dig it out and post it.)

The real story of this gown, though, is that I didn’t have time to wait for them to order my size, so I bought the floor sample – which was a size 10! My skilled mother-in-law took out an entire panel of the bustier and a few inches out of the waist of the skirt, and it fit like a dream! It’s probably a bit big for “everyday” wear (whatever that is), but for singing, it’s perfect. I have plenty of room to expand my abdomen and ribcage, but have no fear of the strapless bustier falling down! Thanks, MR, if you’re still reading. I think of you every time I put it on.

When I wear this gown, I have to be prepared to get as many compliments, if not more, about it as I do about my singing! On Friday night, I even had a seamstress come up to me, so I got to tell the story of the alterations. She was very impressed!

Last night, I got two other compliments that stood out from the standard “"great job/thank you/beautiful dress" crowd. One a bit bizarre, but sweetly delivered: “You are just the most delicious thing! I told my friend, ‘She could puke on stage, and it would be worth watching!’” Um, thanks? hehehe

The second was quite possibly the best compliment I’ve ever received. A tall gentleman who looked not a little like James Cromwell said, “I want you to know that I loved both your singing and your voice. I think you’ll understand what I mean.”

Yes, I do, sir, and thank you for the reminder. We all have a voice; it’s what we do with it that sets us apart. (And again, as with my previous post, I’m not just talking about singing…)

“Unconditional Gentleness”

A beautiful post from Donna Racik (an assistant conductor) over on the MetBlog. Bringing any opera to life is a challenge, but most especially (is that redundant?) a new one. Her point about the work the librarians have to do is a good one, and one easily missed, even by the performers. At the end of rehearsal, we get to go home, but the librarians, crew, management, and music staff all have hours more work ahead of them.

But I love the idea that, even when everyone is stressed to the max, the permeating attitude is one of “unconditional gentleness.” It’s not really that hard. It’s simply a matter of keeping your eyes open and recognizing the work that others have to do. If we are gentle with each other, the work goes much more easily for all involved.

Sounds like something that should be applied to more areas of our lives…

Friday, December 15, 2006

So close!

So, my fight with my hair was nearly non-existant tonight, thanks to my remembering a tip from AS. Her french twist always looks perfect, and she revealed her secret to me (to all of us in the ladies chorus dressing room, actually!) this summer. Twist from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. Unbelievably easy! So, this together with my hair's natural waves (no more straight hair here; I've given up that part of the fight) makes for an easy, elegant up-do. Done!

But the kink tonight? I forgot my jewelry! Or, rather, I forgot the jewelry for one of my gowns. (Yes, I broght two. I'm doing four concerts in four days; you don't think I'd wear the same gown for all of them do you?!) Hopefully I can borrow a necklace from a generous chorus woman...

There's always something!

Audition Season Recap

**I wrote this last night, but was unable to post due to the wind storm. It's dry and fairly calm here today; I think Washington got the worst of it. I'll check in with Seattle folks later today and see that they're all accounted for.**

Some thoughts from my first full audition season in New York:

It was nice to have a representative from the office at every audition (except the few that I traveled to). They would come into the room with me and sit near the auditors, at the ready to answer any questions. They also provided materials, a bio and headshot, and take care to follow up. The office always has a pretty good idea of what roles the company is looking to cast, so they can speak in specifics rather than generalities. Now the waiting game begins. I don’t really have any idea what kind of timeline I’m dealing with for these sorts of casting auditions. I try not to pester the office with emails and calls (and visits, since they are just five blocks up the street!), but I do wonder every day: Has anybody made an offer?

By far the most popular requests from my aria list were Nannetta and Baby Doe. Except for the two auditions when I started with “Regnava” (NYCO and the last minute audition) these two were always my starters. How did I decide, on any given day, what to start with? Different ways on different days. I’d occasionally feel like my “float” wasn’t working, so I’d start with Baby Doe. Some days, I felt that I was dressed more like one or the other, or that I had more of the attitude of one more than the other. What’s ironic about all of these reasonings is that, on most days, I ended up singing both arias anyway! Even though the arias are, to my way of thinking, very similar, when I started with Nannetta they’d most often ask for Baby Doe, and vice versa. The characters are very different, one very girlish and one very womanly, so that was fun to contrast. But I did wonder what the panel’s logic was in asking for the second aria. (Assuming there is logic…)

I had great pianist karma. I worked with JD most of the time, and with CK for almost all of the times JD couldn’t be there. CK and I found an easy rapport very quickly, and I’ll gladly call him for anything. For my last audition of the year, I ended up with somebody new, with very little rehearsal, and it ended up being great. I’ll use him again, too, whenever I can. It’s nice to have such a solid “bullpen” of pianists from which to pull!

I felt very good about all of my auditions. The one audition I walked out of feeling just kind of ok about – it was fine, it was ok, but I wasn’t jazzed about it so I didn’t expect the auditors to be – I ended up getting an offer! I think I mentioned it a while ago; I’m not available, but it’s always great to know that they were interested. Hopefully they’ll ask again! But it just goes to show that you can never predict how you will be received. Just go do your best, and the rest is out of your hands.

In one audition, I was asked how tall I was. When I replied (5’7”), he said, “Oh, you look much taller.” I was also asked a few times, in warm-up rooms and such, if I was a mezzo. When I said no, one person said, “But you’re so tall!” Ah, physical stereotypes! Hopefully no one would pass me over for a role based solely on the fact that I’m tall(er), but I guess if they have a 5’8” tenor in mind, they might want a shorter soprano. Every time I meet a tall tenor, I think, “there’s hope for me yet!”

One company was casting a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, so I got to do some dry reading, which was great. I did straight theater for years in school, so it was wonderfully familiar to get a sheet of text I’d never seen before, read it over once, then do my best to deliver it as if I’d been studying it for weeks! That’s part of an audition process opera singers don’t often have to deal with, but I love it.

Several times, as I was leaving the audition, or between arias, an auditor would mention that he had seen Cendrillon or the Golijov St. Mark Passion earlier this year. Fun! Since there is only so much you can show in an audition setting, knowing that the folks behind the table have seen you “in action” is reassuring. If they saw Cendrillon, they know I can be funny and silly; if they saw the Golijov, they have a sense of my concert work. And, since work begets work, I have to think that these connections are just as important as any audition. Every performance an audition; every audition a performance.

Which takes us up to today: At the dress rehearsal was a conductor with whom I worked earlier this year. As he was leaving, he mentioned that he was conducting a Messiah next year, and that he would be in touch. Today’s rehearsal was not just a rehearsal! It was an audition.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Random, December 13

The end of the year means it’s time for all sorts of lists, and The Concert has found itself on one of them! Over at Musical Perceptions, Scott Spiegelberg, a music professor at DePauw, has compiled the top 51 (don’t ask) music blogs, based on the technorati ranking. Thanks to all of you who link to The Concert, I came in at #20! Not bad. The company is great, of course, and there are at least a dozen that I’m not familiar with. Our little blogosphere is growing up! I seem to recall a conversation with Charles two summers ago, in which we talked about the growth of music blogging, what it was going to mean for music criticism, who would get involved, etc.. It’s fun to see so much of that coming to fruition. As Lampie said in The Brave Little Toaster, “We are pioneers!” (Again, don’t ask…)

Need some new recipes for your holiday parties? Check out the musical egg recipes over at Soho the Dog. Be sure to read all the comments, too; music dorks are really funny! Who knew? (I count myself among them, so I can jest. The music dorks, I mean, not necessarily the funny ones.) Given my current roommate, I think the Eggs Reich are my favorite. Although the Eggs Rorem is pretty darned hysterical…

I’m not going to comment on the La Scala-Alagna scandal. As a performer myself, I try to refrain from giving my opinions about other performers’ performances (got that?), either on or off the stage. But for an interesting conversation on the topic, specifically on the relationship between star singers and general managers, head over to Parterre. And again, read the comments for some very thoughtful and thought-provoking ideas.

I feel a little loopy tonight, in case you hadn’t noticed. I only had 15 minutes of rehearsal today, and spent the rest of the day relaxing. Maybe I’m not used to it… I had coffee with a friend (one of those friends you meet by chance, see once every two years or so, but always have a great time with and wish you saw more; you know the kind?), talked with ER, took a nap, walked through the misty Portland rain to a yoga class near the hotel, and got yummy take out from the vegan restaurant in the yoga studio. Maybe it’s the exercise and healthy food, going to my head…

Dress rehearsal tomorrow, so I promise to actually do some writing about my musical endeavors. For now I’ll just say that it is good to sing this music, good to work with such wonderful musicians, good to work. Life is good!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Wainwrights at Carnegie

If I were in NYC tonight, I would do my utmost to be here: Christmas Cabaret with the Wainwright Family!

If you're free and can find a ticket, go in my stead!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Yea!!! My iPod is back from the dead!

And I have a fully stocked kitchen. Well, stocked enough for a week of breakfasts and snacks. I have a microwave, which is nice, so I got some popcorn. I brought a couple of Netflix movies along, so I can have a quiet movie night at "home." Some tea, protein bars, my favorite Irish cheddar, alll my breakfast goodies, and it's almost like my home kitchen. But bigger...

I've also managed to already to some shopping damage! Anthropology has so many lovely, lovely things right now. I bought a green cowel neck sweater and a perfect plum-colored dress. I've been having great luck with clothes recently, finding pieces that will last a long time, stay "in style," and are versatile and fun. Classics with a twist, that's what I like! But from now on, all the shopping will be Christmas presents. For other people!

Time to warm up.

Back on the Left Coast

Just a quick note to say that I made it to Portland. I’m trying to stay up until 10:30 or so, but I am exhausted! This weekend was long and crazy, with a day trip to Boston, auditions in NYC on either side of said trip, packing (which I hate, we all know this…), and getting the apartment into sublettor shape. (DS, a colleague from Tanglewood, will be staying in my little nest while in town for auditions.) And then on the trip today, my iPod froze up and I can’t revive it. Very, very uncool.

Hmm. I was going to post a picture of my little Christmas set-up here in my hotel room, but I realized I left the cable for my camera at home. Maybe I’ll get one with my phone in the daylight.

Sleep now, breakfast with CT the DT tomorrow morning, then rehearsal at 2:00! I’m so excited, ready to get back to work. Singing with an orchestra again! Fun! The extra/forgotten aria from the Messiah is in good shape, and I’m really looking forward to singing the Magnificat trio (“Suscepit Israel”). I’ll write tomorrow about the strangeness of the soprano-baritone duet; bonus points to any music-geeky reader who can guess what I’m going to say!

Friday, December 08, 2006

On the road in December

There are several other things I’m excited about for my upcoming trip to Portland and Boulder. I’ll be seeing a whole slough of people in Portland: cousins and their families, school colleagues, and CT the DT, who I haven’t seen since leaving Seattle in May. She’s coming down on the train and staying at the same hotel as I am, taking them up on their “Bookworm Package,” which includes a room, breakfast, and a $50 gift certificate to Powell’s Books! How fun, and just in time for Christmas!

I found out that my room at the hotel has a full kitchen! I’ll be so happy to have my usual breakfasts (coffee, granola, yogurt, fruit) and have some space for putting together snacks and small meals. Not only does something like this make me feel more at home, but I’ll save a lot of money.

In other efforts to make the hotel feel like “home for the holidays,” I’m planning to buy some small Christmas greenery and a string of lights! And, after talking with my mom last night, I’ve decided to put a few pieces of our family nativity set in my bag, bringing along a true bit of my home Christmas with me on the road. In 2004, she gave me the beautiful Italian nativity set that was always my “job” to set up at Christmas time. I had asked for one like it, but I was beyond touched when I opened the box to find that she had sent me hers. She and I were both a bit sad when we realized that, after 37 years of “service,” it was likely going to stay in storage this year. I have no room to set it up here, and besides, I’m only here for 8 days of December! So last night when I got the idea to pack the Holy Family and a shepherd and an angel or two and take them along on my journey, I knew we’d both be happy! Depending on how often I’m on the road at this time of year, they could become a fixture on my December packing list…

Another fun on-the-road thing: while I’m in Boulder, I’m going to get to throw a dinner party! I’ve been missing entertaining recently, and holiday parties in particular, so when Mom said she was going to have some folks over for dinner while I was there, I asked if I could “host.” She gladly said yes! We’ll collaborate, of course, but I’m looking forward to planning a menu, setting the table, buying and preparing the food, making sure everyone has what they need (“More wine?”), and having a wonderful time.

Tomorrow, a day trip to Boston. Sunday, brunch with a friend, an audition, dinner with JD. Somewhere in there, pack for two weeks on the road. Leave for Portland on Monday! It’s a whirlwind, I tell you, this life…

Last minute

Nothing like getting a call from my manager asking if I can do a last minute audition this afternoon! Especially when it turns out that they are looking for a Lucia!!

Wish me luck.

And after the audition? A massage... finally!

New words for the bio

Two new words: Grammy-nominated. (Or does the hyphen technically make it one word?)

Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar was nominated in two categories – Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Contemporary Composition. The producer of the album, Sid McLauchlan, is also nominated for Producer of the Year, Classical.

I’m not considered a “principal soloist,” so I wouldn’t receive a Grammy if it wins. But my bio will now read “…can be heard on the Grammy-nominated recording of Ainadamar, released in May 2006.” Or, maybe, come February 11, “… Grammy-award-winning…”

I’d better call Mr. Mouret or Ms. Herrera and start talking about my gown…

On Sale!!!

Tickets for “The Met at the Movies” go on sale today! They’ve been adding theaters over the past few weeks, which bodes well, I’d say. All of the performances are worth checking out (opera! live! at the movie theater!!), but if you want to see my little self on that big stage, Il Trittico is being broadcast on April 28th.

Here are some links:

Find a theater and buy tickets - search by Zip Code, top right corner of the screen

Info about Il Trittico

I’ll do my best to resist the urge to mug at the camera and wave at you all.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


After this evening’s audition, JD and I went to the musician’s candy store: Patelson’s Music House! A beautifully stocked sheet music shop, it is the first stop for any NYC-based musician’s search. After years of buying most of my music online, it’s nice to spend some time browsing though actual books! The tactile experience was a lovely way to follow up an audition.

I bought two scores I’ve recently been encouraged to “get to know:” Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette and Rossini’s Barber of Seville. I’ve avoided both roles for different reasons for a while now – Juliette has always been too heavy; Rosina is considered a mezzo role – but those reasons have finally become moot. My voice has grown into Juliette, and Rosina is often cast with a soprano, depending on the musical preferences of the company. And, if they’re going to cast a soprano, a voice like mine is well-suited. So, two new toys! An early Christmas present to myself…

This week’s auditions: Fort Worth, Virginia, Opera Boston (in Boston), and Nashville. And that’s the end of my audition season!!! Woohoo!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A small milestone

In the continuing effort to keep my resume to one page, as we are strongly encouraged to do, tonight I took my last school role off the list.

That feels pretty good!

All the remaining are either training program roles (Tytania, Noemie) or professional credits, however small the paycheck might have been! Each role listed is truly representative of my voice, past, present, and future, with no “out of Fach” roles simply there for filler. (Not that I’ve really done any out of Fach roles…)

But there are still things missing.

Namely, leading roles with orchestra. I really only have one, when it comes down to it – Tytania. And that wasn’t a professional gig. I have tons of concert work, at high levels, and more booked for the future. But opera roles have been slow in coming. My path to this stage of my career has been through concert work, so it makes sense, I suppose, but I’m ready to shift the percentage. Someone asked me recently if I was afraid of being put in the box of “new music concert singer,” and, frankly, the idea hadn’t crossed my mind. But I can see the trend on my resume. I know I will always sing concerts; my voice is well-suited for that repertoire. And I love bringing new music to life. But somewhere along the way in the past five years, I became on opera singer.

I’m doing my best to be patient, but I’ll admit to a few anxious moments during this audition season. A few weeks ago, I learned that a job I wanted went to another soprano (one I know personally; all the jobs I don’t get go to other sopranos…). I got seriously bummed out, even though on that same day I sang two great auditions AND booked a series of concerts for May, 2008. I had to work hard to get myself out of the funk, reminding myself that the wheels were set in motion for me, that I have a great team working on my behalf, that I am singing better than ever, that the jobs will come. They will. Won’t they?!

I believe that they will. My managers fielded an inquiry as to my availability for a great role (a leading role with orchestra…) – but it’s fairly last minute and I’m booked. Is it wrong to confess that, even though I’m booked at THE MET, I was disappointed? I am so ready to get on that stage as a principal artist, delving into a character and a plot, taking the audience along with me on the journey through the story, singing the arias and duets and ensembles of the leading lady.

I’m ready, Coach. Put me in!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Always good to double check

I was just reviewing the cut list* for my upcoming Messiah concerts. Turns out they are including a section that has always been cut in my experience, which means I have a new solo to learn! It is the beautiful “If God be for us, who can be against us,” and I will enjoy learning it – and singing it! Handel’s music fits my voice very well; I’m about to add one or two of Cleopatra’s arias to my audition repertoire, I think…

PBO will be performing two concerts of the complete Messiah and then two performances of highlights paired with the Bach Magnificat. I haven’t performed the Magnificat before, so for that piece I’m learning a solo aria, a gorgeous SSA trio, and, since we’re performing the E-flat version, a duet for soprano and baritone. Lots of new music, lots of wonderful music.

I’m starting to get very excited about these concerts, for several reasons. Mostly, I realized today that I haven’t performed in almost three months! I have enjoyed the break, and I needed it, certainly. I couldn’t have gotten as settled as I am here in NYC if I’d been scurrying about performing, and my voice needed a rest, too. I’ve been going through a bit of a growth spurt vocally, and I’ve needed these months to fine tune things with my teacher, get some new rep up on its feet, and gear up for the next phase. But I am ready to get back to work!

Another reason I’m excited is that Stephen Stubbs will be conducting. Mr. Stubbs is a very prominent member of the international early music community, running the Boston Early Music Festival for years and recently moving (back) to Seattle, where he’ll be involved with several of the areas early music groups. Digging around a bit, I found that bio linked above on the website of the new Seattle Academy of Baroque Opera, his latest endeavor, it seems. How exciting for Seattle!

I’m always looking to learn more about a specific style of singing (singing styles generally being based on a time period), and this will be a wonderful opportunity to learn from a master. I’ll be nervous when I sing for him the first time, afraid that I will do something stylistically that will make him run screaming from the room! Of course I realize that chance is small, but I am completely open to the likelihood that he’ll have an idea or two that will make my performances more accurate. Learning on the job, so to speak.

* With a large work like the Messiah, groups will often cut out one or more movements to keep the running time down. There are cuts that have become traditional over the years, but it’s always good to double check!

On another note, I had one of those auditions today, where the folks behind the table say really nice things to you that make you think you got the gig. I’ve learned by now that said comments mean no such thing, but they are indicators of making an impression. So, whether I’ll be cast in a really fun and exciting role in April 2008 is yet to be seen, but I know that I made a good impression with a good company. Not a bad day at work.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The MetBlog

I just came upon the blog at the Met's fancy new website! Simply called MetBlog, it is currently a joint effort by various people involved in the new Tan Dun opera, The First Emperor. I had to do a little digging to find out who some of the posters are, but it seems there is a wide range of departments represented. Suzanne Mentzer (didn't have to search for her!), a mezzo performing in the opera (can't find her role); Steven Osgood, an assistant conductor; and stage directors Peter McClintock and Eric Einhorn. I'd love to hear from some orchestra members, too.

Maybe they'll be interested in the writings of a lowly Young Lover/First Novice?

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, all! Hope you had a lovely day of food and football and family.

My parents are here in NYC for the week (the power of grandchildren!), and they braved the rain to take in the big parade while E and I worked on dinner. I did most of my cooking at my apartment in Manhattan on Wednesday night, then carried everything over to Brooklyn. Let me tell you, food is heavy!! I had a squash casserole (classic southern dish), veggie-sausage and apple dressing, a pecan pie, and a chocolate-pumpkin cheesecake – all still warm! – carefully set into a laundry basket. Then I had a bag full of cheeses, olives, other hors d’oeuvres, and two bottles of wine. All in all, I think it was about 50 pounds of stuff! I only had to walk two (Avenue) blocks to the subway, but my arms were aching the next day! Nothing got even slightly damaged in transit, though, and everything tasted as good as it looked. E made the turkey (her first!), a really yummy cranberry sauce, roasted winter veggies, Brussels sprouts, green beans, and a pumpkin pie. It was quite possibly a perfect Thanksgiving meal.

We all said our “thanks” before dishing up, and as always, family topped the list. We missed having S&S, my sister and bro-in-law, and sent them lots of love on the phone. In addition to family, I really am most thankful for music, that it is both my vocation and my avocation, something I would do passionately even if it were just a hobby.

I was reminded on Thanksgiving how much music is central to my family, both now and as I was growing up. What triggered the thought was putting on “The Sound of Music” LP (yes, a record!) during the last hour of dinner preparation and everybody singing along. It was awesome! Sylvia got out her marionette horse puppet during the lonely goatherd song, and even little 16-month-old James got in on the action. He went around all night and the next day singing the opening pitches of “Do, a Deer” in perfect intervals. A budding singer?

I might not have grown up in a “classical music” house, but I was surrounded by music. Simon & Garfunkel, Anne Murray, ABBA, John Denver, the list goes on. Lots of church music, of course, with a few chestnuts like the Brandenburg concerti and Amahl and the Night Visitors thrown in for good measure. The overarching theme to my musical upbringing, I suppose, is that music is for communicating; I credit my folk music background for my love of singing in English (and my good English diction! No supertitles at coffee shop openmikes..). Music is something to share, and it is joyful!

And for that, I am Thankful.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


A good surprise: Opening my letter from the Sullivan Foundation to discover that the amount of my encouragement award is almost twice what I was expecting! Hallelujah. A voice lesson and a few rep coachings are on the horizon (remember that Czech stuff? Yeah, me too…), plus paying for my recording and accompanists for all my auditions. I may not be paying application fees this year, but I’m taking my pianist with me whenever possible. At $35 a pop, it adds up – but it is worth it! I will also use some of the money for new headshots, probably in January. Rent just went up, so this will help smooth that transition, as well as refill the savings account a bit.

A bad surprise: I also learned this week that now two very important people in my life, Friends and Mentors (each are both to me) are facing breast cancer. There is nothing that makes one feel more helpless than knowing that your loved ones are suffering in a way that you can do nothing to alleviate. Not much more to say about this... Well, not anything that I would want printed in a public forum…

The trip to Boston (actually the South Shore; I never made it into the city…) was wonderful – oh, to live by the ocean again – and included another surprise, of sorts. The groundwork is being laid for some potentially awesome work. Something completely different, but fun and challenging. Details to come…

This week’s auditions: Opera Company of Philadelphia (I’m making a day trip to Philly for this one), Canadian Opera Company, and Bard Summerscape Festival.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Yesterday was a good day

Lots of good things on my mind and in my life yesterday, the gorgeous weather not the least of them. A surprise talk with a couple of friends I’d been missing, an upcoming weekend in Boston, ending therapy and feeling wonderful about my life, career, and relationships. I talked to my mom for a while last night, and we must have talked for half an hour before the fact that I was awarded an Encouragement Award from the Sullivan Foundation came up! It was nearly eclipsed by all the other good things.

(I like this fact, because it shows that I am succeeding in my attempt to find all the other things I am, all the other ways to define myself, aside from singing. Time was, if I’d won an award, that would be the first thing on my mind. It’s still there, but it is surrounded by the rest of my life. Yet another good thing.)

But, back to the award for now! I am very happy with the outcome, especially considering that I didn’t feel I was at 100%. Sure, it would have been nice to win the big grant, but the Encouragement Awards have a nice cash prize attached, and as we know, every little bit helps. Money was starting to get tight, but now I’ll have enough to get the coachings I need to make sure I’m ready to go in January. And pay rent, and eat, and maybe even buy that adorable red dress…

The Encouragement Award is not like a consolation prize; far from it. The email I received sums it up nicely: “Congratulations! The Sullivan judges have decided to give you an Encouragement Award for 2006-07, with the hope that you will return in a future year to sing for us again.” So, they liked what I had to offer, and want to hear more. That’s really all you can hope from auditions of any kind, so I am pleased. Not to mention that even winning the Encouragement Award is another way to get my name and people’s radars. “Oh, I’ve heard about her. Didn’t she just win a Sullivan?” Get them talking, keep your name in their minds. Part of the business.

Oh, and something else good this week: I finally recorded some arias! I was still a bit sick, so my voice got tired really quickly and all the things that are usually easy were very strained, especially my floaty notes. So I don’t think I’ll use much from the session. It was kind of an experiment, anyway, the recording setup. A very successful experiment, though, so I think we’ll do it again (“we” being the recording “engineer,” also a singer, and my pianist, JD).

What I was happy with from the session, however, was the recording of Regnava. It needs to be edited a bit; I did one full take and two takes of the ending. But as soon as I can, I’ll get it up on the web. I’m really, really happy with it, although I still can’t quite believe it’s me…

Off for the weekend! Have a good one where ever you are, and tell your loved ones you love them.

One more blog for the roll - make that two

I thought about including this in the list of new blogs on the Blogroll a few days ago, but left it off because I wasn’t sure how “public” the writer wanted to be. So when he wrote to me yesterday saying “I’ll link to you if you’ll link to me,” I figured it was ok!

Welcome, Nick at grecchinois! I have appreciated his honest emotional writing, and hope to follow in his example. I’m gaining the courage these days to talk about the harder things as they come up, and as the blogging world gains more and more singers who are willing to do the same, like Nick, I think the job gets easier for all of us. Group therapy!

And speaking of therapy, I’ve mentioned a few times here that it’s been a part of my life for a while now. (I’ll defer from making the point, again, about how I want to help take the stigma off of therapy and those who use it…) Today, after four years, I had my last session.

My therapist agreed with my assessment that I’ve reached the goal I set out for myself: living my life in truth and with control. Acting, not reacting. Being honest even when it’s hard, even with myself. It felt a bit like graduation, our last session. But bigger. I’ve graduated into my Life.

** Edited to add another blog I've been reading for a while: Coloratur…aaah. Almost daily posting from a major YAP (young artist program). All of these new blogs are listed in the short blogroll on the sidebar.

Another thought on Les Mis

At one point, while Valjean was speeding through one of his many emotional high points that totally fell flat, I had this thought:

“It can’t be easy, singing this role that so many people know and that so many people have sung before him.”

Then I realized that we do that, too, we opera singers. And violinists and pianists and anyone whose job it is to re-create something, rather than create. It is up to us to find a way to make it new, thrilling, even for the third or fiftieth or thousandth time. Not an easy task, but it can be done.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Well, that was disappointing

The scene: Intermission at the Broadhurst Theatre
MP: (wearing his coat, pulling his bag up onto his shoulder, obviously ready to leave) So, what do you think?
ACB: Well, ok, here’s what I think. While I think Eponine will have some lovely moments in the second half, and Marius and students most certainly will, and Javert and Valjean might, the rest of it seems awfully like a high school musical. And, well, since my dream of Broadway has pretty much been shattered…”
MP: (bursts into sad laughter) So... drinks?

Ok, so it didn’t quite go down like that, but it wasn’t far off. What a disappointment. The “new orchestrations?” Obviously a money-saving venture, as the pit was thin and far too electronic to have any of the power of the original version. The tempi were so strict, and so fast, obviously in an attempt to keep the running time under three hours and avoid union overtime fees. No flexibility, no room for any feeling, just rushing from one line to the next. I felt like I was listening to a highlights version on cd. Except with some really shameful singing.

I was amazed at the lack of support, breath control, and intonation. Even with mikes, the lack of vocal technique was incredible. It was like American Idol Does Broadway. And I know it wasn’t just my nostalgia talking. I know enough to let go of my aural impressions of the Original London Cast Recording that I listened to over and over again in junior high and try to make room for a new experience. Just not this one. And that doesn’t mean that I’m not currently downloading said Original London Cast Recording (with Patti LuPone! and Colm Wilkinson! And Rebecca Caine!) off iTunes. I imagine I’ll give it a good listen or five in order to restore this work in my mind’s ear.

Sigh. Maybe a better revival will show up in a few years?

(MP and his boyfriend assure me that there is better Broadway to be seen out there. I’m going to see how many shows I can get them to take me to to make up for this…)

Even more random

Creative funding idea in Seattle. I’ve met Mr. & Mrs. Raisbeck, and they are wonderful patrons of the arts in Seattle. I think this new idea is a great one, and could easily be scaled down to fit companies of all sizes. Everyone loves to chat with “the star,” whether you’re singing at the Met or with a small regional orchestra. We sometimes forget that what we do, as singers, is quite out of the ordinary! People love a bit of a glimpse behind the scenes.

Check out “This Week’s Guests,” in a box on the left of the page on the Late Show with David Letterman site. See anything interesting? That’s right, the entire CAST of the Met’s Barber of Seville is going to the musical guest tomorrow night! I’ve read that there will be the six principals, a small chorus, and 22 orchestra musicians. Fantastic!! This new regime? I’m liking it.

I’ll be taking in two shows this week (neither of which is Barber). Tonight I’ll be seeing my first theatre love, Les Miserables! I admit that I’m a bit excited; hope I can resist the urge to sing along with every single lyric!! I’ll have my earplugs along, too; Broadway is loud! And tomorrow, a bit more uptown, Helene Grimaud’s recital debut at Carnegie Hall. I’m looking forward to the Rachmaninoff, no matter what Charles says…

Happy Birthday (yesterday), Dame Joan!! (Happy birthday yesterday, too, to JD, and today to EB and PM, and Thursday to CT the DT! Love you, ladies! You, too, Joan.)

And a few new blogs:
Desparate Operawife - an college classmate, now married to an opera singer and living in Germany.
notes from the kelp - composer (and lover of the sea) Alex Shapiro
Sieglinde’s Diaries - I’ve been reading for ages! How have I not gotten this on the blogroll yet? Currently rather quiet, a NY-based operagoer’s blog
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society - “music, politics, life in New York” and shiny baubles

Don’t forget to vote!

I happened to walk home from the subway past my polling location, so rather than going home to change first, I just stopped in. I figured if the line was too long (ha!), I’d go around the corner, change out of my audition clothes and come back in flats. But, of course, no line. Efficiency on the part of the vote organizers or apathy on the part of the voters? Regardless, I was in and out in less than five minutes. I was never asked to show my ID, just to sign the book (directly below the scanned copy of my “motor-voter” signature). This didn’t even register with me until I’d left the building. How easy is it to vote for someone else?! Quite, I would think.

Don’t let anybody else steal your vote. Get out there and do it yourself. And bring your ID, just in case…

Oh, and the audition? Went fine, I think. I had a few weird memory slips, getting a few entrances and cutoffs wrong. I very, very rarely do that kind of thing, so I’m thinking it was just fuzzy-headed cold-medicine stuff. The pianist was wonderful, though, and was right there with me for everything.

Unlike auditions for companies, who are generally casting two or threes years out, competition auditions usually get results back to you within a matter of days. So I imagine I’ll hear something this week. Last year, they gave seven prizes of $7500 and three Encouragement Awards of $2000. They’ll hear about eighty singers this year, so that’s a one-in-eight chance of winning a prize. Here’s to hoping that the odds fall in my favor!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Random, Nov. 6

(I think this might be a new entry format, a la my highlights entries and vilaine fille’s “Pensee d'[insert date here].” I have stuff to say, but can’t put it in any real cohesive “paragraph form.” So here you go. Snipits and sentence fragments and non sequiters...)

My box of gowns, winter coats, and boots arrived today. Good thing, too, because winter is coming! Everyone keeps telling me that winters in NY aren’t as harsh as winters in Boston, and I hope that’s true. I might have survived two (relatively mild) Boston winters, but I’ve been in Seattle for four winters, so I’ve kind of forgotten how to deal with the “wintry mix” and slush and bitter, bitter wind. At least I’ve given up trying to tame my hair these days, so I don’t have to worry about trying to keep it straight and sleek. Bring on the hats and scarves and wind and snow! (Well, maybe not just yet…)

Where does one keep her gowns in an apartment with one short closet? **Edited to answer: folded in a duffel bag on the top shelf. I have two hanging that can be used in a pinch; I’ll have to plan ahead and send any other gown I want to wear to the cleaners.

Another strange blog/real world conundrum: dates who discover the blog before the actual first date! (He was very kind and chose not to read much of it, or listen to sound clips, before we met… but it still made me think about my online profile. It’s pretty high…)

I’ve been battling my second cold of the season for about ten days now. I sang two auditions through it last week, and they both were fine. But this morning things shifted a bit and my voice wasn’t working as well as it has been, so I had to cancel, or rather, reschedule, an audition. I’ll sing tomorrow for the Sullivan Awards, rather than today, assuming, of course, that my voice is back. It wasn’t totally gone, just unwieldy. I always say that this is why we have technique, to help us through times like this. But when I had to focus entirely on my technique in order to get a decent sound, rather than muscle memory taking care of the actual singing while I acted and tried to “make music,” I knew it was a no-go. We’ll see how tomorrow goes...

I didn’t do this. But I know who did…

I’ve also been meaning to plug my MySpace Music site. I have a personal site there, but I think it might go the way of all things soon. I’ll focus on the music networking aspects of the site, rather than the personal (See above comment about online profile…). So come on over, if you’re a MySpacer; I'll be cross-posting entries from this blog to the MySpace blog system, too.

Another site to plug: If you live in NY or Chicago and are an indie rock fan (and read my blog – guess that’s probably a pretty small cross section…), this is the site for you. My brother is the lead developer (which I think mean he deals with all the tech stuff), and it is quickly becoming the source for indie rock info in NYC and Chicago.

Guess that’s it for now. Time for more steam, Nyquil, cough drops and sleep.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Music Geek Fun

Via Red Black Window, here is a fun break-down of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy." All of the parts are on separate tracks, and you can select one or several or all and follow along with the score. For all of us who sang along with the various harmony lines back in 1980-whatever, this is a lot of fun!

When I showed it to my roommate, he then passed along an even cooler music geek site: John Whitney's music algorithms. I don't pretend to understand the math behind the music, but these are very, very cool. Hypnotic and visually beautiful, they demonstrate the fine line between math and music. How much like the Ligeti Etudes do these sound?!

AP and I then talked about Reich's Clapping Music, which also makes an appearance over at TSR today. I was unfamiliar with the algorithmic nature of that piece, so AP explained it to me: two performers clap a pattern, starting together, for 12 (?) repetitions, then one of them shifts the pattern back a beat.

Which made me think of one of my favorite party tricks: singing "Take me out to the Ballgame" shifted back a word. (I told you, geek!)

Start the music in the same place, but start on the second word. "Me out to the ballgame, take..." etc. It is maddening to figure it out for the first time, but once you get it? Very cool. My favorite part is ending on the leading tone... And, of course, there are endless variations. Start on the second word, which is a bit easier, actually. "Out to the ballgame, take me..." And on and on.

Happy geekery!

Monday, October 30, 2006

A nest

As I said a few posts ago, I’ve definitely settled into Life here in NY. My room has taken a real turn from the almost-uninhabitable to the very cozy and welcoming. All it took was a trip to Ikea to put the finishing touches on the place. I’ve even offered it up to a fellow singer who’ll be here for auditions while I’m on a gig, and I would only let someone stay here if I knew they would be comfortable. So, that’s saying something!

Here’s a picture. I love my little desk, which now has my laptop on the pullout shelf underneath and my electric keyboard on the top. Currently there are also some red and yellow roses, two Netflix movies ready to be returned, and a bunch of other clutter. At the top of the photo, you can see my brown comforter hanging down from the loft bed, which has a wonderful light in it now. I’ll post a picture of that, too. I still have some art to frame and hang, but that will be the last touch. It’s my little nest, and I love it.

I had a strange experience at an audition last week, one that will probably occur from time to time if I keep blogging. The audition was for Chicago Opera Theater, whose General Director, Brian Dickie, keeps his own blog here, chronicling the ins and outs of his General-Director-ship. Mr. Dickie and I met briefly this summer at Santa Fe, and when I was introduced to him, he said, “Oh, yes, the blogger!” This was my first encounter with a GD who reads The Concert (or who admits to reading it), and we talked briefly of blogging and singing and parted ways.

At the audition last week, when my manager introduced me, there was the usual “Hello, good to see you again, yes, I know you, we met last summer, etc.” But then he mentioned the blog again and said, “Yes, I know you; I know you intimately.” Gulp. I’ve had few moments through this blogging trip when I wondered if I’d ever said too much, and this was one of them! (And it’s funny writing about this now, knowing he’ll read it…Hi, Mr. Dickie!) Did he read about my insecurities (and conquering them) in regards to Regnava? Did he wonder why I didn’t sing it for him?! Probably not, but I did wonder. Only momentarily, of course, and then it was on to the task at hand: singing a bang-up audition!

This week’s auditions: MidAmerica Productions and Des Moines Metro Opera.


Charles over at ionarts has called me out! "Conspicuously silent." I'll take that as a compliment! Sorry for a quiet week; I have no good reason, really.

I'm off to an audition now, but I'll try to fill in some gaps this afternoon. Maybe a picture of my little hobit hole is finally in order!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Take that

Not only did I sing Regnava at the audition today, I started with it.

Take that, Fear!

Somebody ate their Wheaties this morning. (Actually, it was granola with vanilla yogurt and blueberries.) And my manager’s response? “Well, I expect to hear a lot more of that aria this fall!”

Yes, ma’am.

Opera and Football

This guy gets it!

There are moments watching both that make my spine tingle. Todd Heap's touchdown catch to beat the Chargers and Diana Soviero's gripping solo last March in Dead Man Walking come to mind.

I would add that last week's Monday Night Football game probably aroused passions not unlike those in a fiesty La Scala audience. If you saw it, you know what I mean. If you didn't, well, time to start watching football! Talk about a catharsis. Wow.

I love it!! Go Broncos!! (And Bears, too, of course... everyone's rooting for the Bears.)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I live here now.

A few weeks ago, when I was in the middle of life-transition blues, my mom shared something that really helped me through it. She told me that she felt the same way after every move, and she’s been through many as an adult. (She was a military kid, as I was, but how easily we transition when we’re kids!) After the house was unpacked, and we kids were off to school, she said she asked herself every time: Ok, where do I fit in this picture? Then she assured me that while the feeling may stick around for a while, one day she’d just wake up and it would be gone. She lived there.

Well, as moms often are, she was right. One day last week, I realized that the feeling of anxiety and fear that had been hanging around me since I arrived in NYC was gone. I live here, and my patterns are starting to show that. I’ve been more social, getting out to know the different parts of the city, going on some dates and spending time with friends and the Brooklyn Birds (brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew). An art exhibit, a concert, a friend’s recital (his first Winterreisse!), a cabaret show (where I saw Liza Minnelli!! Me: Look, there’s a Liza impersonator. MP: Um, no, that’s really Liza!), and yoga classes and workshops at my new yoga home. Lessons with Mark, of course, and audition and recital prep with JD.

I live here now.

But there is still fear. It’s just a different kind of fear, one that’s been with me for a long time and one that I’ve let dictate my actions for too long. Maybe writing about it here will help me conquer it. It is the fear of success.

Why I’m afraid of it, what exactly I’m afraid of, I can’t tell you. But I can see how this fear is starting to get in my way. I know that “Regnava nel silenzio” (from Lucia di Lammermoor) is going to be my aria, the one that says to anyone who heard me sing last year or the year before “Check this out: I’ve grown up.” The aria that is the difference between “We like her; let’s keep an eye on her.” and “We like her; let’s hire her.” My goal was to have it ready for my NY City Opera audition, which is on Monday. But have I done it? No. It’s stuck at the 90% level, all the notes learned, memorized, all the cadences settled, etc., but I just haven’t taken the time to really get it into my body and voice. I’m pretty mad about it, too, and I know I’m the only one to blame. I have so much time these days, a true luxury, and I’m wasting it. WHY?? Fear.

Today I went to a yoga workshop focusing on headstand. Many people talked about the fear that was holding them back from mastering the pose, and I realized that I’ve never been afraid of it. (My issues are balance and holding the pose, two things that are getting easier as my body gains strength and my mind gains clarity.) The teacher said that we too easily stereotype ourselves and psych ourselves out of an action; she called them “personal chauvinisms.” “I don’t do headstand.” If we say that, we’ll have a hard time ever getting our feet up there! It works the other way, too, and I think I’ve always seen myself as someone who does headstand. Sure, why not? So I do it.

After the workshop I went to coach with JD, and I realized that while I can do a headstand (I even held it for ten seconds by the end of the workshop!), I’m psyching myself out of a lot of other beneficial actions because of my fear. Singing the right rep is only one, but it’s a big one.

So tonight and tomorrow night and Monday morning, I’m living with Regnava. It’s time to stop being afraid of it and get it out there. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! Right? Eek.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Healthy body, healthy voice

There was a conversation recently on the New Forum for Classical Singers, an online community and bulletin board, about vegetarian singers. More to the point, the opera director at a school told a student that if the student wanted a career, he was going to have to start eating meat. He stated that “no professional singer of any stature ever made it as a vegetarian,” a statement I find hilarious for the syntax, if nothing else. What, singers don’t have the discipline to be vegetarians? heehee

What I think he meant, erroneously, was that no vegetarian has made it to any level of “stature” as a singer. And, well, that’s ridiculous. I know many vegetarian singers, many of whom have fine careers and are on paths to have even finer careers. But it got me thinking about health, or, rather, added to my on-going thoughts of health. I’m a vegetarian, but not eating meat isn’t my problem. In fact, I recently started tracking my diet with an online diet tool, not to lose weight, but to see how much protein, fiber, etc., I was eating on average. Turns out it is really easy to get the recommended 50g of protein a day. Whole grains, legumes, some cheese, and done! Add 25g of fiber (blueberries, Kashi cereal, some kale, an apple, done!), aim for 2000 calories, and that’s a darn good diet.

My problem is remembering or taking the time to eat at all. I was having a blue day earlier this week, and as soon as I ate some lunch (ok, technically it was breakfast, too), I felt better! Practically blissful. Hmm, maybe there’s something to that... I told my roommate that the next time I was talking about being sad or bored or lonely, that he should ask if I’ve eaten anything. (Oh, my mom’s going to love this post!) Coffee doesn’t count…

So, yes, you can be a vegetarian singer. Just make sure you eat.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about breath and breathing. I think that I mentioned that in September I conducted a one-day workshop for the choir at my parents’ church. One of the topics we covered, naturally, was breathing. Most people only breath with a portion of their lungs, mostly the top third. When you sing, it’s good to know how to take in a full breath and support it on the way out, but it’s just as important to breath well everyday.

Now that my dear Granddaddy has had to start using oxygen**, I’ve come to believe that the maxim “use it or lose it” applies to our lungs as well. I don’t have any scientific evidence for this, just anecdotal, but it makes sense. Ever notice how singers (and brass and wind players, too) have large ribcages? That’s not fat, that’s capacity built by use. I know that I have gained about two inches on that measurement over the years as I have developed my lung capacity. (I gain almost three inches when I inhale, as well.) So, when I visited with Mamma & Granddaddy in September, I taught him several of the exercises I taught the choir, and I think we were both surprised when he couldn’t do them.

So here they are, and I encourage everyone to start breathing with all of your lungs, even if only for five minutes a day. Next time you’re stuck in traffic, give these a go. (Just don’t hyperventilate!)

First, (and, well, this part is not a traffic exercise), the next time you lie down, spend some time actively breathing with your diaphragm. Lightly rest one hand on your belly, with your thumb on your solar plexus. As you draw air into your lungs, notice how the diaphragm rises into your hand. (It’s easier to do this lying down because it helps you avoid the tendency to try and take in a deep breath by lifting your shoulders.) Then try this exercise standing up. You might find that your body rebels, that your muscles have gotten used to breathing in a more shallow way and they will fight against this “new” activity. They’ll come around; they just need to be reminded of what they knew how to do perfectly when you were a child.

Once you feel that you can breath smoothly from your abdomen, try a three-part breath. In this exercise, you breath into the three sections of the lungs from bottom to top: expand the abdomen, the ribs, and then the top section of the lungs, under the collarbone. (Phyllis Curtin can breath so well in that top section that I swear her sternum is made of cartilage! It really seems to flex.) Exhale in the same order, bottom to top: abdomen, ribcage, clavicle.

Cool, huh? Now, singer or other, use it or lose it.

**Granddaddy is doing very well, thank you, and is as active as ever; he just has a 40-ft “tail” for the tank at home, and a smaller tank for the road.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sting crosses over

Now this I like: Sting’s latest album is a collection of Dowland songs, performed in collaboration with lutist Edin Karamazov. Sting joins in on a few numbers on the archlute, as well. Hot.

I have a lot of respect for Sting as a musician, and I think this album could be quite good. The clips on the DG site and on iTunes (where I will likely purchase it) make it clear that Sting is singing these songs with his voice and not trying to sound all “early music” and period (whatever that means…). Probably best, don’t you think? Besides, what was Dowland if not a singer-songwriter? Makes perfect sense to me to have someone like Sting sing them.

I’ll be curious to hear what others think about it…

Monday, October 09, 2006

It's here

The cold I've been expecting to hit me since I arrived in NYC is finally here. Nothing major, just a cloudy head, stuffy yet runny nose... You know the drill. Boo.

Fortunately I don't have any auditions this week.

Guess I'll take a nap while my files are transferring / backing up onto my new external hard drive...

Saturday, October 07, 2006


I had what I guess you would call an anxiety dream last night, probably fueled by the martini I had after posting that last post…

I was about to go onstage to sing Gilda (guess I won the audition yesterday!) when I realized something. I turned to my Rigoletto with panic in my eyes and said: “I forgot to learn the rest of the role!!”

Oh, and I just remembered another dream! JB, a soprano who is in the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Program and will be singing a role in Suor Angelica with me, came to pick me up (in a car, no less, even though I’m 15 blocks from Lincoln Center) for the first rehearsal. It was like I had never done anything like it before, because I said: “So, is this a staging rehearsal? Should I be memorized?” Um, yes. JB looked a little suprised, a little worried, a little like she wouldn't be sitting with me on the breaks... :)

Not only was I not memorized, I had planned on sight-reading at the rehearsal! It’s a “small part,” after all. I was frantically flipping through my score, looking for my part. I laughed and said, “I can’t even find my part in here; that’s not a good sign!”

Wow. Think I’m nervous about all the music I have to learn this year?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Nice and Tough

Nice: Coming home to find my roommate scrubbing the kitchen floor. On his hands and knees, even! Our ancient tiles are now substantially less dingy, and the kitchen smells delightfully of Mop-n-Glo.

Tough: Haven’t seen any for a few days, but we have pests. Yes, “life in the big city” and all that, but… yuck. If the little four-legged one shows its face again, we’re borrowing a cat.

Nice: Stopping by the Post Office to pick up a mysterious package, only to get home and find it contains FIVE Kronos Quartet cds! I confessed to a friend recently (someone in “the business”) that I had never listened to any of their work, and he said he would get me started. Current listening: Osvaldo’s Dreams & Prayers of Isaac the Blind. Thank you, friend.

Tough: Running out of disc space on my computer. Time for an external hard drive! (I'd rather spend the money on that fabulous purple dress in the window of Neda, but I suppose that can wait...)

Nice: A good audition (“Caro nome” and Baby Doe’s Silver Aria are actually a great audition pairing…) with hair that cooperated (mostly), and an afternoon spent delving through music for the spring recital project that I keep saying I’m going to write about but never do. Someday. It’s almost time to announce it in the concert series, so I might as well fill you all in on the program explorations.

Tough: Hearing that Erik, my ex-husband, fell off of a climbing wall Tuesday night. Fell 15-ft, onto his straight legs, which jammed up his back something fierce. He is recovering well, thanks to drug cocktails and days off of work, and friends rallying to care for him with dinners and taking care of the dog. He’ll be with his girlfriend this weekend, too, so I know he’s in good hands… But I still worry.

Nice: A weekend full of plans for drinks with friends, seeing my roommate’s concert, and brunch with more friends. Hopefully some yoga and some practicing to round it all out. I might even cook, finally.

Tough: Understanding what people mean when they say that NYC is the loneliest city in the world. I know I’ve only been here a month, but right now it stinks. Literally. I miss my dog, I miss having space around me, I miss nights with collaborative dinners and board games, I miss the fireplace.

I love my new city and my new life, but this time of transition is hard. I’m starting over with a clean slate, and sometimes I don’t know what to make of it. It all feels very “personal,” and I don’t write about that much here, but I thought I would a little. If only to refute the people who think my life is a rose-filled parade all the time (and I know you’re out there). You can know no one’s life but your own, and even that is harder than it seems. Remember what happens when we assume?

I’m going to post this. I might take it down or edit it tomorrow morning, after a good night’s sleep. But for now I’ll post it. Smudge the image a little bit…


Ok. First audition with the new haircut.

HELP! This is a great rock-n-roll, city haircut, but I have no idea how to pretty it up for an audition. I have bangs now, so to speak, and having them in my face is fun and sexy for walking down the street (I’m apparently the kind of woman who gets asked out by strangers on the street now… true story.), but it’s not good for an audition. No hair in the face.

Sigh. Maybe half-up with some strategically placed hair pins? And a lot of hairspray.

At least La Voce is working…

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

300th Post!

So, that technique-heavy pitch chart post was my 300th post on the concert. Cool!

I thought I would celebrate by switching over to the new Blogger format. The thing I'm most excited about is labels: I'll be adding subject-related labels to all (or most) posts now. This way, those of you who really like my tech talk can go back and read it all with one simple click!!

Ideas for other label categories?

Update: Ok, where'd my little picture and blog description go? Any Beta-Bloggers have any hints? ("Beta-bloggers." Sounds like a drug.)

Finally - Pitch Charts!

I know you all have been waiting with bated breath for this post! Ok, maybe only boston_soprano has been waiting, but hopefully the rest of you will get something from it as well. It gets pretty technical; bear with me!

What follows is the “patented” Lucy Shelton Pitch Chart Method for learning nonharmonic, 12-tone, or just plain hard vocal music. I learned the system in 2003 at Tanglewood while working on Dallapiccola’s 12-tone Four Lyrics of Antonio Machado. (For my non-musician readers: “12-tone” music is based on a pattern, or a “row,” of notes that uses all 12 tones of the scale before repeating pitches. This pattern can be presented in many permutations: chopped up, backwards, turned around, etc..) When I was learning the music, at home before getting to Tanglewood, I really sweated over the score. How was I supposed to get these “melodies” to stick in my head?! Especially when my line often clashed in unexpected ways with the piano. I was really nervous. Was this going to be the first impression I made at Tanglewood, not knowing my notes?!

At my first coaching with Lucy, she put all my fears to rest. There was something almost mystic about the way this system takes the “impossible” and makes it not only accessible, but a delight to learn. Here’s how it works.

The basic idea is to separate the notes completely from the rhythm and text. In order to do this, get some blank manuscript paper (paper with music staves on it). Taking one phrase at a time, write each note of your vocal line as a whole note. If there is a key signature, keep it in mind as you write, adding the appropriate accidental to each note. (So, there will be no key signature on the staff itself.) When the melody line gets extreme, high or low, write the note in two octaves so you can practice the line with octave displacement. (This saves vocal resources in those early days of learning the notes.)

Now, choose one pitch to serve as a pedal tone. This should be the note, if there is one, that is something of a tonal center, a pitch you return to or center around throughout the piece. (For 12-tone, Lucy suggests simply starting with C.) Play this pedal tone in several octaves, sustaining it while you sing or whistle or hum through the vocal line. Pay attention to each notes relationship to the pedal; this is the key. For example, in the photo above, you’ll see the first few phrases of the first Machado song. Using C as my pedal tone, I would find the F# by hearing the tri-tone relationship to the C, find the A in relationship to the F# and the C, etc.. My favorite moments in this process are when you sing a half-step below or above the pedal tone and then resolve, as the Machado does in that first phrase (B to C). For music like this that has no “home” pitch, like tonal music does, this feeling of arrival is beautiful.

After you have worked through the vocal line a few times with one pedal tone, choose a new one. Find the second-most predominant tone, or use G for 12-tone. Go through the process again, hearing how the “melody” changes in this new context. Honestly, I find it beautiful.

As you’re working through the piece, also look for relationships within the line itself. Where are the major 4ths and 5ths? (You can see them indicated above by the triangular or bracketed lines.) Where are the traditionally scalar passages? Half-steps?

Work with the pitch chart exclusively for as long as possible!! Things like rhythm and language are much easier to incorporate, generally, than these unfamiliar melodic structures. Keep the manuscript paper with you and study whenever you have a moment, in the waiting room of the Social Security Office, for example. When working like this, without a piano for pedal tones, it basically becomes an exercise in sight-reading, focusing on the relationships of each note to the next. But always remember the pedal, and see if you can “hear” it as you work, coming “home” to it in your mind’s ear. An easy way to study like this, when out in public, is to plug one ear closed with your finger and lightly “whistle.” This works especially well on an airplane: you’re able to hear yourself clearly and not annoy your neighbors. And, again, it’s a good vocal resources conserver! No need to drill these notes at full voice for hours on end.

I think that’s it. Clear as mud? Please leave a comment if you have any questions, and I’ll try to clarify. Writing this all out makes me wish I had some atonal music to learn!!

Happy studying.


Well, if ever there was a reason to drop of the blogging radar for a while, getting married is certainly it!

Congratulations to Tomness and his lovely bride. Once you’re back from Hawai’i, we’ll have to finally meet up for that coffee. Maybe over a photo album?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Technique in Action

Like I said, I’m going to leave reviews of the three operas I saw this week to other folks. I have opinions, of course, but I realized that these singers are, essentially, my peers. Sure, most of them are a few steps above me on the ladder, but regardless, it’s probably best not to critique my colleagues.

That said… (You knew I wasn’t going to leave it at that, didn’t you?!) The one thing I’ll say is this. Every one of the voices that moved me this week had one thing in common: They were seamless. From top to bottom and all the notes in between, there wasn’t a hitch in the voice. I think this is a real mark of a top professional, finding the ways to make the weaker parts of your voice (and we all have them) blend in with your “money notes.” I can't think of a role that stays on the money notes all the time, not even the trick-pony role of the Queen of the Night. We have to sing all the notess!

I was struck by how rangy almost all of the lead roles were this week. Mezzos and baritones had high notes, sopranos and tenors had low ones. And in my opinion, a strong, well-produced low note coming out of a soprano, be she a spinto or a light coloratura, is pretty darned impressive. (Same goes for the other voices, natch.) We assume, rightly or wrongly, that the soprano will have killer high notes; it should be a given. But if you really want to wow them? Get your low notes and all those pesky passaggio notes (the ones between registers) solid and smooth and lined up.

One other thought. At one of the operas, I was sitting close enough to see the singers’ technique in more detail, rather than just hearing it. Again, the thing in common: they really opened up and let ‘er rip. Their throats were so open and free of tension and the voices just soared out. I told my voice students (and the folks in the choir at my parents’ church) to imagine that their throats were as wide as their shoulders as a way to get them to free up any neck tension. Watching these singers, I felt as if their necks really were as wide as their shoulders! And the sound was wonderful…

Next week I’ll see Boheme at City Opera and hopefully I’ll make it to Idomeneo at the Met in the next couple of weeks. I’m also dying to see The Fantasticks and A Chorus Line and Wicked and …

But for now: sleep.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

This fall is different.

For the first time in about four years, I’m not up to my larynx in summer program applications and all the letters of recommendation, resumes, bios, headshots, etc., that go along with them. Two reasons for this, the most obvious of which is that I have management this year, so I’m not the one doing the hustling. Every so often, I’ll get an email from the office, telling me that I have an audition with Company X, that I’m maybe under consideration for a role, and when and where to show up. I confirm, and then call JD to see if she can play for me. Easy as pie, and I don’t miss the stress of audition hunting one bit. Most of these auditions are for mainstage roles for the 07-08 season or a few years farther out.

Another reason I’m not hustling for a summer program is that I have a hold on my schedule for next summer!** You know the drill: I can’t say more than that until an official offer has been made. But needless to say, I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity and would definitely be a fun gig. Details as they are made available!

(My friend AC told me last week that she hates it when I do this! Sorry! Consider it part of the mystery and suspense of a developing career. I’m certainly on pins and needles on a regular basis, and maybe this is my way of sharing that element of things with you. If nothing else, it’ll keep you coming back to find out the details! “Tune in next time, when our heroine gets a gig with an A-level house!”)

** I think I’ve explained before, but a “hold” pretty much means that a company has expressed interest in booking me but isn’t ready to make a firm offer. They have told my manager the potential dates, and they are essentially “penciled in” on my schedule. So the company has rights of first refusal on my time for that period. If another offer for the same time period comes along, my manager will go back to company A and ask them to “fish or cut bait,” so to speak. So, in this case, a hold is a good thing!


I’ve updated the full Blogroll, so go check it out. Here are the newest additions:

Juggling with one hand - Weston Hurt, baritone
OperaDaddy – often hysterical writings on singing, parenting, living
singin’rin - Rinat Shaham, mezzo
twang twang - Heather Radice, harpist. Heather wrote a beautiful post a few weeks ago about “amateurs.” A quote: Get on with it. Live. Do your best. Make others happy. Is that amateurish? Supremely professional? What's the difference? Now go read the rest.
Vissi d’amore - Finding her voice

Happy reading!


Tonight’s strangest moment was not seeing my friend onstage at the Met, or running into several colleagues of varying levels, or walking around backstage knowing that in a few months I’ll know that maze inside and out.

The strangest moment came at the very end of the night. I said goodnight to RL (who sang wonderfully, totally exposed and very poised), who was off to the opening night party, and left via the Artists’ Entrance in the basement. I had a smile on my face, as I often do these days, and I’ve found that people often smile back; this was no exception. I passed a few folks and we exchanged smiles, but then I walked past three people and one of them said, “Are you Ms. So-and-so?”

“No,” I replied, “I’m not. Sorry.” Smiled, and continued walking.

Then he said, “No, wait: you’re Ms. Bird.”

And I stopped in my tracks!

“Yes, you’re Ms. Bird. I saw your picture in here. You’ll be making your debut in Trittico, right?”

Holy cow!! Recognized from a headshot in a season program on a night when I’m not even singing and when my new haircut is tousled and unkempt, far from the sleek look in my headshot. That’s a good memory, and obviously someone for whom opera is a passion. Maybe he reads The Concert! (If so, hello, and thanks for a great, if slightly unexpected, encounter!)

One of his friends had a camera and asked to take my picture. “We’ll have it with us opening night of Trittico, so you can sign it.” Wow. I can’t imagine how dazed I must look in that photo!!

More on Gioconda tomorrow (how often am I going to say that?), but now to bed. Walking home, recounting the story to CT the DT on the phone, I felt a bit like I had a post-performance high to come down from. Maybe the day will come when being recognized becomes tedious and annoying, but for now, I love it!

OT to boston_soprano: I’ll get right on that post about pitch charts! Ms. Shelton first introduced them to me on a 12-tone piece, so I know they work!

Good night, all.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


So, instead of staying home tonight and writing about the weekend and last night's opera extravaganza, I'm going to the Met again! This time I'll be seeing my friend and colleague, RL, in his debut!

Then Thursday I'll see Semele at NYCO. Three operas in one week! I'll leave the reviews to others (mostly); I'll just talk about what people were wearing!

(PS Speaking of clothes, I got a new haircut today that makes me feel like I need a new wardrobe. Ever get one of those? H&M here I come!)

Monday, September 25, 2006


More thoughts tomorrow, but for now I'll just say that it was awesome. Thousands of people in Times Square, and all of them watching an opera, even if it was only as they walked through. And it was quiet! Well, quiet for Times Square.

Totally cool.

You know what else was cool? Picking up the program and seeing my name - spelled correctly! - on the roster. Yeah, that's cool.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I can taste it…

In my lesson today, MO and I were working through the exercises. (He has a series of seven that I’m working on memorizing, so I can jot shorthand notes: #3, d-flat “ee” round. Translation: In exercise #3 (123453531), key of d-flat, round the “ee” vowel a bit at the end.)

When we got to #7 (1358531, sustaining the top note), my high notes were really cranking. Whatever the exercise, I tend to stop whenever I feel or hear something that I don’t understand or that doesn’t feel as solid as I know it can, and ask him how we fix it. Today, I stopped after running the exercise in a key where I felt the top note was a bit straight-toned. Not completely, it had some spin, but not as much as I knew it could. So I stopped, asked if he heard it to, what caused it, blah blah. Then I said, “So was that the E?” (That pesky E…)

And he replied, “Nope. That was an F.”


The key before I stopped, which would have been the E, was vibrant, spinning, loose. Zerbinetta, here I come!

I haven’t sung since last Friday’s audition, just taking some time to get settled, unpack, decompress from a pretty stressful month. MO says I should take a week off more often, and if this is the result, I agree!

New York Moments

Walking into the Social Security office, getting your form, and borrowing a pen from the security guard. When that one doesn’t work, asking for a different pen. While the security guard is taking care of other folks, hearing a voice from the waiting room chairs: “Anne-Carolyn, do you need a pen?” Turning around to see none other than Lucy Shelton sitting in there and holding up a pen.

We had an hour or to sit together and catch up (she’d been waiting about an hour, I waited about an hour after she left). She is on faculty at Tanglewood, and in 2004 she coached me on two really hard contemporary pieces, sections of Bernard Rands Canti Lunatici and Luigi Dallapiccola’s Four Songs of Antonio Machado, my first foray into 12-tone music. Her gifts extend beyond her musical abilities into the realm of teaching and guiding young singers, and I am still using tools she taught me. I was happy to tell her about my life AT (After Tanglewood), and happy to learn that she lives here and I’ll be sure to bump into her again from time-to-time. (This reminds me of a few other people who live here, teachers and mentors, that I would like to “bump into.” Maybe I’ll make some calls…) Lucy and I will likely see each other again at this concert.

After we’d talked for a while, she reached into her bag and pulled out one of her famous “pitch charts” (they should be famous, if they’re not), and started lightly whistling under her breath as she reviewed some outrageously difficult piece of music for an upcoming concert. (I’ve been planning a post on these charts for almost two years now; maybe I’ll finally get around to it. It is, hands down, the best system I have seen for learning atonal music.) We’re always working, even when waiting at Social Security! (Ok, I wasn’t working. I was reading Dune. But I’m on a break!)

Other moments of note this week:

Seeing KB, a wig & makeup artist from Santa Fe on the corner of the Lincoln Center Plaza. (She is apartment hunting, poor thing.) We exchanged the usual surprised and excited hug, at which one of her friends commented, “How many people do you know in New York City?!” That is the way of this city, isn’t it? I’ve run into four friends or acquaintances on the street in the past week. A true “NY moment,” that unexpected encounter. (I later ran into her boss, who I met in Santa Fe, when we were both out to dinner. This is just one big small town.)

Hearing another singer in my building, or maybe in the building adjacent (we share a common “alley” out our back windows). I don’t think she’s an opera singer, sounds more like a legit music theater voice.

Hearing another woman through the back windows two nights ago scream: “OH MY GOD!!! I JUST SAW A MOUSE!!” Sigh. Yes, we do not live alone in these tiny, old apartments. I chuckled to myself, thinking about what a fact of life in NYC that is, and how even if we don’t see evidence of them, they are still probably around. And then I thought, “You can be logical about it all you want, but you KNOW you’d be screaming and jumping on a chair, too, if you saw one!”

This morning, sitting at my computer, hearing the bustling of street noise. All of a sudden a soft steady pitch joined in with the bustle, and I thought, “Wow, that car needs some attention.” When another pitch joined in with the first, a higher one, I again shrugged it off, assuming it was some cleaner or machine outside. Only when it persisted and started to get louder did I realize what it was: my new teapot!

I’m having my first cup of coffee at home this morning, a real step towards living here and not visiting. A teapot, a French press, freshly ground beans, and a new carton of half-and-half. My morning coffee, in New York.
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