Sunday, July 23, 2006

Learned and Learning

Since Cendrillon opened, I’ve had a very light schedule. I expected this to be nice, but it’s kind of thrown me for a loop! All of a sudden, it’s back to me to organize my time efficiently, to use these empty hours to study. Never a strong suit of mine, I have to admit… But I’m doing my best to change that.

Things I’m learning right now (or learned in the past couple of weeks):
• “Ich harrete des Herrn,” duet from Mendelssohn’s 2nd Symphony
• the finale of Falstaff (singing Nannetta, natch)
(The above are for an outreach concert here next Thursday.)
• Chi il bel sogno (an aria from a role I will never sing, but for a party trick, it’s perfect)
• “Goodbye, goodbye world,” Emily Webb’s monologue from Our Town, in a song setting by Lee Hoiby. Very moving, and great text.
(I learned the two above for a casual concert at a local piano bar that showcases SFO Apprentices every year. I sang them last night, along with Weill’s “The Saga of Jenny,” which is so much fun in that kind of environment. Lots of audience interaction!)
• the Presentation of the Rose, to be performed August 20.
• two arias that are so old they are practically new: Zeffiretti lusinghieri (Idomeneo) and Kommt ein Schlanker Bursch (Der Freischütz); both are options for the fall’s audition program.

Then there are the things that have appeared on my calendar for next season:
• Jano, the chattering shepherd boy in Jenufa
• Giannetta, “head village girl” in Elisir
(Two new covers at the Met!)
• songs for the recital project: Barber, Harbison, Fauré, Holst, Wolf, Greenstein!

And in the middle of all of this study, I continue to search for my rep. My voice keeps growing, maturing, developing new strengths (and weaknesses…). It seems like every year around this time, I look at my audition arias and think, “None of these really work!” I asked my colleagues in the dressing room the other night if they felt that they had “their five” (code for five audition arias) nailed down. Every head around me shook “no,” accompanied by a very concerned and defeated face. I’m not alone!

Most of the women I talked with that night are between 28-32, so our voices are starting to settle. But they all agreed that for the past few years, their voice changed so much from year to year that they almost had to start over with rep every audition season.
This gets frustrating, because you need to really “live” with an aria for a while before it is solidly in your voice and your body (not to mention your mind). Changing arias every year or so in order to find a better “fit” leaves one feeling ungrounded and clueless, in my case, as to where one’s voice is headed.

Several of us are reaching back to arias we learned 8-10 years ago and finding that they now fit really well. For me, the arias I mentioned above are now strong contenders for my audition program. It’s been a struggle for a while now to find the right Mozart aria. I sang the Queen, but I’m not looking to be that kind of coloratura anymore; Blondchen is ok, but those E’s stress me out; Despina doesn’t feel quite right temperamentally. So when I noticed “Zeffiretti” in an aria compilation last week, I thought I should take another look. I first learned this in 1998, and sang it on my Senior recital. Heaven knows what it sounded like then (PG knows… he just listened to said recital! eek!), but now it shows my strengths of line, a solid middle voice, and some float. Hmm, not unlike Nannetta…

“Kommt ein Schlanker” is an old one, too, from early grad school. The right German aria has eluded me for a while. I know that “Presentation” is used all the time as an audition aria for sopranos, but I’m having trouble with it dramatically. It is four minutes of being star-struck by a young man, and, frankly, I find that hard to convey without a young man! (Or, rather, a young mezzo…) It’s one of those stretched out “opera moments” that take special care. Maybe I’ll get comfortable with it by October (the start of audition season), but I don’t think it’s going to be ready for the house audition on August 4.

So here is what I think my audition program will look like this year:

English: a Baby Doe aria, either Silver or Letter
French: Frere, voyez…Du gai soleil (Werther)
Italian: Sul fil d’un soffio etesio (Falstaff)
German: Kommt ein Schlanker Bursch (Freischutz)
Mozart: Zeffiretti lusinghieri (Idomeneo)
One for “the road,” meaning the road ahead, to show where my voice is going: Qui la voce (I Puritani)

Written out, that doesn’t look too bad… I think I can work with that.


singing said...

I think having a good 5 is the bain of most opera singers existance. I am struggling with the same thing and it just makes me throw my hands up in the air.

Your 5 seem to be an interesting group. And Qui la beautiful.

Ariadne said...

Am struggling with "my 5" as well...

Funny, "Kommt ein schlanker Bursch" used to be my very best audition piece. Nowadays, though, I can't sing it to save my life, while I virtually can use "Come Scoglio" as a warm up. Go figure!

I like the way you let the comfort and fun (and a little challenge in there) dictate the appropriateness of pieces for "your 5", rather than some narrowly others-oriented definition of "Fach". That may be where many other singers get tripped up.

Puritani (the whole role) would be "fab" for you!

signe said...

oh my, tell me about it. My voice is leaps and bounds different from last year. But the changes are SO exciting and the auditions recently have only confirmed I am headed in the right direction. Can't say I am near my "5" quite yet though. ;) Lots of love from Sea-town.

Heather-Anne said...

I hear you on the vocal growth. I find the more I continue to study the more my voice changes and evolves
But I also found a positive to having to change up audition pieces. For me this keeps the edge and the pieces seem to "peak" at just the right moment. I find if I stick with the same ole' stuff it gets stale.
Also since my auditions tend to reside in the same region I find myself auditioning for the same group of "folks" (a lot of them have known me since I was 11). New pieces keep me fresh and break the preconceived notions they might have about me and shows my growth.
Oh...and me two down...working on 3,4,& 5.

Benoit said...

Dear AC - It's really wonderful and uplifting to read you! I haven't kept up with your blog in ages and just relooked after receiving the recital info from Jocelyn. Definately feel the same as far as "the 5", moreover following the Fach change. I just need a carrot in front of the stick now! ;)

I'm really glad things are going wonderfully for you, hopefully our paths will cross in the future.

All the best,


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