Saturday, April 28, 2007

See you at the Movies!

It’s the day of the simulcast, ya’ll!

I’ll be thinking about you all out there: Boulder, Spokane, Portland, Atlanta, Athens, Boston, Albuquerque… How exciting! Wish you all could be at the party tonight. JD and her fabulous husband are hosting a “debut” party, and I’ve got two cheesecakes ready to go! Mocha chocolate and mixed berry with shortbread crust… mmmmmm!

I’m off to meet a friend for brunch and to pick up his movie ticket: he’ll be watching from the Walter Reade Theatre, right next door to the Met! There’s something kind of funny about that, almost funnier than watching it from around the world.

Be watching this space for a Guest Blogger team in the next week or so, recounting their experience of seeing The Met at the Movies.

And… A big Happy Birthday to my fellow debutante, LW!!!! You don’t look a day over a size 6.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Paging JML

Dear JML:

Thank you for your generous Bhakti Project donation! There are some steps we need to take before Fractured Atlas can fully process your donation, so please contact me as soon as possible, as there is no contact information included with your check. My email address can be found in my Profile.

Thanks again - so much - for your support! I hope to hear from you soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Met Debut Weekend: The Afterparty

(Part 3 of 3... so far!)

Man, I am running out of steam! Time for bullet points:

* the Sirius interview was beyond fun - it was so cool to meet Margaret Juntwait! There was lots of giggling, and LW and I got to tell the world how much fun we’ve had getting to know each other. This will be a wonderful souvenir from our debut…
* getting dolled up for the party with LW in our dressing room; my pin-curl hair didn’t really cooperate, but my dress was rockin’, made complete by the addition of a rose from one of my bouquets.
* meeting M&E and KL (representing the Boulder contingency!) on the Grand Tier for hugs and flowers and collecting opening night programs
* taking pictures with GB (who was my chorus master at Santa Fe and who conducted my off-stage singing in Tabarro; it was so special to share this with him!) and YR, my sweet and supportive colleague
* one glass of champagne and a small plate of food, knowing that I had to leave by 1am to get home and try to get to sleep!
* running into my teacher and getting to share a bit of the “afterglow” with him and his wife, together at a table with GB and his partner and Heidi Grant Murphy

One o’clock struck, and with Mark’s gentle encouragement, I left the party, feeling not a little like Cinderella: walking down the grand staircase with my arms full of flowers, leaving a party that was just beginning. I cried, and I couldn’t tell if the tears were sad or happy; probably just overwhelmed! I felt so good, it had been such a wonderful night – so why was I leaving?! Because there was more work to do…

I started a new tradition this Christmas season of sharing my concert flowers with other people who would get joy from them, and since I had four bouquets and only one vase at home, I knew they wouldn’t live long if I kept them. I gave two bouquets to two of the night security guards, who both had ladies at home who would enjoy the surprise. (My family knows of this tradition of mine, and I think they like it, so don’t think that I’m dismissing the joy of my flowers; I’m just trying to spread it around!)

The other two came home with me, one in a huge vase of its own. I was laden with bags, clothes, and flowers (and still in my party shoes), so I grabbed a cab just outside the stage door. As we drove past the front of Lincoln Center, I could see the party going on inside, glittering under the chandeliers. I was sad to leave, but so happy to know that I had been there, that it had been my party, my night. The only Met Debut I’ll ever have…

Mme A, you warned me that the things we look so forward to can sometimes disappoint, and I went into Friday being aware of that possibility. But I am happy to say that it was everything I hoped it would be and more.

Thank you for letting me write it all out here; thank you for reading, thank you for cheering, thank you for loving this crazy life as much as I do!

Met Debut Weekend: The Performance

(Part 2 of 3... so far!)

Friday… Rehearsal with my pianist for Saturday’s OSNY Finals (I won’t keep you in suspense and say now that I didn’t place, but am very happy with how it went.); she had some wonderful advice to get me through a tough spot in the Bach, and we talked about how to negotiate the transition between these two very disparate pieces.

Home to rest a bit and collect my things for opening night:
* a light robe to wear while getting my makeup down and to wear over my costume if I need to eat
* my dressing room kit with toothbrush and paste, wig cap and pins, cough drops, mints, basic “street” makeup to put on after washing off the heavy stage stuff, Dove cloths with which to wash said heavy stage stuff, and other little things;
* cards and gifts (most of these are still unwritten… maybe they’ll be Closing Night gifts!)
* and, of course, the dress and shoes for the party afterwards!

The Artists’ Area was humming with excitement (and a bit of controlled frenzy), so I dropped off my few written cards and then settled into my dressing room (which I share with LW and PR, who is singing roles in Angelica and Schicchi) to do my pin-curls. S started on my makeup, when one of those moments you dream about happened. The door opened, and the gentleman from the stage door, who had been delivering cards and gifts to all the dressing rooms, came through with a huge, gorgeous bouquet of roses… and came to set them at my station! I said, “Are those really for me?!” Indeed they were, and they thrilled me just as much as the lovely bottle of champagne from Mo. Levine! (Whom they were from is my own secret for now…)

Visits in the dressing room from Met staffers JF and JM, checking in to say “toi toi” and happy debut and to see if I needed anything! A pinch, maybe?! The excitement settled a into realization of the magnitude of the moment when JF asked me to sign several copies of the playbill; most of the rest of the cast had signed already, and seeing not just my name but my signature among theirs’ was humbling.

Into costume, and at the call of 8 minutes until curtain, my YLT and I headed up to our bridge to walk through our blocking on last time. We settled in at the center of the bridge, and I held on to Tony for dear life! Not out of fear of the height this time, but because in seconds, the curtain was going to go up and we would be on our way!

And so we did. Tony and I hit all our “marks,” stayed in the light, stayed in tempo, and then, just like that – we were done. Next, what I didn’t get to do at the dress rehearsal: take a bow. Oh man… Can you say deer in the headlights?! I’m afraid I gave an ugly, ungraceful bow, because all I could think about was where I was!! I think I did much better at the second show last night…

Time to shift gears, wash my face and trade my red dress for a habit. LW and I dressed in our matching costumes, and when I reached into the bag with my name on it to get my cross, I noticed that it was gone. Figuring she just grabbed the wrong necklace, I said, “Hey, LW, you’ve got my cross, but since they’re the same, I’ll just wear yours.” No problem. But then I noticed her clothes piled in the bottom of “my” costume rack (where our clothes get hung changes every night, so it can get a little confusing in there…). I took a look at her, and noticed that her habit was longer than usual, so long, in fact, that it was rather puddled at her feet. I looked at mine, and realized I had a high-water habit. Yep, we’d put on each others’ costume!

With about ten minutes until the call to places, we did a quick switcheroo with our dresser’s help, laughing all the while and saying what a great story this would make for the Sirius interview! (Of course, we totally forgot it once we were there!)

It worked out really beautifully that I got my debut good wishes and “toi toi’s” for Tabarro, so that when Angelica came around, it got to be all about LW. Her first step onstage, her first bow. We shared this debut, but we each got our Moment.

Met Debut Weekend: Leading Up

(Part 1 of 3... so far!)

My little hobbit-hole is too stuffy to sit in on a day like this, so I’ve come down to the Naked City Café, where they have Die Zauberflöte playing over the speakers. (Aha: it’s not just the opera – it’s Met Radio on Sirius! A nice synchronicity!)

Ok, let’s go all the way back… The days leading up to Friday night were rather tumultuous, Wednesday being a really rough day and Thursday being a beautiful one. So, I was already a bit stirred up before Friday night; in fact, I had lunch with a friend Friday afternoon, and he said, “I can see your head spinning.” Yep, that was about it!

We’ll leave Wednesday for now, and get to the good stuff on Thursday:
* a wonderfully grounding and joyful brunch with JD and LB, my girls – we all had things to celebrate
* a text from MP asking if I’d like to be interviewed on Sirius Met Radio at second intermission on Friday - along with LW, my fellow debutante – about our debut… um, YES!
* my first visit to “the other Met” and a new friend (and by the time we walked out of the museum spring had arrived in NYC!)
* shopping for opening night cards at an art store filled with too many beautiful things
* requests from two publications (one in NY; one in Portland, OR) for interviews, each on a different facet of my career
* and then, when the day couldn’t really get any better, a voice message: “ACB, it’s your manager. I have an offer for you… call me!”

Offers are always good news, of course, and when I learned what it was, I let out a “YES!” right there on the corner of 57th & 7th. Haven’t signed the contract yet, so I can’t say when and where, but it’s something in Italian – finally! – and is one of the first roles I fell in love with but wasn’t sure I’d ever get a chance to do. It’s a big role (one of the biggest for soprano) at a nice-sized house – not too big, not too small; great place to try it on for what will hopefully be the first time. Very exciting news to get the day before another big debut!

I can’t remember what I did for dinner on Thursday, but I know that I met a friend for a nightcap, which probably helped me fall asleep quickly and sleep peacefully. I woke up, and it was Friday!

FriPod on Tuesday: Random 10

This week’s look at the music library, via Musical Perceptions: the first ten listings on the Party Shuffle, pulling from the main library.

1. “Flamenco Sketches,” Miles Davis, Kind of Blue - 1997
2. “One of Us,” ABBA, Gold - 1995
3. “Should,” Over the Rhine, Eve – 1994-96
4. “You Remind Me of Home,” Ben Gibbard, Home, Vol. 5 - 2007
5. “Long Line of Pain,” Amos Lee, Supply and Demand - 2006
6. “Poison,” David Byrne, The Catherine Wheel - 1996
7. “Radio War,” Iron & Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days - 2005
8. “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” Leonard Cohen, The Best Of - 1998
9. “Miss Sarajevo,” Luciano Pavarotti, Bono, Pavorotti & Friends Together for the Children of Bosnia - 1996
10. “Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was,” Radiohead, The Bends - 2005

iTunes has gotten me back in touch with so many cds that I hadn’t looked at in years! To have something like “Miss Sarajevo” - which I haven’t listened to since, oh, 1996 - come up in my shuffle is like a little present! A litte trip back in time to when the song or cd was in constant rotation on my boom box… To that end, I’ve added a year to most of the above songs, indicating when it fit into the soundtrack of my life.

I’m off to the café to finally write about my weekend! I imagine I’ll write out EVERYthing, then edit it a bit before posting here. ‘Cuz there’s a lot… I don’t feel like my head stopped spinning until yesterday…

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thanks, everyone!

Last night was truly wonderful. You warm thoughts and good wishes meant more to me that you can know, so thank you!!

Off to Carnegie now, not really "feelin' it," but I'm kind of treating today like gravy. Know what I mean? Last night was a once in a lifetime evening (the radio interview was so fun! sorry I couldn't announce it here...), and today I get to sing more beautiful music with great colleagues - in what just happens to be a competition. Meh. I've already been awarded a small prize for being a Finalist, and that is enough for me at this point.

Happy Saturday, all, and happy First Day of Spring, New Yorkers!! It's finally here!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Joy, continued

Today was the final dress! It’s all over but the cryin’, I suppose, which, now that I think about it, is a very strange expression… Hopefully there will be no crying due to falling off bridges or losing my place with the Maestro or stepping in donkey-doo. Only tears of joy!

(Warning: I’ve had a nap and am now a bit loopy…)

We had almost a full house for the dress today, and boy, was it great! I start the show on the bridge with my back to the audience, but out of the corner of my eye I can see the big red curtain go up (I found myself wondering today if that is electric these days, or if there is still someone in the wings pulling the ropes hand-over-hand), revealing the audience to us and the beautiful set to them. There was applause today for almost every set change of this gorgeous new production.

Little silent opening scene on the bridge, offstage singing, then the “goodbye” scene on the bridge. I wasn’t a bit nervous, didn’t feel the heights at all, stayed connected with the pit and with my YLT, got all the bits with the kissing and the coat, but! as soon as I started going down the stairs, leading me off into the Stage Right wings, my knees started to shake! I have to walk down a ladder (out of sightlines) to get all the way down to floor level, and I was very grateful for the stagehand who was there to steady me. I’m sure Friday’s shakes will be worse, but in a good way; I wonder if they’ll ever go away completely…

To get back to the Artists’ Area from Stage Right, I have to cross through a big open space upstage of the playing area. (This is one of the places the crew will stash the set from Tabarro when they switch to Angelica, and Angelica when they switch to Schicchi, so it doesn’t stay “open” for long.) All alone in my red dress, backstage in this amazing theater, after singing beautiful music with wonderful colleagues, I will confess that I did a little twirl of joy.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

FriPod: a few days late

I’ve been loving Scott Spiegelberg’s weekly “FriPod” posts, in which he comes up with a theme of sorts and then makes a playlist from his iTunes library. I asked if I could appropriate the idea as a meme of sorts, and he agreed, so here is my first “FriPod!” Whether or not I include commentary will depend on how much time I have, which tonight is not much…

This week’s theme was “The Four Emotions.” (A play upon “The Four Seasons,” perhaps? Since there are obviously more than four…) Here are mine:

1. “The Happy Birthday Song,” Andrew Bird, The Mysterious Production of Eggs
2. “She’s only happy in the sun,” Ben Harper, Diamonds on the Inside
3. “Happy, The End,” The Innocence Mission, Glow
4. “Make Someone Happy,” Comden and Green, performed by Jimmy Durante on the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack
5. “Happy With Myself?” Over the Rhine, Eve
6. “Happy Phantom,” Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes
7. “Why do I Feel So Sad,” Alicia Keys, Songs in A Minor
8. “Sad Songs and Waltzes,” Cake, Fashion Nugget
9. “My Lonely Sad Eyes,” Maria McKee, You Gotta Sin to Get Saved
10. “Love and Anger,” Kate Bush, The Sensual World
11. “Atoms for Peace,” Thom Yorke, Eraser
12. “Love and Peace or Else,” U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
13. “All Good Naysayers, Speak Up or Forever Hold Your Peace,” Sufjan Stevens (who else would have a title that long?!), Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State
14. “Oh, Lead Me to some Peaceful Gloom,” from Purcell’s Bonduca, sung by Sylvia McNair on The Echoing Air

I’m happy to have more “happy” songs than “sad,” and I had to search for that “anger” song. SS used “angry,” and I didn’t have any songs with that word in the title. One classical selection, one jazz standard, and lots of indie rock. Seems about right… I wonder if I searched for these words in Italian, German, or French, what I’d come up with? Maybe tomorrow…

(Upon further consideration, I’m afraid this exercise might, over time, display how woefully under stocked my music library is! Maybe some new purchases will be in order, as holes are made obvious…)

Two for one

More on that analogy – I’ve been meaning to expound on the “vomit breath” analogy, and a recent comment to the post has given me impetus to do so. I had a voice lesson shortly after the coaching which presented the analogy, and I asked Mark what his thoughts were on the concept.

His thought is that there can (and often should) be both an “in and up” and a “down and out” feeling in the abdominal area, as if the two are working “against” each other. You know that force you feel when you push two positive or two negative magnetic poles together? The feeling in the abdomen isn’t one of resisting, exactly, but more like stability. Ideally what you’ll create with this idea is a solid foundation for the column of air, with an occasional boost from an “up” or “down” support for various attacks, approaches, or articulations.

Ok, did that make any sense at all?! (By the way, this “magnet” image is mine, building on what Mark has taught me about support. Don’t call him up and say “I’d like to have a lesson and focus on magnet support;” he’ll probably have no idea what you’re talking about!) Sorry if this isn’t terribly clear; I’m still learning how to put these esoteric vocal technique concepts into words.

As for the commentor’s suggestion that a vomitous analogy “ignores the Art of communicating musically to your audience,” I’m not sure I agree. Singers have to think of all kinds of strange things in order to get our voices to “be musical.” How is an analogy like “pear-shaped tones” any more musical than vomit or magnets? It’s just prettier. The audience doesn’t need to know what goes on in our heads while we sing, so long as the desired result (a well-sung, emotion-filled phrase that touches them) is achieved.

Other thoughts?

OSNY Finals - On Saturday I sang in the Oratorio Society of New York Solo Competition Semi-Finals, and was pleased to learn that I’ll be singing in the Finals! And guess when they are? This Saturday. Yep, the afternoon after my Met debut.

So… I’ll be making a very short appearance (accompanied by the Brooklyn Birds and wearing the beautiful dress) at the Opening Night reception and then heading home to bed. I toyed (very briefly) with the idea of not going to the reception, but while I hope there will be other Opening Nights at the Met, I will only have one debut! Regardless of whether I attend the party or not, it’s going to be really hard to come down and get rested enough to sing well at a 1:30pm concert. A challenge…

One thing I’m very excited about for the Finals is that they have asked me to sing “Lua descolorida,” the gorgeous aria from Osvaldo’s Pasion segun San Marcos. I didn’t sing it in the preliminary round, but wanted to make sure they heard it at some point, so I started with it yesterday. When I announced my selection, I’m pretty sure I heard one of the judges say “Good for you.” After the Golijov, they asked for my Bach aria: “Jauchzet Gott” from Cantata 51. I suspected that they would, as it’s just about as different from the Golijov as you can get! I’ll be singing that on Saturday as well.

The Finals Concert is open to the public (information about tickets here), so if you’re in NYC and free on Saturday, come on out! It’s as Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie, so I guess one could say that I’m making my Met debut and my Carnegie Hall debut in the same weekend. How ‘bout that… deep breath, Bird!

Edited to add: I took a closer look at that link for tickets, and it really doesn’t say much. Tickets will be on sale ($20) at 12:30 on the day of the concert, April 21st, at the Weill box office. The concert begins at 1:30, and I’ll be second on the program.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Putting it together

Stuffed into my tiny New York-style mailbox Saturday was a big white envelope. I muttered grumpily to myself while trying to wrench it out without ripping it in half (Does she speak from experience, you wonder? Don’t ask…), only to have my grumpiness turn to joy when it was finally in my hands in one piece: It was from Fractured Atlas!

“Congratulations! You have been approved by our Board of Directors to become a fiscally sponsored project of Fractured Atlas!”

Ok, we are on! The Bhakti Project is now “open for business,” so to speak, although plenty of business is already underway. I’m talking with a designer for the logo; I have a meeting next week with someone who works in arts development (and got an email yesterday from a grad school friend who is doing similar work) to talk about the project and get some advice; I’m going to get some new publicity shots / headshots taken, hopefully in the next week or so (need a haircut first); we’ve done some exploring of recital reception/after-party locations; and of course musical preparation continues on a pace. But with fiscal sponsorship in place, it’s time to turn in earnest to fund-raising.

I need to write a fund-raising letter, and then send it out to anyone who I think will give it even a passing glance! I’ll post a copy of it here, when it’s done (by the end of the week, hopefully). For now, check out the new links under the Bhakti Project heading on the sidebar. You’ll find a link to the Fractured Atlas homepage and a link directly to the Bhakti Project donation site. Since this announcement of sponsorship could be seen as a fundraising effort even before I post my letter, I’d better post the “official language” from the FA sponsorship packet, designed to make sure everyone involved keeps the IRS happy!

“The Bhakti Project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf on The Bhakti Project may be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.”

Cool, huh?! I kind of can’t believe that this project is actually off the ground. I’ve often been more of a talker than a doer; “wouldn’t it be cool if…?” But here it is, an idea I had a couple of years ago that now, with the help of friends and colleagues and, hopefully, even strangers, is taking off. Cool, indeed.

Spread the word, will you? If you think the readers of your blog would be interested in getting involved, please feel free to link to these posts or directly to Fractured Atlas. If this is to be the first piece of music commissioned and payed for through the blogosphere, I’m going to need your help!

**Edited to add: We already have our first donation! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, SK in Atlanta!!**

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Living close to work

The problem with living so close to the Met? I think it only takes me two minutes to get there and I procrastinate like crazy every morning!!

I was so late this morning. I wasn’t the only one, but that was of little consolation, ‘cuz I HATE being late!! I felt awful that my makeup guy (whose two sisters are named Anne and Carolyn!) had to rush, even though we had “plenty of time but not time to waste.” ™ (that’s a Bird Family trademarked phrase, used with permission.) The costumer couldn’t make her adjustments ‘cuz I needed to run as soon as I got into my (beautiful!) dress. And I was a frazzled mess. In short, not how I want to go into any rehearsal, let alone my first rehearsal with the Met orchestra.

All in all, though, things were great today. YLT and I are working out our moves way up on the bridge, trying to coordinate kisses and coats and stairs all while straining to hear the orchestra and see the Maestro. I know we’ll get it; it’ll just take some repetition, but at one point today I felt like I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!! A common feeling at first dress rehearsals but still a bit unsettling. Time for some visualizing, me thinks… We do it again on Friday and Monday before Tuesday’s final dress rehearsal, then a few days off, and then – showtime!

Costumes and orchestra for Angelica tomorrow, a rehearsal for which I will be arriving EARLY.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Fractured Atlas Bhakti Project Profile

(There are live links over to your left! More soon on that, once I get text approved for posting on the blog. For now, here is the Sponsorship Profile from the Fractured Atlas website; most of this you know, but here it is in a succinct snapshot, suitable for framing... I mean, for sharing with your friends, readers, colleagues, and other interested parties!)

The Bhakti Project is a collaboration between composer Judd Greenstein, pianist Jocelyn Dueck, and soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird. The three were Fellows at the Tanglewood Music Center in 2004, and shortly thereafter, Ms. Bird and Mr. Greenstein started talking about collaborating on a new work.

What formed over the next two years was a three-fold project:

1) Commissioning Mr. Greenstein to write a new work for soprano and piano, to be premiered by Ms. Bird and Ms. Dueck. Working together with Ms. Bird, Mr. Greenstein decided that texts for the songs will be taken from the Zohar, a central book of Kabbalah, the mystic arm of Judaism.

2) Presenting the work as part of a recital program. The title of the program – “I have some light: Songs of Spirit”– reflects the theme, which is the relationship one seeks with the Divine. Religions and spiritual paths from around the world are represented on the program, which will include works by Rachmaninoff, Messiaen, Dallapiccola, Harbison, and Barber, as well as Greenstein’s premiere and various genres of American music (folk, musical theatre, cabaret).

This recital program will have its premiere performance in May 2007 and will be presented several times in the 07-08 season.

3) The commercial recording of the new work and selections from the recital program. New Amsterdam Records, founded by Mr. Greenstein, has expressed interest in releasing the recording.

The titles of both the Bhakti Project and of the recital borrow from lines in John Harbison’s Mirabai Songs, which tell of one woman’s devotion (bhakti) to Krishna, her incarnation of Divinity. The recital explores an individuals’ devotion to his or her spiritual path, and this project explores and supports my devotion to bringing new music to life. I hope to encourage others to join me in that devotion!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Trittico: Picture Pages!

I work here!Something I never thought I'd see:

What is it they say about the first step of any journey being the hardest?
**Photo removed**
That is definitely true of this bridge! I did ok today, after a shaky first half hour or so. My YLT is very dependable and sure, and he makes me feel very safe! We're having a wonderful time, playing on our bridge and making up all kinds of backstory for our characters - anything to keep my mind off of the pounding heart, sweaty hands, and shaky knees!

That's Maestro Levine, way way way down there!
**Photo removed**
Oddly enough (or not odd at all), I don't have any fear when I'm looking down at him while singing. He, the conductor, exists in a different world, almost, from my fear of heights. As does my character, and my YLT, and, I suppose, the bridge itself. Through "the magic of theater," my fear can disappear when I'm up there, if I give my self over to it (the magic, not the fear).

I'll play around with that idea tomorrow... Also tomorrow, I'll get a picture of Gabriel, the sweet Met donkey! (Sans poop, hopefully.)

**UPDATE 4/10** Sorry, guys, but I had to take down the two pics I took from stage. (I should have checked the rules first!) So, you'll have to use your imagination and take my word for the fact that the bridge is very, VERY high and the Mo. Levine looks very, VERY small from my vantage point! Today's rehearsal was much easier, but I still had a few leaps o' the heart. Tomorrow - costumes, wigs, makeup... and orchestra!!

Winging it

Nothing like showing up to the Tabarro musical rehearsal on Saturday and discovering an entire page of music (ok, only five measures) that I’d never seen before! Sight-reading for Mo. Levine – awesome!

It was really not bad at all; the music staff was very helpful. We quickly ran to the library and got me a part score, then headed to P’s studio to run through it once or twice. But I think I’ve said here before that I only really get nervous when I’m unprepared, and this definitely counted as unprepared!! Shaky hands and sweaty palms when I sat down after singing my few bars, absolutely.

(How did this happen, you ask? Turns out there is a line for “Soprano/Tenor Interno,” sung offstage, earlier in the opera. Since I only had a part score for the “Young Lovers” and am unfamiliar with the opera, I knew nothing about it; the library didn’t know that the two parts were to be sung by the same people, since only the YL parts are credited on the program. Easy mistake to make, easy to let something like this slip through the cracks. And since we didn’t coach or rehearse these parts until the whole show was put together, we only discovered it on Saturday.)

The Suor run-through on Friday went very well, too. It is such a moving piece; I really had no idea. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when we finished. Bring your hankies to the movies!

The donkey (yes, Sarah, a “for real” donkey!) was adorable, and – of course – pooped onstage. “Welcome to the Met!” I didn’t get a picture, but I promise I will this week. (Of the donkey, not the poop.) We’re onstage every morning this week, and in fact, I’m about to head out now to meet my destiny with the Tabarro bridge… Wish me luck!!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Song of the Lark, quotes

I finally finished this wonderful book, and I can’t begin to collect my thoughts about it, about what it means to me and what it suggests to me of my life. So rather than try, here are some passages from the dozens of pages with turned-down corners.

“Every artist makes himself born. It is very much harder than the other time, and longer. Your mother didn’t bring anything into the world to play piano. That you must bring into the world yourself.”

“…What you want more than anything else in world is to be an artist; is that true?”
She turned her face away from him and looked down at the keyboard. Her answer came in a thickened voice. “Yes, I suppose so.”
“When did you first feel that you wanted to be an artist?”
“I don’t know. There was always--something.”

“You weren’t ready for it eight months ago.” Fred leaned back at last in his chair. “You simply weren’t ready for it. You were too tired. You were too timid. Your whole tone was too low. … You were fumbling and awkward. Since then, you’ve come into your personality. You were always locking horns with it before. You were a sullen little drudge eight months ago, afraid of being caught at either looking or moving like yourself. Nobody could tell anything about you. A voice is not an instrument that’s found ready-made. A voice is personality.”

“…To go back to your question, Dr. Archie, you can believe I keep my mind on it! That’s the whole trick, in so far as stage experience goes; keeping right there every second. If I think of anything for a flash, I’m done for. but at the same time, you can take things in – with another part of your brain, maybe. It’s different from what you get in study, more practical and conclusive. There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. You learn the delivery of a part only before an audience.”
“Heaven help us!” gasped Ottenburg. “Aren’t you hungry, though! It’s beautiful to see you eat.”

“What is it, Mr. Harsanyi? You know all about her. What’s her secret?”
Harsanyi rumpled his hair irritably and shrugged his shoulders. “Her secret? It is every artist’s secret” – he waved his hand – “passion. That is all. It is an open secret, and perfectly safe. Like heroism, it is inimitable in cheap materials.”

Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness. The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, knows how difficult it is. That afternoon nothing new came to Thea Kronborg, no enlightenment, no inspiration. She merely came into full possession of things she had been refining and perfecting for so long. Her inhibitions chanced to be fewer than usual, and, within herself, she entered into the inheritance that she herself had laid up, into the fullness of the faith she had kept before she knew its name or its meaning.”

“…Then he walked down Broadway with his hands in his overcoat pockets, wearing a smile which embraced all the stream of life passed him and the lighted towers that rose into the limpid blue of the evening sky. If the singer, going home exhausted in her car, was wondering what was the good of it all, that smile, could she have seen it, would have answered her. It is the only commensurate answer.”

I think this is a book, like Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, to which I will return again and again. (I picked that book up again this fall after about ten years, and felt like I was reading a letter from my 18-year-old self, what with all the underlining and notes in the margins.) They both have so much to say about being an artist/singer/actor, and about how tough and painful and lonely but ultimately rewarding this life can be, if one really gives ones’ self over to it, although the rewards may be impossible to quantify.

I feel very heavy. Not down, not sad, just heavy. As if I just – finally, fully – accepted the weight of my life. It’s a good heaviness, but heavy, nonetheless.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Kitchen Sink

Sorry to keep that vomitous post at the top for so long! It’s been a busy week, and I’ve had a lot on my mind, so a “kitchen sink” post will have to do for today.

Glamorous: As I was tottering home from last night’s Gala in my 3.5 in. heels, a voice came over my left shoulder: “It’s a glamorous life, isn’t it?” It was Tom, the head of the wig department (both here and in Santa Fe), offering a tongue-in-cheek summary of the evening. All dolled up, the work done, heading home in the rain to get some food.

I thought of his comment when I got home and read that Netrebko and Villazon had given another Gala performance last week in Paris. That means they sang (and attended the Gala party afterward) on Wednesday night, flew to NYC on Thursday, rehearsed throughout the day on Friday and Saturday, were fitted for costumes and wigs, had one musical rehearsal with the maestro on Sunday, had ONE shot at a rehearsal with orchestra and chorus on Monday, and sang a very high-profile broadcast performance on Tuesday. Glamorous?! Sounds like a terribly stressful and exhausting life to me.

A perk: I have always thought that a mark of “making it” as a singer would be having designers give me clothes to wear when I sing, in exchange for telling people how much I love them. (The clothes, not the people.) Well, can you believe, it has happened!

Jocelyn suggested a while ago that we approach a young designer about collaborating with us for this recital, dressing us in his or her designs in exchange for blurbs in the program and publicity. It’s a perfect idea, really, totally in keeping with the idea behind the VIM series: new approaches to the “recital” and collaborations between young artists. And what is in more need of a makeover than the staid, stuffy recital dress? So I emailed a designer a few days ago and was thrilled when she responded this morning with a “yes!” Details to come, but you can imagine how excited I am!!

Onstage: Today was the day, the day I first set foot on that venerable stage. We had a three hour Suor rehearsal this morning, and rather than being down in the basement, we were on the stage, on the set. And – oh, man – was it exciting. My fellow “Novice,” in more ways than one, is LW; she and I are both making our debut in this production, and we have been absolutely silly with excitement for weeks now. (She also was an Elf-cover in Helena.) The veterans onstage with us, chorus women as well as the other principles, are very kind to us. They tolerate our giddiness, and often smile at us with a look that says, “I remember my first time.”

Now that I think about it, this really is a special role in which to debut. Mr. O’Brien is making several “teaching moments” out of the early scenes in the opera, instructing the elder nuns to take time to teach us, the Novices, about some history or ritual or even gossip about life in the abbey. He has pointed to us and said, more than once, “They are new here; they don’t know about this.” Or he has told them, “When you sing this to them, remember the first time you learned about it.” And while that is true for our characters in the opera, it is even more true for us, LW and ACB.

There is so much we don’t know about working at the Met. Traditions, secrets, unwritten rules, how to get from Payroll to the Artists’ Area without getting lost. The parallels between LW and ACB, debutantes at the Met, and Sister Who’s It and Sister What’s It (we’re still thinking of our characters’ names…), Novices in the Abbey, are strong. I feel blessed to be having this experience of induction, of instruction, of welcome into this wonderful community. Very blessed.

Bloggity blog blog: My mind has also been occupied this week with thoughts of the blog and its purpose, yet again. I was interested to see the Distracted Dilettante touch upon the idea of “blogging = narcissism,” since someone close to me basically said the same thing this week. I kept quiet here until I knew I had something to say, rather than posting for posting’s sake, and I’m still mulling some things over in my mind on this subject.

Why does it matter for me to share with “the blogosphere” my excitement about wig fittings (today!) and musical rehearsals with James Levine (tomorrow!) or my thoughts on building an opera career? These days, with the Bhakti Project on the table, there is certainly a larger aim: fundraising to pay for a new piece of music. But what about the rest? Is it really just me saying “look how cool I am?” Is it, as I have sometimes thought in the past, a substitute for my much-missed teaching days? Maybe all of the above. All I know at this point is that I’m not ready to stop; this is a community that I enjoy being a part of, and I’m honored to make my contribution.

Tomorrow’s rehearsal excitement? The donkey comes to the abbey! I’ll take pictures…
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