Saturday, November 29, 2008

And just like that..

I’m home.

I got back to NYC on Monday, and after more than five months on the road, it felt great to know that I had only a few days of suitcase living left. B and I moved into a new apartment on Wednesday, moving from a hobbit hole in midtown Manhattan to a 4th-floor walk-up in Brooklyn Heights: lots of light, friendly neighbors, and a neighborhood full of incredible restaurants, bars, conveniences, and shops. The cafe on the ground floor of our building has great coffee and lunch AND a friendly shop cat. Not only that, but the daytime staff saw us moving in (we bought our lunch from them), and when we came back after dark, another waiter, who had not been there during the day, made a point to stop us as we were entering the stairwell and say “hello” and welcome to the building. Maybe he was just courting our business, but I smiled for a good two hours after that.

Thursday was spent giving thanks with the Brooklyn Birds, then home to put together some more furniture. B had rehearsal* on Friday so I spent most of the day unpacking and organizing before meeting him for dinner near Lincoln Center. Walking up from the subway into Verdi Square I immediately smiled: I was back! We had tickets for Tristan & Isolde at the Met, and I loved walking in through the stage door again, being greeted with smiles and hugs from security guards and colleagues. We made our way to our seats, and I was thrilled to learn that we had almost the same seats I had for my first Met Wagner experience. Great seats, but I wish I had found something a little more exciting to wear in the mess of my unpacking. I felt very boring sartorially... Nothing like six-months out of the city to get you of your fashion game! I’ve already warned B that a serious shopping excursion is in my future.

To complete our evening, we headed to the Village to find our destination closed and relocated, only to stumble upon a wonderful substitute. B has become quite a “wine guy,” and we have more than once found ourselves in deep converstaion with waitstaff about wine lists. Last night was no exception, and the waitress and host must have enjoyed themselves, too, because we found an extra glass of wine and a dessert sent to our table with compliments.

I was worried that I would be overwhelmed by returning to the city: the hustle and bustle and the noise and the fact that everything takes more effort here. But one after another, encounters with my fellow New Yorkers have reminded me that I belong here, that this is Home... now more than ever.

* More on this in a future post...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

“Obligations”

Often, when on a gig, we as the “stars” of a show are called upon to entertain at various donor events around town: Opera Guild gatherings or Board dinners or the like. I have always enjoyed these evenings, finding them a delightful change of pace from the day-to-day life of rehearsals in jeans and performances in costumes. A nice dress, a nice dinner (usually accompanied by nice wine), and a chance to meet some of the people who make my work on the stage possible.

These evenings are most often gratis on our part, included in our contract and considered part of our job. “Outreach” to the already initiated, I guess you could say. And as such, it can sometimes feel like a duty, like an obligation.

But not tonight, not for me! I had such a wonderful time. Maybe I was just in the mood for a good party (it’s been a rough few weeks in the parts of my life that this blog doesn’t cover, hence the lack of blogging...), but a few hours of good food and great conversations really hit the spot. I sang for my supper, sure, but I even loved that part. I love singing for a small crowd in an intimate space like this; our venue was a gorgeous home in the Phoenix foothills and our “crowd” was about 80 Guild and Board members. I got to sing Quando men vo’ and the Pamina-Papagena duet and Yum-Yum’s beautiful aria... and then I got to end the set with my favorite party piece: Weill’s “The Saga of Jenny.” Now, to be fair, those of you who know me “IRL” will agree that I can be, well, a bit of a flirt, and this song is just one big flirt with the audience! I love to sing it, and it has always been well received.

It felt good to sing some other rep, and was great to listen to my Ko-Ko, the elegant ND, but the highlight of the evening was truly my lovely meal. The food was outstanding: perfectly cooked halibut with a tomato-olive sauve, and scalloped potatoes with white truffle oil and shitake mushrooms. DIVINE. (B was very disappointed that I couldn’t remember the wine we had! It was Chateau Something Chardonnay, 2005 maybe? That’s something, right?) My hosts and table companions were beyond delightful, with tales of first dates and lasting love, being at La Scala the night an unknown named Maria Callas made her debut as Norma, rescuing birds from the mouths of Siberian huskies, and even some good-natured attempts to fool the Englishman at the table with tales of the Jackelope. It was a true pleasure.

We were told that anyone who sings under a Saguaro cactus becomes an instantly adopted Arizonan. I don’t think I’d mind that one bit; maybe I’ll try to find one tomorrow...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Preview

Another little teaser post, I’m afraid, but this one with multimedia! On my first day in Arizona I was interviewed by the company’s PR department for this promotional video, which they had edited and up on their website five days later. It’s a great piece (with fantastic camera work, I think), and I’m relieved to say that I don’t sound like a complete idiot.

Arizona Opera Mikado preview video

I will say that I already disagree with myself, though! I no longer think that Yum-Yum in “conniving” or even that she sets out to “get what she wants.” Nanki-Poo is the one with the plans, mostly, even though it is Yum-Yum who saves his hide at the end of Act I with her silly nonsense-syllable attack on Katisha. She is largely an “in the moment” kind of girl, accepting even the most outrageous or seemingly hubristic moments as natural and understandable. Think of Giselle in Enchanted... (If you haven’t seen it, you must, especially in you live in NYC. It is so charming your head will explode.)

This has been a wonderful rehearsal process, one that has taken me back to my theater roots. We’ve got a full day today, but I will be writing soon about how much fun it has been to “read lines” again and walk around with a script in my hand. Can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Dumb blonde"

A note for everyone who has told me that Yum-Yum is "really just a dumb blonde:" Let me point out that she is, in fact, "right at the top of the school and has three prizes."

There is a difference between stupid and simple or naive. And besides, it's not nice to laugh at stupid people.

More on this later, as you can imagine...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Singing with a cough

(Here’s another entry written en route to the desert last week. Things have been a bit unsettled around here, so I’ll get to current events in a little bit...)

Another trick I employed during Giovanni tech week (and performances) was my “cough drop trick.” It’s hardly original, I’m sure, but it always seems to catch some folks off guard.

I came up with this trick in 2006 when I was singing Ainadamar performances in NYC. I had the typical winter cold (I used the get them pretty regularly, and they would really stick around. Why I don’t any more is for another post...), and it had started to settled in my chest as a pesky unproductive and uncontrollable cough. I will never forget the moment... We were in the middle of Lorca’s gorgeous “statue aria,” when the stage was quiet and darkly lit, except for a light following Kelly. We “Granada Girls” were all grouped behind Dawn, with me just over her right shoulder. Kelly came up to her, and as she did, we were all brought into the light as they shared a wonderful quiet moment. And then it hit me. My chest started to spasm, and I needed nothing more than to just cough, loud and long. But I absolutely could. not. I held it in, eyes watering and body shaking, for what felt like five minutes but was probably only 45 seconds, until we all broke away and spread to all corners of the stage.

I should say here that this was a production where once we were onstage, we were on until the end; we walked on at the “places” call and walked off after the bows. There were no real “exits,” just small entry points upstage left and right. Our staging for the end of the aria fortunately led me in a big circle around the stage, ending up right by the USR exit! It was still dark on stage, so I slipped out, praying that my mic was off, and I coughed and coughed. The poor stage manager was so confused and concerned, knowing that she wasn’t supposed to see any of us for another 30 minutes! I drank some water, dried my eyes, and surreptitiously slipped back onstage. Only one of my castmates, and no one in the house - not even the front of house stage manager! - had noticed. “Crisis” avoided.

But we had two more performances to get through, and my cough wasn’t going away over night. How could I make sure this didn’t happen again? I might not be so lucky the next time. I had no pockets on my sleeveless costume, so nowhere to stash a cough drop... or was there? Cough drops are sticky, after all. So, before each show, I stuck a cough drop to my skin just under the shoulder strap of my dress. Whenever I wasn’t singing, I would turn upstage and, as gently as possible, pull the cough drop off and, yes, pop it into my mouth. Now, I know, I know... this is kind of gross! And it hurt!! But I never coughed onstage again.

I had to use this trick again during Giovanni, and the stage crew was endlessly amused watching me fussing with my cough drop in the wings just before I’d go on. But I also had an unexpected ally in my Masetto. (No, he did NOT help with the cough drops!) He knew I was struggling during the dress rehearsal, and he had seen me turning upstage more than once to cough and grab a “Ricola moment.” During the trio with Giovanni just before the party scene, our blocking brought us all far stage right. When Giovanni passed me to Masetto, DC whispered in my ear “Go off” and pushed me into the wings! I was a bit confused, but not nearly as much as - you guessed it - the stage manager! I got some water from the table and started to relax, thinking “Thanks, DC; good thinking! Now I’ve got about five minutes to settle myself before we all go back on for the party scene.” Except... I still had to finish the trio! The SM got my attention, and I got to the stage just in time to stomp past Masetto in a huff and take Giovanni’s hand to go to the party. When we all exited (together, as staged) on the other side of the stage, DC and I started laughing while poor Giovanni said, “What happened?! What was that all about?” Quick thinking from a concerned colleague saved me from another on stage coughing fit, and got everyone’s adrenaline pumping a little bit!

I’m sure this won’t be the last time I use this trick. I just hope I never have a cough while I’m in a costume with a high neckline...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Marking

During the Giovanni tech week, I did a lot of marking, relatively speaking. I rarely mark when I’m feeling healthy, preferring to work the role into my voice during rehearsal, playing with the phrasing and colors as I develop the character. I always mark the first time through a new staging, since the important thing at that time is the “chess game” of staging (where I go and when I go there). Many of my colleagues mark on and off throughout the rehearsal process, and some never mark at all. It’s an individual thing, all part of knowing your own process and limits and stamina.

But not all marking is created equally. I remember being visited in opera class in grad school by a singer who was about ten years ahead of us in the business, and I still remember what she said about marking: it’s all about energy. If you are marking to save your voice, as I was during tech week, it is crucial that you don’t mark on your energy level. A severe drop in energy can completely change the way a scene works, both from the perspective of director’s table and from that of your colleagues on stage. Keep your face engaged, stay focused on the text and on telling the story.

The easiest way to do that is simply through the text itself: go for the consonants. It is largely true that most of your singing is done on the vowels. That’s where the sound really moves, where your voice is really engaged, so it stands to reason that this is where you’ll need to take it easy when marking. Consonants, on the other hand, use much less vocal power, even the voiced ones (b,d,g,l,m,n,r,v,z). By focusing your energy in this way, your text will still carry, which means your intentions will be clear to your director and scene partners, and your diction will be easy to follow for your conductor.

I’m on a plane to the desert, where I will greedily soak up the sun and 90 degree weather, healing body and spirit. It’s possible that the shift in weather might hit my system again, but I’ll be ready. There are no high Es (or Ds or even Cs!) in this role, so it shouldn’t be vocally taxing, but just in case, I know how to mark...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Zerlina wrap-up

Singing while sick is never ideal, but sometimes it is inevitable. In this case, it turned out to be an allergy issue, rather than a virus or bacterial infection. I went to see a doctor on the Wednesday of tech week (Friday night opening) and came away with a prescription for antibiotics, just in case, but we both felt that they would be useless. Instead: Sudafed, Mucinex, Tylenol, neti pot... and boxes and boxes of tissures. I spent most of the week in bed, drinking tons of water and trying to eat enough to keep my energy up. B was on a gig about three hours away, so he came down on to see the final dress rehearsal and spend his day off with me. So much fun, hanging out with a miserable sick person on your day off! It was great to have some quiet time together, and of course I valued having his eyes and ears in the audience.

Overall, I was really happy with my Zerlina experience. The allergy/cough didn’t get in the way too much, but the thing that upset me the most was that my middle voice was weakened! During the whole rehearsal period, I’d been so happy with my strong mix-y middle voice (the notes on the staff, especially lower on the staff). But when one has a cough, the vocal cords get slammed together over and over, which causes swelling, which is most noticable in the range of the singing voice that is closest to speech, aka, the middle voice. Damn. I was hoping to be a full-voiced Zerlina, and I was happy with my arias and duets, but in the ensembles I just didn’t feel like I had enough “umph” to cut through. Meh. No great loss, as everyone has said to me “No one ever hears Zerlina at this point anyway.” (pout)But I wanted to be heard always!(/pout)

One thing that I loved about Zerlina was discovering endless ways of interpreting her character. Pure innocent? Opportunistic gold-digger? True? False? Some combination of all of the above? I think I played her differently every night, and I loved it. Now, playing a character differently doesn’t mean that you change your blocking or do other things that might disrupt the flow that your colleagues (onstage and in the pite) have established. It’s all about the language - being comfortable enough with the Italian words to choose different ways to say the line. All that work I did with Susanna's recits last year have paid off!

The easiest scene in which to play with different “line readings” was the scene before “Batti batti.” (Opera 101 Moment: In this scene, Zerlina is trying to make up with Masetto, her fiancee, after she dissed him to spend some quality time with Don Giovanni.) How many different ways can you say “I’m sorry. Yes, I messed up, but I think you might be overreacting?” hehe

All in all, it was a great experience. We felt like we really hit our stride - on closing night! Sometimes, you don’t want a gig to end so soon...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why I love him

Castmate of B: Does your fiancee have dark hair?
B: Well, she’s kind of got dark blonde, light brown hair... why?
CoB: ‘Cuz I saw a woman who looked like a soprano in the elevator today, wondered if it was her.
B: Yeah... she doesn’t really “look like a soprano...”

Rock on!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Congratulations!!

To my dear friends Nick (fellow blogger and tour buddy) and Jeremy (Wolf Trap friend and whiskey buddy), who officially - and legally! - tied the knot last weekend.

Warm wishes and all my love, friends!

Sick

It’s probably not a coincidence that on the first cloudy day since my arrival here, I should wake up with a cold. Terrible timing, of course, but it feels minor. With plenty of rest and lots of water and good nasal irrigation or two, I should be right as rain (haha) for Friday’s opening. Here’s to hoping...

I wrote the above paragraph this morning, and had all sorts of intentions to write about Zerlina, but I’ve pretty much been napping all day. I have two more hours before I leave for tonight’s first orchestra dress, so I might get some thoughts up, but I will likely be napping and feeding my cold. But stay tuned, as always.

In other news: I applied for my absentee ballot today! If you’re not going to be in your home voting district on November 4th, it’s not too late to get one and get your vote in. Sure, absentee ballots seem to be the red-headed step-children of elections, but this year I just don’t think anyone can afford to let their vote slip by.

More soon...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tap, tap, tap... Is this thing on?

About a month ago, Sid sent me a link to a post from a “really old-school blogger” in which said blogger perfectly summed up the reasons behind his recent dearth of blogging. It resonated with me so strongly that I vowed to write a “farewell cruel blog!” post that very night and disappear from teh internets...

We can all see how that turned out.

The things that struck me then still resonate, especially this: “...the stories I would share back then seem distinctly more private now. ...I’m just trying to enjoy the moment, I guess.” I think I’ve referred to this idea already, but reading it from another veteran blogger validated my feelings a little. Obviously, I haven’t been recounting the daily events of my life in rehearsals and coachings and performances this summer. But I have recently started to miss the blog.

Or, rather, I’ve started to miss writing. One of the things I have loved about my blog has been discovering my gift for writing. I feel rusty; writing this post has been a challenge! My flow is off...

So maybe this is a test post, not to see if anyone is still reading but to see if I can be like Stella and get my groove back. I have two weeks left with Zerlina, then my first Gilbert & Sullivan experience. I’m living out of suitcase for ten weeks in a row this fall, having my first adventures in extended-stay hotel living rather than host-housing. I’m exploring some new rep. I’m moving to Brooklyn to live with B (and we’re getting married!). There should be plenty to write about, if I can find a balance between living my life and documenting it. I hope so, ‘cuz if not, I’m going to have to start writing a novel, and fiction is really not my genre...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bullet Points, August 08

Ok, wow. When I said I wasn’t going to be blogging much this summer, I had no idea that I would go weeks without even a peep! I’ve had a couple of blog-related dreams this week, so maybe it’s time to check in. Rather than try to put the past month in any kind of order, it’s time for... you guessed it: bullet points! Maybe I’ll follow up with a Picture Pages post...

* It’s been a summer for blasts from the past. In Cleveland for my Symphony gig, I was reconnected with FD, with whom I first worked three years ago in Atlanta. Also in Cleveland, I recognized one of the flute players from my days at Tanglewood. It’s so cool to work with these top orchestras and discover colleagues who have won those fiercely competitive jobs. Congrats, SSC! Another blast (in more ways than one) has been working with TS here at Wolf Trap. I first met him in Santa Fe in 2006 where he directed my scene on the Apprentice program, my first encounter with Lucia... He’s been our director for Ariadne here, and his creativity and enthusiasm have been contagious. See below for more.

* The next blast from the past came a few weeks ago, in an email entitled “10 years ago.” GH, a fellow student at the University of Georgia, is now the director of a top choir in Texas. He was also one of the first people to encourage me to switch from education to performance, saying “I think you might just have something there.” We will catch each other up on the events of 1998-2008 when I sing with his group in December. How cool is that?

* Ariadne rehearsals are over; we open tomorrow night. You can see a bunch of pictures on Kim’s blog. You will see that my costume for the first act (The Prologue) is, well, a bit on the skimpy side at times. It has been my first experience with semi-nudity onstage, something I knew I’d face sooner or later, so I’ve been really happy to do it here, at a very supportive company with a great professional (read: mature) cast and a director I admire and trust. I was free at any time to draw the line, but this always felt like the “right” thing for the scene/character/world we’d all created onstage. But, in any case, I’m kind of glad my folks aren’t at this one... Wait until I’m naked in Germany and come make a vacation out of it!

* One more plug for TS: it was pretty wonderful to look out at the director’s table during rehearsals and see him smiling and laughing or intently focused on the drama. It felt great to have a director who was excited every day to make some magic! Before we started one of our final days of initial staging, he started rehearsal by saying, "I couldn't sleep last night 'cuz I was so excited to come stage this!" That, my friends, is what you want to meet when you come to work! It’s been a pleasure, TS; can’t wait to do it again.

* The biggest thing I’ve learned during this show, however, is that Zerbinetta is not in my cards. I’ve been trying on and off for an hour to try and sum up why, but I don’t think it’s a bullet point topic. I’ll try to get some thoughts down about our parting soon, but for now, it was a very amicable separation.

Some non-singing bullet points:
* New tunes I’ve been digging this summer: Chromeo, St. Vincent, She & Him (fantastic album), Fleet Foxes, Jason Mraz, Regina Spektor. (Many thanks to Maury for that last one; I, too, was late on the bandwagon...)

* The Olympics are awesome and all-consuming. But this is not news.

* I’m way behind on updating the blogroll, but for now, check out Sestissimo at Trying to Remain Opera-tional. She’s a great writer, and she’s about to travel to South America to sing Musetta in Boheme. Expect some great stories!

More soon. Well, soonish. But not three weeks, I promise!

Friday, July 25, 2008

An experiment in gratitude

Taking a cue from Yankeediva’s plabook, I’m writing an experimental “gratitude” post:

I am grateful for the perks of this job - lovely hotel rooms with BATHTUBS and fancy toiletries and fluffy white robes - that make the bumps in the road - my suitcase not making it to my destination along with me - much easier to handle.

Today was a lovely day, in truth, starting with a music rehearsal with my fellow Ariadne nymphs. What gorgeous music we are participating in here!

(Side note: some of the staging so far includes some time that our characters get to sit and observe the opera-within-the-opera. Sitting there listening to MO sing, even marking, I was a bit blown away by this thing we do. I got an idea of what was behind that look Jason Alexander was giving us when we were singing together! Most humans don’t make these sounds, and when they are made well, as they tend to be here at “the Trap,” it’s kind of awesome.)

Anyway, back to today. Music rehearsal, home to finish packing and have a relaxed lunch with B, and then a fairly uneventful trip on a plane. No bag at my destination? No problem! I had just spent an hour studying Don Giovanni and imagining singing duets with B, it was a sunny but not humid evening, and I was headed to a fancy hotel in a car with tinted windows. Who needs luggage?!

Dinner at the hotel with the most amazing marscapone cheese spread, some studying, some TV, a blissful bath, and a goodnight phone call with B... all still part of the lovely day... but I’m ready for my suitcase now.

What exactly was I grateful for again? Ah, yes, comfy hotel amenities... ‘nighty-night...

**UPDATE** The suitcase arrived safe and sound around 1am. Serious sleeping commenced...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Studying

Funny how much harder it is to memorize something that is not one’s native language!

Last year’s Blier recital here at Wolf Trap practically memorized itself, since all of our songs were in English. This year, the theme is “Tales from the Vienna Woods,” an all-German program. All the composers have ties to Vienna (Austria, not Virginia) and all of the songs are about dem Wald: the woods. It was Steve’s first recital program here at Wolf Trap, and the title is a fun play on the fact that we are in a “Vienna Wood” here, as well.

I have four songs, three duets, and four ensembles on the program (so does everybody else!), so I have been spending a couple of hours a day typing all my words over and over again, doing my best to make sure they’re in there. Thankfully B has been up in NYC for the past couple of days, so he hasn’t had to listen to me mumbling under my breath or singing random phrases for hours at a time. Of course, I still have to go through my Ariadne memory checks, so he’ll get to experience it soon enough!

Tomorrow we’re working through the program in order. It will be fun to discover, as we did last year, interactions between us as characters and singers. I’ve been appointed “Dance Captain” again (although Steve said there was never any question: “ACB simply IS Dance Captain!” Is that a compliment?), and there may or may not be some waltzing in the Barns on Saturday night. You’ll have to come and find out. Hopefully there won’t be any “wardrobe malfunctions” this year...

In other news, I’ve updated my website: web.mac.com/annecarolynbird. There are pics from Candide on the Photos page and a few songs on the new Music page. There will be arias there by the end of the summer (haven’t I said that before?), and hopefully I’ll get things worked out with the acb.com folks so I can have the old domain point to the new site. I had planned on getting a professional site done this year, but I like this one well enough that I figured I’d save my money. Obviously, I haven’t gotten the blog totally linked up yet, but I’ll get around to that. Look for pictures from Barbiere soon, too.

Tales from the “Tales of Vienna Woods” next week!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Energy, given and received

When we got home Sunday night, B asked if there had been any talk of going to Clyde’s with the cast after the post-show reception. I think I passed out from the very idea of exerting any more energy that night... After essentially running the show four times in the span of 30 hours, wearing my 3-inch-heel show shoes all the while, I had nothing left. It was all I could do to hold my glass of wine while I lay on the couch! (Pictures of the gold slinky dress coming soon...)

If I had been scheduled to do another performance of Candide, I would probably have paced myself a bit more, budgeting energy and voice to make it through a run. But with a “one off,” there is no reason, in my mind, to hold anything back. I might as well give it all, since this was my one chance! One night for the audience, one night for me. I gave everything I had, and I loved every minute of it.

I decided Sunday morning that I was going to sing that night for CT the DT, now writing a new blog from her hospital room with her husband’s help. We are not as close as we were when I lived in Seattle, but once upon a time CT said she would travel anywhere to see me perform, and she often did. Sunday night’s Candide was a joyful show, a fun and silly show that ends with one of the most poignant and beautiful songs in the repertoire, “Make our Garden Grow.” I knew she would love it if she were there, that it could be a balm for her body and soul in many ways. And so, just before I walked onstage to sing “Glitter and Be Gay,” I closed my eyes and breathed in and out, sending love and energy and joy and the healing power of music from my little corner of the Filene Center to her corner of the ICU.

At no point in the performance did I feel nervous, not the slightest bit. Her strong will and good heart were nurturing me, and I was blessed. Next time, I hope she is there in body as well as in spirit.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Big weekend

As is often the case with concert performances, all of the elements are coming together at the last minute. With our concert tomorrow night, we will spend this afternoon doing a room run, fitting Mr. Alexander into the minimal staging we’ve worked out (and trying to remember it ourselves! We’ve only had one rehearsal for each act...). This evening we’ll caravan into DC for the Sitzprobe with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center; I think our rehearsal might be on the stage, which will be all kinds of awesome. Tomorrow morning we’ll do a sound check; since the Filene Center is a large (huge) amphitheater, we’ll all be miked, which takes a little pressure off getting those low- and middle-voice passages out. I’m never worried about my high notes being heard! God bless formants... Then in the afternoon, we’ll have a “dress rehearsal,” which will mostly involved checking entrances and exits and who does what with which chairs. Then... showtime!

Needless to say, I won’t be singing every line at every rehearsal. Having a fresh voice for the show is most important, but there will be a few other times I’ll want to sing out. I’ll probably sing Glitter at both the room run and the Sitz; I’m very confident now that I “have it,” but it won’t hurt my confidence to get two more runs under my belt. The room run will also be my only chance to try my blocking in my (very tight and slinky) dress! Gotta make sure I can roll around on that row of chairs as melodramatically as I’d like...

Getting Glitter up to snuff - or, rather, up to my own very high standard - has been a process. For those of you who don’t know the aria, it is one of the more manic coloratura arias, building in frenzy and ending with a series of sustained high notes, climaxing at an e-flat. Now, I think you know how I feel about high notes that have “e” in the name... They have been my Great White Whale. I still don’t feel great about the e-natural, but I think I have tamed the e-flat! As long as I keep myself completely in the moment, singing and acting, I’m fine, but as soon as I step outside myself and start listening to the note, the tone quality changes. Less vibrant, less supported. Having B’s ears here has really helped, as I trust him to tell me the truth and to help me navigate through any issues. Each time I’ve sung the aria, I have felt more and more confident. I think it’s ready to go!

I was lucky enough to coach this with Erie Mills, who sang the role under Bernstein’s baton many times, and she had lots of helpful and encouraging things to share. The one I will be holding onto most strongly this weekend is this: let the orchestra convey the mania of the piece. They are going to be blasting at full steam, full of energy and excitement. All I have to do is ride the wave. If I can stay relatively calm, Cunegonde’s mania will definitely still come through in the brilliant mix of orchestration and singing. I don’t have to add any real hysteria to the mix!

Wish me luck, and pray that it doesn’t rain tomorrow!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chapter Three

I’ve been in Virginia for a week now, after a wonderful ten days with B (trying on a new role: supportive opera girlfriend. I think it might be my favorite role to date!) and a quick trip up to NYC for an audition. Candide rehearsals have started and are going well. I’m getting to work on my other summer assignments - a Blier recital and Ariadne - and starting to format my Zerlina text pages. B gets here this evening, and then the summer will be fully underway. In short, life as normal!

Except... I’m not sure where blogging fits into the picture anymore. I’ve titled this post “Chapter Three” because it feels like the blog is coming into it’s next phase, its third. The first was the beginning, obviously, writing about auditions and small gigs. Fresh-faced and naive and idealistic, I wrote about my life as a singer without really getting into the tough stuff, glossing over growing pains and hurdles on the blog the same way I did in my life. In Chapter Two, after my divorce, I wrote (and lived) with a bit more candor. Auditions and jobs got bigger, and I blogged my journey into the heart of the young new music community. Blogging was as much a part of my life as warming-up, as learning new music. I became “ACB.” (It is funny how widely this nickname has spread; strangers know and address me by it, showing that not all nicknames come from familiarity.)

I’ve heard from young singers that they have appreciated me sharing my journey, even hearing from some that they consider me a mentor. A handful of opera administrators have indicated that they read or have read the blog, and most have been complimentary, saying they’ve enjoyed my insights into “the biz.” I’ve made some really great friends through the blog, and I have given industry outsiders a window into life on and behind the stage. All these are results - side effects, maybe - of keeping a regular public journal, and I am grateful and blessed!

Personally, I think I relied on the blog community over the past couple of years. I wrote regularly not only because I had lots to write about, but because I needed a confidante. I never kept a diary as a kid (or as a teenager); this blog has been the most regular journal I’ve ever had. And even though I didn’t work through personal issues here (you heard only the faintest whisper of my NYC dating dramas, for example), I nevertheless came to rely on having a place to put my thoughts down. I have great friends and family, but I don’t talk to them everyday and see them even less frequently. But I could “talk” to the blogosphere everyday if I wanted to. I think it might even be safe to say that the blog was my primary relationship!

And now, well, I have a boyfriend. (Silly word, boyfriend, when we’re in our 30s, but what can you do...) I talk to him every day about everything. For the past three months, there hasn’t really been anything left for the blog! I had to force myself to sit down and write. I even entertained the thought that the days of The Concert might be over... haven’t I said everything I wanted to say? What else is there to share?

Time will tell. I don’t think I’m ready to throw in the towel, but I think there will be a big change in content, at least in the quantity of it. I’ll probably spare you all the “soup to nuts” entries of role preparation; I think I covered that pretty darn thoroughly with Susanna and Rosina! I’ll continue to talk about rep and technique hurdles and trials of life on the road as they come up. I’ll post fun stories when I can, keeping in mind that my colleagues are also “bigger” these days and have their own rights to privacy. I have no doubt that there could be lots of interesting posts on the challenges and joys of being involved with another singer, but I’m afraid I won’t be “going there.” I’m sure B will pop up in a post from time to time, but how we make it all work, logistically and otherwise, will stay private. Overall, I’m only going to write when I really have something to say.

Thanks for sticking around during this station break. Chapter Three of The Concert will begin shortly...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Off

I’m going offline - or at least “offblog” - while I’m visiting B. When I get back, I’ll probably continue this somewhat scaled-back blogging schedule. I have felt my impetus to blog diminishing over the past few months (maybe you’ve noticed?), and I’m finally embracing it. Putting pressure on myself to write something insightful and special every other day or so was only making me more resistant to sitting down and putting my thoughts and experiences into words. I can be a little stubborn, even when it’s my own self telling me to do things!

For the next few months, you can imagine me playing house in this beautiful Virginia home, channeling my inner floozie for Candide, studying German lieder for the Blier concert, and style-hopping between Strauss and Mozart and Gilbert & Sullivan. I’ll be reading your blogs still, and I’ll pop up here from time to time with updates and stories. Have a wonderful summer!!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Here

As I boarded the train this morning (early this time!), I felt a surge of excitement. My summer has begun! I am in such a different state of mind this May than I was last, and instead of coming to this retreat to heal and recoup, I feel like I am here to start a new chapter.

It is amazing to be back in this beautiful apartment, greeted by a massive thundershower and L&C's smiling faces. I can hear the familiar birds in the woods out back, and I'm already anticipating the assault of the frogs come evening.

But first, unpack. Then Trader Joe's, probably, and then reunions!! And speaking of reunions: I just peeked out the window and spotted my first white-tail deer. So much nicer than the dead mouse I found in my kitchen yesterday... Hooray for a summer in the country!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Pack

That’s pretty much the only thing on my To Do list today. I spent all day yesterday cleaning and organizing, filing that folder of papers that’s been growing in my shelf, getting rid of a few books, and generally getting my ducks in a row. When I go away, I prefer to come home to a clean house, so I always clean a bit before I go. The longer the trip, the more intense the clean, it seems. My space will be dusted and tidied, ready for me to just slip right back in come September. I’ll be taking over the lease on my little hobbit hole, so my weeks between gigs this fall will be filled with painting and finding furniture and nesting (haha) in general.

I have some thoughts brewing about the blog, but I may not get to them until I’m settled in Virginia. I’ve got a car to buy, music to study, walks to take and friends to catch up with, not to mention a ten-day trip to visit B. I feel prepared enough for my upcoming Candide rehearsals that I might even consider part of that trip *gasp* a vacation!! Whoa.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

NAR

Not to be confused with the NRA, New Amsterdam Records is the rockin’ label started by my friend Judd and his friends. They were featured in a fantastic spot on All Things Considered tonight, and I am so proud! I know I didn’t have anything to do with their accomplishments, but it feels so good to see and hear my friends having such awesome success. Congrats, NAR!!

Listen to the segment on the NPR site.

And I was serious about joining NAR’s music networking site. I’ve had a couple of friends say, essentially, “Am I cool enough?” There is definitely an edgy side to the site, but that’s new music. Actually, that’s young hip people who happen to be classical musicians, and almost all of my colleagues classify as young hip people. So, yes: you are all cool enough! Maybe too cool, even, but that’s even better. You know you want it...

If you are a singer or instrumentalist, if your are in an ensemble, if you run a concert series, if you write music... come join the network. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “new music person,” come create a presence. Who knows, you might discover a project you’d like to get involved with.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My own bed

What a joy to wake up in my own bed this morning! And the heat that was oppressive around 11pm last night broke overnight and I slept like a dream. I'm off to get a haircut and run some errands - when one is only home for four days, you don't do much else. Errands, coffees and lunches and drinks with friends, and pack. That's my life for the next three days.

I have a big thought brewing, though, so I'll try to get some writing time this afternoon.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Dress

Remember that Badgley Mischka dress I’ve been talking about for about a year but never managed to get a picture of? Well, here you go!Andy took this picture, and he told me to “work it;” hence the silly pose and sly smile. I don’t have on my lipstick yet, but you get the general idea. You can’t see the bottom of the skirt, but it’s a fishtail skirt with a small train. So lovely.

I knew months ago that I would wear this dress for these concerts; in fact, I bought the dress largely because of them (thanks, KG, for the tip!). To my mind, when I’m singing a non-religious concert with an orchestra, flashy is the way to go. Show a little skin, wear a bright color... be fun and flirty! When I asked the mezzo on the concert what she was wearing, she gave an answer that almost seemed like the punch line to a joke about the difference between sopranos and mezzos: “Oh, you know, I thought - orchestra concert, so something black, kind of simple.” hehe

She looked like a million bucks in her “simple” black velvet gown and sang a fantastic “I Hate Men.” With Andy and Nic in their tails and the actors in their basic black, I think we were all good representatives of our “types!”

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Off the wagon

Ok, so my 30-day project has failed in one regard - I missed the last two days - but it was a success in another - I feel like I’ve got the blog juices going again. I’m going to continue to strive for almost daily posting, but that may have to wait until I get back to NYC on Tuesday. I’ll be with family today and tomorrow and I’m not sure what the internet situation will be at the house.

The concerts have been a blast, and I have much to share about how wonderful it’s been working with actors again. But the biggest thing to share in this short post is that I finally feel like I have a hometown orchestra! I know I only lived here in Atlanta for a year, but I’ve had family here for over 15 and still have many friends. I saw two of my college roommates and good friends last night after several years and I’ll see them both again tomorrow; with one I’ll meet her daughter and with the other, her Harley Davidson!! She’s wanted one as long as I’ve known her; maybe I’ll even get a ride...

More “hometown” evidence: when one can be surprised by a backstage visit from her first voice teacher... that can only happen “at home,” right?! I’ll tell the fully story later, but it was so good to see him - and to have him compliment my technique! Always good to have a former teacher think you’re singing well...

I’m going to post this quick note before I lose my hotel internet. More soon, hopefully!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Facebook

I might be over Facebook, and not just because I can’t seem to win at Scrabulous.

When I recently turned down a friend request, I said that it was because I usually “try to wait until I work with someone twice before I add them.” I didn’t even realize when I wrote that that, of course, I had added several other members of the cast; they were my friends, had become my friends during our rehearsals. What I should have said was that I try to become friends with someone before I add them, or that I try to make sure the relationship is more than superficial, more than the “insta-friendship” that so often appears on a gig.

But how do you say to someone, “Sorry, we didn’t really bond, so I don’t want to be Facebook friends with you?” How do you say, “I’m not sure you and I are going to “Christmas card” friends, so can we wait on the Facebook thing?” Or, for a different kind of request, “Hey, we weren’t really even friends in school, so why do you want to be my Facebook friend?” Or, “I know we know a lot of the same people, but I’ve never met you, so, ummm... ??” When I was a kid and I would call someone “my friend,” my mom would often say “That person is really more of an acquaintance; be careful which words you choose.” (Guidance like that is partially responsible for my love of language as an adult.)

Even MySpace is freaking me out these days: I’m getting fairly regular proposals from a guy in China (at least, that who/where he says he is) who wants to marry me and make me a famous movie star. Ummm... no, thanks. I think I’ll move my non-blog networking site to New Amsterdam Records and just be done with the quagmire that is MySpace. (Seriously, if you want a music-only networking site, hie thee hence to NAR.com and make a profile. It’s the wave of the future.)

I was pretty blunt about the online-friendship thing last summer at Wolf Trap, telling a lot of the Studio Artists that I probably wasn’t going to ad them, and that if I did it would likely be on Limited Profile. When I wrote about this subject a year ago, I had 20% of my Friends list on Limited Profile. That is now up to 55%. Over half!! And who has 329 friends anyway?! I need to figure something out... I’m heading into another summer gig where I’ll make about 40 “friends.” Oh boy.

In the end, there is no formula for what makes someone feel like a friend versus an acquaintance. That’s my call. I’m sure I’ll offend some people by cutting back my Friends list or by not adding them right away, but anyone who doesn’t understand my reasons for being a bit more private, for having a less liberal definition of Friendship, probably isn’t a real friend anyway.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

So close, so far

My boyfriend is on a gig in another state. We talk several times a day on the phone, send text messages, and spend at least an hour every night video-chatting on our Macs. Sometimes it feels like he’s as close as he would be if we were both in New York; sometimes it feels like he’s on Mars.

My parents and sister are in Georgia, spending the day and night up in Athens with my grandmother. Athens is about a 90 minute drive, I can’t get up there because of rehearsal tonight and tomorrow morning. Today is my mom’s birthday, and I’m pretty sad that she is so close and yet I can’t be with her. The Brooklyn Birds are getting in to Atlanta tonight and we’ll all see each other tomorrow, but I want to see them now. I want to hug my mom on her birthday.

My friend CT the DT is in Seattle. Her cancer is back. For the fourth time. In her lungs and bones and brain. We talked on the phone last week, and she has started another blog about her cancer fight. We are in touch, but we can not touch. And I would really like to touch her...

Until somebody actually invents a transporter, there really isn’t enough technology in the world to ease my heavy heart tonight.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things that are on my “love it” list right now, or “Gerunds”

Night guards who say, unprompted, “You have a lovely night, darlin.” Overhearing the concierge telling a guest about the tapas restaurant down the street, and hearing the guest say, “Excuse me?!” knowing that he thought the guy said “a topless restaurant.” The general - and genuine - friendliness of the staff here.

Discovering that I didn’t actually have rehearsal today, and so ending up with a “free day” that was more productive than many of my recent “work days.” Spending two hours with the Candide score, drilling chromaticisms and crisp rhythms. (This is going to be so much fun!)

Making contact with two high school friends and making plans to see them this week, both after many years. Knowing that my mom and dad and sister are in the same time zone! Making plans to see my Mamma on Thursday and planning a sleepover with my sister. Knowing that my dad brought a camera lens in his carry on...

Walking to the grocery store, knowing that most folks in Atlanta would take the car. Carrying home my provisions in my Envirosac. Turning off the AC in my room and opening the balcony door, enjoying the sweet Southern evening.

Having a fridge in my hotel room, and being fully loaded up with snacks. Finding Kefir and organic apples and my favorite Irish cheddar at the grocery store.

New albums: Marry Me, St. Vincent (buy it. now.); Narrow Stairs, Death Cab for Cutie; Talking Through Tin Cans, The Morning Benders

Dinners with generous supporters and friends, sharing stories of families and music and unexpected love. Being one of two tables at the restaurant; being guests of the chef and so turning your meal over to her. Six courses later, getting a tour of the facility. Walking home in the cool night feeling so blessed to live the life I do!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Hard Way

Not too long ago I was saying to B that I’d always had good luck with “cutting it close” for flights, avoiding long waits before a flight by planning my trip to the airport just so. We laughed about it and said that it was probably a matter of time before my luck ran out, before I learned the hard way that I should always leave more time than I think, rather than less.

Well, today I learned.

Late out the door, traffic in Manhattan, traffic on the expressway, getting dropped off at the wrong terminal... Any one of those things could have been surmountable, but add them all up, and the lead up to a missed flight. Fortunately, I was flying to a major city on a major airline, so I just got rebooked on the next flight, one hour later than planned. It cost me $50, but it could have been much worse. And next time, I imagine I’ll be early.

I’m in the same hotel I was in back in 2005 for the Ainadamar recording and in 2006 for the La Pasion tour. Feels very familiar and comfortable. I have a lovely suite with a balcony and a luxurious (hopefully not-too-soft) bed, but the hotel has no free internet! I can plug into the wall for $12.95 A DAY or I can go down to the 2nd floor Business Center and use the wireless - 90 minutes for $15!!! Unbelievable! I guess they’re used to business people with expense accounts. Thank god for unencrypted wireless signals flying through the ether. Hopefully I’ll be able to maintain my daily posting this week. I’m getting this one in under the wire... cutting it close, yet again!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Romance

About halfway through the first part of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall this afternoon, I knew what I wanted to write about today: applause. But then I had an encounter at intermission that trumped my first idea, at least temporarily.

Yesterday I did something to my back, tweaked it somehow, and I’ve been in pretty serious pain on and off since then. It’s an old injury, from my gymnastics days, and if my overall core strength is diminished or if I sleep in a too-soft bed, one wrong move can set things a-spazzin’. Not fun. (For more on injuries to girls in high school and college sports programs, read this article from last week’s NYTimes. I was FAR from an athlete, and I still have physical maladies that plague me. I can only imagine what today’s hardcore female athletes will have to deal with unless they get better strength training and preventative care.)

ANyway... I digress. At intermission, as we were getting up from our (wonderful and generously donated orchestra) seats, I had to grab my friend’s arm to get up to a standing position. My friend was (still is, actually) a man, not my boyfriend, but it’s crowded and pushy in that aisle at intermission, and so I was standing very close to him, doing my best to stand up straight and not get jostled about. He had just asked about the pain in my back, and as I was telling him, a woman walked past us and said “This is no place for a romance, kids.”

Umm... excuse me?! I turned to watch her go, my mouth agape, and before I could stop myself I said, “I’m in pain, but thank you.” (I don’t know what that was supposed to mean, but that’s what came out.) As I turned back in astonishment to JM, another woman was passing by and acknowledged the first woman’s comment. “That was so rude! And even if you weren’t in pain, why isn’t this a place for a romance?!”

Why not, indeed. There were so many things wrong with that woman’s behavior, I almost don’t know where to start. How about: mind your own business? You can never tell what is going unless you are directly involved in a conversation. There was no PDA, no googly eyes, no sweet talk. She made a snap judgement, and it was completely wrong. She should have kept her mouth shut. I’m sure that if I hadn’t been in such pain, I would have come up with an even more witty statement to tell her so.

And how about: this is exactly the kind of attitude that keeps “kids” out of the concert halls! As the second woman recognized, a passionate orchestra concert on a rainy Sunday afternoon is fantastic place for romance! (She was there with a handsome gent who seemed tickled by the whole encounter. There seemed to be a bit of romance between them... but what do I know.) There certainly was enough passion on that stage to ignite a fire, and the buzz in the auditorium at the end was absolutely hott. The audience felt the enthusiasm coming from the performers, and they responded to it with an extended ovation. My dictionary widget defines "romance" thusly (second definition): “a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.” Seems a pretty good definition of what was going on in that hall today. How sad that this woman was seemed only concerned with everyone minding their p’s and q’s. Were I not “a regular” at this sort of thing, I can see how her comment would have turned me sour on ever going back.

I wonder why she was there in the first place. What did she get from the afternoon? Did the music move her in any way? Or was she one of the people who jumped out of her seat after Gergiev’s first bow, heading toward the exit to grab her coat and find a cab? Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe she was one of the hundreds who stood and called him back three times, eager to thank him and the orchestra for temporarily transporting them. Those who stood and applauded until the end are guilty of what some might see as inappropriate conduct in a venerable hall like Carnegie.

We all had a romance with Maestro Gergiev and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. I hope we did not offend.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Five minutes

I usually keep quiet when I travel, not having inherited my mother’s proclivity for comfortably talking to strangers. She is always ready with a smile, and is seemingly willing to hear anyone’s life story. Me, I prefer to keep to myself, avoiding talking to strangers unless absolutely necessary. Cab drivers hear my destination when I get in and a “thank you” when I get out. Seat mates on the plane usually only hear my voice when I order my hot water with lemon. When I travel, it becomes even more evident that I am closer to “introvert” than “extrovert” on the Myers-Briggs test.

But the other night, upon arriving at my destination upstate, the cab stand set me up with a shared ride. It was late, and there were only two cabs and a handful of people who needed them. I got the impression that this was pretty standard procedure for this town. I knew my destination was just about five minutes from the station, so I actually started the conversation, breaking the slight tension that came from the unexpected share. I could talk to a stranger for five minutes...

When I told the woman that I was visiting the area to hear my boyfriend sing a concert (rehearse for a concert, technically; I had to leave before the performance), we of course got to talking about opera. An art professor at a college upstate, she confessed that she’d never been to an opera, stating that she knew she’d have to go alone if she ever went. We talked about the Met at the Movies program, and she seemed to like the idea of breaking herself (and hopefully a friend or two) in that casual environment. She then went on to say that she had always been kind of attracted to opera, mostly because of the idea that it is a synthesis of so many art forms; she even mentioned Wagner’s idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total/integrated/complete artwork.” Although she couldn’t remember the German word (neither could I), she said, “opera was the original multimedia, don’t you think?”

Yeah, I absolutely do. It was one of the ideas that made me see opera in a different light once I started studying music in college. Thanks for the reminder, stranger.

Friday, May 16, 2008

FriPod: Long

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a FriPod up, even though I’ve made the lists. Guess I’ll take this 30-day blogging exercise as an opportunity to get this fun way of viewing my iTunes library back up and running. I think this is a particularly diverse list, very indicative of my library...

Long Line of Pain, Amos Lee, Supply and Demand
The Longest Time, Billy Joel, The Essential Billy Joel
Long Ago and Far Away, Chet Baker, The Best of Chet Baker Sings
It hasn’t been long enough, Eric Hutchinson, Sounds Like This
Gone Too Long, Idlewild, Rarities 1997-2007
A Long Time Ago, Jim Croce, Greatest Hits
Live Long, Kings of Convenience, Riot On an Emptry Street
So Long, Marianne, Leonard Cohen, The Best of...
Don’t Wait Too Long, Madeleine Peyroux, Careless Love
Tomorrow is a Long Time, Nickel Creek, Why Should the Fire Die?
The Long Day is Over, Norah Jones, Come Away with Me
Another Long One, Shawn Colvin, Steady On
Long Time Ago, by Aaron Copeland, performed by William Warfield & Aaron Copeland
At Long Last Love, Bill Henderson, Night & Day: The Cole Porter Songbook
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, Otis Redding, Soulsville, USA

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lists, 2008

NOW:
Adina, L’elisir d’amore
Norina, Don Pasquale
Musetta, La Boheme
Susanna, Le Nozze di Figaro
Nannetta, Falstaff
Baby Doe, The Ballad of Baby Doe
Gilda, Rigoletto
Juliette, Romeo et Juliette
Anne Trulove, The Rake’s Progress
Lucia, Lucia di Lammermoor

SOON (3-5 years):
Susannah, Susannah
Manon, Manon
Melisande, Pelleas et Melisande (yummm)
Fiordiligi, Cosi fan tutte
Donna Anna, Don Giovanni
Konstanze, Abduction
Elvira, I puritani
Amina, La Sonnambula
Micaela, Carmen
Alcina, Alcina
Rodelinda, Rodelinda (Handel and his creative titles...)

FUTURE (5+ years???):
Countess, Le nozze di Figaro (whaaa?)
Juliet, I Capuletti ei Monetcchi
Arabella, Arabella
Violetta, La Traviata

Srsly!! The future is wide open... And no, this isn’t a hint of any big news or a new role on the books for coming seasons. Just continued reshaping and growing of repertoire - and of dreams.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Level Up

This past October, I wrote this: I’m still learning to embrace this fuller voice that has shown up this year, still shedding the mental skin of the “soubrette” label. Me? Manon? Can I sing “Adieu notre petite table?”

I had a great talk with a mentor today, and he brought up the notable change in my voice over the past few years. When he first heard me in 2005, I was sitting square in the middle of the soubrette section, unsure how my voice would grow and not entirely enthusiastic about the rep I was currently singing. There is a reason I’ve never really learned either of Despina’s arias... (Call me for a Despina when I’m 55, and it’ll be a different story; again, a subject for another post.)

Take a look at the lists I made back in the summer of 05. See those “roles I might sing in the future?” Juliet, Manon, Anne Trulove. The future is now, my friends. So what roles does the future hold? Character names were tossed around today in a way that was both scary - “But I thought I had a small voice?” - and affirming. Today I got some outside confirmation about something I’ve felt coming on this year: I’m leveling up. Maybe tomorrow I’ll post the 2008 version of those lists...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tasks on the Musical To-Do List:

* Finish memorizing music for the ASO concerts next week: Mendelssohn, Porter, Berlioz.

* Stop singing the musical numbers from Candide that I know already and actually get down to brass tacks on the rest of the darn piece! Rehearsals start in about six weeks.

* Review arias for some potential upcoming auditions.

* Format my libretto study sheet for Ariadne.

* Write translation into Ariadne score.

* Learn the actual notes of Ariadne...


It will be fun to work in German this summer after a winter of Italian. German is the language that comes most easily for me, due in no small part to the fact that I lived in Germany for three years as a child. My father was stationed over there, and my parents did their best to get the most out of the overseas experience (unlike most Americans on military bases, I think). We lived off-base for a year, and I spent half of my kindergarden year in an actual “kindergarten,” playing Haus with German kids, even though I couldn’t really talk to them. By the time we left Frankfurt when I was seven, I had a functional-enough passive vocabulary that my parent’s could no longer talk secrets auf Deutsch in front of me. I took three years of German in high school, and went back for a long visit as a high schooler, both with my family and solo.

A few days ago B and I were seeing how well we could converse in the other opera languages: French, Italian, German. We were both pretty miserable at French, his Italian was great and I could always answer him in English (again with the large passive vocabulary), and we were both surprised at how good my German was! I have a feeling that I could get to fluency pretty quickly were I to go over there for work.

And THAT, my friends, is a post for another day...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Picture Pages: May 08, NYC

No story or big writing assignment tonight, just some pictures from the rainy day. (I uploaded them all small, so click to enlarge, if you are so inclined.) (Ok, I don't know why the layout is so weird... sorry. I'm working on it...)

My beloved morning coffee ritual.











What is better than an omelet and a salad for lunch? (Especially when it is made with love by a friend...)

Nick and I played "the headshot game" with the new lens...







...I predict this will be a popular game this summer...
Smile!!








After a lovely afternoon of food and catching up and talk of Purcell, it was back out into the rainy day.

Bhakti Business

I've been updating my Bhakti Project database, and I've discovered that I'm missing email addresses for two donors. LK and JP, both residents of NYC: if you read this, will you shoot me an email? I've got something that I want to email to all my donors before it goes public, a little "thank you for helping make this happen!" My email is listed in my profile.

Thank you! All my other lovely donors, check your email soon...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Flashback

My eyes were drawn to the man settling in at the table next to mine, as it became obvious that he was trying to get my attention. He said, “I know we’re scheduled to have lunch next Tuesday, but I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t start now!” My mind reeled for a long minute, as I looked at this face that was at once familiar and foreign - it was my music theory teacher from my senior year of high school in Atlanta!

It was true: we do have a lunch date for this week! As I prepare to go to Atlanta in a couple weeks to sing with the Symphony, I’ve been doing a little digging into my past, reconnecting with some friends and teachers in hopes of seeing them while I’m “in the neighborhood.” My search for this teacher, JB, uncovered the fact that he is the music director for an off-Broadway show that happens to run in a theater three blocks from my apartment. I sent an email to the producer of the show, and soon after JB and I were planning our reunion. But the universe seems to be on a different schedule! After the shock wore off, we each shared a few tidbits of the past 15 (!!!) years, whetting our appetites to spend some good time together catching up.

One thing I did manage to get across to him in those brief moments, and part of the impetus behind my seeking out my early teachers, is that there were seeds planted during that year that I feel are directly responsible for my being a performer today. High school was weird for me (wasn’t it for everyone, though?) for several reasons, not the least of which being that my family moved right before my senior year. Fortunately, we landed just down the street from the high school performing arts magnet program, and I spent my senior year doing what I’ve loved since I was a kid: performing. Hope Harcourt in Anything Goes, Marianne in Tartuffe (think Moliere, not Mechem), a couple of solos with the show choir, “By My Side” in Godspell. I was in heaven.

I also took my first theory class, led by the above mentioned JB, and a year-long drama course taught by KN. At the end of the year, my grade sheet for my final monologue assignment included a special note, the first time anyone suggested that I seriously consider “a career on the stage.” He ended with the question: “Broadway someday?” He was close... I’m hopefully going to see him in Atlanta later this month, and I can’t wait to tell him that I have his note still, carefully laminated and stored in my SOJ box (that’s Bird Family Lingo: Sentimental Old Junk). You never forget the first person to really believe in you, the first time you think “maybe I can do this...”

Blogroll Update, Spring 08

(I guess I could count this as my post for the day, but I won’t. It’s just housekeeping...)

Full (rather bloated) list here, as always, with these latest additions on the sidebar to the left.

Andrew Patner - Chicago-based music journalist

Blurbomat - Behind the scenes at dooce.com

form meets function - drool-inducign design

Jessica Duchen - Novelist, music journalist; another link long overdue

Melear-o-sphere - photos and thoughts from our photo guru. Oh, he’s a conductor, too.

Music as Weapon? - David, how did I now know you were blogging? Founder & director of Newspeak; check it out.

The Reverberate Hills - another voice from the San Fran scene

Roger Evans Online - music reviews and thoughts on the state of things in The Biz

So Percussion - my Indie Classical crush

Stuff White People Like - Funny stuff.

The Year in Pictures - inspiration and beauty from a NYC photography curator

And I changed the link to my main professional site - ACB.com is terribly out-of-date, so for all the latest visit my .Mac site for a while instead.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

30 Days

Ok, enough is enough. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I am following the example of several of my blogging compatriots and starting a 30-day blogging program. As I said to B tonight, I hope that writing every day will get things moving again, like a high-fiber diet for my writing. I will post something every day, however asinine or poorly constructed (or brilliant or exquisite!).

I’ll certainly have plenty of fodder. In the next 30 days - in addition to posting daily - I will:
* sing two final performances of Macbeth
* have a couple of voice lessons
* take the train up the Hudson to visit a friend and see a concert
* travel to Atlanta for concerts with the ASO - and a big family gathering centered around the concerts, my cousin’s high school graduation, and my mom’s birthday!
* meet with a couple of my teachers from high school
* pack up and relocate to Virginia for the summer!
* buy a summer car, hopefully with less drama than last year
* take a plane to the Mississippi to visit a friend and see an opera
* study for summer roles and brainstorm for next years’ recitals

If I can’t find anything to write about in all of that, well... it might be time to quit this thing. No, not really. I’ll get it back. But life is different now then it was a few months ago, in wonderful ways, so I guess it’s to be expected that things will shift and definitions will change. It’s a good thing. I’ll try to include more photos with these posts, too, snapshots from daily life, boring as they may be.

Ok. Let’s get started...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

One good thing

If nothing else good comes from my working at the Met for the past two seasons, there will be this: I am now out of credit card debt.

Thanks to SBF’s leading by example, I’ve been aggressively reshaping my financial situation over the past few months. I realized two months ago that with a bit of shifting of funds from one account to another, I could wipe out my credit card debt and a) still have enough money in my checking account to avoid the “emergency fallback” credit card trap and b) keep at least one month’s expenses in my emergency fund. When I saw the new numbers on my online bank statement this evening, I have to admit that I teared up a bit.

I did it!!! It feels great. And... I already bought myself a reward, paid in full.

Next steps:
* Build back up to three months in the emergency fund. Next season is a little light on the financial side (not currently contracted at the Met due to conflicting gigs elsewhere), so I may need some back-up.
Take the money I was putting to my CC towards student loan payment.
Make maximum contributions to my IRA.
Put 20% of each paycheck into a special savings account for taxes. This year I got a big refund (also thanks to the Met: I was a W-2 employee there), which will never happen again. I don’t want to be caught unprepared for taxes next year like I was for TY2006.

More on the blogging slump, now extending into May. Today, as I was sitting in a blissfully happy post-brunch daze, someone used the expression “fat, dumb, and happy.” I’m not getting fat, but maybe my current happiness has rendered me a bit less capable of stringing together coherent sentences...

Stay tuned. Or not...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Honor

The blogging slump continues, but I want to say what an honor it was to sing the premiere of Hillula last night. (We’re now considering this the real premiere; last year was really more of a workshop of parts of the whole.) The experience was at once private and public, a new feeling for me in terms of performance. Usually, once I get to performance time, it’s only about the sharing, about conveying a message to the people in the audience, moving them. But last night, I simultaneously wanted to share it with the world (look, hear, see how beautiful this is!) and keep it to myself (so special, so personal)... not unlike a new love. This work has been three years in the making, and last night was both a completion (the work) and a beginning (the life of the work). Judd and spent the train ride home brainstorming about what that life should be, exactly...

Also on the ride home, I did something I don’t think I’ve ever done immediately after a performance: I listened to the recording. I just wasn’t ready for it to be over... of course I heard things I didn’t like, but nothing that I wasn’t fully aware of in performance. A misplaced breath here, a slight chip there... details. But there were some other moments that just took my breath away. Not because I’m such a great singer, but because this piece inspired some of my best singing; Jocelyn, too, had moments of brilliance. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more beautiful, more tuned-in partner in this endeavor. When it ended (all 18 minutes of it), I took out my earbuds and said to Judd, “Thank you. I am so honored to have been part of bringing this to life.”

So honored.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eat Food

I was tagged for this meme twice, by Alex & Tim, so I guess I need to get out of my blogging slump and get to it. (Looking in the archives, you can see that every month for the past couple of years I seem to average about a post every other day. This month, I’ve barely got a post every four days... weird. It’s not that there’s nothing going on, I’m just not blogging. Not sure what to make of it, but I think I’ll just let the slump ride itself out...)

But back to the meme. Here are the rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

“Studying cultured human cells, he’s found that “deficiency of vitamins C, E, B12, B6, nicin, folic acid, iron or zinc appears to mimic radiation by causing single- and double-strand DNA breaks, oxidative lesions, or both” - precursors to cancer. “This has serious implications, as half the US population may be deficient in at least one of these micronutrients.” Most of the missing micronutrients are supplied by fruits and vegetables, of which only 20 percent of American children and 32 percent of adults eat the recommended five daily servings.”

This book has absolutely confirmed my eating habits, and encouraged me to be even more diligent. For the past few years, I’ve been eating a diet very similar to the one encouraged by Pollan’s “Eater’s Manifesto:” Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. If all the recent scary news about the food industry has you thinking about your diet, I encourage you to pick up this book. Heck, I encourage you to pick it up anyway. The information about the history of nutrition and the commercialization of food, not to mention the fads of our diet culture, is incredibly eye-opening.

I tag Coloratur...aaah, Melear, Little Ms Bossy, Nick, and Thom.

Off to Princeton in about an hour. Remember to tune in tonight at 8pm for the concert, streaming live at the Princeton music department homepage. Hillula will be the second piece on the first half of the program. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bullet Points are the new black

I feel like I should rename this blog “bullet points.” I hate to resort to such measures, but this writer’s block is getting out of hand.

* In addition to being unable to write, I haven’t been singing that much in the past couple of weeks. Part of it is an intentional break - the past few months were pretty insane! A little “vocal vacation” is good, but now it’s time for the down time to come to an end. But every time I started to think about singing this week, I remembered this blog post (via oboeinsight). Do my neighbors hate me?! We all exchange pleasantries in the hallway, but aside from the German interior designer who shares our walls, none of them really know that I’m the resident opera singer. If they did, would they shun me? I am aware that I’m loud, but I try to avoid singing in the morning, only doing a short warm-up if I have a late-morning audition, and I never sing past seven in the evening. I rarely practice at home on the weekends. I know that people in NYC have unusual schedules, but I try to stick to a general “working day” framework, assuming that most people will be out of the building at that time. I haven’t gotten any complaints, but now I wonder...

* I’ve updated the biography and added some photos to my ACB@mac website. Check ‘em out! And... I’ve enabled comments, so be nice.

* Here’s the promised Hillula news: The concert on Tuesday will stream live on teh internets!! The concert starts at 8pm and will stream live from Princeton’s music department home page. I don’t know where Hillula will be on the program, but I encourage you to log on and listen to the whole thing if you can. Jocelyn and I are really proud of our work, and I’m sure the other performers and composers are, too. Maybe somebody could live-blog it!! Kidding. Kind of.

* (Other Hillula-related news: I think we’ve decided to seek an endowment for The Bhakti Project. I have no idea at this point what this will entail (other than, oh, a lot of money), but we’re starting to brainstorm and build a team. More later...)

* This weekend is totally full of awesomeness: A date to the Brooklyn Art Museum to check out the Murakami exhibit in preparation for DJA’s big premiere on Sunday. Saturday dinner. Sunday brunch at a NYC institution. The George London masterclass, which is being led by my former step-father (in the operatic sense) Richard Stillwell and my fellow OperaNow! podcast guest Frederica von Stade. And then the Brooklyn Phil concert at Drom. Go Darcy!! Jammed packed with awesomeness, tell you what.

Ok, so I couldn’t quite get to everything tonight. There are three half-finished bullet points that I’ll get posted tomorrow morning before the Weekend o’ Awesome begins. They’re all kind of related: voice lesson stuff, singing stuff, and Terfel-Martineau stuff. (IB: They rock.) Hopefully this brain drain will clear something out and let me get back to regular blogging... heh. No promises.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dreams of Flying

The photography on this site has been giving me no end of joy today: Jan von Hollenben. (via form meets function; guess it’s time to do a Blogroll update...)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

New Beginnings

Spring has finally arrived in NYC, and I’ve been pulling out my summer dresses in anticipation of putting away the scarves for good. Well, at least until I start carrying one all summer to deal with southern air conditioning. I’ve eaten outdoors every day for the past few, and tonight I’ll head to Brooklyn for some bluegrass. Tomorrow, I’ve promised my camera that we’ll spend some time together...

It’s been a busy week, lots of thoughts if not a lot of action; a mentally busy week... I did manage to catch the inspiring 8bb concert and rub elbows at the after-party. Meeting Julia Wolfe, David Lang, Steve Reich, and Jeremy Denk was pretty awesome, but more so was feeling a part of that community, toasting with people I consider my friends. I am very lucky to have landed there. I think it’s safe to say that 8bb are rockstars; that was some seriously sexy new music... (**Edited to add: Go here for some photographic evidence of the elbow-rubbing and rock-star-ness.)

I also had a voice lesson today for the first time in more than two months, and oh how grateful I am for my teacher. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster around here, career-wise, and he helped settle me a bit. I am still working some things out in my voice, still finding my way, and we made some fine progress tonight. I walked out of the lesson feeling back in control of my voice, friends with it again, and seriously excited about my next few gigs.

I know all of this is kind of vague, and I’ve been a little quiet here, but sometimes living life doesn’t allow time to blog about it... Next week should be a little quieter so I’ll try to get some thoughts down. There are new thoughts about The Bhakti Project, too, and news about the Hillula performance on the 29th. But for now, it is spring, my voice is my friend, and there is a song in my heart!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

News, links, etc.

Some tidbits from various online sources:

* You can see some pictures from Sing For Hope: By Leaps and Sounds! over at the Children’s Aid Society website. What a great afternoon!

* I joined Camille Zamora, co-founder of SFH, in recording an interview with Michael Rice, host of OperaNow!, the opera podcast, for a special segment on performers giving back. We were joined by Janice Mayer of Classical Action and Frederica von Stade, who recently presented a concert for Classical Action with Jake Hegie. You can listen to the whole podcast here (or download it from iTunes); our segment starts about twenty minutes in, I think. But you should listen to the whole thing. It’s deliciously irreverent.

* I’ve been having a terrible time keeping this a secret. Yada yada yada, indeed!!

* I haven’t been able to update ACB.com since I got my Mac, so I am talking with a web designer about building me a new site. If that happens, it will likely go live in the fall, so until then, I made a temporary site using iWeb. So easy!! Check it out here: http://web.mac.com/annecarolynbird/temp

That’s all for now!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The scene

I'm late to get on the Hilary Hahn bandwagon, not for reasons that have anything to do with Ms. Hahn herself, but more with the fact that I listen to very little classical music on a regular basis. After spending a few days with Nick on tour in February, he encouraged me (by example, not with words) to listen to more (Bach, particularly), and I've picked up a few recordings, most notably one of Bach concerti. (The D Minor is my favorite; the saddest of all keys...) I've also enjoyed her writing on her website, candid and insightful and funny.

So I was thrilled to read a couple of things today that indicate she has "indie classical" tendencies! Steve Smith's review of her concert with Josh Ritter at The Other Met sounded like programming perfection: Erlkoenig paired with a modern folk song called "Oak Tree King." Fabulous. And then Feast of Music reported on Hahn's post-show show at DROM, a Lower East Side bar. How much fun would THAT have been? I'm definitely going to check out the next "classical" show at DROM, if only because it involves toy pianos.

In related news, I was devastated to miss the MATA festival a couple of weeks ago. It was wonderful to hear reports of successful (understatement) premieres and performances by friends and colleagues, people who I respect and admire. As I was hearing a run-down of one night's program, I felt like I was hearing about a party that my friends threw without me! I was equally so excited for the success of the Festival and of their music, and heart-broken not to be there celebrating with them. I love being part of this "scene," even cursorily as I seem to be right now. I am honored to call these musicians my friends, and to dream about future collaborations. For more on that, check out the New Amsterdam Records site and see how the community is growing. Join up, even! All are welcome.

I guess now would be the perfect time to remind those of you in the NYC area that the revised version of Hillula will premiere on April 29th as part of the Princeton Composers Ensemble, 8pm in Taplin Auditorium on the Princeton campus. Excited doesn't begin to express how we feel about this...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Head Games

It’s been a rough couple of days, career-wise, and I can’t really get into it here without lots of thinly-veiled references. There are some important ideas to try and get across, though, so I’m going to try my best.

I sang an audition yesterday for someone I sang for recently in a different forum, and while the first instance was far from a bomb, it, um, wasn’t terribly well-received. I was nervous today in a way I haven’t been in a while, the butterflies in my stomach almost making me nauseous. For a brief moment, I considered “calling in sick.” How was I going to redeem myself? What if I didn’t?

I’ve been learning - or trying to learn - a lesson recently: not everyone is going to love what I do. Art is subjective, people have deeply held ideas of what is “right,” blah blah blah... I know all those things, but it is still unsettling to hear that someone really disapproved of the way I sang something. And then to have to put myself out there for their judgement again? Not an easy day at the office.

So, I steeled myself as best I could, made sure I looked fabulous, and armed myself with standard arias. I thought about my interpretations, how I wanted to present these arias that EVERY soprano sings. Should I scale myself back, give a more vanilla interpretation? Try to guess how they think the characters should be presented? No way. I’m an acting singer. Anything less than my full interpretation of a character, an aria, is not really acceptable to me. I would go into this audition and show them that in addition to the somewhat unorthodox and slightly unpolished (and very tired...) singer they heard before, I am also a bit of a purist. I would rely on good singing and musicianship to show my stuff. And if they still didn’t like it? Well, then there wouldn’t be much more to worry about.

I got there a bit late, and they were running early, so I paused for just a minute to give the pianist a rundown of my pieces, and we were on. I sang my first piece (Mozart), and they asked for Juliette, just as I’d hoped (I have really come to love that aria...), and I sang it with all my heart. And then, when it was over, since there was time, we actually talked about the previous audition! Compliments were paid and disappointments expressed, but more importantly, honest thoughts were expressed from both sides of the table, and I walked away feeling like I had just engaged in one of the most constructive conversations of my career. Not in terms of “oh yeah, I totally got the job,” but more in a sense that I presented myself well to someone who wanted me to do well, and had been stymied by the fact that I didn’t.

It was a draining few days, but as with every hurdle, I came away feeling more in command of my self as a singer. Ultimately, it’s up to me to believe in my work, to know that I can deliver a product that I am proud of. Like I said, a hard lesson to learn... Stay tuned for further chapters; I’m sure there will be many.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Home

Yesterday morning, I woke up in the dark. Before I opened my eyes, I recognized that I was waking in a new bed, not the one I was in the day before. “Where am I?” Joyfully, my subconscious responded, “My own bed!!”

Yes, I’m back in my little hobbit hole for a lovely bit of “down time.” I have a total of four performances (all local) in the next six weeks; that feels like a perfect pace! And yet, it’s going to be busy: A few auditions. Rehearsals with Jocelyn for the premiere of the revised version of Hillula on April 29th. Studying music for the ASO concerts in May. A few performances of Macbeth. I’ll spend some time with the scores of Candide and Ariadne, too, over the next few weeks.

And then of course, there are concerts (of the indie rock and indie classical variety) and recitals to attend. Dinners and drinks to be had. Family to relax with, friends to catch up with, and the general wonder that is spring in NYC to enjoy. Lots to keep me busy, but plenty of time to breathe and smile.

I’m happy to be back in the land of wireless internet, so I hope to get back to a more regular writing and posting schedule soon. I have a few thoughts to get out still about The Rosina Experience; I think my time in Dayton will prove to be bit of a turning point for me, in many ways.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Umm, Mom?

Have you started writing for the Dayton City Paper? The review of Barber is really, really good... Just curious if you've picked up a little journalism on the side!

I'm off to our brush-up rehearsal. Can't wait to see how things have simmered and developed over our (lovely, food-filled) days off!

More soon...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Still Life

For the past few years, I’ve been creating little shrines at my dressing station every opening night, built up of all the cards and trinkets and candies that appear from colleagues throughout the evening. To be brutally honest, my expectations were low for this show, considering that almost the entire cast is male, and, well, guys aren’t generally known for their collection of cute stationary. So imagine my joy - and shamefaced-ness!! - when I walked into my dressing room to find that almost everyone had not only placed a card on my table, but had gotten their cards out even earlier than mine! Opening night calls should really be about half an hour earlier than other nights, since we spend time running from room to room, handing out goodies and hugs and spitting over each other’s shoulders to keep the devil away.

Included in this photo: more chocolate than I can eat in a month; Rosina’s last-act hair ornament; the perfect lipstick & pencil combination (for stage, anyway), as paired by Tom, my awesome makeup guy here; a new Moleskine; a rose-scented candle (my gift to my cast - and one for me!); the envelope to the Mo’s card, which is labeled with a transcription of the sweet moment when Figaro and Rosina spell her name; and what will likely be the first in my collection of kaleidoscopes, a gift from someone very special. Oh, and a cigar from JR, which was dutifully enjoyed post-show with the cast. An embarrassment of riches...

It’s a reflection, really, of the chemistry of this cast, both on and offstage. We have had such a great time! Tonight we’re meeting at a local piano bar for some karaoke, a fact which we should maybe keep quiet, as opera singers tend to be either “too good” or spectacularly bad at karaoke… It’s going to be an awesome night!

Opening night was pretty awesome, too, and felt like a real triumph. About ten minutes before curtain, I was almost overwhelmed by nerves, including that very rare voice trying to convince myself that I wasn’t ready, that I was going to fail. That was a scary moment, one I’m not really used to. I sought out MB, a castmate for both this debut and last month’s Susanna, and asked for a hug and a pep talk. His calm joyful energy helped, and the butterflies and fear gave way to excitement. The night got off to a great start, with a wonderful energy in the house and light-hearted interactions between us onstage. As we entered the final chorus at the end of Act II, I think I did a little hop of joy, so happy to have made it through!

I felt like the dress rehearsal was at about 85% of what I wanted to accomplish with the role, and opening night felt like a 95. Pretty damn good, but room to grow! There were some fun moments of discovery onstage, musical and dramatic, and new things were happening (in the best way), so I am excited to see how this character will continue to develop this week.

Tomorrow night we have a donor event, and then I think I might make a midnight trek into the woods to watch the spotted salamanders mating… stay tuned!
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