Friday, December 30, 2005

I must be a good boy

Yesterday I got a call from Chris Carter, one of the founders of the Northwest Puppet Center. This family-run theater presents a full season of six shows a year, covering the range of puppetry arts, from Balinese shadow puppets to the Carter’s handmade marionettes. And every year, their final show is an opera! We saw “The Dragon of Wantley” a few years ago and loved it. In keeping with the traditions of puppetry, it was a silly, fun, bawdy evening that incorporated commentary on current events into the story! Very fun. (We also saw “The Hobbit” that same season; so delightful. Early on, when Bilbo is alone in his hobbit hole, we see a shadow go by the window and then hear a knock on the door. Bilbo said “Who could that be?” A small voice from the front row cried out, “It’s Gandalf!”)

I submitted a tape to them last year around this time, after working with David Stutz, a bass whom they hire often, who encouraged me to contact them. They offered me the role of Pamina in their Magic Flute adaptation, but I sadly had to turn it down. In the end it was best, as my spring was WAY overbooked this year!

One of my many spring projects was the role of Cupid in Venus & Adonis with the Seattle Early Music Guild. My first pants role! I had a great time acting the mischievous boy. Chris and her husband, Stephen, saw a performance, and loved me as a boy so much that they’ve asked me to sing Tom Thumb in Arne’s Opera of Operas, or Tom Thumb the Great, this year’s Marionette Opera! How cool is that? Granted, in a puppet opera, I’ll be sitting on the side of the stage while my marionette gets all the action (including falling in love with a giantess, sung by my friend David!), but I will have a blast. It will interesting – and fun, I think – to only have to sing a role, not to have to be onstage doing the actions.

So that makes two “boys” on my resume; anybody want to hire me to sing Oscar?

My mom always said that I was “incorrigible,” at least in the way Maria described it to Fredrich: “it means you want to be treated like a boy.” I was a bit of a tomboy in jr. high, preferring to ford streams with my brother and “the guys” than to practice putting on makeup with my girlfriends from school. I still appreciate being treated not so much like a boy, but certainly not like I’m helpless. I hate having a fuss made over me, believe it or not. I can do my own wash and get my own coffee, and if I know where something is, I’ll help myself, thank you very much. I know people think I can be pushy, but I’m not going to waste time hemming and hawing and waiting for you to notice that my cup is empty or that the light is shining in my face (yes, there's a story there, not one for the blog!). I'll get up and take care of it. I would want you to feel comfortable enough to do the same at my house. (I’ll do my best to notice first, though!)

But, of course, I also enjoy being a girl: today I came home with $80 worth of MAC cosmetics (thanks to a gift card from Erik!) and teal pumps with an adorable D-ring detail. Then there are the new sweaters and scented powders and a plush white robe from Christmas, all reminding me that not only am I a girl, I’m a Diva!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


My website has soundfiles!! Erik and I stayed up way too late last night, even though it was once again a “school night” for him, getting the Downloads page set up, and I’m very happy with how it turned out. He even found a really simple way for us to have the files available for streaming or for download, rather than one or the other. Once again, technology is very cool!

I’m happy with the files I’ve chosen, too. They are all from live performances, as I have had no time this fall to get a recording session organized. (You’d think it’d be easier for me, since I have a husband who is a recording engineer and a friend with great recording equipment and another friend with access to a church, but, no.) Listed in reverse chronological order, the first recording is still a year old. The oldest is just over two years old, from October 2003. Here are my thoughts on each.

The Lakme Flower Duet was recorded in January of this year at the Opera Rescue Tsunami Benefit concert at Town Hall Seattle. It is a gorgeous piece that really needs no introduction, other than to say that Sarah and I had a wonderful time singing together and we are both happy with the recording! (It is posted with her blessing.) That is a rare thing, as singers are picky! Our voices blend beautifully, which is really key for this duet. I decided to post the whole thing, since it is an “opera gem” that I figured people wouldn’t mind hearing!

My first public outing for Zerbinetta is next, from a Ladies Musical Club of Seattle concert at the Asian Art Museum (great recital hall in the basement!). I want to record this again, but for now, I’m happy with what this shows. I feel that in the past year, I’ve gotten more free with it and I’m having more fun. There is one note that I’m still not totally happy with, but I’m working on it… And, no, there is no prize if you can figure out which note! I’ve included the last half of the (12-minute) aria, the half with all the fireworks.

My first full role with orchestra, Britten’s Tytania, is next. I chose to use her first aria, “Come, now a roundel,” rather than “Be Kind & Courteous” for a few reasons. You don’t hear it as often (in auditions), which I think is a shame. I guess those spectacular strings are hard to replicate on the piano. Also, the legato is a nice contrast to the fireworks in the other arias. And, hey, a nice floaty high-C# never hurts, either!

The next song, “In a Gondola” by Ned Rorem, is one of those stage moments a performer treasures her entire life. I sang this song and another (“Song for a Girl,” both from Rorem’s Six Songs for High Voices) at the Tanglewood concert celebrating the composer’s 80th birthday. I was terrified when I saw my music, as they are truly HIGH! The other we ended up transposing down a half-step (dear, sweet, talented pianist!), and it still ended on a sustained high-Eflat. Eeeek. But, when it came time to sing, the magic of the moment was truly with me, and I just lived the music. It was transporting for me, taking me to the realm of performance where we get to stop worrying about the words and the notes and the breath and the legato and all that intellectual stuff that can get in the way of truly inhabiting the stage. Afterwards, a friend said to me, “If you keep singing like that, people are going to start asking you to sing Zerbinetta!” Ha! This performance is one of the reasons Tanglewood is so special to me. To read the text, visit such stuff.

Finally, my favorite recital closer: the Prima Donna Song! I know people find this piece annoying, but I think it is so fun when performed totally tongue in check. Lots of places to work the audience! The little chuckle you hear at the beginning is in response to a little curtsey I gave, already in character, and this character hates to curtsy. Unless she’s doing big Diva Bows, which I do during the interlude and then chastise the audience for not clapping. Fun! Also, a moment that doesn’t really translate on recording: I hold the final high note FOREVER (it’s only a B)!! With my arms up and eyes closed, totally wrapped up in myself, and then, towards the end, I take a peek to see if the audience is still with me. Again, just a fun moment!

I’m going to home for three uninterrupted months this spring, so I’m planning to record some more arias. Nannetta, of course, along with Adele and maybe Sophie (Werther). I also have some concerts from the fall that might have usable tracks; we’ll see. I don’t want to have more than five or six at any one time, though. Don’t want to give it all away! Enjoy.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Bloggy Year in Review

I borrowed this meme from Mental-Multivitamin, who borrowed it from someone else, as is often the way of these things. Take the first sentence of the first post of every month of the year. Here are mine:

January: Andrea Gruber, a soprano who we heard at Seattle Opera last spring as Minnie in La Fanciulla del West, is talking publicly about her struggles with drug addiction.

February: In our new apartment, I have an office.

March: Well, my first Queen of the Night is in the books!

April: I haven’t posted in the past couple of weeks because I’ve had too many things to write about and not enough time to write about them.

May: WARNING!! Serious tech talk within.

June: Where to start?

July: I’m still here!

August: Tonight we have the second performance of Ainadamar, which opened strongly on Saturday.

September: I arrived back in Seattle late last night, and boy, does it feel good!

October: Having friends from The Summer here in my home was at once delightful and a little bizarre.

November: The Manolo, he has discovered the joy that is Osvaldo Golijov.

December: Sorry to take a while to get an update here!

It was amusing for me to see which posts started with excuses or apologies! Not surprisingly, they were the ones from months where I was very busy traveling, rehearsing, auditioning, etc., which are the main topics of the blog! I need to stop apologizing for doing those things and just write about them more.

To more writing – and traveling, rehearsing, auditioning, etc. – in 2006!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The End

Today was my last day. The last time driving over the 520 floating bridge. The last time calling ahead to say I was stuck in traffic on said bridge and that I’d be there about ten minutes late. The last time shuffling lesson books and notebooks and asking “what would you like to play first?” The last time reviewing last week’s lesson, being impressed with progress or commiserating with the student over lack of practice time. The last time saying “Goodbye;” the first time not saying, “See you next time.”

I gave each of my students, or each family of students, a book of holiday songs as a parting present. We spent the last ten or fifteen minutes of our lessons today picking out a holiday song (or better yet, a duet!) to practice and play for family.
Every one of them said, as we slogged through this thinly-disguised sight-reading exercise: “This is fun!” You can imagine the pitter-pat sound my heart made every time I heard that! The inscription in each book was “From Ms. Bird, with love and best wishes for a lifetime of music-making.” And if they can say sight-reading is fun, then they are well on their way!

This fall, for the first time, teaching was a real strain on me. My schedule was never the same from week to week, and I was constantly having to play catch-up or rearrange twenty people’s schedules in order to keep up. It added a surprising amount of stress to my already stressful season. I know the students suffered, too; I don’t think they made as much progress this fall as I know they could have if I’d seen them every week. And that is why I have to stop! If I truly wish for them a “lifetime of music-making,” they need consistency at this stage of development. It would be selfish of me to ask them to stick with me through my irregular schedule and cancelled lessons. But I have thought about asking…

I can’t get the voice of one of my 5th-graders out of my head: “I’m going to miss you so much!” She must have said this half a dozen times, and each time I thought my heart would break. As happy and proud and joyful that I am to have made such an impression, to have given these children the gift of music, I am so sad to let them go.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I saw this meme first at girish, and it has since been picked up by Alex and TT. Just a little “get to know you!” Or, rather, “get to know ME!”

Four jobs you've had in your life: art model, secretary, stage tech/stage manager, bookseller
Four movies you could watch over and over: Gone With the Wind, The Shawshank Redemption, Out of Africa, The Sound of Music
Four places you've lived: Frankfurt, Germany; Limestone, ME; Atlanta, GA; Ogden, UT
Four TV shows you love to watch: Project Runway, Mythbusters, West Wing reruns, Sex & The City
Four places you've been on vacation: Italy, the San Juan Islands, Prince Edward Island, Greece
Four websites you visit daily: NFCS, Slate, Bloglines, Perez Hilton!
Four of your favorite foods: enchiladas (cheese w/ verde sauce), NY Pizza on (Seattle’s!) 5th Ave, sushi: catepillar roll or tuna nigiri; Erik’s homemade pasta
Four places you'd rather be right now: in front of a rolling fire atCT’s yet-to-be-built house on Orcas Island; my grandparent’s house in Athens, GA; Olympus Spa; Germany (I always miss the Kristkindlmarkt at this time of year…)

I’ll pass it along with some official tags: Melissa, Gregory, and Sarah. Of course, as always, feel free to pick it up and spread the narcissism, I mean, joy! =]

Oh, and re: Olympus Spa? I’m on my way!! Happy Vacation Day to me!!

Monday, December 19, 2005

New Links

I’ve added a few new links to the Blog Roll:

Although I’ve been a reader for quite some time, I kept forgetting to add Terry Teachout’s About Last Night. It’s there now, and we are all glad to hear that TT is recovering, and with his wit intact.

For a view from the piano bench, check out Christopher Foley’s Collaborative Piano blog.

At Vertesi, another singer joins the rank and file of music bloggers, this one a young bass finishing up a Bachelor’s degree at Indiana University. (His girlfriend, a soprano, also blogs at Too Many Sopranos.)

Finally, Kim Pensinger-Witman has embarked upon a blogging journey through a year at Wolf Trap Opera. From the application and audition process, to choosing singers and repertoire, all the way through to closing night next August, follow along as an opera administrator gives us a glimpse into the business of opera. For an introduction and explanation, be sure to read her first post.

I will also point to her post on blogging singers. This topic – is it safe to blog? – seems to be giving a lot of bloggers a lot of grief these days, and KPW has some good things to add to the conversation. Specifically, her “test” for everything she writes: I imagine that I am reading it from the perspective of the following people: a colleague, an aspiring singer, an amateur musician, a classical music fan, and an arts patron. That doesn’t mean that every sentence is relevant to all readers, but it does assure that it’s not inflammatory. If important ideas don’t pass the test, they’re not jettisoned, just reframed. Good advice. We’re all happy to have you along for the ride, Kim!

Thanks to all the bloggers, anonymous and otherwise, who have made 2005 such a fun year for me. I’ve discovered new friends, new musicians, new interests, and most importantly, new things about myself. I hope you all, bloggers and non-blogging readers alike, can say the same for your Year in the Blogosphere!

Composer of the Year

Congratulations to Osvaldo!!! He was named Musical America’s Composer of the Year last week, and deservedly so. Ayre was also nominated for a Grammy, so it’s been a week full of champagne toasts!

Read Alex Ross’s full profile of Osvaldo at the composer’s website.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Holiday Miscellany

Another busy week: getting final piano lessons scheduled (last ones next week!); rehearsals for the SBO Bach concert; buying, making, wrapping and shipping Christmas presents (thanks, Oak Tree UPS Store); and hosting our annual Christmas party. (We don’t host annually, thank god, but this year we four Rognebrothers wanted to host in our new home. We cooked a goose! And Brussels sprouts and parsnips and carrots and stuffing and… yummm…) I’ve started a half-dozen blog entries this week, but nothing stuck. So here’s a bit of miscellany to wrap up the week.
Above you see how industrious we all strove to be in the three hour break between Messiah concerts last weekend! I would not have been able to make my fabulous ice cream pint cozy had it not been for Melissa’s guidance! I was hoping to get two made in time for the gift exchange at our party, but one will have to do for now. (I couldn’t remember how to get started on the second one, and Melissa wasn’t around to help!) Check it out – no more chilly fingers!

I also want to comment on the hair in the above picture. That is NOT all Melissa’s hair! She found a clip with attached curls that perfectly match her hair color, so with very little effort on her part, she has instant Diva Hair! I’ve got to get one. Although, my hair suddenly decided last week that it was going to cooperate with my desires to put it up in a “simple” French twist. I couldn’t believe it! I tempted fate and tried to do it again for last night’s concert, and it wasn’t a fluke. (It looks a little off-center in the picture, but I swear, it was perfect.) Something crazy is going on these days if my pre-concert fight with my hair is a thing of the past…
Let’s see, what else… The SBO concert has been really wonderful work. I’m always my most nervous before the first rehearsal with a new group, and this was no exception. Do I really know my music? Will I fall apart once I have strings under me and not a piano? Have I counted all these interludes correctly? Etc. But everything went fine, as it usually does, and I’ve had a lot of fun. The other soloists are all great, and I look forward hopefully to working with them again in the future. But, the highlight of last night’s concert seemed to be my gown! I got so many compliments on it, and at the reception afterwards, someone told me that every group they passed at intermission was talking about how beautiful it was! I consider it to be my first “diva gown,” complete with big puffy skirt; I absolutely love it. It has a great story, too, so once I get a good picture, I’ll tell all the details.

For now, here’s a picture of our house in all it’s holiday splendor! Hope you have a great week, finding time to enjoy the Season amidst all the chaos.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

First Messiah

My first Messiah’s are officially on the books! I performed this weekend with Skagit Opera’s Starry Night Orchestra, the group with whom I sang Magic Flute last March. It was a whirlwind weekend, with dress rehearsal on Thursday, a performance Friday night and two on Saturday. We performed a “highlights” version, but all four (and a half) of my arias were there. Beautiful music, but a lot of singing! Oh, and to add to the marathon, we ended each performance with TWO Hallelujah Choruses! One as part of the performance, and one as an audience “sing-along.” That’s a lot of Hallelujah!

I was nervous about getting through three shows in 24 hours, seeing as how my voice is only just starting to get back in shape after my cold. The last remaining element to fall into place is stamina, so I really had to concentrate and not overdo it early in the day. I tried my best to not talk a lot, which is a real feat when I’m surrounded by 40 people! Or in a car for three hours each day with my good friend and sometimes roommate, Melissa. But, I made it through with no damage and no real glitches in the performance.

Unless you count choking on my own saliva and having the first “Shout!” of “Rejoice greatly” come out like a hiccup... Oh, boy, that’s so fun! (Not.) It’s amazing how delicate the balance is between one’s mouth being too dry and too wet. And if you don’t (or can’t) swallow at just the right time, bam! There goes your beautiful legato… But, it’s all part of the joy of live performance, and as long as you can keep going and finish strong, most of the audience won’t remember that glug. At least you hope!

It now officially feels like Christmas, so I think we’re off to get our tree today. But first I plan to sit in front of the TV, watch some football, and work on Christmas presents. I am knitting the coolest thing; after I give it I’ll post a picture.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Why and How

A few days ago, fellow blogging soprano Canadienne posted a farewell from the blogosphere, hopefully a temporary one. She explains her well-thought-out reasons in her post, so I won’t rehash them here. Go read it, though, as my post is related. (This post in not intended as a judgment on Canadienne’s blogging choices, just an explanation of mine.)

She got me thinking about why I blog and how I choose to blog. The “why” has changed over the years. I started keeping a journal of sorts of regular “Updates” from Tanglewood in 2003 in order to avoid writing the same email over and over again to keep friends and family in the loop. I stopped at the end of the summer (in the middle of the summer, actually) because I didn’t think I had anything “worth writing home about” going on during the rest of the year. But I started up again when I went back to the Berkshires in 2004. As I gained confidence as a singer, confident that I was truly in the early stages of a career and not just a hobby, I gained confidence as a writer, writing more often and in more depth. I started writing to a more general audience, not just my family, even though, at the time, I didn’t think anyone else was reading. I guess it was a manifestation of what everyone (?) dreams about: writing your memoir or autobiography. Hoping that you’ll have a life exciting enough that people will want to read about it! I have certainly dreamed about, and from a very early age. Reading biographies of Gelsey Kirkland and Maria Tallchief made me hope that someone would write my story someday. Or that I would.

When, in February of this year, I saw that Alex Ross had put me on his Blogroll, I learned that, indeed, other people were reading. After I dealt with the strange, small-worldness of the internet (people in New Zealand were reading!), I decided to embrace it, to see my blog as another creative outlet. And – and this is the big one, I think – to see it as a chance to give people an insider’s view of life as an aspiring opera singer.

This brings me to the “how” of my blog, or, rather, the “what.” When I started writing in 2003, I understood that as vast and anonymous as the internet can be, it can also be very small. So, I decided not to use my blog as a place to vent frustrations or go into detail about negative experiences. I knew for certain that I wouldn’t use someone’s name unless I knew they would be comfortable with the context in which they were mentioned. Hence the initials or vague descriptions. I also knew that even general references to complaints and troubles I might have with colleagues, companies, or situations “at work” would have to be left out. That was my choice from the very beginning. If it was ugly or overly frustrating, it didn’t get written about.

The chorus master at Santa Fe last summer stumbled upon my blog while looking for reviews of the summer’s operas, and he spoke with me about this. He voiced what I’ve thought for some time now: that I’d “better be careful” what I say! I hope I am, and that I haven’t crossed the proverbial line at any time.

This may mean that I’m presenting a slanted version of my life by leaving out the frustrations. But I don’t think so. I’m generally a pretty optimistic person, choosing to either see the good in a situation or get over the bad as quickly as possible so as not to poison myself and people around me with useless negativity. So perhaps I see the bad stuff as less worthy of airtime to all but my closest friends and family. Those conversations, the ones with tears and swearing, happen face to face or over the phone and are, generally, not suited for general consumption! They need to be accompanied by hugs and kisses and immediate feedback that this, too, shall pass. I do write about personal struggles – getting sick and cancelling auditions, for example – but those posts are, as they say, all about me, not my colleagues or workplace.

So maybe this blog doesn’t represent the life of a stereotypical aspiring opera singer, but this is my life. Stereotypical in some ways, unique in many others. And, hopefully, an interesting read.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I hated to do it, but I had to cancel my audition. Yesterday my cold finally hit my voice, and I have about an octave range with zero power. Not exactly the voice I want to present to the Higher-Ups at the Met! So, I cancelled. Or rather, rescheduled. And, in fact, I didn’t have to do it.

I’m still not at the place where I can reveal names or agencies, but I have some help now. I’m now in an unofficial trial period with a manager and his team, and they have been very helpful on this trip. I sang one audition that they arranged (Nevada Opera; it went well) and was able to call on them for help when I needed to cancel with the Met. I emailed them to let them know that the first round went well enough that they wanted to hear me again. They responded by saying, “Great news, we have a good relationship with the company, keep us posted.” Heartening! I asked at the Nevada audition if a representative would be willing to come with me for the second Met audition, and they said of course. But yesterday, as my voice failed to get stronger, I had to ask for their help in canceling.

They made the call, gave my apologies, and were able to reschedule immediately for January. For better or worse, having an agency act in my stead likely gives me a level of authenticity with a company like the Met. Sure, they understand that I’m a young artist just getting established and so I may not have management, but, if I do, all the better. Besides, they are more used to working with managers than dealing directly with singers and all their foibles! The rep also tried to deduce what, if anything, they might be hearing me for. From what she could tell, though, it is truly a general audition, most likely for small parts (“one-liners”) or covers. Hey, fine with me!

Speaking of covers, there was a fantastic article in the NYTimes about opera covers. It is insightful, and may help explain what exactly I’d be up for if I was a cover at the Met. Or at any company, for that matter. While I certainly don’t want to make a career out of covering, it can be a great way to get my foot in the door. As with anything, what happens after that is up to me.

I also had to cancel my Seattle YAP callback, scheduled for today. Again, better to cancel than to sing sick, and hopefully I (or my quasi-manager) can arrange to sing for them back on our home turf. But all in all, this audition trip turned out to be very successful, encouraging, and worth the trip. Even if only for the pants!

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Patti over at oboeinsight regularly posts quotes, mostly music-related, all thoughtful, some inspiring. Yesterday’s is so good, it might become a new motto of mine:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Now that is something to think about.

My other mottos:

Regrets cause wrinkles.
-Sophia Loren

You are only as young as your spine is flexible.
-anonymous yogi

I feel like I have another one, but I can’t remember it. Must be a good one…



We've come a long way, baby!

I forgot to mention in my Met audition post that afterwards, JD encouraged me to go shopping. To buy myself something to commemorate the day. "Even something small," she said. "This is an important day."

So I decided to walk from Lincoln Center up to the 72nd Street subway stop and see what shops along the way caught my eye. Barnes & Noble, a madhouse. A kitchen shop? Not really fitting, somehow, although I love kitchen stuff. Then, across the street I saw Ann Taylor. If I had to choose one store to shop in for an extended period of time (can't bring myself to say "for the rest of my life!"), I think it would be Ann Taylor. Classic, elegant, luxurious. I'd need to supplement with a few trends here and there, but I think I could make it work.

In I went, and they had an entire room full of sales racks. With just a little searching, I found what might be the perfect pair of pants. Black wool, well cut, tone-on-tone stripe with a bit of shimmer. And on sale! But the real find was a lambswool/angora boatneck sweater, dark grey, with a leaf-trellis pattern in the knit. When I put it on in the dressing room, I looked in the mirror and immediately thought, "This will always be the sweater I bought the day of my first (successful) Met audition." It should suprise no one who knows me that tears came to my eyes. Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 02, 2005

We apologize for the delay

Sorry to take a while to get an update here! I’ve been in a bit of a fog. Yesterday (yes, that yesterday) I woke up with a stuffed nose a sore throat, both only on the left side. Weird, and slightly disconcerting, given the events of the day! I steamed and took some Sudafed and drank more tea and water than I thought possible. When I warmed up, everything felt fine, so I decided to go ahead and do the Met audition.

I made one slight change to my rep list: I took off “Glitter and Be Gay.” That piece takes so much energy, if I want to do it right, and I was a little nervous about the E-flat. It’s an extra piece on my list, anyway, so I didn’t even need to replace it with something else. I can not tell you how much more relaxed I was at that audition, not having to worry about whether they would ask for it! I felt 100% ready to sing any piece on my list, which is a good feeling and one that has been rather slow in coming. But that’s another post.

One thing about being a bit under the weather is that I conserved my energy. I didn’t ever get my little nervous butterflies or have trouble sitting still, things that often (but not always) present themselves before an audition. It was as if my body knew that I only had enough energy to go in and give a great audition, so not to waste any on being nervous! It was a true blessing in disguise. Jocelyn was with me, too, and we talked about all the people who were praying or meditating or sending good vibes for us at that moment. I felt so comfortable, so much like I was in the right place and ready to be there.

I sang Nannetta’s aria, and the only weird thing was that my ear buzzed a bit from the congestion. I noticed it, acknowledged it as part of “this moment,” and let it go. Then we talked a bit (there were two women there, both of whom seemed very nice and very “real”): how living in Seattle allows me to do “normal” things like own a home; how I’m not in the YAP there, but might want to be, although I’m doing mostly mainstage auditions at this point so blahblahblah; even how old I was, which I told myself I was going to start lying about, but you can’t lie to the Met! Well, I can’t, anyway. So I’m 29. Deal with it.

Then they asked for Sophie’s aria from Werther, which I was so glad to have a chance to sing. I love this aria. It is so sweet and innocent, perky even, but without being saccharine or annoying. When it was over, they asked how long I was going to be in town on this visit. Why?

Because they want to try and have me back to sing for “more of their colleagues” before I leave town.

Woohooo!!! I’d say that’s a successful first audition at the Met.

Of course, today I woke up with more of a cold, two auditions today and one tomorrow. (Tomorrow’s audition was arranged by a manager with whom I’ve been talking for a few months. A good sign!) This morning’s audition went fine, and this afternoon is Santa Fe, so it will just feel like singing for friends. I’m looking forward to it.
(The Seattle audition also went very well, including a Glitter ending that I was very happy with. I’m going to sing for Mr. Jenkins and the rest of the staff on Monday or Tuesday. More on that later, too.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

this is why we do it...

... to find something bigger.

Thanks for the reminder, rb.

Sometimes it pays to ask the question

I heard this week, through the proverbial grapevine, that Seattle Opera was thinking about doing Falstaff for their YAP opera next year, if they can find enough men. This is news, in that I had heard (from people in the YAP administration) that they were planning on Rossini’s Cenerentola, an opera with a small role for my voice type but not the kind of role that would make it worth my while to join a year-long YAP simply for the chance to sing it. I think Cenerentola is still the fallback plan, and time will tell, but I thought I should try and get my foot in the door for Falstaff. I’m still not sure that I want to be in a year-long YAP, but I won’t have the choice unless I audition.

The trouble is: I didn’t even apply to Seattle! (YAPs generally have an application process which includes a CD screening, an application form, and a fee.) And their auditions are this week here in New York. But, I decided to take a chance. I emailed one of the staff members that I knew would be involved in the auditions and asked if I could “crash” the audition, show up basically unannounced and sing if they could fit me in. He knew that I hadn’t applied, but forwarded my email to the auditions scheduler. Next thing I know, I have an audition at 1:00 today! I’ll fill out the application when I get there, pay my fee, and sing a little ditty (any guesses?).

This wouldn’t happen with just any company. I’ve auditioned for the Seattle YAP twice before (both times making the final round) and have done some coaching with staff members. They know me and have watched my progress over the years, so I’m not just a random lyric soprano walking in off the street. Still, I’m proud of myself for taking advantage of that familiarity in order to get myself in front of them once again. I’ve been kicking myself recently for not making more of my connections, especially ones from this summer at Santa Fe, but this is a start. I’m also waiting to hear about one more audition next week that will be a direct result of “working a connection,” if I get it. This is the part of the business, the marketing and selling, that I’m still getting comfortable with.

But today is a start!

PS We got our internet worked out here at the aparment: we're piggy-backing on someone's unencrypted wireless signal! Woohoo!

Monday, November 28, 2005


I’ve settled into my sublet, which is absolutely beautiful. Two nice big rooms and an eat-in kitchen. The only drawback is that I can’t figure out the dial-up internet. (Honestly, dial-up!) Erik is going to try and find me the dial-up account info for our ISP at home. Hopefully I’ll have internet at the apartment by tonight. In the meantime, the library is three blocks away and has free wifi, so I’ll be heading there after breakfast. I’m sharing the apartment for the week with Melissa, a friend from Seattle (and fellow blogger!), so I won’t be lonely. Of course, part of Audition Season is getting together with friends and colleagues from around the country, all of whom have made the trip to NYC for the same reason you have, so it’s hard to be truly lonely! There’s always someone to meet for coffee…

In fact, last night started things off with a gathering of former Tanglewooders and friends. It was a classic scene, with practically every new introduction resulting in cries of, “Oh, you know my friend So-and-so!” or, better still, two friends at the table get up to greet the newest arrival, neither realizing that the other knows him, too. The instant comraderie that can be established at these gatherings is really fun to watch.

I’m fighting the strangest cold, if I can even call it that. For the past four or five days my head has been “fuzzy” on and off throughout the day. After a nap or a good night’s sleep, it goes away, only to come back around midday. Usually, if I’m going to get sick, it happens pretty soon after the fuzzy head starts, but nothing has really progressed. That is encouraging, but it’s also a bit nerve-wracking. Is it going to develop into something worse, and, if so, when? Please not Thursday, that’s all I ask…

I’m going to get dressed now and head over to the library. Then a walk through Fort Tryon Park, I think, and maybe a visit to the Cloisters, both of which are right outside my apartment. It is sunny and not too cold, the perfect weather for a walk.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick note to say Happy Thanksgiving! It is my favorite holiday, and today has been a good one. It started with our suitcase being delivered at 8am, all in one piece and everything accounted for. Then, since the cold rain the weatherman had predicted didn’t look like it was going to make an appearance this morning, Mark, Sylvia, and “Uncle Erik” headed into Manhattan to watch the parade. I’m not a fan of crowds – or parades, truth be told – so Elizabeth and I stayed home with baby James and started the dinner preparations.

I tell you, tag-teaming is the way to prepare a big meal. It started last night, when E made two pie crusts and a pumpkin pie and then I made chocolate-pecan. Then this morning, I made squash casserole, she, the chicken; I made the cranberry chutney, she, the roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes; and we both worked on the mashed potatoes. Add Mark’s pitcher of Cosmopolitans to the preparations, a bottle of spicy white wine with dinner, and we had an incredible afternoon of food and family. Lots to be thankful for, most definitely.

Now it’s football on the tv, poker in the dining room, and more pie as dinner settles and we make more room. I hope you’ve had a wonderful day, too! I hope you are surrounded with love and food and happiness, today and everyday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Another plane entry

(Written around 3pm EST, Nov. 22)

I’m flying on Delta’s budget airline, Song, which has some nice amenities (comfy chairs, good mp3 selection along with the DirectTV – current listening: Franz Ferdinand and Bright Eyes), but I thought the flight attendants’ shtick when we were boarding was going to do me in. There’s only so much cheerfulness I can take at 7:30am! For the first time in a while, I have a travel companion: Erik is with me today and we’re on the way to Brooklyn for Thanksgiving with the Birds. We’ll have four nice days with them; then Erik returns home and I move up to Inwood, where I’m subletting an apartment for my audition trip. More on that later.

For now, it’s really nice not to have singing on my mind, at least not at the very forefront of my mind. I’m looking forward to a few days of true downtime; my only concern is that I’ll let down so much that I get sick! I plan on keeping up my intense flu season / audition season regimen of vitamins, melatonin for good sleep, and lots of water. I’m also going to try and sing a little bit every day, even if it’s just warm-ups in the shower. My voice is tired (a direct correlation to my body being tired), so I need to let it rest, but I don’t want to go too long without using it (for singing). My speaking voice tends to get a little low if I’m not singing regularly, which makes it harder to get back up in to my resonance, blah blah blah… So a bit of exercise everyday is necessary to stay in prime audition form.

I was only home for four days, which wasn’t nearly enough. Time enough for a bit of catching up with friends, an invigorating fall workday with my housemates, Sunday dinner with Erik’s folks (and a dress fitting!! Again, more later.), and a few hours of teaching on Monday. Then I packed the suitcase that I had unpacked only days ago, and headed back to the airport. Sigh. I don’t know how the big stars do it, being away from home the majority of the time, only home for quick visits. Maybe you get used to it. Maybe I’ll get to the point where I have one set of clothes and toiletries that I use exclusively for travel so all I have to do is wash them and put them back in the suitcase, ready to go again. Somehow that’s not appealing…

Anyway! Sorry for the doom and gloom, I’m just tired.

But here’s some good news! I found out that the La Pasion tour concludes with a stop in Portugal! Two days after the London concert, we have a concert at the Casa de Musica in Porto, and concert hall designed by Rem Koolhaas, the same architect that designed the new downtown Seattle Library. Now, if I can only find my way over to Barcelona to see the Bilbao** for my birthday, which is (unofficially) two days after the Porto concert, I’ll have a full architecture tour on the docket as well!

We’re getting ready to land, I think, so I’ll sign off until I can get on the wifi at M&E’s and post this. I have more on my mind to write about, so I’ll see if I can make some time in the next few days. In between holding the baby and reading to Sylvia and shopping and eating and watching football and…

UPDATE: 10:16pm
Our bag didn’t make it. Not sure how, as we were early and it was a direct flight. I’m too tired to care, really, but it would be nice to have my pajamas… grrr…

The Dilletante Traveler (who else?) has corrected my confusion regarding architecturally unique art museums in Spain. The Guggenheim Bilbao is actually in Bilbao. Duh. I wonder what I was thinking of...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Well that was quick

I am constantly amazed at how quickly auditions are over. I spend so much time before hand – thinking about rep, printing up bios and resumes, getting dressed, warming up (ideally), getting “in the zone” – only to have it all over and done with in about ten minutes. It feels like even more of a let down when one has traveled several hours and walked around in high heels for hours simply for said audition. Even when it goes well, it’s still over in a snap. Sigh.

And it did go well, all things being equal. I had very little time to take in the room before I started singing (and by room I mean the hall; auditions were on the stage of the Academy of Music), so I was delighted to discover, as the (excellent) pianist started with the twinkling opening bars of Nannetta’s aria, that it was beautiful. Enchantingly so, which made it fun to sing about fairies and flowers and sparkling silver and gold. They asked for Glitter and Be Gay next; I suspected they might, because when I rattled of my list they exchanged a look when I said that one. I thought they were just laughing at the fact that I also mentioned that I would sing one verse, and that with the cut it’s a nice four minutes! It’s true, you know. Anyway, Glitter it was, and glitter it did, until that damned e-flat at the end. The sustained one. It wasn’t sustained for very long, and I think it was pretty tight (not much vibrato, if any). And with that, I felt my satisfaction level with the audition plummet. I know that it’s only one note, but it’s a big one and it’s nearly the last one they heard. Who knows if my floaty legato or sparkling coloratura stayed in their minds after that. Hopefully it did, and all I can do at this point is hope. I sang the audition, and now my job is done.

The travel went smoothly enough; I even slept a bit on the plane, which hardly ever happens. Took a cab to the hotel to find that there was no way I was going to get into my room. So I left my suitcase in storage in the lobby and toted myself and my laptop to Starbucks (which is beginning to feel like a home away from home). That killed an hour and left me with about one and a half. Back to the hotel, where they let me into the Fitness Center to change for my audition. It was quite a nice facility, a well-appointed locker room with good lighting and fresh fruits and veggies for the snacking. But it wasn’t my own room, and so I didn’t feel comfortable doing even low warm-ups. I just did some humming and lip-buzzing. I got the opera house with a full half-hour before my audition, but I wasn’t take to my warm-up room until 15 minutes before my time. So, needless to say, I really didn’t get a good warm-up. I don’t want to make excuses, but I think that e-flat might have been a little better if I’d just found a way to warm-up fully. A lesson learned, at any rate.

Maybe I got spoiled in Atlanta, but I’ve found most of the hotel staff (and all of the guests) to be a bit stand-offish. This is a very nice hotel, but more to the point, it is a private club. Hanging out in “The Lounges” after my audition (room still not ready, grrr), I was extremely uncomfortable. I overheard conversations about owning racehorses and 4000 shares of something; lots of talk about money and strategies and a whole part of life that I know nothing about. The Union League was founded as a “patriotic society” to support Lincoln during the Civil War, and I don’t think it’s been redecorated since. Very old guard, bordering on stuffy. I’m all about classic elegance, but I’m also into comfort and true relaxation. Everyone calls me “Ms. Bird,” which I’m starting to get used to, but here it has a real sense of deference to it, rather than common etiquette. Now that I’m writing that, I’m wondering what the difference is. I can’t define it, but it’s palpable. There is a sense of power here, of the divide between the Have’s and Have-not’s, and I’m not sure I like being automatically lumped in with the Have’s. This is the last time I will stay at a private hotel.

I tend to keep this blog on the topic of singing as much as possible, but sometimes my career gets me thinking about other things in a way that makes it hard to separate them. Opera is a “Have” art, is it not? It is a “private club,” if you will. A lot of the people involved in the classical arts, whether as patrons or artists, are most comfortable in that world, in that club. Gonzalo and I talked about this idea this past week, as he and I both need to get out of The Club from time to time and go be a part of the rabble. We both love “popular” musics – jazz, salsa, folk, even true pop – in a way that has occasionally brought us grief from our colleagues. But, I’d wager that his cello-playing benefits in some mysterious way from his nights in salsa clubs around the world, and I hope that my opera voice benefits from love of Ella Fitzgerald and Modest Mouse and Christina Aguilera. Hey, doesn’t Jane Eaglen warm-up to a mix-tape that includes songs by Meatloaf? (Yes, she does! Scroll down to the Oct. 24th entry for a perfect example of someone who is a Member of The Club but loves and lives in the world outside.)

Wow, deep thoughts. Time for bed now, and a long day of traveling tomorrow. But traveling home is always easier!

A side trip

(Written Tuesday evening in Atlanta)

In all the Ainadamar and recording and UGA business, I haven’t had a chance to write about this week’s other big event: my first audition for an A-level opera house! Tomorrow afternoon I sing for the Opera Company of Philadelphia, which is very exciting, but I’m a little anxious about the circumstances.

You see, I’m not in Philadelphia! I fly there early tomorrow morning and have a 1:30 audition, the latest time slot they could give me. I’ve talked to the front desk at my hotel to see if I’ll be able to check in early, and I’m hopeful that they can swing something. My flight arrives at 9:45am, and I imagine I’ll be at the hotel by 11. Plenty of time to steam and drink tons of water (to recover from the airplane air), change my clothes, warm-up, and cross the street to the Academy of Music. If I can get into my room…

After a week of singing straight-tone and on the staff, I needed to make sure my “other voice” was working and ready for this audition. So this morning I spent an hour with Peter Marshall, head coach at Georgia State University and staff pianist for the ASO, going over all my rep. We met at 9:30, and things were working pretty well at that ungodly hour (for singing), so I feel confident that I’ll be able to recover from tomorrow’s travel and give a good audition. I’ll start with Nannetta, of course, and offer Adele, Cunegonde, Despina, Tytania, and Sophie (Werther).

I’m not traveling in my audition dress, but I am dressing a bit nicer than I usually do. I usually wear comfortable dress pants or jeans with layers on top – usually a tank top, a cardigan, and a scarf – and flats that I can easily slip off. But just in case there is a snag tomorrow, I’m dressing in something I’d feel comfortable giving my audition in: black slacks, a really nice colorful button-up shirt, and heels. I’ll even have on makeup, which I hardly ever do before 10am! I’m carrying on my audition folder (always do that) in case my luggage gets lost, and I’ll have all the phone numbers I need in case I need to call someone at the Opera. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best!

Sweet dreams, all, and see you in Philly!

Monday, November 14, 2005

ASO Part Three

[I reread this the other night, after posting, and realized that there are a lot of style/grammar/format changes that I would like to make. It was obvious to me that I had pieced the post together over several busy days and put it all together backstage with less than my full attention. Rather than change it, though, I'm going to leave it as is, as a reminder of how hard it can be to focus in these situations! Enjoy the bad writing...]

It’s been a wonderful few days of music and family, food and laughs. Busy though, and therefore, little time to post! I made it back to Atlanta with plenty of time to spare before Friday night’s concert. Afterwards, a few of us went to Fuego, an outstanding Spanish tapas restaurant just a few blocks from the hotel. We’ve been going there regularly since our first night here, and by now the waitresses recognize us! The food is good enough to warrant going back nearly every night, and even with another tapas restaurant two blocks down the road, we still keep going to Fuego.

On Friday and Saturday, there was a live band playing: a trio comprised of a Russian flamenco/Brazilian-style guitarist named Sasha, and two percussionists, a Puerto Rican called “Bam-Bam” and a 21-year-old Brazilian hotshot (the adorable Rafael). Bam-Bam is an old friend of Gonzalo, the head percussionist for Ainadamar and all around fabulous musician. It was so fun to watch him get up and jam with the band (only when officially invited, though); even though he’d never worked with them before, the music told them every thing they needed to know in order to work together seamlessly. So cool. Most of the music was more Brazilian than South American (Gonzo is from Venezuela), he was right there. I was even able to persuade him to dance with me a bit. (We had done a bit of salsa dancing in Santa Fe, and I wasn’t about to let him get away from this visit without cutting another rug!)

The performances were also interesting on Friday and Saturday. This is the first opera that I have performed many times and in many different productions. I have performed it now it four productions: the premiere at Tanglewood in 2003, with a student orchestra and Bob Spano; one concert performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2004 (on my birthday!) with Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducting; the revised version at Santa Fe Opera, again with Miguel; and now, here with the Atlanta Symphony and Bob again at the helm. I am getting to see how a piece changes subtly (revisions notwithstanding) with each new orchestra, conductor, or cast. It’s still the same opera, but each production has a slightly different flavor. Hard to describe, but interesting to observe. I’ll be curious to watch the same affect with other operas that I perform frequently.

My vantage point in this production (far upstage, behind the percussion station, on a raised platform) allowed me to really study the orchestra and all the cool things going on. For example, there were snippets of melody (they’d be called “licks” in pop music; not sure if the same term applies for classical…) that I had heard several times before; they were the ones I usually left rehearsals humming. Being able to watch the orchestra, I could see that each of those melodies was passed around the sections, and it wasn’t simply repeated – it was inverted, fragmented, twisted and turned around, creating snakes of sound and rhythm. And such amazing things in the percussion section: a small gong bowed to create bone-chilling shrieks, the same gong half-submerged in a large bowl of water and gently struck with a marimba mallet, intricate “palmas,” or hand-clapping, passages, and the most beautiful marimba duet.

Many people have said that they feel this piece works better as a concert work, a dramatic oratorio, if you will, than it does as a staged opera. I think I agree, if only because the orchestra is so fascinating to watch. This form also allows for a larger chorus, fleshing out the sound of the wailing women in a way that is very powerful. I guess that’s possible in a staged version, too, but in concert, up on risers, the chorus is a bit removed from the action, allowing for a better focus on the heart of the story: Margarita and Lorca.

As I write this, I’m backstage at the evening recording session. And it’s almost time for me to get onstage, so I’ll write about the recording process later. Maybe tomorrow, but maybe not…

Friday, November 11, 2005

In Athens

(I wrote this last night, but couldn't post until I got back to my Starbucks internet connection. I'll write tomorrow about today's class and tonight's concert.)

I’m writing this sitting on the bed in “my room” at my grandparents’ house; it’s my room because I lived here for my last year at UGA. Being here, in this room, is just one of many bizarre experiences that I’ve had today! Being back here after five years away is so strange. I lived in Athens for four years, longer than I lived anywhere else (next to the five years we spent in Utah when I was in jr. high and high school). So there are lots of ghosts hiding here! Much has changed, but, more suprisingly, much is the same. I could find my way around (driving my cousin’s car) easily as if I’d left last week, and my favorite brunch place is still open! Unfortunately, they only serve brunch on the weekends, so I’ll have to miss out. My favorite coffee shop is closed, but the Athens landmark, The Grill, is still there, right across the street. Oh, and DePalma’s is still there! A favorite spot for a solo lunch (spinach fettucine with alfredo sauce) and dates with my future husband. So many memories here…

I spent a few hours with some UGA voice students this afternoon. They were all members of the Opera Ensemble, a group I think I actually helped form. (I know for sure that I was the “founding president,” whatever that means!) Now it’s a regular class, one that they register for, whereas in the beginning I think it was a club. They’re working on a small scenes program, and after about an hour of questions and answers and talking about life after college, I got to do a little coaching. Whenever I’m faced with that situation – coaching or teaching or directing – I’m always afraid that I’ll have nothing to say. I did my first “masterclass” with high school students about two years ago, and I was terrified! But as soon as they start to perform, I recognize what I have to offer that they need. Some need technical suggestions, others stagecraft tips, and I seem to know how to present a new idea in a way that is easily assimilated. There are a few quick fixes, but also fuel for future discoveries and new thoughts to take away and digest.

Today I heard two young singers perform the Papageno/Pamina duet from Die Zauberflöte. They told me that it was still in the early stages of staging and so they were still working on memorization. No problem. I was happy to work with them at that level, as I knew they’d be open for new ideas. I listened through the whole thing once, mentally making a list of areas and ideas that I wanted to come back to. The first thing was directly connected to memorization: I could tell that one of them was unclear as to the exact meaning of the German text. She admitted that she was still “memorizing the German,” and I told her that unless she knew the meaning of each word, all she was doing was memorizing sounds. And sounds don’t convey a story, words do. It’s tedious to sit down with a dictionary and translate something word for word, but unless you have a libretto tool like Nico’s books, it has to be done. She promised to spend some time in the library!

It was also fun to work with the two of them to create a relationship between their characters. The first time through, they were two students singing a duet with some cute choreography. Nice, but not telling a story. So we spent some time talking about the characters and how they would interact with each other. One of my favorite things about this duet is that is all about love and finding your true love, but it is sung by two characters who are not in love with each other. Two friends, in love with other people, dreaming of the day that they get to be “Mann und Weib!” It’s imperative to find a way to indicate to the audience that P&P are not lovers, and the easiest way is by demonstrating their class difference, for lack of a better term. Pamina is a princess, Papageno is a blue-collar man. How do they interact? How do they stand? What do they think of each other? If there is physical contact, i.e., standing arm in arm or holding hands, how do you show that it’s playful and not seriously romantic? Fun questions, and I think the two singers enjoyed thinking about the answers.

One stagecraft issue that we discussed is eye contact. I believe that a true connection, on- or offstage, is impossible without real eye contact. But eye contact on stage can feel very unnatural! So you often see a bunch of shifty-eyed performers on stage together, with no real connections anywhere to be found. Once I encouraged the two to really look at each other, their relationship became honest and inviting. All the students noticed, and hopefully took note! It was really wonderful to watch.

Any anxiety I felt about “teaching” in front of my teachers was nowhere to be found. I can honestly say that just as I feel a call to perform, and therefore am very comfortable in that role, so do I feel a call to teach. I feel very happy after this experience, knowing that when the day comes that I stop performing for a living (hopefully a long time from now), I will find a rewarding second career as a teacher. Or maybe even as a director on some level. Who knows?

Tomorrow, more students and more discoveries. Both theirs and mine.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

ASO part 2

I’m writing this in my room, to be posted online this evening on my twice-daily Starbucks trip. Ah, the joys of a T-Mobile HotSpot, especially when one’s husband is employed by T-Mobile… It is much cheaper to use that than to get the internet at the hotel ($9.95 a DAY; unbelievable…), so I’m becoming a regular.

Today’s rehearsal was one of my favorite kind. I sang about three notes! Most of the attention was focused on the orchestra and the acoustic balance, so I got to work on warding off Alzheimer’s. I figure if brass players can read novels during their endless measures of rest, I can do likewise.

There are a few things in this production that are different, the most notable being that instead of a chorus of 8 women we are a chorus of 20. There are now six women on each vocal line, plus two (myself included) as a sort of counterpoint. The size of the chorus really goes a long way towards capturing the feeling that Osvaldo wants, that of children playing (or women wailing) in the streets of Granada. I also think it works better to have it sung by a “chorus,” rather than by soloists singing together, if that makes any sense. I hesitate to say that, because I know that several of the women in the ASO chorus have trained as soloists, and maybe still perform as such; I don’t know for sure. But there is something to be said for the dynamic that exists between a group is used to working together with a common goal, versus than a “group of individuals.” You get me? Regardless, what they are doing sounds great, and Osvaldo is very pleased.

Let’s see, what else… There are three guitarists this time, two of whom are members of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet. The third is a flamenco guitarist, and I’m not sure where he came from. Nice guys, all, and I look forward to getting to know them. RA has joined us from Florida, so now our SFO mini-reunion is complete. We weren’t expecting to have AR (another tenor, not RA!) with us, so it was an unexpected joy to find him here. I’ll be staying in his neighborhood in NYC this December, so we’re planning some get-togethers there, as well. It’s so good to be with friends!

More in a bit. Off to get some Thai food for an early dinner, then hit the grocery store (finally!) to get some goods for my larder. If I can eat at least one meal (preferably two) a day in my hotel, I’ll save LOTS of money. And room service doesn’t count…

Monday, November 07, 2005

A crystal ball of sorts

I just stumbled upon a wonderful site, a glimpse into the future of Met Opera seasons. (I stumbled there through a link at NYC Opera Fanatic.) Next year's highlight for me? Orfeo ed Eurydice starring Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and directed by Mark Morris! Wow.

Does anyone know about this kind of insiders' view for other companies? Very cool.

I'm settled in here in Atlanta. Great hotel room, and my first rehearsal last night was really fun. It was just me and the second "offstage" singer (we're always onstage now, so we need a new name!), a recent graduate of Georgia State. She has a light and flexible voice like mine, and we blended beautifully. When we both sang straight tone on the same pitch, it almost sounded like one voice! She is Indian, so she is familiar with the more "ethinc" sounds that Osvaldo has written into the vocal line, and she incorporates them wonderfully. I don't know how to describe them, but imagine wails and sobs sung and you'll get something close. Osvaldo wasn't at the rehearsal last night, so I can't wait for him to hear her tonight. He is going to be so happy!

I'm having lunch with a cousin today, then I plan to spend the afternoon studying the scores I brought with me. Dinner with the Santa Fe gang tonight, then rehearsal from 7-10. I don't have internet in my room, so I'm currently set up at the Starbucks next door. I just found a list of free wifi spots in town, though, so I'll see if there's one within walking distance.

More soon!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Off to Atlanta

I’m taking a break from packing for my ten-day trip to Atlanta. Well, in truth, I haven’t really started yet. But I’m in that middle area between doing all the things I need to do in order to start packing – laundry, house-cleaning, etc. – and packing. I hate packing… And it’s one of those things that can take as much time as you have for it, like writing a paper in school. If you have two weeks, you can stretch it out to take two weeks. If you’ve put it off and put it off and all of a sudden it’s Saturday and it’s due Monday... you can get it done in two days. So, I’ve learned that I am often better served by not starting the packing process too early. Otherwise I make mental lists and put together coordinating clothes all day long, drawing out the stress. This time I’m going to start packing after dinner. We’ll see if that works out any better…

Tomorrow I fly to Atlanta, where I’ll be met by someone from the Symphony who will take me to the hotel. About an hour after I arrive, we have our first rehearsal! I can’t wait to meet the women who will be singing in the ensemble (members of the ASO chorus). There has been talk of an “official wine” of Ainadamar Week at ASO, and also of “initiation rituals” in order to become an official “Rhumba Girl” and honorary member of the ASO chorus. I think the initiation and the wine are closely connected, but I can’t be sure. Sounds like a fun group!

In between the performances and the recording, we have a two days off. I’m planning to spend both in Athens with my grandparents and other family; we’re going to have an early Thanksgiving on Sunday! Good Southern dishes like squash casserole, candied yams, and Mamma’s amazing stuffing will likely tempt me to put aside my mantle of vegetarianism for the day. Hey, you only live once, and you only get to eat your Mamma’s cooking every few years or so. I can’t wait.

Another part of my trip that I’m really looking forward to is visiting my alma mater, the University of Georgia. I contacted some of my teachers and the head of the voice department to let them know I was coming to town, and I offered to stop by a class or two to visit with current students. Next thing I know, I’m scheduled to do a Q&A with the Opera Ensemble, covering life after undergrad, auditions, resumes & headshots, career paths, etc., and a full-on masterclass with the voice department! I am really excited. I’ve done masterclasses before, on the high school level, and the teacher in me enjoys the setting. I’m a bit nervous to teach in front of my old teachers, though! I’m sure it will be fun, and hopefully a good experience for all involved.

Oh, and I’m doing some singing… There is also a side trip to Philadelphia planned; more on that later. Time now for dinner, and then packing. Unless I can find some other way to put it off.

N.B. to rb: If you do, as I suspect, live near Athens or Atlanta, I would love to try and get together for coffee. Drop me a line…

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fall in Georgia

I just checked for the forecast for Atlanta. Looks like sunny and mid-70's for the forseeable future! Woohoo!! I'm chilled to the bone up here in rainy Seattle. A few days of sunshine will do me good.

More on the trip soon. It's shaping up to be a great one.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


The Manolo, he has discovered the joy that is Osvaldo Golijov.

Love it.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Look what came today!!

Now I don't want to go teach! I want to stay home, curl up before the fire and translate operas! This is all part of my goal to study Cosi fan tutte and Falstaff this year. (We'll see how that goes without any sort of deadline hanging over my head...)

Hooray for Nico's libretto books!! Now that I own some, I feel like a real, grown-up singer. =] Posted by Picasa

Golijov links

My father saw Ainadamar this summer, and, well, he didn’t love it. He certainly wasn’t alone; a piece like that is bound to get mixed reviews. I do not fault him in any way, but I think he was afraid to tell me he didn’t like it! It can be hard to tell someone that you’re just not that into something they love (and I do love this piece). But music is subjuctive, and I am comfortable with that.

It stands to reason, then, that he was nervous about La Pasion. He and Mom are planning to come to the London performance, using it as an excuse to finally get back to Germany (where we lived for three years and where they still have good friends). I know it is a father’s job to come to a child’s performances and clap and be proud, whether he likes it or not, but it is much more enjoyable for all involved when he does like it! So imagine his relief when he (finally) listened to the CD of La Pasion that I leant him this summer – and loved it! He liked the Latin musical influences, and appreciated the folk song elements. Here’s what he had to say about that: I found the use of folk themes appropriate, as I know JSB was influenced by German folk music - it's just that we have heard it played by 60-piece orchestras so long that we call it classical. How cool is that!! My dad, the musicologist. I love it.

(La Pasion segun San Marcos was commissioned by the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of Bach’s death. Four composers – Osvaldo, Tan Dun, Wolfgang Rihm, and Sofia Gubaidulina – were each commissioned to write a “passion,” a musical setting of the story of Christ’s arrest and crucifixion. I’ve only heard Osvaldo’s, but imagine it was a fascinating series of concerts, hearing the way these four people interpreted this ancient story.)

I’m heading off to Atlanta this weekend for three performances and a recording of Ainadamar, so I thought I’d collect a few “Osvaldo links” and post them here. If you don’t have plans to see any of the (many) performances of his works around the country, maybe this will inspire you. There is some great music being created. Dive in!


Alex Ross’s article and review of La Pasion, March 2001

A fun account of the West Coast premiere of La Pasion in 2002 from the perspective of one of the string players. I think this gives a bit of insight into what I can expect in February! “Both the Orquesta La Pasión and the Schola Cantorum de Caracas are fantastic, and the difference between them and the stuffy classical musicians (us) is really marked. I'm not saying that one is better than the othe: it's just interesting to watch.” And this: “I feel alive. I haven't felt such energy in a very long time.” How exciting…

Ionarts review of Ainadamar at Santa Fe (see the sidebar for more reviews, including articles from The New Yorker and the Washington Post.)

Review of Osvaldo’s newest (?) work, Ayre, performed in San Francisco by Dawn Upshaw and the Andalusian Dogs on October 23rd. I really want to sing this piece someday…

Interview with Osvaldo on The World radio program, focusing on Ayre.

And, of course, check out Osvaldo’s own site for articles and reviews of all these works.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Geek Alert

I want this. (Yes, it's true, I have Geek Tendencies... don't judge me!) But hey, I need something to keep me busy, 'cuz you know I'm just sitting here twiddling my thumbs.

If only...

Ah, for the days of thumb-twiddling... and geeking out on video games for hours on end...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A quick note about business

(I say this is a note about business, but on second reading, it applies just as easily to any relationship. Duly noted...)

Do not be afraid to admit it when you made a mistake. Don’t grovel or whine, just say “I’m sorry I dropped the ball on that one. Can we move forward?” Because you never know when a mistake can turn around into something good. Miscommunications, when repaired, often create greater understanding in the long run.

I’m speaking from personal experience, of course, but that’s all I can say for now! Hopefully this mistake-turned-good will continue to be good, and I can give details in a few weeks.

A few pictures

Beautiful Eugene! This was the view from my hotel room. I did enjoy my weekend there, and can see why many of you were envious. Nice people, nice weather, great arts scene. Not impressed with the shopping, tax-free though it may be. Guess I'd have to go to Portland for that...

This is the beautiful and acoustically delicious Beall Concert Hall at the University of Oregon. So lovely to sing in. I've only recently started to really be aware of the sound of a room (the way your voice comes back to you, or doesn't), and this one was prime. It shouldn't change the way you sing; it's more of a mental thing, I think. The hall for Sunday's final round was very dead (but gorgeous!), the total opposite of Beall. Another challenge to overcome, though, rather than something to get hung up about. I was very happy with my performance on Sunday; I'm really starting to feel like I "own" Nannetta. I'm starting to understand why so many of my teachers/coaches guided me towards it. It feels like a good pair of jeans! I ordered the Falstaff score yesterday, and I'm going to try and learn the role this year.

The rest of the winners (there were five total) were all women, and all highly deserving. I listened to the whole concert on the monitor in my dressing room and heard some lovely things. Four of the five winners have ties to Seattle, oddly enough. Something in the (rain)water... Another odd fact: of the 8 female finalists, five wore red! There were two in black, and I wore gold. I've been thinking about getting a good red/burgandy/merlot gown for my holiday concerts, but now I'm not so sure! We made sure to break up the reds when we lined up at the end; it was a fun puzzle.

I didn't get any good pictures of people at the concerts, but here are a couple of shots from my preparations on Friday. Even with the annoying flash, this is the best pic I got of my hair and jewelry:That is my new favorite hairstyle! So easy, so elegant. I didn't get a full length picture of the dress, but here is the top:The skirt is a simple a-line. (I'm almost to the point where I need to have the bodice taken out a bit, as my ribcage has expanded in the past few years. These days, when I inhale, I add almost three inches to the circumference of my torso! My costumer at Santa Fe just about fell over when he measured that.) I hope to wear this dress for many more concerts; I always get so many compliments, and I love telling the story of where it came from.

So, there you go! Sarah, if I were truly Joan or Melissa, I'd be commenting and dissing on the other ladies outfits! I try to avoid that, both on the blog and off. But I can always dish on my own fashion choices!

What will I do with my prize money, you ask? Well, pay off some of the expenses I racked up in Santa Fe this summer, of course. Take a voice lesson and coaching or two. And, most importantly, pay for my Nov-Dec audition trip to NYC. I'm subleasing an apartment this time, so it's going to be more expensive. But now it's covered! Thank you Belle Voci! And thanks to everyone "here" for cheering me on. It was fun knowing that you all were in my corner.

Onward and upward!

Monday, October 24, 2005

3rd place!

I have spoken to my lovely wife and she asked that I pass along that she placed 3rd in the finals! A good experience all around. She is headed home tonight and has promised to post more details tomorrow morning.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A day off

It has been a delightful day, and it’s only 3:00. I slept in (a good thing, too, since I didn’t “come down” from the post-competition high until about 1am), got a latte from the cart in the lobby, ate a makeshift breakfast from the groceries I bought on Thursday, and watched a bit of the Missouri-Nebraska game (sadly, once I stopped watching, the Huskers stopped playing…). After a short meeting with the finalists at the Hult Center, right across the street from my hotel, I was released into the unseasonably beautiful Oregon afternoon. Sunny and 65º, perfect weather for perusing the Saturday Market. I found some real treasures, giving me a head start on my Christmas shopping. This evening I think I'll grab some dinner and see a movie, then try to head to bed early. Nice to have a "day off!"

So, more about last night. I was first again, as they kept the same order from the morning. Not an ideal spot, what with 23 other singers to come after you and potentially erase any impression you might have left on the judges minds. But since they got to hear us twice in one day, a nice set-up, the effect of going first was negated a bit, I think. One bonus of being first is that I got a few minutes in the green room with the pianist, Daniel Lockhart. Turns out he’s played for the West Coast Opera Auditions for the past few years, and I told him my awkward tale of this year’s audition! Had a good laugh about that, once again. We also looked through the music for my aria, and I pointed out the things to watch out for, i.e., getting a little “Viennese” on the first few “Ha ha ha”’s. Getting to have this conversation in detail off stage was great, rather than tossing the music at him on stage and saying, “Watch me here, and try to meet up with me here, and …” while hurrying to my spot to sing. It gave us both a level of comfort that carried over into the performance. It really felt like we were a partnership performing and sharing, not two strangers trying to muddle through. And he’s playing again tomorrow!

I have to say I enjoy singing Adele in German more than in English. There are just more fun and naughty and flirty words to play with! Even if the audience doesn’t speak German or have titles, the text is easy to play up and give them the general idea. For the first time, I was truly comfortable with the coloratura at the end, taking my time to really breath and set up each different section as a different sort of “laugh.” It was fun! And finally, as if a culmination of all the work I’ve been doing these past few months, the high D at the end was everything I wanted it to be. It was if Nina was there with me, in one instant telling me all the things she’d helped me with this summer: open your throat, connect the high note to the lower note, let that note vibrate! It felt so good. Now if I can just get that feeling to connect on Eflat and E, I’ll be in like Flynn.

The judges for the semi-finals were Jonathon Field, Pamela South, and Erie Mills, a coloratura soprano of much renown. I actually thought at one point, while singing, “Ms. Mills surely has sung this role; I wonder what she thinks!” She will also be on the panel for the finals tomorrow, along with two new judges. A carry-over from the semis is a really good idea; she can contribute information about the full performance of the singer, not just the few minutes the other judges will have seen.

The other finalists are two mezzos, one baritone, one bass, and six sopranos! Most of the sopranos are lighter voices; rep for the finals includes “Caro nome,” Manon’s “Gavotte”, the Silver Aria, and Nannetta (me, big surprise!), with “Ain’t it a pretty night?” and Rosalinda’s Czardas (Fledermaus) being offered by the heavier lyrics. Oddly enough, no real “fireworks” pieces were chosen (the arias were chosen by the judges, and while we were allowed to give our opinions, very few people changed their assigned aria). I thought about asking to sing “Glitter and be Gay,” but then I thought that I should ride the wave of success that Nannetta seems to be bringing me!

Thanks for all your kind words. Hope you’re having great weekends, too!

I'm in!

Very tired, but just wanted to let you all know that I made the finals. In fact, all the semi-finalists from Seattle made the finals! I really am about to fall asleep, so I'll give a recap tomorrow. I am extrememly happy with my performance tonight, that much I can say. Details in the morning.

Sweet dreams!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Quick Update

Now that my hair is done in prep for tonight’s round (always the hardest part! I went with the double loop chignon.), I can sit and write a quick update.

This morning’s round went fine, very smooth, nothing eyebrow-raising either good or bad. The competition runs like clockwork, with each semi-finalist given a 4 minute spot (both for morning and evening). There are plenty of volunteers around, mostly chorus members of Eugene Opera, to guide us through the halls of the Univ of Oregon. I had half an hour in a warm-up room, then ten minutes in the green room while they got things started. There was a small audience this morning, and they were told about the strict time limits. I think they were also instructed not to mess with that time limit by adding applause time, ‘cuz when I was finished no one clapped! It was so weird. When it’s just an adjudication panel, you don’t expect applause; but when there is an audience of any size, we’ve come to expect that formality. It really threw me for a second! Once I realized they weren’t going to clap, I said my “Thank you!” and headed off. The pianist was very good; I think he’ll be playing tonight and Sunday, as well.

I was happy with how I sang. I got a bit distracted in the interlude and came in just a tad late for the next entrance. The pianist (David?) was right there with me, though, so no harm, no foul. I head the next four or five singers while waiting for the shuttle, and, boy, there are some great voices. A few colleaques from Seattle, and a couple of women that are friends of friends. Good company.

I’ve been asked to sing Adele’s Laughing Song tonight, which is one of the two I was hoping they’d choose. (The other was Glitter and Be Gay, which had its first outing last weekend at the BBOT fundraiser. It’s a great fit, and I’m think about making it my English aria. Have to gather opinions on whether it’s “opera” enough. Oh, and with the cut, it’s exactly 4 minutes!) I’m wearing my blue gown (I’ve written this post in fits and starts while getting ready, so I’m dressed now!), one of six dresses that my mother sent me in grad school. She went to Nordstrom Rack looking for recital gowns for me, and hit the mother lode (if you will). This one has served me so well. It fits perfectly, and is a timeless cut. For jewelry, I opted for a colorful but understated rhinestone necklace and earring set that my in-laws gave me for Christmas last year. I have to say, I look good!

I feel good, too. I’m wearing a good luck charm today for the first time, a little mushroom pin with a wonderful story. That will have to wait, though, because my chariot awaits! More soon.


**Unable to post this last night, due to less than perfect wifi. It's all still true, just late. Good morning!**

I love staying in hotels. Well, good hotels, at least! I was thinking as I was packing this morning, and it’s been a while since I’ve stayed in a hotel. (Ok, so the DT and I stayed in one on our way home from Santa Fe, but that was such a dump that it hardly counts!) The last time might have been in April, when Erik and I splurged for our 5th anniversary and spent a night at the Fairmont Olympic, which is at the opposite end of the hotel spectrum! So luxurious, so special, so fabulous. Sigh…

I’m not at a Fairmont this weekend, but I am at a Hilton, so there are no boot prints on my pillow. I have a nice room with a king-sized bed and wireless internet (not free, but better than nothing). My dinner in the restaurant was disappointing (won’t be going back), but I’ve filled out my room-service breakfast card because, honestly, who can mess up toast, coffee, and yogurt? I’ve splayed out my “lotions and potions” all over the bathroom and hung my dresses in the closet. I ran the shower for about ten minutes to get some moisture in the air, and after I finish this post I plan on curling up in bed with the five fluffy pillows and my book. All in all, I’m pretty well settled.

I did mange to forget my slippers and my black cashmere cardigan, two comforts of home that I usually don’t travel without. I think there was something about not getting on a plane that messed with my mental packing list. I know singers who have an actual packing list, something that they print out and check off to make sure they don’t forget anything. I’m surprised that I’ve never done that, seeing how I like to make lists and charts, but never forgetting anything means you never get to go shopping to buy a replacement!

Oops, did I really say that? Don’t worry, Erik, I’m not going to go buy another cashmere sweater. This isn’t like the three trips to New York when I forgot my audition shoes and had to buy new ones, or the trip to San Francisco when I forgot all my make-up and head to buy more. Really. It’s not. But, now that I think about it, there isn’t any sales tax in Oregon, so… Who knows! =]

I’m very impressed with the organization of Belle Voci. Three weeks ago I received a folder filled with information about the competition – schedules, competitors, etc. – and Eugene – directions, services, “things to do.” Very thoughtful and well-presented. When I arrived at the hotel (one of two in town that had a special rate for BV competitors), there was an envelope waiting for me with details about tomorrow. Again, so organized! I love it. This is only the second BV competition, so they obviously have someone involved who knows how to put together an event.

Tomorrow, I’ll be picked up at 10:00 and taken to the University, where I’ll have a warm-up room for about 20 minutes. This is so thoughtful, because getting a good warm-up in a hotel is next to impossible. I’ll do some humming and low scales in the shower, but in order to be fully warm, I’ll need a few minutes in a room with a piano. I’ve decided to start with Nannetta, even though this is a competition and I’m tempted to start flashier. But the semi-final round is in two parts – morning round, I pick my aria; evening round, judges pick – so I figure they can ask for flashy if they want to hear it. Just like an audition. I’m not going to start second guessing myself, especially when Nannetta has brought me such luck. What’s the saying, “Stick with the one that brought you?”

Time for bed! More tomorrow.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Off again

This morning I’m packing my suitcase again, headed this time for Eugene, OR, and the Belle Voci Competition. I have everything laid out on the bed – clothes, shoes, make-up, toiletries, etc. – now I just have to put it in the suitcase. KD is sticking close-by, hoping she gets to come along. She has her own trip planned this weekend, up to Orcas with the DT and folks. Last time she was there she ran around the property full-tilt for about 8 hours! I didn’t think it was possible to wear her out, but she slept the whole next day.

It’s a 5-hour drive to Eugene. I plan to split the listening between music and a book-on-CD. If I can get out of here within the hour, I should get to Eugene between 5 or 6, which should allow me to miss most of the nasty traffic. Wish me luck! The Eugene Hilton has wifi, so I should be able to easily update throughout the weekend.

In other news, I saw a familiar face on Brian Dickie’s blog this morning. Peter McGillivray, a Tanglewood buddy from 2004, is a Semi-Finalist in the Neue Stimmen Competition!! Go Peter!!! I’ll be wishing him luck tomorrow. He is a wonderful man with a beautiful voice, and he deserves all the success he is finding.

More tonight from Eugene!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

23rd & 5th

“I've always entertained myself in line at the store with speculations about people's lives based on their purchases.”

I’ve been tagged by Melissa to participate in the “23rd & 5th” meme, in which you dig back through your archives and discuss the 5th sentence of your 23rd post. An intriguing exercise.

I find in extremely interesting that my sentence has nothing to do with singing! It was written after a grocery shopping trip in Summer 2005, when I was living on my own in a small apartment near Tanglewood. (Read the rest of the post here.) I distinctly remember being conscious of the non-musical nature of this post, of trying my hand at observational writing, not unlike what my friend Chiara does so well, or what I read over at dooce. I enjoy that style of writing, and I think I’m not too bad at it, but I couldn’t imagine always having something insightful and truly unique to write about in an observational blog. So, I focus on my work.

This summer, I did have someone suggest to me that I might write a book someday, something that pulls most of its content from my blog entries. And maybe I will. But that sort of endeavor is so time- and energy-consuming that I don’t see it happening for many years! A good retirement project, maybe. I’ll admit, though, that I am a bit tempted by National Novel Writing Month, in which you have 30 days (November) to write 175 pages (50,000 words). With the idea of aiming for quantity over quality, NaNoWriMo is meant to encourage anyone who’s ever thought about writing a book to stop procrastinating and just do it! If I didn’t have tons of music to be learning and auditions to be scheduling and gigs to be singing, I’d totally do it. Hmmm…. I wonder how many words I’ve written on The Concert…

I’m not going to dissect the meaning of the above sentence; I think it gets explained pretty well in the post. I’ll only add that for as much as I am a performer, I’ve always been a voyeur, studying people and creating a life for them around the little glimpse of them I see in the cafe or the grocery store. I’ll never know if I’m right, of course, but it’s fun! Maybe that habit would come in handy if I did ever decide to write a novel. Again, not going to happen any time soon…

So there you have it! My 23rd & 5th. Let’s see… who’s next? … I think I’ll tag Tomness and The Dilettante Traveler (who doesn’t need NaNoWriMo to write a novel – she’s doing it right now!). You’re it!
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