Sunday, July 31, 2005

Donna Who?

Yesterday morning, my hostess, Pam, presented me with a beautiful silk scarf in honor of Ainadamar’s opening night. It is printed, in beautiful pinks, greys, and maroons, with the ceiling of the Met Opera House, where she worked for 20 years. An opening night gift to her from the director she had been assisting, she wanted to pass it on to me. “As a reminder of where you’re headed,” she said. I was so touched, I thought about running upstairs and changing my outfit! Little did I know that she would present me with an even greater gift later that day.

She had read my blog the day before and saw the Donna Karan couture blouse, which reminded her of a similar blouse that she made when she worked for a designer in New York in the 70’s. The two-person design team, Amott & Yates, made lots of “one-of-a-kind” pieces for celebrities, including a Grammy Dress for Aretha Franklin, caftans for Lanie Kazan, dance costumes for Twyla Tharp, and a silk crepe hand-painted blouse for Julie Christie. In her words, Pam “was the fabric painter on the silk. It was done with leather dyes and a steaming process. As a thank you to me, I was offered the pattern and extra fabric to make a duplicate for myself.” Forty hours of hand- and machine-sewing later, she had the second of two Amott & Yates silk blouses in the world.
Over the next ten years or so, she wore the blouse to many opening nights at the Met. (She freelanced with Amott & Yates and in other design jobs – not least among them designing and sewing clothes for Muppet and Sesame Street with Henson Associates! – while establishing her opera career.) She stopped wearing it about twenty years ago, but knew that it was a piece to hold on to, so she “archived” it in her closet. But, as “everything old is new again” in fashion, Pam realized that it was time for it come out and have a new life. And the stage was perfectly set for its comeback: a young opera singer living in her home for the summer with a passion (but not the pocketbook!) for high fashion and an opening night event to attend that very evening! My Fairy Godmother, perhaps?

When I got home from my long day with two hours to recharge and head back for Ainadamar, Pam presented me with this work of art and told me the story behind it. At first, I couldn’t believe that she was actually giving it to me! It seemed too special, too fabulous! But once I got my head around it, I was thrilled!

In short order, I had formed three possible outfits around this gorgeous piece. My first try was to pair it with jeans, a soft pink silk camisole, and tan sandals. (Cowboy boots would have been perfect, but I haven’t made that fashion investment yet. It’s on my To Do List while I’m in Santa Fe, though.) The jeans weren’t quite right, though; they needed to be tighter and lower slung in order to allow the blouse to hang properly. Next I paired it with orange linen pants and the same camisole and sandals. Again, close but not quite right. The bright pants drew attention away from the blouse. Pam suggested that this outfit would be perfect with a chunky coral-colored necklace or a brighter camisole, something to bring the eye back up to the blouse. Another item to add to the fashion wishlist!

I finally settled on black slacks, the pink camisole, and black heels. In this arrangement, the blouse was the centerpiece, as it deserves to be. With my hair up, long multi-strand gold earrings with pink beads added the finishing touch. It was an outfit worthy of any opening night, and I felt absolutely special to be wearing it. I received compliments all night long and delighted in sharing the story over and over. . I am sorry that I didn’t get a picture of me in it, but I hope you can get an idea of its beauty from these pictures.

I will treasure this exquisite blouse, my first real piece of haute couture, for years to come. A one-of-a-kind gift from a one-of-a-kind woman. Thank you, Pam.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

One week's paycheck

This blouse was featured in the July issue of Vogue as one of the "pefect ten" pieces for Fall. It absolutely took my breathe away. (Believe it or not, it's from the Donna Karan Collection.)

I saw other pieces from the photo spread today at Fashion Addict Diary (I also adore the purple gown and the cigarette pants), and was reminded of a funny conversation I had about the blouse. At the pool one day last month, I showed the collection to Doug Fitch, our Turandot director and designer. We oohed and aahed (ooh'd and aah'd?) over the issue, and when we got the page with the DKC blouse, he agreed that it was exquisite. He said, "You should have this. You deserve to have this! How much is it? Only $1600?! Oh, you can do that. Just set aside a week's paycheck."

At which point I burst out laughing!! (I was right there with him until that last sentence, as I am so enamoured of this piece that I would pay $1600 for it if I had that kind of disposable income.) The fact that he had NO IDEA of how little we Apprentices were paid just cracked me up. I enlightened him as to the facts (we get about $317 a week after taxes, sometimes as much as $450 if it's a big week for overtime), and the look on his face was priceless. All jobs in opera are not created equal, that's for sure.

I dream of the day when I'll have the kind of paychecks where I can put one week aside and get myself a couture blouse...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

This isn’t a post about Ainadamar

I haven’t written about Ainadamar rehearsals for many reasons, not the least of which is that when I have free time I’d rather sleep than blog. But it’s a new production of a new opera, so details should be kept, not necessarily secret, but at least under wraps. So, once we open on Saturday, I’ll write a bit about the production side of things. (Look, too, for opinions on the work from Charles at Ionarts, who was able to sit in on our piano dress rehearsal Monday night. I was so pleased to have the time to meet him for coffee and get to know another music blogger. We talked about (among other things) the changes coming to print journalism via blogging, and I think Ionarts will be a real force in the change for music journalism. A change for the better!)

Another reason I’ve been quiet about the rehearsal process is that I don’t quite have the words to describe what it’s like to work with Peter Sellars. I’m in a bit of a rush at the moment (2nd Grimes performance tonight), so I won’t even try right now. Someday, hopefully next week after things have quieted down a bit, I can sit and find the words. Just know that the entire cast agrees that this production will be a highlight of our careers.

I do want to share two concepts/philosophies/ideas that have been presented to me through Ainadamar. The first is a Buddhist idea Peter shared with us at a rehearsal in which we were particularly tired and feeling flat. He told us about “right livelihood,” the idea that your work (how you make your living) causes no harm, either to others or to yourself. The arts, he reminded us, are some of the few occupations which can be considered as such. Not only do we not destroy anything or cause harm, we create things! Beautiful things! And our work can heal rather than destroy. If you have ever felt rejuvenated or at peace after hearing a piece of music or reading a poem, you have been on the receiving end of the artist’s “right livelihood.” Peter reminded us that we are blessed to come to work everyday knowing that we aren’t subtracting from our karmic balance.

The other idea was first presented to me at Tanglewood in 2003, when we gave the first premiere of Ainadamar. Osvaldo talked about duende, an idea about which I only got the vaguest hint of its meaning. I knew it was good, that Lorca liked it, and that it was a fleeting thing that could either be present or not. After a dress rehearsal, Bob Spano, our conductor, said to me (regarding my dance solos in the piece), “You know why that was so good this time? You had duende,!” I said “thank you,” of course, but I was too shy to admit that I really had no idea what he was talking about.

So, when I saw the book "In Search of Duende,” – a selection of Lorca's prose writings and poetry on the subject – in the SFO gift shop, I picked it up, determined to really understand it this time. And I’m so glad I did. I read enough to find this quote from Lorca, which sums up his idea of “the duende:”

The duende is a momentary burst of inspiration, the blush of all that is truly alive, all that the performer is creating at a certain moment. The duende resembles what Goethe called the "demonical." It manifests itself principally among musicians and poets of the spoken word, rather than among painters and architects, for it needs the trembling of the moment and then a long silence. -FGL

An amazing idea, no? I realized a few days later, in the middle of another intense rehearsal to which my cast mates and I were all giving our all, that together in this production, we all find our duende. That is how we are so moved, and how we are able to so move others. Another quote from the book, this from the preface: In Andalusia, people say of certain toreros and flamenco artists that they have duende - an inexplicable power of attraction, the ability, on rare occasions, to send waves of emotion through those watching and listening to them.

How can we not want to have that power all the time?! To put aside our egos and let the duende flow through us. To bring healing and beauty to our audiences – to the world – every time we step onstage. It is my new goal, what I want to strive for in all of my work.

While this isn’t a post about Ainadamar, I think you can start to understand how I feel about the work we’ve done in the past few weeks. I can’t wait to tell you more.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Around the Blogosphere

Two entries from Tomness, who is busy at Marlboro Music Festival:
A bit of insight into what’s hiden between the lines of that interview. (I feel like I could have a whole other blog about my “other music,” the music I listen to when I’m full up on opera. Guess that makes me human…)
And an hysterical note to a living composer. Love it!

From in the wings:
Musical ”skinny jeans”. Sometimes it’s good to be uncomfortable…

At The Standing Room, fun international Friday cat-blogging. (Although, aren’t you supposed to cat-blog your own cats?)

Lots of good stuff at Ionarts, who is in Santa Fe for a few days. Read his reviews of Lucio Silla and Barber of Seville; I know he saw Peter Grimes last night, so look for a review of that shortly. He also has a great post about SFO itself – its founder and history, current and future programming, the campus, and, of course, the Apprentice Programs! I’m hoping to have lunch with Mr. Downey tomorrow to talk blogging, music, and music-blogging, among other things.

Canadienne is having a real adventure in Aix-en-Provence! From falling down the stairs to learning how to grow in a role despite bad reviews (and no solo bows! grr), she is blogging the experience of a lifetime. I, for one, am grateful for her sharing. I know how hard it is to blog about the lower points of our careers, and I think it shows what a mensch she is that she is that she blogs the tough stuff right along with the Diva Flowers. I look forward to meeting her in person someday.

Jeremy Denk is in Seattle, or, at least, he was two weeks ago, and made me homesick with his description of the locals. (I read his bio on the ICM site, and LOVE the fact that his blog is mentioned! In the final paragraph: Mr. Denk records some of his touring, practicing, and otherwise unrelated experiences at a blog called "Think Denk." ( It is linked to by several other arts blogs, and was recently singled out for praise by the music critic of the New Yorker, who wrote "Who needs music critics when you have performers who can write like that?" Maybe I’ll be brave enough to include TheConcert in my bio someday…

Ok, that’s enough for now. Happy reading! More from Santa Fe tomorrow. Erik goes home this evening and I have to sing a concert in Albequerque this afternoon. Not exactly how I want to spend my day off, but I'll survive. I've been so busy these two weeks that I feel like I've hardly seen Erik, but it's been good to at least have his presence here. But, tomorrow, I have to make my own breakfast again...

Friday, July 22, 2005

visita número dos

My second Santa Fe visit is nearly over. This trip has been observably similar but has felt pretty different.

I am more or less on vacation with a handful of house husband duties... (the same)
I am in beautiful Santa Fe... (the same)
Anne Carolyn has rehearsals and coachings from 10am-5pm Monday through Saturday... (the same)
Anne Carolyn has dress rehearsals and performances from 7pm to 12:30am 3-4 nights a week (very different). There is some union thing where they aren't suppose to be called until noon the next day if they had a dress or performance the night before. But while I have been here that has been the exception rather than the rule.

When describing Tanglewood to people I would often say that it is "Summer Camp for young professional musicians." Compared to Tanglewood, or anything for that matter, the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice program is "Bootcamp for Opera Singers." Not just any bootcamp either, this is like Navy Seals bootcamp... If you were to create a bootcamp for the next generation of Opera's Elite Special Forces what would you do? Lets make it hot (check), dry (check), throw in some altitude.. (higher than the Denver Bronco's play by at least 1000 feet) and round if off with 12 hour days. (check) Sounds about right? And just so that they won't all crack up under pressure put the facility in an extremely picturesque setting with a top notch staff.

I was able to go just hang out and watch some rehearsals and I got to say it was an extremely relaxing experience. Sitting in the shade on the grass watching Peter Sellars run through Ainadamar was spellbinding. Even without sets or costumes or orchestra I can tell it is going to emotionally powerful. Juxtapose that with: at one point the conductor's little girl came down from the pool and offered him a drink of juice. Santa Fe is very family friendly.

One other thing I want to weigh in on is the weather. I was told July would be cooler than June because of the rains. That has not been my experience. It's still been up in the 80's and 90's but instead 16% humidity it has been getting into the 30-40% range and not cooling off as much at night. We did have a crazy storm the other night with hail coming down so fast it was hard to get the windows closed because they were getting jammed up. It has been beautiful though. Just one more face of Santa Fe.

Welcome to the world, James Atwood Bird!

 Posted by Picasa

This beautiful bundle of a baby was born early yesterday morning in a living room in Brooklyn. He weighed over 9lbs! That's a big boy. Mom, Dad, and big sister Sylvia are all doing well, and all the rest of us are thrilled to have a new nephew/grandson.

Let's see, when is my next trip to New York? I'll have to work on that...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

This sunset brought to you by...

Last night's sunset was particularly spectacular, thanks to a large storm front that was blowing in. The dynamic clouds started appearing around 7pm, and when I drove to the opera house at 8pm, I could see the beginnings of the sunset to the west and dark imposing rain clouds to the east. The contrast was, as always, thrilling.

I got into costume quickly so I could stand on the back deck and catch as much of the sunset as possible. It probably lasted about an hour, with these gorgeous colors and clouds inspiring continuous gasps of amazement from the large crowd of spectators. We eventually had to leave it, though, to start our first dress rehearsal of Peter Grimes. Act I proceeded smoothly enough, but just as we were about to start Act II, the storm that sponsored the sunset showed up. It, too, was magnificent. During the next 30 minutes (rehearsal was on a "rain delay!"), we were given another brilliant show in the sky. Continuous flashes of sheet lightning - some bright enough to illuminate the whole sky - were punctuated with quick bolts. Sheets of rain and a heavy shower of pea-sized hail were the finishing touches. Again, a crowd gathered to watch and cheer!

I can’t imagine what would happen if this type of storm appeared during a performance. Our Techincal Director said it has never happened (knock on wood), but that they have contingency plans! I wonder if the orchestra ever has a drill: Get those violins under cover!! (We had only piano accompaniment last night, so we didn’t have to worry about the orchestra.) I imagine they would have to stop the performance, at least momentarily, to get the orchestra rearranged and then back into the score. Just another unique facet of life at Santa Fe Opera…

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Ok, I thought I was a blog nerd. I don't even come close.

I'm impressed.


To test out Blogger's new photo feature, I'll post these pictures of today's weather. Both shots were taken from the same spot on the opera campus, this one facing northwest:

and this one facing northeast:

Pretty spectacular.

We're getting into "monsoon season," which means that it threatens to rain every afternoon. (Santa Fe averages 6.6 inches of rain in July and August combined. During it's "rainy season," Seattle gets six inches in November alone.) I wonder how long we can keep making Peter Grimes jokes: "Look, the storm cone!"

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


All this fretting recently about my vocal catergorization has caused me to write lots of lists. Roles I Can Sing Now, Roles I Will Sing Soon, Roles I Might Sing in the Future. You get the idea. I thought I’d share some of them, so you can see where I’m headed in all this.

Roles I Can Sing Now
(meaning, someone would be willing to pay me money!)
Oscar, Un Ballo in Maschera
Nannetta, Falstaff
Marie, La Fille du Regiment
Adina, L’elisir d’amore
Norina, Don Pasquale
Zerlina, Don Giovanni
Adele, Die Fledermaus
Tytania, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Olympia, Les Contes d’Hoffmann
Musetta, La Boheme

Roles I Will Sing Soon
(these are on my radar, and in prep, but not ready for public consumption)
Gilda, Rigoletto
Lucia, Lucia di Lammermoor
Zerbinetta, Ariadne auf Naxos
Susanna, Le Nozze di Figaro
Baby Doe, The Ballad of Baby Doe
Elvira, I Puritani

Roles I Might Sing in the Future
(depending on how my voice continues to grow)
Juliet, I Capuletti ei Monetcchi
Juliette, Romeo et Juliette
Manon, Manon
Anne Trulove, The Rake’s Progress
Sophie, Der Rosenkavalier
Violetta, La Traviata (hey, a girl can dream, right?)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Working Hard

So the Highlights "bulletpoint" post didn’t get written, but I got my tome on voice lessons out of the way. Now on to all the other things going on in the past few days!

Turandot has had three performances, with a pretty good review and a not so good review in the regional papers. Reviews from international opera magazines will take a little longer to appear, so the jury is still out on the overall impression. I do know that the administration at the opera is pleased, the director feels that his first opera is a success, and all the performers felt that we finally hit our stride with Saturday’s performance (the third). Yes, you can argue that we should have been there for opening night, but what can you do when you’re trying to get five operas opened in five weeks?! At a party a couple of weeks ago, a patron told me that she enjoys coming to see each opera several times thoughout the summer, to watch the evolution of the production. So obviously it is understood, in some circles, that the operas with longer runs may take some time to fully develop. Regardless, I think it is a beautiful production with skillful singing all around and some touching dramatic moments. Kevin Langan as Timur is especially moving as he mourns the death of his faithful servant, Liu (exquisitely sung in July by Serena Farnocchia, who easily gets the largest ovation of the night).

What else… I had my first real experience with vocal fatigue last week. In the week before Turandot opened, I had several days with 6 hours of rehearsal plus a 4 hour dress rehearsal that evening (“evening” rehearsals here begin at 9pm and finish around 12:30am). We were then called back for more rehearsals at noon the next day, or sometimes earlier (if we are called back to work fewer than 12 hours after we were released the previous night, union rules stipulate that we get overtime pay). A week of this pattern left me (and many others) physically tired and vocally shot. I’d never before experienced pain in my throat that wasn’t caused by illness; it is a very unsettling feeling! I was able to “mark” in some rehearsals (sing more softly, or sing things down an octave), but the only thing that really made the pain go away was being quiet. Any spare hour I had was spent relaxing, drinking lots of water, and trying not to talk – quite a feat for a “social butterfly” like me! I’m feeling much better now, and was able to sing in full voice for Saturday’s Turandot.

Peter Grimes is progressing nicely. It is an even more involved opera for the chorus, but our director, Paul Curran, is well suited to the task. He has directed the opera once before and has a clear vision and efficient rehearsal style. I think we’ve all been impressed with how quickly things have come together, Paul included! He is quick to let us know when we’re doing well, but also isn’t afraid to let us hear it when we “fall short” of his expectations! Rehearsals have generally been fun, which doesn’t have to be the case in a complicated opera like this, and we’re all looking forward to adding the rest of the elements (set, orchestra, etc.). The principals are all very strong, and I think there is potential for a real hit. The only negative thing about this production of Peter Grimes? There are only five performances.

Finally, we got our assignments for the Apprentice Scene Programs last week, and I am very happy with mine. I’ve been assigned the sextet (actually, it almost all of Act II Scene ii) from Lucia di Lammermoor, a great opera by Donizetti with one of the greatest coloratura heroines in all opera. I’ve been thinking about this role for about three years, hoping that someday my voice would “grow up” enough that I could sing it. As I started to move into coloratura land this year, the hope grew, but I’ve been floundering so much recently with what I should be singing, that I started to doubt. Then I went through the vocal roller coaster of the first few weeks here. I almost felt like I was back to square one! Then they assigned me this wonderful scene. All of a sudden I had answers. Yes, I am on the right track. Yes, my voice is growing into what I thought it would be: a solid lyric coloratura with enough warmth to sing Susanna and enough silver to sing Baby Doe. Yes, I will sing Lucia!

The Ring

I’ve joined a blog ring, which is like a Webring, except that all the sites in the ring are blogs. As of now, there are only 4 blogs in the ring, so if you are an opera blogger, come join us! You know you want to. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of my site for the navigation bar that will take you through to the other opera blogs.

Yes, I’m a blog nerd. :-)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Lessons, finally

I’ve had too many voice lessons and coachings by this time to give a blow by blow of each one. I’ve worked with four people: Mark Oswald and Nina Hinson, teachers; and Nico Castel and Diane Richardson, coaches. Each meeting has been full of new ideas and challenges, but the underlying thread has always been the goal of helping me find my voice. I’m going to give a general description of teaching style and what I’ve gained from each experience, rather than get too deep into specifics. **WARNING** Try as I might, I couldn’t keep a fair amount of “tech talk” from creeping in. Just skip over the stuff you don’t understand! Or, better yet, leave a comment with your questions and I’ll try to expound.

Mark Oswald: A gentle teacher with a deep soul. Several people have compared lessons with Mark to a good yoga class! His main concept, at least as far as I understand it after less than two hours with him, is vowel modicfication as a means to free up the voice. For example, if I’m trying to sing “ee” on a high C, chances are my “voice” will be spread wider than is comfortable, making everything tense. He would recommend a slight shift to an “ih” sound (more like “fish” than “free”). The general idea of the word will still come through, but the voice will be more relaxed, more beautiful, more open.

We worked on arias from Abduction (“Durch Zartlichkeit”), Ariadne auf Naxos (Zerbinetta’s showpiece), and Magic Flute (both Queen arias). He helped me get some good ring in the higher notes (I have to give up a bit of the vowel purity that I’d been trying to hard to maintain; up in the stratosphere, you can really only sing “Ah!”), but said I would probably only ever sing the Queen in smaller houses. I just don’t have enough heft to my voice. More on this.

Key Idea: Sing the vowels that free the voice.
Overall Impression: I would love to see Mark a couple of times a year, if only to have an hour one on one with the most centered person (aside from Dawn Upshaw) I’ve met in this business. I would go to him with rep that is at 90% preparation, to help tweak that last few sticky spots.

Nina Hinson: My first lesson with Nina didn’t go so well. I think it had more to do with my state of mind that day (rather fragile) than with anything she did or said, but I was nervous to go back! She had heard me sing a few days before, and while she thought I sang well, she feared that there was some “artifical” singing. Meaning, she felt that I was forcing my voice to do things it didn’t want to. She then started talking about a raised vs. lowered larynx, which is something I have never thought about! I’ve never had a teacher talk to me about the physiological aspect of singing. Her basic message to me that day was, “Once you get your larynx into a lower (and therefore more relaxed) position, you may lose your highest notes.” Now, this was not good news! Here I’d spent all year getting comfortable with the idea of being a high coloratura, and she’s saying it’s all artifically produced?! Yikes!!

I left our first lesson very upset and confused, feeling that my very identity as a singer had been questioned. I also didn’t understand what she wanted me to do with my larynx, something I’ve never seen nor paid much heed. I was scheduled to see her again the next week, and I went back, determined to figure out what she meant. Being the master teacher that she is, Nina was able to put her ideas into terms that worked for me and my understanding of my voice. “Open your ears” or “open your throat.” These ideas enable me to relax my larynx without forcing it “down.” In so doing, I was making beautiful sounds that were full, vibrant, and not artificial in any way.

We are working together on my middle and upper middle voice for a while. I don’t think I’m going to “lose my high notes,” but they may gain a new quality. She wants to me to sing something that shows my lyric line and warm tones for the house auditions in August, something like Nannetta’s aria from Falstaff. It’s important for me to sing something that I could be hired for at this moment, and Nannetta is certainly that. Not showy, not flashy, but powerful in its elegance and beauty. She won me over with this idea.

Key Idea: “You will never out-muscle anyone, you will never out-shout anyone. But you can out-beauty them.” (If “beautiful” is the defining characteristic of my voice, I think I won’t mind!)
Overall Impression: I look forward to having a lesson a week with Nina all summer. I think she can bring out the warmth that is already present in my voice. Together I think we can determine the rep that will show me off best and that will help further my development and career. And I bet those high notes stick around . . .

Nico Castel: I’ve already talked about Nico a bit, but I worked with him again yesterday. We also worked on Nannetta’s aria, and even though I felt vocally exhausted, he assured me that everything was working beautifully. (There’s that word again…) We also pulled “Deh, vieni non tardar,” Susanna’s aria from The Marriage of Figaro, one of my oldest arias. I was sure for years that this would be a “bread and butter” role for me, but in the past couple of years, several people encouraged me to put it away, saying it was too low. Both Mark and Nina mentioned it to me, however, so I decided to pull it out and see how it fit these days. After fixing several glaring diction mistakes, Nico assured me that that I would be a wonderful Susanna, and sent me off with his blessing.

Now, I know I’m trying to get to the point where I form my own opinions and take others’ with grains of salt. (I think that’s another theme for me this summer, to get to the point where I know my voice and my self enough to let dissenting opinions pass me by.) However! This isn’t just any coach. This is Nico Castel, a man with years of experience in the greatest opera houses in the world. If he says I can sing Susanna, I’d wager that he knows what he’s talking about! That, coupled with my instinct about the role, is enough. Basta.

Overall Impression: I hope to sing for Nico a few more times and then sit down and talk about rep. Both roles I can sing right now (I’m getting a pretty good idea of this) and roles to aim for in the future (this is where I get fuzzy). He is an amazing resource, and I am so lucky to have this time with him.

Diane Richardson: Diane is the head coach at the Juilliard School, so here is another coach who knows what of she speaks. I only worked with her this morning for about an hour; I hope to see her again in the next couple of weeks. We worked today on Nannetta’s aria (again!), in which Nannetta is playing with the Fairies in the woods. It is a magical piece, full of imagination and secrets. Diane helped me to realize that Santa Fe is the perfect place to keep in my mind as I sing: to hear the wind whispering through the trees; to see the dynamic sky thundering, or shining blue, or setting the sun down in a bed of brilliant clouds; to imagine the fairies that must live here to bring the place such magic. If I can bring those ideas onto the stage with me, I think this will be the piece that can make me stand out at the auditions.

Key Idea: Don’t disconnect the technique from the meaning of the piece. Use the words and the music to form the technical elements; they should all be one big idea.

So, there you have it! And I’m only halfway through the summer. With any luck, I’ll have just as much to learn and report on in the second half. Although, hopefully I won’t procrastinate and have to put it all into one enourmous post… Ha!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Highlights of Upcoming Highlights Post

I’m still here! We are at the point where there are two operas in prodcution (being performed once or twice a week) and three others in rehearsal, so free time is at a premium. I’ve only gotten one hour at the pool all week!

I have many, many things to share, though; I’m hoping to get a “highlights” entry written tonight. Topics to include: Peter Sellars, Dawn Upshaw, Ainadamar, voice lessons (finally!), the search for my real Fach, reviews of Turandot, Peter Grimes rehearsals, vocal fatigue, and Apprentice Scene assignments (just call me crazy…).

More soon, I promise!

Friday, July 01, 2005


When I first arrived in Santa Fe, I mentally planned a post about the various hazards one has to deal with here. Most notably the altitude and requisite adjustment period, but also bugs, extremely low humidity, and heat. It is this last hazard that made it presence truly known today, finally inspiring me to sit down and write this post.

A bit on the others, though, before the big story. I spent a few days in Boulder, CO – elevation 5400 feet – before arriving in Santa Fe, so I was fairly adjusted to the altitude change. I still huff and puff from time to time if I walk too fast, but I never got any headaches or other altitude ailments I was expecting. It is very dry here – currently 16% humidity – but that can be combatted by drinking lots of water and slathering on rich lotions. I’m wearing sunscreen every day, another thing to be extra aware of at 7000 feet, but I’m still managing to get a nice tan. I haven’t burned yet, and I plan to keep it that way! As for bugs, I’ve learned to give my towel a good shake before drying myself off. All it took was watching one spider crawl up over the towel rod as I reached for it after my shower to make me very cautious of creepy crawly things that might surprise me!

Today, however, the heat was the thing. We were two and a half hours into a three hour Peter Grimes staging rehearsal when I felt myself get very hot. I was wearing a tank top, and I could feel (and see) that my skin was all of a sudden covered with a light sheen of persperation. I felt a little weak, almost as if I was about to cry; I put my hands to my head and said, “Whoa, I feel a little dizzy.” I was about to joke with the guys standing behind me that if I fainted, they’d better catch me, when I realized that I really was about to faint!

I stepped away from the rehearsal stage and sat against the wall, trying to get my head to stop spinning. One of the prop assistants came over and asked if I was alright. Since I had misplaced my water bottle (what kind of a singer am I?!), he led me over to the water fountain just off the front of the stage. [Today we were in North Hall, sort of a shell, with no front wall and a back wall that can open to let in some sort of breeze (or small set pieces). There was not much breeze making it into the space today; hence the near fainting spell.] At the fountain I was met by SFO Technical Director Paul Horpedahl, who happened to be there observing the rehearsal. He wet a towel with cool water and placed it on my neck, which helped to cool me down. He also had a radio, so he called for Scott, the SFO Safety Monitor! It seems there is a small department here entirely devoted to safety issues, which, now that I think about it, makes sense, and I imagine most large companies have such a department. Theatre crew work can be hazardous, and then there are the special Santa Fe elements at play . . .

Obviously this sort of thing happens regularly here, because when Scott and Carl (the Safety Crew) arrived about five minutes later, they came bearing a Rubbermaid bin full of water bottles, Gatorade, electrolyte tablets, and ice. I was impressed! And clearheaded enough by this time to be a little embarrassed about causing a fuss… I had been moved to a cooler corner of the Hall, still outside but now a bit more visible to my colleagues. Not ideal, but I was grateful for the shade and hopeful that no one would think I was faking! Rupert, the stage manager for Grimes, had come to see me at the water fountain to ask about my schedule for the rest of the day. I had two more hours of rehearsal after the Grimes staging, but he went and arranged with the rehearsal office for me to be released. I would never have asked for that; rehearsal time is at a premium here! But when I got home (via a ride from Scott the Safety Monitor) half an hour later and was still too weak to pick up my dog, I knew it was best. I napped, and woke up feeling much better. I am disappointed to not be at the theatre watching tonight’s final dress rehearsal of The Barber of Seville, but I was “strongly encouraged” to go home and just rest tonight.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. A quiet dinner, some reading, some writing. Now I have a bit of time to study my scores for tomorrow’s rehearsals, then to bed. And opening night of Turandot tomorrow!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...