Monday, December 31, 2007

Devotion Evolves

In the last couple of months, I’ve had several meetings, usually over tasty dinners, with people who have been my advisors on The Bhakti Project. This fall was a bit of an incubating period, I think, as we all - performers, organizers, composers - thought about what was created this year and how we wanted to move forward. And so we are moving. And shaking and scheming and planning and hoping...

Funny, but just a few months ago, I was really discouraged, even using the word “failure” to talk about The Bhakti Project. All I could see were the goals I hadn’t met, the things that hadn’t worked out just as I planned. Here’s what didn’t work:

1. We didn’t raise $18,000 or complete the three phases (commission, recital, recording).
2. My idea of blog-generated “micro-financing” didn’t really get off the ground.
3. I still owe my composer 80% of his fee.
4. The attendance at the initial recital was terribly disappointing.

Then last month I had to file my end-of-year report for Fractured Atlas. This, together with the above conversations and the clarity that comes with time and distance, made me realize that there were many, many things that did work:

1. We raised $4000, most of it in six weeks, and successfully completed Phase 2 (the recital) under budget.
2. Not including proceeds from recital tickets, 20 people made donations - including six whom I have never met, some of whom have never heard me sing in person.
3. The recital program itself was a success, even the risky elements like a silent meditation and reciting texts and singing Leonard Cohen.
4. We got a fantastic review that will be great material for future press releases and donor materials.

It’s easy to forget that projects evolve, that things change. This doesn’t mean that the first idea failed. It just changed. I bit off WAY more than I could chew when I started this project, naively hopeful that “everything would just work out!” Heh. And things are working out in their time, and along the way I’ve learned a lot and made some wonderful contacts that will aid in the future of the project.

So what’s next? Well, I think JD and I agree that the recital we presented last May, “I have some light: Songs of Spirit,” was unique to that time and that our original idea of presenting that program repeatedly doesn’t feel right. It feels proper that the first Bhakti Project recital was so personal, such an intimate expression of our spiritual relationship with music, but I think we both feel that we said what needed to be said. Now we can use the structure of The Bhakti Project to present new programs.

Hillula is still on the table, of course, and in our last meeting with Judd he mentioned a work that was a major influence as we was writing. The idea came to pair the two pieces on a program, and then those two works together made us think of another cycle (one that was briefly considered for “Songs of Spirit”)… And all of a sudden we had a new program! Three works, each about twenty minutes long. No titles yet, but I will say that it will be a challenging program, both for us as performers and for the audience. We hope to take our audience on an exhausting emotional and spiritual journey. The program feels very “grown-up,” very professional, and we think it would make a killer CD...

We’re also talking about the bigger picture, or “life past Hillula.” We would love to be able to present one recital program a year, maybe touring it, and we plan to include one premiere on each program. Rather than focusing exclusively on new music, we’re hoping to find new works that will stand side-by-side with works that have become “standard” recital repertoire. It’s easy to present new stuff all the time; it’s a bit more of a challenge to show an audience that new music can fit seamlessly with works they already know and love.

That is the new mission of The Bhakti Project. If that interests you, it’s never too early to make a donation for the 2008 program.

(Hmmm… one “new” composer each year. Should it also be one new dress designer each year? I think it should.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Blogroll Update, Winter ‘07-’08

Blogroll Update, Winter ‘07-’08

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

Aurgasm - Your favorite music you’ve never heard, streaming weekly.

The Budget Fashionista - Looking great without breaking the bank

Daniel Felsenfeld - composer, music writer, fellow NEC alum

Dial M for Musicology - They say they even welcome air-guitarists, so I dig these guys.

Feast of Music - excellent NYC concert reviews

Good Vibrato - the Wordless Music folks combining art and music

Jonathan Biss, pianist - irregular but thoughtful postings about making music.

Operavision - Aprile Millo joins the blogosphere, and we are the better for it.

Strange Maps - My dad taught me to read a map when I was a kid, and I’ve loved them ever since. I’ve even started collected maps from places I travel to sing.

And a blog I’ve been following for over a year but was very surprised to not see on my Blogroll! Sorry Mr. Dickie… Chicago Opera Theater

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Learned and Learning

To wrap up the year, here is a list of things I that learned in 2007 and things I am still learning:

* Boundaries are very important, both personal and professional. I’m learning how to say no, not just maybe. This applies to gigs, dates, projects, even auditions. I need to take time and think about how each “yes” will affect the big picture of what I want my path to look like, both my career path and my life path. I’m thinking about starting up with talk therapy again to help me with this new phase of my career and my life.

* Heartbreaks are inevitable. Good girlfriends are priceless.

* I’m enjoying learning how to be environmentally responsible. Living in NYC, my carbon footprint is already lower than average, but I’ve started timing my showers (4-6 minutes most days), carrying stylish Envirosax in all my purses instead of using store plastic bags for purchases, taking non-stop flights - or the train! - whenever possible, unplugging my electronics. It feels good.

* Writing an item on my “To Do” list over and over does not get it accomplished any faster. I’m determined not to carry-over any “to do’s” into 2008, so this next week should be a productive one (she says hopefully)! I still owe many of you your Fractured Atlas receipts for your generous Bhakti Project donations; rest assured you will have them well before tax-time, and likely before you get your tax documents from your employers!

*As much as I love to perform, nothing beats seeing a show. Indie rock, Broadway, opera, symphony, recital… I saw some wonderful performances this year and hope to see more next year.

*Hard work pays off, but usually with more hard work to come. A satisfying cycle.

Here is a list of favorite posts from the year. Many of them seem to involve discoveries, too, so I’ve listed the post and what I feel it says I learned. It was a year of growth and learning, like any good year should be.

Beware explosive consonants - What I learned is right there in the title.
The Song of the Lark - We read to see our lives through others’ eyes.
Blocking - Some things I learned long ago are still with me.
Kitchen Sink - I blog to see my life through the lens of the Moment.
A Day In the Life - I love my job and my life in NYC.
Home, On the Road - I can also live well on the road.
Doing vs. Being - Just Be It.
Dear Friend, Leaving So Soon - Some people never leave you.
Lifelines - See above about girlfriends.
My Sweet Manhattan Hometown - Nothing beats a live performance!
The Evolution of the Headshot - Change is good.
Shimmering, Sparkling - It’s ok to be bold and daring!
a Dream - It is possible to be a bit too focused...
Finale - All good things come to an end.

2007 was the year of my Met Debut: Part 1: Leading Up, Part 2: Performance, and Part 3: After Party

And that of a small recital project that ate my life. Here is the Bhakti Project Year in Review. What did I learn through this experience? Hopefully that will be evident next year as the project continues, but mostly I learned, as with all of these things, that I have a lot to learn.

Happy New Year, everyone!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Blog Break, Study Break

For no reason I can figure, I’m still suffering writer’s block. Things are fine, life is good; I’m just not writing! I’m very busy studying (and loving it), so that might be part of it, but until inspiration strikes, I’m going to go on a short hiatus over the holidays.

I’m trying to figure out how I want to try to sum up this year (like I did in 05 and 06), so hopefully there will be at least one more post before the New Year. But until then, you can picture me in my little hobbit hole of an apartment, studying my score and utilizing two great tools I haven’t yet discussed: GarageBand for recording my lessons and coachings directly into my Mac and having digital access to the recording; it’s an incredible study tool! And Opera Practice Perfect cds for repetition and repetition and repetition.

I wish all of you the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years!! 2007 was a pretty great year, I have to say, but I’m still looking forward to turning the calendar. Who knows what wonders await us all in 2008?!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Music! Words! Opera!

Ok, here’s the “other post” mentioned below; I figured I should just write it while the juices were flowing! I’ve already explained how I deal with the text while learning a role, so here’s a bit of the musical side of things. (Title of the post borrowed from the Opera America program for opera education in schools...)

With this opera (Le nozze di Figaro; maybe I’ve mentioned that?), I am already very familiar with a lot of the general “tunes.” This has come about through years of hearing bits of the opera, specifically the past two months of working on it at the Met. While I was getting my hair and makeup done every night, I would turn the stage monitor up and follow along in my score or in my text/translation print-out. Not singing, just listening, and not even listening in great detail. I was listening for style, for general phrasing and shaping, for orchestration and harmony. (Of course, some nights I just gabbed with C & K, my hair and makeup guys!)

I know people talk a lot about learning by listening and how it's a bad idea, but this isn’t what they mean. I am not learning the role of Susanna by singing along with a recording and mimicking what I hear. I’m a better musician than that. I am not, however, a good enough musician to play all of the score or all of the other parts along with myself as I practice, so for understanding the larger framework of the piece, I listen. Sue me.

Most of my time, though, is spent at the piano. For musical numbers (as opposed to recits), I generally start by reading (singing) through the piece once. This shows me what I already know and which spots need attention. Then I sit down and work it out. For this type of studying, the working-it-out part, I often sing my line a full octave down. Why? Singing unfamiliar music in a high tessitura (where the notes sit in the voice) can be really taxing. Higher notes generally require more support and it’s harder to concentrate on support when you don’t know exactly what notes you’re supposed to be singing. I hark back to my “2nd Alto Section Leader” days and just let those low notes out!

After I feel confident that I know the “tune,” I take it back up to it’s proper octave and sing through it again, doing my best to sing with full voice and full support. To accompany myself, I usually play as much of the bass line as possible; this is the foundation of the harmony, after all, so it provides me with the most important harmonic information.

All of the above applies to the non-recit stuff. The style of recitative is so different, mostly because the element of counting is essentially removed. I just sing in the rhythm and tempo of my (Susanna’s) speech, and, as you know, every night it can be different. In order to get to that point (the point at which I can really play with the words) I do spend some time going over syllables pedantically and really concentrating on the verbs, gradually speeding up until the words just flow. Every new line of recit that feels fully comfortable in my mouth and voice feels like a little victory!

Once I know the notes, I start working with coaches, putting on the polish: fine-tuning diction, shaping specific phrases, and interacting with another person in recits and ensembles. Most coaches can sing every part in an opera once they’ve studied it (in whatever octave they prefer, generally low!), so the recits start to feel like conversations and ensembles start to feel ensemble. Then the sessions I mentioned scheduling with DN, my so-called “run sessions,” will focus less on detail work and more on just repeating the music several times over, working it into the muscles of my instrument: body, voice, and mind.

This weekend I’m going to set memorization goals, although I have a feeling things will become memorized as I repeat them. Best to have a date set to double check that, though! Add to all of this those “pick-up” sessions with a full cast, and I’ll have it made! Come January 28, I’ll be ready to play.

A pickup opera

Tonight I took a study break and headed to the Upper West Side to hear some friends in a concert of Bach Advent cantatas, and boy, am I glad!

I loved walking through the cold night, reciting lines of recit in my head (and sometimes out loud). I loved seeing people, young and old, on their way to holiday parties, dressed to the nines. I loved walking past the Met and knowing that I would be home again before I was even officially on-call for tonight’s performance of War & Peace! (My character doesn’t come on until about 10:45...) And, of course, I loved hearing Bach, my first musical love, I think. I sang several Bach cantatas in grad school, and those performances are still among my favorites. I think If I had another musical life to live, I would play the Baroque trumpet. Man, do they get some great music! I heard some fantastic singing as well, and ran into several friends-of-friends. But what happened at the reception is the real reason I’m glad I went.

I saw “my Figaro,” MB, at intermission, and we talked a bit with DN (with whom I often coach) and our mutual friends; it came up at this point that we would be singing together in February. At the reception, I mentioned to DN that I would be calling him to set up weekly “Susanna run sessions*” for the next few weeks, and he said, “Oh, MB should come, too; we’ll set up a cast and work through the whole opera. Wouldn’t that be fun?” Um, YES!

He said he’d send out an email tonight and try to round folks up; we think the Count and Countess from our cast will also be in NYC in January. DN will work his connections to try to fill the rest of the parts, and voila! We’ll have a cast! If it works according to plan, we’ll meet a few times, maybe once per act, and just run it. I was already planning to rope some friends into coming to coachings with me to work on recits and duets, and this is just the next best thing. I’m very excited!

It’s 10:45, so I’m officially “off the clock” for the night. Time for a glass of wine and some more studying... Wild and crazy Saturday nights!

*I don’t know if that’s an official term, but to my mind a run session - or run-through session, maybe - is different than a coaching in that we don’t stop and work. I just sing things through a few times to help “get them into my voice.” More on this in another post. (I’m always saying that, aren’t I?!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

A good sign

This morning I woke up with lines of Susanna's Act I recits running through my head...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Goes to show

You can just never tell. I sang an audition last week on a day when I felt terrible, not physically sick, but totally down in the dumps. The uncertainty of this season - auditions and the implied rejection that comes with them, making decisions about the direction of my career - coupled with nasty weather, a mouse in my apartment, not getting to leave town for the holidays, etc., has made for a rough couple of weeks.

On this day, I felt like I probably sang ok, but didn’t walk out of the audition room feeling like I’d nailed it, or even like I’d “done my best.” It was an off day. I’m generally pleased with my auditions, but this day I was in. a. funk. My manager even said that she could tell, not in the way I sang or performed in the audition, but she could sense that my energy was just “off.”

And yet: today she told me I got an offer from that company! A good one, too. A standard rep kind of role, and not in English, even! I’m excited and encouraged, and more than a little surprised. Sometimes you are just not aware of what you’re putting out there, you know? I am learning that I am well-trained enough - vocally, mentally, and in general performance aspects - that even on an off day, I know how to do my job well. My job is to sing, to tell a story, and I can do it, even when conditions are less than ideal. A good lesson to learn...

2008 is filling up very nicely, and there are more inquiries on the table moving into 2009. Hopefully this period of uncertainty is coming to an end. (Rest assured, though, there will be others!) I’ve been spending good times with good friends, trying to get the most out of the other season that’s currently taking over NYC: Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Focusing the Body

During an early staging rehearsal for Figaro, after I finished up a scene I sat back down next to a member of the cover cast. A singer I’ve admired for a while, she said, “So... how long did you dance?”

It seems my dancing days are still evident, not just when I’m dancing, but in the general way I “act” on stage. I’m not talking about having a good carriage or being graceful; she could see my “inner dancer” in the way I flitted about on stage, in the way I was always moving. In this case, not necessarily the best thing.

She went on to talk of her own experience (she also had a dance background), including the time a director encouraged her to rein in her physicality, to explore a physical stillness that would allow her voice to do more of the work telling the story. With opera, we can trust the composer (if s/he’s a good one) to help us express character, including silliness or flightiness; we don’t necessarily need to do it all with the body. For example, it was amazing to watch and listen as Susan Graham worked her way through the Iphigenie rehearsals. Talk about acting with the voice! She is a wonderful actor, period, but the emotions that come through her voice as she stands there and sings can blow your mind. She’s not “showing” us how she feels; she’s feeling it, and her voice is expressing it. She simply lets her voice deliver the emotions that Gluck captured in his music. It’s inspiring.

Granted, Barbarina is a flighty girl, probably a bit high-strung. Think of the line from Act I, when the Count describes finding Cherubino in Barbarina’s house: he describes her as being paurosa fuor dell'uso, “flustered more than usual.” So it was interesting to think about economy of movement, especially thinking ahead to performing Susanna. Barbarina’s aria was a good exercise is doing less, in letting the anxiety of the music tell the story: minor key, undulating triple meter, those repeated c's in the orchestra. It's all right there. Of course, in the recit after the aria, she is quick to try to hide her anxiety, back to her flighty ways while talking with Figaro and Marcellina.

In another early rehearsal, I noted how well Terfel handled the physical interactions that were blocked. I was kneeling down on the floor, looking for the pin, and when he came to lift me up by the arm, he barely touched me. His voice and the rest of his body acted as if he were taking out his frustrations on me (“What do you know about these things?!”), but his hand was practically limp. A grimace on my face and a movement of my arm as if trying to get out of a grip, and voila! Stage violence.

As I described in an earlier post, he changed up this blocking one night, but all he did was touch the back of my neck. It was up to me to (quickly!) figure out what he was doing (lifting me up by the scruff of my neck) and react accordingly. It was fun to struggle against his non-existent grip, to make it look like I was a kid getting dragged off to the principal’s office.

There were all kinds of interactions like this in Figaro: the Count pulling Cherubino by his ear, various “romantic” entanglements, Susanna’s slaps of Figaro, and the physical face-off between the Count and Figaro in Act III. Simon also did a huge pratfall every night, taking a swinging kick at Bryn and going flying. Fantastic physical comedy, focused and carefully planned.

This post may seem to contradict a lot of what I wrote in the previous post, but I’m pretty sure it’s all of a piece. I’m not saying I need to be more still on stage by being more cerebral, less physical; I just need to focus the energy. Trust the music. Be present in my body, tell the story with my voice - which is part of my body - and not with my head. As always, it’s a balance.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

FriPod: Accidently to After

1. Accidently Kelly Street, Frente, Marvin the Album
2. Acrobat, U2, Achtung Baby
3. Across the Universe, Rufus Wainwright, Poses
4. Action / Adventure, Andrew Bird, Weather Systems
5. Ada, The National, Boxer
6. Adé, David Byrne, The Catherine Wheel
7. Adventures in Solitude, The New Pornographers, Challengers
8. Advice for the Young at Heart, Tears for Fears, The Seeds of Love
9. After it All, Cat Power, The Greatest
10. After the Bombs, The Decemberists, The Crane Wife

Out of Your Head

I’ve been planning a post for weeks, maybe months, about the importance of getting out of your head and into your body as a singer, and, well, here it is. (Ed. Note: It’s true; I started this post in July...)

The idea first came to me while watching “the big stars” in rehearsals at the Met this past year. Singers who have extensive backgrounds in physical arts - like Diana Damrau (dance) and Rolando Villazon (clowning), for example, two folks I got to see in action – are such a joy to watch onstage! They are not only more comfortable with crazy stage actions like lying down to sing or running or dancing, but they are also able to use their full instrument (it’s more than just the voice!) to engage the listener and to tell the story. Their minds were were completely present on stage, or, at least, so it seemed from the outside. Which, ultimately, is what you want.

It’s as if they’re not actively “thinking.” Singing for them is a physical act, not a cerebral one. Of course, of course: the mind is involved, and the hours of “armchair work” studying languages and rhythms and endless drilling of memory are not unimportant. But when it comes time to get a character on her feet? It’s physical. Not to mention the fact that our actual instrument is located in the body, not the mind...

I can add now, in December, Bryn Terfel: I don’t know what his dance/movement/sports background is, other than rugby, but he is a great physical actor, someone who definitely just goes and there and plays. He has obviously put a lot of thought into his performance and practice and character, but the cerebral brain is turned off on-stage. More on physicality and my Figaro experience in another post.

One night this summer, over at RM’s for dinner, LB and I started waltzing in the kitchen (doing our best to get in the way as much as possible). It began just kind of silly (sillily?), but it didn’t take me long to realize that he actually knew how to waltz! So, instead of just playing around, I had to actively turn of the thinking part of my brain and just give over to the physical act of dancing. When I could let go and let him lead, it was smooth sailing. (It’s so nice to dance with a tall man who knows how to dance, right?) But as soon as my head got involved again, we were at odds (but only slightly). I’m not saying you shouldn’t think when you’re on-stage; obviously, you have to. But it is possible to get in your way.

When students ask me what they should do with themselves while they are building their voices, waiting the 5-10 years between finishing school and being ready (maybe) to work, I encourage them to dance. Take any kind of dance class - ballroom, modern, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, whatever. Or take martial arts or fencing. Anything that gets you out of your mental, analytic, judgmental self and into your physical, instinctual, visceral self. Get out of your head and into your body. Your voice will thank you for it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


My life has been taken over by this beautiful little machine, so sorry - again! - for the quiet days. I’ve got a backlog of posts that I’ll try to get out this coming week. And it’s a serious backlog, too! I have half-finished posts from all the way back to mid-summer... Good stuff, though, and still relevant in the general sense. So I’ll get to it.

Here’s what to expect:

12/9: This week’s FriPod
Doing vs. Being (Oops. This one actually got written and published, but I didn't get it out of my drafts folder. Read it here.)
12/12: Acting with the voice and stage physicality. 12/9: Part One is here: Out of Your Head
Level Up - we’re not kids anymore
Language work
The latest on The Bhakti Project

I know some folks have asked questions in the comments over the past year or so. If you did, and you still remember your question (and care about the answer!), please post it again on this post. I’m going to try to keep a better tab on questions in the future, hopefully answering them all. Eventually.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Jessica gave me props a few days ago for actually doing what I said I was going to do and posting every day last week. I was pretty proud of that, myself, but the posts just came up naturally and easily and I had the time and energy to write. But the downside to such regularity? Some people think they can give you a hard time when you’ve been quiet for two days... I say: get back to work, already!

I hate to mention the reason for my lack of postage when another music blogger is struggling mightily with his new PC. Yes, I got a Mac. And last night I only slept about five hours because of it! So many things to learn! So many music files to transfer and try not to loose in the process! It’s kind of awesome, and all-consuming. (I’m sorry, Steve; I’m really not gloating. I feel your pain...)

This computer was my Sullivan award-funded gift to myself. I did a little clothes shopping, but my heart was really set on getting a smaller laptop that could actually stream media or run iTunes while I write or surf the web and not run slow as molasses. The overheating of was a problem, too; it was just time to upgrade. I got tired of having to skip over all the links my blog buddies posted for awesome YouTube videos or streaming concerts, and I couldn’t have even dreamed of exploring an online library of recordings. But at this moment I am listening to a lovely Herbie Hancock album on iTunes, a gift from JL (thank you!!), and yesterday I watched my first opera video on YouTube: my sweet friend LW singing Cendrillon! Awesome.

Lest you think I frittered away all my prize money, I thought I’d share (in general terms) how I used the bulk of the prize. Most singers at my stage of the game have two things in common, financially-speaking: lots of debt, both low-interest school loans and high-interest consumer debt; and no retirement savings (or savings of any kind, even). I am no exception. Add a move cross-country and a divorce in 2006, and I haven’t been in great financial shape until recently. This year I obtained both the means and the will to change that.

So, with some of the Sullivan money, I made a huge credit card payment. Because of my W2 status at the Met and Wolf Trap this year, I will likely get a large tax refund; that will also go to the credit card (minus a small shopping trip, of course). If things continue on apace, I will be consumer debt free by the end of 2008! Yay!!

After a conversation with another Sullivan awardee, I decided to put the rest of the money into a retirement account. I haven’t figured out whether to go Roth, SEP, 401(k), or what, but I will be making the maximum annual contribution to get things started. I’m 31, and I have no idea when I want to retire - or what retirement even means for a singer - but I need to start planning for the future. Whatever that may be.

I feel very, very lucky to be able to write this post. This fall I’ve been much more disciplined with my savings and spending, but I know that my newly found (more) stable financial footing is due is large part to the good fortune of having some great jobs this season. What will 08-09 hold in this regard? I have absolutely no idea. Right now, there are only two jobs on the calendar, and one of them is still “in pencil.”

So, best to plan ahead.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


It took me until about 4:00 today to figure out why I was in such a funk. Was it the snow? The fact that I still haven’t stopped at Kashkaval for more coffee, making my usual morning ritual impossible? The fact that neither the Indy nor the Denver game would be broadcast in my area this afternoon? The desire for new winter boots? What?!

Then I realized: I had post-show blues. When a show ends, particularly a show you loved working on, it’s not uncommon to get a little depressed. And, as I think you know, I really loved this show. What more could I have asked for, really, for my first Italian Mozart experience? Not much.

Last night was a final show in more ways than one, being Bryn’s final go at the role of Figaro as well as the last show of our run. During the last number of the Finale (Mozart “finales” are usually 7 or 8 numbers long; go figure.) when everyone is essentially singing “hey, let’s all go party!” Simon had arranged with the folks at the Met to bring champagne flutes (filled with champagne, even!) onto the stage, so all the principals could toast Bryn – and each other – as we sang our last chorus together. It was a bit chaotic (I didn’t actually get my champagne until after we’d stopped singing!), and I’m sure the Maestro was going crazy trying to keep our attention, but what a way to end. The curtain dropped, and instead of rushing off-stage right away as normal, we all started hugging and toasting, prompting Jonathan, our stage manager, to hurry out and say “Come on, you still have to do the bows!”

So we reconvened in the tiny corner off-stage left, cheering and toasting some more, everyone trying to get through the crowd to hug Bryn, and making sure we drained our flutes before heading out to bow. (Well, all of us except MM, who carried his back out onstage and sweetly toasted the audience.) It was, as every night, so much fun. Are you guys getting tired of reading those three little words?!

Two colleagues from grad school were in the audience last night, along with the Brooklyn Birds and my former teacher. What has been even more fun than knowing people are in the audience is getting emails after shows from friends who went to the opera not knowing I was going to be singing! Or people who knew, but didn’t tell me before they came. After every show, I’ve gotten such wonderful comments and insights from friends old and new.

I am naturally sad to leave all of that behind. Now I face two months devoid of performing (other than auditions), two months of hard-core studying for February’s gigs. I’m entering a hibernating period at the coldest, darkest time of the year, a fact that has me a bit daunted, I think. But there are new projects in the brainstorming stage, current projects ready for the next phase, and Susanna, who will be a dear companion this winter, so I journey on.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Good and Bad

Bad: a call from the casting director saying that the director has “decided to go with someone else.”

Good: he also said that they really liked my work, and that they would keep me in mind for future projects.

Good: an email from management saying they had an inquiry for my availability for a very cool new opera based on a play I LOVE directed by someone I’ve wanted to work with for years.

Bad: I’m not available.

It’s been an up-and-down day, you know? But I spent a few good hours working on my Figaro score at LPQ, accompanied for a time by LW. I did some shopping (tickets for Einstein on the Beach and closing night cast presents). I had a fun Hansel & Gretel coaching at the Met. I ran into a couple of former teachers, one of whom will be in the third row for tomorrow night’s final Figaro. And tonight I’ll see Andrew Bird in concert (finally!) with a good friend by my side.

The balance of things is still firmly in the "Good" column…

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Girl from Ipanema

Borrowed from Little Ms. Bossy, a meme instead of the FriPod playlist. This was a lot of fun, especially adding LMB’s bit of finding a lyric that matched up with the question. Made some of the answers a bit more interesting. Or bizarre…

MEME Rules:

1. Put your iTunes/ music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

1. If someone says ‘Is this OK?’ you say?
Round the Bed, Beck:
We dont have to worry
Life goes where it does

2. What would best describe your personality?
Made to Last, Semisonic:
Secret, sweet, and sublime

3. What do you like in a guy?
The End of the Summer, Dar Williams:
We have to get a move on.
Its just that time of year when we push ourselves ahead,
We push ourselves ahead.

4. How do you feel today?
Sleeping in, The Postal Service:
Dont wake me i plan on sleeping in…

5. What is your life’s purpose?
Care for a choro? Sasha (Russian flamenco quitarist I met in Atlanta):
Hmm. No words on this one… I could probably dance to this song though, so my purpose is to dance? Sure, I can live with that.

6. What is your motto?
Luna from Golijov’s Ayre:
Another one with no words. Think that’s a hint?

7. What do your friends think of you?
S’il est un charmant gazon (Liszt), Barbara Bonney & Antonio Pappano:
Read the translation here. I would be beyond happy if my friends said those words to me.

8. What do you think of your parents?
Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, Rufus Wainwright:
And then there’s those other things
Which for several reasons we wont mention
Everything about ‘em is a little bit stranger…

Umm… pass? This one doesn’t fit...

9. What do you think about very often?
Empty Hearts, Alison Krauss:
Tell me what an empty heart must feel.

10. What does 2+2=
Mojo Pin, Jeff Buckley:
Well it's you I've waited my life to see
It's you I've searched so hard for...

11. What do you think of your best friend?
Pride (In the Name of Love), U2:
(nobody like you...)

12. What do you think of the person you like?
Can we go higher? Nenad Bach:
(We can smile at the future)

13. What is your life story?
A mistake, Fiona Apple:
I’m gonna make a mistake-
I’m gonna do it on purpose…

14. What do you want to be when you grow up?
And Hiding Away, The Innocent Mission

Try, catch the thoughts that flap and fly
in the cloudy, tearing sky,
that touch and stir and won't be tied-
and try to speak them.

15. What do you think when you see the person you like?
Completely Pleased, Semisonic:
I want to see you smiling
(It gets a little PG-13-rated after that…)

16. What do your parents think of you?
Either Way, Wilco:
Either you will or you won't
Maybe you just need some time alone
I will try to understand.

17. What will you dance to at your wedding?
Somebody More Like You, Nickel Creek:
hahaha – This is NOT a good first dance song for a wedding!

18. What will they play at your funeral?
Schneckenlied (L. Alexander-Katz), Suzanne Mentzer & Craig Rutenberg:
Snail, snail! Love-Slug,
Into your parlour crawl snug…


19. What is your hobby/interest?
Heart in a Cage, The Strokes:
And we gotta laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh, laugh

20. What is your biggest secret?
Ricochet in Time, Shawn Colvin:
I crawled up from the sewer
For something that was truer than I intended.
I ended up on my knees in this big city.
I was befriended, I transcended.

21. What do you think of your friends?
Beautiful, Christina Aguilera:
You are beautiful in every single way.

22. What should you post this as?
The Girl From Ipanema, João Gilberto & Stan Getz

On and off

In tonight’s Figaro, I had both a big “oops” moment and a big “wow, this is awesome” moment. Sometimes you’re on, sometimes you’re off, sometimes even in the same show.

For my first recit in the wedding scene, when presenting the flowers to the Countess, I heard the chord in the harpsichord and just plain didn’t know what my note was supposed to be. I started high, but still in the key, and found my way back to the correct melody by the third word or so. But whooboy!! was that a scary split second! Kim, that’s truly where the improv opera came in handy!

The rest of the scene was fine; fun, even. The Act came to an end and I went back on for the aria, looking for the dang pin. (Side note: on Saturday, when I came into the scene to start looking, what should I see on the floor in front of me but an actual bobby pin! I thought, “Oh! here it is! No need to sing the aria, Maestro!”) I finished up, and we started the recit in which Figaro chides Barbarina for playing these grown up games all too well. We never do the scene exactly the same way twice, and today it was particularly fun.

Bryn usually lifts me by my arm off the floor, where I am crouched looking for – what else? – the pin. But today, I was in a bit of a different position, and he essentially grabbed me by the scruff of my neck! Like a cat, as JB said. He is a master of physicality onstage, so he never hurts me; but this was so different and unexpected that I think I squealed! When it was finally time to say my next line (“What? Are you mad at me?!”), I know that the pitches were approximate, ‘cuz I was speaking/singing as if I were getting picked on my big brother, which, in fact, was kind of what was happening. It was a little whiny, a little pouty, very like a little brat who’d gotten herself in a tricky spot. (Did anyone happen to record tonight’s Sirius broadcast? I’d love to hear it, if you did.)

The moment is hard to describe, but the whole scene was so much fun, as it always is. I never know when Bryn is going to actually let me have the pin that he’s holding; we play keep-away until he gives it up. We are six shows into this run, and every night I learn something new about my character, every night we all make things new. I am thrilled that I’m becoming comfortable enough with recit and Italian that I can “play” like this in performance. I only get two chances with Susanna in February, so I’m going to need to be ready. Ready to play!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reason #51 Not To Procrastinate

Because you may wake up of a morning and discover that the audition you thought was tomorrow is actually today, and now you have two hours to learn all those lines instead of the whole day!

Oh boy, what a morning. I woke up to my alarm (which was already going off at a lovely, late, “I am an artiste” hour), reset said alarm for an hour later, and promptly hit the pillow again. Shortly after, my phone rang, but as I didn’t recognize the number, I ignored the call. But my sleepy brain started to pull a memory of another missed call out of the ether, and I realized that I did, in fact, recognize the number: it was that of the casting agency that heard me a couple of weeks ago for an off-Broadway audition! (Remember the Irish accent? That audition. And, no, it’s not Brigadoon…) He was calling to see where I was, since I was 20 minutes late for my scheduled callback.

Yep. Awesome!

I quickly called back, apologized for the mix-up, and asked if they could see me later today. Sure enough, we rescheduled for just about two hours from that moment, so I jumped into action! Shower, warm-up, get dressed*, eat something, print out my newly fashioned Broadway-style resume (which, thank god, I worked up last night with MP’s help!), all while reciting dialogue with myself. It was crazy! Fortunately, the audition was only about ten blocks away, so I didn’t have to factor in a huge chunk of time for travel.

The audition itself seemed so short (they always do!), but it went very well. This time I was singing for the whole creative team – director, music director, choreographer, and two other folks – in addition to the folks from the casting agency. Wonderfully warm and inviting, they made me feel totally at home, even though the Broadway audition is a completely different animal from what I’m used to. More casual, for one; line-readings, two (fun!); and immediate feedback.

* One of the subjects in my moleskine (yes, Marc, I keep a notebook; it’s not cheating, it’s practical! And the fact that I refer to it as “my moleskine” instead of just “my notebook” is especially snobby and writer-y, don’t you think?) is the difference between opera and Broadway audition attire. When first called for this audition, the casting agent said, “Now, you opera folks always dress up for auditions, but this will be really casual; so no cocktail dresses or diamonds.” Ok, so what do I wear to make it look like I didn’t think about what I was wearing?! I settled on my favorite black jeans and a white t-shirt with a light pink corduroy jacket and black boots. It felt strange not to be in a dress, but this was definitely a “me everyday” kind of outfit. I was coming straight from a Figaro matinee, however, so my hair was done up in the fanciest up-do! (I use my own hair, not a wig.) It was kind of silly, but they knew what was up.

At the end of that first audition, when talking about the callback, the director told me to “dress a little younger: wear flats, wear your hair down…” We laughed about the up-do, and I mentioned that, yes, I am “a bit tall.” He said that tall is good (!!), but flats will make me look younger. “You are young,” he said, so I should play that up, especially since this character is in her early-20’s. So, today it was my favorite purple audition dress (simple, flattering) and black flats, minimal jewelry and makeup, and my hair just pulled back a bit with clips.

We played the scene that led into my song (a selection taken from the show), me interacting with a member of the agency who was standing in as my character’s mother. Both in the first audition and today, I was struck by the eye contact we were able to make – and hold! It was real human contact; “acting,” of course, but in a sense, not acting at all. It was awesome.

A round of thank-you’s, and then back into the day! I hadn’t been home for twenty minutes when the agency called – and asked if I could come back tomorrow! Of course, it’s already on my calendar!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The first

Last night I had my first official Susanna stress dream. I was at rehearsal for Barbarina, with this cast and this conductor, when all of a sudden they were calling me to stage for Susanna! I ran to my bags to pull out my text cheat sheets, and I was followed by TB, a pianist I knew in Santa Fe. He said, “Well, it’s kind of rude to use those, so just hide them in this notebook. If you say it’s your rep book (meaning, the book that has all my audition arias and miscellany in it), people won’t mind.” Umm, ok. That doesn’t really make any sense, but hey, this is a dream!

I kept saying, “But I have two months until I have to sing Susanna! I’m on a good track, right? I’m where I should be in terms of preparation at this point?”

Oh boy.

Monday, November 26, 2007


By Wednesday of last week, it appeared that I might have both this Sunday and Monday off, my first consecutive days off since the summer. I talked with M&E on Thanksgiving about possible overnight get-aways here in the area, and when E said something about taking a bath (“in a bathtub that someone else cleaned!”), I knew I needed to get away. (My shower, like everything in my apartment, is tiny: 32x32. I know the dimensions ‘cuz they are printed on the shower floor. Classy.) My schedule was confirmed on Friday, so before show time on Saturday night I had rescheduled my Sunday night dinner-and-shop-talk with a composer and fellow NEC alum and booked myself a room at a bed & breakfast near Poughkeepsie. A room with a whirlpool tub. Oh. Yeah.

I didn’t realize how tired and stressed I was until I sat down on the MetroNorth train and my body started to melt. I had magazines and books, but all I could do was sit there and watch the “Lordly Hudson” hardly flowing outside my window. My cab pulled up to the Inn as the owner was finishing up the outdoor Christmas decorations, and I walked in to the smell of a fire in the fireplace and cookies in the oven. It was perfect, and the melting continued. A two-hour nap, some football, some dinner, an incredible bath, and then ten hours of sleep. Bliss. A fantastic breakfast; some love from Heathrow, the inn’s dog; a shower; and then, in front of a fire to ward off the dampness of the day, I had what was likely my best Figaro study session in months. Amazing what some rest will do for one’s Italian comprehension. (That, and the motivation that comes from being tested on your Susanna recits by a certain baritone currently singing Figaro…)

My moleskine is full of notes for great (brilliant! insightful! witty!) posts, and I’ve had innumerable amazing conversations recently with colleagues and friends that need recounting here, but not tonight. My rehearsal schedule is very light this week, so I hope to write daily. Especially if I can get over to the Mac store and get a new laptop…

Stay tuned!

Confidential to TM: the semi-colons in this post are for you.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


For new traditions – this was my third Thanksgiving in a row spent with the Brooklyn Birds, sharing cooking duties with E and drinking cosmos. (Ok, while drinking cosmos…).
For nieces and nephews and laughter, especially all together at once.
For my family, my health, and the health of my family.
For wonderful hosts who turn into friends, and who then open their home to you again!
For great conversations with new friends, and for those new friends.
For discovering that old friends are even more special and cool than you thought they were.
For colleagues who are playful onstage and joyful offstage.
For unexpected flowers in the middle of the run (thanks, BD!).
For good books and good music.
For babies and puppies.
For work that keeps me too busy to write.
For potential paths, each one more tantalizing than the last.
For discovery in general, and for new opportunities.
For uncertainty; it sure keeps me on my toes.
For art.
For people who make you smile so much your face hurts.

I am thankful.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A dream

Last Saturday felt like a dream, in more ways than one! It was a dream to up on that stage at the curtain call, surrounded by incredible artists (who are all, to a one, fun and fabulous people, too) and hearing the rush of applause from the audience when each of them would enter for their bow. My cheeks hurt from all the smiling!

But it also felt like a dream on Sunday morning, when I woke up and thought, “What happened yesterday?” I had vague memories of seeing Bryn Terfel on a darkened stage; I remembered seeing the Maestro out in the pit (so far away!) with a full house behind him; I kind of remembered singing an aria… But I am not exaggerating when I say that Wednesday night’s performance was full of moments that I just plain did not recall from the first show on Saturday!

At one point, I’m supposed to take off my hat and leave it backstage for G, my dresser, to come collect. As I was getting ready to go on Wednesday, I conferred with her about when, exactly, that was supposed to happen – because I absolutely could not remember. There was zero memory of taking off my hat!! She was pretty sure it happened before my aria, so I said I’d take if off in the very short interlude that I’m offstage after the wedding and before the aria.

So, I go on, sing the recits in the wedding scene (having much more fun and getting a bit more flirty with the Count this time around), exit the stage with Kate (Cherubino), and am met by M, a stage manager, who says, “Bend down.” She then proceeds to take off my hat! Honestly? As far as I know, that didn’t happen on Saturday. Of course it did, but the memory has been completely blacked out, along with the dancing in the wedding scene, and any thing that happened between my dressing room and the stage. It’s just gone.

Why? I usually have the ability to take in a lot of what is going on around me while I’m performing and still stay focused on doing my job. In school productions, I always found my parents in the audience without even trying; my scope was just wide, and I knew their faces well enough to spot them in a crowd without much effort. But on Saturday? That scope, that focus, was so close in, I’m surprised I even saw the audience. There is always a lot going on “behind the scenes” of a show, things other than the stage action, but at the Met, it’s off the charts. In order to make it out alive, I had to tune out all the unnecessary stuff. It’s kind of amazing, really, the brain’s ability to do that…

By Wednesday, I was able to have much more fun, to open my focus a little bit more. This time around, I knew what the orchestra was going to sound like (I didn’t get the chance to sing my aria at the Sitzprobe…), I knew what to expect from the harpsichord and continuo, and I knew my way around the set a little better. I knew where my colleagues were going to be, so I didn’t have to worry about stepping on them like I did with a chorus member during the wedding dance on Saturday! I could relax a bit into my aria, since I knew my way around the stage and I knew when and where and how to connect with the Maestro.

All this, and I had a TINY role!! I can’t imagine how Susanna or the Count or any of them did what they did on Saturday. It’s a testament to their skills as stage creatures, as professionals who thrive under less-than-ideal conditions. A long rehearsal period is a luxury, I’m learning, and these folks know how to get it done under pressure.

In other news, my cold was very short-lived; two days of rest and lots of water and yin qiao knocked it out. My parents have been having a great week in NYC: a fantastic dinner at Telepan before the show on Wednesday (thanks for the rec, JSU!), the NYFOS concert and swank party afterwards, a trip to the American Girl store with the birthday girl (6!), sitting in on ESL classes at a local middle school (Mom) and tiling the Brooklyn Birds’ kitchen (Dad). I’ll meet up with them again tonight, after today’s matinee and an audition at 6. This audition requires some scene reading – in an Irish accent! Fortunately, my dear PM was in town still, and we met up over hot chocolate yesterday to talk soft T’s and closed O’s.

It’s been an intense few weeks around here, but I wouldn’t change a bit of it. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

PS: This is my 500th post! What's the gift for 500?

Met Blog: Iphigenie

While I'm finally getting myself together to write about this week, occupy yourself with the chronicling of Iphigenie rehearsals over on the MetBlog.

I have an hour or so before I need to leave for this afternoon's Figaro, so I'm setting myself down to write!

Monday, November 12, 2007


That’s how I’ve felt for the past couple of days, hence the delay in getting any kind of Barbarina-recap up! I’m home today with swollen tonsils, as my body has finally said “enough!!” after a very busy and stressful few weeks. The white spots that were there yesterday are gone, though, thanks to a heavy dosing of yin qiao, the Chinese medicine that is beloved of singers for this very reason. It tastes like dirt but it really seems to kill those nasty bugs. I expect to be back up and running tomorrow.

I’ll get a recap of Saturday up this afternoon or evening, depending on my nap schedule… Thanks for all your good wishes and congratulations!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Too much

I think there just must be too much in my head, too many wonderful things I want to write about, and they are all jumbled up and causing a backlog… Let me see if I can’t get some of the awesomeness of the last few days out this morning.

Wednesday night I got to be an audience member for once, and I took in a lovely Traviata with BD. Our seats (his season ticket seats) were just perfect, and I got to take him on a bit of a “VIP / guest of a Met artist” tour during the first intermission. It was fun to get to know him a bit more, this lover of opera, and of course we rubbed elbows with blog buddies during the second intermission.

The night got even better as I came out into the cold (finally!) night air and started to walk home. I have a slightly obsessive habit of checking my email on my phone, and before I was past the fountain in the middle of Lincoln Center plaza, I had opened a very unexpected email from the Sullivan Foundation: “Congratulations!” Are you kidding?!?!? I think I let out an shriek of some kind, startling the opera patrons filing past me, and I ducked under the State Theater overhang to collect myself – and lean against a wall before I fell down!

I called my parents, and was able to share the news through tears. When they are in town next week to see Figaro, we’ll be going out for a fancy New York dinner to celebrate – my treat! Any suggestions?

There’s more, of course: the ups and downs of this weeks rehearsals, lunch with certain baritones whose initials are SK and BT, learning that two of my favorite colleagues (LW & MW, no relation) also won Sullivan awards… it’s just been a dream. I wish I could capture the sweetly awkward conversations I had with both of them yesterday. When you win a competition, it’s so hard to inquire about your friends; there’s no easy way to say, “I won a Sullivan grant! Did you?” We approached each other (in both cases) hopeful that the other had won, but worried about hurt feelings or disappointment. “Um, did you hear…” “Uh-huh, did you?” “Yeah, um…” “Did you…?” “Yeah. Did you?” “YES!!!” There was lots of shrieking and hugging and jumping up and down. I somehow enjoyed my win even more when I knew I was in such good company.

I’m almost late, as always, so I’ll write more later! Lots of thoughts on tomorrow’s excitement…

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The week (not for the weak)

Another week of slightly insane days, but this time the only nighttime activities are fun ones. (Not that rehearsals and performances aren’t fun; they are, but they are also work.) Last night and tonight at home, cooking dinner to relax
Wednesday: Traviata with a generous friend
Thursday: a VIM recital byHeather! and a get-together of Wolf Trappers
Friday: a Wordless Music concert (um, hello? why haven’t I known about this series before this week?!)

The days are filled with running between Iphigenie rehearsals (watching, trying to capture my character’s blocking) and Figaro rehearsals (singing, trying to get my Italian diction a bit more soignée), plus fitting in auditions where ever I can. Today I sang for the Sullivan Foundation again. I was very happy with my performance, but I’m reminding myself that this is a whole new competition this year. Last year’s award far from guarantees a bigger award this year; with a whole new judging panel, it’s anybody’s ballgame. All we can do is our best, and I think I did today.

(I need to give a HUGE thank you to MS, the tireless and sweet woman who organizes the Sullivan competition. I must have called to change my audition time four times, as my rehearsal schedule kept changing last minute! She was so patient and flexible, and I am very grateful. There are lots of good folks in this business, you know?)

All of this leads up, of course, to our first Figaro on Saturday afternoon! It’s a strange rehearsal period. We have, largely, a whole new cast, but since this is the second presentation of this production this season, our rehearsal time is shorter, just about ten days. There will be one orchestra rehearsal (Thursday), one run-through (Friday), and no time on the set or stage. It’s a time to use all our powers of visualization at home in our down time and get the blocking into our bodies and minds that way, rather than running the scenes over and over for weeks. It’s tough, and not a little unsettling, but it’s also an exciting challenge.

Dinner time! Last night’s Moroccan vegetable stew with polenta (my new favorite comfort food) made a great lunch today. Tonight I think I’ll make a fancy salad and pair it with a slice from the Pizzeria across the street… ok, maybe two. A bit of tasty indulgence.

Oh, one more thought: today the director of Figaro told me to go ahead and play Barbarina a bit more grown-up, a little less “cute.” Hooray! She’s still a kid, but my stage personality doesn’t really lend itself to cutesy, so we’re thinking she’s more like 15 rather than 12. I’m imagining her as a slightly younger Meg from Brigadoon

Saturday, November 03, 2007

FriPod: Halloween Plus

Another alteration on the original: since I’m late on this FriPod (as usual), I’m adding Saints and Souls for the days after Halloween.

1. Ghost in this House, Alison Krauss, Forget About It
2. Ghost Train, Counting Crows, August & Everything After
3. Ghost Writing, Neko Case, Blacklisted
4. They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhh!, Sufjan (duh), blah blah blah Illinoise
5. Hunting for Witches, Bloc Party, A Weekend in the City
6. This Devil’s Workday, Modest Mouse, Good News For People Who…

7. Old Soul Song (For the New World Order), Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning
8. Soul Meets Body, Death Cab for Cutie, Plans
9. Life & Soul, The Sundays, Blind
10. At Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, Leontyne Price with Samuel Barber, from Hermit Songs
11. Saint Simon, The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow
12. Saint Augustine in Hell, Sting, Ten Summoner’s Tales
13. Sleeping Bear, Sault Saint Marie, Sujan Stevens, blah blah blah Michigan

And two artists:
Ghostland Observatory
Galactic & Juvenile & Soul Rebels Brass Band

Friday, November 02, 2007

Miscellany for 11/2

Sorry for the quiet times here! It’s been a crazy week. Here are some of the many things I would write more about if I could get my brain to function well enough to write during my downtime.

• Little SB made it through all three hours of The Magic Flute dress rehearsal! She spent most of it on my lap, and there were quite a few whispered conversations about what exactly they were saying up there (it was all in German). My favorite moment was in the Act I quintet: when they ladies had given Tamino his flute, S turned to me and said, “When will Papageno get his magic bells?” She made some friends in the Met cafeteria during intermission (including Richard Stillwell, my step-father from Santa Fe’s Cendrillon, and Arthur, the friendly giant of a stagehand), and is very much looking forward to coming back for Hansel & Gretel.

• The recital with Djordje went very well, despite a very small audience. Judd and I had some good conversations about audience building and programming ideas; more on all that soon. I’ve now got two big program ideas running in my head, one of which will be the perfect “second stage” of the Bhakti Project.

• Lots of conversations about story-telling these days. After last week’s recital, someone made the correlation of recital compared with opera being like a book of short stories versus a novel. I totally agree, 100%. I’ve been kind of collecting quotes and thoughts about story-telling (in my gorgeous new Moleskine!), so I think I’ll turn all of this into it’s own post.

• Last night’s 5 Boroughs Music Festival concert was a smashing success. I’ll write more about the rehearsals for this; we all agreed that Tuesday night’s first run-through of the Brahms was quite possibly the best rehearsal experience of our lives! I also need to write a bit to figure out why I stress myself out so completely about my preparation (to the point of tears an hour before the show), only to get on the stage and totally deliver. What is that all about?

• I’ve been in Iphigenie rehearsals all week. I hope the Met Blog does some behind the scenes things for this show, too, because the rehearsal process is fantastic. Great people, great atmosphere, thrilling product, even after a week of rehearsal. Very, very exciting.

• But you know what’s even more exciting? Tomorrow I get to sing Barbarina! We have our first musical rehearsal tomorrow afternoon, and even though I am thoroughly exhausted, I am positively giddy. And, yes, “Elvis” is in the building… I’m a little giddy about that, too!

More soon! Today and tomorrow are also long, full (deliciously full) days, and Sunday I will be a blob on the couch watching the Colts v. Patriots game, but hopefully I’ll get some of these thoughts fleshed out soon. Busy times, fun times!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

FriPod: Sleep

I’m altering Scott's FriPod list a bit this week, to reflect my totally sleepy state of being on this rainy weekend. A reminder: these lists are pulled from my iTunes library; if you think I should have something else on my list, feel free to send it to me! The email on my profile page is the one I use to buy my iTunes songs, so… gift away! 

1. Who Needs Sleep?, Barenaked Ladies, Stunt
2. Trouble Sleeping, Corinne Baily Rae, Corinne Baily Rae
3. She Only Sleeps, David Byrne, Grown Backwards
4. Do you Sleep?, Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories, Tails
5. Sleep Baby Jane, Over the Rhine, Eve
6. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, The Postal Service, Give Up
7. Sleeping In, The Postal Service, Give Up
8. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite, R.E.M., Automatic for the People
9. Singing in my Sleep, Semisonic, Feeling Strangely Fine
10. Sleeping Lessons, The Shins, Wincing the Night Away
11. Sleep Tonight, Stars, Set Yourself on Fire
12. Fear of Sleep, The Strokes, First Impressions of Earth
13. Sleeping Bear, Sault Saint Marie, Sufjan Stevans, Greetings from Michigan

And an album:
Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack, Various Artists

Friday, October 26, 2007

Schubert Songs

Congratulations to Tom Meglioranza on the release of his first solo CD!! Schubert Songs is available via CD Baby, and I, for one, will be ordering mine asap.

What a joy!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tonight, with Djordje

Nocturne Op. 5 - Despic

Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14 - Rachmaninov

Two Nocturnes Op. 27 - Chopin
1. c# minor
2. Db major

Fiancailles pour rire - Poulenc
La Dame d'Andre
Dans l'herbe
Il vole
Mon cadavre et doux comme un gant

Moment musical in Db major - Rachmaninov
Prelude in G major
Prelude in g# minor
How fair this spot
No prophet I

The printed program also includes the following note:

If you choose to follow along with the text, please turn pages quietly.

Another option: skim the poems ahead of time and then just let me tell you the story...

We'll see how that works!

Tomorrow morning I'll be accompanying my lovely niece to her first opera! We'll go to the final dress rehearsal of The Magic Flute, and I think we're both very excited. I'll post a full report of both events this weekend, in between Iphigenie study sessions. Rehearsals for that start on Monday!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Together, separate

There was a great interview with Adrian Noble in Sunday’s NY Times in advance of tonight’s opening of Macbeth. I’ve had a few short conversations with Mr. Noble over the past few weeks, and I was already sorry I didn’t get to work with him more; this article makes me even more so! It’s been great to watch the process, though, and I hope I’ll get a chance to do more with him in the future. Tonight’s prima should be thrilling!!

One quote resonated with me, especially: “…there’s a huge difference between the way an actor approaches a part and the way a singer must approach a part,” Mr. Noble said. “Many actors say they have to learn their lines in rehearsal as they develop an interpretation. Singers know their roles cold on Day 1.” I realized this major difference between theater and opera in grad school, and I was (still am, a bit) daunted by it. I had never had to sit and try to memorize anything, because after two weeks of rehearsals with scripts in-hand I knew my lines. They secured themselves on the same pathways of my brain as my blocking and characterization; everything was formed together. Easy.

But I did get a chance to work this way in a scene’s program in grad school. I was asked to step in at the last minute (less than a week before the performance) to sing the love scene between Anne and Fenton in Vaughn-Williams Sir John in Love. (The soprano originally cast became uncomfortable with the “love” aspect of the scene…) I didn’t realize it until after the performance was over, but that week of learning music and blocking and character together was a welcome throwback to my days in theater. These days I can work on my ideas of the character, but blocking can only come after everything else is learned and memorized. (eeek!)

Time to put on some black clothes and head up the street for Macbeth! It’ll be an “LBD” tonight; there is a party afterwards, of course!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Macdeath (not to be confused with McBeth™)

I’ve noticed that opera folks don’t seem to have the superstition about saying the title of “that Scottish play” in the theater. It’s not one I’ve ever been particularly prickly about, either, but some people I know refuse to say it! Superstitions aside, it’s a fantastic play, brilliant opera, and this production is going to be amazing. If you’re not already doing so, check out the MetBlog for regular behind-the-scenes information and great videos of the rehearsal process.

A couple of notes from my perspective, about my experience:

There is a very cool audio-visual effect surrounding the apparition scene, and I won’t go into it here (I’ll leave the divulging of stage “secrets” to the MetBlog folks…), but what it meant for the three of us singers (Warrior (DC), Bloody Child (AE), Crowned Child (ACB)) was that we were to sing from off-stage. At first, I was disappointed, because, after all, it’s being onstage that I live for, right? But then it became something even more casual and fun – no costume! no makeup or wig! AE and I decided that we would coordinate our outfits for every show, wearing funny things like bad ball gowns or crazy costumes (especially for the Oct. 31 show!). It was fun to stand in the same spot off Stage Left where I sang my first Young Lover line in the spring. I’ve gotten to know some of the SL crew, one more way the Met feels like a “home” theater, and I enjoyed hanging out, waiting to sing my line.

But then it was decided that we would sing from the pit! Again, I was disappointed at first, but once I got down there? Wow, what an treat. Talk about experiencing a Verdi orchestra up-close and personal!! We are standing just under the lip of the stage, behind the bassoons. The brass and percussion are to my left, which means I often get blasted by some of those unexpected fortissimo chords during the apparition scene! As I learn the score, I’m getting better at anticipating and getting my ears plugged in advance. Hearing and feeling the orchestra at this proximity is thrilling. And, well, being about 15 feet from Mo. Levine and watching him at work is pretty awesome, too. I floated on air for about an hour after he gave me an “a-ok” sign and a nod the first time we got to my line…

Side note: one of the trombonists, WS, was a Fellow at Tanglewood with me in ‘03 & ’04! It was a fun surprise to run into him in the cafeteria last year. Many of the orchestra members are in my age group, which is so great to see. DC commented yesterday, when the orchestra was tuning, on how young the concertmaster was, to which I replied, “Yeah, he’s young, but I think it really just means that we’re all getting older!” It is our peers who are now holding places of honor – Music Directors, concertmasters, admins – rather than only our teachers and mentors. We are the next generation, all grown up.

One more thing about Macbeth: the costumes for the witches look far too much like my wardrobe in high school and college. Thrift store dresses with clunky shoes, gloves, old cardigans… ‘twas the ‘90s after all! Grunge, baby. I’ve mentioned this to a couple of folks, and their reactions were very different. “I’m not sure I’d admit that in public,” versus “Oh, we would have been in the same group of friends, then, ‘cuz all my girlfriends dressed like that, too!” Hot.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The gauntlet

I have a shopping gauntlet, of sorts, here in New York: the 66 block of Columbus Avenue. Barnes & Noble, MAC, Kiehl’s… I’m a totally goner if I walk that block with cash to burn! The timing was such today that I had both reason to walk that way (it was the only way to get from the Met to meet my friends at Harry’s!) and that I’m in a fairly “free” week of my budget (bills paid, including an advance to my manager; money into savings for the month). I’ve been putting of these purchases until I knew I had the cash, so today was the day. Such fun!

Of course, B&N was the first stop, to pick up Alex’s book. How exciting and heart-warming to hold something in my hands that we’ve all watched come into being over the past couple of years. I can only imagine how much stronger that feeling is for Alex! Congratulations, again, Mr. Ross.

MAC was next; my plan was to pick up one or two new eye shadows to spice up my makeup bag. I started going over colors with the sales girl, but soon noticed a familiar figure behind me: C, the head of the makeup department while I was at Santa Fe! We said hello and caught up quickly, and then she asked what I was looking for. I figured she was just “making chitchat,” but she walked over to the eye shadows with me and took over the search from the sales girl! She checked out my eye-color (hazely-blue, usually) and helped me settle on a great palette of four colors: a shimmery olive, a rich gold, a matte dark mauve, and a soft shimmery peach. Yes, I only went in for one or two, but MAC has these awesome mix-your-own magnetic palettes… like I said: a goner.

C gave me a few tips on how to use the colors (“Use this as your base.” “Put just a bit of this in your eye crease.” “You can use this with this, or this with that, or…”), and then, like a little makeup fairy, she was gone! It was great to have some expert help from someone who knew me a bit better than the sales girl, who was not quite getting my make-up style. I’d love to be able to wear crazy blues and dark purples, but I always just feel silly.

And this post has nothing to do with learning music or upcoming last-minute recitals… Just a bit of Thursday night shopping fun. Back to work tomorrow.


My audition book has been tweaked a bit since the summer; I’m feeling really good about “the list” this year.

Audition Arias, Winter 2007

It: Gilda; Caro nome
It, Baroque: Morgana, Tornami a vagheggiar
It, bel canto: Lucia; Regnava nel silenzio
Ger: Pamina; Ach, ich fühl’s
Fr: Manon; Adieu, notre petite table
Eng: Baby Doe; Dearest Mama

Also available; to be traded in, if needed, to tailor an audition:

It: Nannatta; Sul fin d’un soffio etesio
It: Adina; Prendi, per me sei libero
Fr: Juliette; Je veux vivre
Eng: Yum-Yum; The Sun, whose rays are all ablaze”

Also On the “Piano:”

For Oct. 25th, “pick-up” recital with Djordje Nesic at VIM:

Rachmaninoff songs and Vocalise
Poulenc, Fiancailles pour rire
maybe some Bellini songs…

For the Inaugural 5 Boroughs Music Festival concert (Nov. 1):
John Musto, “Litany”
selections from Alan Smith’s “Vignettes: Ellis Island”
Brahms, Liebeslieder Waltzes

To keep fresh, “just in case:”
Judd Greenstein, Hillula

Met assignments:
Iphigenie en Tauride, 1st Priestess/Greek Woman
Hansel & Gretel, Dew Fairy
War & Peace, French Actress
Macbeth Apparition and Barbarina, of course

For February recording and tour:

Evan Chambers, The Old Burying Ground

A few scores for potential gigs, acquainting myself with roles

And always:

Le nozze di Figaro!!


I got this in an email yesterday, from IB, the lovely and talented wife of LZ. She said I could post it as a comment on the "Check check" post, but I thought I'd give it a spot on the front page.

She writes: "It must be true what you said about musicianship is what really counts. When I first encountered you in [Golijov's St. Mark] Passion, I was first blown away by your performance. The reason I wound up talking to you was because I also loved your dress (and I was in the market for white dresses at the time ;). And only then I discovered your ubiquitous online persona, which I follow to this day. So at least for me it was definitely what you would call the ideal marketing trajectory - first voice, dress second, and reading your blog when I have the time."

On a day like yesterday, hearing this was so nice! I thought a bit of real-world, unsolicited input would help drive home my earlier points.

Another quote, this one from my Gmail Web Clip Quote of the Day:
"You create your opportunities by asking for them." -Shakti Gawain.

Don't know who that is, but I agree!! And that's what I'm working on now, with Bhakti, with auditions, with my life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Who knew?

Who knew that the cure for a really lousy day was a voice lesson?

Today was one of those days that just never really got off the ground. I rarely have bad days, I’m an optimist and an idealist, you know this. But today? I just wanted to go back to bed. About every two hours I would think that: “When do I get to crawl under my covers?”

Because I’m an optimist, I often disregard things that are bothering me, choosing instead to think that they’ll just get better. And often they do! But sometimes the proverbial shit* hits the fan, and I have to face the music. Some of the things today are personal, but there was professional stuff, too: frustration that Bhakti fundraising is (way) behind schedule, disappointment that a possible Hillula performance has had to be postponed, even (gasp!) some professional jealousy.

But after a much-needed dinner with JD and finally getting some stuff talked about, I move on, this time with a plan. Well, the start of new plans.

1. A mailing list campaign for The Bhakti Project. I jumped in so far over my head with this thing, it is not even funny. I have more contacts in New York now, though, and I’m getting more help and advice about how to proceed. I’ve reset my short-term goal, focusing on raising the rest of the commission fee: $4000. I can totally do that. We’ll worry about the recording later…
2. JD and I, together with Judd, are back to the drawing board / brainstorming for performance opportunities for Hillula. We’re also workshopping it, a bit, working together to find its final incarnation. We all love the piece, and we want it to have the opportunities it deserves. So, I say again: stay tuned.
3. The successes of my friends and colleagues should help motivate me in these endeavors. I see how their hard work has paid off and am reminded that maybe I can do more. Nothing comes to us in this business without a little hustle, so it’s time to “hustle my bustle,” as my mom would say. Bustle hustling!

Even with all of this, this new outlook, I was still seriously weighed down. I had a voice lesson scheduled for 8pm, and I thought about canceling, but it was too late to do so without having to pay for it any way. I figured I might as well go; worst case, we’d just talk about rep.

Well, glory be, if things didn’t just go swimmingly! We worked our normal half hour of technique tweaking; this is the first time I’ve been with a teacher long enough that I can really tell that working “his” technique is helping, that things are “sticking.” It felt so good. Then we started on the things I had in my bag: Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise (can anyone tell me why I haven’t sung this until now?!) and a couple of songs, the Dew Fairy aria from Hansel & Gretel, and then we pulled out my audition book. I showed him what I’ve been taking in these days, and he gave everything the green light. But then I said, “What do you think about substituting a Manon aria for the Juliette?”

He agreed, and then suggested her first aria, “Je suis encore étourdie.” The thing about Manon – and this is true of many opera heroines – is that the vocal writing starts out fairly light – young, sweet – and progresses in heaviness to the end of the opera, usually expressing her demise. Gilda, Juliette, Mimi (?). I said that I was hesitant to offer that first aria, since I would be afraid the audition panel would hear it and think “Well, that’s pretty, but does she have the voice for the end?” I’m still learning to embrace this fuller voice that has shown up this year, still shedding the mental skin of the “soubrette” label. Me? Manon? Can I sing “Adieu notre petite table?”

Yes. Yes, I can. Say hello to my new French aria.

By the time we wrapped up, I felt so much better. Clearer of head, lighter of heart. I love to sing. It makes me feel good. And yet, it is often very hard to sing when I’m upset. Heh, often? Always. Unless it’s a performance that I can totally immerse myself in, I hate singing when I’m upset. But I think I need to remember this evening and how much that hour of opening my heart brought me joy, how immersing myself in the music lifted my spirits. And so much better for me than a pint of Pomegranate Chip Haagen-Dazs!

* I think this is the first official swear word on The Concert… I’m sorry; I just couldn’t think of a better metaphor! It was that kind of day. Call me a bad writer.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Check, check

I got an email yesterday afternoon from one of the producers of WNYC’s daily music show, Soundcheck asking me if I’d be interested in joining a discussion about marketing classical musicians – for today’s show! We exchanged a few emails and phone calls about coordinating things and potential topics for discussion, and then at 1:45 today I did a phone check and we were on – live!

I had to be at the Met for a potential brush-up rehearsal, so we conducted the interview via phone from my dressing room. I was officially released from rehearsal just as we were getting started, so I was able to relax and not worry about having to cut things short and run to the stage (to the pit, actually, but more about that soon).

Joining me in a “round table” discussion with our host, John Schaefer, were pianist Jonathan Biss and publicist Albert Imperato. (Oops, I just realized that I referred to Albert as “Alberto” at one point, combining his names! Sorry, Albert, if you’re reading!)

If you’d like to hear what we all have to say about cultivating (or not) an image as a classical musician, you can listen on the website or download the podcast from iTunes. It was a fun and interesting conversation, one that could have continued much longer than the 20 minutes or so we had today. One point I will reiterate here is something that was said a few different ways on the program: no matter how polished or well-thought-out or “hip” your image is, what the audience is really coming to experience is your musicianship. If I can’t sing with artistry, it doesn’t matter how stylish I am; if I can’t move you with my voice, writing an interesting blog isn’t going to help. But there’s no reason I can’t aim for all of it!

Which leads me to the fact that this morning I was faced with the question: what do you wear for a radio interview? In reality, it doesn’t matter; I just dressed for another day, but I chose to wear my purple dress to help celebrate ROCKTOBERFEST!!!!!! Thanks to AG for the heads’ up on that great article. This is a season for the record books, my friends.

Welcome to all the visitors finding their way here from the WNYC site! Make yourselves at home: please explore the archives; check out my friends and colleagues on the blogroll; learn about The Bhakti Project, my collaboration with Jocelyn Dueck and Judd Greenstein which I mentioned in the interview. Please consider making a donation!

Teaser: tomorrow I’ll announce the next performance of Hillula, Judd’s gorgeous piece. It’s soon!! Stay tuned...


Ok, I don't know how this escaped my Blogroll updates for so long, but I need to finally link to Deceptively Simple, Marc Geelhoed's Chicago-based music and culture blog. Marc writes for Time Out Chicago, and has become a "friend in the computer" over the past year as we have shared losses and talked shop.

I look forward to another blogger meet-up someday with more of the Chicago contingency present!

Monday, October 15, 2007

FriPod bonus edition: For the Birds

I’ll accept Patty’s challenge for the playlist, although I really have no classical music to add to Scott’s great list. Unless, of course, you consider anything sung by me to be applicable!

I’ll represent the Eclectic Pop study group. We can compare our results against the Classical group and the Control group see who the happier birds are.

1. Bird on the Wire, Leonard Cohen, The Best of LC
2. Birds, Over the Rhine, Eve
3. Bye bye blackbird, Joe Cocker, Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack
4. Songbird, Eva Cassidy, Songbird
5. Caged Bird, Alicia Keys, Songs in A Minor
* 6. Bird Gerhl, Antony & The Johnsons, I Am A Bird Now
* 7. Birdless, The Innocence Mission, Birds of My Neighborhood
*^ 8. The Bird, Charlie Parker, Bird: The Original Recordings of Charlie Parker
*^ 9. Between Roof & Bird, Henry Sparrow. This is a friend of a friend, so I don't know the album, or if there is one, but I love this song. (He does appear to have an album that fits the theme, though: Bird Songs. Check it out.)

Artists: The Dixie Chicks
Andrew Bird (particularly his album: The Mysterious Production of Eggs in the Night Time. Seriously, what more could those biddies want?!)

* Also eligible under the “Album” category.
^ Also eligible under the “Artist” category.

Where are you from?

I hate this question. I know I've talked about it here before, but it’s a tough one for me. Growing up in the military and the daughter of two military brats, I don’t have a “hometown” in the usual sense. And yet, I often have to come up with an answer, as organizations love to have the information for programs or donor info or their records. In the past couple of years I’ve listed NYC; Athens, GA; and Boulder, CO, as “hometown,” since they all are, in a way. The website for the 5 Boroughs Music Festival lists my hometown as “Everyville, USA.” I love that one…

But I had a revelation last week: When one follows sports teams from a certain city, when one cares so much about seeing said teams that she goes across the street and hangs out at the sports bar alone on a Saturday or Monday… does this mean one is “from” that city? Hmmm. Maybe I’m from Colorado after all!


Get out your brooms, ya’ll.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Shimmering, Sparkling

What do Rachmaninoff, The National, and red skinny jeans have in common? They were all part of my night last night, making for a great NYC experience.

Looking again, I guess that opener should be more along the lines of “one of these things is not like the other,” since skinny jeans and indie rock go together like classical music recitals and formal gowns. Ummm…. wait a minute.

Last night I sang on another concert in the VIM series at a great little gallery in Tribeca. This series has always (in its now two seasons of existence) been about breaking the mold, so to speak, of chamber music and recital presentation. I talked with several people throughout the night about this, musicians and non-musicians alike, and we all seemed excited about this trend towards making chamber music intimate and familiar again. I’m sure people have been talking of the “rebirth of the salon” for a while now, but I know that among my peers, we’re doing our damndest to make it happen.

So, to that end… I looked at my schedule for the evening: sing Rachmaninoff songs in a recital in Tribeca at 7pm, then hoof it uptown to catch The National give the inaugural concert at Terminal 5, the new venue operated by The Bowery Presents. It was rainy and gross, so I wanted to carry as little as possible with me, which meant: no change of clothes. What could I wear that would be appropriate for both events?

I checked in with Kimball, the recital’s host, to see how he’d feel about something a little less than standard, and as I hoped, he was all for it. A few weeks ago, I picked up an amazing vintage sequined top at a church sidewalk sale: black and silver, a big butterfly design on the front and back, loose-fitting and fun. When I saw it, I thought, “That is either the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen, or the coolest!” Since it was $5, I bought it, immediately picturing it with skinny red jeans and black heels. Disco lives, babies! I found the jeans at Urban Outfitters, of course, and voila! Hipster recitalist.

I cannot tell you how much fun it was to perform in that venue, for those people, in those clothes. It was so relaxed, so comfortable, so intimate – but not a drop of professionalism or musicianship was lost at any moment, by any of the performers. Intimate doesn’t have to mean sloppy, relaxed doesn’t have to mean lazy. There were no program notes or translations, so I got to introduce each song, further breaking the wall of formality. (There were some Russians, in the house, incidentally, and they said they understood every word! Phew!!) I met some great new colleagues and friends, and discussions were begun about possible future performances (stay tuned for news of a possible Bhakti revival!).

It goes without saying that the concert uptown was awesome. I had no idea a violin could rock like that… And JD and I got to see the first champagne spilled on the stage at this fantastic new venue, which just happens to be five blocks from my house. I’ll see The Shins there in two weeks! A midnight snack at the diner up the street – where we were joined by a dear friend & colleague who had his own performance in Midtown that evening – and a brisk walk home through the October mist wrapped up what was an unforgettable night. Friends, Fashion, Food, indeed. Oh yeah, and music, too… Fabulous.

Oh, and? The evening was professionally videotaped (taped? what do we call this now?!), so stay tuned for some YouTube action. See the sequins in all their glory!!

**Disclaimer, NIB, etc: I'm not at all proposing that we do away with the formal concert gown! Far from it; you know I love me some Badgley Mischka. If I am ever lucky enough to present a recital in Weill or Alice Tully, you can bet I'll be glammed out to the max! But, every now and then, let's relax a bit; let's bring some rock star glamour to this fantastic art form.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...