Thursday, January 31, 2008

There and Back Again

Much against my will, I’m writing this from the terminal at the Grand Rapids airport.

Don’t worry - I didn’t get fired! It was always part of the plan that I would have to go back to NYC for about 36 hours to cover the final performance of Hansel & Gretel, but I couldn’t be more reluctant to leave.

Even in three days, we’ve hit a stride as cast and crew that feels very natural and fun. Our rehearsal period is short for this production (just about two weeks before tech week), and everyone is very focused and a bit wired, knowing what a big job it is to put this opera together in so little time! Character relationships are building up layer by layer, and we’re getting the detailed staging into our bodies and minds. Inside jokes are already starting to pop up, and even under pressure rehearsals are fun. When I left this evening, we’d finished up Act I and started Act II, stopping just before Cherubino’s aria. Not bad for three days!

Of course, the blizzard (was that a blizzard?) that hit last night has thrown a bit of a wrench into my plans. I’ll be a bit late getting out of GRR, but should still be able to make my connection at O’Hare. By the time I post this, of course, I’ll be home one way or another, turning back around early Friday morning to make it back for a 3pm rehearsal. Cospetto! Wish me luck…

**Updated** I made it, obviously, seven hours after the journey began. (ight? how do I figure that brief sojourn to Central Time?). You wouldn’t be reading this otherwise… I almost missed my connection in Chicago, which would have been fine, I think. A good excuse to see a friend. But, in any case, I’m home. Time for a steamy shower and a nice long sleep in my own bed. Tomorrow will be filled with errands and Barber recits, dinner with LW and maybe a drink with JD. Sweet dreams, all!

Monday, January 28, 2008


I love the smell of snow. As I walked out of the airport tonight, it hit me: that crisp, clean smell of winter. I lived in wintery climates most of my growing-up years - Maine, Illinois, Utah - and the light winters of my adulthood in Georgia and Seattle never really measured up. NYC has so far been a wash in the winter department (save one good storm last year), so despite my earlier whining, I’m happy to be in the snowy Midwest.

Flying into Grand Rapids through a soft pink sunset, looking at the beautiful white-blue snow, I found myself wishing I had brought “play in the snow” clothes. Of course, I don’t own any, but that’s beside the point. I just might have to borrow some good boots and a waterproof coat and some gloves… there may be a snowball fight in the near future…

I’m settled into my rooms in a lovely house, complete with wireless internet and a humidifier. Just like home! Except much bigger… And apparently there’s a frozen lake right outside my window; can’t wait to see it in the daytime! Had dinner tonight with my Count and Figaro and our director, and now I’m off to bed before rehearsal tomorrow!

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I’m realizing that I haven’t packed for a gig away from home in over a year, and I”m a bit overwhelmed. (Relocating to Virginia for three months is a completely different sort of packing…)

So many gadgets to pack (laptop, iPod, steamer, my new roll-up piano!) along with their accompanying chords... I have pocket folders filled with papers: Barber translations and notes on ornaments, Figaro translations (for drilling), paperwork for the company (contracts, schedules, etc.), note cards and bank envelopes. I think about which comforts of home to take - slippers, a few pictures - and which to leave - big fluffy robe, kitchen knives (essential on longer gigs; I can’t cook without them!). Which books to pack is always something I stew over, although on this trip it’s easy: my Barber score! Not much time for recreational reading these days...

I used to have little zipper bags with various categories of travel stuff in them - a mini-pharmacy, various groups of toiletries, cables and chargers - but a year and a half at home has dispersed all of their contents. Today I’ve been reorganizing, regrouping, in order to make the packings and unpackings of the next few months go a bit more smoothly. I found my “airplane survival bag,” which has such travel necessities as an eye mask, ear plugs, lotion, toothpaste, Zicam and various other meds, even an extra set of earphones. A well-stocked bag, but obviously put together back when I did more traveling!

One good thing about moving into a whole new environment is that no one there has seen any of my clothes! So even though I was feeling a bit “meh” about my wardrobe these days (I somehow managed to get through January without hitting a single sale!!), everything will be new in the eyes of my new colleagues. Granted, it’s cold enough in MI that I’ll be mainly concerned with warmth, but style will always be an aim, so I’m taking my plaid corduroy pants (Free People, for those who care). Add some silk long johns underneath and I’ll be warm and stylish! Although it looks like it won’t be much colder there than here, with the major difference of SNOW! I’m looking forward to a real winter, I think, although I’m not crazy about driving in it…

I’ve been alternating packing binges with study sessions, and I’m feeling pretty good about things. I’ll still be up all night, though, ‘cuz I can never sleep the night before I travel…

Back to work! More from the Great Lake State in a few days!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


A short Italian lesson: to help get those long Italian vowels and short double consonants into my tongue and mouth and voice, I’ve been told by several folks to speak the text exaggerating those sounds. For example, this line from the Figaro Act II Finale - “...qui li ha fatti capitar” (“here has made them come” or “has sent them here”)- has a double consonant in the word “fatti” and a long vowel in “capitar.” I keep getting them mixed up, putting a double P in capitar, so I’ve been drilling the line like this: “qui li ha fat--------ti caaaaaaaapitar.” Out of tempo, stopping all sound on that double T, and holding that Ah long enough that I make the following P very short. It's a great way to drill the recits, too; this kind of direction to the words creates a naturally conversation shaping.

Clear as mud? Awesome.

This week I’ve been multi-tasking in some funny ways: listening to Figaro on my iPod while marking my score and drilling rhythms for The Old Burying Ground, or listening to TOBG while typing up my Barber translations. The mix of new music and Classical is a fun stretch for my brain! Nothing like hearing a steady 4/4 while counting “2/4, 6/8, 9/8, 3/4…”

I was studying this afternoon (and eating lunch, even more multi-tasking) when “that moment” in the Act II Finale came up on my earphones (the “Deh signor nol contrastate” moment, with that low E in the double basses, you know the one). I put down my pencil and had a moment of amazement. It’s here! In four days we start rehearsals. I get to sing that beautiful role, to create that wonderful character, to tell that silly and touching story.

It’s time…

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

For MR in Chicago, with thanks to Casey

ä é í ö ü

Thanks to all for your help and concern! :)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Miscellany, Jan 21

* From an email I wrote this morning: “This year has presented a whole new facet of my career - music being given or offered to me [unsolicited] to perform and/or premiere - and I really don't know yet how to navigate it. I'm learning slowly, and at the same time, am totally overwhelmed with all the opera and "traditional" old-school standard stuff that is coming my way. It's a wonderful problem to have, I assure you, but it still take some figuring out.” Le sigh.

* Re: the March 2nd Sing for Hope concert: A couple of you have commented on how I can put this thing together organizationally with all the other stuff I have going on. That’s the beautiful thing! The goal of Sing For Hope (one of the goals, anyway) is to facilitate these concerts in such a way that the only thing “we artists” have to worry about is our performance. They, together with the folks at the benefitting charity (Children’s Aid Society in this case), take care of press and advertising, ticketing, programs and publicity materials, all of that. It’s an incredible gift. If you would like to help SFH in this mission, they have a donation page, too! The concert will be at 3pm, fyi, if you’d like to save the date.

* This week I have to get my taxes done. I like to have them done by my birthday every year, but February and March are so busy now that I know I’d better do them now or I’ll be scrambling come April. The incentive: last year I had only W2 employment, as opposed to 1099, which means… tax refund!!

* I made new friend at a recital this weekend, giving my extra ticket to someone I ran into at the box office. Turns out he is a musicology PhD and music critic from Europe, and we spent some lovely hours talking about what’s shakin’ in “classical music” these days. He’s here to do some research into a major 20th C composer, and I just happen to be sort of “connected” with that scene here in NYC; my roommate’s good friend is a major scholar on the composer he’s studying. I’m excited to introduce him to folks, because I think his ideas about music and music writing and “the scene” in general will be a welcome addition. It was a fantastically serendipitous meeting!

* Related: there are some great comments in the Shake Up post; go read them. I’d love to say I’ll get a response posted, but keep reading and you’ll see that is unlikely… Read TM’s great riff instead.

* I can’t remember who first linked to this beautiful interview with Dawn Upshaw, but thank you. “Joy and beauty are my goals.” Amen! (I couldn’t help clicking on the included sound files, fearing (hoping??) that the listed “Dancing on the Ceiling” was a Lionel Richie cover…teehee)

* Music this week: Susanna, including a couple of hours with other GR cast members to run recits and ensembles; Rosina, although she’s still in the text-only stage; Evan Chambers’ new oratorio The Old Burying Ground, which I’ll be recording and touring between Figaro and the SFH concert (I was so excited to learn that a friend will be with me on this project!); and just for fun, some Strauss songs with a pianist/conductor friend. We discovered that we both performed the same set (Madchenblumen; can anybody tell me how to get umlauts with Pages?!) on our Masters’ recitals, so we’re going to get together and make some music. I’m looking forward to it all, but it is a lot, so I apologize in advance for a light blogging week… (Get off my back, Marc.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Over the Line

Recently I saw a performance in which a singer teetered dangerously on the line between telling an emotional story and telling a personal story. It reminded me of my own experience with this difficult aspect of honest performing, during the first Sun Valley Opera Competition in 2003. I wrote up this story two years ago, to share with some friends, and knew that the time would come to share it on the blog. It seems that time is now, so, take a trip down memory lane with me...

The competition is held in a church in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood, so for the “green room,” or holding area, we used the fellowship hall. The competition monitor came back to get us one at a time, and lead us through the maze of classrooms and nursery rooms in the church basement, up to the sanctuary where the actual competition took place. Imagine my surprise when, shortly before my turn to go, a beautiful tabby cat entered the room! Her name was KittyBob, I would later learn (yes, KittyBob is a girl…), but at the time all I knew was that I wanted to pet her and love on her. But the monitor soon appeared and called my name, so I said, “I have to go, but I’ll be back soon, kitty, and we can get to know each other.”

(Yes, I’m a dork when it comes to cats. We’ll just leave that be…)

I made my way to the altar area, which is raised up a bit from the rest of the sanctuary, making a nice stage area. The three sides of the space had choir loft benches against them, with a railing and kneeling bench for communion. I started singing Norina’s aria from Don Pasquale, getting through the opening cavatina and had moved into the sassy cabaletta when I heard people in the audience start to chuckle. I thought, “Wow, I’m really selling this! They think I’m funny!”

Well, it turns out the KittyBob was not content to wait for my return. She had appeared behind me, rubbing up against the kneelers and lying on her belly and generally looking adorable. When she worked her way into my sightlines at the front of the stage, I quickly realized that the audience was not laughing at me! I know that you can’t fight with animals or children on stage; people will always watch them to see what unexpected thing they’re going to do next. So I went with it: Norina had a cat! I sang to KittyBob for as long as she stuck around, then turned my attention back to the audience for the finish. When it was over, we – the audience and I – shared a good laugh, and I made my way back to the green room to await the second round.

My piece for the second round, the musical theatre round, was “The Sound of Music.” Yes, “The hills are alive” and all that. One of the judges told me later that when he saw my listing in the program, he thought, “She is really going to have to sell this to win with this song.” I had just come home from my first summer at Tanglewood, a place where the hills were indeed alive with the sounds of music. It was an amazing summer, and I was missing it, having a hard time adjusting to life “back home.” So I really let myself get lost in the words and the sentiment. When I got to the line “…like a lark who is learning to pray,” I brought my hands into a prayer position at my heart without thinking; it was a motion I had never done before, and it hit me.

“I go to the hills, when my heart is lonely. I know I will hear what I’ve heard before.”

I wanted to be back in the Berkshire hills. My heart was lonely, and I was missing the refuge of the musical community there.

“My heart will be blessed, with the sound of music…”

And my throat closed.

I had crossed that line that a performer needs to flirt with in performance in order to affect the audience, the line between control and indulgence, between telling a story and living the story. It is a line we should flirt with but never cross. A friend later told me that he had been just about to cry himself, because I was conveying the beauty of the song so well, but as soon as I cried, he became worried about me as a person, rather than emoting with me as the character.

The competition pianist, whom I had never met before that day and whose name I cannot remember, was completely with me. She slowed down and stopped just as I did, waited while I recovered my voice – surely a matter of seconds, but it felt like hours – then breathed with me and we finished the song, my voice shaking with held tears.

“…and I’ll sing once more.”

I didn’t even want to take a bow. I was mortified; I felt that I had let the audience down. They didn’t need to know that Anne-Carolyn Bird, the soprano, was having a rough night; they only needed to feel Maria’s joy at being in her mountains, surrounded by music. Another soprano in the competition reassured me, though, by telling me that every time she performed the role, she had to fight against the urge to cry at that point. It is a simple song, one that has become “cheesy” with overuse, but it is powerful in its simplicity. There is a reason it is a classic.

These events, I knew, made it so that I would remember this night and its lessons forever. I was almost embarrassed to be announced the winner.

Friday, January 18, 2008

FriPod: Princes

(No princesses in my iTunes, I’m afraid...)

1. Prince of Darkness, Indigo Girls, Indigo Girls
2. Rebel Prince, Rugus Wainwright, Poses
3. Prince Nez, Squirrel Nut Zipper, Hot
4. To arms, to arms, Heroic Prince, by Henry Purcell, performed by Syvlia McNair & The Academy of Ancient Music
5. A Very Nice Prince; First Midnight, from Sondheims’ Into the Woods, original cast recording

One artist: Prince, 3121 (I only have one album? This is a problem…)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

By Leaps and Sounds!

The Sing for Hope concert is on, barreling full speed ahead, and we even have a name: SING FOR HOPE: By Leaps and Sounds! Benefiting the Music Programs of Children’s Aid Society

Tuesday we met with six (six!) staff members of Children’s Aid Society to talk about our collaboration and how we can make the most of it in six short weeks. They had folks there from Development, Programming, Major Gifts, Marketing, and Volunteer Services, all eager to come together and make this a major event.

I talked about the evolution of the concert idea, and explained that I found CAS simply by doing a web search for NYC children’s charities. I was initially drawn to their music programs, but after a while I wondered if that was being altruistically selfish, focusing on giving in an area that directly related to me. Maybe there was a more important, more financially needy area of CAS that would benefit more from our gift. So, I told the group that we were there to help in any way we could. Imagine my joy when they responded that the Chorus and Music program is actually one of the areas that needs the most help right now!! Let that be a lesson: if a charity connects with you and the things you hold dear, they will welcome your help.

My friends have been coming forward with rep ideas, and I can already tell that it’s going to be a lovely program. I wanted to have a general theme of children or childhood, so we’ll have selections from Bernstein’s I hate music!, Schumann’s Frauenlieben und -leben, folks songs from a few different cultures, some Mahler, some Ives. I’m being joined by friends I haven’t seen a years, folks from NEC and Tanglewood as well as my friends at the Met and around New York. What an absolute joy.

On Tuesday, when we first met and shook hands with the Programming Director in the CAS lobby, he said, “I’m so excited about this, I just want to hug you! But maybe we’re not at the hugging stage yet…” By the time we parted ways an hour later, after sharing our visions and the needs of the Society and realizing that we had stumbled upon a perfect fit, there were certainly hugs.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A good sign...???

Tonight I passed on going to a party in order to come home and put the cuts into my Barber score.

Ummm... what?


I didn’t get home in time to see Alex’s spot on Charlie Rose last night, but I did manage to catch Marin Alsop. (And hey, look at that: I can already watch both segments online!)

Alsop’s description of one aspect of her inaugural season as Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra sounds very much like my vision for The Bhakti Project! Her idea: pair each Beethoven symphony on a program with modern works, some conducted by their composers: Adams, Adés, MacMillan. Her hope: audiences who come to the Symphony for Beethoven will see how today’s “classical music” connects with “the classics,” and those who come for the new stuff will be reminded of the continued relevance (and awesomeness) of that which came before. It is all of a piece, yo.

She talked about elements of Christopher Rouse’s music that match “ the vocabulary that kids today hear:” “brutal, rock-based, and very driven.” I was reminded of sitting in The Shed at Tanglewood, hearing the TMC Orchestra play a Tchaikovsky violin concerto with Joshua Bell. At one point, I looked back to the double bassists, tall hipster looking guys to a one, and they were rocking! out! The sounds that come from an orchestra in some of the major symphonies are not unlike the sounds you hear on heavy metal records; amplification is the major difference, to my mind. S&M, anyone?

**Update: Ok, now I’ve watched Alex’s segment. More awesome stuff here, obviously; watch them both if you missed them last night. He acknowledges the blend that is happening, not just in programming, but in the compositions themselves. Pop and folk and jazz blending with Beethoven and Stravinsky and Schoenberg. What an exciting time to be a “classical musician!”

A good sign

Today, when I felt the urge to say “Goodness!” (which I do from time to time; don’t judge), it came out: “Cospetta!”

Susanna is taking hold.

Another good sign: as I go through my Barber* score, more and more of the Italian is familiar to me. I recognize grammar structure; I feel the flow of the language (go to the verbs, go to the long vowels). It’s pretty cool, I have to say. I’ve spent a lot of time with this language this year, and it’s paying off.

*Didn’t mean to play coy with the new role (yes, Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia). I wouldn’t even have mentioned it, other than to say there was an offer, but since I write about the things that are going on NOW, I found it hard to leave it out. I thought a little guessing game might be fun until I could come right out and say it! I finally have the things I need to get my website updated, and once that’s done, there will be no secrets about what 2008 holds.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Youth Without Youth

A few weeks ago, as I was dreaming of my birthday party even in the middle of holiday merriment, I had an idea. My birthday only happens once every four years (February 29, Leap Day!), so when a Leap Year comes around, as it does in 2008, I tend to get a little giddy with the prospect of throwing a great big party!

This year, the 29th is on a Friday, so I immediately started thinking about a blow-out bash: rent a room in a bar or club, invite every single person I know in NYC… you know the kind. This will be my 8th birthday, and I know from experience that I will get more than a few “gag” gifts: Barbies, stickers, etc.. So, I thought, why not ask my friends to intentionally bring a gift suitable for an 8-year-old? Clothes, books, toys… We could then donate everything to a children’s charity here in the city.

And then the idea grew: why not do more? Why not ask my friends to join me in a benefit concert? I recently joined the roster of Sing for Hope, an incredible non-profit organization that “supports artists who create events that benefit humanitarian causes.” With a motto of “Uniting Artists, Uniting Communities” and a roster of singers, actors, dancers, composers, pianists, and even acrobats from Cirque du Soleil, all of whom donate their time and talent, SFH “facilitates the connection between artists and charities, and provides a network of support.” Over the years, SFH has raised over a a million dollars for HIV/AIDS charities alone.

After doing a little research into children’s charities in the city, I found one that I felt I connected with, and I sent off an email to the director of SFH, asking for her help in facilitating with the charity. She loved the idea, and immediately set to work! It’s amazing working with a group that has ground-work very well laid and with people how know how to make ideas become realities. We all - representatives from SFH, the benefiting charity, and me - are hoping to meet tomorrow for a chance to talk over the idea and the program and the details. As soon as we meet, I’ll update here to let you know the organization. We are even hoping that one of their choirs of children will be able to join us on the concert!

Last week I also sent out a message to my friends, and as of now I have more participants than I know what to do with! We’ve had to shift the date to Sunday, March 2nd, instead of doing it on the 29th, because a good friend is making a big debut that night! Many of us want to attend her recital, and I wanted her to be able to join us in the concert, so we just made a slight adjustment. Stay tuned for concert rep information, but you can rest assured that we will all be singing "Paradox” from the Pirates of Penzance!

If all goes according to plan, I’d like to see this turn into the way I celebrate my birthday (or un-birthday) every year. We’re starting with a small no-fuss Sunday afternoon concert at a church; maybe by my 9th or 10th birthday we’ll be hosting a $10k/table gala ball!! This could turn into a major relationship with this charity, or we could rotate through several that feel like a good fit. What an exciting prospect, what a way to give something back...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Shake Up, and Shakin’ It

Via Chris at CPB, because I read Bloglines before I read my Sunday Times, this article about “audience practice” over the years. (How did that grammar error in the first sentence make the final draft?!) My favorite paragraph: “Another time, late on a Spanish evening many years ago, I heard a village band competition at the bullring in Valencia. The playing was astonishing, and as a particular performance gradually took hold of the audience, low hums of approval would grow into something approaching wordless roars. It was the most profound concert experience of my life.”

This fueled a post I’ve been building for a while about the “indie classical” movement and what exactly we’re trying to shake up here. Folks like the admins and performers at New Amsterdam Records, composers like Nico Muhly and Caleb Burhans, bands like Secret Society, Alarm Will Sound, Brooklyn Rider, and Ljova and the Vjola Contraband: I think all of these musicians have “shake up” as part of their mission statement. Heck, I'd even add Andrew Bird to that list. Secret Society is a “steampunk big bang” and Vjola Contraband is “chamber-jam music for the "remix generation".” Brooklyn Rider says they want to “invite audiences into a greater shared dialogue.” Liszt seemed to have a similar mindset: “When Liszt did his solo acts, there was none of the march-on, march-off stage ritual of today. Liszt greeted patrons at the door, mingled in the audience and schmoozed with friend and stranger alike.”

So what are we trying to change?

Last weekend, TM was here for the CMA conference and we took in a few other sites and sounds around town. Friday, I watched the second half of the CMA opening concert; I heard three works/groups/performances and had three very different reactions. The first was piano trio by Leon Kirschner. A piano trio is already a very traditional ensemble (piano, violin, cello), and the young ladies playing the work sat in the usual set-up and wore very traditional attire. A little too traditional, if you know me, which you do: floor-length, jewel-toned satin gowns, each a different style and color but obviously very coordinated. The women looked beautiful, and they played even more beautifully, but it was just a bit… I don’t know. Safe? Done? It wasn’t boring, because the music took care of that. But how could it have been “newer?” Does it matter? The work was written in 1998, but if I’d just been watching and not listening I would have assumed it was from 1898. How can performance practice reflect the music? Should it? Does it matter?! It obviously matters to me, ‘cuz I can’t stop thinking about it...

The second piece was the first part of Pierrot Lunaire, performed by eighth blackbird and Lucy Shelton, who I adore. This performance rocked. First of all, it was from memory, which freed up the performers to move and to interact with each other. I loved it. They were all over the place: kneeling, changing positions to play with each other as the ensemble changed, turning their backs to the audience. It was a lot, but it never felt “busy.” Their movements never felt affected or showy because their attitude was one of ease. This was simply their performance, their gift to the audience, and they weren’t wasting energy worrying about how it was going to “go over.” They were being, not doing. And even with no “doing,” or rather, because there was no “doing,” there was a long, breathless pause after the final movement, as the audience slowly freed itself from the spell the performers had cast. It was magical.

The final performance of the night was by So Percussion, whom I have loved since I saw them last year at the Whitney Museum. Four guys, each with his own style, comfortable, casual. Their performance of Reich’s “Music for Pieces of Wood” absolutely blew. my. mind. It was the most visceral reaction I’ve had to a performance in a long time: my palms were sweaty, my heart raced. Was it the performance? The piece itself? The perfurme of the woman next to me? Who knows. But they got something right. I was again under a spell. When I saw them at the restaurant after the performance, I went to say hello and thank them; I felt like a girl talking to her high school crush…

That’s how I want an audience to feel. Know what I mean? Excited, turned on, drawn in, breathless… not unlike the feeling I had seeing The Shins or The New Pornographers, now that I think about it. Or Die Walkure...

So, what about a “recital” at a place like Webster Hall? How would I feel, as a performer, if people were coming and going, drinking beers (spilling beers), talking on their cell phones, etc.. How much is a rock band aware of that stuff? They are up on stage, removed, listening to their monitors, maybe unaware of most of the activity beyond the footlights. Is amplification the key? Things are loud enough that the audience doesn’t have to sit quietly, afraid to talk for fear of missing something, and the band can tune out what they don’t want to see/hear/know. Is it a respect thing? Why do we respect classical concerts (showing it by sitting still and being quiet and clapping where “appropriate”) more than rock concerts?

CT the DT tells of a performance of a jazz group (I can’t remember who, a pianist-led group, I think) where, at the end, when people started clapping, the pianist looked up and seemed to be almost surprised to see that audience there. The band had been so into the music, into working together, that they had almost forgetton about the “performance.” Is this good? Part of me says yes, that it can be just about the music, but then part of me wonders if it is disrespectful to the audience to “forget” about them. How does the performers’ relation to the audience affect the overall feeling of the performance? How can performers focus on “being” and still give the audience a show worth the price of admission (or more).

Man, the more I write, the more questions I come up with.

TM and I also saw a concert at ICO Music (formerly VIM: Tribeca). There were several elements that indicated “we’re trying to shake things up here:” the venue, free booze, the dress of the performers. And yet. As TM said, it was still musicians with stands and an audience that sat quietly until it was ok to clap. So what are we shaking up here? How can we do more? What will we sacrifice? What will we gain?

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Generally I’m a “one thing at a time and the most important thing first” kind of gal, but this weekend (and next, likely) requires some special time management. So, here are some things I can to to “study” while watching Green Bay and the Pats and Indy and the Giants win their games this weekend:

* White out the terrible English translation in my new role score. Using the cool white-out tape pens, this is tedious but ultimately gives me room to write in my own literal translation, aided by Mr. Castel, of course. (Another role hint, as requested: the role is one of a handful that are sung by sopranos and mezzo-sopranos, depending on the casting preferences of the directors.)

* Mark my lines in said score. I’m not a fan of highlighting for a couple of reasons. One: the color is garish, and two: it encourages an overly focused view of the score. There’s much more going on at any one time than just my line… So I use a colored pencil to mark the start of a stave in which I have to sing, making a little upside-down L brackety thing. (Maybe a picture is called for here…) I find this especially helpful on busy recit pages where every characters’ texts are all together on one line, following after each other, just like text in a book. On these pages, I give each character his own color and bracket the start of everyone’s line. Some of the Figaro pages are quite colorful!

* Format the libretto of said opera (I’m starting to feel like Coloraturaaah with all this intrique!) for my hands-on translation documents. I started all this work for Susanna six months ago, maybe seven. I’ve got two for this one… Thankfully I’ve developed study skills and practices this year!

* Update my bio and the Bhakti Project profiles for Fractured Atlas, the Facebook group, and the NAR page.

* Blog a bit… oh, wait, that’s not working. That’s procrastinating...

Friday, January 11, 2008

FriPod: Baby

This one is for my friend KG in Seattle, who last night at this time was starting to feel that her little girl was about to make her entrance into the world! Thanks for the serendipity, Scott. **UPDATE!! Beautiful little ARG joined her mom and dad in Seattle Saturday morning! Everyone is doing beautifully, and very happy to be face to face at last. Welcome, little girl!

1. Man is the Baby, Antony & The Johnsons, I Am A Bird Now
2. Broadway Baby, Bernadette Peters, Sondheim, Etc.
3. It’s all over now, Baby Blue, Bob Dylan, The Essential Bob Dylan
4. I’ll be your baby tonight, Bob Dylan, The Essential Bob Dylan
5. Where did my baby go? John Legend, Once Again
6. My Baby, LeAnn Rimes, Blue
7. Don’t cry baby, Madeleine Peyroux, Careless Love
8. Baby be mine, Michael Jackson, Thriller
9. Sleep Baby Jane, Over the Rhine, Eve
10. Baby Brother, The White Stripes, Icky Thump
11. Baby, I love your way, Big Mountain, Reality Bites soundtrack

And two albums:
Achtung Baby, U2 (no music collection is complete without it)
My Baby Don’t Tolerate (Lyle Lovett)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Today I...

Ordered: a score for the summer (back to Wolf Trap, in case I haven’t mentioned that; rep to be announced soon), a book of cadenzas and variations to study for the new role this spring (hints: there will be lots of cadenzas and variations to learn (hence the book), and I share a birthday with this composer...), and another copy of the fantastic P. Craig Russell graphic novels of The Ring cycle. Two copies, actually: one for me (I used to have a set, but loaned it to a boy and then we broke up… stupid.) and one as a thank-you gift for my Walkure host. I’m not sure how it will be received, but I like to mix it up, you know? Hi-lo, always keeps it interesting...

Juliette with JD to continue the process of refining my French. She has really helped me shift my overall approach to French, helping me sing like a French person instead of an American, and that, in turn, has helped my voice blossom in the French rep. Very exciting. I’ve seen a similar shift in my Italian, through working with CL; it’s becoming “more Italian” and the musicality that is naturally tied to the language is coming out on its own. Very cool.

Emailed: a singer known to be one of the best _____’s currently singing the role and asked for any advice she could give me. I was so touched when she wrote back promptly and with fantastic tips! We worked together a couple of summers ago (another clue, for those playing along), and have stayed in touch; her energy and enthusiasm is infectious, and after reading her words I’m starting the slow shift from “omghowamigoingtolearnthisintwomonths?” to “This is going to so fun!”

Scheduled: two more Susanna coachings. I think I’ll have a total of five more coachings and another voice lesson before I leave for Grand Rapids. Which happens in 16 days… how did that happen?! Also scheduled an audition for Monday afternoon and finalized my summer plans. Finally, and much to my relief...

with KW, catching up on life and “holding court” as we seem to. We perch somewhere for a coffee talk and just entertain friends and colleagues as they pass by. We must have hugged or waved through the window at at least a dozen folks today… Of course, we were right across the street from the Met…

Invited: another friend to join me for my exciting birthday recital project! More on this soon. But if you’re going to be in NYC the weekend of March 2 (not my birthday, but close), there will be an event that you may want to attend.

Laughed. And cried.

All this, and it’s not even dinnertime! What a great day. Dinner at home, then more studying in between internet breaks and phone calls. I love my job….

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Miscellany for January 8

So much on my mind these days; time for bullet points!

* 2008 is, as of now, booked with five six new roles (four five Leading, one Featured) so far, with three one more major role possibility (two Leading, one Featured) on the table. Gulp. As contracts get signed, I’ll post details here (and on my website, as soon as I get an ftp client for my Mac…). **UPDATE: I just got a call from my manager, and it seems a new hat has been thrown in the ring! I've been asked to come take over for a cancelled singer. For a huge role. In March. Double gulp!!

* Nothing like the best seat in the house to make one a Wagner fan. I experienced my first Wagner opera last night, Die Walkure, and I think I’ve been changed. I was nervous about making it through a five-hour evening (four hours of music plus two intermissions), but when the curtain closed on our sleeping Brunnhilde, I immediately wanted to watch the next one! Talk about a cliff-hanger… I had a beautiful view of the pit, too, and was blown away by the musicality that poured out. The English horn solos, especially, were so beautiful (I thought of you, Patti!), and what can I saw about all that brass? Awesome. I know I’ll never sing anything (maybe the Forest Bird, and wouldn’t that be poetic?), but I will be an appreciative audience member for the rest of my life. Many many thanks to my hosts for a wonderful evening.

* The growth of the “indie classical” movement continues on apace with the launch of New Amsterdam Records' new website. Streaming tracks from all of their current releases and creating a “join the community” feel by allowing anyone to create a profile, the site includes concert listings, blog postings, and, of course, an online store. It’s not a requirement that you be a NAR artist to post your information, so this will hopefully become a central “meeting ground” of sorts for musicians involved in this development of concert music.

I encourage you to spend some time letting the site’s music player run on shuffle for a while; you’ll get a nice cross-section of the music that is pushing this movement. (JL, I think you will especially enjoy Sam Sadigursky’s The Words Project.)

* I was motivated by the invitation to join the NAR site to finally get the tracks from the May 07 Bhakti recital cleaned up. You can hear a couple of them on my NAR page (Bolcom’s “Waitin” and Barber’s “St. Ita's Vision”), along with a more “traditionally new music-y” song from my stint at Tanglewood in 2004, Grace Choi’s “hist wist.” I’ve also updated my MySpace page tracks, including “Waitin” and adding a Harbison tune, “Why Mira can't go back to her old house.”

(The recording of Hillula, the centerpiece of the recital, is very good, but not ready for public consumption. It reminded the three of us how much we loved the piece, though, and has spurred us on for the next phase: revisions and 2nd recital plans are underway!)

That’s all for now. More thoughts on said “indie classical movement” coming soon…

Thursday, January 03, 2008

An exchange

From a conversation with my roommate, as we were talking about our travel schedules for the first half of this year:

“Well, I’ll be in Michigan during most of February.”
“Oh yeah? What for?”
“Well, Figaro, mostly!”
“Oh, I thought Figaro was next February! I thought all the studying you were doing was you just getting a big head start!”

Oh, AP, if only that were the case!

No, in all seriousness, I think I’m in good shape. Act I feels solid, 80-90% memorized, and Act II, the biggest one for me musically, is well on its way. Solidly learned, probably around 50-60% memorized. The recits have been coming fairly easily, to my surprise, with the big ensembles proving a bit harder to memorize. The scene with Antonio in the Act II Finale is fully of one-line interjections that I’m just going to have to drill over and over.

So, I’m off to do just that! I’ve got a couple of hours to work this afternoon, then off to meet the blackbirds!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ways in which 2008 has already started out well

* I toasted at midnight with the (very excellent) champagne from my Met debut, surrounded by great musicians and good friends.
* My first “visitor” of the year (and by that I mean phone call) was from a tall, dark, handsome man. (I just learned about that portent for good luck yesterday…)
* I watched the Hansel & Gretel hi-def broadcast from the Met Green Room, sharing tales of New Year’s Eve adventures with LW.
* For New Year’s dinner I cooked a traditional Southern meal of black-eyed peas with collards (and rice and cornbread) for the Brooklyn Birds and EN.
* The Bulldogs are solidly trouncing Hawaii. (Sorry, guys, I know U of H was the emotional favorite, but come on. Get an offensive line!!)
* I just watched bits of Il Trittico on Great Performances and relived that fabulous experience.
* Tomorrow I’m back in the pit for more Macbeth with that fantastic orchestra and Mo. Levine.
* The rest of the week is full of concerts (flute & viola at IcoMusic and Ljova et al at Joe’s Pub), workshops, meetings (possibly the Bhakti Project ’09 program?!), and hopefully the Chamber Music America conference over the weekend. Add a couple of auditions, and it seems we are back in the saddle.

I thoroughly expect the rest of the year to be as awesome!
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