Friday, July 25, 2008

An experiment in gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 17, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Energy, given and received

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Big weekend

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

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

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

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

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