Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I’m starting this post without a clear vision of where it’s going to end up, but I’ve had some encounters in the past few days that need airing, things that might be interesting to young singers wondering what it means to “make it” as an opera singer. So bear with me...

I had an audition on Friday (more about this later, but it was a far cry from last week’s!), and as is usually the case I ran into several colleagues in the waiting area. Audition Season is a fun time of catching up, a time for the intense relationships we forge during a rehearsal process to be revived a bit. It’s a time for the 1-minute update, a good hug, for congratulations and encouragments to be given. I look forward to the surprise reunions at every audition.

At this audition, I ran into a singer I haven’t seen in quite a while, and she said something that has stuck with me. She said something along the lines of “you’re doing so well, singing everywhere, I’m surprised to see you here, surprised you still have to audition!” Wow. I can think of maybe 25 singers in this entire business who don’t have to audition anymore! I feel like it’s as much a part of my job right now as learning roles and going to rehearsal. Until a singer is an international superstar, there are always going to be companies who don’t know you, new administrators who need to hear your goods and see your personality. “Success” doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep working, to keep asking for it.

Also over the weekend, I spent some time with a friend who has had a lot of success recently on one of his main projects. Lots of national publicity, lots of great press. It was great to hear his perspective on the process and exciting to hear about things that were in the works, but it was humbling to hear him say that he was far from financially stable (his wording).

I can totally relate. B & I are both working full-time, a fact for which we continue to be grateful, but we’ve had some hiccups this year and have had a few periods of touch-and-go in terms of finances. This life is never comfortable, not until you reach the absolute heights. We have eight years of school loans between us, and we both had several lean years before we started booking good A- & B-level gigs (translation: lots of credit card debt). Life in NYC is expensive, and we are both still studying and coaching. Every month is a juggle of paychecks and bills, and we have been lucky not to hit any major snags. But it has been close.

All this to say... Success is a very strange idea. Yes, I am successful! I’ve been booked almost full-time for the past four seasons, and there is more on the horizon. I get good press. I have a good manager. BUT. None of this is a given, it could go away at any time, and I am far from comfortable financially. Successful, yes. Set? Out of the woods? Resting on my laurels?

Not on your life.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Chart Madness

Some of you may remember this rather complex memory aid that I created to help me memorize the Act I Finale of Barbiere. The math dork in me loved the process of breaking down the music and text into a pattern and assigning numbers and letters, like a complex algebra problem. I carried the “cheat sheet” around with me through hours of staging rehearsal, and by opening night it was solidly memorized.

I haven’t really had opportunity to put this method into practice again - until now! On November 19*, Jocelyn and I will perform Hillula for the third time, and this time I’m determined to have it memorized. Judd has made a few revisions, streamlining the work a bit, and I love it even more. (There is also talk of totally expanding the work, into more of a chamber showpiece; can’t wait to see how that evolves!) I started spending some time with it to refresh my knowledge of the piece, and quickly realized that I was going to need a system to memorize this. There is lot of thematic material repeated, but with different texts, and several little interjections of material from other sections. It took me about three hours of adjusting and regrouping and relabeling, but I think I found it.

What I learned through the process this time was that these charts are more about the time I spend with the piece than they are about the final product. Those three hours of looking at the score and analyzing it and coming to terms with how it is laid out did more for my memorization process than this chart probably will, in the long run.

So, do you want to see it? It’s rather mad... But here’s a look inside the crazed workings of my mind! (#’s = Music, Letters = Text)

1 - Ax4ax5
3 - B(b2)Cccc’c
4 - D
4’ - Aaa
5 - EEF
6 - Gx4
6’ - eE
3b - H(h2)IJjx4
1b - BKL
1c - M(e)m(a)m
1d - Nnx4
4b - Ppx12

* Come check it out! Beth Morrison Projects presents a 21st C. Liederabend at the awesome Galapagos Art Space. The incredible lineup includes works by Corey Dargel, Caleb Burhans, Missy Mazzoli, David T. Little, and performances by David Adam Moore, Kamala Sankaram, Abigail Fischer, and many more. It’s a big night of vocal music, with lots of great stuff happening. Hope to see you there!
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