Wednesday, August 30, 2006

open rehearsal

The performances at the Baroque Opera workshop went very well -- I've been offered 3 gigs for next season as a result of my time there, so it was certainly a success in that department. :) I loved singing Dido and got lots of great compliments on my performance -- I hope to have the opportunity to sing the whole role sometime soon!

After a celebration with my colleagues on Sunday night, I went home to pack, and left for Union at 5:30 a.m. (yikes!) on Monday morning. Since then, we've been going full steam with rehearsals and final preparations for the concerts, which begin tonight (though my first performance isn't until Friday). Overall, I'm extremely impressed with how the festival is being run. The level of musicianship is extremely high all-around, and we're being very well taken care of. (I'll post pictures as soon as I have time to take some!)

Last night, the choir had a rehearsal for our final concert (a memorial concert on September 11th). The rehearsal was held at the local high school auditorium, and was open to the public. It was a brilliant idea on the part of the administrators. For the festival, it was great free publicity. There are 2 or 3 of these open rehearsals this week, and apparently ticket sales have gone through the roof as a result, which is fantastic. For the people who came, it was a chance to see the work in progress (we've hardly rehearsed this concert at all, so it was really still in progress!), and there was a question and answer period and a chance for a meet-and-greet afterward, which was lovely. In addition, each of the open rehearsals are benefitting a different non-profit in the community. Last night, Mason County Literacy was there, and they collected donations and had sign-up sheets for volunteers. So, it was great for the community as well. The community seems to be very involved in the festival -- in fact, 100% of the funding for the festival came from residents of Union and the surrounding area. Amazing.

When I have time to think about it, I have lots of applications to fill out for audition season this year, but I need a couple days to settle in to a routine here before I dig in. Now, off to dinner and tonight's concert....

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

changing gears

This week has been a lesson for me in changing gears quickly, both in a larger sense (changing between opera and choral singing, and between music and the rest of life) and in the context of the workshop. I'm in three scenes this week, and they couldn't be more different. In Poppea, I'm playing two characters: Valetto and Nutrice. Valetto is a horny teenaged boy (think Cherubino). I'm singing a scene with the beautiful young Damigella, where I spend most of my time chasing her around the room. I've done the scene before, with the same partner, so putting it together was quick and easy, but we've had lots of help this week from our director Anna, who is a Baroque dance expert and choreographer, and the scene has really come to life. It ends with a beautiful duet, and the two of us being discovered in a compromising position and running from the room.

Nutrice is another story entirely. This is the role I will be playing in the full production of Poppea next February, so I was excited to get to work. The initial reaction from Stephen was that the role was too low for me, and he was right. The entirety of the role never goes above an a in the staff, and we're performing at A=415 this week (a full half-step lower than A=440, the modern accepted pitch). My scene happens with my queen, Ottavia, just after her gorgeous lament, "Disprezzata regina...". Stephen came up with a brilliant solution -- all of my lines have been transposed up a 5th, which puts the whole role in a great range for me and still works with Ottavia's part. This is one of the last scenes to be staged, and we had our first music and staging rehearsals on it today. After our initial run-through, Stephen asked if I would be willing to try it in more of a character voice. Of course I was willing to try, though I've never really done anything like that before, and I wasn't sure if I could. Apparently I can! I opened my mouth, and out came this nasal, cackling sound. Suddenly, the scene (which I had struggled a little with dramatically) made perfect sense to me, and judging by the reactions of the instrumentalists in the room, I think it was a success! The staging is equally fun, and I'm really looking forward to it.

In the third scene I play Dido, the widowed, mourning queen of Carthage. I'm falling in love with Aeneas, a handsome Trojan prince, much to the delight of of my friend and confidante Belinda and my ladies in waiting. I'm resisting my own feelings, out of grief and fidelity for my dead husband. A gorgeous lament, and I've been having so much fun playing her this week.

Whew! I'm exhausted just writing about it. I have this afternoon and evening off, so I'm off to take a quick nap, do a little editing work, and spend the evening with my husband and a few friends. Tomorrow, it's back to final rehearsals before the performances this weekend, and then off to Union for two weeks of choral concerts. It will feel like a vacation, I think, after this week!

Sunday, August 20, 2006


One of the big reasons I was attracted to singing as opposed to my previous instrumental pursuits is the presence of text. The study of libretti, poetry, and languages is something I'm passionate about. This week, with my days being filled with Baroque opera scenes and my evenings with American choral music, text is at the forefront of my mind. Text and language is central to Baroque opera in a way which is obscured as the art form developed more in to the aria-centric form of the 19th century. Not that it's not important in Puccini or Bizet or Strauss, but the purity of it's importance is much more evident in Monteverdi or Purcell, and (for me at least) coming back to this kind of music is a great reminder of this, and something I take with me as I journey back in to later operas (like the Offenbach I'll be spending a lot of time on this fall).

I feel so lucky to be working again this week with Stephen Stubbs, who is completely brilliant at seeing the unification of music and text, and how they highlight each other, each raising the other to a new level. Truly a master teacher and musician.

Interesting things are happening this year. I've already been offered a gig for next spring -- a role in Caccini's Ruggiero with the Northwest Puppet Center (acb recently talked about how fun this was -- I'm really excited to be involved!) Also, my role in Poppea might be changing somewhat, but more on that as details are solidified....

what, you mean people are reading this thing?

The Accademia started a couple days ago, and we're now in full swing of lectures and rehearsals. On the first day, three separate people (one of whom I knew from last year, two of whom I had never met) and said, "I read your blog!" It's such a strange experience. I know that people are reading, as my counter ticks a little higher every day and occasionally you leave comments, but to meet other people "in the business" who already know me through this blog is bizarre -- and fun! :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

this is why it's the best coffee table book ever...

a couple of quotes from Harry Partch...

at no time are the players of my instruments to be unaware that they are onstage, in the act. There can be no humdrum playing of notes, in the bored belief that because they are "good" musicians their performance is ipso facto "masterly." When a player fails to take full advantage of his role in a visual or acting sense, he is muffing his part - in my terms - as thoroughly as if he bungled
every note in the score.

To John Cage: I believe in many things: in an intonation as just as I am capable of making it, in musical instruments on stage, dynamic in form, visually exciting. I believe in dramatic lighting, replete with gels, to enhance them; in musicians who are total constituents of the moment, irreplaceable, who may sing, shout, whistle, stamp their feet; in players who are in costume, perhaps half-naked, or with fantastic headpieces, but certainly in some visual form that will remove them from the limbo of the pedestrian.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Glenn Gould

Alec and I celebrated our third anniversary last week. To celebrate, we took a weekend away this weekend. Saturday, we went to Port Townsend to visit my brother- and sister-in-law (and neice and nephew, of course), and spend some money in the beautiful new location of their record store. Among many other things, we bought what is possibly the best coffe table book ever, and a cd set of Glenn Gould playing Bach's Goldberg Variations (one recording from 1955, and one from 1981). I've been spending quite a bit of time listening this week -- two completely different interpretations, but I find what I'm taking away from it is how beneficial it is to listen to now as a singer as well as a pianist. The lyrical qualities of his playing (much more than his singing in the background!) are so astonishingly beautiful. I'll be listening as I'm working or washing the dishes, and suddenly I'll be totally absorbed in the beauty of a single phrase, and think, "Aha! That's how I should shape that phrase in the Agnus Dei of the B Minor Mass, or the opening of Es ist vollbracht!" His runs are almost impossibly fast, but I've learned things there, as well. In the 1955 version, they're totally, almost mechanically, even in tempo and tone, which is amazing to listen to (and sometimes makes me giggle!). In the 1981 version, while they're equally fast, and sometimes even a little faster, there's something a little more human about them -- a softer attack, a subtle shaping of the phrase. I don't mean to say that they were any less technically perfect, but there was something a little more approachable about them. Gorgeous!

Oh! The rest of the weekend! On Saturday night, I was surprised by a night in a fancy hotel in downtown Seattle, and an evening at Jazz Alley to see Ahmad Jamal, followed by brunch and Pike Place Market on Sunday morning. Aaaahhhhh..... :)


As I sat through my fourth rehearsal so far this week for my upcoming choral gig, a few thoughts ran through my head. First, singing choral music is good for my soul. There's something so fulfilling about communal music-making, and this is an exceptionally good group of choral singers, which makes it even more satisfying. Secondly, choral singing is good for my sight-singing skills! I'm a good sight reader. I make part of my living by teaching sight-singing. In fact, in most musical situations I've been in in my life, I'm one of the better sight readers in the room. My piano teacher in grad school always said that the best way to become a better reader is to play duets with someone who reads as well or slightly better than you, and I believe the same is true about singing. This group reads complicated music the first time through without (or with very little) help from the piano, with dynamics, phrasing, and all the other markings in the score. I'm keeping up, but it's definitely keeping me on my toes, which is really exciting. I'm finding that three-hour rehearsals fly by. It helps, as well, that we're singing great music. My favorite, so far, is Samuel Barber's Reincarnations, three gorgeous a cappella pieces on Irish poetry. Completely sumptuous!

Now, I have a couple days off from rehearsals to learn the opening scene from Dido and Aeneas and a scene from Poppea for the Baroque Opera workshop next week. Fun!

Thursday, August 3, 2006


I went to the dress rehearsal of Rosenkavalier at Seattle Opera last night. I have to say, this might be my favorite Seattle Opera production of all time. Carol Vaness' performance as the Marschallin was truly unforgettable -- so powerful and human. And Alice Coote was completely fabulous as Octavian. Occasionally, a performance will touch me so deeply that it stays with me long after the curtain closes. I feel like I've been walking around in a daze all day. :) If you're in town, don't miss it!

Tuesday, August 1, 2006


Sorry for the long silence! Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on a demo recording. For the first time, I hired a recording engineer and found a great space, and took a couple of days to record, and a few more to listen and work with the engineer to do some (very minor) edits. Up until now, I’ve headed to a local church with my mini-disc recorder every time I needed an aria or two for an application or audition. Partly, this is because my voice has been changing so rapidly that I have been reluctant to make anything too permanent, and partly it’s been the fact that I really don’t love listening to myself on recording, and I knew the amount of listening that would go in to getting a result I was happy with. Now, I feel like my voice is settling a little, and I wanted to have 7 or 8 tracks that I could mix and match for different purposes. I’m really happy with the results, and it’s a relief to know I won’t have to spend a lot of time recording for a year or so.

I decided on four arias – Nicklausse’s violin aria from Hoffmann, der Komponist, “Dopo Notte” from Handel’s Ariodante, and “Things Change, Jo” from Little Women. No Mozart, I know. Right now, it’s just not what feels best for me, and Handel is a good substitute for most purposes. For orchestral/oratorio stuff, I have a good recording of the B Minor Mass I did in June, and I recorded “Es ist vollbracht” from the St. John Passion and one of the Wesendoncklieder. I also recorded a few art songs, including one from Ravel’s Histoires Naturelles and one from Britten’s A Charm of Lullabies. It’s enough variety to cover everything I want to apply to this year, and a good mix of things to send to conductors. My grandparents will enjoy it, as well…. :) I’ve already sent out copies in various forms for a few competitions and a possible gig next season – I’ll keep everyone posted as details arise.

The next step is to figure out how to post some samples on my website – I’m working on it, and I’ll post a link here when I have it all done. I have plenty to keep me busy in the meantime, though – 4 full concerts of American choral pieces to learn in the next week, as well as the Dido scenes for the Baroque opera workshop and Nicklausse.