Thursday, October 26, 2006

well, I think I look at least 21...

I was leaving my lessons yesterday, walking through the schoolyard, and a kindergartner stopped me:

boy: "Hey! Do you remember that time when you subbed for us in Miss L's music class?"

me: "Yes, I do."

boy: "Are you Willa's mom?"

me: "nope."

boy: "Well, who's mom are you?"

me: "I'm nobody's mom."

boy: "Oh, because you're just a teenager, right?"

me: (laughing) "No, I'm not a teenager."

boy: (confused) "Oh. Well, you look like a teenager!"


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

and so it begins...

... audition season, that is. I was in San Francisco this weekend for my Merola audition. Going to San Francisco for auditions is always lovely, because I can visit with my oldest and dearest friend S, her husband M, and their lovely toddler Ty. My favorite quote for the weekend, when I came downstairs in my audition outfit:

Ty: "Auntie Meliss (actually, he can't say L's yet, so it comes out, "Auntie Meyiss").
Me: "Yes, Ty?"
Ty: "Auntie Meyiss, you're pretty!"
Me: "Thank you, Ty!"
Ty: "I'm charming!"

Tee hee! I arrived in San Jose (such an easy airport!) on Friday morning, and spent the day hanging out. My audition was Saturday around noon. I started with Nicklausse and they asked for some of the Handel, presumably to see if my voice could move (Dopo Notte is filled with lots of coloratura). After listening to about half of the A section, Sheri Greenawald said, "Thanks, that's exactly what we wanted to hear!" We chatted for a minute on the way out, and that was it. Easy! Later that evening, I called the auditions hotline to find my name on the list of finalists. Yay! So, I got to sing again on Sunday. At the finals, the audition panel chooses what they would like to hear, and the auditions last about 15 minutes instead of 5. They're doing La Cenerentola this summer, so I figured, especially since they wanted to hear coloratura the day before, that they would ask me to start with Non piu mesta, and I was right. As I walked in, they said, "Well, we figured we'd just get right down to it." We all laughed. Overall, I was really happy with it. The best part: even after just a week and a half of swimming, that phrase that I always worry about was no problem. I had lots of breath to spare. At the end, they asked for the Composer. Not an easy thing to sing after Rossini, as I'm sure they knew when asking me. It went fine. I had to use all my secret places in the piece to rest, breathe, swallow, and try to keep myself grounded. But I made it to the end. It was a little bit of a let down, to me anyway, after the Rossini, because in my warmup, Composer had felt really great, and in the audition, it felt like it was taking a lot of effort, but I think it was the best I could have sung it after Cenerentola. Then I sat down to talk with them for a few minutes. We chatted about repertoire they thought I should look at, and a little about my teacher, and then it was done! On to the next....

Sunday, October 15, 2006

getting in shape

"Non piu mesta", from La Cenerentola, is on my audition list for a few things this year. I feel great about it for the most part, but there's one phrase where I always worry about getting to the end breath-wise, and there's really no place to breathe in the middle of the crazy coloratura going on (mezzos, I'm sure you know the part I mean!). I always make it, but it causes a little bit of panic every time, and who needs that in the middle of an audition? This has given me the final incentive I needed to get in to better cardio-vascular shape this fall.

I used to have fantastic breath control. I was a flutist in high school and college, and I was also a swimmer, In fact I was captain of my high school swim team. I could swim, at one point, 2 lengths of the pool underwater without breathing. My breath control and lung capacity are still pretty good, but I definitely can't do that right now! So, last week I joined a US Masters swimteam at a pool close to my house. Workouts are 5 days a week from 7-8:00 a.m. Alec usually leaves for work at about 6:30, so the timing is perfect, and then I'm done earlier than I would usually even be awake enough to be doing anything other than drinking a cup of coffee.

I started on Wednesday, which was unfortunate in some ways because Wednesday, as it turns out, is distance freestyle day (which means longer sets without resting, and a total workout of between 1 1/2 and 2 miles). I was never a distance swimmer at the best of times (I have a strong kick, which makes me more of a sprinter), and let's just say that by the end of the workout I was tired!!!! But, I got some great reminders of why I love swimming. First, and this may sound weird to people who have never been swimmers, I smelled very faintly of chlorine for the rest of the day, and I really love that. It brings back lots of great memories. Secondly, walking out of the pool in the morning to a bright, sunny day, and smelling the fresh air knowing that I had challenged myself (and survived) felt fantastic. Thirdly, I am one of the younger people there. Lots of the women have children in high school, and they are all amazing, dedicated, and in great shape. One of them asked me how old I was and when I told her, she said, "Oh, you're just a baby!" I'll take it! But most importantly, in the pool, I had a moment where I had a glimpse of what it felt like to be really in shape. I felt a very physical sensation that reminded me of how amazing it feels to be really strong. So, even though the first workout kicked me right in the butt, I made it back for Thursday and Friday, and it got a little easier every time. I can't make it tomorrow morning, but Tuesday I intend to be back in the pool!

Friday, October 13, 2006

long time no blog!

Lots has been going on, and there's plenty to write about. The side effect of this, of course, is that there's no time to write about any of it. Here's a little update.

A couple weeks ago I sang in the Sun Valley Opera competition (which, interestingly, takes place in Seattle). There were seven finalists from various places around the country. I am not at all sure that competitions are for me. They seem so contrived. I have a hard time putting an art form in a competitive format like that, and the idea of judging voices, particularly when there's no role or anything in question as a result, just seems a little weird to me. However, it's another opportunity to sing, and while I still fall within the age limit for most of them, I'm trying to give them a chance. This was a good way to start, as the competition took place in a church where I sang as a soloist for six years, and where I still teach piano lessons twice a week. I felt very at home. It was a particularly interesting competition in that the first round consisted of each of us singing an aria, and in the second round we were all required to sing a musical theater piece. Having started singing late, I never did any musical theater in high school or anything, so this was a totally foreign concept to me. I chose "Bill" from Showboat, because I've always loved that song, and hey, when am I ever going to have a chance to sing it, right? It was actually really fun. In the first round, I sang Nicklausse's aria Vois sous l'archet fremissant, which is my starter in most auditions nowadays. Apparently, the judges liked it -- I got third place! More importantly, I learned a couple of things. There's a universal truth of singing that we all know on some level, but which many of us (well, certainly me, anyway) seem to have to learn the hard way: sing what you sing best. period. I'm finally over feeling like I have to sing something that shows everything plus the kitchen sink in one (usually long and showy) piece. Nicklausse shows what my voice sounds like. Lots of great, rich middle with a nice high note at the end. The thing I took away from the competition is that I now feel totally comfortable starting with that piece in any situation. I have lots of showy coloratura (Rossini and Handel) on my list, and some more difficult pieces musically and range-wise (Meg from Little Women and Komponist), and they'll ask for what they want to hear. All told, a valuable competition experience. Who knows? I might do a few more.

In other news, I finished all my apprenticeship and young artist program applications yesterday and put them in the mail. It feels, even more than in past years, like a huge weight has been lifted. I got them all done in plenty of time, but being gone for the first half of September really screwed up my normal timeline, and I've felt totally panicked and stressed about getting them all done. Luckily, I recorded a good demo this summer, so that part (usually the most stressful for me) was easy this time. We'll see what happens. Probably due to the fact that I have such a busy schedule this year (and maybe because I continue to feel more and more comfortable with my voice), audition season seems like less of a big deal than usual. Just another job to do. I think that's a good sign.

In the last couple weeks, I've been doing something new singing-wise. Seattle has a large (and growing) recording industry, mostly for film soundtracks, trailers, and video games. Often these pieces involve not only an orchestra but a chorus as well, and I've been doing lots of sessions lately. It's been really fun. Generally the orchestra records during the day, and the chorus (of between 20 and 40 professional singers) records at night. The music is your typical action-movie stuff -- a lot of it sounds like Carmina Burana, complete with fake latin. :) It's good for the sight-reading skills, good money, and it's been good to see some old friends and meet some new colleagues. However, it's also long hours -- last week we had three nights in a row, two from 8:00-midnight, and one from 8:00-1:30 in the morning. Not good if you have anything to do the next day! I'm not complaining, though. The recording engineers were there from 9:00 a.m. all of those days! And, one of the singers in the choir is a morning news anchor for a local television station, and had to be at work at 4:00 a.m.! Sheesh!

We just started music rehearsals for Hoffmann, and I think it's going to be a good show. Performances aren't until Thanksgiving weekend, and we have 5 or 6 music rehearsals before staging starts -- a nice luxury, for sure! One disappointment -- my audition aria isn't in the version that we're doing. Oh, well. Such is life. :)

Finally, I was just offered a new gig for the spring -- singing Rosina in a school-tour adaptation of Barber of Seville. I'm excited about it. Rossini is something I hope to sing a lot more of in my career, and this seems like the perfect way to ease in to it. If I can sing "Una voce poco fa" (or whatever it will be in the English translation) three times a day, starting at 8:00 in the morning, then I think I'll feel comfortable singing Rosina or Angelina anywhere, any time. Actually, now that I've written it, it doesn't really sound like "easing in to it" at all, does it? More like throwing myself in to it!

So that's what I've been up to for the last couple weeks! The result of being so busy (well, that and the fact that I hate to clean) is that both the apartment and my car are a horrible mess at the moment, so I'm happy to have the day off to get organized. Happy weekend, everyone!