Friday, September 7, 2007
Pavarotti was a great advocate of music education, and often invited a youth arts organization to open for him at his performances. In 1985, he was in Seattle, performing at Key Arena, and the boychoir was given this honor. JC had heard that Pavarotti's favorite song was Vittoria, mio core!, and though it wasn't part of the boys' performance set, he wrote a 3-part arrangement and had the boys learn it, in case they had an opportunity to sing it at the sound check for him. They didn't. Backstage after the concert, they met one of his assistants, who said that Mr. Pavarotti was sorry only to have heard their last song. On a whim, they gathered outside his dressing room and sang the arrangement of Vittoria. At some point, JC noticed that the boys had stopped watching him, and he knew that Mr. Pavarotti had come out of his dressing room. Pavarotti had everyone backstage be quiet for the rest of the song while he stood and listened, and at the end he praised them and thanked them several times before returning to his dressing room.
A moment later, his assistant came out and said that Mr. Pavarotti would like to meet the boys. Over the next hour, he had them come in to his dressing room in small groups, with their parents, spoke with each of them, and posed for pictures with them. JC said it right at the end of his email: "This was the act of a great and generous man!" Indeed.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
It's funny, I'd been working all summer under the assumption that this year was fairly light for me, performance wise, but as I was updating my website last week, I realized that I'm actually extremely busy! A nice realization to come to. Not a lot of opera this year, but the role I'm scheduled for is one that I'm really excited about -- Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. I had been nervous about it, since it's traditionally sung by sopranos, but I had the good fortune to study this summer with fabulous mezzo Judith Forst, who has sung the role many times, and convinced me that we high mezzos can do it! I've been working on it, and so far, so good! I'm hoping to be able to coach with Judith on it a few times before rehearsals begin in the spring. It's the perfect setting to try the role out -- with the puppet opera! I can't imagine a more fun, joyful, supportive environment.
Most of my season this year is concerts and recitals, which is just fine by me. Next week, I'm headed to Victoria, BC to do a recital at my alma mater, with my piano professor at the keyboard! I was invited to come up as a guest artist, and it feels like I'm coming full circle in a way. I'm singing some of my favorite pieces -- Mahler's Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen, Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis, and Britten's A Charm of Lullabies. Then, my first Elijah in October, more recitals (Mahler and Brahms) in late October, and two different Messiahs in December. One is with a chamber orchestra and chorus, which should be particularly fun.
In the middle of all this are some pops concerts with the Seattle Symphony, previews of Seattle Opera's upcoming Iphigenia in Tauris (I'm singing Iphigenia), some film score work (listen for the Hallelujia chorus parody in the Shrek Christmas special this winter!), and two shows in the Seattle Opera chorus (Pagliacci and Tosca). I've never done any opera chorus work before, so I'm giving it a try.
So, I'm a busy girl! It seems like a great variety -- all of it fun!
Monday, July 9, 2007
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
- Everyone involved in this project was so wonderful to work with. I realized close to the end that there had not been a negative word spoken since we had started the project -- no tension between the performers, no talking behind anyone's backs. It was very refreshing, and made for a really easy rapport between everybody involved.
- I realized how much I've been missing chamber performances. There were 12 people involved in this project -- 5 singers, 4 instrumentalists, and 3 puppeteers, and as we all became comfortable with the piece and each other, it was so fun to engage in play with each other in rehearsals, and in every performance. There were eight performances, which is a lot (at least, more than I usually get to do with the same group of people), but it never got even a little bit old and stale. The singers and instrumentalists traded ornaments, the puppets reacted to us, and vice versa, and there was a real sense of synergy. It's the same feeling one gets working with a great pianist on a recital, but the feeling is multiplied when there are more people involved. This particular piece was almost entirely recitative, so that allowed even more play between characters and with the continuo players. I'll get to do some chamber music at Banff this summer, so I'm really looking forward to that.
- Even an intense rehearsal schedule (we put the show together in one week, with about 6 hours of rehearsal every day) can be made pleasant with good colleagues, tea, and lots of high quality chocolate!
- There's a lot of change happening in my life right now. Most of it is good, but change is always hard. I think that being around so much joy and love and laughter every day has really opened my heart to allow some things in that I probably would have resisted otherwise. In a time when lots of things are feeling out of control and unsettled, it has been a real blessing.
- This has been a season filled with Baroque music for me, and the more I do the more I love it. I'm feeling more at home all the time with the style, I'd be very happy to have much more of it in my future!
- I got a great compliment from a friend who came to see the show. "I've never seen or heard someone act so much with just their voice!" The musicians were all dressed in black and sitting with music stands at the side of the stage, so the audience could see us, but the puppets (obviously) were the center of attention. Singing a role (well, 3 roles, actually) from a chair, with no staging, gave me a great opportunity to explore characterization in other ways, experimenting with different vocal colors, and really delving in to the text in a detailed way. We do this as performers onstage as well, of course, but isolating these elements was very rewarding, and something we don't often get to do. I felt like I grew a lot as a performer from the experience. What a great way to make a living, right?
Saturday, April 21, 2007
This is one of my characters, Alcina, a sorceress who lures Ruggiero (left) to her island. The Carters let us singers hold some of the puppets last night before the show -- Ruggiero weighs about 20 pounds!
Below is my other main character, Melissa, another sorceress who transforms herself in order to rescue Ruggiero (along with many other of Alcina's ex-lovers, who have been transformed in to enchanted plants) from the island.
Pulcinella, on the left, is a commedia dell'arte character who was added to this production for comic relief. On the right is my favorite of the monsters (because what puppet show would be complete without some monsters?) He talks from the face in his stomach and that huge tongue comes out and slimes Pulcinella during the climactic battle scene. :)
Alcina does not appreciate being double-crossed by Melissa. (the puppet's head spins around to reveal her true nature, below)
How fun, right????
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Every year, I dread the day I finally sit down to enter all our information and find out how much we owe, and it's never as bad as I think it's going to be. I should really learn from that and remind myself not to procrastinate so much next year. We'll see how that goes.
For the past couple of years, I've been using this handy-dandy deduction worksheet for artists/performers that was sent to me by an accountant friend of mine. When I finally break down and have someone else do our taxes, I'm sure this will come in very handy. It has an excel sheet for each month and a place to enter your deductions each day in various categories, and then everything magically adds up on a separate sheet with yearly totals. I know, it's not rocket science, but it cuts the amount of time I spen going through receipts and such at the end of the year by probably 75%. My taxes used to take a full day. This year they took 2 hours. Not bad. The good news -- we made 20% more this year than last year on our gross adjusted income, and the taxes we owe are down by about 15% from last year. Woo hoo! We still owe plenty, believe me, but it's not nearly as much as I had feared. This is due mostly to the fact that I was employed full time by a school during the spring semester last year and had taxes being withheld from my paycheck, which doesn't normally happen for me. However, I also ended up with lots more deductions than last year (more audition trips, and more expensive voice lessons). I made significantly more as a performing singer last year than I have in the past -- it's kind of fun to look back and see the numbers ticking up over recent years. The other good news is that the amount we owe is significantly less than what I had saved up in my "tax account." The rest will go into savings or to pay off some debt, but a little will become some extra spending money on our vacation next week. Yes, that's right, a VACATION! Only for 3 days, but still! I'm very excited about it.
Ah, and now I can curl up on the couch and watch a movie, with no feelings of guilt or dread hanging over me. :)
Friday, April 6, 2007
Monday, April 2, 2007
- I had a coaching with PK today for my upcoming St. Matthew Passion on Friday. It's my first St. Matthew, and it's quite a big sing for the alto -- 5 arias, a duet with the soprano, and some recits as well, of course. The pieces take me on a journey that runs the entire gamut of emotions. It's quite an amazing (if a little exhausting) experience! PK is a wonderful coach, particularly for Bach, and it was one of those experiences where I realized halfway through that there was absolutely nothing I'd rather be doing in the world at that moment than to be there, working on that amazing music with someone so completely passionate about it. It's quite a fantastic job that I have.
- It's my favorite time of year in Seattle right now -- the plum and cherry and magnolia trees are all blooming, and just starting to drop their petals so that a blanket of palest pink covers the ground under the trees. A few sunny, mid-60s days have started to creep in between the 50s and rain of early spring, and everyday there are new trees that have burst with that cheerful, light-green of baby leaves. I celebrated by getting my first pedicure of the season. :) Not really singing related, but fun nonetheless.
- I just received my final rehearsal schedule for the puppet opera. Turns out that I'll be playing a bit of recorder as well! I was a flutist in a former life, and I've played a little recorder, but I am by no means an expert! Hopefully the part will not be too difficult. :)
- Other than the puppet opera, I have a growing pile of music to learn on my piano right now, including a newly-added aria on my list for an upcoming audition, and some things I'm considering for a recital in the fall. Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis, and Mahler's Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen are in for sure, and I'm also looking at some Spanish songs, which I'll hopefully be able to use somewhere else in the fall as well. More on both of those things later.
- I finally came down with my first cold of the winter. It just squeaked in there before the equinox, so I guess it's also my only cold of the winter. It was bound to happen. The woman who is double-cast with me in the school-tour Barber was out for almost 2 weeks with a terrible cold, so I was in the van with 5 other people every day, going to schools full of children with early spring runny noses. During that time, I was also unable to get any swimming in, so it was no surprise when I started sneezing about a week ago. It seems to be about gone now, though. It was actually good timing -- my counterpart got healthy and made up some of her missed shows last week, and I had my first week in quite a while without any other rehearsals, auditions, or gigs, so I had plenty of time to rest and very little singing to do. Now that I'm healthy, it's back in to the pool tomorrow!
- That thing is happening to me right now that seems to happen every spring, where I suddenly find myself getting back in touch with long-lost friends and colleagues. It's one of my favorite things, catching up with old friends, so it's been fun!
Thursday, March 15, 2007
In other news, apparently my Canadian envy has paid off -- I'll be spending six weeks at the Banff Centre this summer, participating in their Opera as Theatre Program! Woo hoo!!! I'm not exactly sure what my assignments will be there, but more on that as things develop. At the very least, I'll be spending six weeks in a great program in an absolutely stunning setting, so I'm excited!
Friday, March 9, 2007
I've been working on Rossini lately, trying to gain some freedom in the runs. In a coaching the other day, BK stopped in the middle of "Non piu mesta" and said, "This is great. But, you know, you don't have to accent every 4th note of every scale! It sounds like a piano exercise." And I flashed back to the 15-year old me, who used to spend 30 minutes every day playing every major and minor scale in succession, 4 octaves in 16th notes, parallel and contrary motion, and accenting every 4th note! Of course, I didn't always play this way in actual pieces of music, but somewhere in me, I feel like that's the way scales are done. I've been thinking about my coloratura for months now, working on it with my teacher, talking to people about it, and everything helped a little, but nothing was really the answer. I guess I just had to hear it from a fellow pianist!
The result? I tried the run again, thinking all the way to the end in one long line, and ta-da!!!! Smooth, exciting, easy, long scale! Well, until I dissolved in to giggles at the end. :)
Sunday, March 4, 2007
First of all, the spelling. I feel so much more sophisticated going to the theatre, or attending a centre for something. Secondly, it's great to feel like I'm getting a refresher course in French every time I go to the grocery store. Also, it (well, Vancouver and Victoria, anyway) really feels like home. When I went to Indiana after finishing my bachelor's degree in Victoria, I found that immediately I had met a circle of Canadian friends. I felt, still feel, I think, more of an identity as someone who has lived in Canada than I do as an American, in broad terms. Of course, Seattle, is probably the most Canadian of any major US city, so that probably has something to do with it.
Canada, like the US, has had new designs for their money in the last few years. The picture of the queen has been aged appropriately, and her picture is bigger on the front. I noticed a quote on the back (in English and French, of course!) by Gabrielle Roy: "Nous connaitrons-nous nos-memes seulement un peu sans les artes?" "Can we ever know each other even a little without the arts?" On their MONEY, people! I mean, come on! How cool is that?
In other news, I'm ready to get cracking on my spring projects -- the St. Matthew Passion and the first opera known to be written by a woman: La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall' isola di Alcina, by Francesca Caccini. I'll be performing this with the Northwest Puppet Center. I'm totally excited about both of these projects, and ready to dive in. There are some exciting things in the works for next fall (one having to do with Canada, even!), but more on that later when they solidify a little more.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Somehow (knock on wood), I've avoided the plague so far, though my husband called from school a few minutes ago to say he thinks he has bronchitis, and a third of his class is out today with either bronchitis or pneumonia. I'm focusing on getting lots of sleep, drinking tons of water, and taking my vitamins for the next few days -- no time to be sick!
Every singer, I think, has a ritual for avoiding colds and flu. So far, I've been successful at fighting off sickness all winter. Mostly, I attribute this to the fact that I've been swimming most mornings, so my lungs and muscles are in better shape than they have been in years. I've been doing Emergen-C or Airborne when I'm in crowded places like planes or classrooms or when I'm around sick people, and Umcka and Zicam at the first hint of stuffy nose or tickle in my throat, and lots of water and tea. It's worked so far -- keep your fingers crossed!
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Today, my audition was at 12:15. This morning, I got up, caught up on some emails, took a shower, ironed my audition blouse, hummed a few notes, and tried to print out my resume. No toner! Not to worry, I had a copy from when I was in New York last month. Almost up to date, except that it still listed my December gigs under "upcoming engagements." Whatever, the panel will certainly get over that, if they even notice. Then, my pantyhose had a run. No more pairs of nude hose in the drawer. Oh, well. I found a pair of black ones. I wear slacks at my auditions lately (most of my list is trouser role arias these days), so it really didn't matter much. Still, I got a late start to my 9:00 a.m. staging rehearsal for Rosina. Then, on my way, I was pulled over because my car tabs have expired. They expire at the end of December and I always forget to renew them, with the holidays and all. I thought of it the other day, but there was no time to do it this week, and today my luck ran out. At least the officer was friendly and polite! I was 5 minutes late to my rehearsal, but apparently everyone else got stuck in traffic this morning, so it was no big deal. I hadn't done much warming up this morning, because I figured I'd do plenty of warming up at rehearsal. (I find a little Rossini is a great warm-up in the morning.) Unfortunately, we staged the beginning of the finale of our little show today, and Rosina doesn't do much singing at all for the first pages, so I had only sung a few notes by the time I left for the audition at 11:00. So, no time for rituals this morning! :)
I got a nice little warm-up in the car on the way to my audition (only about 15 minutes from the rehearsal), found a great parking space, and checked in with plenty of time to relax and collect my thoughts before going in. Seattle asked everyone to bring a monologue to auditions this year, and I love my monologue, so I was excited about that. I decided, after a coaching last week, to start with Komponist today. I've never done that at an audition before, but I was encouraged by my coach last week, and it's been feeling great lately, so I thought, why not? The audition went great. I was very happy with Komponist, and they surprised me by asking for Dopo Notte, a showy, Handel da capo aria. Generally, panels will only hear the A section of a long Handel aria, I've found, or sometimes the A and B sections, and then will cut the singer off before the second A section at the end. So I was a little surprised when I got to the end of the B section and I didn't hear any "thank you"s from the panel. I sang the whole thing, all 8 and a half minutes of coloratura and all 12 high As, and I have to say I was very happy with it. It was nice, actually, to get to do all the ornamentation I've worked out for the da capo section, and it occurred to me that I'm not sure anyone other than teachers and coaches have ever heard that section from me before! At the end we chatted for several minutes, mostly about the upcoming Poppea performances, then I did my monologue, and then I was done!
...and, as I've been writing this, I got a call with a call-back for tomorrow! Woo hoo! Now, what to start with tomorrow? This cold I've been fighting off will have to stay away for one more day....
Saturday, January 6, 2007
Lately I’ve been feeling tremendous gratitude for many things and people in my life. I suppose it’s sort of a New Year’s resolution – to recognize and appreciate the things I have. I’ve found that, once I start listing the things I’m grateful for to myself, it’s quite contagious and difficult to stop!
When I was younger, I used to keep a “happy book.” It was a tiny notebook, about 3”x3”, and it was filled with a running list of things, big and small, that made me happy. I’m sure I still have it lying around somewhere. I don’t write in it anymore (actually, I think I filled it!), but I was reminded of it today as I was driving to work and feeling grateful. This blog seems like a good place to keep track of a few things in my life that I appreciate. Here are a few that were in my thoughts today.
- Teachers have been popping up lately in many facets of my life – people who have been so generous with their time and their knowledge, and who continue to inspire me in countless ways. I am grateful for them.
- I’ve recently gotten back in touch with a dear friend with whom I had lost touch for a few years. Learning about what he’s been doing with his life, and how he’s grown, and being able to reflect on the last few years of my own life as I share it with him is such a blessing. At the same time, some new friendships are blossoming right now, as well. I’m grateful for them.
- I’m about to start rehearsals for several fun projects, including L’Incoronazione di Poppea (2 small roles) with the Seattle Early Music Guild, and my first Rosina with a school tour – if I can sing “Una voce poco fa” for a gym full of elementary school students every morning at 9:00 am, then I can take on Rosina or Angelina pretty much anywhere, I think.
- I found a gorgeous, cinnamon-colored cashmere sweater in my size today on sale for $40! (It’s important to be grateful for the small things, too, isn’t it?)
That’s just a few, but I have a feeling I might write more entries like this one from time to time…. What are you grateful for?
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
A brief recap: everything went very well. I was blessed this year in New York to be able to rent my own apartment in the Village for a week. I did 6 auditions in NYC this season, and was happy with all of them. Though we can never go by feedback we get at auditions (every singer learns that it really doesn't mean anything), I definitely left most of my auditions this season feeling extremely positive about the experience in general. Luckily, I have a busy few months coming up, so I don't have much time to sit around and wait for responses! I was also happy with all the concerts, especially the Magnificat, which is one of my all-time favorite pieces. For these performances, the group only hired 4 soloists (the score calls for 2 sopranos, but often it's done with 4 people). Unfortunately, this meant that I didn't get to sing my favorite movement, the gorgeous "Suscepit Israel," which is a trio for the three female soloists. When there's no second soprano, that movement is usually done by the choir. However, no second soprano soloist meant that I got to sing the soprano II aria, which is lovely. The more soprano II solos I do in Bach, the more I feel like they suit my voice a little better than some of the alto solos do (not that I don't love singing the alto solos). Unfortunately, there really aren't all that many soprano II solos out there! For my holiday concerts this season, I tried out a new gown. For a while now, I've been on the lookout for a green gown. I find that the soprano often likes to wear red for Messiahs and such (as shown by acb's lovely Messiah gown). Fine by me -- green is a better color for me, anyway. Unfortunately, green gowns are not nearly so easy to come by as red ones! But, over the summer, I found the perfect one. Emerald green silk. I'll post a picture when I have one. I did find that I had a similar experience to acb (in the link above). I got at least as many compliments on the dress as I did on my singing!
For the first time in years, I didn't have any gigs over the actual holidays, which was lovely. I definitely needed the break. It did feel a bit odd, though, not to have to get dressed up on Christmas Eve to go and sing somewhere. The way the family gatherings worked out, actually, Alec and I both had the entirety of Christmas Eve completely free. We slept in, went out for brunch, opened our gifts to each other, did crosswords, and watched movies all day. We might have to make that a holiday tradition.
Looking ahead to 2007: One of the luxuries of having my own space in my favorite neighborhoods of NYC this year was that it allowed me lots of time to reflect on this past year and how far I've come. Sometimes, it seems that when we're making the most progress (both personally and professionally), things are happening so fast that we don't notice until we have some time to reflect on it. I've been so busy this fall because I've been singing constantly, and my spring looks just as busy. I've basically been a full-time working singer this season, which feels great. In the coming year, I need to take that scary step that many young singers face: taking fewer gigs in order to make space for better gigs. It's a leap of faith, trusting that there's more out there. But, I've found that the universe tends to reward the steps that we take in faith on our own behalf. 2007 promises to be an exciting year in many ways. Right now, though, I have music to learn. Vacation's over -- back to work!