Oktoberfest, Prague

October 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm (Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Hello!  I have been traveling around, so I wanted to update you!

Last week, among other places, I went to Munich and Prague.  I was in both places on business, but it was my first time in either, so it was an adventure.

Munich started out as a pain in my ass.  I couldn’t find anywhere to stay because of Oktoberfest.  My friend Tracy lives there, but she and everyone she knew had rented out their apartments for Oktoberfest.  Hostels were all booked up, even as far away as Dachau.  Hotels were booked and/or insane rip-off prices- like $400 a night.  I finally found one for like $140 which was soooooooooooo painful for me, I’ve never paid that for lodging in my life (I am a youth hostel girl), but it was just not going to get better, and I didn’t want to cancel my plans, so I reserved it.  The reservation specifically stated no cancellations whatsoever.

So, the next day Tracy writes me that, oh hold on, she does have a place for me to crash. Ack! I called the hotel and asked if there was any way they could let me out of my reservation, and they said sure, no problem, they hadn’t actually charged my card yet since the reservation came in so late at night.  Yayyyyyy!!!

On my way to my audition I passed this:

“Toi toi” is opera for good luck- it’s our version of how theater people say “break a leg.”  I don’t know how I’m supposed to take it that it was on a port-o-potty.

Anyways, I took advantage of a long wait time to go shopping for the afternoon’s festivities.  Me and Tracy went to Oktoberfest!!  Or “Wiesn” like the cool kids call it.  She had been a million times so she was able to show me the ropes.

Prost!

Soooo fun!  I thought it was going to be all touristy and expensive, and it was, but it was still so fun!!  Probably a lot of it had to do with playing dress-up.  I am going to come up with every excuse I can find to wear this dirndl again and again!!!!  (Not hard for an opera singer.)  We went on a ride, we drank Willi (schnapps with a pear slice), we managed to find seats in one of the beer tents, had a giant pretzel, socialized with the drunks- the next table over was from Harrisburg, I hope they come see my Gilda there next year!!

Drinking Willi…

We only stayed a couple hours, then I had to go to Prague.  I threw my jeans on under my Landhausmode and jumped on a train.  Getting to where I was going was a huge pain in the ass.  First, for the first time ever this trip, and since I last used a Eurail Pass years ago, a ticket-clicker gave me a really hard time.  He tried to say my ticket wasn’t valid because I didn’t have my fill-in itinerary attached.  In retrospect I think he might be right, but I had thrown that out because it was doubling as an optional survey for the Eurail company, and I’d thought that’s all it was for.  But in all my intimate time with the Eurail Pass I had never had this part attached to it and no one had ever even hinted at asking for it.  So I’m just over the border into the Czech Republic and even though my ticket’s already been stamped by three people this guy’s telling me it’s not valid.  Well, what am I supposed to do?  He let it go but was a huge douchebag about it, “If I ever see you one more time without this I make you pay the ticket” etc etc.  Asshole.  It also says the ticket’s not valid without passport, but he didn’t ask me for my passport (and nobody else has yet, even crossing borders).  So, my entry into the Czech Republic was not very welcoming.

It only got worse from there.  I arrived at the train station after 11pm.  I had written down the “station” that my hostel was by, assuming it was a subway.  But I couldn’t find it on the subway map at all.  There was also an S train (probably a regional rail like in Berlin) and some sort of tram that WAS NOT CALLED A TRAM, it was called something complicated in Czech, and I couldn’t find maps of their lines.  I realized I had no idea what the exchange rate was, and tried to estimate it based on my youth hostel bill.  Once I had it figured out, I went to the only ATM in sight to take out what should be enough money to last me the two nights- but it gave it all to me in one big bill.  THANKS A FUCKING LOT ATM.  To make matters worse, the public transportation ONLY took coins.  Where the hell was I supposed to get Czech coins at 11:30 at night?  EVERYTHING was closed- EVERYTHING.  Even in the central train station.

I decided to figure out where I was going, so I called the hostel for directions, even though it was an international call.  (If I’d paid attention, I would have seen that they had included very detailed instructions in the booking email.  Yet another case of international unpreparedness.)  They told me I needed to take the tram.  I’m like, “What’s it called, there’s a bunch of different signs and none of them says tram.”  He’s like, “No, it’s called tram.”  He told me I needed to take the #5 tram and he didn’t know the direction, but I should take the one on the opposite side of the street from the station.  Except I couldn’t find the freaking tram at all.  (It was alll the way towards one corner of the yard in front of the station, not out in front or in back.)

Oh, I skipped the part where I decided to walk to the hostel, because Google Maps said it was a 52 minute walk, and I was like “At this rate that’s the fastest way I’m gonna get there” and started walking, but then I realized the Google directions were going over an inaccessible highway. THAT’S when I went back and called the hostel internationally.  (I was already paying international data rates to use Google Maps.)

Well I found the tram and waited and waited and waited til everyone had gotten on one but me. By this time I was starting to figure things out, so I deduced how to read the schedules.  It was midnight.  Under what appeared to say “Monday – Friday” only because it said “blahblah – blahblah” and what else would that mean, on the #5 schedule next to 0 (midnight) there were no listings.  This tram didn’t run late nights.  I had just missed the last one.

I called the hostel back and they were like, “Oops, sorry about that, I forgot.  Take a different tram one stop to this other stop, then you can catch a night tram from there.”  Well the other trams going that way were not coming any time soon so I just walked to the next stop.  It was another half hour before my tram finally came.  Since I had no coins and couldn’t buy a ticket, I just had to get on and hope the police didn’t come on checking tickets.  (That’s how public transportation works in Europe- there’s more honor system, but they check once in awhile and if you get caught there’s a big fine.)  There just wasn’t any choice, I didn’t figure my chances of getting caught were that great, and anyways, how big of a fine could it be in freaking Prague? It’s cheap over there!!  So I found my stop (and the hostel) very easily, no “control” (people checking tickets), and there was even a 24-hour pizza delivery place that the receptionist ordered from for me.  It was terrible pizza and kinda of a rip-off (for the area), but it was hot food on a long night.  I got to the hostel at about 1am, I don’t think my pizza came until like 2:30.

So the next day I got to explore Prague!!!

It was cloudy and sorta dreary.  I spent a chunk of the morning (afternoon) having phone drama (my iPhone nearly crapped out on me- I got the Sad iPhone), then once I got that more or less straightened out I got to explore the city- Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square, and all around the castle. I just walked and took pictures.

It’s hard to pick which pictures to post, if I don’t want to be all day at this!

I had a really great dinner, just the kind of thing I wanted- as close as you can get to traditional fare, except vegetarian.  Some crepes filled with spinach and cheese, plus some brie with cranberry sauce and like walnuts or something (I forget now) as an appetizer, and a nice big dark Czech beer- the whole meal ran me like $14, and it was nice!!  Actually, the only money I spent the whole two nights was the hostel, good food, and a postcard I sent to my parents because I needed change for the subway.  (Oh and I guess a few subway tickets once I got change.)

OK srsly though it’s late now, I’m out.  Happy dreams of beer hall girls.

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The void

November 20, 2008 at 3:09 am (Music) ()

My first performance of Pirates is over, as well as the concert version I did.  I have one more show on December 7 and then that’s it.

That’s really it.  I’ve had all engagements all year, some booked many months in advance and some extremely last-minute.  This is the last show on my calendar.  I have a smattering of probable/possible shows in 2009-2010, but nothing definitively booked, no dates set.

How do I feel?  First off, a little panicked.  Is this the end of my lucky streak?  Were the signs that my career was really getting off the ground just a series of flukes?  Is my de facto boycott of auditions coming around to bite me in the ass?  (It was when I finally got fed up and decided to stop auditioning for things- at least where I didn’t already have an “in”- that I suddenly started getting bookings.)

Here is my maybe calendar, in order of probability:

1. Viva la mamma, January 2010.  This one I’m told is definite, but I don’t have dates yet, nor a decision on which version of the score we’re using, so I can’t really start learning it.

2. Suor Angelica (Genovieffa), Spring 2010.  I don’t officially have the role, but the director told me she thought it would be a great role for me and to remind her later when she officially does the casting.

3. Ariadne auf Naxos, June 2009?  We’ve been planning this production for a couple years now, but it keeps getting pushed back- first because of funding, then because the company wants to do it in English and can’t find a singing translation.  They had a plan to get one, but I haven’t heard back from them in ages on their progress.  I keep meaning to call them, but the guy’s number is on the sim card on my old phone and I need to dig it out.

4. The Sorcerer, Spring 2009.  The company I’m currently performing G&S with is still making decisions about their upcoming season.  People keep asking me if I’m going to do the next show, which will probably be the Sorcerer, and I can’t say yet.  Because I have a big important church job, and many of their shows are on Sunday afternoons, it will only work out if the casting works out like the last two shows I’ve done with them: I’m double cast and don’t have to sing chorus on my day off.  That way my double can do the shows I can’t get to.  However, they haven’t chosen the director yet, and that’s the person I would have to talk to about this.

5. Something, maybe Nozze di Figaro, July 2009.  The company is still trying to figure out whether or not they have the budget to produce a full opera this year.  What it would be is not sure, but Figaro was mentioned by the main sponsor.  If they do I show I’m sure they’ll have a role for me, they are very good to me.

Of course there are several directors who have promised me a role next time they have something up my alley- some of them I have to keep on to remind them, some I know don’t have anything coming up for me next season as it is.

It would be nice to work with someone new- maybe I’ll have to put a few auditions out there after all.  It just feels like such a waste of energy, as a soprano.

So how am I dealing with this void of suddenly not having any upcoming shows?  The first time I went to practice after my opening night of Pirates, I was at a loss.  I didn’t know what to sing, and I was really unmotivated to pull anything out.  I finally decided to start with Messiaen’s vocalise, which I hadn’t looked at since Paris.  This piece would surprise anyone who knows anything by Messiaen- it’s totally tonal, melodic, very similar to those of Rachmaninoff and Gliere, or Sirenes from Debussy’s La Mer.  You can hear the Messiaen in some of the instrumentals, but it’s more like the free toy in a box of cereal than the cereal itself.  (Interesting side note- all the recordings on iTunes are arranged for instruments, no voice.  Maybe I’ll make the first vocal recording!)  It turned out to be the perfect thing to start back with- vocally exposed enough to make me really concentrate on my vocal technique, beautiful and interesting enough to keep me happy.

Then I worked on “a Serpina penserete.”  I’m tired of all my over-used Italian arias and was thinking of changing out for this.  Benefits: It shows legato without being too long (if you don’t do the da capo, which is not indicated), it shows acting to the extreme, it is light enough that no one will criticize me for singing something too heavy.  (People are extremely opinionated about these things, yet no one agrees on them.)  Drawbacks: People never do La serva padrona, and I’m not particularly looking to do it again (I totally would but it’s not a priority)- I usually like to sing something that I’m either literally or theoretically auditioning for.  Also, I don’t want to be labeled a soubrette, because that’s just not what I am.  Also, it ends really awkwardly if you don’t either da capo or continue on to the following recitative.  Plus I don’t want people to think I’m an early music specialist, or if there are any style points I might be missing because I’m NOT an early music specialist.  But I think I sing it really well vocally and I love that I can really, really act in it- honestly, most audition arias don’t lend themselves well to hardcore acting in an audition situation.  It’s very awkward, and many people either don’t want to see your acting or don’t want to see you gesticulating or moving around.  So to really be committed to your acting in an audition, you need to sing something that FORCES you to act.  I’m not saying that’s the right path for everyone, but for me, it’s my acting that really makes me what I am, even moreso than those silly high notes- whatever the reason I get hired, it’s what really sells me to my audience in the end.

OK this entry is long enough, away with me.  Talk atcha later.

Love always,

Amanda

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