Our run of Virginia

December 13, 2010 at 12:19 am (Music) (, , , )

Done. FLUSHHH! That was the music going out of my brain.

Both performances of Mercadante’s Virginia have passed.

Opening night was pretty much a trainwreck.  Personally, I was on fire.  I knew my music, I had good ideas for my character, and I tore the stage up, especially my first scene, which is mostly just me: my aria and cabaletta, with some minimum dialogue with Marco.  Since I’m self-sufficient in the scene, and freshly optimistic since it’s the first scene of the opera and nothing had gone wrong yet, I had a lot of positive energy and really went all-out with it.

The second act is where things really got messy.  There is a lot of “scene” in the second act, ie a lot of each character saying one line here or there while the accompaniment plays music under us.  As opposed to, you know, an aria or a duet or an ensemble.  The thing is, these “scenes” are the hardest thing to learn when you don’t have enough rehearsals, because you have to worry so much about your entrances- when you say what, what line is next, where to find your next note.  Unfortunately, they are also the part that people spend the least time working on.  So things can really fall apart, especially if not many people in the ensemble really know the music, or if you have no conductor, or if the pianist isn’t strong in their part.

So, that’s basically what happened.  I had learned my part thoroughly, enough to stay on track even when other people didn’t sing their lines.  Largely because I knew we would be under-rehearsed, and honestly I was pretty sure not everyone would know all their entrances- or, they might know them, but not enough to get them even when the person before them missed their cue.  I had prepared for this.  But, I really only had a few lines in these scenes, so there wasn’t much I could do to help.  So yeah, there was a lot of everyone standing on stage looking at each other.

See, in theater, when you forget your line, there is some TORTUROUSLY uncomfortable silence, and either someone will look at you/give you a hint, or someone will improvise something, hopefully either paraphrasing your line for you or otherwise getting around it, maybe just skipping over it if it wasn’t important.

In opera, if you forget your line, the music keeps going.  Hopefully it doesn’t go long before someone figures out where they are and jumps back in with the singing.  In this case, it went quite a long time.  It was pretty awful, one time I was really convinced that Ralph was going to cut us off and just start the scene over, on-book.  But eventually we got to a part where everyone knew where we were and got back on track.  The day was saved!

The rest of the opera pretty much went better, but it was a trying day.  I needed a drink after that, but everyone was like, “next week, next week, I can’t tonight.”  I did talk the mezzo and, with much prodding, another soprano, into going to El Vez for margaritas and guac.  Then the mezzo was going to play in an open mic, so I went with.

It was really fun!  There was no “open mic drama” about too many people wanting to play, having to fight for a decent slot, only getting to play two songs.  Even though we got there late, the girl running it let me skip forward in the list so I could make my bus back to NY, and we were each allowed to play four freaking songs!  That’s a lot for an open mic, that’s like half the length of most of my sets in New York!  The audience was very responsive and I even sold a CD.  So that made up for the lousy opera performance.

Today was the second and last performance.  I’d say it went a lot better overall.  There were still people missing lines, but at least we knew what to expect.  I learned that, as the person who knew the score best, it was actually very useful to look intently (and in character) at people who were supposed to sing next so they felt assured that it was their turn.  (Some people in this cast are inexperienced, so that kind of hint can go a long way.)  In some of the big scenes, when people forgot lines, I would hum them just loud enough for the other cast members to hear- at least to help everyone know where in the music we were.  I know over-helping can be obnoxious, but I think in this case it was needed.

I definitely felt less energized today.  I guess that’s normal for a second performance.  Or maybe I was just jaded from the rough show last week.  I perked up a lot during my final duet with Icilio, that came out fierce.  The rest of it I was a lot less animated than last week.

Ralph did finally thank me.  I was a little peeved he didn’t say much after the first performance, but this time he specifically thanked me for coming in last minute.  So, OK. I still wish he would just give me better roles.  Every show I do for him I show up first rehearsal, off-book, sing circles around everyone, hold the scenes together- and he’s still never given me a better role than Frasquita (replacing another Frasquita).  Sigh.  Who wants to be booked to sing in a church basement for free three years from now, anyways.

Nobody wanted to go out after this performance.  I didn’t even really ask, everyone sort of bolted for the door.  LAME.

The perks: got to do my first pants role, which I think went well.  I did pretty decent man make-up, but no one got any pics!  I got to learn some really nice new music.  Yeah, I made fun of it, but there is some really nice stuff in there.  Got to meet some new people.  Sold a CD to the mezzo.  Made good impressions on people.  Now no longer have a gap on my resume for 2010.

Anyways, I’m glad it’s over, as my iPod is too full and now I can delete it and put something else on instead. :)

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What’s it’s like for singers to talk to non-singers.

December 3, 2010 at 1:04 am (Music) (, , , )

My friend Marcy made this and it has gone totally, insanely (at least for something in the classical music world) viral.  I think EVERYBODY should watch this- singers because they’ll laugh their asses off, but moreso non-singers so they’ll know what we have to freaking put up with from their ilk.

Usually I hate these videos, because every single one I’ve seen follows the exact same format: one “normal” person, representing either a certain profession/viewpoint, or just being “everyman” to someone else, and another “annoying” person being totally unreasonable and asinine.  They are sometimes funny and sometimes not, but the thing that gets me is how one-sided and formulaic they are.

However, this one is just really, really, really good.  I have had SO many versions of this conversation, and getting most of these questions and comments is basically like being bludgeoned with a blunt object.  Over and over.  So I wanted to share for everyone’s sake.

I thought if I’m going to post it I should at least make some commentary:

“You have a nice voice” OMG.  I respond exactly the way the character does: “I should.”

“All operas are in Italian, right?” I hear this so much.  I guess you can’t blame people for not knowing that, though.

“Sing me a song from Lulu.  I’ll recognize it from commercials, maybe.”  This line had me ROFLing.  For those that don’t know, Lulu is a “modern” opera, essentially atonal, and the arias sound something like this:

I myself love the music, but “Sing me a song from Lulu” isn’t something you’d hear every day.  Still, it makes me wonder what that commercial would be selling… hmm…

“You sound like Sarah Brightman.” Yeah, take my word for it, never tell an opera singer this.  We know you mean it as a compliment, but- ouch.

“Pavarotti is my favorite opera singer.” Wow, I cannot tell you how many people who don’t know anything about opera but want to pretend they do say this.  Of course, Pavarotti was amazing and it’s totally cool to have him as your favorite singer, but if he’s the only opera singer you’ve ever heard of, just admit it.  Oh, also I love, “My favorite opera singers are Pavarotti and the other two guys in the Three Tenors.”  C’mon, if you’re gonna fake it, try harder.

“Just sing me a high note.” Arghh, this one is so annoying.  While I know many singers who use the “do for me for free what you do for a living right now” defense, I prefer to say, “I’m a professional, you have to pay me.  I’m expensive.”  Hey, you never know, maybe I’ll get twenty bucks out of it!

“I did not think they had opera there.”  I definitely hear this a lot.  If you don’t think your nearest small city has opera, google and check- and then GO TO IT!!

“It is a connection.”  Marcy was brilliant to put this in there, because people say it about everything they can think of.  We appreciate the thought, and if you legitimately have somebody who can get us somewhere we will be eternally grateful, but at the end of the day, we know how it works better than you do- trust us.  Oh, and I probably know more people who work at the Met than you do.

“You should be on American Idol.”  I hear this so much that I finally auditioned for them one year just so I had a comeback.

“You’re to skinny.”  This is a HUGE one, but the response in this is brilliant!!!!!!  Omg.  Usually I just pull out a copy of Opera News from my purse and show them the pics of the singers.

“That does not seem right.  I had no idea people were paid to sing in church.”  I can’t tell you how much I hear this.  So let me explain it in a new light.  Think of it this way: churches use both volunteers and professionals.  If you bring a specialized skill set, you get paid.  This includes construction workers, engineers, architechts (I am speaking from experience, my father used to be a church building consultant), organists, priests (!!)- and highly trained and experienced singers.  Not to mention, high-level liturgical choral singing requires its own skill set, apart from that of other classical singers (especially the ability to sight-read and to sing with no vibrato, which many opera singers can’t or won’t do).  I agree with Marcy’s response that church work has kept me away from my family during holidays- plus, forced me to give up Saturday nights out for as long as I can remember (as far back as high school).  That’s a big deal when all your friends are musicians.

I like how it sounds like she’s saying “I have worked at McDonald’s as a stripper.”

“I’m afraid I can’t.”  I love how people will rave about my singing to my face, then NOT buy my album- or come to any of my shows.  I guess I appreciate the compliments, but they would seem more sincere if there was some follow-up, even in the form of $10 towards a CD.

Some big ones that I would have included:

“You’re a singer?  You’re so lucky!!”  Some people seriously think you are just born with a great voice and then you audition for something and become successful.  Genetics do play a part.  Unfortunately you never really learn how much of a part until you’ve already invested your whole life in singing for years.

“I never go to the opera because I can’t understand what they’re singing about.”  They are SO surprised when I tell them there are subtitles.  I hope once I tell them, they are out of excuses and they go.

Have a great night everyone- and, GO TO THE OPERA!!!!

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How Joan Sutherland ruined it for everybody, and how we loved every minute of it.

October 11, 2010 at 5:48 pm (Music) (, , , , , , )

Joan Sutherland died. =…(

I’m so sad!  I just knew this would happen soon.  Ever since I was informed of her gardening accident during my run of Daughter of the Regiment, I just knew it didn’t look good.  I really, really wanted to interview her for Classical Singer, but didn’t know how to get ahold of her or anyone who worked for her.  I asked a conductor I’d worked with who knew her- actually I think I asked him twice, if he had any leads, any idea who to ask, and he never got back to me.  I mean, since she wasn’t singing anymore, she didn’t have a whole team of agents and managers and PR people that I could go through.  I’m not saying I exhausted my resources- I probably could have called the press office at the Met and asked them what I should do, but I’ve had bad luck with them in the past, when I had legitimate reasons for them to call me back- I didn’t imagine I would have better luck asking them to help out just as a favor.  (That said, I did once call Opera News with a random question and they were awesome about it and helped me out.)

It was just- I knew the end was approaching, and she was really, really, truly, one of the greats.  Of ALL TIME.  Like, top 5 on probably any list.  And I just wanted to get her words for young singers.  I knew she would have amazing things to say.  But, no contacts were forthcoming in my initial inquiries, so I put it on the back burner until something seemed to come up, which it never did, and now it’s too late.

Joan Sutherland- she was a problem.  A big problem for people like me- for sopranos everywhere, really.

It’s not just in a generic way, like “she was so good no one could live up to her.”  I mean, there are plenty of other singers you could ostensibly say that about, but no, they didn’t ruin soprano’s lives the way Dame Joan did.

See, we opera singers, and ESPECIALLY we sopranos, are divided up into different “Fachs” or categories of voice types, which correspond to the roles we sing.  You can have a big loud voice, or you can have a luscious pretty voice, or, if you’re like me, you can have a really high voice that does stunts.

The casting directors used to have to choose.

Then Sutherland happened.  She had all of those things.  She had a big, loud, luscious, pretty, high voice that did stunts.

And then the maestri, the artistic directors, the public- they didn’t have to choose anymore.  Now the sound they heard in their minds’ ears when they pictured a coloratura was larger, richer- and still with extreme high notes and flawless coloratura.  Why should they settle for a cute little voice, when there were people like Joan out there?

Of course, she was the only Sutherland, but I’ve always felt that there was a shift there.  That she single-handedly ended the era that featured Lily Pons and Amelita Galli-Curci.  Of course I’m over-simplifying and scape-goating, but that was how it was explained to me as a music student, and it stayed with me.  It was the “reason people don’t want to hire you to sing bel canto.”  And it’s pretty much held true- to this date I have starred in only one bel canto opera, La Fille du Régiment- and that’s sort of an exception, it is more traditionally associated with sprightly coloraturas than, say, Sonnambula or Puritani.  Plus, it’s in French, for which I have a leg up over other American sopranos.

She screwed things up for larger voices too- the bar had been raised.  Sutherland can sing insanely fast and flawless coloratura, why can’t YOU?

So I hated Joan Sutherland.  Except you can’t.  She’s too awesome.

On the surface, she never made my short list of favorite singers.  Besides having a bone to pick with her about my career (being a small-voiced coloratura), I tend to gravitate towards singers I can relate to on a musical level- people with voices more akin to my own.  My CD players during my musical formative years were stocked with Lily Pons, Amelita Galli-Curci, Beverly Sills, Sumi Jo- people who were not mistaken for Wagner singers early in their careers.  But the truth is, I never sang one of Sutherland’s roles without consulting her recording.  OK, without buying her recording and listening to it over and over and over again because it’s so great you can’t tear yourself away.

To me and to probably more sopranos than anyone else, Sutherland represented the unattainable ideal.  And she maintained this position with distinct imperfections.  Most obviously, her diction.  One – two?- of my voice teachers, trying to kick my legato in the ass, used to say, “You don’t have to get that hung up on pronunciation. Look at Sutherland- nobody ever understood a word she sang, and it didn’t stop her!”  She was not commended for her acting abilities- and is one of the singers you know are being referred to whenever someone complains about how “opera singers of yesterday couldn’t act.”  And her looks- being tall is great for models but bad for sopranos, as it leaves you towering over your often-shorter tenor.  Plus she had a huge, wide jaw that made her a bit odd-looking.  Of course many who fell in love with her voice fell in love with her face as well.

So, Dame Joan in Heaven (you get to keep your titles when you get your harp and wings, right?) a sarcastic “thank you” for making my career more difficult than it already is, and a heartfelt “thank you” for being the greatest soprano of our lifetime.

Now’s the part where I obligatorily paste a YouTube video. There are a couple going around today, her Lucia, her Norma- I’m more of a Lucia-lover, and since so many of my readers are not opera people, this clip shows everything that’s amazing about her.

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Opera porn, Regie, and Bieito’s Entführung

June 30, 2010 at 3:28 pm (Music) (, , , , , )

I don’t write reviews on this blog, but I wanted to share my reaction to seeing Calixto Bieito’s Entführung aus dem Serail at the Komische Oper Berlin last month, webbing into the controversial topics of Regie/Eurotrash productions and opera porn.

So, I didn’t go to see as much opera in Berlin as you’d expect, with me being an opera singer and there being three really good opera houses there.  I was living a block away from the Deutsche Oper Berlin, but they just didn’t have anything I wanted to see while I was there.  I tried to see Figaro at Unter den Linden, but the only affordable tickets left were the really really cheap ones, and the man at the counter told me you couldn’t really see the stage from there, it was really just for listening.  And I love to listen to opera, but damn Figaro is a really long opera to sit through if you can’t see anything and don’t have a beer.  But I noticed that the Komische Oper was doing Entführung aus dem Serail on a night that I happened to be free.

Entführung, besides being a mouthful for those who don’t speak German (you can get away in most circles with calling it “Abduction,” as the full translation is “Abduction from the Seraglio” but nobody really uses the word Seraglio in common English yet tradition has decided on that as being closer to the German rather than Harem), is among those operas that I know up-and-down without ever having actually physically seen it live.  I’ve studied it, translated the entire thing, listened to it many times, seen it on DVD, sung Durch Zärtlichkeit a billion freaking times since early college (as I’ve mentioned before, not my favorite aria but I think I’d like it more if I’d done the role in a full production), even memorized some of the dialogue for an audition once.  But just never happened across a live production of it that was convenient to my schedule or budget.  So when I saw that the Komische Oper was performing it on a night I had free, I jumped on the opportunity.

I had no idea what I was getting into.  I hadn’t ever heard (to my memory) specifically about this production of Die Entführung, which premiered in 2004 (explanation for non-opera buffs: although for most operas in the standard repertory, the words and music were written many many many years ago, the production- which is like, the staging, the sets, the costumes, the direction- is something that is always changing; a big company will usually have its own production that it uses again and again over the years, or sometimes companies share productions and the materials and “concept” travel from one theater to another), although I did have a very clear idea on how “Regietheater,” sometimes known as “Eurotrash productions” because they are bigger in Europe (especially Germany) than here, liked to be innovative and often shocking.  I guess the scope of explaining that to the uninitiated is beyond the scope of this blog post, but, you know- they get REALLY WEIRD.

What I didn’t know I was getting into was an EXTREMELY INFAMOUSLY SHOCKING SCANDALOUS production that was literally forbidden to audience members under 18.  That’s right: X-rated opera.

Instead of me trying to recap everything that was insane about this production, I really really really want you to read this fabulous article about it by Lydia Steier, from the 2004 premier.  Seriously, it’s a thorough and wonderfully-written article and I know it’s long, but if anything I’d rather you read this than the rest of this blog entry.

You can also watch this trailer, but I don’t think it captures the entirety of the thing quite as well: (maybe a little NSFW, even though it’s YouTube)

It’s funny, because the overture to the opera opens with a trapeze act.  As you know, I am an amateur aerialist, so I’m always happy to see that stuff.  And I do see a lot of aerial work in opera.  So I’m all like, oh look trapeze, maybe this will be a cool production after all!  And then the rest of the opera had like NOTHING to do with that at all.

Let’s see, where to start.  Well, once I read that article and found out that a lot of the dirtier deeds in the opera had been done by specially-hired adult entertainers, I was actually MUCH less offended, because I’d been thinking all along that it they had been forcing chorus girls to do all that stuff.  But I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.

Things that offended me most in the opera:

1. Pasha fingering Konstanze during her high notes (not actually fingering her, but realistically enough)

2. Osmin, pulling Blonde’s panties off during Durch Zärtlichkeit (she still had a skirt on so you couldn’t see anything but still it was gross)

3. Topless hookers

4. Pasha’s monologue about fucking a pig and smelling its dying fart

5. Simulated sex in one of the hooker booths

6. When they just shot up all the hookers at the end (maybe that was less offensive and more just… STUPID)

(I was less offended than the rest of the audience when Osmin slaughtered the hooker, but I was also sitting in the back and thus did not get such a graphic view; in fact I wasn’t even sure what was going on.)

Things in the opera that I actually thought were really cool ideas:

1. The Pasha was obviously coked up, justifying his schizophrenic “You are so beautiful I love you tenderly I KEEL YOU!!!!!!” dialogues

2. Blonde was a pill-head, which explains why she’s so happy and peppy all the time despite her situation as a kidnapped sex slave

3. The general concept of updating a Harem to a brothel is not so far-fetched at all.

So, like I said, I was less offended when I realized they’d hired professional adult entertainers to be in the production.  Because the main thing that offends me is less that gross things are happening, more that opera singers (and especially chorus members as they always seem to get the worst of it) are expected to do them.  Like, classical music is something that’s supposed to be sort of pure and good, even when it’s badass and modern.  Like, opera has always had adult themes, in fact opera is pretty much all about sex and violence all the time, but it’s always been tasteful and/or artistic, not shock-value porn.  Of course you have to account for different cultures and time periods, but things were very censored once upon a time, and even then censorship was more about politics than anything else.

So what I’m getting at is, like, parents make their little 5-year-old kids study classical music, we sing classical music in church, nobody is going into it with the expectation of ending up in low-paid porn.  (I feel just as bad for the orchestra members who had to be a part of this production, who were apparently incensed, as I do for the singers acting it out.)  And when I’m watching this stuff, what’s really going through my mind is, “I would be fired for refusing to do that… and that… oh and I’d be fired again right there…”  And I think it’s really not fair for the amazingly talented artists who have made it this far in the field of opera, which requires an insane amount of talent and hard work and sacrifice and (usually) intelligence, to potentially lose their jobs or not get hired because they have slightly more traditional moral values (or self esteem or backbone) than those who are willing to cross those lines.

The magazine I write for, Classical Singer Magazine, dedicated an entire issue to this topic this year.  If you are a subscriber, you can read it here. And I highly recommend it- some of the stories are shocking, but its also interesting to see the varied points of view on this.

As for Regietheater in general, I guess I feel the way a lot of people do- I’m not outright against it if it works with the original story and hopefully adds something.  There are some more “creative” productions that I’ve really loved.  But most of them are just plain silly and/or stupid.  I do not want to go to the opera to be shocked, nor do I want to go to the opera to help digest my dinner, as some avant garde directors claim.  I go to the opera because I love opera and I want to hear and see something amazing, maybe even be blown away.  And I love to see a fabulously well-done traditional production.  Yeah, I like the Zeffirelli shows.  Not exclusively, but I do like them a lot.  So, you know.  Moderation I guess.  Stop trying to shock us just to make us “feel” something.  It’s not that hard to make people feel something.  I live in NYC, if somebody looks at you the wrong way you’re gonna feel something- pissed off, threatened, aggressive- hell, you’ll probably feel a lot of things.  You don’t win a medal for making people feel uncomfortable.

Honestly I have always thought this sort of opera production was sort of a phase opera was going through.  But I thought we’d be past this stage of it by now.  I mean, really, we’re such a visual society that it makes perfect sense that the production would be the focus right now.  And I figure we won’t really get past it until we have the next really, really, amazingly huge superstar in one of the other facets- conducting, composing, singing, even the choir.  But I’m talking Pavarotti-famous, not Juan Diego Florez-famous (love him though!!!!!).

In the meantime, I’m happy doing what I’m doing- I’ve been fortunate to be in a lot of productions that, while updated or modernized, have always been sensible and entertaining- and if somebody told us to do something that I thought was dirty, I was just like “Yeah no we’re not doing that” and it was never an issue.  I would like to start getting some work in Europe though, and then we’ll see how that pans out.  Maybe directors will have calmed the fuck down by then.  I keep telling myself that…

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Germany

June 28, 2010 at 1:49 am (Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , , , , , , )

Hey!  I am mega overdue to speak with you.  I never even finished writing about my trip that was over almost a month ago.  I’ve had lots of ideas for things I wanted to blog about but haven’t felt inspired to sit down and write any of them.

But lots of people are asking me about Germany so I feel like I should wrap that up for you.

FAQs:

You were there for an audition tour, right?

Sorta.  I originally wanted to do that, but couldn’t really pull it together in time and under the circumstances, so I was considering it more of an audition preview.  So I just did a few very minor auditions, worked on my German, met some cool people, wrote an article for Classical Singer, checked out the city, had some coachings, did a little circus training, oh and jaunted over to Paris just ’cause it’d been too long.

Are you going back?

I don’t know yet, it depends on the sublet situation on both continents.

Did you play any gigs?

Yes, I played a gig at my friend’s art gallery, MMX.  I hadn’t realized at first that a girl I had worked with at Pink Inc. had moved to Berlin and helped found an art gallery there.  So once I found out she was there too, I swung by the gallery and hung out, and they mentioned they were still looking for someone to play their closing at the end of the month.  I was hesitant at first, because I was so far out of practice with guitar (as has gotten me into trouble before, I only practice when I have a specific gig coming up), and I hadn’t brought anything with me- no instrument, no equipment, no CD’s, no merch, no publicity materials, no charts.  But I thought it would be cool to have my Berlin debut so I eventually offered.  They lent me a guitar and had a PA system so it worked out.  The gig ended up being a little weird because, since the crowds were all congregating outside in the garden, they suggested I play out there, but just about when I started, night finally hit (comes late in Berlin in the summer) and it got dark and cold very suddenly and people went inside, leaving me playing outside with no light and no amplification.  So not that many people really ended up hearing my whole set, and I didn’t have any CD’s to sell and there was no pay, so I don’t know if the gig did me any good or not.  Only two people approached me afterwards, one who wanted to use my music in a movie he was working on whom I haven’t heard from, and one who loved my set and was gung-ho determined to order my album online since I didn’t have any with me, whom I also haven’t heard from (and who hasn’t ordered it- I have few enough customers that I can keep track!).  But I got to have my Berlin debut, and play some guitar which always ends up being fun once I really get down to it, and it was a fun little project for the end of my trip!

So as for “how it went,” it was a good trip.  Love Berlin.  The month was a little weird for me because for part of it I just did not have enough structure- even though I’m self-employed, vast stretches of free time are not a part of my vocabulary.  And then the latter part of the month I was pretty slammed.  So I guess it was unbalanced, and could have been fixed if I’d gotten off my ass in the first couple days and organized my plans- start right away organizing the interview for CS, set up coachings, get in touch with people to hang out with, instead of laying in bed “adjusting.”  But to be fair it took me awhile to get my phone and internet going.

As for singing and auditioning, the feedback I got was extremely varied, but it all hinged on “There’s no positions available in your Fach right now and there’s 1000000 people in line for those 0 positions.”  Ah, the curse of the coloratura.  We have to sing circles around everyone else, but still can’t get hired.  Actually, you know what would be a really fun research project?  Take a handful of standard audition arias, of the same length but of different Fachs, and literally count how many notes each singer has to sing.  Like, a 3 minute full lyric soprano aria versus a 3 minute light lyric coloratura soprano aria.  Of course the coloratura soprano will generally have more (generally, because there is florid singing in most Fachs, not just ours), but I’d like to see an actual ratio.  Hm, that could be a potential article, or at least blurb. :)

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Ariadnes 1 & 2

December 11, 2009 at 6:26 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

It’s almost time for my second and last Zerbinetta of this run, and I haven’t written about the first one yet.  You know what else I haven’t done since the first one?  Practice.  Bad!  It just didn’t happen- a lot of work, gig, writing, running around, trying to wake up at a non-zombie hour.  Every day I wanted to, intended to, but it never worked out.  No practicing, no blogging.  And tomorrow (tonight, really) is the second show.

The show went alright.  I haven’t heard a recording or seen a video yet (though I did see one of the Prologue of the dress rehearsal, which was pretty good), so I don’t really know how it looked and sounded.  I took a lot of time to warm up and practice a few things after church in the upstairs room.  All these parish kids kept running in and out between my high notes, getting their coats and looking for each other.  They all said they liked my voice. :) Anyways, despite the practice time, I will admit I wasn’t in my usual good voice that day.  I’ve mentioned before, though I have excellent stamina, sometimes I get worn out singing straight tone for long periods, especially in high tessitura.  Mind you, I love straight tone.  Love it.  Singing it, listening to it.  Don’t believe it’s vocally unhealthy, don’t usually have trouble with it.  But- in moderation.  When it drags on for hours, and when I’m singing up in my passagio (which tends to fall around G-A above the staff, which are the high notes for most choral music), I get vocally tired and icky.  For some reason church that morning was kind of a screamer- lots of singing, lots of high singing.  I did feel like it affected my voice, which is rare but does happen.  So I was feeling vocally bleck.  Not saying I missed my high notes or tripped over any runs, just felt vocally clumsy.  Hopefully, and probably, it’s the kind of thing only I can hear (most of my HUGE PROBLEMS with my voice I’m always trying to work out are tiny things nobody can hear but me), but don’t you ever just have when you’re singing and you’re like, “Bleh, this isn’t what singing’s supposed to feel like.  Singing is fun, this is dumb!”  I spend enough time singing that it’s a big part of my voice and it should be enjoyable.  Especially during a big exciting performance!!

What else, hm, it was so many days ago now… the audience loved my “clowns”!  I think they kinda stole the show. :) Got tons of laughs, from the moment they walked onstage during the second half.  I think the whole “wo ist sie” part of the 2nd quintet (a trio at that point) was the funniest part, the guys are so hilarious there (running around the theatre pretending to look for me), and I’m sitting on Harlequin’s lap in the audience making faces at them and being silly.  We improvised a little audience interaction which just made the bit.

Oh, here’s a good story- I mentioned before the Najade (OK I finally looked up how to spell it- so many options- Naiad, Nyade, Nayade, etc etc) was not double-cast, so I started learning her part just in case she got sick.  So she DID get sick, but they called in the girl who was supposed to be her double but who dropped out due to schedule constraints, and she did the first show.  I was sad, ’cause I really wanted to do it!!  But then our real Najade was still sick for the second show (my first Zerbinetta, as I was in the second cast), and the “cover” couldn’t do that one.  I wish they had said something to me- I had expressed interest in singing it, and they said “but then you couldn’t sing it on the nights when you’re Zerbinetta” and I’m like YES I CAN SILLY, but nobody listens to me, no!  Anyways they had no Najade so they had a flautist play her part.  On the flute, from the orchestra.  Weird.  I totally could have sung her part from the orchestra pit- I only have one line during Najade’s scenes and I’m offstage for that line anyways, and it doesn’t overlap.  But nobody else realized that except me, and nobody asked me, and whatever, somebody can play flute, it’s not like she says anything that the other characters don’t say or anything.  Presumably the actual Najade will be back for tomorrow’s (tonight’s) show.

There was a person from the Epoch Times there!  I guess that’s why there was a guy snapping photos in the front row the whole time.  See?  Here’s the write-up, featuring a big picture of me making Opera Face!

That can’t possibly be the best picture he got of me.  But I guess it’s not TECHNICALLY all about me.  This time.  (Really it is, but not TECHNICALLY.)

Oh speaking of pictures, my friend Philine came and took mad photos.  I was going to embed a bunch of them here, but she does this thing with her flickr account where you can’t download or link to them.  They’re like super-secret or something.  So you just have to go look at them here. Tons of good shots.  enjoy!

Oh another thing about the show, I don’t sleep on Saturday nights/Sunday mornings.  Not very much at least.  I’m a night person, and night for me is later than for many other people.  Like right now it’s 6:30 am and I’m still up.  So even if I stay in Saturday night, I can’t necessarily just fall asleep and wake up for a matinee on some kinda full night’s sleep or something.  But tomorrow I’m singing at a humane hour, hooray!  See you at 7:30pm!

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Carmen Completed

October 2, 2008 at 3:48 am (Music, Travel and Places) (, , , , , , )

What a couple of months it has been.  Every time I finish something and I think I’m about to be able to rest a little bit, just a little bit, I realize, “No, now I have this thing that I need to start on NOW.”  My backlog of Opera Newses and Classical Singers that I need to read has become so great that my mail holder will no longer stay upright, so I’ve been tackling them as my subway reading.  I dog-eared a page of the 9/08 interview with Renee Fleming, with a quote that really hit home.

RF: There was a period of years where I just worked insanely, saying yes to almost everything- and that one horrible season when I had something like ten new roles scheduled.  One or two of them fell by the wayside, but it was still too much.

ON: Did you do that at the time because you learn music so easily?

RF: Yeah, and that becomes a bad habit.  Unfortunately, people who are facile, like me, do more, do more.  That can be hard on your voice.

God, that sounds like me.  This year especially.  How many roles have I done this year?  Kate in Pirates (small role and on book, but had to learn the chorus parts and understudy Edith and Mabel), Mascha in Chocolate Soldier (that one was on book), Rose Maybud in Ruddigore, Nedda in Pagliacci, Serpina in La Serva Padrona (those two were huge), Madame Herz (that one was on book again), Adele, Bastienne, Frasquita has been newly checked off… And before the year is out I’ll be adding Marie in La Fille du Regiment and Mabel.  So more or less, nine down and two more to go.  Not counting the two lead roles I did in John Thomas’s operettas.  And I got a new church job.  On one hand I’m kind of bragging, but on the other I’m exhausted.  I mean, there hasn’t just been this stuff.  There’s been hacking away at my technique, preparing for the (admittedly few) auditions in which I’ve participated (I tend to prepare stuff specifically for each audition if I can), and the concerts (especially Opera on Tap, which I’ve done almost every month).  I’m not even touching on the rock, except to say does anyone know a bass player who wants to join my band??

Well anyone can complain about how busy they are, so I’ll stop sniveling and get onto Carmen.

First off, I went to Philly Saturday, as you know, and crashed at Jessica Kasinski’s house.  While waiting to meet up with her, I enjoyed the most incredible salad ever, from the Tuscany Cafe on Rittenhouse Square.  First off, it was so beautiful that I could hardly bring myself to eat it.

Strawberry-Cranberry Salad

Strawberry-Cranberry Salad

Baby spinach, slivered almonds, fresh sliced strawberries, dried cranberries, and I substituted feta for the blue cheese.  Some sort of lemon poppy dressing that added to the sweetness.  I didn’t expect to be impressed, but that salad made me so happy.

Here’s a strong message from the Ethical Society.

Torture is Wrong

Torture is Wrong

Jessica and I went to a cafe for breakfast that served us oatmeal in goblets.  Damn.

Goblet of Oatmeal

Goblet of Oatmeal

Anyways, enough about food.  We should be talking about opera.

The opera went very well overall- much better than could have been predicted from rehearsals.  There were a few gaffes- even a minor one or two on my part which I assure you is highly unusual- but musically things went way better than I expected, even the quintet.

Blocking didn’t feel too comfortable to me.  Blocking at Amici is pretty much DIY, and we were much more in synch in rehearsals than in the performance.  Standing around and not moving, clustering towards the back of the stage, almost getting run over by dancers, failed attempts at interactions.  I guess it’s easier in rehearsal, when generally people feel more open to play around.  Nothing went wrong per se, just a lack of chemistry.  Overall though everything went really well, no disasters, people knew the music, and we even got those annoying chorus parts we had to learn.  (Except the first one, which we missed entirely, but no one noticed!)

The absolute highlight of my day was that my costume did not suck.  I think it was lent to us by the troup of dancers that performed during what would normally be choruses.  (They were fun!!) It was a light dress that fit me to a t.  I wish I’d gotten more pics, but this is a good one.

Mercedes, Carmen, Frasquita

Mercedes, Carmen, Frasquita

I had to run off right after rehearsal to catch a ride with Micaela, and I got home totally wiped.  Monday I had Pirates rehearsal, where we delightfully choreographed Climbing Over Rocky Mountain with parasols.  Oh, and great news!  My double, Elizabeth, and I have managed to get out of singing in the chorus on our off-nights.  We will still be singing with the chorus at all appropriate moments when we are Mabel, but when we are not Mabel we don’t have to go, THANK GOD.  You know my deal by now- it’s not the singing chorus I mind, it’s just the time commitment.

Yesterday was my first Fille du Regiment rehearsal, though it ended up being a coaching just for me.  We had a load of fun working through the duet with Tonio.

Tonight was Opera on Tap and I more or less memorized two new pieces for it, starting last night.  The theme was Germany, and I sang the pretty aria from Bastien, except I had to finish learning it in German, as I had started doing before I found out we were doing the opera in English, and I decided for good times to sing My Hero from the Chocolate Soldier, which would have been in German except I only have the English version!  Yes technically both of those composers are Austrian, not German, but it’s all good. :) Oh, and then my friend and I decided to do a tag-team version of Zerbinetta, which was a circus!!!!

I have to finish this article for Classical Singer.  Talk to you later!!!

Love,

Amanda

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