Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Okay, so this sinus pressure is getting old. Not only did it make me feel like I was singing dreadfully out of tune last night (because I cannot hear myself as well), but the drippage has made my cords swell. Oh, annnnnd I can't go to yoga, because my head would literally pop off if I attempted downward dog.

Enough bitching.

I am embarking on a new and wonderful journey this fall. No, it is not switching to my long preferred fach of lyric mezzo. No, it is not sky diving. It is fantasy football.

I'm sure I will tell you all about it. You have been warned.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I can say with a grateful spirit, and just the slightest bit of disappointment, that the big hurricane didn't turn out to be really very big for us. It was for others, though, and I hope everyone weathered the storm okay.

The only thing that was canceled was the one thing that I didn't want to be canceled-- the recital! Now I know it was best-- I never would have been well enough to sing high cs without my head popping off from the sinus pressure. But, sighh.

Tonight, I've got another rehearsal, and I worry slightly about singing even now.

Oh well, that's why god made sinus medicine and neti pots.

Another thing god made, indirectly, of course, via, well...Amazon, is the Kindle for Android app on my phone. It is allowing me to be the voracious reader I always wanted to be but never seemed to have time. People-- you always have your phone, and can pick up that book at all the little moments in life when you are just standing there with nothing to do! I just downloaded my second book since this weekend, and it is making me feel smart and spectacular that I am on my second book in three days.

During the hurricane weekend, I watched the first half of Gone with the Wind, and tried to get Joe on board. He holds that he really does want to watch the rest, but I am not sure I believe him. After all, I suppose I am one of those strange people who kind of grew up watching old movies, so for me it is a great pleasure. Sigh, Gone with the Wind. I love it too much. And it took me way too long, sadly, to realize the irony of watching a movie of that title during a hurricane!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Part 2

If I'm lucky enough to be sick at home with power, versus, sick at gigs trying to sing, versus sick at home without power, here's what I'll be making this weekend:

They are Joe's very favorite thing in addition to, well, every other breakfast food, and I'll probably further delight him by whipping up some more veggie cream cheese.

Ricotta Gnocchi
A very big batch, so I can freeze some, because these little pillows of delight are the ultimate treat.

And, my own recipe for Chicken Rice Soup. REALLLYYYY the very best thing for a cold, and so low calorie when one is feeling like a whale. And one IS feeling like a whale. It's like adding insult to injury.

Oh, and if you have two hours and a very good attention span and an affection for Olivia de Havilland as I do, immediately watch The Heiress (1949)


I have a cold. Ugh.

I had to cancel a lesson last night, and now, I'm just worried about not sucking in all of my singing this weekend.

If the Ravens hadn't beaten the Redskins last night and there wasn't the chance of a huge hurricane forcing everything to be canceled so I could stay home and sleep, this might be a really nightmarish weekend.

There is always the chance.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - Unfortunately, my daydreams about being skinny are always interrupted by the sound of my own chewing.


I'm feeling a little under the weather today. Hoping against hope that I'm not coming down with anything! I can't afford to lose the money for my weekend gigs, and a recital next week! No sick days for singers, people.

After I a particularly taxing rehearsal last night, I woke up feeling funny. So I am going to keep pounding green tea, and hope that going to yoga tonight will help me sweat it out.

On an evening when I get home from work, and have decided against practicing (because I feel sick, and oh yeah, my throat is basically dead meat from last night), I get all excited about the other things I could devote the time to. Like starting my new book club book, or doing a cooking experiment.

Joe keeps telling me I should figure out a way to pitch a cooking show about an opera singer who cooks things. I keep telling him that that is the last thing I need: another aspiration! Something else to fight for! It's okay, I say, to have things that are just things you do for fun. Then I think to myself, well, maybe I'm the one who is being silly. A lot more people cook than go to the opera.

Also, would YOU watch a cooking show with an opera singer? I think I would be suspicious that they weren't having much of a career or else they would never have time to shoot a cooking show. I don't think I would like it as much as I like Pioneer Woman's or Ina Garten. Oh I am SO excited for Pioneer Woman's new show, which is premiering this Saturday. She is the real deal, and her food is fab.

Okay, I'm off to guzzle some more tea.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It's almost that time of year again, guys. Choir season.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I think we all have an aria that haunts us. The one you pull out from time to time, and think: "If I can ever, at any point, sing this competently and with relative ease, I will know I'm amazing." It's in your fach, its something that you "should" be able to sing. It's just that it never feels quite right, and it's not something you ever feel great about when you are done singing it, for whatever reason.

My haunting aria is from a role I've actually done before. It was the sole reason I did not sleep soundly for weeks during rehearsals. It literally kept me awake at night. The tempo never settled in. The tessitura, the coloratura, the wide interval leaps never settled in, despite my practicing them for at least an hour a day. I drove Joe crazy making him rehearse it with me over and over.

Okay, people, here's the big news: I did it. Maybe it was just a fluke, but yesterday, I sang through, and it was actually GOOD, exhilarating, fun, not like slogging through the mud in rain boots. Maybe I have actually learned something after all these years. Maybe.

What's your haunting aria?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday: Part 2

I've had a lot going on in my head recently, my mind constantly racing, unable to let go of one particular situation that I'm in the middle of processing. I'm finding it hard to relax, to enjoy my precious time with Joe, to focus on anything else. In fact, the only time I stop thinking about it is when I am singing. The healing vibration of singing takes over and it is the only thing that can soothe me.

Maybe I just have ADD, but I've always prided myself on my multi-tasking abilities. I can bake a loaf of bread, load the dishwasher, cook eggs, and memorize recit at the same time. I can do laundry, make cookies, talk on the phone to a friend all at the same time. Okay, so it's not so amazing. Most of you probably do the same thing. But it's the same at work, I am ALWAYS doing more than one thing at a time. It's a skill I've cultivated, and a skill that has trained me to drive myself crazy. It's almost like I feel guilty if I am only accomplishing one thing at a time.

When I am practicing, all of that noise goes away. I am completely engrossed in what I am doing, totally in the moment of the music, thinking only about how to make my voice sound it's best. It's one of the few things I can think of that you can do during which it's nearly impossible to think about anything else.

Maybe that is why I find singing so incredibly healing. It really seems to me like a portal into a divine place of intense presence. A place where all I can focus on is the vibration and the sound and the emotion. It takes me out of myself. IT quiets the mental noise.

Like chanting and the purring of a cat, it has been suggested that the vibration literally has the power to heal us both emotionally and physically.

Since the pursuit of the opportunity to sing can drive us so completely insane, it's a good thing that singing itself has the opposite effect. Or I'd be so much more crazy than I already am.


You are going to cry a little when you read this. Pure love.

Monday, August 15, 2011


There's one in every family! My sister just had a bill board of one of her photos put up in TIMES SQUARE!

A talented, famous one in every family, I mean. :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011


My new attitude (see Tuesday's blog) is really working out for me! It was good to have a little reminder that singing isn't actually all about me. Can you imagine?

I am SO looking forward to this week, lots of work on music, yoga, and even the beginning of the school year isn't as scary as it usually is. To do: order Barenreiter Don Giovanni, since I get to sing Elvira again this season! I also have lots of music to learn for the High Holidays and for some upcoming concerts. I am so lucky that at some point in my early childhood, someone gave me those Mozart tapes. Now I'm addicted to this whole singing thing.

Tonight, for date night, we're going to see The Help. It was a fantastic book, and I can't wait to see how the movie measures up. And because I am cheap, we went to Walmart and bought movie candy, which I will sneak in. Don't tell anyone. :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday, part the second: weekend reading

I really enjoyed reading this!


You know it's Friday because you wake up feeling like you went on a major bender the night before, and and that is because you did.

I guess because of church choir, Thursday nights became the designated night out for singers in Baltimore.

I was lucky enough to meet up with a couple friends for a super terrific happy hour, at my fave local japanese place, where I ate two three dollar appetizers and then somehow managed to run into one of the most ridiculous gay friends I have on the street. He refused to stop talking and made Ms. N late to the performance she was attending. Then, I was supposed to walk Ms. S down to get gelato, but suddenly I had to pee so horrifically and the bathroom at the gelateria was occupied. So I ran home and made her miss her whole opportunity for gelato. And I feel pretty bad about that. I should probably just wear depends. That way I could avoid these types of situations.
Then, even after two appetizers, I made Joe dinner and managed to eat A LOT of it myself, like a big idiot and despite feeling like I did a very noble thing by cooking such a delicious dinner for my husband, I felt quite large and enormous because I basically ate two dinners. He was glued to the TV watching the preseason football game, and so I could not talk him into going out again later, when the girls texted that they were meeting up at another place. There was no way he would have left. It is the most sacred time of year: the beginning of football. I suspect it was designed specifically so that teachers who are dreading going back to school and may have otherwise done themselves a harm have something else to focus on and look forward to as they live in these final August weeks of dread.

So my goal for this weekend is two fold: get some exercise and practice lots. I need to make bread, too. The grocery store bread this morning just didn't cut it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday: my 1001st post

Continuing to riff on yesterday’s theme!

1. I respect the fact that no one has to sit and listen to anything they don't want to listen to, and any time an audience doesn't get up and leave, I am grateful. Time is precious and there are so many other wonderful singers, and so many other forms of entertainment to compete for an audience’s attention.

2. I believe that all humans have an innate sense of what is good, beautiful and true.

3. I believe that even someone with no experience of classical music can listen to a classical singer and know whether the singing is beautiful and moving or makes them feel uncomfortable and turned off.

4. I acknowledge that most aspects of vocal timbre and nuance are largely subjective. So, everyone is bound to hear things a little differently. But when you decide to become a solo singer, you are putting yourself in the position to be criticized for your sound, your choices, and your musicianship. If you put it out there, you know it will be talked about, and judgments will be made.

5. I have to respect the fact that being successful at what I do completely depends on people (somebody, anybody!!!), whatever subset of the population they may be, wanting to listen to me.

6. Since I have a line-up of respected musical professionals that I pay to tell me how to be the best I can be, I don’t love unsolicited advice, suggestions, and opinions. I think it is because I try really hard not to give other people feedback, unless it is overwhelmingly good, that they have not asked for. Making cut-and-dried statements about things about which I am not truly informed is something I try to avoid, except, of course, when it comes to cursing the play calling during a Ravens game. Even that, however, is a great example of how we as humans think we know best about mostly everything. The coaches of these teams stay up all night, spending countless hours analyzing tape of the opposing team before the games to try to figure out the most effective way to beat them, but everyone at home on the couches of America has something to say about the way the plays were called. It’s an interesting way to look at it.

7. Singers want to be respected as professionals. We want people to recognize that what we do is not just a “gift” that we were born with, but a skill that we have spent a lot of time and money to learn. It’s an athletic skill that takes conditioning and preparation and sacrifice to do well. So I think we may feel disrespected when someone who does not have experience with the skill of unamplified singing criticizes an aspect of our performance.

8. I have nothing to defend. And this is the part that I think I have to work harder at: I have to stop being quite so bugged, and try to learn from any feedback I can get from anyone anywhere. I have to have confidence enough in my product to know that empirically, I must sound fine or even good to most people, most of the time, or I would not be getting hired. However, I’ve said this before: the more I learn, the more I realize I know very little, and there are countless improvements I could make, and should make. The consumer’s point of view is always valuable.

I am the same as anybody in the world: a human trying to do their best with what they’ve been given. I do not have to prove that I am the best, that I am perfect, or that I know the most about what I do, because that is just so not the point. I have not been given the responsibility to punish someone when they embarrass themselves by making statements about things they do not understand. I have only responsibility to Music, and secondarily, my voice, which I cultivate in its service.

Monday, August 08, 2011


For Monday: a thought.

Only one. Don't get too excited.

So, remember how annoyed I get when people who really have no musical education criticize aspects of what I do?

I was talking to my sister yesterday, also in the arts, and she had a revolutionary idea.

If I would take a five minute break from getting so defensive, and begin to think of them as a consumer (despite, and not excusing their not-so-nice way of imparting their thoughts, and putting aside any other motives they may have for criticism) and my self as a business, I have to take something away from what anyone has to say.

I think the part of the whole equation that really bothered me was the presumption on their behalf that they know more than I do about what I study so hard to do well. That, legitimately, is really annoying.

But putting that whole thing aside, MY EGO aside (it really hurts to do that, because it is letting go of all defense), I have to say, well, as the people that are listening to me in some capacity, their opinions matter. There is a part of me that has to truly digest what they have to say and see if there is any piece of it from which I could learn.

Not that I don't think we should be treated as professionals, people who have made a lot of sacrifices to devote themselves to being really good at something, people who are smart, driven, committed, creative, resilient, well-put-together, and would have succeeded at a number of other professions, but choose, at great financial risk to themselves, to follow their hearts instead of their security. But I also think that it is hard to hear the layman's "suggestions" when we know how truly difficult solo singing can be, and that it is not the same as being in the choir in high school or church, and that the factors involved in having a good performance are MANY, some of which we have little control over. Sometimes it is hard to hear that we are not perfect by someone's standard when we are trying very hard to perfect our craft, and look hot, and do everything we think we need to do to get hired, in addition to making a living and trying to maintain our personal relationships on a daily basis. It can get pretty exhausting and it is by no means a 9-5 job where you get to relax when you come home from work at the end of the day.

By the same token, a person's sense that it is okay to go up to someone else and give feedback that was not requested is a whole other issue, and probably says a lot about who they are in the first place, which is why everything must be taken with a grain of salt.

But it is so difficult to switch, in that moment of intensity when the words are being said, to business mode. To go from being the being that lives and breathes music and singing whose heart and soul are completely wrapped up in every note that comes out, to the person who is selling a product to a group of consumers that tend to be a pretty opinionated bunch.

But I think I am going to have to start trying to change my thinking, at least a little. To give up defense completely is a very admirable goal, but this soprano is going to have to take baby steps. :)

Note: The givers of comments I have referred to here are not people who paid for tickets to hear me sing, but rather those who have heard me in a public setting.

Friday, August 05, 2011


Okay, the biggest news of today is that I am walking around like a 90-year-old woman thanks to last night's torture session, aka YOGA.

I get there early, spread out my mat, trying not to be obvious about needing the edges of the mat to line up perfectly with the seams of the wood floor. I then remember that I am there to let go of all these psycho tendencies and lay back on the mat to try to go to my zen place. I'm almost there when I hear the voice of our teacher saying: "For those of you that were here last week, you know we focused on relaxation and restoration. This week is going to be the exact opposite of that." Of course my first day back in a month is the day she spends 20 minutes on core work and all these other sadistic things that nearly killed me.

That's cool. I needed it and should not complain. But it hurts.

Back to the Pamina conundrum: I am not convinced. Voce is being stubborn about that funny run in the middle of the aria. If it were on an "Ah" vowel, I think it might me a different story. I'm practicing it as an "Ah" though, and hope that by slowly shifting the vowel back to what it really is, I can trick myself into being able to singing it with the proper articulation. But, I am REALLY enjoying Manon and Adina. They are lovely in every way, challenging, not at all just a breeze, but they seem to fit better.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Somehow, we were a Top Classical Music Blog in the Month of July!!!!


I am going to admit that I am paying for the super delicious potato chip binge last night. There is a large blemish right in the middle of my face. So that will teach me to eat things like that. Sigh.

As we all know (I hope), man cannot live by opera alone, and must indulge in a little pop culture now and then to feel hip, so I enjoyed some top-forty cheesiness last night. Not that you care, but this playlist made my drive fabulous last night, spanning a truly schizophrenic range of genres:

1. Stereo Hearts by Gym Class Heroes with Adam Levine
This is the essence of cheese.

2. Best Love Song by T-Pain, with Chris Brown
I am only just figuring out that all the references to a certain "nappy boy" in T-Pain's music are his way of describing himself. So there you go. Evidently, it's a really good thing I am only being entrusted with interpreting the great historical musical masterpieces of western civilization and not modern hip-hop.

3. Barefoot Bluejean Night by Jake Owen
Speaking of embarrassing, there really is an embarrassing line in this song-- something about the girls being hot and the beer being cold. But I like it anyway. It really is fun and reminds me of my 4-H days in Indiana.

4. Thinkin' About You by Mario

5. Where Them Girls At by David Guetta with Nicky Minaj and Flo Rida
You have just got to love a song with terrible grammar even in the title. You know it's going to be edgy.

6. Matt and Nat's by Natalie MacMaster
For your daily dose of Irish. And you should be having one.

7. One Day by Matisyahu with Akon
THIS is my favorite of the list. So soulful and beautiful.

8. Good Man by Raphael Saadiq
Apparently, a good man is someone whose "got no kids and loves the lord, never done time, well.. maybe just once."

9. Flower Duet by Luminaire
Thanks, Stu, for this fantastic remix of an opera favorite!!!!

10. Always Be My Baby by Mariah Carey
The first strains of this song have the uncanny ability to alter even the foulest mood.

11. Your Love by Nicky Minaj

12. No Es Una Novela by Monchy and Alexandra
A throwback to my salsa club days.

13. The Lord is my Shepherd by Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir
From The Preacher's Wife soundtrack, you know, before Whitney Houston was a coked-out scary version of her formerly golden-voiced self. This song reminds me of when I was a little kid in Sunday school, completely baffled by the 23rd Psalm. I couldn't for the life of me figure out who Shirley Goodness and her friend Mercy were, and why I would want them to follow me all the days of my life. Ahhh those were simpler times.

14. Eskimo by Damien Rice
Good, good, good. With a little mezzo-soprano love in there too.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Confrontation is SO hard for me, but when I take it upon myself to stand for something, I am always glad I did.

Tonight is my first voice lesson in months, and I am soooo excited. I'm excited for the drive (me time and music-listening), and to get my tune-up. Also, I usually indulge in fast food for dinner, which is a very rare guilty pleasure. Oh my goodness I am so excited.

Also, in Pennsylvania, they have these special potato chips made by people named Martin, in a white bag. They are impossible to find anywhere but this region of PA, and they are by far the most delicious chip I have ere tasted, maybe the most delicious food in general that I've ever eaten. So it's kind of the perfect storm of caloric in-take, which is why I only ate a very small lunch in preparation.

Oh, I'm singing Pamina tonight and looking at Alcina. Handel is so unbelievably good. I simply adore it, but am not really convinced it is a good fit for me at the moment. We shall see.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


After a particularly thought provoking coaching Friday, I have about a zillion new arias to work on getting into my voice, and so I am in the soprano zone at the moment. My one sadness is the news that perhaps one of my very favorite arias to sing does not really belong in my audition package. The unfortunate thing is that it's true. Ah well. There are more where those come from. One aria I've successfully avoided all these years in Ach, ich fühl's, and it seems I can no longer get away with the excuse that I kind of hate Pamina as a person. The fact is, if you can like Micaela, which I do, you have no excuse for hating Pamina. Oh, and the other person I need to get to know all over again is Manon, and maybe Juliette.

The other thing I did this weekend was make: Ricotta Gnocchi. We ate it last night with tomato cream sauce and it was one of my proudest moments in cooking history. Oh my god, this stuff is worth the effort. Holy moly.

Tomorrow night I've got a lesson, which is lucky, because I have so much to think about vocally, and I haven't had a lesson in a couple of months. It is indeed time for a tune up!