Saturday, May 24, 2008

I'm here

And the family situation is intense.

Everywhere I look there's a sister or a brother or a mother, and today, I'm getting my very first ever spray tan.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

being a young lyric and other problems

When you're a "young" lyric you have a special set of challenges.

You have to sing a lot of soubrette rep to get hired. Not that I don't like Zerlina and Susanna (who I'm not really convinced is a soubrette, actually) because I actually love them. But, would I rather be rocking out Donde lieta, why, yes, yes I would. I'm learning it, people, but will I get laughed out of Nola Studios for singing it at my tender age? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

The comforting thing to remember is that Mirella Freni went through it too.

But there are some really fabulous seconda donna type things to do-- sexy Frasquita, Suor Genovieffa is a fun little nun on crack, Sandman/Dew Fairy gets to be pretty and mysterious, and Ines warns Leonora that she should be afraid, be VERY afraid.

While we are waiting... waiting....waaaiiiitinnnnggg until we're mature, lovely, composed, consistent, silver-voiced ladies with a figure to match who can handle the full lyric rep without busting a cord, the conductors, and all the older sopranos who are just so damn jealous. :)

omg i hate travel sizes

of things like lotion, shampoo, etc.

and almost none of the things I absolutely HAVE to have comes in travel sizes that I know of-- like my anti-rosacea cream and cleanser. This is bad, people. Really really bad.


Tomorrow morning my plane takes off at 6:11 am for Indiana for my brother's wedding. This means I have to get up at 3:30 am. How great is that? I'm excited, however, to see the fam-- and spend some time with everyone. It will be the first weekend in months during which I will not have to think about singing at all.

After Indiana, I'm flying to Florida to meet Joe and his family. And we'll wind up the whole thing with a master class in St. Augustine and a day and a night in Savannah before coming home. It's kind of a whirlwind, but I think we'll get in a couple of good beach days at least.

Yesterday was a wild day too.

In an incredible moment of unluckiness, I was changing in the bathroom of a restaurant after the audition I last blogged about, and somehow managed to get bleach marks on my beautiful black audition skirt!!!!! I am really sad about this-- I tried to color in the marks with a black sharpie, cover them up with shoe polish, all sorts of crazy things, but nothing worked, and it's ruined. So, I resorted to another not quite so perfect outfit for the audition yesterday.

I think the insane schedule I've been keeping with rehearsals, work and auditions is starting to catch up with me, as I did something really embarrassing yesterday. Oy.

When the nice lady asked me what I would sing, I told her that based on the type of repertoire she had asked for in the email, I brought this and this. She looked at me funny, smiled wryly, and said "I don't think that was from my company."

Thank god I sang well, because it was really not a great reflection on my ability coordinate my life, and well, it probably made her think I didn't really care about her season and her shows, as I had obviously confused them with someone else's. Which is decidedly NOT the case. This was actually one of the companies I was most hoping with whom to have an opportunity to sing. Which is, as I mentioned, one of the reasons I daily bless my teacher for all the magic he has done with helping me to get a really solid handle on what my voice is doing and how to make it function at its best almost all the time. (Barring hormones, alcohol consumed, the barometric pressure, allergies, hydration, and hundreds of other factors, that is.) It really feels good to be able to say, well, the outfit may not be perfect, and I may have said something really stupid, but at least, after all, I sang two arias really well. And god, I hope that's what I'm there to do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

my heart nearly stopped, and other tales

It was off to an audition north of Philly last night. Let me just say that that drive is not great. And especially not at rush hour.

The first glitch occurred when some sort of ferris wheel or carnival ride that was being transported tipped over on the road and was blocking all the lanes of traffic. Making it so that the police actually closed the toll road just beyond the exit where we had to get off...meaning that all of Pennsylvania was forced to get off the road at my exit. The traffic jam was epic. We're inching along at about one mile every five weeks and it starts to look like we're not going to make it. Fifteen minutes before my audition time, we're still several feet from the exit, and I start changing my clothes in the car. In five minutes, I am in full audition regalia. Not a great hair situation, though. Omg, it was horrible-- the lights were all wacked out at the major intersection after the exit and we were just having the most horrible luck.

I had to pee, my hair looked horrific, we couldn't find the hall where the audition was supposed to be, and I was trying really hard not to burst into tears. I was, however, completely hyper-ventilating.

Finally, we got there.

I was DYING. I have never in my life been late to an audition, except for once, years ago, when there was an unfortunate incident with the greyhound bus driver. Who had apparently forgotten how to get to Manhattan.

The gentleman I was supposed to sing for was terribly nice, and told me to calm down, and take some time to get myself back to being able to breathe again. It was really something, kids. Jessica did not feel in control of this particular situation and it was very difficult for her. Walking in late put me in the posture of apology, and that's not a place I like to be when I go into an audition situation...try as I might, once I'm there, it's hard to rally...

Oh, and did I mention there were several other singers there too, who were all apparently going to be listening to my audition? And who witnessed my breathless entrance? So I went into the ladies room, did a few scales, and reminded myself that now is not the time to freak out, because if I bomb this, then the whole ordeal we just went through to get here will have been a complete waste.

This is the time when having that aria that you can sing in your sleep comes in realllllly handy. My hair, well, there wasn't a lot I could really do to fix that. But I went up there and sang like it was 1999. I tried to, at least.

Fifteen minutes later, I was walking out the door, and still trying to wrap my mind around what had just happened. I felt so completely wound up and breathless, but I think I actually sounded fine! When we got to the car, I quizzed Joe: "Was I in tune? What about the high note? Did you hear anyone talking? What did they say? Did I sound like I couldn't get my breath?"

He confirmed that it had actually been a good audition, and I sat back and tried to regain a normal heart rate. Then we went to get pizza.

Monday, May 19, 2008


We had the best day on Saturday.

I woke up to find that all the water I'd guzzled on Friday to, from and during rehearsal had turned my throat/cords into a perfectly irrigated, silky, slithery delightful place. This doesn't happen that often, and when it happens on the day of a performance, you really get excited.

The recital got off to a late start-- a half an hour late, to be exact, as apparently the luncheon was taking awhile and the staff weren't serving dessert quickly enough. When the gentleman came out to tell us that the were still waiting on their dessert, and that after that, we could sing, I kindly offered to sing WHILE they were eating their dessert. It was a little demeaning, to be honest, especially since they didn't offer us any food. So I sat quietly and read, intermittently with terrorizing the other people by vocalizing in the bathroom. But what was I supposed to do?? I'd been sitting around cold for an hour and a half!

It went well, and then we got in the car and I put on my hat and we went to the race track, which didn't go as smoothly as we had hoped. Of course, you know any time you have 125,000 people in one place and most of them are drunk, there's bound to be some drama. I was in the most wicked mood, hungry, in need of a drink, and just generally anxious to get to the fun part. I nearly beat up the policeman who wouldn't let us into the parking lot. Really. I almost did. After a couple tries, though, we got in and made it across the track and into the tent, and I immediately got a glass of champagne and found my mother and sister in law and brother and all was well. All your troubles just really do melt away when you're eating steak and drinking champagne.

And that fabulous horse, Big Brown, I made $6.50 on him! It was absolutely the most exciting thing watching the race, and seeing how happy the horse was that he won. I'm absolutely certain that he knows how fabulous he is.

And today, it's back to normal life again, no champagne, no steak. But we are bringing two new members of our family home-- little kitties named Pete and Mimi. I can't wait to show you their pictures. And I have an audition tonight...can anyone say high b natural?

Friday, May 16, 2008

The song recital and the horse race.

I have to do both, but wish I didn't have to do one. Anyone want to guess which?

Oh my lord my hat and dress and shoes!

I wish I had thousands of dollars to waste on betting on horses tomorrow.

Prize money from the competition you say? Just use that? would be toooo irresponsible.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Le papillon

It was SUCH a beautiful day yesterday, but I was a bit groggy yesterday morning when I got up...I guess umpteen beers and hot dogs and things at a baseball game the night before will do that to you.

I'm rehearsing for a concert on Saturday, and I'd been a little frustrated with my voice. It took me a couple days transition time to get back to where I felt I had the flexibility to sing art songs after spending time powering through my Verdi music. The good thing is that I got it back, and now I feel relatively secure and like I'll be able to do the things I want to do in the recital without sounding woofy. It's a good lesson for me to learn...singing at full tilt in the passaggio for hours on end does not a slender, flexible voice enable.

After work I got dressed and we went to dinner at XS before walking over to the opera house. I love my neighborhood. I can walk to work, to the opera, to My Thai, to the symphony, to the train station and to the movie theater. It's unbelievably sexy.

We got there early, and had fun people watching awhile before taking our seats. While there were a surprising number of younger people there last night (it was a sold out show), I always feel that in the lobby of the Lyric, wherever I'm standing, I'm standing directly in the way of a senior citizen with a walker. Like three times last night, we had to dodge one coming RIGHT at us, even though there was ample space on either side...were they aiming to take me out? I don't know. I'll probably try to kill people with my walker when I'm old, too. So I can understand.

The other thing I love is that lots of the ladies came out in full Butterfly regalia. Asian-inspired garb was out in full force, while some chose to honor the occaision with a tasteful butterfly lapel pin, to match their butterfly-printed skirts to match their butterfly-printed tops and butterfly shoes. Oh my. It was really something. I didn't see anyone in a kimono, though, so that was too bad.

We finally settled in, and read everyone's bios and the synopsis again. The the first act started, and it was a bit underwhelming, despite the fact that I loved the production from the start...the problem was, I think, the tenor. Ohhhh that we could have had that Palombi fellow back again to sing Pinkerton. The opera would have had no trouble at all getting off to an exciting start. Although I think that the first act is tough no matter how good the tenor, because the idea that a girl would change her religion, renounce her family, and give her life entirely to a foreign stranger who doesn't seem even marginally sincere, is just hard to make real for a modern audience. Cio-Cio San was played by a really lovely Chinese-American soprano, and she tried, but it wasn't until after intermission that we started to feeeeeel the drama and HEAR the character in her voice.

Oh, but after intermission! When she brought out the kid, I started to cry right away. The projections (no set) were stunning, and really worked for me... the cherry blossom scene! With the little boy scattering the petals!! I only wish the duet between Butterfly and Suzuki had worked a little better, because the music is so beautiful...Suzuki was a hair out of tune, just enough to make it frustrating...but she redeemed herself in the trio with Pinkerton and Sharpless-- who was FANTASTIC. I'll never forget him, John Packard, in the best show I EVER saw in Baltimore-- Dead Man Walking. He sounds great, and he can act.

Butterfly sang so beautifully and with so much character, and although I thought I may have preferred a voice with a little more Italianate "excitement" at first, she totally convinced me in the second act, and through to the end. And oh to have that kind of elegance and grace on stage-- when she took her bows, she was so dignified, without seeming haughty in the least.

It's a little bit difficult to go back to normal life after you see Madama Butterfly. At least for me. I have to readjust. All that emotion and intensity, and now here I am at a desk. Can I be an opera singer now? Please?

Monday, May 12, 2008

rainy monday

It may be horrific outside, but I feel cozy here in the office, having just returned from having coffee with one of my favorites, JM. It's amazing what seeing a friendly face can do for a Monday morning.

Everything is right with the world today, and as I look back on the past few weeks, I can't say I've felt that way on a previous Monday morning in months. And I think I know why--

A little mother's day shopping yesterday with my ma was particularly profitable for both of us...I found my dress and hat for the big horse race this weekend and ohhhh I look so sexy in them. The hat is so big that I think Pierce would be proud. In fact, he would probably want me to wear it to his funeral. He always says that we better show up to his funeral in high stilettos and big hats. I guess I want people to look good at my funeral too, but I haven't spent as much time planning it out as he has. Fabulous.

Wednesday night, we're going to see one of my favorite operas ever: Madame Butterfly. So, you can bet I'll be having something to say about that on Thursday morning. Is there any chance I could get away with wearing the dress I bought for the race to the opera too?

I haven't listened to Trovatore in 48 hours. I wonder if I've forgotten everything...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

my mother

I feel like posting about my ma.

Ever since she moved here, I guess I kind of worried a little about her, felt maybe a little bit responsible for her happiness and well-being. And for her having fun, and finding friends, and knowing what restuarants she just should NEVER set foot in.

Well, tonight I called, hoping that she wasn't at home watching a Tommy Lee Jones movie and working on my wedding dress on a Saturday night. And guess what-- she was out having dinner with friends! People I don't even really know. And I was so proud.

So here's to my mommy and all the really fabulous women in my family. There's no shortage-- between my three aunts, cousins and extra-fantastic grandmother, ohhhh annnd my sisters. I know why I have always seen other women as allies and not competition-- because they are the ones who have always supported my decisions, listened to me cry, given me advice that I listened to (usually), come to my performances, rallied for me in my really icky moments in life, known when to kick my ass, and when to just make me a martini.

I almost never...

blog on weekends, and that's because I'm too busy doing laundry, singing cheesy choral music at church, dancing, drinking, and cruising with Joe in our hot hyundai listening to offensive rap music with the bass up really loud.

Well, this weekend, it seems I did two things: Go to rehearsal, and get an oil change. Not exactly fabulousness at its best. Not that the weekend is over yet, but I'm trying to relax so I'll have the emotional fortitude to get through two services and mother's day activities. Joe has gone off to do his own version of mother's day with his own mother, and I am alone in my pretty apartment, kind of just nesting. Later tonight, I'll probably watch Harvey Girls with Judy Garland, since that's not something I could get away with if Joe was in town. And maybe paint my nails. And maybe try on all my clothes to see if I have anything good left.

So, here I sit with not T-Pain on the stereo, but Gianni Schicchi, my next project. Which I absolutely love. Oh it is just so good. Today was our first meeting for the cast, and I was SOOOO happy to learn that my girl TM is in the cast too-- a fabulous coincidence since we did this show together back in grad school. First of all, I think I might have kind of started off on the wrong foot with the director. We were joking about how amusing it would be if we could get him onstage in Suor Angelica in a nun's habit for a little opera-in-drag action. I foolishly mentioned that perhaps (insert name of renowned conservative mid-size PA city here) wasn't ready for a drag opera. But apparently I am wrong, as he immediately came to the town's defense by saying what a progressive theater community they had.

Who did I think I was, the new girl, just imposing my assumptions on an already obviously drag-opera-loving city?

It was all in good fun. (Oh, I hope!)

At the beginning we all went around the room and introduced ourselves and said which character we were. And I would say about forty percent of the cast actually knew who they had been cast as. I was a little scared. The good thing was that all the major roles were pretty clear on who they were supposed to be...I guess in all actuality it was the smaller parts in Suor that seemed like they didn't know. So, that's okay, right? It's still going to be a good show and everyone will know who they're supposed to be soon, right? I was kind of panicking at one point.

Maybe I'm a freak, but when someone offers me a role in an opera, I run to the nearest libary and study the score, the tessitura, every single line, basically learn the role, and THEN I say, yes, I'll do it. When yet another nun wasn't sure what her character's name was, I started thinking that maybe there IS a way I can weasel my way into a tiny little role in Suor, (which I've never been in, but dearly love). Because if she doesn't know what it is, she won't know if I'm stealing it...I guess that would be a little greedy of me.

But everyone is fun, and I really like the directors, and my own fiancee extraordinaire is probably going to be our part-time rehearsal pianist. So it will be way too fun...TM and I spent most of the meeting wheeling and dealing and dishing since we've been doing a lot of the same auditions lately, and it's always good to know what you're getting yourself into. We're trying to work out a plan where we could kind of be a package deal. You can have a Mimi and a Musetta! AND we've worked together before, AND we get along SO well. AND we're SO pretty! HIRE US!

In other news Trov is going well. I like my cast.

Happy weekend, people!

Friday, May 09, 2008

May 9

Last night. First rehearsal. The leads were good, and nice, and my part is small and easy, and I had no trouble coming in at that one part I spent so much time worrying about before. But there was another part that kind of presented a problem... I GUESS I could blame it on the fact that one of the major characters from who I get my A) motivation for the line I sing, and B) get my note and cue was not there at the rehearsal last night. I think he was on his way back from Vienna or something. Nevertheless, I spent a good deal of time in the car last night, listening to it over and over and beating myself up, because, Conte di Luna or no Conte, I feel I should be able to count my way through something and get my entrance no matter what. It doesn't help that there's a HUGE tempo change like ONE beat before I come in, that he sets up for me with his line. So, I'll take it home at lunch today and see what I can figure out.

I absolutely stand in awe of anyone who can sing Leonora in Trovatore. It is just like unbelievably hard. I asked my own fearless Leonora what she thought and she told me emphatically, that no, Violetta and Butterfly are much worse. Well, yes, I guess, now that you mention it, you brave woman, they probably aren't the singing equivolent of a walk in the park either. But for me the really daunting thing about Leonora is how really LOUD you have to be, AND you have to have a thillingly easy high voice, and a strong, resonant middle and lower voice, AND you have to be able to sing all that coloratura while somehow remaining metronomically correct so that you can be with everyone else. It really leaves very little room for any kind of, well, screw ups. I think it was Caruso who said that the only thing you need to do Trovatore is "The four best singers in the world."

The dilemma with the drive to rehearsals, however, is that there are just way to many opportunities to stop and eat something bad. So I try to avoid this by packing things to eat, like low fat popcorn, which allows me to still have the crunchy/salty thing going on, and I pack grapes sometimes and granola bars...because, people, I'm feeling like this summer is going to go by very quickly. And suddenly, I'm going to be standing in front of the mirror a week before my wedding crying because I didn't lose any weight over the summer and I have my own poor planning to thank for it. The goal I have set for myself does not at this time feel really very close, and until I reach that goal, I can't buy clothes...not that I have money for clothes, but sighhhh.

I think what I really need to do is to get lots of pictures of beautiful Maui beaches and girls in bikinis and tape them on my computer, my mirrors, my refrigerator door, to remind myself about my honeymoon and how I NEED to look in order to go on it.

For further inspiration, I'll be reading this.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I am studying, studying, counting, metronoming like a good girl, and still can't figure out how to come in at the right place in this one part of an ensemble. Please tell me everybody has drama like this sometimes...I feel silly because it really is a rather minuscule role, and therefore there is no excuse to not have ever bit of it learned perfectly by, well, tomorrow night.

I keep telling myself that when there's a conductor and I can see a down beat, I'll be in good shape. But that sort of thing seems unreliable, because, A) what if he forgets (conductors are people too), or B) what if I can't see him?

The reality is that I will probably spend the rest of the day pounding it out and stressing, only to realize, tomorrow, with the rest of the ensemble that it's all actually very clear and I need to cool it.

In other news, the driving time is affording me time to talk on the phone, an activity which I usually loathe. Is there a stronger word for hate than loathe? I don't think so. But, when you're driving a long way and have a headset, it seems like a logical thing to do. So last night I talked to my grandmother, and it was a nice long conversation, and we solved every one's problems for them. Well, actually, not really. I don't know why, but I always forget how she's my favorite person in the world to have a phone conversation with-- unfailingly comforting and supportive, always impressed by any small accomplishment, and never put off by the occasional bad word or questionable story. I think I need to call her more often.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

May 6

For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn't decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

English by Coleman Barks

Monday, May 05, 2008

It's Monday

I'm here!

On Saturday, I got a call and was happy to hear that I'm doing Ines in Trovatore after all, and my first rehearsal is Thursday. So today, I checked the bookstore-- no scores. And promptly spent more money than I would have liked on getting a score rushed to my house from an online vendor. Joe has a full orchestral score that I'm using in the mean time. I guess he must have bought it for a class at one point: "I knew that thing would come in handy sometime," he said yesterday, when he saw it sitting on the piano rack, filled with tabs.

Until I have my own real score, though, I'll feel kind of unsettled. Silly me.

I DID buy a recording, and the fabulous Barbara Frittoli is singing my role. It's fun to think that she sang it on this recording when she was young and starting out, and now she's way more famous than the Leonora ever was. Interesting.

While we were at it buying expensive opera recordings yesterday, Joe bought the La bohème recording with Pav and Freni, that I'm sad to say I didn't already have. We listened to it in the car on the way to Target. A few minutes into the first act, my poor fiancee asked about the story of the opera, not really knowing what he was getting himself into. I couldn't help it, people. As that beautiful recording was playing, and I started to talk about the story, I just burst into uncontrollable tears.

Because, apparently, I am emotionally affected by opera. Big surprise.

Oh wow. It felt so good to cry, happy tears of being touched by something. It's a little difficult to explain, though, because, of course, anyone would have thought I had just lost my best friend, the way I carried on.

And then, ten minutes later, I had wiped off my face and was shopping for paper towels at Target.

Friday, May 02, 2008

may 2

I gave back my tickets to a concert tonight because I need to stay home and practice. This, my friends, is called crazy. Or dedication. Or probably there is fine line between the two.

And I need to eat not s*** for dinner tonight, since I accidentally ate something really bad before I went to bed. I could agonize forever about it, but tonight I'll just get back on the bandwagon and eat my salad with chicken or make spinach with garlic again.

My voice is feeling a little funny yesterday and today, and while I tell myself it's the weather changing again, there's always that little tiny bit of worry that there's something wrong. And that it can't be fixed. And this is yet another very fine example of singer's neurosis.

I have an audition tomorrow, but I figure it won't kill me to have ONE cocktail tonight in celebration of a particularly nuts week being over... Especially since it's one of those lovely auditions where you only have to bring like two arias.

My decisions about roles are nearly made, or, rather, have been made in some ways for me. I have been up nights and having bad dreams about it, that's how stressed I've been!! It seems silly, but to me, every step I take seems important at this stage when I would do ALMOST anything for opera roles. I've gotten so much good advice from friends too-- E, C, T, and MG especially. After a couple of serious talks at length with my most trusted advisor (Joey), who is in the middle of having some serious career triumphs of his own (yay!), I think I may have come to some conclusions about what I WON'T do for an opera role and just exactly what it's really worth.

The next two weeks will be reallllly interesting, and then after my recital and the Preakness, I get to fly away. Wow, I can't believe how close I am to my escape! It's back to the midwest for a major family celebration and then to Florida for a few days with my Grandmother and Joe's parents and a master class with Robert Swedberg.

Today, I'll be happy because the weather is SO beautiful and because there's just NO reason not to be. *smile*