Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The charmed life, part 2

It's a rainy day in Baltimore, and the walk to work this morning made me thankful I have some heavy duty rain boots and a new ebay bracelet to cheer me up today. I am taking the advice of the blog post I recommended in yesterday's post 10 Ways to a More Charmed Life, and wearing bright lipgloss as today's antidote to the drowned rat effect.

I remember a time in my life when being glamorous felt not only unattainable, but like the wrong thing to do, an inappropriate waste of energy, in a time when a 5 dollar vodka soda was a major expense, and being seen as an intelligent academic singer was more the image I was going for.

Now, I've realized I don't care if people think that being fixed up and looking good equals being dumb, I care that when I look at myself in the mirror as I'm practicing every day, I see a person who looks like she cares. A person who could walk confidently into a rehearsal be proud of her appearance. I care so much less what other people think of me than what I used to, but spend more time on myself, because I care about me. What a concept.

Caring about me has made me a better friend, a better singer, a much more alluring wife, a better decision maker about food, about clothes (aka, they actually look good on ME, not the people in the magazine),read more and better books, all of the above. When I say I care about myself, I guess I don't mean I am taking myself seriously, per se, but I think it means I expect the best from me. I hold myself to a high standard, and try not to let myself get away with silly stuff that is going to feel good in the moment but feel bad later. I am working on making time with friends a priority, which is tougher now than it used to be, because time with a person's husband is a big priority too. I fail myself a lot. I regularly say un-cute things, and eat too much of the really good stuff, and behave in a ridiculous way. But I am working on making those slip-ups fewer.

If I spent all day long doing exactly what I secretly want to do (not a secret any more, hello internet), I would be eating Martin's kettle-cooked potato chips by the industrial size bag, dreaming up new ways to eat more cheese and pasta (preferably together), watching Bravo, looking at Pinterest, and going on the odd shopping trip or voice lesson/coaching, and maybe doing some craft projects. Add to that signing contracts to sing Mimi at the Met and getting a pedicure and you've pretty much described my dream day. I am a lot more of a homebody than you may think. But part of that whole thing with having a good life is, I think, making an effort, which to me means: not letting myself down, not living in a way that would make me regret that I hadn't pushed myself a little.

Last night, I met Stu for a drink after work, and spent a good deal of time complaining about how hungry I am all the time because of this darn calorie counting. But I felt really proud of myself later for not giving into the allure of the truffle fries. It sure sucked when the ladies at the next table were brought plates of piping hot fries piled high, but it felt good when I entered my numbers at the end of the night and didn't have regrets. And soon, my stomach will shrink to normal size and I won't be as hungry. That's the wonderful thing about stomachs.

I love in the blog post I linked above how she mentions buying flowers. I bought some tulips the other day for like 4 dollars, and the amount of pleasure they have given me looking at them on my dining room table every day has been incredible. It makes me wonder why I don't just make a habit of it. In fact, maybe I will. Every day in life IS a special day, special enough to deserve flowers. I used to only buy flowers when we were having company, now I've vowed to buy them because I like them for me.

But if you came for dinner, I would get the extra-special flowers.

Have a charming day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Charmed Life

This was such a wonderful blog post-- GREAT advice. Feel good stuff!

Because I have no one to brag to but you!

Quite the departure from yesterday's angsty post, here I am declaring to you that something I learned in that lesson must be working.

I vocalized up to an F-sharp above high C, people!!!!!! First time since, well, Freshman year of college, back in my innocent adolescence.

Yes. Life could be worse.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The only constant is change

One of the things I love best about the craft/skill of singing is that no matter how accomplished you are, there is always something you could do better. Every working singer I know still has a teacher who acts as their ears. Someone to help with little glitches here and there, fixing this or that when a role hasn’t fit perfectly into their voice, or building for one that is a little beyond their current level.

It is also one of the things that my type-A self finds most frustrating about singing. The sense that I will never be finished, and that someone will always have some advice, or something to add.

For years, I’ve gotten feedback, various good and bad. And you know when there are things you have to take to heart and things that you should ignore, because it doesn’t seem to be coming from the right place of genuine concern for your career. The weird thing about singing is that it is a discipline that seems to have a lot of non-specific, non descript lingo that people throw around and can mean a lot of different things. So, when someone says something like “Its sounds like you’re singing from behind a door,” how do I take that feedback to my teacher and figure out how to fix that problem? You pretty much can’t. You just wonder what’s wrong with you that apparently everyone notices but no one knows how to fix.

The other day I had a lesson that felt like everything I had been hearing from competition judges, coaches, etc., somehow added up to exactly what this person said I was missing, but no one had ever been able to articulate in any real way that I understood, much less offered a solution for addressing it. The odd thing is that I have always more readily accepted criticism and declarations of my own vocal lack than I have positive affirmations of my singing. Maybe it was because instinctively, I have always known something was not quite right.

It is so hard to trust when what you hear you will need to do to correct this is hard to accomplish, uncomfortable, very scary, and actually, different than anything you have ever heard, that it is really the right path to take. While I did not immediately have an emotional reaction, I found myself tearing up throughout the day, feeling just generally kind of verklempt, wondering if I was ever going to be able to figure out how to really sing. The more I went over it in my head, and listened to the recording, the more I knew it made a lot of sense. I should have been thankful that someone finally told me what I’d been needing to hear, but instead I kind of felt sorry for myself. Am I really here again? What the heck, I thought. I’m ready to be the finished product.

So all this time I’ve been writing about facing my fears, and I’m being given an actual way to put it into practice. Oh, and the other thing—I weighed myself today for the first time in seven years. It was worse than I thought. But I'm REALLY motivated now. I think 2012 is going to be a year of change and reevaluation.

The other thing I’m wondering is how I could possibly be dumb enough to put all of this on the internet for all of you to read!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Weight a second

I'm hesitant even to mention this, because it's kind of annoying to talk about calories. But the truth is, your girl is trying to lose a couple lbs before going onstage as opera's sexiest crazy person: Donna Elvira. The challenges for me so far have been: wine, well, wine, and thirdly wine. Also, time. Before I started rehearsing and coaching all this, I had a lot more time to make it to my yoga classes, and now I'm trying to make up for it by just walking reallly reallllly fast back and forth to work. I'm also using a fabulous little tool introduced to me by the marvelous Stu called My Fitness Pal, where you can log all your caloric intake and exercise and keep track of how you're doing each day. It's been amazing.

Except for one thing. I do not have the courage to weigh myself. I honestly don't think I've stepped on a scale in about 7 years, not counting the doctor's office, where I avert my eyes and I command the nurse not to tell me my weight. The problem is, when I have weighed my self in the past, its thrown me into a week long depression, the likes of which even wine and fabulous girlfriends, shopping and shoes cannot cure. In an act of supreme contradiction, I would eat cake or something silly like that, and then feel even worse.

So I have no concrete proof of how well I'm doing or not, just the vague notion that my clothes are fitting better. It's so ridiculous. Not to even mention the fact that my wardrobe consists mainly of skirts and leggings. The one being stretchy and other other not at all fitted, so it is silly to even consider them a way to judge. Of all the truly ballsy things I can do (including driving in Boston by myself) and have done, stepping on a scale is beyond my fortitude level.

I think I am just going to have to do it, and stop being silly.

I did discover this: singing opera for an hour (aka a coaching or rehearsal) burns 132 calories for a person of average build.

Not bad, eh?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Oh my gosh, it's Fat Tuesday

Soundtrack while walking/dancing swiftly to work: Fergie

I was walking swiftly because I am trying to burn lots of calories. And I must admit after that amazing yoga class last night, my hips feel so loose, I was swinging them provocatively, basically dancing down the street like a lunatic. Sometimes Fergie really hits the spot.

My aria coaching (Mi tradi, etc.) with the conductor went better than I had hoped. I was a bit concerned, because my church jobs on Sunday morning tire me out so, and the idea that I would not be well-rested when singing these arias for the conductor for the first time (and they are so scary to begin with) was a little bit of a freak-out. But I put my big opera-singer girl panties on and just walked in and did it. It was so much fun. And while I still have plenty of work to do, I feel like I can do it. And unlike last time, I will not lose sleep.

Tonight, instead of drinking like a fish to celebrate the night before Lent (which also sounds very appealing), I'll be going to my voice lesson. I am so excited to listen to music and memorize as I drive.

That being said, I am certainly hoping you are all on Pinterest. I think it might be the number one most fun thing ever. I'm thinking about starting one for this blog, just to make it even more ridiculous than it already is...adding Pioneer Woman must-have recipes, quotable quotes, fabulous outfits, and the like!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Donna Elvira: think totally nuts, and you'll be fine

Because of some major snafus this morning with me just being completely out of it, I got a late start to my coaching. So I had to drive at an obscenely high and unsafe speed to get there on time. The problem being compounded of course, by another snafu—no gas in my car. Joe would never be so careless as to leave a car without gas—no, it was my own fault—I’d left it with very little after getting home from yet another singing related drive, and hadn’t had the energy to fill it up last night.

Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t catch on fire, I was moving so fast around all that gasoline at the gas station. It was insane. And I had to pee, but I didn’t dare stop to go. And I hadn’t eaten. Ask any of my close associates what the worst combination of problems in my life could be, and they will tell you: late, hungry, have to pee. No, seriously, there was this one time in Philadelphia…

Okay, that’s a story for another time, or, actually, never. It will go to my grave with me.

But I did get there on time, only to arrive to hear one of the most ethereally beautiful renditions of Mozart’s SECOND hardest aria: Et incarnatus est. I mean she really nailed it, and she NEVER had to breathe.

His first hardest is the one I had to sing directly after she left.

Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata.

The thing is, I don’t think it would be hard for any of the other women in the opera to sing. Zerlina could just chirp right through, and it would be a lowish walk in the park for Donna Anna. But for the voices that are most frequently cast in the role of Elvira, it can be a bit of a nail biter.

I think it’s because the rest of the arias we sing in Don Giovanni are a bit more, well, angry and loud. Full voiced singing is what feels good to me, I have really only just learned how to do it in the last couple of years (having been a bit of a default floater in the past), and I like to take that approach to all operatic rep. But Mi tradi is so much more complex. The whole scene really kind of shows how really double-minded Elvira is—she’s got some real issues, people. The recit requires that sort of singing, loud, very full in parts, but then, abruptly, a shift to the aria, lots of strings to keep up with underneath, and has to go very fast. It is the worst kind of pain to sing fast and switch between registers all throughout the range, and yet, it happens for about seven very exposed minutes, over and over again. So the only approach that seems to make sense so as not to kill oneself, is to go about it with a really free flow of air and light, light, light, not much weight. No getting bogged down, no worrying about the low bits, just keep the air flowing and use every single rest (oh wow, a second to actually REST?) to go back to, as I like to say, zero. Not to let any tension rise.

When I asked for any last advice before I sing it for the conductor, my coach said: “prayer.” And then burst into laughter and subsequently reassured me that the light concept was working, and that a bit more of the kookiness of the character needs to come in, with a sense of playing with the accidentals and some more “woohoo” nuttiness. It’s hilarious that just thinking about this makes my voice lighter and not weighted. But I will still need to pray as well. Sigh.

Now, isn’t that more than you ever wanted to know about an aria? Yes. Me too.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Today’s soundtrack while going to work: Henri Mulet’s Carillon et Sortie. It is so pleasingly badass that it makes me feel fabulous and able to handle things in general. There is all this very low bass pedal action, and you just have to love that. Sometimes I think organists do not play things loud enough. They should play very loud, if at all possible. I am in love with the sensation of being surrounded and enveloped by sound. Of course, not every church is Paris Notre Dame, either. The reverb possibilities are not quite as extensive.

Oh my goodness, I’m not sure why, because I have been exhausted and broke most of the month, but I am just generally in such a great mood because Don Giovanni is going to be amazing. Also, when you need to learn music, it is especially great and fun when the music is Mozart. There are a lot of composers out there that I get a big kick out of, but his music…well, it makes me a better PERSON.

I’m not sure if Mozart would have really been thrilled that this is the effect it has on me. He may have wanted it to make me sluttier and drink more and have more fun. But in any case, I bet he would be pretty stoked to know that people still want to sing his stuff.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Defying security

"Defiance is necessary — defiance to the strongest gravity in the human world, the pull of security. That’s the force that sucks you into the couch to watch TV, that tells you the safest thing to say is nothing, that tells you to stay in tonight, not to wear red, and to wait for the other person to call."

Another thought from David's latest post at Raptitude.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
― Rumi

Monday, February 06, 2012

On the pleasure of knowing what you're doing (kind of)

I'm relearning Donna Elvira, for my second time around with this crazy beeyotch.

After being inspired by Madonna's ultimate fierceness last night at the half-time show, I was like, "AND NOW...I feel like singing some Donna Elvira!"

Listening to Don Giovanni this time was a different experience from the last time. It was more "THIS IS THE BEST MUSIC EVER" than "HOLY Sh**t, I am screwed." Because I know where all the pitfalls are and I've lived through them, and in front of a live audience, yet. And it was one of the most tiring and exhilarating experiences I've ever had, despite the fact that I was so worried about it that I couldn't sleep...but that's a story for another blog. I imagine it was a little like giving birth. Yeah, except minus the PAIN, I know...

If only this opera could include a large drum line and pom poms and egyptian soliders and a throne.

That being said, I still have my work cut out for me, getting it back into my voice and memory after three years, so exciting though.

And to brighten up your Monday, check out this young lady and her AWESOME outfit!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Thursday means we're more than halfway done

It's going to be one of those days-- I'm starving already and it's 10:47 am. Oh god.

But I have to say this adorable little outfit really made me happy, and I'm pretty sure I'll be ordering this skirt immediately if not sooner.

What I Wore!

In order to combat this ridiculous hungry moment, I will be:

1. NOT looking at cooking websites.
2. Drinking vile-tasting organic green tea to suppress appetite, while simultaneously bolstering immune system.
3. Finishing off the three or so remaining almonds in the tin in my drawer, then licking the container clean.