Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Today is a good day because:

1. I am alive

2. There are people who love me

3. There are people I love

4. I get to be with some of them today, and I got to be with some of them yesterday

5. I get to sing today and I am singing music that a brilliant person wrote, and so I get to participate in the brilliance

6. I remember how lucky I am to be married to someone so great that I miss him this much when he is away

7. Chocolate chip cookies

8. Pizza

9. I sold an old blouse that I never wear on Ebay and made thirty bucks

10. The rain washed the pollen away

Friday, April 26, 2013

Basking in the glow of Leontyne Price

Can we all just agree that Leontyne is unreal, unbelievable, on another level?  I grew up listening to her and Kathleen Battle, and really, they were my first concept of what opera singers sound like.  My first memory of opera is watching Aida with my grandfather on TV.  And I vividly remember the singers-- it was Placido Domingo and Leontyne Price.  It made a big impression on me-- I don't remember if I liked it or hated it-- but there it was, burned in my memory.

I'm singing in another competition tomorrow, and last night, in the interest of trying to block out the competition PTSD that seems to be seeping back in, I started youtubing some of my arias to get some inspiration.  Since I'm singing some Carlisle Floyd, I thought it made sense to find anything I could with Phyllis Curtin-- and there was a wonderful interview from the NEA Opera Honors.  In that same series was one with Leontyne...I couldn't resist.

I hung on her every word for the forty minutes of the interview!  It was so so so so good.  She talked about how important it is to gain acceptance of claiming center stage.  What a concept.  Sometimes I think that this is our biggest problem-- How do I reconcile in my brain the idea that I am good enough to be CENTER STAGE?  How do I claim center stage?

For Leontyne, and according to this interview, it seems that she fell madly in love with her voice and her sound.  She reveled in it, and relished sharing it.  She appreciated every opportunity she had to be on a stage, and she emphasized that she never let anything negative keep her from being at her best when it was time to take center stage.

Super good advice.

Now, how to do it?

I think the first step must just be to decide to do it.  Which I have.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The thing about singing

is that it's really G.. D... expensive.

So, I need to rant.  It is very difficult to plan your travel stuff, when you find out about auditions you've been granted less than two weeks in advance.  Which, I suppose, is one of the many fabulous reasons singers:
a.  move to New York
b. have enormous credit card debt
c. decide to stop trying

Here's how the whole thing went down:

1. I send company application and check by their posted application deadline one month ago.  Company had posted that the auditions would be held in New York two weeks after the app deadline.

2. I don't hear back by the date of the auditions (which I had kept free in my schedule), so I figure they didn't want me for any audition.  Okay, I'm cool with that.  I'd rather that than be led on and asked to audition even if you know there are no openings for sopranos.

3. Then I see in my bank account the check has been cashed.  Which, I have to say, I was a bit miffed about.

4. A week later, I get an email asking if I can audition on a totally random Sunday afternoon, and by random, I mean one that wasn't posted in their web listing.  And one on which I have an orchestra rehearsal for my current production.

5. I write back, politely thanking them and asking for a different time in light of my conflict.

6. They write back with another conflicting time, I write back asking for something more specific.  They are nice enough to accommodate me.

7. I realize at this point that I'll have to leave at like 5 in the morning if I want to make it in time to warm up and things.  Not a good scenario to sing well.  And I wouldn't have time to fit in a voice lesson or anything.

8. So I start looking for cheap hotels.  There are none.  And by that I mean no cheap ones.   There are also no bus tickets that fit my extremely small window of time to get back in time for the orchestra rehearsal.  I buy a train ticket instead.

9. I spend more than I should ever have on all of the above, to make it all happen somehow any way because I would feel really bad about myself if I didn't do something with singing this summer.  I am now broke.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The rest of the story, part the second

Today has been interesting...I was having a really bad hair day, so I decided to turn it into a fantastic hair day by doing a wild updo... and I'm feeling great about the decision!  I love intricate, romantic hair, but anyway... back to the tale at hand...

The afternoon of the concert for my former teacher, Joe and I went back to our hotel room and just went to sleep-- I was worried of course, about my voice, but I figured I'd sleep an hour then take a long, really steamy shower and warm up.  I needed that nap!  It was amazing.

Before the performance, I tried to sequester myself so that I could focus, but people kept coming in who I hadn't seen in years, and so there was a lot of difficulty concentrating on the task at hand...also, the young man who was in charge of ushering was a bit confused as to what we needed him to do when we cam in from the side entrance.  People aren't really accustomed to dealing with opera singers, I think.  All my friends were sitting in the audience before they sang, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  I was still worried about whether to sing the whole Act 1 scene.  My voice was so tired after the Strauss.  But I decided to just go for it.  In auditions, the cabaletta works on its own, but not really in performance.   It went well, despite my fears, and I was able to fit a real cough in at an appropriate time by passing it off as a tuberculosis moment!   I feel so happy and so satisfied when I am able to be the character instead of worrying about my voice, and in that moment I was.

The concert was a huge success, and I am so so so glad that we did it.  It meant the world to me to hear my talented classmates and their emotional and powerful performances-- seeing so many familiar loving faces was a balm to my wounded little singer heart.  And singing well and getting a few compliments never hurts...although if I hadn't sung well, I'm sure I wouldn't have enjoyed the experience as much.

The weekend ended with me having a good cry as we drove back...it had been a really emotional time.

When I got home, guess what was in the mail box?  A contract from that audition I'd sung before I left.

I was so glad I hadn't let the competition debacle  keep me from going on to the next thing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The rest of the story

The following weekend, I had an audition for a gig.

The audition went surprisingly well...I almost couldn't believe that sinus infection and post traumatic stress from the competition and all I was able to sing as well.  But then, I feel that I learned something from the competition.  I started with the wrong piece.  It was a classic mistake.  When I am ill, or feeling slightly compromised, high, fast and loud are always best for me and easiest to pull off.  Pair the horrifying plane experience, no sleep and illness coming on with nervousness?  And then I stubbornly "went with the plan" instead of following the instincts telling me to start with a different aria?  That was the worst thing about it.  I feel like I made a huge mistake looking back...it all could have gone very differently had I sung something less delicate.  I am still kicking myself for that.

And then that thursday, Joe and I left for Indiana.  I'd been planning a concert to celebrate my teacher from undergrad since last fall, with thirteen singers I'd gone to school with.  I was still sick, and it made me very nervous, for so many reasons... however, it was good to have another thing to sing for dead ahead, so that I was forced to keep moving forward.

My teacher had requested a difficult Strauss song, that I'd learned for the occasion, and I was going to sing the first act scena from Traviata along with the solo bits in Make our Garden Grow from Candide, which all told are a few fairly big sings.  Put that in the kettle along with the fact that I would be trying to fit in seeing family, I'd be back in Indiana after something like ten years... a place awash in odd memories, and singing on the same concert with all the classmates I'd felt so very inferior to for the four years of my undergrad.  Yep, it was was an emotional land mine-- which rarely translates to singing well.

We rolled in just in time for the dress rehearsal-- after I'd insisted on a rib-sticking meal at my favorite travel restaurant Cracker Barrel!  Yes, I know...but I love the green beans more than life itself and the biscuits also make me very happy.  With a lot of butter, of course.  We sang through everything... I was still sickish, and totally exhausted after.  Everyone sounded FABULOUS.  I was so proud, and the vibe was very different-- we enjoyed each other's fabulousness in a very sincere way...it was refreshingly fun to sing.  I say that because my last major singing thing had been pretty traumatic, and I have to say my confidence was at an all time low.  I kept saying to Joe, as I blew my nose and coughed-- "If I feel funny or too tired, I'll just start with the cabaletta and not sing the whole scene...I'm just not going to put myself in a delicate position again in front of all those people after all these years..."  His constant reply was "You do exactly what makes you feel comfortable.  Don't do anything that makes you feel afraid. Who cares what's in the program, sing the short version if you need to."  What a good husband!

The day of the concert, we went out for an awesome breakfast with my sister and a fabulous lunch with my sister in law, and somehow, my heart felt lighter.  I guess spending time with family has a way of reminding you that you are loved, and that even if you went out on stage ten days ago and were a complete joke in front of some of opera's most important movers and shakers, there are people that still find you valuable in some way.

To be continued...

Friday, April 19, 2013

I disappeared.

Hello friends!

I've been away for a while, and there are so many things to say!

Those of you who know me well know that sometimes I just have to withdraw a bit and be with myself to get through things that are happening-- I am starting to think that I may be an introvert, although I obviously love socializing!

After being on board a flight with hundreds of sick people, arriving over three hours late, at around 3 in the morning, being awakened mid-rem cycle at my hotel by a wrong number call, I became terribly ill the morning of the competition for which I had travelled to compete in my last post.  I also received a very disturbing and emotional message via facebook, despite my best attempts to stay away from the dramas.  I sang very disappointingly, and was absolutely one hundred percent humiliated.  I was by myself, away from all my loved ones, a crying, ridiculous mess, feeling very embarrassed that I had wasted so much money and let so many people down including myself and my wonderful host family and teacher.  It was just bad. And I was sick, and I felt hopeless and like the world's biggest failure.  After all, if I can't pull it off in touch situations like that one, how could I ever have a real career???

So here I was, stuck in FL, where it's oddly freezing and all palm trees and strip malls.  I was desperate to get back to someplace familiar.  I decided to drive to my grandmother's house three hours across Florida.  My mom was there visiting my grandmother in an odd stroke of luck, and they gave me tea and helped me heal a little bit.  They also took me shopping, which I have discovered always helps.  I think I spent something like $83.00 at Target on nail polish and shoes.  Worth every penny, and since it was too cold to go to the pool...

I got back and the very next day was hit with a question from a colleague about a production that threw me a bit...and at a time when my emotional and physical resources were at an all time low.  When I returned to work the next week, it was the busiest time of the year, and that was a very difficult week to get through.  Conflict at every turn.  I was starting to feel like I was beating my head against a wall, and like nothing good could possibly happen.  The weirdest thing was that I could hear myself thinking these negative thoughts and I knew they were pointless and not helping in the least.  I wanted to stop, but I felt like I just couldn't lift the fog myself.

So I just decided to keep doing the next thing.  Prepare the solo for church.  Work on the pieces for this or that concert that I had coming up.  I tried to stop thinking about "my career," and just learn my music.

To be continued.