Autumn Redux

Timehop is both a blessing and a curse: every fall it shows me all of the wonderful people & places I've been on the audition tour. The unspoken/unframed reality is that we're always working like dogs to put together a season in the most appropriate (or most bass-ackward) way we can, by selecting singers first, and the rep that will serve them best second. I'm finding that there's a 4-year cycle of sorts - I know that I'll revisit people and places that I love within 4 years, even know I could intend to spend quality time with them every year.

In some ways that's a total cop-out; in others, the time is just right. I blame you, maturity/advancing age, for making me realize that there are great relationships that manage themselves beautifully on that very rotation - even if I want to increase the frequency.

The sad thing that Timehop has revealed is that, at this time last year we were taking our sweet puppy in for joint surgery. Fast forward a year, and we're sadly doing the same thing. Numbering aong the pros are the fact that we trust these vets implicitly, that we know it's going to cost a BAJILLION dollars,  and that we've figured out how to trust each other through the process. Cons are, well, he's 20 months old and just went through a second surgery. He'll never be whole, and we'll have to restrict him for the rest of his life. (the surgeon said "well, yeah...you got a lemon. but he's just so charming! You'll have a hard time bringing him home, our folks love him so. ")

So, It's mid-November. Veterans' Day is tomorrow - my Father-in-Law served, my dad's favorite Uncle was killed by a sniper in Korea, my nephew has his commissioning ceremony next summer. My puppy is in pieces downstairs, the big dog and cat are spastic with the tension in the house, and I've eaten not one but TWO of the jumbo Reese's cups that I had stashed in the freezer for emergencies.

Not my proudest hour.

I was struggling, and my colleague sent me a video of a little boy chugging around an obstacle course: he was working reeeeeally hard to make it through some events, but he just did it, without question. That little boy is my new spirit animal: here's yet another toast to trying, to attempting, to giving your all, even when you're pretty sure the goal is waaaaay out of coverage. 



There's always a point, somewhere in the first third of the audition tour, when I am totally, unexpectedly gobsmacked by how damn hard it is.  The act of listening for hours a day, (not counting the energy it takes to get ourselves to the point where we can?) It's tough.

Think about it, how difficult it actually is to listen for HOURS a day. I mean, really listen. Not listen while multitasking, putting your mom on speakerphone (Hi, mom!) while you do dishes, chatting on headphones as you walk across town. Nope. It's like you're at an acoustic show, or a recital. For DAYS. You and I have both struggled to stay invested in select 5-minute conversations - maybe they were trivial, maybe they were important...but you and I both know that we've tuned out in tiny chats. But going to that "I wonder what's for lunch..." place mid-aria is not an option for us when we're auditioning.

(I preface this whole stupidly whiny post by saying that I KNOW THAT I HAVE IT RIDICULOUSLY GOOD. It's an honor to sit in the room, to invest in the artistry of the next generation of singers, to listen to works in progress and try to gauge potential and present. There's something amazingly festive, celebratory about having people walk in every 7-10 minutes to deliver their strongest performances! I realize that my job is totally ridiculous, and that this gripe is the first-worldliest of all first-world gripes. But I want to do right by everyone who comes into the room. I want to listen, to focus, to hear and see nothing but them. I want to be captivated, to be transformed. I want them to know that someone heard them, tried their best to understand who they were as an artist and a person.)

But I struggle. Like everyone else in the modern western world, I'm tired. My colleagues and I have been living out of our carry-on suitcases for almost two weeks, unpacking and repacking every 2 days. My clothes have somehow expanded so that they'll never, ever fit back into my suitcase without some serious magic, or my ass (which has also expanded at a corresponding rate) sitting on the poor lid, forcing those zippers together. My lack of willpower has me opting for terrible food, and my subsequent allergies have my face blotching up like a teen. (And relatively, I'm having a pretty easy tour!) My muscles are stiff, except for the ones that are downright sore or injured. I'm trying to learn repertoire like a bitch, because we don't cast until we hear everybody sing, which means I'm cramming operas into my head every year at this time, and then they fall out as soon as we pick...so I'm currently re-cramming. We left one midwestern city yesterday evening, drove 4 hours to another midwestern city, and heard an epic day's worth of singers and pianists today. (I don't know how our pianists do it - they're amazing!)

And we're going to do it all over again tomorrow.
And then we're going to do it in New York. 
And Houston. 
And Philly. 
And in our home theater.

There are a few reasons I struggle. 

First off? Personal taste. It's not news that people have personal preferences for different kinds of voices. I have personal biases, of course (ask me which of the three tenors has the career that I respect the most, and which one I love to listen to, and you'll get two totally different answers.), but I can't let those personal tastes into the room; which means if you have a type of voice that doesn't resonate easily with me, I'm listening closely to both figure out where the bodies are buried (vocally/technically speaking), but also to reexamine my own biases to try to beat them down a bit. If your instrument is one that I naturally gravitate towards? I'm going to really listen to see where the problems are, because I can't allow myself to just wallow around in a sound that I like.
(Notice what just happened there? It kinda doesn't matter whether I like your sound or not, I have to stay invested to make sure that I'm not dismissing it for personal taste, or giving you a pass because I like your natural sound.)

Secondly? Volume. Not actual sonic volume, but number of arias per day. Time spent sitting in a chilly room in a chair behind a table, tapping notes into a computer. (Those of you who don't like office work but would like to cast people? Auditions are office work: we've got printers and computers and staplers and spreadsheets and files and databases, and we have meetings to talk about casting and productions...it's all office work. Weird, non-standard office work, maybe; but not really, in truth.) And it's just a fact that, if you're the third person to sing Quando m'en vo in an 8-hour span, you're going to need to sing significantly better to be considered over the other two ladies. (Or you could go with singing it significantly differently...but sometimes that's good and sometimes it's just entertaining.) There are a certain number of people that I can listen to in a day without having my ears roll up the welcome mat and slam the door. And some days, due to schedules and rooms and travel, we have to listen to slightly more than that magic number.

(confession: volume, critical mass is something  with which I always struggle, even at home. I'm the girl with headphones constantly in as I exercise/run errands/walk around the neighborhood...often there's nothing on in the headphones, I just need to filter the sound. maybe lots of ear infections as a kid have given me a stronger predilection for quiet? Anyhow, this is all a lengthy justification for sitting in a hotel room in silence, writing a blog post, and is also the reason I invested in a tiny watercolor set; so I could have something to do while I was not-listening.)

Thirdly? Psychic energy. As much as it's possible from way back here at the table, once I make eye contact with you I'm sending out "I REALLY WANT YOU TO ROCK" vibes as hard as I can. Because that's what I want - for you to sing like the rock star you are! You've won an audition, after a tough screening process; I'm already in your corner, and I'm going to send you all the good vibes that I possibly can.

It's 10pm. I'm turning off the lights in this quiet room to do some serious recharging for tomorrow's auditions. And I'll leave you with one of the few songs that I can indeed listen to on a heavy listening day. The original, and the cover, are both great. (And slightly ironic, because the song is about talking which is exactly what I can't bear...mayhaps I'll record my own cover, but change 'talk to' to 'chat with.' )


Heinz post.

Yep. A Ketchup/catch-up post.

  • Summer was baller. (i know, i know...but i do love that word.) Great people, great productions, great music. Another really fulfilling season, and while I'm not surprised at this point, I am grateful and in awe of my colleagues who have done some amazing artistic things. Tutti bravi!
  • I took two weeks off at the end of the season. I thought I was going to help Mom through some post-op, but ended up not...I have little to show for the time, but it was GLORIOUS.
  • Jessica Vanderhoof from Artists on Fire helped me streamline my closet. I gave a million things away...and somehow I'm having an easier time getting dressed in the morning.
  • I opened an Etsy store for my doodles. 
  • Hubs and I spent time with neighbors and pals, and did a lot of puttering around the house. We got new back steps and new plants (which we're trying to not kill in the glorious low-humidity.)
  • The University of Maryland invited me to sit for 2 days of audition intensives with their students. It was a thrill to go back to my alma mater, and to hear some great singing.
  • Had a great evening here: beautiful, AND tasty!
  • I missed the Wolf Trap Ball this year, but it was by all accounts a great evening. (Shout out to Bob and Tim for the beautiful scenery, and to Alyson & Robert & Josephine and the Inscape chamber players for making such beautiful music.)
  • I started a new diet. (shocker)
  • My hair went from blonde to brownish grey. It's likely closer to my natural color, but I'm going to subscribe to revisionist history for a while longer...salon appointment on Thursday.
We leave for auditions on Saturday. Many miles to go before then, and to be wholly honest, I'm far from ready in every category...I'm struggling with just about everything, across the board: my self, my job, my habits, my goals...all of it. 

Tomorrow is Yom Kippur, and while I'm not Jewish (although I have ancestors who converted from Judaism to Catholicism upon reaching the US), I'm thinking that a day of fasting/introspection might not be a good way to jolt me out of this fog/funk. Also, tomorrow Pope Francis says mass in DC...and maybe some of that divine goodness might waft its way out to the burbs, to a girl who needs it. 

I believe in miracles, even if I can't commit to a religious tradition. :)

Hoping you find yourself in the new routine of autumn, with low humidity and peaceful evenings and beautiful skies forever amen. 


The Million-Year July

Every summer I think "well, when we start to taper down I'll be able to hang out with singers/catch up on my inbox/go to bed early."

But this season? Instead of tapering, we're rushing like Wile E. Coyote for the cliff's edge.

(In reality? It's always like this...it's the beauty of a holey memory.)

This week we had:

  • an AIDA with 4 alums and a group of our current artists. It rocked.
  • Studio Spotlight, a scenes program, with our Studio Artists. It also rocked.
  • Two days of colleague auditions for the Studio. They sang their FACES off.
  • Tonight's Vocal Colors recital at The Phillips Collection. It totally rocked.
This weekend we have 4 performances: 2 with the National Symphony, and 2 recitals with Steven Blier. We start overnight techs for Butterfly on Monday. I should also start my preshow talk, eh? yes. yes I should actually write a preshow talk...because I am not smart enough to riff.)

(And did I mention that all of the Chamber Music performances are announced next week and all of the materials are just now being vetted? And our big national grant applications' internal deadlines are next week?)

There is so much to do. But holy crap, y'all. I'm TIRED. 

(whinefest over. for now. thanks for indulging me.)


Short post...

...mostly because it's July, and even easy things are somehow hard this month. Not bad - there's so much good happening! But really, it's just that there's so MUCH much happening right now. It's overwhelming.

Today was Monday. The Monday after what was for many lucky sonsabiches a long holiday weekend, but for us was one day to look at fireworks and drink a beer and realize how much adrenalin is carrying us through and how tired we are. (Or maybe that was just me.)

I started today late for a meeting that I SWORE started an hour after it actually did. And was fully booked - sometimes triple-booked - for the rest of the day. And time somehow folded in on itself, and what was an 11-hour workday accordioned into something that felt only 5-6 hours long, if I were holding 3 conversations simultaneously and lifting weights continuously.

But the conversations were all great, because the people are lovely...and my colleagues again buoyed me up in the most wonderful way; even if I didn't have the headspace to accept it or say thank you.

Now I'm home after a gorgeous Wandel for our amazing production of Ghosts. Watching this project come together has been a career high point for me - not only because the work itself is weird and wonderful, but the people involved in the show are as weird, and as wonderful, as they come. And I mean 'weird' as the dictionary defines it:
  1. 1.
    suggesting something supernatural; uncanny.

Uncanny? Yes. Supernatural? Most Definitely. Enchanting? That too. 

Here's to finding the weird and the wonderful in all of our overscheduled lives. 

(And another toast to knowing when it's time to hit the hay...'night folks.)



Oh, lovelies, it's been a crazy, incredible week.

Last weekend we opened the season with 3 performances in as many days, preceded by the summer's first long run of 14-hour days. (Dear HR: if I hit 40 hours before Wednesday is over, does that mean I can take the rest of the week off?) We opened a beautiful, incisive Figaro, had a spirited voting session for the arias featured in Aria Jukebox, and hosted a second (sold out!) Figaro. 

Ghosts is in rehearsal. We had a media maven, an improv coach and a headshot photographer in to work with our singers. 

David Gray and Amos Lee sang at the Filene Center. Amos Lee ended his set with the Game of Thrones theme and I laughed like a schoolkid at recess. David Gray sang "My oh my" and I tried to not cry. (#nostalgia #fail) 

And on Wednesday? My amazing colleagues and singers threw Kim and me a Centennial Birthday Party. (We share a birthday, and we turn 100 on Sunday!) They rewrote the lyrics to "Shut Up and Dance with Me" and performed it with sass (and even worked my crazy last name into the lyrics - AND pronounced it correctly!)  and Happy Birthday in 73-part harmony as only opera singers can. 

Figaro #3 (also sold out!) was Wednesday evening. Tomorrow is a well-earned Company Free Day.

It's been a week of amazing generosity - on behalf of the performers in Figaro, the Ghosts team from working around the many scheduling limitations, our artist in residence for the summer Michelle DeYoung: the amazing Studio who sing a mean pop tune, JoLi and Fingers Hanlon for their mad writing/arranging/playing skillz. My sneaky wonderful colleague Morgana who truly made magic on Wednesday. Spence who takes such wonderful care of us (even making us all mac and cheese on Wednesday night and delivering it to the Barns!) 

I won't lie, and I don't wholly think it's the fatigue talking yet (it is, after all, only June): but all week I have felt slightly raw, and embarrassingly unworthy of all of these big, wonderful things. 

(But I am exceedingly, ridiculously grateful for each moment, each person. )


The storm before the calm before the storm

Rehearsals start on Monday.
It's Saturday evening.

I'm preparing: laundry, cleaning house. Groceries and stocking the freezer.
But more importantly? I'm stocking up all of those other reserves:

Sleeping late.

Walking and listening to my new Church, Krista Tippett and her podcast On Being. (This week she's talking to Maria Popova from Brain Pickings, and I love the interview so much that I'm only half-kidding when I say I'd like to have the conversation tattooed on my body so that it becomes part of me.)

Walking for miles and miles in the humidity, taking pictures of the crazily lush vegetation that has sprung up in the last two weeks.

Wetting down huge pieces of paper with the hose, melting color onto them. Making circles with tiny dots of red, fuchsia, bronze.

Talking with a friend - one of those who transcends time and space to feel like she's right next to me and it's been minutes rather than months since we last saw each other.

Listening to all to boys in my house snore simultaneously.

Trying two new recipes for the same meal. (And kicking their butts...kitchen WIN.)

Visiting with neighbors.

It's been a puttery, quiet day, and it's been just perfect.

It's 8pm. I'm going to surf the web, doodle, eat a cookie, read and draw. And then I'm going to take a bubble bath with lavender bubbles, and fall into what I hope will be a ridiculously restorative sleep.

Because on Monday? It's game on, and Little Miss Introvert goes into hibernation until fall. I'm excited for the music making to start! But I'll miss this quiet time.

My five:

  • impromptu porch visits.
  • old friends.
  • flip flops.
  • lavender.
  • thunderstorms.