12.30.2008

Putting all my eggs in 2009's basket.


Oh, 2009, you and I are going to get along swimmingly...

Last year, on the cusp of 2008, Hubby and I were exploring San Francisco, buying wine we couldn't afford, getting grumpy when the kids started throwing elbows at a NYE concert, and generally wishing we were home with the cat and dog, being lame. But we didn't mention to anyone that we'd prefer to be lame because, well, that'd be super lame.

This year, on the cusp of 2009, I embrace my inner lame-ass.

I am curled up on the couch, two (two! go, me!) blankets and one cuddly kitty on my lap. The dog has already gone to bed. I have a glass of wine (number two of the evening...may get to number three) on the sill, and instead of making lobster risotto and pomegranate martinis, which would've required prep and work, we ordered pizza.

See? Laaaaame.

I will not make it up to midnight this year. I'm not going to celebrate with the neighbors, or with friends at the Naked Cougar. Not that I wouldn't really enjoy either option - but instead I'm going to bid 2008 an early adieu, and when I wake up it'll be 2009.

An icy cold, clean slate. A good thing.

The year of the Ox begins on January 26th. I'm an ox (no jokes, please), so a year devoted to me and my kind sounds pretty darn good!

And I'll turn 36 this year. Years that end in 5s have not traditionally been good to me...maybe not terrible, but I think that 36 and I will be better suited for each other.

And I'm in a good place...good hubby, comfy house, fun job, silly pets, good friends.

So think fondly of me 2009 - I'll be daydreaming of you!

12.28.2008

Taking stock

I had coffee with SingleGirl this morning, as it's been calendar years since I've seen her (OK, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but it felt like a loooong time). It was great to just catch up, see her well on the road to health, and compare notes over the various holiday celebrations. During our conversation she asked me what my goals, (resolutions, plans... I forget her exact word) were for the upcoming year.

Well, if 2008 has taught me anything, it's that plans go awry.

I've been incredibly blessed in 2008...reconnected with some wonderful people from my past, seen a fabulous summer season come and go, found a little strength that I didn't know I had...bought a lovely new house, trained for a 5k, made flavored vodka... taught an adult class, tried to grow my hair out, made friends. There's been a lot of good things that have happened.

But, honestly, I have to say that I'll be relieved when 2008 is history. I'm still looking forward to the possibilities of 2009 in my usual Pollyanna style... and I'm trying to let those possibilities be huge, electric, exciting, rather than letting them be tempered and by reality and loss.

So the next few days will consist of appreciating what I have, nailing down what's important, thinking about what I want, and trying to figure out how to get there. Any advice and insight is, as always, appreciated!

My five:
  1. Flip flops in December...enjoying the calm before the storm!
  2. Long walks with the pup.
  3. Company and coffee - a lurvely combination!
  4. Winter skies.
  5. Open windows.

12.27.2008

I'm a surVIvah! I'm gonna make it!


Ok, so during normal times I would probably not even admit that I like the Destiny's Child song from this post's title.

Or that I own it.

Or that I listen to it several times weekly, most often at the gym.

Or that I look forward to the cheesy opening synth riff.

But it's a new day, and I'm coming clean. I totally heart that tune!

It's a new day because I have officially survived Christmas. Without tears, without losing my mind, without harming small children or elderly people.

Go me!

Granted, it was different, and not all good, and many, many baked goods were harmed (note to self: work on finding a new coping mechanism) but here I am on the other side, having observed some miracles and some real sweetness.

But I'm really looking forward to taking the tree down, scrubbing the house, and experimenting with a slightly more ascetic January. Discipline, reflection, activity...all buzzwords.

Hoping your holidays were merry and bright, and as sparkly as my girls up there. :)

My five:
  1. Bacon. My darling mother-in-law made a metric ton over the last two days. Nothing is as lovely as waking up to that smell...
  2. Family.
  3. Emergency medical personnel...with 2 family members in the hospital over the holidays (both released on Christmas Day, thankfully), I'm reminded of how amazing these folks are, and how much I take their services for granted.
  4. A dog that travels well. Whew!
  5. Quiet homecomings.

12.21.2008

To holiday or not to holiday...is that even really a question?


...it sadly is.

This year the holidays are more complex, more difficult, and yet in some ways sweeter than in years past. I'll admit that I'm finding certain things, like hitting the mall to buy gifts, extremely difficult in more than a financial sense. And thinking about our big Christmas Eve celebration without my dad is totally heartbreaking. So I'm trying to not imagine what the days will be like, and instead am focused on trying to stay in the moment, to enjoy family and friends and the camaraderie. It's working to varying degrees... if you've called and I've not called you back, or you've tried to make plans with me and I've hedged and hedged, please know that it's simply because I'm not terribly emotionally inconsistent, and not that I don't really really want to spend time with you. Better yet, just drop by...the house will be a mess, but I'll be happy to see you!

One of the great things that has happened in the last few days is that our neighbors have stopped in to say "happy holidays"... in the five years that we lived in our townhouse, we only had two families really befriend us. But here we've been invited over for eggnog, Boo has received a rawhide chewie the size of a diplodocus thighbone, and we've sampled some truly amazing tres leches cake. And folks that we've not formally met yet have pulled over as they've been driving by to introduce themselves and apologize for not stopping by...crazy. It's so nice.

Anyway, this year I've stayed away from many of the things I usually associate with the holidays. My family are gifters...buying stuff for each other usually gets out of hand. This year I'm making a large number of foodie things, rather than heading to the dreaded mall, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I've made several kinds of cookies and breads, cranberry spiced vodka, hot buttered rum mix (if you like the life savers you'll LOVE this stuff!), and dog biscuits. So it's not like I've been slacking in the getting-ready-for-the-holiday department, but that I'm doing more of it from casa mia than casa di Macys.

And today is day two of the pierogi project! I made the filling yesterday, and hubby asked "So, I can't just take that big bowl of cheesy mashed potatoes and eat them now, while they're still warm?"

"No."

Full stop.

Do not mess with Polish tradition!

So today I'll be up to my elbows in homemade pasta, making little purses of cheesy mashed taters to boil, and then sautee in butter and onions on Christmas Eve. My brother is making meat pierogi...it's a HUGE departure for us, as we've not -well, legitimately- had meat on Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember. So it's a new tradition, and one that I can't wait to taste!

So I'm getting ready to start mess-making, but I have one more cup of coffee, a crossword to linger over, and Crowded House performing at Austin City Limits on PBS. And then we'll get started! Care to join in?

My five:
  1. Crowded House. I've loved these guys for forever, and still find their music beautiful, relevant, and infinitely easy to listen to.
  2. Making messes. What could be more fun?
  3. Good surprises, and the frequency at which they've been occurring.
  4. Snuggly pets.
  5. Compassion.

12.19.2008

Where grown-ups work.

This is my office, when I'm in full-on work mode.


It's a total disaster.

In fact, the word "tidy" has never been an accurate descriptor for yours truly.



But there's always music on the piano, cards from friends, pictures of loved ones, projects layered two and three deep, and quite a bit of detritus that consists solely of things-I-think-I-might-need.

Someday.

Maybe.


But today was my last day of work in 2008. And in order that I might start 2009 in a better, more organized fashion, I purged.

The set of Grove Music dictionaries and the photo slides went into the new library annex (HUZZAH for the extra space!), fiction books went into a bag to go home, classical CDs went into the library... you get the picture. (I thought about stringing up the multicolored Christmas lights up around the perimeter, and turning them on to see if anyone would notice over the holiday...but the voice of reason in the neighboring office helped me see the folly of that thought...) So now, when I return to my office in 2009, this is what it'll look like:



Yep.
It looks like it's not my office.

But at least I have room to start tarting it up again.

bullet points...again

Either I'm totally lame or there's a lot going on...probably both. Here's the skinny until this weekend, when I can write a little more thoroughly.

  • It's no longer springtime in VA, but our sump pump has been running constantly for the past week...and I have it on good authority that it has snowed in both Houston and Las Vegas. Consider this my formal complaint.

  • As I put on my dog-walking clothes this morning, I realized that my cold-weather walking outfit looks curiously like what a burglar would wear...today I'll be swapping out the black hood for a silly hat.


  • The company holiday party was yesterday evening, and I was reminded again of how much I enjoy my colleagues, even those I don't know very well. I'm lucky to have work, period; having work that I enjoy and co-workers whose company I look forward to is some very sweet icing on the cake!

  • Today is my last day of work until 2009, dahlings! WOO-HOO! But that also means that there's lots to be done today, including mucking out the office so that it's pretty when I start back next year. (NEXT! YEAR!) Will Rahree ever see the surface of her desk? Tune in next time to find out!

My five:

  1. Easy cameraderie.
  2. Rewards for a job well done. (Way to go BG and PZ!)
  3. Maple-butternut ravioli...seriously awesome.
  4. Feeling buzzed with possibilities.
  5. Pleasant surprises.

12.15.2008

It's springtime!




Well, it feels like springtime...I kicked off my boots at lunchtime, stepped into my grubby old Keds and played some serious frisbee with the dog. (Sorry that I tossed your toy onto the roof, Boo! I'll get you a new one tomorrow! And maybe I'll learn to not throw like a girl...) My childhood winters were filled with snow...snow to the rafters, in huge drifts between sidewalk and street, so in many ways my winters south of the Mason Dixon line feel totally surreal.

But I'm getting used to them. :)

I celebrated the mild weather by throwing open the windows for the afternoon, and taking a long walk with the hound after work. Lovely... it makes me want to push right past the holidays and wake up in April...preferably with longer hair and a smaller tush.

Today was a brainstorming day at work...one of the days where a big idea has to be chopped into smaller pieces and researched/turned over and about/what-if'ed to death to see what the best solutions are. I like these days...there's a creative element to the problem solving and research that I dig. And it's only the first...this process will continue into the spring months. But I'm ready for the spring...

I'm not making New Years resolutions this year, as there's something about the scope of resolutions that make them seem too big, too insurmountable. But I do have some things I've decided to work on for the next several months, in a few categories...hey, at the very least it'll keep me out of trouble, right?
  • get into a gym routine. my first real training session is tomorrow afternoon. we'll see if I can move on Wednesday! and along with that...
  • ...run a 10k or half-marathon this spring. I'm looking into races...anyone care to join in?
  • start teaching again. my spring class will be on the books soon! yay!
  • make an amateur, non-classical recording...i've found a few tunes, and am starting to scribble down some of my own. they may never see the light of day, but it's the process that's important, right?

The category that I'm still looking into is, loosely defined, giving back. There are so many ways to volunteer, but I want to find something that really resonates with me...am on the lookout!

My five:
  1. being in an unseasonable frame of mind.
  2. Hiro on Heroes...nice to see another Pollyanna, even if he's fictional.
  3. cranberry spiced vodka...have you been naughty or nice?
  4. the ocarina app for the iPhone...ingenious and totally addicting.
  5. Frey's A Million Little Pieces... totally rocked my world, regardless of whether it's fact, fiction or an amalgam of the two.

A special shout out to SingleGirl - sending good thoughts to you tomorrow!

12.13.2008

Gym Rat Rahree

So, I sadly fell off the 5k wagon just before the audition tour...I had been doing well with the training, and was enjoying it. But, well, travel happened, and now it's mid-December, complete with gift stress, office parties, post-Dad sadness and general, pervasive irritability and anxiety. I can feel myself getting b*tchy (and so can Hubby - just ask him.), but am in a rut where I don't want to do much other than eat, drink wine, watch tv and sleep.

But I belong to a swanky new gym that offers free personal training to new members. I've never had a trainer before. Sounds interesting, right? So I toss on my gym clothes this morning and roll over to the gym to meet LG, the girl who's going to get me fit by May.

She has no idea what she's in for... :)

Today was easy - just an assessment. Before our meeting I hopped on the treadmill for a nice, easy walk/jog. Easy, in case she decided to work me out for realz today. I was lucky...on some levels. No workout today, just some tests and stretching. BUT the scale, the body-fat calipers, the heart rate monitor, the tape measure...not as good. My blood pressure and heart rate are both low, which is good; but so were my dad's...maybe not so good. My VO max? Well, I'm no Lance Armstrong, that's for sure. Weight? We won't even talk about that. The one bright spot? I'm in the "good" zone as far as pushups and upper body strength! Guess I should thank Pupper for dragging me around the neighborhood...seems the resistance training is paying off!

So, on my ongoing quest to learn to love exercise and get healthy, I'm entering stage two: accountability. I am starting a food journal - that's nothing new, as I keep one off and on all year. But now I have to share it with LG. Someone else is going to see the large part of my diet that's unapologetically comprised of bread and chocolate. I'm more than a little nervous about that...there's part of me that is embarrassed about my emotional eating and lack of self-control, and another part that feels that it's my right to salve my emotional wounds with chow. We'll see how that all plays out. I'm meeting with her again on Monday, this time to get my first set of workouts. I have short-term and long-term goals, some weight-related, some skill-related. Regardless of these goals, I'm excited to have something positive to work toward this holiday season...we'll see if it helps keep the crazy at bay.

If I'm committed enough, there will be a successful 10k or half-marathon in my future. Crazy, huh?

Next goal? To take the "if" out of the previous sentence.

On another note, I met a group of fabulous women last night! I was invited to a (my first!) Book Club, and had a great time. Lots of opinions, lots of laughter, LOTS of amazing food, and a gift book swap. I was welcomed in, and felt immediately at home. Thanks for including me, ladies! Can I come back next time? (I promise I'll read the whole book! Cross my heart!)

My five:
  1. good surprises.
  2. manageable challenges.
  3. new opportunities.
  4. generosity.
  5. patience.

12.11.2008

12.11.08



So here's what I've been doing the last few weeks, the pictoral version!


Homemade cranberry sauce for our Thanksgiving staycation. With some citrus, vanilla, and garam masala...not for everyone, but it was pretty good!






Union Station in DC, one of the most civilized places from which to travel.







Rachael and I at the bar well before 5pm...old habits and all that...









Throw the frisbee, Mama! It feels like summer outside! (and indeed it did... it was over 60 degrees on December 10th in the DC area...while Houston was seeing snow. Weird.)








Makin' radio at WETA...




...and my alter ego, hanging by the research workstation.






Here's what I've been doing today...


...and, as you can see, my sous chefs are less than helpful.














Posting will be light for the next few weeks...this holiday season is totally kicking my butt on a personal level, and it's not really the time of year to share these not-so jolly feelings. So, consider my relative silence my personal gift to you. :)

12.08.2008

12.08.08


This cracked me up...not opera-related, but funny enough to share. Enjoy!



12.07.2008

12.7.08 weekend roundup

I had grand plans for the weekend, and while the weekend is turning out to be sufficiently grand, the plans that I was hoping to accomplish have come to, well, naught. Lesson 1: be flexible!

I played piano in public yesterday, a task that freaks me out a little until the first 5-6 minutes have passed...I'm always surprised that I don't forget how to play. Sure, my chops are non-existent, but I still know how to read music, can support a young singer, can improve each time through the piece. Three hours later I left the class feeling energized, and thoughtful. How do I get more of the music-making back into my every-day life? I'll be working on that one over the next few weeks.

Went to the grocery store with 5 million of my closest friends - seriously, it was MADNESS. Came home and made a vat of potato soup. A metric ton. And ate most of it. By the time Boo and I went walking it had started to snow...and there was something calming, and more than a little magical about walking through a light snow at dusk. It was pretty incredible.

This morning I'm not moving quite as quickly...it's windy and cold outside [the chimes on the porch sound lovely, though!], and I'm procrastinating on walking the hound. He's pretty insistent, though...we'll be going soon. (For a look at how other folks start their days, check this out.)Then a trip to the gym, and bundling up for an afternoon spent outside at work. If you're free, come sing with us! It'll totally put you in the holiday spirit! After that I'll run home, quickly thaw out, and head to Bethesda to a holiday party hosted by some good friends. Yay.

List? Undone. Gifts? Unmade, unpurchased...heck, largely unidentified. State of mind? Happily content. Hoping you're surfing the holiday stress.

Today's five:
  1. Thinsulate boots.
  2. Hats - they keep the cold air out, and the scary bedhead under wraps. Whew!
  3. Snow.
  4. Excuses for festivity.
  5. New traditions.

12.05.2008

12.5.08


TGIF, my friends!

It's well before 7am, and I've been awake (well, "awake" gives me a little too much credit) since 4ish. Two large cups of hazelnut coffee later - I know you coffee purists are scoffing at me, but it's SO GOOD - and some news and blog perusal later, and I'm almost feeling like a human being. Another few sips and maybe I'll gather enough courage to walk the dog...it's cold out this morning.

On the work front it's already 2009 for all intents and purposes. I've been moving virtual furniture, scheduling meetings, working on contracts, and finally reconciling all of the financials from the audition tour. Even though we travel and eat on the cheap, it adds up...and there are a million tiny receipts, hotel bills, etc. to reconcile. Try this math: each application fee that we collect, (whether you agree or disagree with the convention), is about equal to half the cab fare from any given airport to the hotel. Seven or eight of them gets one of us one night in a hotel room. Fifty of them will allow us to rent an audition space. Twenty of them will pay for one pianist for one day. So, while it seems that we make oodles of coin on applications, we actually don't. We're incredibly fortunate to be part of a larger organization who realizes the importance of doing a national tour: they realize how expensive it is for singers around the holidays to travel to us on the east coast and, as the opera industry becomes less localized in NYC, how important it is to see what's happening in conservatories and opera companies across the country. Without their support, well, let's not even think about that. I understand how difficult it is to pay the fee and not get the auditions - it happened to me more than once, I promise. But no one's getting rich - I promise that, too.

Ok, rant over. :)

So it's almost Christmas, and I'm having serious gifters block. It'll be a scaled back, and fairly somber holiday for my family. And I'm thinking of trying to make something, except, well, serious lack of transferable skills. (The picture above is of my last project - sequined ornaments. 'Cuz that's how I roll...shiny and more than a little tacky!) I can certainly bake, but am toying with a mix of baked goods, maybe pre-made cocoa or quickbread mixes in pretty jars, or maybe homemade liqueurs...anyone have any advice or suggestions? Seriously, I'm alllllll ears!

On today's docket? (Besides work, natch.) Buying lights for the porch - I only have multicolored strands, and hubby will break out in hives if he comes home to my pretty (shiny, tacky) colored lights rather than white ones outside. Making soup - it's the kind of day that a nice soup or stew and a load of crusty bread sounds like heaven in a bowl. Doesn't it? Mmmm...recipe browsing commencing in 3....2...1.....



My five:
  1. Warm feet.
  2. Inaugural excitement - this town is pretty jazzed, I have to say.
  3. Cuddly pets...they love me WAY more when it's cold outside. I'm not sure why... :)
  4. Scaling back on stuff & things, and stocking up on good experiences and great friends.
  5. Traditions.

12.02.2008

12.2.08

Ok, so December and I started off on the wrong foot yesterday, but things are looking up today. More sleep, no jackhammers, nice long walks with the pup, and the addition of long-lost winter clothes to my work wardrobe. I like getting enough sleep and feeling cute - it works for me!



This evening I spent with this:




The largest cat toy that Lucky has ever seen.



It's the best day of his little kitty life.


In the interest of safety, the pretty glass ornaments are still in storage in favor of cheapy plastic ones from Tarjay. And I'm sure that I'll awake to a big crash in the middle of the night. But it's still worth it.

I can haz krismis treeeee?

12.01.2008

12.1.08

Today is soooooo Monday.
CelloGirl and I went to a great show last night, and then sat up chatting way too late, especially in light of her early-morning flight back to Las Vegas this morning. We set alarms for 5:30am and tried to catch some sleep.

4:15am

Jackhammers.

JACKHAMMERS?!?!?!

Oh yes, jackhammers. A block away. 75 minutes before my way-too-early alarm.

So, not a terribly auspicious beginning to my Monday morning. Couple that with a gray, dreary day and the first day back in the office since the end of the audition tour and, well, Crabby McGrumperson is back. Just hoping to make it through today without melting or losing my mind.

In other news, NaBloPoMo is finito. Whew! Thanks for sticking with me through the last month...I'll still be posting, although probably not quite as frequently. And, perhaps, I'll actually have more content. But let's not get crazy...

Today's Five
  1. Laughing with old friends. (something that's blessed me in a particular way over the last month - it's been awesome!)
  2. Warm everything bagels.
  3. Committed, talented performers, across genres.
  4. Silly pets.
  5. Routine.

11.30.2008

11.30.08



Yesterday's body count:
  • 1 late train
  • 2 old friends catching-up
  • 1 work drive-by
  • 1 dish of gruyere mac-and-cheese
  • 5 beers
  • 3 bottles of good cabernet
  • 4 suitcases (between two people)
  • 1 skype call to sao paulo, brazil
  • massive amounts of puppy love
  • lights out at 10pm.
It was a lovely, lovely day! (Although this morning I'm pondering the wisdom of all last night's wine.) Today hubby is headed to the mountains for a few days of fun and a few of work, and I'm going to try to convince CelloGirl to stay one more evening, just so we can hang. Plus there's this happening tonight, so I think either way I'll walk down to check it out.

And this week is all about re-entry at work...reconciling expenses, writing contracts for a gajillion projects, getting ready to meet the radio guys for another recording session...and Holiday Sing!

11.29.2008

11.29.08

My good friend CelloGirl is on her way into town for a quick overnight. I've known her since college...which is officially forever. We've been roomies off and on throughout the years, and she's one of the few who really knows where the bodies are buried...I know for a fact that I wouldn't be where I am today without her. She's in town from Las Vegas, so posting will be on hold while she's in town. Have a lurvely Saturday!

11.28.2008

11.28.08 Black Friday

No mall time for Rahree today, unless it's solely out of curiosity. Hubby is intending to brave the throngs, and I'm hoping he makes it out alive...with a pair of boots for his upcoming work trip.

Today is all about making a list (and checking it twice!), hanging some lights, finally switching out my summer clothes for my winter duds (I know, I know...it's been on the list for months), getting the guest room ready for CelloGirl, and recovering from a too-long, too strenuous yoga class. Theoretically I love yoga...I'm usually pretty bendy, love the concept of an exercise routine that needs no special gear and can be done in tiny hotel rooms, and like how I usually feel much taller and thinner afterward. But weeks of traveling, a recent focus on running rather than stretching, and an extra half-hour of class time have conspired to turn my poor body into a two-by-four... an achy, sore, stiff two-by-four. I should go back today, to work out some of the soreness, but I think that a little time on the elliptical and a loooooong steam are all I'm going to be able to handle. If that.

If you're shopping today, best of luck to you! And if you don't mind, can you pick up some things for me? Call me...I'll send you my list. :)

11.27.2008

11.27.08 Giving Thanks

  • Hubby, Mom and Mike. Love you guys.
  • Friends - thanks for checking in on me during this last year. I totally needed it, and can't thank you enough.
  • Supportive colleagues - again, thank you.
  • Interesting work.
  • Perspective.
  • New house with porch AND gas stove.
  • Enough food and warmth.
  • Silly pets.
  • Slow-roasted butternut squash.
  • Reconnecting.
  • Compulsory daily walks.
  • The changing seasons.
  • Travel...even when it goes horribly awry!
  • Writing.
  • Fuzzy slippers.
  • Challenges...although I usually don't like them much when I'm in the thick of them.
  • Honeycrisp apples.
  • Comic book movies.
  • Good books.
  • Coffee.
  • Stories.
  • Belief.
  • Daydreams.
  • Striped socks.
  • Pleasant surprises.
  • Hope.
  • Creativity.

More to come later, I'm sure. Hope you and yours are having a wonderful Thanksgiving!

11.26.2008

11.26.08


Whoops - almost forgot to post today! And my record this month has been pretty good - good thing I didn't totally blow it at the last minute!

Today was a good, non-operatic day. They're not mutually exclusive: in fact, often the good opera leads to a good day and vice-versa. Boo got a well-deserved and much needed bath, (and my floors got a kind of second-hand mopping as a result) I turned on the iPod, and sang my way through making a batch of chocolate-chip muffins (from scratch. Oh. Yeah.), caught up with a good friend over coffee, fell in love with a gym (WHO KNEW?? I feel thinner, stronger, and considerably above average just walking in the door. And they have workout equipment there, too.), walked to City Hall with the hound - and sang the Vienna Teng tune the whole way there and back. Baked ziti for supper, a soak in the jacuzzi tub and a sleeping dog on the couch... life is good.

I'm not really in the right frame of mind for it today, but in the middle of the audition tour madness, on a particularly pissy day, we decided that there should be an anti-Thanksgiving...a day to unload all of the whiny grumpiness that tends to creep up during the holidays. So, it is in that spirit that I wish you all a Happy Bitchgiving! Celebrate today, so you can count your blessings tomorrow with a clear heart!

My five:
  1. Time to reflect.
  2. Mental room for some creative endeavors.
  3. Being surprised, pleasantly, by oneself.
  4. Layers.
  5. Singin' and cookin'...a winning combination!

11.25.2008

11.25.08 re-entry


Coming back home after the audition tour is always a mixed blessing. Just seeing my boys always recharges me. But I've been totally spoiled over the last few weeks...someone cleans up after me, provides me with lovely little bottles of shampoo and lotion, and it's my prerogative to sleep diagonally across every huge, clean-linened, freshly-made bed.

Diagonal is no longer an option.

Today is a work day, although we'll be eschewing the office for Kim's house and a long-distance Skype chat with CameraMan. There are several programs who have already made offers, so we need to put the puzzle together stat, or we stand to lose some of the singers we'd like to hire.


On a side note, this is the first year that we've heard several singers that, in another life, I studied and performed with. It's a mixed blessing, honestly. I love these folks, and am always amazed at the progress they've made since the last time I've heard them...sound, stagecraft, comfort level, all high. But I recuse myself from these auditions, as I'm unable to be objective. My not-so-inner Paula comes out, and I want to cheerlead. It's not fair. There are literally hundreds of other candidates who are unknown to me, and yet still supremely qualified. My colleagues don't need the pull of a panel member who is championing an old friend. And ultimately it's not fair to the artist: they need to be chosen on their merits, rather than a nostalgic classmate's whim. Siiiiigh... this is a difficult part of the job that they don't tell you about when you switch out of singing into administration.

My five:
  1. Long walks with Boo.
  2. My fuzzy slippers.
  3. Jacuzzi tub and lavender bath salts...heaven...
  4. Staycation Thanksgiving.
  5. Daydreaming.

11.24.2008

audition recap - fashion edition


Ok, so let's do a brief wrap-up of audition clothing trends, things that worked, and things that didn't. Here goes, in no particular order.

  • As a general statement, folks looked more put together than last year... most jersey dresses had sufficient underlayers to disguise lumps, and there were many, many brassieres worn. I applaud you all! And for those of you who chose to jiggle through your audition, well, what else really can I say...

  • Many guys wore an all-black ensemble, with a splash of color. Red was a popular accent, maybe due in small part to this article. It was particularly cute on the coaches, since more than one matched their socks to their tie. Nice touch!
  • Blue was THE color for the ladies this year...lots of royal blue, navy, teal, sky blue...it was a lovely change! (I wrote "covet" in my notes next to several of the dresses; there were oodles that were super cute!)

  • Ladies, don't be afraid to wear pants! (especially if it's freezing cold outside.) I'll qualify this by saying that we don't care if you're a soprano or mezzo...I suppose other panels and organizations might, but as 2/3rds of our panel is female, we understand that sometimes it's toooo cold to even entertain the thought of stockings or tights. We saw a beautiful girl in a very trendy, cute pants outfit...slacks, vest, collared shirt, long necklace...she looked polished, put-together, and very current.
  • My one complaint was that many ladies didn't dress for the weather...they came in looking beautiful, but quite chilly. (In Philly, well, everyone was cold.) If it's 40 degrees outside you don't have to wear a strappy party dress to an audition. And, if you have upper arms like I do, it's best to keep them under wraps when they're pasty white...blinding. Remember that it's a weird kind of job interview...something that you feel good in that's professional is all that we ask.
  • 54 women wore black dresses. Some were dressed up with shrugs, tights, - I particularly liked the two ladies who wore red patent leather belts and matching shoes (I know, matchy matchy, but in this situation it looked great). And I am 100% guilty of wearing black ever single day...I have a difficult time buying anything that has any color, so I feel your pain. But one sixth of the total folks we heard for the Filene Young Artist auditions walked in the door in an outfit that did little to set them apart. Several ladies sang the same audition (they picked the same first tune, and we asked for the same second piece - not necessarily on purpose, but the second tune was what we needed to hear) in the same outfit (black wrap dress).
Overwhelmingly more positive than last year, right? Pat yourselves on the back!

My five:
  1. Lazy Monday morning...I'm pretending that it's Sunday again.
  2. Reunions. I've caught up with friends from undergrad and grad school in the last week, and another good friend is visiting after the holiday...it's been wonderful to see everyone and catch up!
  3. Getting back into a routine.
  4. Setting new personal goals.
  5. My kitchen... I've missed cooking and baking! And it's almost pierogi time...

11.23.2008

11.23.08


I'm home. And am taking a day off...hanging with hubby and the animals, contemplating baking something tasty, catching up on catalogs and the Sunday paper, and most likely staying in my jammies all day. Posting to resume tomorrow - have a relaxing Sunday!

11.22.2008

Phreezing in Philadelphia

We took the train from New York to Philly on Saturday morning.

It was a bit of a rough start...

We left the hotel and drove around the block - just to make sure we liked the cabbie - before pulling back in to retrieve a forgotten train ticket. The Red Top, ensconced in his heated cubby at Penn Station, was gracious as he schlepped our tons of baggage into the station, and from there to the train.

We arrived at the Black Box at Curtis where there was no sign* of our reservation.

(*insert feelings of dread, and intermittent flashbacks to Cincinnati)

After convincing the (very kind) security guard that we were legit, as were the 35 people who were coming to sing/meet/interview for us, we hauled our sorry, travelworn bodies to the third floor, to the lovely black box theater. We were ready to relax, hear some of Philly's finest, and get some work done. We walked into the room...


...and saw our breath. No. Heat.


Really, universe?!?!?!



Our heroic monitor, DA, spent the majority of the morning plugging in space heaters, finding extension cords, making numerous calls to officials regarding the heat and lights in the space. My notes became much more concise, as I couldn't type with large blocks of ice at the ends of my arms.

By afternoon everything was worked out, thankfully.

But I am officially done...we are officially done. The singers sang, the coaches played, the directors talked, and we have all the info we'll get to make a season...

...and not a moment too soon.

My five:
  1. Altruism...today, and many stops along the tour would've been much more difficult and much less fun without so many people around us who really looked out for us. Monitors, friends...thank you so much for your help.
  2. Free wi-fi. Hallelujah!
  3. Time to reflect...this picture will be less fuzzy with some solid sleep under us.
  4. The "...if you know what I mean..." game. Add it to just about any sentence and get something that sounds inappropriate, if not downright dirty. And it's easier than "That's what she said."
  5. Home. Yay.

11.22.08 - EndGame

It's Friday night in New York City!

And instead of seeing a show, meeting friends, people watching, all of those fun things, we grabbed our notes, recordings, scores and piled into Kim's room to narrow the puzzle down. (for those of you who are curious, King Ted did not make the cut again this year...poor guy.) We grabbed some dinner from Fairway across the street, and spread papers over every square inch of the room. We had four laptops going...mind you that there are only three of us on the trip.

And, of course, we still don't have a season.

Another day of auditions tomorrow (Later today, rather...eek!) at the Curtis Institute of Music. A train ride to the site, and another home later that day for two-thirds of the panel, and we'll have collected all of the information that we're going to get - and need - to make some opera next season. It's exciting, but it's a tricky rubik's cube of a puzzle...who we want to bring, what they'd be best served by, where the existing schedule conflicts lay...layer on top a skittish economy and, well, it's a messy mess.

I'm going to try to rest up and clean my ears out by listening to a little non-operatic rep before I fall asleep. Here, instead of my daily five, are five tunes that help me relax... g'night, John boy!

  1. All I Need - Air (Moon Safari)
  2. Harvest Moon - Cassandra Wilson (New Moon Daughter)
  3. Scattered Black and Whites - Elbow (Asleep in the Back)
  4. Waltz No. 2 (XO) -Elliot Smith (XO)
  5. Lord, Save Me From Myself - Jon Foreman (Fall - EP)

11.21.2008

11.21.08


Good morning New York!

As I write this I'm still in my jammies (it's early...wish I could get off teacher time!), in bed, laptop on lap, iPod cooing from the corner, with a cup of good, strong coffee. Aaahhh....

Except that I've got to get a move on. Get dressed, spackle the face, heels, stockings, cold weather, 20 block walk to the studio.

But I'm starting to settle into the routine, and am liking it. It's the danger for me, this period of growing comfy in NYC... Heck, if this was what daily life was like, rolling out of an UWS apartment to a job a few blocks away that was filled with music, why wouldn't I go for it?

The reality would not be so fun or convenient, I'm afraid. For the realty would be, seriously, New Jersey. Not Manhattan. And I'm not knocking Jersey, but you understand...le sigh.

So it's a good thing that we're packing these days so full of meetings and reunions and lots and lots of singing. Today is our last day in New York, and it's full! Singers during the day, a lunch meeting, a looong work session this evening, and repacking the bag for tomorrow's mad dash to Philly.

On an audition-related note, I'll be writing about audition fashion tomorrow or Sunday, but when a friend asked for horror stories from this year, I had surprisingly little to offer...either my standards are slipping a little, or folks are being a little more careful and professional. But more on that later.

Here's a shot of Edgar, the Opera Lizard (sorry, Carl...I'm riding on your tail feathers a bit!) We met Edgar at Brother Jimmy's on Wednesday...should've known that all of the hot air we were putting out would attract the only reptile left in New York in the winter. Edgar is sitting in on auditions, but he's told me that his real musical love is karaoke. We keep trying to keep him away from the mic, but he's a quick little dude!




And these folks are fellow survivors of Carnegie Mellon's Voice Department... I met them in 1991, (ugh...that makes me feel a little old) and we still can talk like we did back in the day. I have to say, we're not children anymore but we're looking pretty darn good! Love you guys.


My five:
  1. Hot showers.
  2. Banana bread pudding at the Neptune Room on Amsterdam. Lurvely.
  3. Singer-songwriters...to wash my ears out.
  4. Creativity.
  5. Good memories.

11.20.2008

11.20.08

I'm in a modified child's pose on the floor of the audition room on the lunch break. My back has registered an official complaint, and I'm rolling around on the kinda-not-really-clean floor trying to loosen it up enough for the singers coming through the door to be the loudest voice in the room. It's a bit of a diva, my back, and the cumulative fatigue, heavy bags, lack of exercise and really, really uncomfortable chairs are conspiring against it. We've been on the road for just over two weeks, and I'll tell you, I don't know how bands and singers do it. My hat is off to all vagabond musicians.

I wish I could write more today...I need to preserve brain cells for the afternoon singers, so I'm signing off. More later, if I grow some brain.

My five:
  1. musicianship.
  2. laughter.
  3. stretching.
  4. Advil.
  5. Facebook (=crack. Seriously.)

11.19.2008

11.19.08, for realz


Here's our audition room at Carroll Music.


In previous years we've used rooms at City Opera or Juilliard, which means that seeing opera singers in the hallway was a usual occurrence, people know where we are, and most importantly that I can pop into the Banana Republic on my way to the hotel in the evening when I've inadvertently left something at home.


This space is interesting on a few levels. Firstly, it's waaaay over by the river, in a neigborhood populated by, well, car dealerships. The building itself is unassuming, which means that no one can really tell if they're in the correct place when they arrive. (And I think the neighborhood garage managers are getting a HUGE kick out of seeing folks all dressed up, walking around, looking lost.) It's a fairly dry room: good for us, not as good for the singers who depend on getting a lot back from the space. And for the last few days we've been sandwiched in a room with rehearsals on either side of us; a rock band to the right of us, and a big band to our left. It's interesting on a recreational level - once the pianist begins we're easily able to plug into them and the other noise falls away. Sometimes an interlude or introduction gets a little extra oomph from the room next door, though, and I wonder if it's distracting to the performer. Anyone have an experience they'd like to share? (And if you've not auditioned for us yet, consider yourself warned!)

Today's agenda is:
  • Auditions
  • Lunch with a director
  • More Auditions
  • BBQ with more buddies.
And my 5:
  1. Taxi cabs...it's bleeping FREEZING out, and my gloves and hat are sadly in DC. The saying about freezing your @ss off? It's not true, which is also sad.
  2. Slap happiness...such fun to be silly!
  3. Pierrot's tanzlied...I'm a sucker for a good rendition of this. My boss actually called me a Korngold whore. And she's right.
  4. Adult beverages and good conversation after a long day.
  5. Finish lines...miles to go before we sleep, for sure, but the picture is focusing a little bit.

11.18.2008

11.18.08, part two. Or 11.19.08, really early.


Being a fairly food-motivated bunch, we grabbed lunch today at Mee's Noodle Shop on 9th, close to the audition space. If you sang for us this afternoon, though, you already know that...the smell of sweet and sour pork hung around the room all afternoon. The shop is to the left - it's teeny, the ceiling is grease stained, and the food is lovely. If I lived in New York I'd weigh 2,000 pounds...do you have bad restaurants here? Seriously.

No monologues in the audition room today, sadly...but some good singing, to be sure! Today's interesting choice was for mezzo - Hermia's puppet speech from Midsummer. It's a great way to sing a short, dramatically-involved English piece without having to go to the old standbys, Dido or "Must the Winter Come So Soon." One of the best parts about the audition process is having a pleasant surprise come through the door!

The evening the panel went their separate ways...one to a Broadway musical, one to the Met, and one to meet up with college friends. That last one was me. I haven't seen some of these folks for 13 years, since graduation from undergrad. (Wow. I am an old, old woman. And I'm just getting older. Sad.) And it was lovely to be able to pick up where we left off...to talk about that formative experience, catch up on everyone's comings and goings. They all look exactly like they did in college, with the added beauty of confidence...it's amazing. (And they're all skinny too...I'll start working now for next year, I guess!) Our time together this evening was much too short, and after so long away from each other I wanted to spend so much more time with each of them individually. In a nutshell, it was both beyond wonderful to see them all. I miss them already.

So, for today a second five:
  1. This tour, for allowing me a reason to reconnect with so many friends all over the country.
  2. New York architecture.
  3. Good dreams.
  4. Hope.
  5. Friends who make you feel like you've never been apart. Love you guys!

11.18.08


The view from my hotel room in New York at 6:45am this morning. Today started with a breakfast meeting with a director from last summer...it was great to connect with him on his home turf! Today we have Filene Young Artist auditions...and with the singer plague starting to affect candidates it's looking to be a lighter day. Stay healthy everyone!

My five:
  1. old friends.
  2. FABULOUS pianists!
  3. brisk morning walks in the cold.
  4. starbucks holiday cups.
  5. good singing.

11.17.2008

Studio Auditions

After lots and lots of great singing, we finished hearing folks for our Studio this afternoon. Here's a list of things I've found interesting in the Studio auditions, from a rep standpoint.

Regarding art song: we included this repertoire in the Studio requirements purposefully, as these vignettes often show us volumes about your musicianship and acting skills. Don't forget that we were once in conservatory, toiling away on art songs! Many of these songs are not only beautiful, but hold fond memories for the panel...don't be afraid to bring them in.

Black Max from Bolcom's Cabaret Songs.

Sexy Lady by Ben Moore. A great song for high lyric mezzos...if pants roles are your thing, this is such fun!

Not an art song, but Meine Lippen sie kussen so heiss by Franz Lehar is a great little piece that makes us smile.

And of course I'm always game to hear a tune or two from John Musto's Shadow of the Blues

If you're looking for a monologue (and let's be honest, who isn't at least a little intimidated by choosing one, to say nothing of the performing!), here are a few ideas that we've enjoyed.

Sara Goodman's monologue from A.A. by Maddie Hicks. It turns on a dime, but we heard a great version of this on an early audition day.

Frederick's monologue preceding "Later" from A Little Night Music. If you're really game, you can go right from the monologue into the piece...

Anything by Neil Simon is always good by me... real people, real reactions.

There are a number of cuttings from Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

But don't feel obligated to only use straight plays for source material. We saw a compelling Lloyd Dobler this afternoon in NYC.

Tonight's a work night, although due to a stiff neck and back I am in a colleague's room in my sweats, rather than work clothes. (Opera never sleeps! Although I'd like to. Soon.) Tomorrow? Filene Young Artist auditions during the day, and a reunion with some old friends from college in the evening.


My five:
  1. understanding colleagues.
  2. the masseuse at the Feline... she saved my life this evening.
  3. surprises in the audition room.
  4. funny messages from hubby.
  5. Perugina dark chocolate and caramel bars. Lovely....

11.16.2008

11.16.08...Memory Lane!

We spent today in lovely Vienna, Virginia...when I left on Election Day the weather was warm and the trees were covered in beautifully colored leaves. When our flight arrived from Chicago a little before midnight on Friday, it was still warm, and very humid.

Today is a different story!

The trees are mostly bare, spidery things. It's chilly out...not OMG COLD! but still enough to make me button up my coat shortly after exiting the car or house.

We heard day two of auditions at Wolf Trap today. On Saturday we heard Studio singers in the intimate Lecture Hall in the Center for Education...a place I like to compare to the inside of a sock as far as resonance goes. As I said yesterday, it's the exact opposite of the Chicago hall, from the resonance to the view. (No windows!) In many ways it's a clearer aural picture...here's the voice, with no added sugar. There were many great works-in-process, and a few gems that really stood out; it was an exciting day!

Today we heard Filene Young Artist applicants in The Barns. our primary performance venue. This is the easy place to hear people...we don't have to extrapolate very far. We can easily tell what they'll sound like when we add a few hundred people to the room, so if they sound good, well, they sound good!

The other aspect of today's auditions- and honestly, several days on the tour - was particularly rewarding was seeing several folks who I either went to graduate school with or who followed me shortly thereafter. I am heartened to hear some fabulous development, and always marvel at how different they sound, the maturity and polish of the product. While I'm not personally missing performing so much, I do miss the community and support of my friends and colleagues, and I'm always pulling for folks from my alma maters. So here's a shout out to the alums that I've heard on the tour! And for all singers, in general...as someone who has been on your side of the table, please know that I'm pulling for you to do your absolute best. I really do want you to knock my socks off! And believe me, I know how difficult it is. You can do eeeeeeet!

This evening finds me happily ensconced in a new (to us!) hotel in New York City. BD recommended it to Kim last year, and happily it did not disappoint! And it's right across the street from heaven, so I have coffee AND tea for tomorrow morning! Yep, Rahree's gettin' crazy with the beverages!

My five for the evening:
  1. Amtrak. SO much more civilized than the airport.
  2. Hotel kitchenettes. A fridge and a microwave, and life is bliss.
  3. Black Max from Bolcom's Cabaret Songs...Studio singers, it really is okay to offer art song - we love the change of pace!
  4. New York City, one of my favorite places to visit.
  5. The knowledge that, at this time next week, I'll be home in my jammies with my boys.

11.15.2008

11.15.08

Back home! Listened to Studio Singers in the Lecture Hall at work today, a room that is the polar opposite of the audition space in Chicago. More on that tomorrow, but tonight I'm spending some quality time with hubby, the pup and the cat before heading to New York.

Catch you on the train!

11.14.2008

11.14.08

My kind of town, Chicago is!
I love this place - the architecture, the great downtown, the people who are simultaneously gruff and friendly, the strength of the performing arts community...all incredible. And we have great friends who live and work here - it's a real treat to touch base with them when we're in town.

We have one more day of auditions here in the Windy City, and we're back in the DC area this evening. It's a good thing: we're all starting to get super fatigued. It's not the singing that's tiring...the auditions are exciting and energizing at their best, mildly interesting at their worst. It's the travel, the schlepping, the meetings, the getting around that's difficult. My back is sore, my eyes are as red as any stoner, and my spirit is stingy. It's nothing that a good night's sleep (or five), a hug from hubby and some playtime with the pup and cat won't cure.

My five:
1. Improv comedy. Amazing.
2. Family. Thanks for saving me from myself.
3. Cheese Sticks. Soooo good.
4. Generous, patient colleagues.
5. The upbeat barista at the Corner Bakery here in Chicago - this guy can make me smile, pre-caffeine. No mean feat, let me assure you.

11.13.2008

OK, by now you've read the post of the hell that was yesterday on Kim's blog. This morning I woke in Chicago to...wait for it...no coffee in the room. I'm either cursed or the universe is telling me to cut the caffeine. Or both.



This is the room we're in in Chicago. It looks pretty standard, maybe with the exception of the sunlight streaming in through the windows. But here's the view out the other window, the windows behind the panel, the window towards which the singers are pointed...


Not too shabby, eh? The view of the lake is truly magnificent, the room is amazingly live...it's a fabulous place to sing an audition...

...unless you're on the panel.

The acoustic is live. Super live. Bathroom shower live. Which means that tiny voices sound huge, and big voices make our ears bleed a little. It's hard to tell how fast and or wide the vibrato is, whether or not the tone is aspirate, and sometimes even where the center of the pitch is. The language is often obscured by all the feedback from the hard surfaces. So our job is to try to discern how these applicants stack up against the folks we've already heard in four other cities... it's not the easiest job I've ever had. We have a secret weapon, though! Our monitor is none other than Rodell Rosel, who has spent two summers with us in Vienna, Virginia. We know what he sounds like in The Barns, so we asked him to hop up on stage and give us a few bars of "M'appari, tutt'amor." And just like that, we have a frame of reference.

No more opera today...tickets to see Second City with friends from town. Time to stretch and repack for tomorrow's trip to DC. I can't wait to see my boys and sleep in my own bed, even if just for two nights!

My five:
1. Advil
2. Caffeine (obv a believer in "better living through chemistry")
3. Fun colleagues
4. Making it past the halfway point
5. Second winds

11.13.08

if you want to read about our trip to Chicago, here's the group version of the story.

11.12.2008

11.12.08 Cincinnati to Chicago

I can't even write about today yet. The travel was horrible...disastrous on an epic, operatic scale. Going to bed - wish me better karma for the next leg of the trip!

11.11.2008

11.11.08

Ok, I'm not in Ohio yet. I'm sitting cross-legged near an outlet in the San Francisco airport, wondering if I'll ever sleep well again and whether the paltry reading material I'm toting around will carry me through the next looong flight. San Francisco was great fun! I'm feeling a bit of a crash coming on, though...I'm a little sniffly, a little scratchy-throated, and my body is not going to want to wake up tomorrow morning. Say a prayer that there's more than decaf in my hotel room tomorrow morning. (2 cities out of three have had no high-test coffee in the hotel rooms...what is UP with that?!?!)

Tomorrow in Cincinnati we're split between Studio applicants and Filene Young Artist applicants. It's going to be a long day, with a flight to Chicago tacked to the end...seems like a perfect time to start throwing rep choices around.

More later from Cincinnati... hopefully. Just in case I crash, here's my 5:
  1. knowledgeable tour guides
  2. my new purple scarf
  3. caffeine. preferably in coffee form.
  4. down time
  5. smooth travel - knocking on wood!

11.10.2008

11.10.08 Aaaaahhhhh...


Today is an opera-free day!

Well, kinda. I'm sitting in the Squat and Gobble (isn't that a great name?!) in Lower Haight, nursing a gorgeous chai tea latte, and eavesdropping on a conversation between an obvious opera lover and her ambivalent slavic companion. The weather here is beautiful - cool and sunny. It would be a perfect autumn day, except the trees are all vibrantly green. There's no raking in San Francisco!

Today is the last day of the tour that has neither travel nor opera. (Many of our remaining days include both, sadly.) I'm taking advantage of it! Got up early (well, West Coast early), and went for a run with KPW this morning. We both booked massages to get rid of some of the cumulative stiffness from the travel, heavy luggage (will I never learn?!), and cute (read: high) heels. And this afternoon we're all hanging out with one of my best buddies from undergrad, MikeBee. I saw him and his lovely girl M last night for the first time since - wait for it - 1995. That's right. It's been 13 years. And we all picked right up where we left off...it was pretty awesome.

Last night we met some old friends at a FAB restaurant - here's the menu cover. I didn't take pictures of the food because, well, you'd drool all over your keyboard and I just can't be responsible for a computer malfunction that would ruin your day. But I did have the roast chicken mac 'n cheese. And the bacon-wrapped meatloaf was a big hit too. Are you salivating yet?

We met some familiar faces for dinner, too... friends from college and the Trap. For me it's nice to meet the folks that I see every day when I walk into KPW's office-slash-gallery.

Tonight and tomorrow I'll spend some significant time reconciling the petty cash...always loads of fun, especially when cab fares from the airports almost always range from $30-$70. Ugh. And I'll be listening to some recordings, trying to brainstorm, and keep my ears primed.

Next post? From Ohio - Cincinnati to be exact! Send us good flight karma!

Whoops - forgot my five:
  1. lactaid. i can drink lattes again!
  2. the feeling after my run is finished
  3. old friends
  4. leisure time
  5. Irving Berlin's "puttin' on the ritz", sung by Fred Astaire

11.09.2008

11.9.08 San Francisco


We checked into our hotel in San Francisco at 11:30pm last night. Which felt more like 2:30am. Or, rather 3:30am, if you take into account both the change in time zone from our home base and the change back to standard time. I'm feeling it today, my friends...and while I know that the transition to Cincinnati will be the hardest of the tour, I'm still feeling a little wiped out. But we're meeting some old and new friends for dinner this evening, and I'm sure a little bit of unwinding and catching up will do us good.

We heard folks in San Francisco Opera's chorus room today. It always takes a little while for my ears to adjust to a space, but the adjustment is primarily in relation to the size of a singer's voice. We started the day with a singer who has a sizeable instrument, so it was easier to assess the others. And we heard "What a movie" from Trouble in Tahiti twice today...it's such a fun piece, and I can't help but dance in my chair a little when someone sings it! (if you know the piece, you know exactly when I start to sway...) Today's high point was a dramatic one...there were several auditions in which the performance was just, well, compelling...both vocally and dramatically. Those ten minutes of total commitment really energized me - it's exciting to see a performance, rather than an audition. (And yes, I really think they're vastly different.)

In other news, we met with a director who's working at SFO and several WT alums stopped by to say hi, as did LO'N, a great coach and buddy of mine from grad school. And I dropped briefly by a Boheme rehearsal and caught a glimpse of Angela Gheorghiu...tiny and all done up. So I've had my "star sighting" for the trip, I s'pose!

Dinner shortly, and then early to bed for yours truly, in order to preserve (maintain? create? maybe, at this point, that last one's the most accurate) some kind of schedule that will translate back to the east coast. Otherwise you folks in Cincinnati are going to have to sing REALLY loudly to wake up the sleepy panel...

My five:
  1. long-distance phone calls with loved ones
  2. football on tv
  3. flat (ish) shoes (hey...once in a while they're ok)
  4. meeting cool new people
  5. reconnecting with old buddies

11.08.2008

11.8.08 LA and LAX

I'm writing this from the Alaska Airlines terminal at Los Angeles airport. Most folks are chatting aminatedly on cell phones, and there are a large number of people who are hopelessly sunburned. I'm a little jealous.

Our time in Los Angeles always seems a little short. We're always greeted by good friends, beautiful weather, and lovely singing, and seem to have just a little too much on our plates to really take advantage of the opportunities.

The picture opposite is of the plaza at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion - a gracious lunch spot, if I've ever seen one! I'm amazed at the public art both here in LA and in Houston...we have great public art in DC, but they're called "memorials" and are dedicated to war heroes and politicians and Presidents. It's nice to see some pieces that are as beautiful, and a little more whimsical.

We heard some very cool singing today, too...lest we forget the real prize of this tour! A wise man said that "there's a little Hollywood in everyone," and it holds decidedly true here...in both good and bad ways. Most resumes we saw showed multifaceted work experience... recordings, acting work, musical theater, bands. I think that it's great to broaden one's depth as a performer, to try things outside your primary specialty...just please remember that the great generalists rarely land that top tier gig: when you're aiming high, you have to actually aim, and narrow your focus. We also saw several folks who knew how to perform their monologues more cleanly than their arias, and vice-versa. Lots of positives to LA, and many more to discover...when we spend more than 28 hours in town.

Sadly, my body clock is hopeless. I can't fall asleep at night, and yet I'm waking up at 5am east coast time. Which is 2am in the town I'm in now. It's pretty ugly, but nothing that multiple nights in the same hotel won't cure. (We're heading to San Francisco, hearing folks at the Opera house tomorrow.) My colleagues and I are all needing a little rest...I'm starting to hum arias when I space out which, after hearing several hours of fully-sung arias each day, is more than a little annoying. Even to me, when I realize what I'm doing. More tomorrow, or even better, Monday when things settle down.

My 5:
  1. courage
  2. artistry
  3. laughter
  4. caffeine
  5. beauty

11.07.2008

11.7.08

Writing from the airport in Houston, waiting to board for L.A. The weird hours are starting to catch up to me... I think I'll be napping un po' on the plane. We arrive in LA around 6pm, and then dinner with the lovely Lee family of Santa Barbara.

More later, time permitting.

11.06.2008

11.6.08 Saying goodbye to Houston

Today was our first day of Filene Young Artist auditions, and Houston again did not disappoint! There was quite a bit of variation in aria offerings (which is always welcome), many singers with strong characterizations, strong techniques or strong voices. And there were a handful who had all three together - very exciting indeed!

Some thoughts on auditioning...some happy instances, some that I wish I hadn't noticed. They may seem a little dated, as I'm recycling some comments from my notes on last year's tour...they're my suggestions and thoughts, and nothing more.
  • Make sure you know the context of your aria within the show. We do. If your performance is incongruous with what we're expecting, it'll throw us off. You want us to listen to you, rather than spending precious brain cells figuring out what your character is doing.
  • Ladies. Undergarments. For the love of god, please. A bra with support, and something that conceals nipples in the cold. And please check to see if your beautifully seamed dress gives you fake nipples, because we'll spend time that we could be listening to you 100% wondering whether those bumps are seams or not, and giving you less than our full attention.
  • When you're totally connected to the drama in your aria, we are too. We love nothing more than to be taken along for the ride! And we will forgive less-than-perfect vocalism (not egregious errors, but you know what I mean) for an earthy, compelling performance.
  • You may sing beautifully. You may love the way you sound. It's not enough...you enjoying your sound will only take us so far; you need to tell us a story.
  • Houston specific wardrobe note - there were several ladies with beautiful wrap dresses in jewel colors...ruby, teal, navy. I totally approve - you looked beautiful! (Tell me where you found them!)
Last night we saw a double-bill at the Shepherd School at Rice that featured Studio Alumna Sarah Larsen in the title role of Holst's Savitri...she sounded like a million bucks! And tomorrow we'll take in a student matinee performance of Berlioz' Beatrice et Benedict at Houston Grand Opera before going to the airport. Next stop? Los Angeles, for less than 24 hours. Taking into consideration that I was up at 5am today, and running around Houston at 6am (note to the Starbucks barista...sorry about the nasty sweatmonster in your nice store this morning. Sadly, no promises that it won't happen again tomorrow...make sure that latte is iced. Thanks.), I think that it'll be a difficult day or two, body-clock-wise.

off-topic

More opera later today... I promise.

Today is my dad's birthday. Would've been? Is? It's so difficult to find the right language.
The picture is him curled up after dinner, with Katie, his himalayan cat. Katie isn't a people-lover; she tends to run from people unless there's yogurt or cream cheese involved. And so I love this even more...it gives you an idea of how gentle he was.

I miss him.

Happy birthday dad.

11.05.2008

11.5.08


Before we get started: boy, last night was exciting, huh? (and I'm not talking about our flight into Houston!) We got together with some friends for dinner and watched the results...it was rowdy like watching a playoff game, but with bigger stakes. Crazy, and cool.

Today was crazy and cool, too! We heard our first singers today, for the Studio program. Some familiar faces, and many new ones. It was an auspicious start: hoping that the next few weeks are as exciting! The first day is always a bit of a struggle for me...I start hearing singers with my "teacher ears," listening to the potential, to the malleability of the voice and cuing into the performer's temperament. It's difficult for me to step away from that frame of reference, to judge the audition on its particular merits at that exact time rather than extrapolating what it could be or might be. Gotta be a little more like Simon and a little less like Randy or Paula. And one of my fav baritones, LB, monitored auditions for us: he's so organized and commanding that the whole process ran smoothly...wonder if he'd give up his singing gigs to follow us around the country and keep the singers orderly for us? Hmmm...doesn't hurt to ask, right?

After plane flights, carting luggage around (and for the LIFE of me I can't seem to pack a suitcase that meets the weight limit... and I will not pay that fee for leg #2. I'm not sure how to get around it, but get around it I will!) and sitting for long periods of time, it was time to stretch the ol' legs a little. KPW and I hoofed it around downtown Houston for a little run today. It felt good to be outside and moving, and I think we provided some entertainment for the locals. ("Who are those crazy ladies running around downtown in the middle of the day? There's no air conditioning out here! They must be from out of town...") Plus, now I'm totally justified in a glass of wine or desert with dinner! Oh, yes.

Tomorrow? The first group of "big kids" - the Filene Young Artists. Can't wait!

My five:
  1. the ability to exercise, and the way I feel afterwards
  2. having someone else make my bed
  3. watching history being made with good friends
  4. hearing amazing progress in young singers
  5. challenges

11.04.2008

11.4.08 - We're Off!

I'm writing from the airport in Atlanta...our one layover of the tour. Fingers crossed that the luggage arrives in Houston! I have to say that I LOVE the people-watching in airports. Well, I do today...maybe after several weeks on the road I'll change my mind. But there's some interesting conversations to overhear, clothing choices to question...you get the picture.

CameraMan and LMB are meeting us at the airport in Houston (Audio clip: Dean Martin singing "Ahm goin' to Houston, Houston...) and whisking us to an Election Night Soiree. As a displaced Pennsylvanian living in Virginia, I'm pretty excited to see how this all plays out. And I'm equally excited to see the percentages of folks who voted in this election. There's a buzz around this election that I've certainly not seen in my adult life. Pretty heady stuff, to be sure. After watching the early polls, we'll head back to the hotel, get organized, and prep for tomorrow.

And so we begin!

My Five:
  1. the opportunity to travel
  2. good singing
  3. the power of hope (no matter for whom you vote)
  4. seeing friends
  5. knowing that my boys miss me :)

11.03.2008

11.3.08

Packed.

Repacked.

The suitcase is still waaaay too heavy. Another rethink and purge in store for tomorrow morning.

Signs have been printed.

Info sheets, registration sheets, invoice forms and W-9s, all in multiple copies, all in my suitcase. More than a ream of paper...I'm really hoping next year to go greener, although I'm not sure quite how. It's a selfish reason for my green thinking, however...you KNOW I could take another pair of shoes in place of those pesky papers.

Hence the repacking.

Tonight?

Steeler football. At Redskins stadium. Oh. Yeah.

While I may leave early if they toss it in the second half (which, let's be frank, they tend to do), I'll be bleeding black and gold, rather than red or blue this Election eve. A night out on a crisp evening with hubby and friends, cheering on the home team from the local stadium, enjoying a perfect autumn night...what could be a better way to kick off this audition tour?

The last time I saw a Steeler game live was with my Dad. My dad was a serious fan, with a neon sign of the Steeler Logo that he would hang over the garage door, and light up on game days. As kids we weren't allowed to walk in front of the TV during the game, or talk too loudly...in fact, I think we were only allowed to talk during the commercials. We saw the first game in Pittsburgh's new stadium...they opened Heinz Field a week late, after the terrorist attacks of 9.11. We were there, terribly overdressed in a jillion layers, ready for a beer and a bratwurst, only to find out that we were sitting in a corporate box. (My dad tipped the usher a buck to find our seats... a whole dollar. After we entered he laughed "Right now that usher is saying 'cheap bastard!'") The box was on the 50 yard line...the windows slid to the sides so that you could sit in open air if you wanted to, it was catered like no one's business (a dessert cart? hellooooo!), the seats were tiered black leather recliners. It was an upscale experience, and was all the more fun in that it was unexpected. A good time, to be sure, and one of my favorite memories of time spent with my dad.

I'll catch you tomorrow, either en route to Houston or once we're there.

My five:
  1. autumn nights
  2. fiery trees - the colors in our little town are truly spectacular!
  3. excitement
  4. screaming at the top of my lungs without worrying about how it'll affect my singing voice
  5. memories of my dad