Folks, I think I've worked my last Filene Center show of the summer.

Thousands of people sat through the rain to watch the battle for Helms Deep with live orchestra and choruses last night, and the energy was infectious...as I was walking the plaza at one point I caught myself whooping in glee along with the patrons.

'Twas pretty cool.

And I have to say that I really enjoyed my time at the Big House this summer. I understand a little more about the FC process, and had more responsibility, but still had oodles of support and guidance from the folks who really know that theater and its many, myriad rules. They were patient, and I don't think that I made any gazillion-dollar mistakes, so I'll count those days as successes.

On the docket for today? Well, first will be a hot shower and a bucket of advil...note to self for future seasons, do NOT take a kickboxing class on a day that you're working a big show. Ow. Then we'll be making a trip to Towson to meet the M family' newest addition this afternoon, and I'll need to get this body moving so I can keep up with the two elder (2 and 4 years old) boys! Planning to also spend some quality time reading on the porch over the next day or two.

So if you need me, you know where I'll be. Stop on by!

My five:
  1. Unbridled enthusiasm.
  2. Unexpected allies.
  3. September and impending autumn.
  4. A cat doubling as a neck pillow.
  5. Good friends and colleagues.


8.27.09 Gooooood Mornin'!

It's going to be a good day!

(But Rahree, how can you tell?)

Because I SAID SO.

That's why.

Here's my playlist for today...I've spent my morning walking the dog, playing with iTunes and trying to make headway on Infinite Jest. (iMix will be available on iTunes (8.27.09) at some point today, iffn you're interested. It's a little poppy, but hell, so am I.)

  1. Pony (It's OK) - Erin McCarley
  2. No Intention - Dirty Projectors
  3. Furr - Blitzen Trapper
  4. Love Is Blindness - Cassandra Wilson
  5. No One Does It Like You - Department of Eagles
  6. Bad Body Double - Imogen Heap
  7. Golden Train - Justin Nozuka
  8. Dirt - The Mommyheads
  9. King of My Love - Jonatha Brooke
  10. One Stringed Harp - Bell X1
  11. Smalltown Boy - Jose Gonzales
  12. Not An Addict - K's Choice
  13. Since You've Been Around - Rosie Thomas
  14. Manhattan - Kings of Leon
  15. Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair - Nina Simone
  16. L'illusionniste - Keren Ann
  17. El Caporal - My Morning Jacket
  18. Oh My God - St. Vincent
  19. Jolene - Jeremy Fisher
  20. My Love - The Bird and the Bee
  21. Floating on the Lehigh - Department of Eagles
  22. So Far Around the Bend - The National
  23. Tonight Will Be Fine - Teddy Thompson
Skipping the gym (horrors!) for snuggly time with the cat and dog, an extra cup of joe, and a little mental veg time. Have a good day, all!

Do it.


Because I SAID SO, that's why.

My five:
  1. Slow mornings.
  2. Generous colleagues.
  3. Advil.
  4. Snacks.
  5. Finish lines.



The season is finally winding down. My last show (although not the last show of the summer, by far) goes up on Friday and down on Saturday...and today was all about comfortably slipping back into whack-a-mole mode.

I regress well. :)

Today Renaissance Man, Kate and SMC (aka Howie Shore Jr., or Howie for short.) set up the Barns for a multitude of instrumentalists and singers as we prep for this last show - info here.

I had forgotten the sheer number of fun, non-conventional-opera-y instruments involved in this score...taiko drums, piatti, cimbalom, prepared piano (Expose the piano guts. Hit the piano guts with a metal pipe and/or heavy metal chains. Shudder with guilt and glee. Repeat.) and a bass marimba...shown here with RM and Howie providing scale. It's totally Bad. Ass.

(Doesn't RM look weirdly decapitated? Like we lobbed his head up there to just sit and watch? I promise, no renaissance men were harmed in the writing of this blog.)

So, even though there will undoubtedly be monstrous hurdles this week, I'm terribly excited for the music to begin again.

In other news, I'm diving into this book in a desperate attempt to get accustomed to footnoted narrator asides in fiction. And I have help - a friend is going to read with me to make sure I don't put it down and walk away! (Ok so this is the only book that I've walked away from in recent memory, and there's no talking me back into it, no matter how clever or brilliant it is. I hate that guy - the "protagonist??" - no matter how well-written he is.) Now if I could just get someone to read to me, preferably right before bed. (Please make sure that the story isn't too scary, and that it has a happy ending. Thanks.)

(And could you bring me a glass of water? I'm thirsty.)

My five:

  1. Crisp mornings...while walking the dog this morning I found myself wishing for a jacket.
  2. Making plans.
  3. Baths. I'm a late-life convert.
  4. Tangerine popsicles.
  5. Feeling cared for.



It's after noon, and I'm still on the couch.


I'm still limping along...one more show to advance and babysit, even though my brain is not together enough to do much more than the bare minimum. But it's a very cool show with lots of moving pieces and a cast of characters that I enjoy hugely. I'm excited to hear the rehearsals, to watch the pieces come together over the next few days...and I'm hoping against hope that the weather is impossibly beautiful.

It could totally happen.

In the meantime I'm trying to sift through the odds and ends from the summer...organizing and purging books and cds and clothes, visiting the Container Store and Target for bins and boxes, backing up the intermittently reliable Mac (*gasp!* I know...it's breaking my heart, too...), trying to figure out what to do with a large bottle of white zinfandel and several cans of almonds. Making lists of things I need...light bulbs...goat cheese...fizzy bath bombs...cat food...tinfoil...important stuff, right?

And reading. My nose is buried in books like they're about to disappear from the earth. I've read this one, this one, and am in the middle of this one currently. This one is next on the pile. Add to the reading list every magazine I can get my filthy hands on...some days the promise of a new magazine is the only thing getting my sorry butt to the gym. (today is definitely one of those days.)

And paying attention. Noticing the twelve pairs of shoes tossed over the phone line two streets over. Sitting on the porch as a summer storm blows through. Feeling the heat cover me like a blanket. Rubbing a piece of lemon balm between my fingers.

It's nice to slow down, even just for a little bit.

Some things I think are cool:

My five:
  1. Icy drinks.
  2. Dexter.
  3. Thunderstorms.
  4. New tunes.
  5. Contentment.



This is a song that you should have.

Picture it playing while a young man throws himself around a silent, frozen young woman, dressed all in black, a sepia photo from another era. The frenetic sorrow of the man, the icy stillness of the girl...breathtaking.


I'm generally in awe of dancers and good choreographers. These folks went farther than I could've expected.

My five:
  1. An 11th-hour piece that rattles my cage.
  2. Condensation on the window...I'll pretend it's fog and not humidity.
  3. Lunching with girlfriends.
  4. New music recommendations.
  5. A silly, joyous pup.


8.17.09 part 2...


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8.17.09 part 1

Work-related post below. Feel free to skip to the five at the end!

My colleagues and I are proponents of technology. We have iPhones and laptops. We Tweet. We share book recommendations on Goodreads and pictures on Facebook and Flickr. We moved both our application process and contract process online to save more trees and to suit the highly movable lifestyles of our core constituents. We instant message between offices, because often we're separated by hundreds of miles but are trying to work together. We keep extensive databases of applicants, auditionees, past repertoire, volunteers...you name it and we've got a file on it somewhere on our shared drive.

(And believe me, you've not lived until you've read unfiltered audition comments from your own audition several years after the fact.)

We also do some of these things in the audition room.

There's been a recent smattering of opinions regarding appropriate behavior in the audition room with specific regards to technology. And while maybe I shouldn't join the fray, I'm wading in...be gentle, please.

Firstly, technology is vital to our particular process. Yes, we're typing on our laptops, but most often the typing will begin after we've at least said hello. We're a friendly bunch, and we're very sensitive to the fact that the singer who just walked into the room demands our full attention. He is, after all, our whole reason for traipsing all over the country. Along those same lines, we need to find ways to remember who you are. If you're the seventh soprano of the day, and the third who decided to start with "Quando m'en vo" we'll need to differentiate you from the red-dress Musetta from the morning and the Musetta who brought her own accompanist. So the database is our collective brain: it tells us who you are, what you sang for us last year, and allows us to track your progress over the past year. We record snippets of your auditions so that we can listen and refer back while the repertoire puzzle is sorting itself out, so that we don't lose track of contenders or possibilities. The computers allow us to keep our information straight, to keep legible, detailed records (I took notes longhand in Cincinnati one year when my laptop died...by the end of the day my notes were only 5-10 words long, even in the instance the singer warranted many more descriptors. Cramped writing hand=economy of vocabulary.) of every singer who walks through the door. Sometimes we'll use messenger to come to an agreement for your second aria, so that we're not fumbling through a decision when we could be listening to you sing. (Ok, I occasionally comment on the awesome pair of shoes that you wore into the room. You caught me. I'm a bit of a shoe whore.)

Secondly, not all people who use technology to streamline their processes are doing it to the detriment of the singers. We've been in auditions on the performer's side of the table. We know how nerve-wracking it can be. And we believe in both the sanctity of the audition and in being decent folks...while we certainly can't hire everyone we hear, we can give them our full attention in the audition room and treat them kindly. Frankly, it's what I would want - what I did want - when I was on the other side of the table. If I wanted everyone to know what the casting director thought of my performance, I would've been auditioning for American Idol, right?

So if you sing for us, know that we will have laptops in the room. And that we'll be rooting for you to knock our socks off.

Rooting for, not Tweeting about.

My five:
  1. Excuses for sitting on the couch.
  2. Excitement.
  3. Air conditioning.
  4. Getting lost on purpose.
  5. Organization.


9.16.09 Slackmaster Flash

Boy, it's hard work making sure that this chair on my porch doesn't float away...good thing I'm here to keep it weighted down.

Ok, so maybe not. You caught me. Today I am officially slacking.

Not slacking, really...slowing down. Listening to my body, which is loudly saying "Nap! Eat your weight in bread! You neeeeeeeed it! You deserrrrrrve it!"

My body lies.

I'm trying to find a slightly less harried pace. I have several small errands to run, many tied to my super-awesome closet overhaul yesterday. (Thank you, Container Store. Who knew that bins could be so liberating?) Mostly I'll be sitting in the shade, nursing glasses of ice water (mit straw, natuerlisch), reading and surfing the web and making an infinite number of lists...grocery, to-do, wish...all fair game.

My five:
  1. Days that are warm enough to make "Slow" the only available speed on my internal speedometer.
  2. This book.
  3. Breezes through leaves.
  4. Windchimes.
  5. Raspberry sorbet.


8.14.09 that's my button you're pushing...

My colleagues are good enough to know that, during opera season, we need a little bit of space. Our priorities are all about the company and whack-a-mole, and long-range planning and interdepartmental collaboration tend to take a bit of a back seat.

And to their credit, they usually give us a day or two of breathing room after the final show before asking us to meet with them - to address all of the things they've been eager to tackle but haven't, out of deference to our crazy schedule. But the day always arrives when the reprieve ends, when the questions need to be asked and answered, when the big picture needs to be sorted out.

That day was Thursday for me.

And I was NOT ready.

I'd love to say that I rolled with the punches, but in fact I skipped a meeting, ate my weight in Tums, grumped with a friend over IM and yelled profanities (yep. yelled. even those of the big grandaddy F-word variety) from the safety of my office. (Not at anyone, certainly, but I fear that our gentle volunteer FM will never look at me in quite the same way.) At 5:01pm I stormed out of the office and drove to the gym, determined to exorcise (exercise?) my demons.

I behaved badly.

I have feeble excuses for my actions...I was overtired. The adrenalin had left the building. I needed to go somewhere other than work and the grocery store. The truth is, even though I don't have my feet quite underneath me from the season's end, I should be professional enough to occasionally prioritize someone else's needs above my own. Right?

I think I need a day or two away from work to actually be able to do that. If you need me, you know where I'll be.

My five:
  1. Lush bath bombs.
  2. Cool breezes in August.
  3. Laughing with friends.
  4. Window shopping.
  5. Getting back to my reading list.


8.12.09 my other job

It's been hot. Hotter'n blazes. Hot as the hinges of Hell.

For the first time all summer.

(Color me happy!)

Not that I really would've known - I've spent the last two days holed up in a small room with four of the nicest, smartest guys anyone could know, listening to music from last year's chamber music season and chatting about it. The end result is a nationally syndicated radio show - chances are that you can catch it on public radio in your area. (Details forthcoming!)

Need help changing gears from opera? I totally did. But two days with Schoenberg, Beethoven, Carter, Gershwin, and Bach have totally cleaned my ears out in a perfect, perfect way.

The other thing I like about hanging out at the radio station? Seeing how other people keep their desks. It's the same reason I like to house-hunt, even when I'm perfectly happy with my house. After looking around a little bit, I'm of the opinion that I'd fit in quite well here.

In the middle of the radio madness, I had a great visit from an old friend...has known me since I was 18, and likes me anyway. It was great to spend time with him, to know that no matter how much things change, some good things stay the same.

My five:
  1. A change of scenery.
  2. Returning to routine.
  3. Fun colleagues.
  4. Long walks with the dog...I've missed being able to take my time on these morning constitutionals.
  5. Fall catalogs. (Am I the only one lusting after boots and sweaters as the temperature hangs in the 90s?)



The opera season is over.


But there's little time to reflect, as the season isn't over, and the music-making doesn't really stop. I'll spend 2 days in the recording studio this week helping VM, BC, Bmac and RK piece together Center Stage from WT, a nationally-syndicated radio program featuring the performances on our chamber music series. And I'll be back to visit the FC when the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is presented with live orchestra.

So this is really just a tiny hiatus that will be over in, oh, 13 hours.

*Sniff.* (For a totally different reason.)

It always takes me a few days to find my stride post-season...I feel like I was just starting to remember how to play Whack-A-Mole, and suddenly I find myself staring at a huge "Game OVER" sign with no quarters left in my pocket. I know I'm not alone - it's a hazard of project-based work. But I'm tired and mopey and infinitely nostalgic...a fine place to be if not a fine place to stay.

Speaking of nostalgia: I finally found a copy of this children's book. (GO, Amazon.com!) I remember reading a library copy from the Spaulding Library in Athens, PA about a million years ago. It's the story of a small village and its denizens, the Quanta. The village is also the home of a large, purply, violently-blooming flower called a Quantimonio, which is prized by a group of warring-types called the Sacripanti. Once they hear the distinctive "BOC" of a bloom, they storm in, take the flower and burn the surrounding area. In an effort to save the village AND the most recently bloomed Quantimonio, the villagers build a huge trap to capture the bad guys.

This is where Vanuk comes in.

Vanuk is the village idiot of sorts...he never says anything but "Vanuk!" And when the trap is finished, he's the poor guy who drops it on - you guessed it - the villagers, rather than the Sacripanti. As the bad guys advance on him, he says the only thing he knows - "Vanuk!"

Which turns out to be a shortened version of the worst thing that one could ever, ever say to the Sacripanti. They flee. Vanuk saves the day!

I love this book...the story is pretty predictable fare, sure, but the cartoons are filled with little snarky comments from villagers and farm animals. But moreso, I find myself at a loss for words so often that I adore a story that ends happily when one person says just the right thing.

And the craziest thing? My paternal grandmother's family name was Vanuk (Vnuk). So maybe that one thing that I can say is enough? Sometimes?

I'll take it as validation, as comfort.

My five:
  1. Long hours of dream-filled sleep.
  2. Getting back to a routine.
  3. Running errands on foot.
  4. Visiting with friends who knew me back when and still like me.
  5. Curling up on the porch on a steamy hot day.


8.7.09 nearing the finish line

Tomorrow is the only performance of the last opera of the 2009 season.

On Saturday morning, artists will be leaving en masse from suburban Virginia and scattering to the winds. I'll see many of them again (it's a small world, opera), but it could be months or years until we cross paths.

And I'll miss them.

Workdays will resume a less punishing (i.e. 8 hour) schedule. I'll have two-days-off-in-a row! Whee! But in exchange, the building will be unbearably quiet.

I will finally be forced to confront the 2-ton dust bunnies and the massive laundry monster that have overtaken my home...although if they band together it could be the end of me. (Wish me luck!)

Feeling nostalgic, even though I don't really have the luxury to do so for another 48 hours.

My five:
  1. Walking the dog...my one bit of routine in a free-form summer.
  2. Handfuls of pistachios from the stagehands.
  3. Achingly beautiful music.
  4. Surprises. (Notice the lack of a qualifier? I'm making progress!)
  5. Kindness.


8.2.09 everyone's doing it...

Shameless plug for work follows. Not interested?

You should be.Really, you should. I think you'll like it. Even if opera's not your thing.

Opera, when it's done well, is a synthesis of all art forms, right? The music should be stirring and heartbreakingly beautiful, performed with passion and abandon. The production (I'm referring to scenic and costume elements specifically) should be visually stunning, thought provoking, interesting. And the characters, the relationships, the storytelling must also be visceral, intimate...real.


If so - and I say this even if you're a movie lover or a live concert lover or a theater lover or a music lover or just not-an-opera-lover-because-opera-is-full-of-fat-people-and-wobbly-voices-and-hoop-skirts - I have just the evening for you. Here's the information. It's only one night, and it's almost here, so you should RUN to get your tickets.

And to prove that it's not your usual park-and-bark songfest, here's a little video for you created by Alex Morton. The images you'll see are from pieces of original artwork, created by S. Katy Tucker to provide context for our little story...they'll be projected on a sweet custom-built screen above the singers...so it's a less like an opera, and more like a rock concert with an opera company and a world class orchestra providing the action and music. The characters appear in the last minute or so, drawn by our costume designer Jessica Jahn.

Push your boundaries this week and try something new. You might even like it.


8.01.09 part 2

Working at the Big Theater requires different acoutrements...comfy, closed-toed shoes are a must, as are good snacks and a belt or waistband upon which to hang keys, cell phone, and walkie-talkie.

The old-timey gum? Just for fun. Well, and also for more pleasant conversation. I hope.


Home. Aaaahhh...my feet feel GREAT when they're propped up on a sleeping pup!

It's the wee hours of the morning, and there are only a few of those hours until I'm back at work. Last night's small number of variables almost defeated us, and today there are many more...let's hope that the devil left with last night's details!

I'm surrounded by good people. Surrounded by good music. And fried to the point where there's nothing I can say that will actually make sense. (My mother would be shocked at my grammar...or lack thereof.) It's a weird combination of an embarrassment of riches (art, people) alongside a famine (rest, brain cells). We have 7 days (SEVEN. DAYS.) to make a super fantastic opera before everyone scatters to the winds.

Even if opera isn't your thing, I have every confidence that this particular production will rock. your. world. For a little preview of the design aesthetic, click here. And if you like it? Forward it along!

In other news, today would've been my parents' anniversary... their 39th, if I'm counting correctly. I can't tell you how much I wish that I had thrown them a 25th or 30th or 35th anniversary party. If you're reading this and putting something off, stop procrastinating. Do it. You'll feel so much better for it. (because the wishing after the fact? not so much fun.)

my five:
  1. Chinese takeout. Soooooo goooood.
  2. Common goals.
  3. Vacation plans.
  4. Squishing on the couch with 2 sleepy animals.
  5. Peppermint castille soap.