11.28.2010

You wanna talk nesting?

peanut butter dog biscuits!
Because I am SO there. After being away for so long, the last few days have been all about my house & family. I have totally trashed my kitchen on multiple occasions (Thanksgiving dinner for 2, homemade Manwich night, turkey jook, homemade dog biscuits, maple-hazelnut granola, pierogi filling, and today pierogis!), started decorating for the holidays (wreaths, porch lights and window candles...a little less motivated in this area...), and largely ignored the cleaning and organizing that I should be doing.

Can you say procrastination?

The big thing that I should be doing? That I really neeeed to be doing? Is casting. Ranking Studio applicants, listening to the audio again, making more notes. Looking at the repertoire possibilities for the summer and trying to construct an ensemble that can handle the choral demands while also covering the diversity in the principal singers so that role studies and Inside the Opera scene performances are castable. I've spent more than a few hours on it over the last few days, making sure that people are fresh in my mind, creating some scenarios, listening to audition tracks and recordings of the operas that we're considering. I don't have a system yet, this being my first time, so it's taking quite a bit of time and mental real estate.

Which, honestly, is the way it should be. I'd rather overthink it and really be able to defend my choices than to approach it with a cavalier attitude. It's important. 

And the other folks? At other summer programs? Who have been at this way longer than I? Well, they're making offers.  I don't want to lose someone that I'd really like to invite due to hemming and hawing, but I also don't want to rush. It's hard to hold so many good voices in my head, to weigh one against the other knowing that I had less than 10 minutes with each of them.

(Needless to say I'll be bookending the pierogi time this afternoon with some significant work.)

Another new thing in my world? Beside the lovely results of my kitchen escapades? Several extra pounds from eating my way across the country during October and November.
C&O Canal

So, I signed up for a half-marathon.

I must be high.

I know that I work better when I have a goal, though...and this race is on the C&O Canal, one of the most lovely places in the DC area. I used to live within walking distance to the trail, and this will be a lovely way to revisit one of my favorite places.

(It will also be a wonderful excuse to cram pasta into my maw on one evening in late January.)

So, while I will likely not be setting any land-speed records, (HA! the day that happens will also be the day that I also become tidy and develop an aversion to carbs.), I'm psyched to have a new goal to work towards. And I welcome any company....hint, hint....

My five:
  1. Puttery days with my guys.
  2. HGTV. After living in fixer-uppers as a kid, I love to watch renovations. (Hate to live through them, but love to watch!)
  3. Brisk days.
  4. Trashed kitchen and full fridge.
  5. Enjoying the holidays for the first time in years.

11.25.2010

Giving Thanks

Today is a great day to reconnect with friends and family - to gather together, give thanks for all the good, break bread and laugh together.

I'm doing things a little differently.

My mom & brother are a few states away, and the last month's grueling travel schedule makes me reticent to pack ANYTHING and toddle to another city/state. I haven't had quality time with my hubby, my pets or my kitchen for months.

It's a grey, drizzly day, with just enough nip in the air to be invigorating.

So Thanksgiving? Becomes a lovely, low key day.

I started with coffee and music. Took a short jog in the cool air. Stuck the turkey breast in a maple brine for a few hours. Chopped veggies for roasting, made stuffing, assembled a fruit crisp (WAY easier than pie) and poured myself a glass of wine.

Cleaned up the kitchen as I went...might be the most adult thing I've done.

Talked to my mom.

Ate microwave popcorn for lunch.

Made sure hubby took his meds for a nasty back.

And here? On the flip side of a tasty meal for two? Well, there are LOADS of leftovers for soups and sandwiches and such over the next week. The kitchen is mostly clean. The dog and cat are curled at our feet, snoozing as the tryptophan hits.

And I might, just might, be back in my jammies. Watching House Hunters International, football, and a stroll around the block with El Diablo are the only things on the docket, other than perhaps starting a holiday gift list. And going to bed early, of course.

Wishing you a gentle, relaxing holiday, full of things that you need (regardless of whether or not you knew you needed them in the first place).

My five:
  1. Creating my own holiday traditions.
  2. Remembering my dad making up translations of Native American words. He tried very hard to convince us that Susquehanna (the river that ran through my childhood town) meant "C'mere, Hanna!"  Hanna was obviously the Chief's wife. (PC, my dad was!)
  3. Stuffing. Best food EVER.
  4. Needed time home with my boys.
  5. Family and friends.

11.23.2010

Dun, da dun dun DOOOOOOOOOONE!

Today we heard the last singer of the audition tour.

Whoa.

I'll let the boss lady churn out the statistics, as she's so good at that. But if I were to convert the number of arias we heard to, say, cheese cubes? Well, that'd be several years worth of party/reception cheese cubes. An array of cheese cubes that would easily make it impossible to fit into my favorite pants.

(Not that I'd know anything about that after being on the road for a month. Blergh.)

So, there's still lots to do. But I get to sleep in my own bed, and walk my dog around my little neighborhood...and that's gooooood stuff.

Tour highlights? Reconnecting with some great people. Seeing 4 amazing (if an ooch crazy/maudlin) operas, and some fanTAStic performances. Having surprises walk into every city on the tour. NOT shoplifting my lunch (by ACCIDENT, people!) in Chicago.

It was a crazy, grueling schedule, for sure...but I feel like we have a really strong perspective on the national state of young singers.

And it's a pretty strong state, to be sure.

For all of you folks who put yourself out there this audition season? Tutti bravi. I hope good things come your way!

My five:
  1. Puppy kisses.
  2. Hearing singers on home turf.
  3. Not having to pack a suitcase for a month.
  4. Great music-making.
  5. A national holiday justifying the mess I'm going to make in my kitchen.
And, as a gimme, the video to which we referenced almost daily during the tour. It has nothing to do with singing, but does capture the panel's mind set on several occasions. I think the tiny 'harumph' is my favorite part.

11.22.2010

ORD-->IAD

I'm sitting in the Starbucks in the lower lobby of the Palmer House, listening to Leonard Cohen over the sound system (a large step up from Josh Groban's Christmas Album yesterday...that was a rough start to the day.), and trying to keep the anxiety smooshed down. We fly from O'Hare to Dulles today, sprint off the plane and drive to work, where we'll hear another several hours of auditions.

So there's the travel anxiety...we have a buffer, but it's a small one. And, after a full month of travelling and listening to opera, the edges are starting to fray a little bit. We've lost a good bit of resiliency, and things that might usually run off of our backs are now grabbing us by the lapels and shaking us around.

But the thing that is more anxiety-making than that? Is Wednesday.

You see, we hear out last audition on Tuesday evening.

So Wednesday? We will spend Wednesday with graphs and charts, moving people around from project to project, seeing who we can bring onboard and who we have to pass over. We'll try to find the projects that make the most sense given the people we've heard. We'll sit with the budget and look at the numbers to see what we can afford.

And hopefully by day's end? We'll have a season.

This year I have a little more responsibility, and have some of my own casting to do that will lag a little bit until the big pieces fall into place. It's amazingly exciting, but a little nerve-wracking too...I have some pretty big shoes to step into, as I really respect the two guys who came before me. (But I'm psyched to stuff some tissue paper into the toes of those shoes and walk around in them.) It is literally the time when when we put our money where our mouths are, when we use a big pot of cashola to support singers that we believe in by featuring them on our stages and building original productions around them.

Heady stuff, but not without serious implications. And coming at a time when we're feeling pretty seriously compromised by the schedule, the travel, the lack of exercise and the restaurant food...we've been out of the office since late October, and yet all I want is to spend a few days in my house, doing nothing except watching HGTV, playing with my animals and cooking for my hubby.

Oh, and working out. Things are feeling a leeeeetle snug. And when I say things? I mean pants. Blergh.

Wish us a smooth flight east this morning, and just an oooch more stamina for the home stretch.

My five:
  1. Home.
  2. Home.
  3. Home.
  4. Home.
  5. Home.

11.21.2010

action isn't always "action"


Chicago has blessed us with volumes of good stuff. We're in a bee-you-tee-ful room that is vocally flattering but still easy to hear. And we're hearing some great stuff.

In the vein of my last rant though? A mini-rant. Well, not even a rant...a thought. Here goes:
Dramatic action and physical action? They're not the same thing. Every single aria demands dramatic action...intention behind the line.
  • What is the reason that your character is singing this tune? 
  • What happened in the story right before this moment - what situation did this aria arise from?
  • Who are you singing to? (And are they in the room with you?)
  • Where are the "beats." The moments of transition? Of realization?
These audition pieces often come at a place of heightened emotion in an opera. But it's not enough to wash the aria with that emotional color, without finding the moments of contrast, or the "aha!" moments in the piece. And feeling sorry for yourself? Almost never translates satisfactorily to the hall....sure, it might feel totally appropriate, and could be justifiable to your character (seriously, who HASN'T felt sorry for themselves?) but six minutes of it will not win anyone over, regardless of the beauty of your tone.

Here's an example: Pamina's Ach, ich fühl's. Now, this is a beautiful melancholy piece on the face of it. She's in love, her man won't talk to her, and she's upset.

But she's also trying to accomplish things during this aria...she's trying to force him to speak to her, and also trying to discern why he's not communicating with her. There are tactics that she can use to find out information during the aria...she can weep (which she mentions) to see if her tears will move him. But she can also try any number of other actions...scolding, cajoling, pleading, declaring...within the aria. And she could take a different tactic for each line, to see if something will work, will make him respond...when that tactic doesn't work? She will likely move on to another.

(Next time you go to the grocery store, look for a parent with an 8 year old. Listen to the different ways that child tries to get Mom to buy those whoopie pies...they'll promise things (like cleaning their rooms), ask, bargain, plead, pout, and finally cause a scene to get mom to buy those dang whoopie pies. Not that I'd be recalling a personal incident... Nope...not at all...)

It pays to break your piece down into sections and assign actions to the lines. Start with verbs - choosing real action words will make your tactics clearer to those of us on the other side of the table.

Here's a warning, though. When an aria is fast, or when your character is agitated or fighting to make a decision? Please don't confuse the actions above with pacing/flailing/gesticulating. The action comes from intention. We've seen some amazingly nuanced performances when people have stood stock-still...and we've seen a gajillion performances derailed by unconnected movement.

Just sayin.

Here's something to inspire you to get some more action into your life. :) (I'll be singing this all day long!)




My five:
  1. Reunions - TallBlondeMezzo and the Radio Folks in one evening? Awesome.
  2. Chicago architecture...wow, this town is amazing.
  3. This stuff has saved my LIFE this month.
  4. Magazines full of holiday recipes...I have BIG plans for making a total mess of my kichen when I get home.
  5. One more sleep away from my boys. I'm ready to be home.

11.19.2010

...that toddlin' town...

We've landed safely in Chicago! (And the flight was WAY better than this one. For. Sure.)

It was amazingly ironic that I packed the smallest bag I've ever packed IN MY LIFE for this jaunt. I fit all of my gak into one backpack...computer, files, clean clothes (promise!), magazines for the airplane.


You're thinking, "Rahree, that's not ironic. Resourceful or something, but not ironic."

To which I'd reply, "Well, we did fly Southwest...where bags fly free."

Yep. I could've packed a whole suitcase full of SHOES. For freeeee!!!!

(Seriously....what's happening to me?? WHO AM I??)

Anyhow...
We're in a new room this fall, and from the photos it looks GORGEOUS. We typically hear strong singers in the Windy City for both programs, and I'm excited to get my ears back on after two short days back at the homestead. Since we're starting to distill the short lists, for both singers and pieces, there's a whole additional full time job that waits for us in the hours between auditions...listening, hypothesizing, making lists (and checking them twice, three, four times...), questioning and reframing and refining.

Early start tomorrow, and lots to do! More to come.

My five:
  1. Finish lines.
  2. Sunshine.
  3. Sweet hubster...he's cute.
  4. Interesting repertoire options...next summer is going to be FUN.
  5. Coffee. Seriously, Starbucks - this tour could be yours! Have your people call my people....

11.16.2010

...and miles to go before I sleep...

For more than 90% of the year, I am a homebody.

I have a routine that I love, plenty of time for my little family, fabulous neighbors and friends to spend time with. Also? I have a serious yen to get OUT. To go out, to travel, to try something different.

But November? In November I get to squish all of that wanderlust into a focused, full-of-travel month. And it's awesome! We cram auditions and meetings and operas and reunions into what soon becomes a fairly masochistic schedule. I get to see folks, make my own brand of awkward conversation, take in new art, and resurrect/nourish relationships that are important but that languish under a heavy layer of neglect. Rough math, I've seen 4 operas, heard well over a thousand arias, flown on five planes, read 7 magazines (Thanksgiving editions! And cue the cravings for turkey and stuffing!) and one book (Bukowski. My first foray...I will dip my toes back into that pool.) I flew from the east coast to the west coast on the day that daylight savings time ended, and my body clock is STILL all ausgefuched.

Cramming all of that in takes a toll. I am tired. Tired of 20 year old sopranos offering nothing but 7+ minute arias without offering cuts. Tired of lugging my things around like I'm a turtle. Tired of singers having no idea of the text of their aria, let alone subtext. Tired of trying to find time to exercise. Tired of the caricatures. Selfishly tired of trying to be a good colleague to my workmates back at the office, and so very irritated at myself for falling pitifully short. Sadly, quite tired of Stephano and Siebel. (Cherubino? Despina? I miss you guys...) Tired of my right shoulder living a full 2 inches above my left.

Bitch, bitch, bitch. I know. And really, this has been a nice, easy tour...beautiful rooms, smooth travel (knocking on wood, as we're not done yet!), good singing and lovely warm reunions. I have found that 16 month old babies are perfect lunch companions (they eat enough of your fries and ice cream to reduce the guilt level to nil! And they give random kisses...the best kind.), that singing pop songs at the top of one's lungs is an easy way to clear the aria jukebox, that 5 minutes of focused, in-person conversation is better than hours of chat. That having separate travel days makes life totally bearable. That my travel companion and I travel well and easily together, and that's a real blessing. (And also that we have some hours away from each other...we need some new stories for the next flight!)

Next stop? Chicago...that toddlin' town. But before that? A quick stop to repack. To reconnect with my little family.

To get a massage. Because the hunchback I'm sporting is even more striking than the fabulous shoes.

My five?
  1. Sleep. Too much is never enough.
  2. Context. The doorman at the hotel in Houston asked us to wait inside for the cab, because it was too cold outside. It was GLORIOUS outside. :)
  3. Cinnamon spice candles.
  4. Restaurant meals.
  5. Fasting and exercising.

11.13.2010

my home away from home?

Before I visited Houston, I was convinced that every part of Texas was dry and desertlike, with huge bugs and lots of dust and really good spicy food.

But then I visited lovely, lush, green Houston. Houston in November is like the DC area in June. It's lovely and green, with just enough humidity to put a little bend in your hair but not so much that you end up looking like a jungle creature.

(I hope.)
Anyway, we hopped a flight from San Francisco to Houston, hoping against hope that we'd be able to see this little sea story at HGO. We knew we'd be cutting it close, but the universe smoothed out everything except our (road weary, craptastic) moods...the flight was lovely, our bags were first off the plane: we caught a cab, picked up room keys and tickets and headed for the opera house.

Smooth like glassssss, baby!

And, not ONLY did we see familiar faces on stage, we ran into several singers and pianists in the audience. Our social calendar is filling up BIG TIME. (Seriously. Have your people call my people.) AND I bumped into one of my fav students from my Pittsburgh days, the Poetess. She looks fabulous, and somehow? I'm not at all surprised to run into her at the opera.

In Texas.

On a random November evening.

CRAZY.

Universe, please don't mind my grumpalicious mood - I am totally digging what you're throwing down.

Day one of a three-day-stand in H-ton begins tomorrow morning!

My five:
  1. Actually getting work done on a flight! AMAZING!
  2. Complimentary chocolate cookies.
  3. Large hotel rooms.
  4. Hearing the sound of horse hooves outside my window, in the middle of the city.
  5. Reconnecting.
No video, but audio for one of my favorite songs. A musical nightcap, if you will.

11.11.2010

the bloom is off the rose.

(Well, that's been true for several years. But you, dear readers, are quite kind for never bringing it up.)

MegaPow! (Obvs not an action shot.)
Today we had auditions in San Francisco, one of my most favorite cities. The weather was capital-G Gorgeous. I woke up early, feeling better than I had in days, ready to kick some audition patootie. I went for a short run (because seriously? In San Francisco there are serious hills...kick your ass, just-as-hard-to-run-down-as-up hills. And little miss shin-splints here is unused to that particular kind of discomfort. 2 miles? Yep, c'est tout.), AND did some yoga AAAAND ventured out for coffee and breakfast with KPW.

A good start.

And auditions? Awesome. And difficult. At this point in the tour, I start losing language. I have a vocabulary of words that I can use to describe certain sounds...plummy. Uncomplicated. Wobbly. Covered. Complex. Bright. Lush. Focused. There are more, both flattering and less so, that I call on fairly frequently to describe what I hear. And it's at this point, after hearing a few hundred singers, that I feel like I'm writing the same comments over and over again. I'm religious in notating the auditioner's repertoire and some distinguishing feature - a purple dress, a red shirt. A matching tie and pocket square. A fabulous pair for shoes. (Natch.) But I find myself repeating comments like "pressed vibrat," "No connection to the text," "Ham and cheese hands" and "Mezzo? Soprano." in every single city we've visited.

And, as someone who struggled with every single issue on that list? Well, on one hand it's nice to know that I wasn't alone in trying to figure those things out. But there's also a frustration on behalf of folks who are getting sketchy information/recommendations. (Been there, still have the t-shirt.) Get your information from a group of people that you trust, and who have extensive experience in both academia and professional arenas. 

Anyhoo. Some familiar faces, some really beautiful singing. We met a new pal in pianist CP, and spent more time with JW and MegaPow. KPW and I took a short walk into Japantown(?) for my first ever bibimbap at a country-style Korean place. How have I never had this before? It might be the perfect comfort food!

It was good day.

(Well, except for the epic wait for a taxi. Seriously a full 30 minutes. New York has ruined me.)

And now?

I'm toast. Sit-on-the-couch, stare at the interwebs because reading is too hard, kind of toast. Listening to the people in the suite above me pace back and forth, pondering going to bed at 9pm.

Lamelamelamelamelaaaaaaaaame. But necessary, I suppose.
Tomorrow? Houston. Time change. Peter Grimes. Early to bed seems like the right thing to do.


My five:
  1. Silk dresses and sweaters in late November.
  2. Good singing.
  3. Finish lines.
  4. Silence.
  5. Laughter.
Here's one of the tunes I'm using to keep the aria jukebox out of my head. (On heavy rotation? Marie from Fille du Regiment, and Je suis encor from Manon. Constantly. I cannot escape. And they were never my repertoire!)It's particularly appropriate, given my mother's phobia of Great White Sharks, and her conviction that, if she ever flies in an airplane, that said plane will crash and she'll survive - only to be eaten by sharks. (And if you ask her about overland routes? She'll calmly answer "Water Parks. Aquariums.")


LAX-SFO



We've had a lovely, fairly uneventful travel day...new route to the airport to drop off the rental car, an irritating game of "Pace the Terminal" at LAX when we were sent to opposite ends of the terminal for each step of the bag check/check in/security timestep. We spotted Virginia Madsen and Amy Pohler in the terminal. The flight was short and smooth.

And I was grumpy. The kind of grumpy that's really only dislodged with sleep or time with friends or magical unicorns and double rainbows.

We were booked into a new hotel, and a flight of green marble stairs greeted us at the front door. "Ugh. It's Philly all over again." I pouted, recalling pulling my heavy suitcases up the stairs at their lovely music school. But a porter met us at the door and did the heavy lifting. The reservationist was lovely...and as I looked around at the pretty Victorian lobby, and grabbed my heavy brass room key, I thought that maybe it would be OK.

And, as I opened the door to my THREE ROOM SUITE? With a chandelier and a fireplace and high ceilings and a bay window? I thought, yep....things are OK.

After a grilled butter and cheese sandwich (srsly. my arteries all clogged after bite 1.) (Of course I kept eating.), we commandeered a cab and headed for the opera house. We're doing a bit of a reverse-chronology tour of Janacek's oeuvre, with House of the Dead last year at the Met, and the Makropulos Case at San Francisco Opera tonight. (2011? Must be Vixen!) It was opening night, and I saw Karita Mattila for the first time.

Holy. Moly.

The committment. The voice. The sheer athleticism. The ferocity. The moments of comedy - some staged, sure, but some were spontaneous and totally enthralling. She had us all - even the grumpy ones - in the palm of her hand. It's not often that I leave the theater this jazzed...I'm lucky to see a lot of performances, in a bevy of genres and disciplines, and I'm a little jaded sometimes, I guess.

(Oh, and Rufus Wainwright was there. In a plaid coat. I am a celebrity-recognizing FOOL today!)

Tonight. Not jaded.

Inspired.

Tomorrow? Back to the opera house for the last bit of West Coast auditions. Let's see if we hear a mini-Mattila. :)

My five:
  1. A charming, non-chain hotel.
  2. Good news from my rock star hubster.
  3. Yoga podcasts...my shoulders and back doth protest too much.
  4. Easy travel companion - especially at this point, when we're both tired and stiff and grumpy. 
  5. Spending more time with JadaBoy and MegaPOW tomorrow!

11.09.2010

Banishing the grumpy old lady.

Sunrise in Malibu
The left coast is so good to us.

We got in late Sunday night, and were immediately welcomed into the arms of Santa Barbara's most lovely, generous family. We made it to our sleeping quarters around 10pm, which very much felt like 2am to these 2 east coasters.

Monday morning's sunny drive into LA proper along the Pacific Coast Highway slapped us into reverence...I wonder if the folks who commute that way stop seeing how gorgeous it is? Or if it's awe-inspiring regardless of how many times one has seen it?
(It would've been even more awe-inspiring had I made a pot of regular coffee instead of decaf. I seem to have a hard time adequately caffeinating myself in California.)

We heard singers and coaches at LA Opera's rehearsal space in Little Tokyo. (I think that's the neighborhood? It's part of the warehouse district, near the arts district...lots of districts in a three-block area!) It's a long room on the second floor, which means that the first few singers bounce up the stairs, start singing and then realize just how out-of-breath they are. We had a few second takes in the morning. :) But we heard some great singing, and some great monologues from Studio auditioners...the dramatic piece of the puzzle seems often to be more put together out here, no doubt from the prevalence of (perceived?) tv/film opportunities. And with the lovely Ninotchka on the keys and the Judgess as the monitor, we were in fabulous company all day. The other thing that's great about the space? The fact that there are a jillion exercise balls and even a mini trampoline in the room! It's easy to keep moving in this space, and it makes the day easier, for sure.

Today we have a workday in the trailer park. Time to back up data, make some decisions, and listen in on some work calls. We might even have time to visit the beach. I'm grateful for the slow day, as my body is trying to fight something off...I think a nap might be just the thing I need.

My five:
  1. Texts from hubby...it's hard being away from my boys.
  2. The smell of the ocean.
  3. Rekindling relationships on the road.
  4. Warm generosity.
  5. Regular coffee.

11.07.2010

Uncle. UUUUUNNNNCCCCCCCLLLLEEEEEE!!!!

The Vontz Center at UC. Designed by Gehry. And sitting right outside my window!
Ok, Cincinnati, you've done it. With lovely weather, friendly people, a leisurely schedule, incredible food, good singing and that amazing double rainbow, you've won me over.

I no longer hate Cincinnati. In fact, I think it's a pretty lovely town!

(Although my football team is still going to kick your team's tuckus tomorrow night. I don't love you enough to forgo all smack talk.)

Today is a travel day AND daylight savings time. Which means that I've gained an hour this morning (Good thing those high school kids across the hall made sure I didn't go to bed too early last night...I'm sure it's delayed karmic payback for my own high school shenanigans.), and will gain another three when we fly to LA this evening.

(Can you say totally f-ed up body clock? Whoa.)

See y'all on the left coast - auditions tomorrow at LAOpera's rehearsal space!

My five:
  1. Sun salutations in the sunlight.
  2. Pleasant surprises.
  3. Tea before bed.
  4. New music. (video - of sorts - below!)
  5. Video chat.





11.06.2010

GET OFFA MY LAWN! (Or, A Cranky Lady Rants.)

I’m about to rant.

I’m not going to cloak it in edu-speak or niceties, because it’s my opinion, and if this is indeed my tiny corner of the internet, I should be able to speak my mind here. If you’re not in the mood, please dig through the archives or visit one of these fabulous sites.

The things that I love about opera, this crazy art form that I’ve dedicated my professional life to, are all related to communication…the ways that the human voice can communicate such beautiful words AND add startling, heartbreaking subtext by coloring the tone, changing the articulation…through sheer intention. The amount of information that can be conveyed is infinite and powerful. It’s transcendent. The music speaks to me, but it’s the addition of text that breaks my heart. I suppose it’s the reason that I gravitated to singing more strongly than to the violin or piano…I love words. But I also love the way a skilled singer can take a phrase, a scene, a role, and create something new and vibrant and relevant through their interpretation…seeing a situation through someone else’s lens is powerful, and I think the clearest way to see similarities and differences in oneself.

But these beautiful lines, this rich subtext, the conflict has to be communicated. And to successfully communicate, there need to be two parties involved: the speaker and the listener. The listener, in this case the audience, need to free themselves of distraction (i.e. no texting during the show, running through the to-do list, or firing off the random email from the seats), and be willing to spend a good chunk of time listening. They need to  suspend disbelief (in dragons, true love, the wrath of the gods, et cetera ad nauseam) and be receptive to the crux of each of these stories: the relationships therein.

The performer’s responsibilities are to create a believable, multi-dimensional character: to tell that character’s story: to believe the story 100%. They also must create two types of relationships: those onstage that facilitate the telling of the story, and those with the audience that creates the space for the telling of that story.

Part of that audience relationship is made up of those nit-picky things like vocal technique and knowing your music: because let’s face it, if those pieces aren’t in place, the story you’re telling isn't  “I’m in love with a man who walked away from me and our child and now my life is not worth living,” or “Because you’ve killed my lover I’m going to throw myself off the nearest bridge/tower/parapet,” but rather “holy CRAP I’m totally unprepared and uncomfortable.” 

BIG difference in subtext, that.

And yes, a beautiful tone is included in that nit-picky list. The voice has to be lovely and secure. It has to be big/focused/resonant enough to reach me in the hall while maintaining that special quality.

But as a performer, you cannot stand and phonate at me, and expect me to listen to your story. When you yell at me, with nothing below a mezzo-forte, when you trot out unconnected stock gestures (Raise left arm and look hopeful! Clasp hands and look concerned!) without having made a connection to me, you lose me. When your eyes skate over the room like it’s an ice rink, until I can’t tell where your focus is, I soon stop trying. (Is the heroine you’re singing to stage left or stage right? Or maybe floating over my head? Or is she pinned under your shoes?) When your anguished face and your ecstatic face look the same, the lack of both context and subtext is apparent immediately. And please know that Every Single Time you close your eyes onstage you sever our connection. It’s the easiest way for you to tell me that you’re really talking to yourself, and not to me. That I’m not integral to your music making.

(And if that’s in fact the case? You don’t need to sing onstage…your shower should do you just fine.)

If you are hoping that the sheer beauty of your voice will make you a career, I’d like to persuade you, in this era of hi-def video simulcasts and close camera angles, to invest in acting classes and a gym membership. Sign up for dance classes if you feel trapped in your body...no one's expecting you to be Baryshnikov, we just want you to look comfortably in control of your appendages. At all times.

Or you could always just resign yourself to bitching about the system and how it’s stacked against you.
Your choice.

Tell me a story.

I'm a typical audience member. I rushed to the opera house after a busy day at work, grabbed a bite at the concession stand, and sit here now, ready to experience someone else’s life. I want beauty and passion and strife. I want to laugh. I want to be moved to tears.

I am here, listening to you.

Tell me a story.


11.6.10








Happy birthday, Dad.

I miss you.

11.05.2010

Cincinnati: update



Double rainbows. A gorgeous rendition of Pierrot's Tanzlied. And dinner at a fabulous Indian fusion restaurant.


Touché, Cincinnati. You're wearing me down with your lovely gestures and lovely people. 

My five:

  1. Carrot cake. Carrots are vegetables, right? So dessert was practically a salad...i should've had two.
  2. Performers who radiate fun.
  3. Hotel room thermostats. It's like Jamaica in my room.
  4. Fun new photo apps for my phone.
  5. Silly text messages from my niece and nephew.

11.04.2010

Leg 2: Cincinnati

Ok, so Cincinnati and I have a rocky relationship. The first time I was here I loved that the geography and architecture reminded me so much of my western Pennsylvania stomping grounds. But several years of brief stops, coupled with this nightmare of epic proportion has my head swayed firmly against Cincinnati's charms.

Whatever they may be.

But this trip? I think that Cincinnati is trying to win me over. We had a short flight from disgustingly wet DC to sunny CVG, our bags arrived at the carousel in record time, the hotel gave each of us HUGE hotel rooms. Tomorrow a sunny baritone has promised to bring breakfast (and coffee!) along with him, and we're spending the day with two fun ladies with serious musical chops.

(Did I mention that my room is HUGE?)

Cincinnati, we're not besties yet...but if you keep this up, you might make my party list. You've at least made me forget (temporarily) about having to leave my purple suede booties at home.


My five:
  1. Big sandwiches. Smoked prime rib? Come to mama.
  2. Quiet time.
  3. Pop music...I'm needing it more than ever, since every time the TV or iTunes goes off my brain goes immediately to Aria Jukebox.
  4. Service people who are really, sincerely friendly. (Or really good actors. I'll take either.)
  5. Mushy text messages from my hubby.

11.02.2010

auditions: the monologue edition

One of my favorite parts of the Studio audition process is the monologue. We require a one-minute modern piece, so that we can see/hear the auditionee in their native language, without dealing with the rigorous bonds of vocal technique. Sometimes we ask for the monologues when the other rep on the list won't tell us anything new about the candidate....sometimes we ask when the sung performance is stiff or awkward, and we need a different take on the performer...and sometimes we just like the excerpted piece.

Some of the good ones we've heard so far, volume 1?
  • Autobahn by Neil LaBute. (The work is composed of short plays, so there are several options to choose from.)
  • It's Called the Sugar Plum by Israel Horovitz-Zuckerman. "Strudel dough, strudel dee!" Short, with fun wordplay. And silly - a giggle is worth a thousand words!
  • The 13 Hallucinations of Julio Rivera by Stephen R. Culp. A slightly bawdy take on Dorothy and Oz.
  • Richard's monologue from Two Pianos, Four Hands by Richard Greenblatt. About quitting piano lessons.
More to come, I'm sure! The keys are to know your piece well, to find and deliver the beats cleanly, and to connect to your audience. We've seen lots of good examples over the last week!

Today we wrapped up our first date back at the Barns, and it's been lovely being home for a bit. I'm sad to bid (a temporary) adieu to IvoryTickler and SilverDollar. But tomorrow begins the real work: packing for 80 degrees and sunny (Houston) and snow (Cincinnati) in the same, less-than-fifty-pound suitcase...

...AND still managing to bring at least one pair of cute shoes.

(might be impossible.)

KPW and I have vowed to travel light for this leg of the trip...we'll see how successful we are. I'm just going to try my damndest to not pay extra for my bags!

My five:
  1. Time with my boys.
  2. Chicken soup from the Deli.
  3. Early bedtimes.
  4. Holiday catalogs.
  5. Slippers.