Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year 2008

Again, time seems like it is flying – it is the eve of 2008 – yet another event of the holiday season that has apparently come flying out of nowhere.

The turn of the year seems like it would be a natural time to take a moment to take stock and recap the events of the last twelve months, but with the pace that life has taken lately, it seems that I will have to press the pause button on life for the moment in order to review – something which I would like to do.

My highlights of 2007 were:

- The feeling of homecoming after moving (back) to New York and falling in love with our new place

- The satisfaction and pride of meeting the challenge that Lindoro posed and learning a great deal from him

- The sense of feeling changed after my three-month sojourn in France

- The excitement of seeing two of my best friends enter the world of parenthood and welcoming their beautiful daughter into the world

- The fun and sense of teamwork while working with the group in Chicago on Il ritorno d’Ulisse

- The joy and inspiration of my first summer at the Marlboro Music Festival

- The relief and excitement of buying my new Sony Vaio laptop

- The thrill of sinking my teeth into Jonathan in Saul for the first time

- The love and emotional warmth of getting to spend a wonderful (albeit too short) Christmas with my family and loved ones in Ann Arbor

Overall, it feels like it was a year of quiet growth and transition. The process of deciding to move to New York took up much of it along with a steady stream of interesting work and some intense challenges at the end. There was so much to be grateful for, and in 2008 there is so much to look forward to.

All the best to everyone for much happiness, health and fulfillment in 2008!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Transition

So upon my return to America, my brand new laptop was waiting for me expectantly. She is beautiful, and I love her for weighing so little and turning on without drama. Her name is The Italian Girl, since that is what paid for her.

As soon as I complete the transition from my jalopy/lemon of a Dell to my new wonder, the blogging "schedule" will resume as normal. The transition has been delayed due to the holidays suddenly appearing out of nowhere and beginning rehearsals for Abduction down here in Houston. Hopefully I can get with it and get one more post in before 2008 hits us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

French Learning

As I began singing my first aria (the one with 24 high b-flats, 3 high c’s, and tons of fast notes) at the start of last night’s show, I noticed that it actually felt easy. I thought back to all of the lessons I have had on this role, slaving over each b-flat and every coloratura passage in my lessons, trying over and over again to keep them in line and properly supported and placed, wondering how I was ever going to manage to do this on stage in front of a theater full of people. As yesterday's show went on (our 10th performance in the tour), I began to realize that I have learned a lot during my time here in France.

A sampling of the things that I have learned over the past three months, ranging from things vocally technical, things musical, life lessons, to random miscellany:

  • It is actually possible to sleep on a plane from time to time.
  • I’ve learned a ton of new French vocabulary (like how to discuss train strikes, for example).
  • I have a tendency to hold tension in my left shoulder and arm when I sing, and this prevents me from grounding into a lower support and causes me to lock my abdomen. (Thank you, Susie, for pointing out my perpetually bent left arm – it was a bigger problem than you realized)
  • I have learned to rely on resonance to project the sound even more than I used to (rather than muscle).
  • The French tax situation is better than the German one for us singers.
  • Being alone on the road is easier than it used to be.
  • You need a fairly good internet connection for Skype to work effectively.
  • I can navigate my way around Paris Gare du Nord, Charles de Gaulle airport, and London St. Pancras Station quite easily now.
  • I am constantly reminded that phrasing is a good thing.
  • Marking in rehearsal is not always a bad thing.
  • Slow and steady wins the race (although not tempo wise in Rossini…then simply being steady wins the race).
  • Champagne takes a long time to make.
  • Bulgaria fought on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary during World War I.
  • Always explore the local farmer’s market as soon as you can – don’t wait until the last weekend you are in a city.
  • Even if I feel tired, if I immerse myself in the music, it will feed me the energy I need.
  • The lower and more grounded my support is, the more musical options I have at my disposal.
  • Recording is a REALLY useful tool.
  • Arriving 35 minutes before a trans-Atlantic flight is not enough time, no matter how good your excuse is.
  • The French are an incredibly polite people.
  • It had been ten years since my last tetanus shot.
  • Tetanus shots make your arm really sore for days.
  • You don’t need a prescription in France to buy the tetanus vaccine at the pharmacy.
  • It is possible to learn a great deal of things vocally on my own without a voice teacher holding my hand.
  • I can do an upward bow in yoga now.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What Holidays?

For days now, Jeremy has been asking me if I need him to buy any of my Christmas presents for me so I don’t have to lug them back across the Atlantic. I keep telling him not to worry, I have plenty of time.

It dawned on me yesterday that Christmas is merely a week away.

The fact that this is a holiday season has just not sunk in yet. This week has me immersed in performing L’italiana 3 times, singing two auditions (one of which was yesterday in London), trying to cram the dialogue and music for Die Entf├╝hrung as dem Serail into my head before rehearsals start in Houston next Wednesday, packing to go home, and then flying to NYC and repacking for another 6 weeks on the road. I will spend 26 hours on the European train system this week alone (my absolute favorite mode of travel - as long as they are not on strike or being vandalized), as well as at least 15 hours on planes to my various destinations, not to mention the time spent waiting in airports, which will hopefully be kept to a minimum with no delays. Somehow, I forgot about Christmas shopping amidst all of that. I call it happily living in denial.

The one thing that disturbs me about all of this is that I am quite happy doing every single one of these things. It begs the question: Am I becoming addicted to my work?

In truth, I’m not in bad shape – I only have a couple of people left to get things for, and hopefully I’ll be able to find appropriate things here without a problem. With the Caen Christmas Market a block away, I should be ok.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Time Warp

Standing on the stage of Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan last week felt like I had gone through a time warp and suddenly found myself in the midst of my own version of Back to the Future. The last time I had performed there, I was a senior in college singing a solo with the University Choir. Here I was again, with an excellent soprano with whom I sang fairly frequently while at Michigan (she was completing her DMA while I was doing my undergraduate studies there) and the director of orchestras, with whom I had also not worked with since college. At one point, I turned to one of my colleagues backstage and said, "I feel like I never left and I am 19 years old again." It was a surreal and nerve-wracking, yet totally fun experience. I've been waiting for a while now to go back and sing in that incredible hall again, and it felt good to be back.

As surreal as it felt, the performance went well, and people were very moved by the new piece. At the concert, we premiered the orchestral version of a song cycle written by one of the composers on the faculty the UM, Evan Chambers, and then the University orchestra played an amazing performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring to finish off the evening. It was great to see so many familiar faces in the audience: family, friends, and former teachers. It’s so rare that I get to perform for people I know, and it was a real treat to visit with them for a bit afterwards.

I’m back in France now, rehearsing with a new conductor and a new orchestra in Caen for our last stop on our tour of Northern France. It is a very strange, yet great experience to have new input on a production after having performed it 9 times and worked on it diligently for the past two and a half months. While we are tired and ready to put the piece to rest, we are getting fresh new ideas about the music and are having a rare chance to go back and clean things up in the rehearsal room while breathing some fresh musical life into the piece. It’s really exciting, and I look forward to our performances next week.

Even more exciting is that I will actually get to sleep in my own bed one night next week after we put our L'italiana to rest (who knew I would miss New York so much?). Immediately after having spent about 12 hours at home, we will fly off to Ann Arbor to spend the holiday with my family and friends in Michigan. The best part of this is that when I get to my parents’ house, the brand new laptop I just bought will be waiting there for me (and yes, I am firmly remaining in the PC camp…I just can’t bring myself to convert). It weighs less than 3 pounds! I can’t wait.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Amiens

This last week in Amiens was great fun. Never having toured a piece before, I really didn’t know what to expect in Amiens. It turned out that we all arrived feeling refreshed from the week-long break, so the piece felt fresh again, but also much more settled – a very new feeling. Having greater confidence with the seven performances in Lille under out belt, we began to discover new layers and fun moments during the two shows in Amiens.

Our director, Sandrine, told us that even though La Maison de la Culture d’Amiens is a very important performing venue in France, our performances of Italian Girl were the first opera to come to Amiens in four years. As a result, we were greeted with incredibly receptive and energetic audiences, which helped our energy enormously.

The next stop on our tour is in Caen, but first I have a bit of a break from our surrealistic Algiers and am taking a musical trip to 19th century New Hampshire graveyard for my first of three premieres this season.

While in Lille, Thomas Mouchart, one of the Lille stagecrew, took pictures from the wings during some of the performances and rehearsals in between his duties backstage – the crew in Lille was one of the most enthusiastic, fun, youthful, and sweet stage teams I’ve ever encountered. The photos in this entry were all taken by him during our run in Lille.