|The Hawthorne Bridge at night|
A couple of weeks ago over drinks, the General Director of the Portland Opera, Chris Mattaliano, turned to me and asked, "Listen, I know you love it here, but what exactly is it about this city that you love so much? I've been here for 10 years now, and this place is very much home to me, so now I am a bit biased towards this place. I'm just curious, from a visitor's perspective, what is it about this place that draws you to it?" It's been a question I have been pondering over the past few weeks that I've been rehearsing here in Portland.
|One of the fire pits at my favorite Portland Happy Hour haunt - Nel Centro|
Part of what I adore about this city is that it feels so familiar. I've spent at least a little time here each year since 2005, so I know the city quite well now. I have a few favorite haunts that I love to visit each and every time I come, and it's extremely easy for me to settle into a routine here, as a result. The city is quite beautiful, with a lot of amazing outdoor spaces to go for a walk or a run and catch a breath of fresh air. The food and wine here are phenomenal. So is the coffee. Also, one of my closest friends lives here, and so between the familiarity of the surroundings and the sense of community that I feel here with that particular friendship, this place always feels a bit like a home away from home to me. There is also something about this place that reminds me a lot of where I grew up Ann Arbor. The city is filled with many liberally-minded academics and artist-types, and there is a sense of openness here that is quite special. The people here are very laid-back and mostly easy-going, but they have an intensity and passion for their lives and work, as well. It is easy to meet people and strike up interesting conversations at one of the many adorable places there are to eat, drink, and be merry. And then, of course, there is Portland's mad obsession with Happy Hour.
My close, Portland-dwelling friend is a colleague I met during my first year in the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Angela Niederloh. There was something about those years together in the HGO Studio that felt like we survived operatic boot camp together, and a more than decade-long friendship was forged during the fires of that experience. We grew up at an exponential pace together artistically, musically, vocally, and personally during those years, and have been there, holding each other's hands at most every step along the way since as we have navigated the personal and professional ups and downs of the roller-coaster that is life.
|Morning hike with Angie|
One of the biggest blessings about this particular sojourn in Portlandia has been that I am getting the first opportunity in many years to sing with Angie again, as she is singing Mistress Quickly in our production of Falstaff which opens here tomorrow at the Portland Opera. I mentioned this at the opera company's meet-and-greet towards the beginning of our rehearsal period for Falstaff, and elicited a giant chorus of "awww..." from the people assembled. I can't stress the special-ness of this moment enough, though. After running around the world, constantly changing cities and colleagues almost every week, it is a truly unique opportunity to be able to make music and share the stage for such an extended rehearsal/performance period with such a close friend of so many years. It's not only been great fun, with many shared laughs about a variety of subjects (Angie is a master of witty, quirky humor), but also an incredible chance to reconnect with a trusted soul who reminds me of who I am, what is important, and what life, music, and friendship are all about.
|Morning coffee at my favorite riverside café haunt - Bean and Tree|
I know I haven't written as regularly or very much here at this blog over the past while, and I must say that it's been mostly because I've been so busy running around from place to place - I've felt a bit like I've lost touch. I've been doing a lot of concerts over the past few years, and as a result have found myself in a different city practically every week, without any time to ease into being there. Being so busy flying, settling into the hotel room, and running to rehearsal or a performance, I've not had a lot of opportunity to ask myself what I am thinking beyond when and where I need to be and what am I singing today. Being able to sustain a nice and stable routine here in such a familiar and loved place, for a few of weeks has been the ultimate luxury. I've been able to find layers in rehearsal when I go to work, I've been able to find layers in life when I go to yoga class or just sit in my favorite café to write my morning pages, and I've been able to find a little bit of the beautiful balance between work and play. Now, after a few weeks of that beautiful balance, I find myself at this page again. Funny how that works.
|The coffee at Mother's, my Portland breakfast haunt of choice|
And to the city of Portland - in the words of the Golden Girls: Thank you for being a friend.
|Springtime sunset in Portlandia|