Sunday, December 31, 2006


Sitting here in my picture window, looking out at the fountain that bubbles underneath the now-multicolored oak tree in our courtyard, I reflect on 2006 and look forward to 2007. Our lives are such a paradox in a way – it feels like it was just yesterday that I was frantically trying to pack to leave for a ten week tour and trying to plan a New Year’s Eve party, when in fact it was a year ago. And in that year, so much has happened. Life is full of so many moments (both good and bad) that seem like suspended time, but the moments pass by so quickly.

The highlights of my 2006? The stress of performing my first run of L’italiana in Algieri fighting a cold. The thrill of making my New York City Opera debut in Acis & Galatea, one of my favorite operas. The excitement of my European debut in Frankfurt. The scare of my friend Erin’s car accident and the relief of her recovery. A wonderful summer spent with Jeremy and my friends who came through or live in DC. My first vacation ever – split between Montreal and Rehoboth Beach. An unexpected fall reunion in Atlanta with my former roommate and our friend Slater. Getting to experience one of the most special musical moments of my life singing in Poppea and getting to spend so much time with my little brother in Los Angeles. A happy Christmas holiday with my family in Michigan – it was the best time I’ve ever had with my family as an adult. It was a good year, and for that I am grateful.

Looking to 2007, I have some resolutions in mind, I look forward to a few things, and I have one big question. The resolutions? They range from the mundane to the ambitious. I want to up my cardio at the gym. I’d like to maintain the frequency of my blog postings. I’m going to dig into the Artist’s Way again (Julia Cameron has a new book out). I’m going to practice with more regularity while I am on the road. I am going to create better schedules for myself. I want to volunteer somewhere. I want to create a long-term financial plan. I want to save more money. I want to cook more. I want to sleep more.

I look forward to being in Chicago again and singing more Monteverdi. I look forward to tackling L’italiana in Algieri again, hopefully this time in good health. I look forward to keeping my resolutions. I look forward to spending the first two months of 2007 with Jeremy at home. I also look forward to moving away from Houston.

This last item, of course, leads to my aforementioned “one big question”. As Jeremy’s time in the HGO Studio nears an end, my time as a resident of Houston will draw to a close, as well. Houston is a place that I thought I would be in only for a couple of years – I never imagined that I would be in my fifth year here. Houston has come to be a place that I consider home, and I will be sad to leave in many ways. I will miss our wonderful little apartment that is my creative haven and nest where I flee to recuperate, prepare, and be with Jeremy. I will miss our lovely neighbors. I will miss my sweet hairdresser, Amanda. I will miss the beautiful, clear, mild days of Houston “winters”. I will miss the many friends that Jeremy and I have made during our time here. Still, the time to move on to the next step in our lives approaches, and this begs the question – where to next? We have some options that we are seriously considering, but we are married to none yet – only that we will be leaving here. As I often write as a catch phrase when I can think of nothing else to write in my morning pages – we will see.

Photo by Jeremy Frank

Monday, December 25, 2006

Holiday Cheer

My fall travels ended last week, as soon as I dragged myself home after the final performance of Poppea. The flight home was short and uneventful, minus my hangover. The first morning at home, I dicovered that my body had crashed, and I was sick with a cold. I had two days at home in Houston, before Jeremy and I flew up to Ann Arbor to visit my family, which has been quite pleasant. All of this is basically an excuse for my extended absence, but I do want to wish the world peace, joy, health, and happiness this holiday season and all the best for a happy, healthy, and fruitful 2007.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Presence on the Web

So my official website is finished, and it was launched today, much to my excitement and relief. It has been an interesting process to put a website together. I shied away from it for a long time, because I always felt that personal websites were sort of masturbatory, in a way. I also delayed putting it up, because I wanted to save up the money to do it properly – I really wanted it to be done the right way. I figured better to have no website at all than to have something that looks like I did it at home with construction paper and glue (I simply lack the technical savvy and patience to do something like this on my own). I realize now that it is an important tool for publicity purposes and to have a decent sound clip or two online.

Still, in line with Kim Witman’s insights on singer’s materials recently, I have found that putting so much energy into selling yourself is exhausting, and it is really distracting from the primary task – making music. I am so grateful that I had a designer to do the bulk of the work. The little that I had to do I found exhausting and mind-numbing. Constantly looking at, listening to, and reading about myself was toxic after awhile. I know that being a singer and artist requires a lot of alone time and concern with oneself, but there is an introspective quality to that time that is productive and fruitful. Spending time immersed in headshots, sound clips, and other publicity materials is not introspective – in fact it is quite the opposite. During the times that I was trying to assemble materials for the site, I found myself more concerned with what other people were doing, and I felt myself getting a competitive edge. Doubts began to creep in and jealousy started to rear its ugly, green head. Oddly, even though I was immersed in materials all about me, my focus shifted from me and my work to what other people think – a very precarious place for an artist’s focus to drift.

As a result, I’ve decided to keep this blog a separate entity from the website. This blog is a very introspective exercise for me, and its purpose is not to market myself or push my career ahead. It is my effort to understand my life and the world around me and to not feel quite so alone as I travel.

I am so excited about the website – I am really pleased with the way it looks, and I am happy that I have a professional presence on the web now. I am also immensely relieved that the process of designing it is over, and all I have to do for now is simply update it from time to time.

The photo above is one of my new publicity shots - they were taken by Balance Photography.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


I drove most of the way back from the airport in silence Monday night before I even thought to turn on the CD player in the car. I was almost numb, and even though my mind rambled, I don’t remember much of what I was thinking. I worried about Jeremy’s flight arriving safely back in Houston, mostly – totally irrational, since I had a greater chance of crashing my car on the highway on the way home. I think it was just my mind’s way of distracting itself from that sadness of saying goodbye.

Our weekend together was wonderful. Thanksgiving involved a lot of good food and was split between friends (some old and some new) and my brother, who spent the holiday with his girlfriend and her very sweet family. Friday night, we had a romantic dinner at home, complete with candles, a fire in the fireplace, and a tasty new recipe in the oven. Saturday was the opening of Poppea – a success, I think. Sunday and Monday were spent together, roaming around Los Angeles, a short walk on the beach at night, a moment waiting for the appointed time to leave for the airport, and then capped with a sad drive to LAX.

When we are together, it is all so easy. We laugh, we fight, we make-up, we cook, we go to nice meals, we watch movies, we have mini adventures together, we play Trivial Pursuit. Time flies. When we are apart, we both complain at times of being lonely and bored. I realize I am oversimplifying this here, but the amount of time we spend apart is tough. I watch some singer-couples deal with it and manage to stay happy together, and I watch other singer-couples make the choice to part ways, because it is simply too much to bear. There seems to be no formula, although at times I wish there was one. Other days, I am grateful that we are forced to live our lives in the moment, and enjoy the process of life day by day.

I am so glad that we ended up having the weekend together – we were unsure of how much time we would have together while I was away on this gig, so I am grateful that we had as much as we did.

In the meantime, I’ve only got about two and a half weeks to go here, and all I have to do in that time is make beautiful music with great colleagues and enjoy this incredible city of angels.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The First Poppea

At the end of the final dress rehearsal on Wednesday night, the cast assembled for the curtain call in a rush of quick-changes and a frantic effort to get into the proper order in the dark. The lights came back up on stage, and we traipsed out in order, joined hands, and took a company bow. As I looked down the line of colleagues on either side of me, I smiled and felt my heart rush for just an instant as I realized that I was taking a bow with so many of the musicians I have looked up to all of these years and who have been heroes to me in so many ways.

This experience in Los Angeles has been one that I have been looking forward to for almost a year now – mostly because it is my first opportunity to sing this music that I love so much (this is my first foray into the realm of Monteverdi), but also because of the cast and team that are involved. I have looked up to these people for years. I own these people’s CDs and have listened to them countless times. I have seen these people perform and marveled at their ability to tell stories and share the essence of what it is to be human with their voice. I have marveled at their ability to bare their soul and create stunning moments of beauty. Now, I am here, creating right along with them.

As I prepare for the opening performance tonight, I am reflecting on how humbling and inspiring these past few weeks have been for me, and how honored I am to share the stage with these colleagues tonight and through the rest of the run.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The day of the turkey

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Being a day of thanks and all, my mind is drifting back to my musings on gratitude again... I have so much to be grateful for: incredible friends, a wonderful family, my sweet Jeremy, beautiful music to make, great colleagues, my health, among so many other things. I am in awe of it all, actually.

I wish you all peace, happiness, health, and good food today.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


The long wait is almost over – Jeremy arrives tonight.

I should have spent the day cleaning our place to make it spotless for his arrival, but the truth is that Levi and I have been mostly at the theater as of late, so the house is in pretty good shape. Instead, I spent the morning looking at listings on Craig’s list of apartments in the cities we are thinking about moving to after Houston, fantasizing about out future together.

Later, I went to see The Fountain, a movie about a man's journey to save the woman he loves from death. During one of the scenes in which Rachel Weisz’ character is in a hospital bed and desperately trying to say goodbye and reassure her husband that she isn’t afraid to die, I found myself thinking that I hope that Jeremy is there with me as I make that transition one day (hopefully far in the future). Morbid, I know, but an interesting mini-realization nonetheless. It made me question all the time we spend away from each other – our time on Earth is so short, and our time together is even shorter. How do we balance our need to make music like we do and our passion to be together? How can we make it so that both needs are met all at the same time - so that one does not preclude the other?

I trust a solution will make itself clear sometime soon. In the meantime, I cannot wait for my brother to drop Jeremy off at the theater tonight, so I can hold him in my arms.

Article on the Gays

Check out this article by Oliver "Buzz" Thomas, printed in USA Today recently.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Front Porch

I haven't had a front porch since my sophomore year in college. I'm enjoying having one again while I'm here in Los Angeles. This is the view.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Some Business Items

I’ve made some changes to the blog, as you might have noticed as of late. Remember all that unstructured time I had on my hands here in the city of angels? Well, I actually am attempting to put it to good use.

One of the projects I have had going is trying to put together a professional website, which my designer and I hope to have finished quite soon. A preview of what is to come is located at the link “My ‘Official’ Website”.

Another addition to the general links section is Laura Claycomb’s Young Artist Corner page. This is part of Laura’s professional website devoted to advising young singers. There is a lot of valuable advice here, and it is worth checking it out.

I’ve also added some links to some more people’s blogs. As before, there are links to my little brother’s blog and OperaDaddy, a singer friend of mine with hilarious insights on fatherhood and being an opera singer. The new additions are a link to the concert (another singer’s blog about her adventures in this business/artform - I greatly admire her honesty and courage to be genuine), a link to AJAR (a good friend’s blog about his thoughts and musings as he settles in San Francisco), and a link to Kim Witman’s blog at Wolf Trap Opera.

Also, after going to my high school “cluster” reunion last weekend and reconnecting with some teachers who were so important to my development as a thinking human being and artist, I have been reminded how important it is to acknowledge those people and institutions that shape and form so much of who we are and what we do. Two of my musical mentors have passed away within the last three years, so I’ve been thinking for some time now about how those that educate us are blessings not to be taken for granted. So, as homage to the educational/training opportunities I’ve had, I’ve posted a set of links to the various institutions where I have trained. Perhaps they will be helpful to someone on their path.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

True Confessions

I have a confession.

I did not vote on Tuesday.

I am ashamed to admit this.

I understand that this makes me a hypocrite – I preach to people all the time about the importance of making your voice heard and our civic duty to uphold democracy. Jeremy and I have gotten into heated debates about the importance of voting. He contends that his vote is wasted in Texas. I contend that it is of the utmost importance to the survival of democracy to have that single vote cast, regardless of where. I think he is being defeatist. Regardless of what I think, at least he voted on Tuesday.

The reason (excuse) I did not vote on Tuesday is this – according to the state of Texas, my voter registration application was postmarked one day too late (October 11). I discovered this when I called to get an absentee ballot. I distinctly remember dropping the application in a blue mailbox in Houston around 1:00pm on October 10, on my way to catch a plane to New York City – so much for the reliability of the US Postal Service. In their defense, there were bad storms that day.

I was relieved to watch the results of the election come in Tuesday night with my roommate and was overjoyed to hear of Rumsfeld’s resignation as I walked out the door to rehearsal yesterday morning. My inbox was flooded with rejoicing emails from friends, ecstatic about the news. People were in great moods in rehearsal. But this morning, as I tried to sleep in after a night out with my roommate, I was dragged from my dreams into reality by the angry voice of conservative radio talk show host, Dennis Prager, emanating from my neighbor’s radio, located not far from my window. He was raging on about the liberal agenda and asserting that they had conducted a smear campaign against conservative candidates. I wish that I had awoken to NPR instead, but it dispelled the illusion that our nation is of one mind about the political situation now. While this is a huge step in the right direction, much remains to be done. It is just the first step. A change in power has occurred, but I sincerely hope that this is more than just a change in color on a chart.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Arriving and getting settled in a new city is always a daunting task, but my normal “adjustment-funk” is just a bit harder to shake this time than on past trips. Again, part of the reason is that I was expecting Jeremy to join me shortly after I arrived here for a two to three week period, and those plans have been disrupted. The other part of the reason is that we staged most of my scenes in the first three days of the rehearsal period, and now I have been free of a schedule for the past five days. Unstructured time scares me.

I am grateful that I have a roommate here in LA (and therefore have someone to come home to) – my friend Levi, who is one of my colleagues in the production. I am also grateful that my brother and his girlfriend have also recently moved down here. It’s especially nice, because my brother and I seem to growing out of our childhood sibling rivalries as we grow into our adulthood, and it is a nice opportunity to get closer to him and his girlfriend (whom I like very much). Randomly, I am also grateful for the fact that my high school had a reunion in Huntington Beach the other night – it was a small affair, but it was a nice excuse to go for a drive and catch up with some teachers and classmates that I have not seen in a while (and, no, I did not grow up in the LA area, my school just does these "cluster" things from time to time since so many people move away – many people have asked me that when I tell them about the reunion).

While at the reunion, my high school director, Jim, informed me with his usual bluntness that I “need to update (my) blog more often”. So here I am, rambling away and trying to catch you all up on my life. I’ll admit, I have felt quite blocked lately, and I’m not sure why. I’m avoiding projects and practice like a madman and occupying my time feeling lonely and sorry for myself. They say that the best cure for a block is to simply (as Julia Cameron puts it) “show up at the page”. I figure if I list some things to be grateful for and just write something down, it will help me get out of my little funk and step back into the creative flow. We’ll see. In the meantime, I apologize for the lack of profundity and focus in this post, and I thank you, Jim, for giving me the kick in the ass that I need.

(the photo above is of me from my debut in Frankfurt - the photo is by Monika Rittershaus)

Saturday, November 04, 2006


It is late. I am tired, but I am not ready to sleep. My schedule has been fucked up for the past two days, because I have not managed to get myself out of bed before noon lately. They have not rehearesed my scenes for the past couple of days, so I've had a couple of free days in a row. Life is so easy with a schedule – I feel so aimless without one. Odd, since so much of my life is unscheduled.

I think that part of the problem is that I was planning on having Jeremy with me here in LA for a large chunk of my time here – plans have changed very unexpectedly, much to my disappointment, anger, and frustration. So much of our lives are spent apart – I was looking forward to a reprieve from that pattern here. Oh well, we will be ok. We will hopefully see each other soon enough for a few days, but I miss him terribly anyway.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I have this overwhelming feeling of guilt hanging over me like a wet blanket. I've been in London for five days, and I have done nothing but mostly stay in my friend Susie's flat, curled up in her couch, reading a trashy science fiction novel (aside from some business-related appointments, of course). Since I am here, shouldn't I be out traipsing around this wonderful city? I never can bring myself to explore London whenever I am here, for some reason. Perhaps it is the sheer size of the city - it's overwhelming. Perhaps it is because this is my first chance to enjoy a home that, while it is not mine, is my own space for a few days and is NOT a hotel room. Either way, I haven't even taken a picture since I've been here. Ridiculous.

Regardless of my sense of "should", which brings about this light wash of guilty emotion, I've really enjoyed my trip here. Simple pleasures, I guess. I finished my trashy sci-fi novel, and I have discovered that the third movement of Beethoven's String Quartet in a minor, Op.132 is one of my new favorite pieces of music.

I can't wait to head home tomorrow to sleep in my own bed and cook in my own kitchen for a week before I head off to Los Angeles.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Two years ago, I finally succeeded in my quest to convince a certain Jeremy to have a drink with me. He was one of the new pianists in the HGO studio that year, and I had developed an ever-so-slight crush on him after our first Studio meeting of the season at the beginning of September.

Since that meeting, I had asked him repeatedly to join for me for an adult beverage, but each time he declined. Unbeknownst to me, a friend of his who also worked at HGO had warned him to stay away from me. When later pressed for the reasons for his cautionary sentiment, he ominously said, “He eats other people’s food.”

One day at the end of September, Jeremy was riding his bicycle around 6:00 in the evening and was run off the road by a drunk driver. He flipped over his handle bars and landed hard, breaking his wrist and elbow. This knocked him out of commission for the next 12 weeks. Suddenly, he couldn’t hide behind the excuse that he needed to practice when I would invite him out. Seeing my prey in his weakened and vulnerable state, I dove in for the kill.

So, Jeremy finally relented one night, and we went out for a drink after a rehearsal. We went to JR’s and sipped on scotch out on the patio, which we miraculously had to ourselves. It was a slightly awkward but wonderful evening – both of us unsure as to what exactly it was. It proved to be our first date.

Two years later, I consider myself one lucky man to be with my sweet, adorable, brilliant Jeremy. I have never felt so loved or valued by anyone as him, and coming home to him is the most wonderful blessing I can imagine. He grounds me, he pushes me to grow in ways I never imagined I could, and is also one of the most fun people I know.

Happy Anniversary, my sweet.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


Before I left for Atlanta, I had a session with my therapist in which we discussed my anxieties. We talked about how it was going to be a bit of an adjustment to go back to work after such a nice, long, vacation, and we discussed my nervousness about a couple of auditions that I have coming up. As I sat in the sleek, black leather chair opposite her, complaining of my nervousness that I was going to fail at these upcoming auditions, she studied me and heard me out patiently. When I was done, she said something to me about gratitude. She pointed out that I am very lucky to be doing what I am doing for a living and to be at the level I am working at. She said that gratitude was something that I should think about in the coming weeks, because it would bring about a sense of humility. Her voice combined with my mother’s voice in my mind as I heard her say this, and memories of my mother screaming at me how lucky I was and how I was a spoiled brat ignited in the back of my mind. As I listened to her, I felt admonished. I felt like I was being proud and that my anxiety about my auditions was coming from a place that was ungrateful and spoiled.

Some of the cast here in Atlanta went out to dinner one night, and over our meal we shared stories of how we got into classical music and opera. As our sushi arrived, one person began to share his story about the first time he heard Mimi’s first act aria from La Bohème. A woman was singing it in a master class, and he just sat there in astonishment. After the class, he went up to her and asked her what it was. As he sat there and told the story, he remembered spreading his arms wide, his eyes widening, and saying, “What is this music?”, incredulous that something so beautiful and moving could exist. He ran to Tower Records immediately after the class, bought himself a recording of the opera, and went home and stayed up until 3 AM listening to it, tears streaming down his cheeks. The sense of wonder in his voice made me smile, as I remembered for myself what a blessing it is for us to make something so beautiful on a daily basis for a living.

Some weeks later, I am now realizing how my personal baggage really skewed the message that my therapist was trying to deliver in my session that day. It was not an admonishment, but kind counsel. Gratitude does bring a sense of humility to our lives, but humility is what brings us a sense of wonder and awe for our lives and the world we live in. It allows us to be open to the immense beauty of the things that surround us, and keeps us from taking those things for granted. Without that sense of awe and wonder, the sense of fun and adventure is lost in things, and it is too easy to focus on the negative and the little worries and anxieties that try to pervade our minds everyday.

Friday, September 29, 2006


When I think about auditions, I feel at times like I’m climbing a mountain, and I’ll never reach the top. They give me diarrhea, and I don’t often do them well. On some rare occasions, I don’t care, and I sing like a god. Most times, I do care, and I am so busy worrying about whether they like me or not, that I sing poorly. A colleague said to me in rehearsal the other day, “You have two options: think or sing – now which one are you going to choose?” In the coming weeks, I think that I am going to make the choice to sing. You’d think choosing not to think would be the natural tendency for me, since I am a tenor. Alas, I have this annoying tendency to let my thoughts run rampant through my brain. Silly me…

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Future

A few days ago I was walking to rehearsal with one of my colleagues, chatting about music, opera, and “the business”. At one point as we were nearing the rehearsal space, he turned and looked at me with tired, sad eyes, and said, “Sometimes it’s hard not to think that this art form is dying a slow death that is painful to watch”.

Something that has struck me about my colleagues here in Atlanta is their passion for their work. One colleague was telling me about how she would arrive at her high school at 7:00 in the morning in order to participate in her high school band and choir. Another colleague told me one night over dinner about how when he was younger, he would run to the nearest Tower Records and buy as many opera recordings as he could during his rehearsal breaks while he was singing in an opera chorus out west. He still has them all, in his garage, alphabetized. I, myself, was in 3 choirs and 2 orchestras in high school, and have amassed a collection of recordings of Handel’s operas. As any singer can tell you, when our voices don’t work because of illness, we go stir crazy and sulk around our apartments, unable to sing the music that gets us out of bed in the morning. As we struggle to balance life, friends, spouses, finances, and families with our careers in music, we cannot tear ourselves away from classical music and opera because of this bug that bit us at some point in our lives, infecting us with an incurable passion and love for what we do.

On the walk to work a few days ago, I was saddened by not only the look in this singer’s eyes and tired sound in his voice, but also by his words. Ever the optimist, I feebly said, “I don’t know – I think we have a future.” I didn’t know how to respond, because I know a lot of people agree with him, even though I feel in my heart that it isn’t true. In that moment, I felt young and naïve.

Today, while wasting time online, procrastinating in my effort to find a place to live while I am in Los Angeles, I was relieved to stumble across this article in the Boston Globe by their classical music critic, who is apparently retiring after having written for the newspaper for 33 years. It’s reassuring when people can articulate your hopes in print. Things are, indeed, changing – as demonstrated by the Met’s opening ceremonies this week – but change is good and natural. I just can’t believe that this music that we love so much and have dedicated our lives to is going to disappear from our cultural landscape.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Carmina Burana

I love singing Carmina Burana. The tenor solo is a hair stressful, being insanely high, but it is only about one minute and forty seconds of music. The rest of the time, I get to relax and listen to the music. We ran the piece with the chorus the other day in rehearsal, which was exhilarating. Not only is the chorus here precise and full of strong voices, but they also sing with a passion and commitment that is rare among opera choruses. As they began to sing the penultimate movement of the piece and then crashed into the recapitulation of O Fortuna, the hair on my arms stood up, my heart started to beat faster, and I felt an electric charge run through my body. Carmina is one of those pieces that help me remember how lucky we are as musicians to do this for a living. At the end of the day, it reminds me of the reason that I can’t tear myself from music and singing, despite all of the sacrifices we make for it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The First Day of School

Do you remember what the first day of school felt like? I remember it vividly.

I started at Greenhills in the sixth grade (one of Ann Arbor’s private schools – grades 6 through 12) as an outsider. A lot of the other kids at Greenhills knew each other from having been in the public school system for elementary school, or from playing in the neighborhood. Since my parents had sent me to a tiny Montessori school in the middle of the woods (the utopia of my youth) and were anti-social, I didn’t know anyone on my first day of school at my new school. I remember feeling terrified that no one would like me, everyone would think that I was a freak, and that I would have no friends. I managed to realize my fears by being so paralyzed by them that I only made one or two friends for the rest of middle school. It wasn’t until I came out of the closet about 4 years later that I became “popular”, ironically. Still, I vividly remember fretting over what I should wear, about what people would think of the lunch I had brought with me that day, about my hair, and then sitting timidly in my homeroom, waiting for my turn to introduce myself to the class, and praying that no one would notice how much of a freak I thought I was.

Often, people refer to the first day of rehearsal as the first day of school. Lucky for me, I get to relive the traumatic experiences of adolescence quite frequently, as a result. Yesterday, I agonized as I tried to get ready for my first day of rehearsal here in Atlanta over what I should wear. Images of a certain former Studio director admonishing us not to wear jeans or “look schlubby” at the first rehearsal flashed through my mind as I got dressed for the day. (Incidentally – I wore jeans to rehearsal. Call it rebellious, call it defiant – I simply think of it as comfortable). As I warmed up, I worried about whether people would like my voice or my singing. In rehearsal, I sat in the chair farthest away from the conductor and most of the cast, hoping to blend in with the floor. At lunch, I felt self-conscious about what to order, and instead waited to see what other people were eating before I made a choice. My heart beat with the same anxious flutter as it did in my sixth grade homeroom as we got close to my parts of the opera.

In the end, I managed to keep my nervousness and insecurities in control enough to maintain the illusion that I am a confident and sane person – but it was an exhausting day, all told. It’s energy-consuming to keep one’s inner dialogue from voicing itself outside.

As I understand it, we re-live these experiences for as long as we need to until we are able to grow past them. When am I going to learn that I am not that chubby 11 year old boy entering the sixth grade? I’m all about staying in touch with my “inner child”, but there are some parts of him that I am really ready to let go of.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five years later

I tried to ignore the fact that yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the acts of insanity that occurred on September 11, 2001. I taught a master class at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts, I took my car in for a 90,000 mile service, I had a coaching with Jeremy, I saw The Illusionist. I did a series of mundane tasks that were on my to-do list. Planned events. The reminders of what yesterday was were ubiquitous - most notably the flag at flying at half-mast at the car dealership. Still, I did my best to remain numb.

Then I saw the cover of this week'’s New Yorker -– a man balancing on what seems to be a tight-rope, but in a white void. Turn the page, and there is the same man, in the same space in mid-air, but above the empty lot that used to be the World Trade Center. Something about the cover disturbed me -– it made me think of the images of people jumping out of the towers to their deaths below in a desperate attempt to not burn.

Five years ago, my roommate, Yvette, woke me up just in time to see the second plane hit the Trade Center on NBC. We watched -– Yvette on the couch, and me standing bleary-eyed in the door to my bedroom -– as our world changed. I didn't get to any of the events or mundane tasks I had planned for that day. Instead, we climbed to the top of our apartment building and stared dumbly at the cloud of smoke and dust that was rising from the other end of the island.

May those who lost their lives that day be resting in peace. May those of us who survive them pray for peace and love to invade the living world.

Monday, September 04, 2006


I dreamt last night that Peter, my European manager, gave me the responsibility of tending a little indoor garden. He set me up with some potted plant seedlings and a two tiered shelf with fluorescent lighting and left me to nourish the plants. The first task at hand was for me to arrange and repot the plants so that they would get optimal light and have enough space to grow into a little, potted, indoor herb garden. I needed to get all of this done in time catch my train (I have no idea to where). I stood there, staring at the little plants, the potting soil, the terracotta pots, the fluorescent lighting, and the stress of getting it done in time overwhelmed me. I simply could not do it. Jeremy appeared out of nowhere and tried to help – I got defensive and snapped at him. I felt paralyzed with indecision. My heart raced, and the clock ticked on. What was I going to do if I missed the train?

Then I woke up. Immediately, anxiety-ridden thoughts of upcoming auditions and projects flooded my brain. I tried to sleep more, but I realized that the longer I lay in bed, the more I was going to worry. So, I crawled out of bed, and began my morning pages in an effort to dump all of the anxiety out of my brain and into my journal.

When I returned from Germany in July, fresh from my successful European debut, I was confident, happy, secure. Two months later, I find that the little green goblins of anxiety and worry have found their way back to the forefront of my mind again. I recall the director of the Voice department at Manhattan School of Music telling us that most singers have an average of a 5 year career. I’ve been singing professionally for five years now, I think to myself – is my time up? What if this is as good as it gets? I think ridiculous things like this even though I look at my calendar and find it filled with good work up through 2008. Is it normal to doubt one’s self this much? In a sense, I really don’t have much to worry about – I have so much in my life already. Why, at times, can’t I let it be enough?

I often get caught up in the big picture of life and career, but what I realize now is that I have no idea what the big picture is yet. I won’t know what it is until I’ve finished the journey through it, really. That I can’t know until it’s done scares the living shit out of me at times, and it fills me with wonder and excitement at others. Perhaps, right now I am filled with terror – hopefully, tomorrow I’ll remember that there is excitement inherent in the journey, too.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Disturbing and Saddening

I just finished watching Why We Fight - it is one of the most disturbing, tragic, moving, and poignant documentaries I've seen. Please go to your video store or netflix or whatever and rent it and watch it. It must be seen.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


So, when I began some real vacation (involving travel for non-work related purposes) a little while back, I inadvertantly abandonded my blog. It cries for attention in the back of my artistic consciousness - so I am here to apologize for neglect. Vacation is almost over, and I am starting to feel the itch to get back to work. I promise to return shortly. In the meantime, please accept my apologies for pressing pause without telling anyone.

Photo taken from the web

Saturday, August 05, 2006

It's a bird, it's a plane...

Yesterday evening, Jeremy and I went to see Superman Returns. I had to drag him kicking and screaming, and there was a moment of dramatic indecision involving a choice between the man in blue tights and Ricky Bobby. In the end, the Man of Steel won out, as he should have.

The movie is an impressive feat. To make a sequel to a set of movies made so many years ago about a man (a cultural archetype, at this point) who flies around in a red cape with a big S emblazoned on his chest and to still make a movie that provokes thought and moves an audience is pretty remarkable.

As a kid and teenager (and, yes, as an adult), I was (am) a fan of comic books, although I never really got into the whole Superman thing. I was obsessed with the X-men. The whole idea of a team of people saving the world was more appealing to me than the story of the lone hero – perhaps because I was looking for a refuge from the isolation of being a closeted, gay 13 year old. Plus, why limit yourself to one hot, superpowered man in tights when you can have lots of hot, superpowered men in tights and lots of superpowered women with great hair?

Watching Superman save the world last night and nearly meet his end, only to be saved by Lois Lane and her unconventional family, I found myself wondering what it meant to be a superhero in the world of today. The question is raised early on in the movie, does the world need a Superman? I found myself whispering to Jeremy in the darkness of the theater, that yes, we do, indeed, need a Superman. It was a wishful sentiment, as I sat there with images of bombed out cities in the Middle East in the forefront of my mind. But as the movie wore on, I wondered, why is it so natural for people to want someone else to come and fix their problems? And would a “Superman” – a person sent to our planet to help us realize our greater potential and to save the day – be a solution or a band-aid?

Earlier in the day, I was driving through DC and listening to public radio, when the BBC program, World Have Your Say, came on. The show was moderating a discussion about whether one’s religion or one’s nation provide one with security. I emphatically think that neither ultimately provide us with security. What they both provide us with are “us” and “them”. Until people realize that there are only “us” and the self and that “them” does not – cannot – truly exist, we will not find security. Without security and peace, how could we ever realize our full potential? Would any one individual – even a Superman – be able to help us find peace and a way to become more evolved beings? Regardless, we don’t seem to be doing so well on our own right now, so perhaps we could use a Superman in the meantime – even just a symbol of hope.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Two Poems

The Divine Image

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every dime
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk, or jew;
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

-William Blake (1757 - 1827), Songs of Innocence

A Divine Image

Cruelty has a human heart,
And Jealousy a human face;

Terror the human form divine,

And Secrecy the human dress.
The human dress is forged iron,
The human form a fiery forge,
The human face a furnace sealed,
The human heart its hungry gorge.
-William Blake (1757 - 1827), Songs of Experience

I came across these while learning some music yesterday, and they made me pause for thought. We hold so much potential for greatness as humans. We also seem to have the potential to achieve amazing acts of atrocity, violence, hate, and ugliness. It seems that the choice is up to us, no? I found both tremendous responsibility and freedom in this little reminder that we create our own reality.

Monday, July 31, 2006


I am taking a break. I have been looking forward to this break for a long time. In order to work, I need to be away from home. Being away from Jeremy is really hard – it is insanely difficult to maintain and nourish a relationship through the phone. Yes, we have a home together, but I am almost never there. Plus, I think that if I had taken the work offered to me this summer, Jeremy might have castrated me.

When I first arrived in Frankfurt in late May, I was so frustrated by the lack of convenience. Things closed early, I couldn’t easily pick up a wireless connection in my apartment, I had to use internet cafés to check my email for the first two weeks, stores aren’t open on Sundays and holidays, cell phones are insanely expensive, you have to sort your trash, they charge you for bags at the grocery store, toilets barely have any water in the bowl. I missed American convenience – shopping for everything and anything at Walgreens, grocery stores open 24 hours, the seemingly ubiquitous internet connection, being able to call Jeremy at any hour of the day for free on my cell phone, air conditioning, free paper bags at Whole Foods.

Now, I find that I miss Europe. I loved my routine there. It felt so independent and relaxed. I loved getting up in the morning, writing my morning pages, eating some breakfast, and then leaving my apartment and walking through the city. My schedule was structured so that we rehearsed mostly according to the follow schedule: morning rehearsal, 4 or 5 hour break, evening rehearsal. At first, the break in the day really bothered me, but eventually I grew to treasure it. It allowed me to go outside during the day, run errands, eat a leisurely lunch, perhaps take a nap, read, and arrive refreshed for the second working session of the day. I read voraciously there, I started this blog, I threw myself into rehearsal everyday, I started taking pictures. I felt my creativity surge.

Back in the states, I find it really hard to focus again. Things feel fuzzy. I am taking a much needed break now, firstly to have some time with Jeremy as well as to regroup and get ready for all of the upcoming new projects I have coming up for next season. I actually have a lot of time on my hands now, but I find it is really difficult to get moving. I feel my creativity and energy are stuck.

We are staying with a host named Bill here in the Washington, DC area while Jeremy is working at Wolf Trap this summer. Bill is a nice, 70 year old widower whose passions include bicycling, learning biblical Greek, and seeing opera. He has a nice home in suburban Bethesda that we are staying in. My days mostly consist of waking up, morning pages, taking Jeremy to work, driving into DC, checking my email on my laptop at a café, reading the news online about how the world is blowing itself up, studying Hungarian for a bit, translating a bit of L’incoronazione di Poppea, going to the gym, eating a quick lunch, driving back to Bethesda, practicing, then picking up Jeremy at work. This routine is killing me and my creativity slowly. The sheer amount of time I spend alone in the car (not to mention the gas that I guzzle – therefore doing my part to perpetuate our American unquenchable thirst for oil) is draining my soul. I have tried to do this without the car – and it is massively inconvenient. There is no public transportation between Bill’s house and the nearest Metro Station between the hours of 9:03 am and 3:23 pm during the week. It is simply so hard to get anywhere that is a public place, my energy is sucked into simply getting around.

In a nutshell, I am growing restless. Nothing feels right – I am easily irritated. All I want to do is go to bed. I feel like I am wandering much of the time. About restlessness, Julia Cameron writes:

“…a bout with restlessness is best met with curiosity – not with the conclusion that your true cranky character is surging to the fore. Irritability is the flag waved by restlessness. Restlessness means you are on the march creatively. The problem is, you may not know where.” - Julia Cameron, Walking in this World

She is right – I am irritable, and I am certainly on the march creatively. And I also don’t know where I am going. Or do I? In some ways I do. My life is scheduled for the most part until the spring of 2008. I have a list of upcoming projects that are satisfying and interesting that need attending to. So why am I so fussy? Is it because I actually do know where I am going? Or am I just suffering from reverse cultural shock? Or is it that I am a workaholic and simply don’t know how to relax?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Le calendrier

Since people have been asking where I’ll be in the coming months, I’ve decided to post my calendar of performance dates here so everyone can see it and use it for future (future, meaning now until June, 2007) reference. Obviously, this is subject to change. I hope to have a real, grown-up website soon, where I can post this information in a more adult and professional way along with pretty pictures of me that I will ideally have taken in the near future, pending a good haircut. In the meantime, this will hopefully do.

Atlanta Opera

Pagliacci & Carmina Burana - October 5, 7, 8, 2006

Los Angeles Opera

L’incoronazione di Poppea - November 26 & 30, December 3, 7, 10, 13, 16, 2006

The Helicon Foundation (NYC)

Chamber music recital - February 11, 2007

Chicago Opera Theater

Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria - March 28 & 30, April 1, 5, 7, 2007

Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra

Cantata Profana - April 12 & 13, 2007

New York Festival of Song - May 9 & 10, 2007

Oper Frankfurt

Ariodante - May 25 & 28, June 3 & 7, 2007

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dona nobis pacem

Descend, kind pity, heav'nly guest,
Descend, and fill each human breast

With sympathizing woe.
That liberty, and peace of mind,
May sweetly harmonize mankind,

And bless the world below.

-Septimius, Theodora (G.F. Handel/Thomas Morell)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I ride a lot of public transportation. I love it, actually. I find it provides some pretty choice people watching time.

I grab a seat on the Metro from Vienna, VA into Washington, DC. It is the weekend. A fat, slovenly, pasty-white woman sits across from me. He husband tends to her needs and makes sure she is comfortable. She lounges in the subway seat, sprawling one of her legs across it, seemingly unable to get enough space. She coughs, grabs an unopened bottle of frozen water from her husband and sips it. A girl behind them sucks on some beef jerky, proud that she has managed to extrapolate the meat-substance from it'’s casing. Another white, blond couple that looks to be around 24 years old get on the train, a 3 year old daughter in tow. I look around me on the train, and notice that roughly 85% of the people around me have white skin, are fair haired, and at least slightly overweight. All seem to be tourists to visit their nation'’s capitol. The weekend Metro-crowd is clearly different from the young, slim, ethnically diverse professionals that flood the subway clad in Banana Republic and Ann Taylor during the weekday rush hour.

It occurs to me that these are people who are rarely in shared, public space. The only time that they might be in shared space with people that they don't know is in line at Wal-mart. These are the people who piss you off in the airport security line, because they don't know to remove their shoes before you get to the metal detectors and slow down the line as a result. I imagine that they spend most of their days in their cars, at work, or at home - a lonely and monochromatic existence. I wonder if the conservative base of America fears the corruption of our family values because it is the only human contact that they can truly cling to. If their families leave them or drift away, what else do they have? No wonder they fear what is different - their lives aren't structured in a way that doesn'’t allow for diversity. Isn't fear the root of hate?

Friday, July 14, 2006


The green forests of the east coast blur by my window as I ride back to Washington, DC on the train from New York City. My mind drifts back to the train rides in Germany and the passing views of the German countryside flying by my window there. My laptop sits open as I try to finish a blog entry I started yesterday, but my mind is much like the view from my window – fast-moving, fuzzy, and unable to focus on any one thing. I feel restless, anxious to arrive into Union Station. I’ve been on the move a lot since I left Germany – back to my American pace. One day in Houston, a concert and rehearsals in Bethesda, my good friends Markus and Laquita visiting for a weekend, a voice lesson in New York, a dinner concert in Nashville this weekend. The pace makes it hard to concentrate. Perhaps in order for me to think clearly, I need to press pause, and find a place to just be for a little bit.

I promise to have something interesting sometime soon.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Loss of a hero

I have a passion for Handel. He is my favorite composer, and I listen to his music incessantly, which many people poke fun at me for. My first year in Houston was a busy one, and I happened to have a night off for the first time in weeks. I had recently purchased a video of Peter Sellars’ production of Handel’s Theodora from Glyndebourne, so I decided that this night off was going to be a night to relax, turn off my cell phone, sit on my couch, crochet, and watch a video of Handel. About twenty minutes into the piece, I stopped mid-stitch, transfixed by the singing that I heard. I looked up and saw Lorraine Hunt Lieberson kneeling on the floor, singing passionately one of the most beautiful arias in Handel’s canon. It was my first time to ever hear or see her perform. I’ve never been the same musician since – it was a type of commitment to a performance that I will always strive to emulate. Never had I seen someone so devoted to making music with all of her being.

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson died on Monday at the young age of 52. She was taken from us too quickly, and it saddens me to think of our musical world without her.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy Independence Day

I arrived back into the states late yesterday, just in time for our nation’s birthday. My journey home took me from Frankfurt through Cincinnati to Houston. It was a long, exhausting trip, and it was interesting to be surrounded by so many Americans for the first time in six weeks. Now I am on a flight to Washington, DC, to begin my time as housewife to my beloved Jeremy – a prospect I am looking forward to after so much time away this year. I know this means that I am on my third plane in two days, but I am used to this pace of travel.

My friends Michael and Cody picked me up at the airport last night, and we sped to downtown Houston for dinner. The highways were fairly empty, although I marveled at the sheer size of American cars – they are tanks compared to the cars in Europe.

Whenever I am away from the States, my tradition is to eat a burger the first chance I get. Burgers are the one type of food I crave while I am away, and I refuse to eat them while I am abroad. Sure, I’m afraid of mad-cow disease and all that, but more importantly they simply don’t taste anywhere near as good. As we sat in Barnaby’s, eating our burgers, Michael and Cody asked me about the details of my trip. I told them about the wonderful time I had, how the show went well, how good Jeremy was with the language when he came to visit, about my good times with Nadine, and about the great food I had. When the subject of dining abroad came up, Michael mentioned that he thought the culture in Europe allowed people to enjoy their time more. Six weeks vacation, no waiter bothering you with the bill at dinner until you ask for it, stores closing at 7:00pm, almost nothing open on Sundays – he has a point. In the first three weeks of rehearsal for Finta there were three random holidays in which we didn’t rehearse at all. When I work in the States, it’s debatable if I’ll have Easter or Christmas off.

When Jeremy came to visit for the premiere of Finta, he and I got into a heated debate about how he felt about being American. He was a little apprehensive before his arrival, because he was embarrassed about his nationality. When I mentioned this to Nadine, she shared his feeling. Yes, I understand we are not the perfect nation – by far. We are propagating an empire through globalization, are at war for reasons that get more and more vague as time goes by, think we are above international law – I understand all of these things. These were many of the points that both Jeremy and Nadine pointed out to me during this debate, as well as how Americans don’t know how to enjoy food, are constantly in a rush, are insanely wasteful people, and are incapable of learning a foreign language. I see these points, but I also see things that are positive. There is so much that is wonderful about our country – we are a polite people, we are an intelligent people. We are a diverse people – whether we like it or not. It is part of the beauty of the principles that we seem to think our nation was founded on. America is not just one thing. It is a country full of widely disparate ideologies, religions, cultures, and people – isn’t that the point of being a free country, where you are free to be who you are and think what you think? Why is it that people see us and only think of the religious right, George W. Bush, and obesity? Yes, we may disagree on many things – but the point is that we can. I don’t think that this is a privilege to be taken lightly.

Yes, I miss Europe, it’s food, it’s diverse people, languages and cultures. But the feeling of relief that sank into my heart as I got off the plane in Houston yesterday was the reassuring, happy, contented feeling of coming home.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Homeward Bound

Time to go – almost. I have one final performance of La finta semplice tonight. My apartment is in a chaotic state. Dishes finally clean sit piled on the drying area next to my tiny, two-burner stove. There are bags overflowing with paper to be recycled next to the trash bin, which is waiting to be filled with the foodstuffs I have not been able to consume this week. My clothes are clean, but have yet to be folded, and are covering the bed. Mysteriously, my suitcases are still in the closet – empty. I could be filling them with all of my belongings right now, trying to pack evenly, so as not to make them too heavy (I don’t want to pay the extra fee). I’m not doing that yet.

I went to Cologne to say goodbye to Nadine on Tuesday. We met at the train station, helped her run a couple of errands she had to attend to before leaving for Spain the next day, and then had lunch at the old fire-station in Cologne that is now a great restaurant. We took a bunch of pictures, bummed around the city some more, and then headed back to the train station to say goodbye. When we got the platform to wait for my train, there was a weight in my chest, and a lump formed in my throat. I suddenly realized how attached I had grown to seeing her so regularly for the first time since college. We looked at each other and were surprised by our sadness. Saying goodbye to her, I realized what a special time I have had here these past six weeks.

Cologne, Nadine tells me, was a Roman city that used to be surrounded by walls. Eventually, as time went by and the city grew, the citizens of Cologne decided to tear down the walls in order to make it a bit easier to get around the city. All that remains of those walls are the gates that used to allow people into the city. Now they stand alone, doors with no walls that one can simply walk around. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve built my own walls to protect myself, like we all do. As time has gone by, I have fortified them more and more with each hurt life has inevitably dealt me, and it gets harder and harder for people to get through – and for me to get out. Seeing Nadine so much has allowed me to let the walls down for a bit. I hadn’t noticed how nice it felt to be open and relaxed and free with someone on a regular basis. At the train station on Tuesday, I suddenly realized how much I was going to miss that with Nadine.

My time here, while scary at first, has really been a great time. I’m not as alone as I first thought. I’ve really come to love it here. I can’t wait to come back.