Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey and Stuffing

Trolling through Facebook this morning, I chuckled when I saw a Canadian friend's status that read:

"An American tradition: Kill some Indians with small pox, kill a turkey, stuff your gut till you get indigestion, take Pepcid, trap family members together for an extended period of time destroying relationships, and then get up the next day and trample each other to death as you try to be the first to get the discounted flat screen TV at Walmart…"

There have been times that I have appreciated that sentiment, as I have been stuck in insanely long security lines at the airport trying to get home for the weekend or have nearly been trampled in pushy crowds at Whole Foods fighting over whose tofurky is whose. Alas, not this year. Being abroad for the second time on the day of the turkey, I've actually spent the day alone, relaxing, and mentally drifting towards the more grateful intent of the holiday.

Earlier in the year, amidst all of the personal turbulence that I was going through, I was rehearsing the Evening Hymn with Myra for one of our recitals. I found that I couldn't get much past the first couple of pages of the song without starting to cry. It was one of those magical moments of epiphany – one of those moments when a song suddenly becomes personal and makes sense in a new, clearer, and shockingly more specific way. I had been feeling so exhausted and was so overcome with guilt and heartbreak processing the fact that my personal life had exploded so terribly, and as I sang, my thoughts drifted to all that was still amazing in my life despite the turmoil on the surface of things. The knowledge that, even though I was feeling devastated, there were still so many people and things to turn to for comfort overwhelmed me with gratitude.

It's been a tough year, but it's also been extraordinary, filled with astounding revelations and great lessons. Since that moment with the Evening Hymn, I've been a bit preoccupied with thankfulness. It's so easy to focus on the negative for all of us – it's a really great thing to have a holiday that is meant for us to adjust our focus to the blessings in our lives.

I'm grateful to be loved so deeply by a great many people. I'm grateful to love a great many people in return. I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned over the past months about life, love and music. I'm grateful for a loving and extremely supportive family. I'm grateful for the wonderful and generous colleagues I've had over the past year who have taught me so much and provided so much fun. I'm grateful for my laptop and my iphone, which keep me connected to those close to my heart yet far away on the map. I'm grateful for a new apartment to come home to next week. I'm grateful for Glee, which has kept me laughing at my loneliest moments abroad this fall. I'm grateful for friends and loved ones who inspire. I'm grateful for the unexpected surprises that came my way this year. I'm grateful for a life in music.

And that's just to name a few of the things that I'm thankful for.

To everyone back home (and a few abroad): May you have a very Happy Thanksgiving - I hope you have just as much and more to be grateful for.

Friday, November 20, 2009


During my last two weeks in Lewes, while various members of my family were visiting me to see the shows, I took two tours of the Charleston house – the home of the painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and the summer home of the Bloomsbury Group. The house and the grounds are stunning – sculpture protrudes seemingly from every plant in the garden, and the walls, furniture, doorways all served as canvases for these artists' creative output throughout the house. Objects as simple as lampshades provided ample opportunity for not only painting and upholstery, but even pottery and sculpture. As I walked from room to room , I was awed at the sheer abundance of color, design, and beauty – it was as if these people were so overflowing with creativity, they could scarcely find enough surfaces to paint.

As our guide took us on a tour through the house, she spent a little time in each room relating anecdotes about the group and their various relationships, friendships, and affairs. Later, in the gift shop, I perused the many books about the various members of the group that they were selling, many of which contained letters they wrote to each other – their fierce commitment to their art and to each other was not only astounding but inspiring. While the Bloomsbury group were not a formal society of any sort and their association, it seems, was purely social for the most part, I couldn't help but think that the huge creative output by each member of the group (which included incredibly accomplished artists and intellectuals like Virginia and Leonard Woolf, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant, and John Maynard Keynes) must have been spurred on by the great sense of community they obviously had. I imagined their lazy summers spent lounging together, idly discussing literature, politics, and their love affairs, and I felt a twinge of envy.

I've been working at a snail's pace through Finding Water, Julia Cameron's latest Artist's Way book, and a lot of the exercises pose the question: who defines one's own artistic community. I always find that when I think about those people who are closest to me, I am lucky – I find that I repeatedly count the same 10 or 15 people among those people that I trust. It's a rather large number of people who have been and continue to be there through thick and thin. But when I consider where each of these people live – I am saddened by how spread out across the map they are. They live in Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, Cologne, Atlanta, Portland, Ann Arbor, Concord, Lexington, and New York – not to count the couple who are musicians and live out of their suitcases, like me. Compound on this my transitory life and a move across country not too long ago, and I realize that I've been feeling a bit groundless for the past couple of years. On the one hand, I am grateful for the travel, as it allows me to get face time with everyone. But it's the regular contact and the sense of home that one finds in loved ones that I long for. It makes me anxious to get home so I can start getting settled into my brand new place that I moved into at the end of the summer (and haven't seen since then) and throw a housewarming party.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scene Stealers

Here are two shots from one of our balance calls on the road. The first is of Nanetta - Elena Tsallagova - sitting at the bar that is the set for Act I, scene i - a part of the set we only get to enjoy at balance calls. She is not only intensely fun to perform with, but she inspires me with her singing at every performance.

And here is one of the real scene-stealers of the show - he and his feline friends make appearances in each scene, disinterestedly observing all of our antics throughout the opera, seeming quite bored in that manner which only cats are capable of. This one watches as Dr. Caius unsuccessfully confront Falstaff, Bardolfo, and Pistola at the top of the show.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Most Striking Image I Saw Today

At the Tate Britain as part of the Turner and Masters exhibit.An adventure with my good friend and flatmate-for-the-month, Susie. In the midst of a plethora of stunning landscapes, this one stopped us in our tracks.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


After the shows opened, I was lucky enough to have some family visitors come visit to see a couple of the performances. One who has come many places to see me in the states made her first journey overseas to see a performance in Glyndebourne - my aunt. Recently retired, she has been able to take advantage of her new-found freedom to do what she loves best - explore the world. She's been all over the world, but has never been able to work it out before to come see me sing when I am abroad. It was nice to be able to be an excuse for her to be able to visit somewhere new. An added bonus of having her as a visitor was that it allowed me to do what I never seem to get to do on the road. Be at tourist.

Here's a picture of her engaging in her other favorite pastime.