Wednesday, January 8, 2014

No Fear!

Normally I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but this year I did make just one: Don’t fear the high notes. There are notes that I can comfortably hit and sustain, but for some reason when they turn up with certain words in a song, or in a certain jump from another note, I swallow them. Why? Fear. For some reason I’ve been afraid of sounding screechy or flat or just plain wrong. But that fear was causing me to close up, which of course then makes the note screechy or flat or wrong. So from now on my motto is, don’t fear the high notes.

I've been missing my previous voice teacher a lot lately.  I can imagine what she'd tell me to do when the notes don't come out the way I want them to. Sometimes I can hear her voice in my head, telling me to lift lift lift my voice on top of the air, aim between my eyes, and so on.
 
I’m working on The Sun Whose Rays are All Ablaze, from the Mikado. There’s one note that under any other circumstance I have ZERO problems with, but here for some reason I have a mental block. I think it’s due to the consonants. The note is on the words, “our worth” and “awake.” I think the W is messing me up. And let’s not even talk about the R in “worth.” In fact, let’s forget it exists. The K in “awake,” too. Doing the W and then the R or K has been my downfall. Sure I want to have good pronunciation, but the phrase is repeated a moment later in notes that I sing just fine. It’s more important to keep a beautiful, round, rich open tone than to worry about pronouncing these two words perfectly. When I stuck that idea into my head, suddenly I could sing the notes! Such a simple solution. I just need to practice, practice, practice so that I do it correctly every time.

At yesterday’s voice lesson there were a few other people in the house, so for me it was a chance to practice singing in front of people. I definitely felt a little self-conscious. But after a little while I got used to it. I told my teacher how well I can sing in the shower and she suggested I keep that relaxed shower attitude whenever I sing. Except, keep my clothes on. Obviously.

She actually feels I’ve progressed enough to sing with the Opera Project main stage again. I’m not sure how to even bring that up with the director. I did ask him if they plan on having Wing singers in any main stage concerts this year, but they haven’t planned that far ahead yet. Then he told me that the Wing is planning to do scenes from Marriage of Figaro this Spring. To me, that’s pretty much a message to stay with the Wing. So for now I’ll just wait.
 
There’s actually no news on any upcoming Wing concerts for the library series. However, I learned that the showcase concert in May is going to be a little different this year. In the past, they assigned roles for a few scenes, and also had people sing arias or art songs. This time around they’re having auditions. I’ve been working on Marcelina’s part in the duet “Via resti servita” and I (personally) think that would be a fun one to do. But as much as I’d love to be in a scene, the reality of the situation is, I can’t attend a whole bunch of regular rehearsals, what with working full time, having a young kid who’s in swimming, baseball and sometimes soccer, etc. It’s also hard for me to find the time to learn the recit. I asked them if there’d be any possibility of a “park and bark” as I like to call it, to see if I can sing an aria or art song, but they said that Figaro will pretty much take up the entire program. So unless I get a part that’s just me running on stage and singing, I might not be able to participate. That makes me sad, especially because my former teacher created the Wing for people like me, to get practice singing in front of an audience. I don’t have a future goal of being a professional opera singer. I just like to sing. I kind of feel like a scenes-only show (consisting of mainly high-school students) excludes people like me – adults with a full time job and a family — and therefore goes against my former teacher’s intention when she created the group. But the group has evolved, as groups do, and there’s nothing I can do about it except continue to ask if I can do an aria. And I'll audition for the concert when the time comes. Hopefully it will all work out. Meanwhile, I’ll keep on studying. And who knows what other performance opportunities might crop up.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Serendipity

It is time to write again. I toyed with the idea of writing a different entry for each topic I want to write about, or to write one long epic post covering everything that’s happened over the past few weeks. Decided to go with, "mini-epic."

So I had been scrambling around looking for a  voice teacher.  I gathered some recommendations and finally ended up going to this guy someone recommended. It turns out he actually knew my teacher, although he hadn’t known that she had passed away. So I had 2 lessons with him. He was very nice, but there was something about the entire situation that didn’t click for me.  Part of it was, it was in a nearby town that has metered street parking. So I sort of stressed over having enough quarters for the meters, and finding a spot near his house. It threw off my timing because I had no idea if I’d end up with a 1 or 10 minute walk to his house. Also, he did want me to commit to a regular lesson, which of course I understand, but I’m not comfortable doing that at this point. So I felt a little pressure from him there, although he was flexible for the 2 lessons we did have. I was sort of willing to deal with those factors, but then he made a comment about me having to unlearn everything my last teacher taught me so he can teach me his way. My stress over the parking situation, the pressure to commit and that one comment led to my decision not to study with him. He was super nice, but the situation just wasn’t for me.

 Meanwhile, I needed to prepare for the October 19th memorial concert. I went to a rehearsal for it, coincidentally on the same day as a 30 Seconds to Mars show. The last time 30 Seconds to Mars played that same venue, I had an Opera Project rehearsal. So anyway I went to the rehearsal, then arranged to meet one of the teachers/directors for a lesson. That was fun, it went well. But generally he teaches only male students, so it was a one-time thing. He gave me great advice and also recommended that I hook up with a vocal coach. Bottom line, though, was that I need to take regular, weekly lessons in order to maintain and improve.

Then, the concert. I did pretty well, I thought.



Turns out it wasn’t broadcast live on the radio station. However they did record it, so who knows, maybe it’ll turn up online one day.

 After that, I sort of despaired about finding a teacher. How was I going to find a local teacher who I liked, who was as flexible as my last voice teacher was? It was impossible. About 2 weeks ago I finally gave in and realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. I actually said out loud to my husband that unless a situation like I had before just fell into my lap, I’d be giving up studying voice for a while. I knew I was giving in but I didn’t know what else to do.

That very same afternoon, I received a call from a woman, a singer and teacher, who had been very good friends (and was a former student, 40 years ago) with my voice teacher. Before my teacher died, they had discussed this woman taking on my teacher’s students. Because she was so close with my teacher’s family for so many years, they insisted that she give lessons in the house, in the same room even. It’s what my teacher wanted. So that’s what she’s doing. She told me that she’s still figuring out the scheduling, so is it ok with me if we schedule from week to week? And she’ll charge the same amount but will go 15-30 minutes longer. I seriously couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I almost started crying. This was the very same day I had the conversation with my husband. And BOOM something fell into my lap. 

So I did go for a lesson last week. I thought it would be weird to go into the house but have a lesson with someone else, but it wasn’t. It was actually comforting. It was great. It was natural. It was exciting. I kept giggling during vocalizations, I was so happy to be there. She was a great teacher too. So… I have a new voice teacher.
 
Next time we'll go over what aspects of singing I need to work on, what songs I've done, what I'd like to do, what she thinks I should do and just make a general plan or goal.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Back on the Horse

I still have the recording of my last lesson with my voice teacher from March on my iphone. About 2 weeks ago I was finally able to listen to it without crying. I actually sang along and felt happy. I realized I was ready to study again.

About the same time, I learned that The Opera Project was presenting a memorial concert for my voice teacher in October. I emailed the director with the idea in my head that if I don't ask if I can participate, I definitely won't be participating. If I do ask, there's a chance he'll say yes. And he did. I actually got a little weepy when I got his reply, saying that he's sure she would have wanted me to perform. So I'll sing Sposa son Disprezzata.

Next, I realized that I really do need to get some lessons in between now and then, because I've lost some of the breath control, legato and other good singing habits. So I got a few recommendations, contacted one of the teachers and we set up a trial lesson. That lesson was yesterday and it went really well! It turns out that he was at the Opera Project Wing concert where I sang Sposa. So he's heard me sing, he knows what I can do, he knows where I need work and also... he knew my voice teacher.

In the middle of this lesson I was internally freaking out thinking that there's no way I'll be ready to sing this song by October 18. Typical. And like my other voice teachers, he did a great deal of psychotherapy along with the regular voice lesson stuff.

I cried a little on the way home, because I miss my (late) voice teacher so much. I can't even. I'm getting weepy just typing this. But today I listened to yesterday's lesson, and practiced, and I can already hear an improvement in how I'm singing. So hopefully I'll make her proud. Now I will add her to the ranks of people I love who are no longer here, who I imagine come to the concerts to hear me sing.

One more thing about this October 18th concert: It's going to be broadcast live on a local radio station. They have a website with a link to listen online. NO PRESSURE. Zoinks.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Past, Present, Future

I really have no excuse for not blogging in so long. I keep having ideas of things I want to blog about, but I never seem to have them when I'm sitting in front of my computer.

So let's first do an update on Things That Have Already Happened.

Remember that contest I begged for votes for? Not the vintage cherry one. This one, to win a Meet & Greet with 30 Seconds to Mars? Well, like the vintage cherry contest, I won this one too, thanks to everyone's loyal daily voting!

Here we are in the room while Jared Leto thanked us blah blah blah.

Then we had the photos. Tomo, the "thumbs-up" guy in the black leather jacket, is the guitarist. As soon as he saw me he shouted, "OPERA SINGER!" So I gave him a big hug. Chatted with them a little, took this BORING photo...


So I asked for another, more creative pose:




This all took place before the concert, so even though we had been in the front of the line, we had no chance of getting on the barrier by the time we got into the theater. Instead we went up to the balcony and joined this row of photographers in the 1st row up there. They left after a few songs so then we had the row to ourselves!!

Next, let's have some singing updates. My last voice lesson was in March. I haven't had one since, and have been to only one coaching. I did perform, though. Here's what I did ... probably the best singing in front of people that I've ever done:



I'm thankful that I did have a chance to show this video to my voice teacher before she died.

There's a memorial for her at the end of the month. It'll be nice, I think. I've had no one really to talk to about her, I've just been mourning sort of on my own, which is very lonely. 

The other thing that's been filling my time and brain is that my son is now going to a special ed school for "smart kids with behavior challenges" ie, autism and adhd. We toured a bunch of schools, it was quite stressful. But we all like where he is now, him included. So things are settling down. I'm still doing a great deal of advocacy on his behalf with the school district over a few things, but things are getting done.

All this and I haven't really had time to sing. I sing a little, here and there, and of course in the car. But I feel like I'm losing my breath control and technique. I need a teacher. I have no idea how to find one, because I want MY teacher back. She didn't require payment up front, she understood that "life happens" and sometimes you have to cancel a lesson. I think I canceled maybe twice in the 4 years I went to her. Funny, my 1st two voice teachers sort of fell into my lap, without me looking for them. So who knows what'll happen next in my explorations.
 
More future stuff is, Met Opera tickets go on sale August 11. I want to see La Cenerentola and Die Fledermaus. It's hard to find someone to go with me though, and I don't have the money to shell out for an extra ticket in the hopes that someone will go. So I have a week to find a companion and convince them to pay now for an opera in April. Otherwise, I'm going alone. Wish me luck. I'll probably be going alone to Joyce DiDonato's recital in Princeton, but that's no big deal... just a 20 minute drive. I can eat pizza for dinner and still make it to the recital. But it's more fun when going to the Met to make it an adventure. So, we'll see!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sad News

I haven’t written for a while. I’ve thought about writing, but kept putting it off. You see, my voice teacher was very ill. She had to stop teaching in March. She had some surgeries in April. I visited her in May a few times. At my last visit, as I was leaving I told her, “I love you,” and she said she loved me too and, “I believe in you.” That was the last time I saw her. She passed away 3 days ago. I’m totally devastated and distraught. The comment I left on the obituary page doesn't convey how strongly I feel the things I wrote. I know I'll eventually find a new teacher, somehow, and will continue to study and sing. But for now, I'm just feeling lost.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Click and Vote! ANOTHER CONTEST

Hello, Dear Readers!! Remember last year when I begged everyone to vote for my Vintage Cherry, and remember how I won those tickets to see Elixir of Love at the Metropolitan Opera? Well...

I've entered another clicky-click contest! One click a day. The top 7 win tickets to see and meet 30 Seconds to Mars!!! You can click once a day thru May 9. Please click, please share, please click and share again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that...

THANKS! http://www.radio1045.com/pages/sharemars/?q

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Random Gift


Just realized that I never did report back about the "special gift" that was part of my Elixir of Love Prize. I was excepting something related either to Elixir of Love or else to cocktails. Nope. I got a large envelope in the mail from the Met Opera a few days after the performance. Opened to find a random assortment of items from the gift shop:


A bookmark, a deck of "What Do You Know About Opera" trivia cards, a blank sketch book with a Boheme-themed cover and the season book. It looks like someone went into the shop and randomly tossed a few items into the envelope. I'm not complaining - as I said before, the tickets were the real gift. It was just kind of humorous to get this random assortment of items.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Yodeling Legato

Wow. Just wow. I must admit I went into last week’s production of Elixir a little jaded, thinking, how could this be any better than what I saw with Juan Diego Florez and Diana Damrau? It wasn’t better, because it was a different. It was equally as wonderful. I remember the very first time I heard Anna Netrebko sing I was moved to tears, back when I saw her in Romeo et Juliette. Subsequently, hearing her in various recordings I’ve thought, what’s the big deal. Then I heard her again on Saturday. And BOOM! Tears.

Backing up, as usual, to the pre-opera activities... Realizing that it would cost approximately the same for the 2 of us to take the train as it would to drive, the Husband and I decided to take the car in. Plus then we wouldn’t be at the mercy of the train schedule. Those late night trains are all locals… putt putt putt between every.single.station.

So here I am, with the angry birds stickers apparently flying out of my head?



And you know, it's a good thing we drove, or we wouldn’t have been able to listen to the cowboy yodeling radio station we picked up somewhere near Newark Airport. I can’t make this stuff up. Well I probably could, but I’m not! We yodeled our way up the New Jersey Turnpike.

We went to the box office as soon as we got there. They had the tickets but “we don’t keep gifts here.” I even showed them the email from the rep saying that the gift and tickets would be at the box office. They had no idea. They took my phone into their little room, it was like handing my baby to a stranger. They returned it and suggested that I check at the shop. The shop people were like, that's not our department. Everyone was very nice, but they had no idea what I was talking about. So the mystery gift remained a mystery! I did email my contact and he said he’d mail the gift out.

Anyway the seats were in the orchestra ROW R!! Right smack dab in the middle. Like, $300 tickets. That is enough of a gift!



For dinner we went, where else, to Café Fiorello. I really need to start going somewhere else for dinner. We were seated on the opposite side as when I was there last week, but somehow we got the same waiter. I kept forgetting to take pictures of the food because I was having too much fun. But here's a picture of my drink, a vodka something-or-other, off their cocktail list.  It had red grapes and I think half a lime in it.

 

Here's what remained of the antipasto plate before I remembered to snap a pic. Still on the plate I see zucchini parmesean, eggplant caponata, shrimp and white beans, grilled sepia (which is like calamari) and potato pie. It was all very yummy.


We also got the fried ravioli, which was ok but I wouldn't get again, and for dessert, the lemon tart, which was fa-bu-lous. No picture but you can imagine. The top was coated with sugar and then burned, to give it a hard crust like creme brulee. Fresh whipped cream on the side. Yum I'm actually drooling while typing this.

And I even had a “star” sighting! Half-way though dinner, Pretty Yende, who had performed in the matinee, walked by with her entourage on their way out, carrying several beautiful bouquets of flowers.

Back to the Met we went, to our seats in row R. Check out this view!


The opera was SO MUCH FUN! Matthew Polenzani was Nemorino. I think he should change his name to Matthew PoLEGATOnzani. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard such beautiful legato, ever. This coming from the person who could listen to the legato pour out of Juan Diego Florez all day… so you know it’s a big deal. Wow. And Anna Netrebko. Her voice had a timbre to it that went right to my insides. Perfect resonance. Together they sounded heavenly.


The other singers were, Mariusz Kwiecien as Belcore, the conceited army sergeant who wanted to marry Adina, and Erwin Schrott, who, by the way, is Anna’s husband! That must be fun… anyway he played Dulcamara, the maker of the magic elixir, which, as we all know, is actually a nice bordeaux. He was so funny!! In last year’s production, the character of Dulcamara was an older, more grandfatherly type guy. This time, he was more like a Barber of Seville guy – he had everything to cure anything, and he always had a woman nearby. Mariusz K was adorable, as usual.

It was weird… I was a little distracted at first. My mind kept wandering to other things… and then suddenly they began singing and that was it. All other things left my mind and I was just there, feeling the music. Maybe it was the seat location, I don’t know. But the singing just resonated through me. It was like a drug. It's why I love live opera. Because when it hits you like that, you want more, more more. But unless I win the $25 ticket drawing again this season, I won't be going again until next season. Technically that could be this calendar year, I suppose. I imagine they'll announce the next season schedule soon.

Meanwhile, I'll announce what at the Special Gift is once I receive it.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Vintage Cherry Rewards

Remember a few months ago when I begged everyone I knew, and many people I didn’t know, to vote daily for my entry in the Met Opera’s “Elixir of Love” contest? And remember how I won!




Not because my drink was the best, but because I nagged the most people to vote. The prize was, two tickets to see Elixir of Love at the Met, plus a “special gift” from the Metropolitan Opera. Well, finally, this coming Saturday, Husband and I will be seeing the opera. It’ll be interesting to see this new production, especially since I saw the other production TWICE last year. This one stars Anna Netrebko and Matthew Polenzani.

So the tickets will be waiting for us at the box office, along with the “special gift.” We have no idea where the seats are, or what the gift is. I will, of course, post again afterwards with all the boring details. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Comte Ory, Take 2

I had no idea when I purchased opera tickets on a hot day in August that the performance date I chose would turn out to be one of the coldest days of the year. Last week’s cold weather (highs in the 20 degrees F) made wardrobe planning a little tricky. How much time would I actually be spending outside? How overheated will I get on a crowded subway, if I’m dressed for the outside weather? Of course I tackled this problem with my usual over-thinking, and ended up in leggings under a long skirt, also a many-layered shirt ensemble that ended up being pretty nice. And, as usual, I wore my hiking shoes, and stashed my heels in my pink purse. Here I am on the train, sneakily putting my feet up on the opposing seat.


I met my friend at Penn Station and we headed uptown on the subway. We had a little time to kill so we puttered around the Met Opera shop, which was amazingly empty. I’ve only ever been there just before an opera, when it’s wall-to-wall people. Then we went to Avery Fisher Hall to use the Secret Public Bathroom. Anyone who is stuck uptown in that area of Manhattan, there is a nice bathroom in AFH open to the public. There’s even a bench and a full-length mirror. So we got ourselves together and switched out of our traveling shoes into our heels for the short walk to the restaurant.

As usual, we went to Café Fiorello. Don’t know why I always go there. Habit? It seems about as good as any other place in the area, and I do love the seafood. This time we shared a “Seafood Supreme Pizza”



and for dessert, a tiramisu cake:



I’m not that into tiramisu, to be honest, but the cake was nice and light and fluffy. And of course we enjoyed a cocktail – this is a “metropolitan daquari” and was quite yummy.



Next, on to the Met. And guess what? It had snowed during dinner. The sidewalk was a slushy slippery mess! We clung to each other like old ladies as we minced our way across the street.

Our seats were in the last row of the Grand Tier. There are only 7 or 8 rows so it’s not such a big deal…however that didn’t stop us from upgrading ourselves to empty seats directly in front of us in the first row. Here’s the upgraded view:





The soprano – Pretty Yende – was A M A Z I N G. This was her Met debut, filling in for someone who dropped out before rehearsals began, due to illness. As usual, the legato poured out of Juan Diego Florez like honey. And Nathan Gunn was pretty good too, except that he was kind of hard to hear over the orchestra. I’ve read reviews of other things he’s done where people commented on that, but I’d never actually experienced it until then. Anyway, I must admit, it was pretty funny seeing him and JDF dressed as nuns.  You can see some of that here, a few minutes in.


 
Usually during intermission I like to go out on the Grand Tier balcony but the door was locked... Yeah, that's snow. You can see the fountain all blurry in the background.




At the end of intermission we decided to put our snow-worthy boots on because we knew we'd want to make the mad dash for the subway the moment the curtain calls ended. So we were very stylish, sitting in our fancy clothes and clunky boots. 

People went NUTS at the curtain calls, hooting and hollering for the singers. It was kind of awesome. Everyone left the building with a smile. My friend and I joined the press of people entering the subway. There were so many people, someone had opened the emergency gate and we were herded through with the crowd. Finally made it home at 1am! Long day but totally worth it. Plus, I broke 3 rules!!! 1. Feet on train seat. 2. Upgraded opera seat. 3. Unpaid subway ride. I'm seriously living the rebellious life.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Glittery!

The Opera Project WING concert was fun!!! The first part was scenes from Magic Flute, dialogue and some songs in English, some in German. It was cute! It’s amazing to hear these gorgeous, gorgeous voices coming out of such young bodies! Some of the girls are in 8th grade. How old is that, 14?

 

Here’s the Iolanthe scene:



 
See that tall girl with the long, dark hair, all the way to the left? Listen to her when she sings. Then remind yourself that she’s in EIGHTH GRADE! Imagine that voice in 10 years! We had a lot of fun with that scene. Some of it was improvised. I actually got some of my lines wrong, using words that have the same meaning, but still… not the right words. For example, my line was, “He’s extremely pretty,” but for some reason I said, “He’s exceptionally pretty.” Why? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. We had a lot of fun, also backstage was fun sharing glitter makeup to make everyone more fairy-like.



Before Iolanthe, I sang Sposa:



As usual, I hear all the mistakes… especially that weirdo crack sound near the end… a sound I have never ever made before in my life, and couldn’t reproduce if I wanted to. It was as if a gallon of mucous suddenly poured out over my vocal chords. Most people told me they didn’t even hear it. It seems so LOUD to me but I’m taking their word for it. I did pretty well otherwise, although I know I can sound richer. I was a little nervous, you can hear it in the 2nd syllable when I first started to sing. But I’ve practiced the song so much that the nervousness sort of went away as I continued singing. In the past, it used to creep up and get worse, so there’s something.

I was thinking this weekend how thankful I am that the Guy In Charge of the Opera Project saw my potential back when I auditioned… him letting me sing with the group opened up a whole world of singing to me, allowed me to find a great teacher and gave me these opportunities to grow and perform that I never would have had otherwise. I should write him a note. Although how to do that, without being awkward? Hmm. Maybe I’ll tell him, the next time I see him.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Prancing Around

We’ve had one rehearsal for the upcoming concert and I have to say I think it’s going to be fun! I don’t do much in the Iolanthe scene except creep up on stage when I’m “called” from the deep, then sing my 2 lines, throw off my robe and happily greet my “fairy” sisters. I do a lot of smiling, I greet my son, smile at him as he sings and then the fairy sisters and I prance off stage. We will be wearing long flowy skirts and dresses. What are the chances I’ll step on the edge of my skirt and fall flat on my face, or even better, somehow end up pulling it off? Hopefully slim…

We didn’t yet get to practice it all together. They were all learning a dance while I was shown my staging. We have another rehearsal this weekend, it should be fun. Even though I do sort of feel like a den mother, or girl scout leader, or whatever. I think (but I’m not sure) that all but one of the fairies are in high school. It doesn't matter. But I do sense a sort of distance. I'm the grown-up. If only they knew how much like a 16 year old I feel inside!

At the rehearsal I also got to run through Sposa son Disprezzata with the accompanist. I finally have the timing and tempo correct. I think. There are a few parts where I have to remember to hold back on the breath at first, not to blurt it all out, so I have enough to finish the line. The other singers were coming in (with their parents, some of whom I might be older than…) while I was singing so it was good practice for me to have other people in the room and keep my focus. I did waver a little when I saw them look over. During the performance I focus on the back of the room, sort of toward the point where the wall meets the ceiling. And of course I will become the distraught, betrayed woman in the song, and try to get that emotion into my voice, all without losing my focus. That's the plan, at least.

They’re also doing a few scenes from Magic Flute, in English. I could overhear the 3 spirits singing, 3 girls, they sounded great. I’m looking forward to seeing it all.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Voices of Angels

Saw the American Boy Choir "Voices of Angels" concert this past weekend, with special guest Nathan Gunn. The venue was a beautiful old chapel with super high vaulted ceilings. The sound bounced around in there like it was built for music. Maybe it was, I don’t know much about architecture. And the choir. They are, as their name suggests, boys. Boys with beautiful, beautiful soprano voices. A few of the older boys had deeper voices. It all blended so beautifully. Some of the boys were so little! They all wore long white robes with a red collar and a white ruffled neck.

It wasn’t exactly a church service, but there were readings between the songs, and some of the readings were religious. It was very, very moving. It was also really nice to see NG perform again. I was sitting in about the 10th row. Here’s the view from my seat, taken before the performance began:


Zoomed in:



The chorus started out in the back of the chapel and came forward singing. They eventually stood in the middle of the stage. Nathan stood by the music stand in between the poinsettias. The people doing the between-song readings stood behind that eagle statue. So I didn’t realize it when I sat down, but I was basically directly in front of him. I doubt that he saw me there. Well, maybe. At the end we all sang O Come All Ye Faithful together. I didn’t use my full-on operatic soprano, but I was loud and clear… No, not in a socially unacceptable way. There was a super loud organ playing and the entire room was singing, over 1000 people. He looked around at the people singing and I think he heard/saw me and gave a little hello-ish smile/nod. Like, tiny. Maybe. But probably not. I’m not delusional. Not about that, at least… And besides, he probably wouldn’t recognize me anyway. So like I said, I doubt that he saw me there.

The only weird thing to report was that, exactly at the end of each song, someone in the audience made a weird sound. Like a honk. I know it sounds crazy but I’m not making this up! Each time we’d all look over in that direction with a “What was that?” look on our faces. It didn’t take away from the beauty of the performance.

There was another, slightly longer performance the next day, but I was out seeing The Hobbit. So I’m sad to say, I didn’t get to see Nathan Gunn sing the Grinch song. But hey… I sang with him the night before. Me and a thousand other people, but still… Can I put that on my resume?

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Double-Take $10 Karma

So remember in my last post how I said I check Nathan Gunn's website occasionally to see if he'll be singing nearby? Apparently checking his page isn’t always the best way to find out where he’ll be singing. For example, let’s say he’s singing some holiday concerts about, oh, TEN MINUTES FROM YOUR HOUSE. Something like that might not appear on his schedule. However, it does appear on the bulletin board in the kitchen where I work. So there I was, drying off my lunch container when I saw this poster.

 

My first thought was, “Hey, that guy looks like Nathan Gunn.” And then, “Oh…wait a sec!” It was a very Bugs Bunny double-take moment.


One of my colleagues has a son who attends American Boy Choir School. She’s the one who put the poster up. She told me she can get tickets for $10, but they’re up the balcony. I thought, hmmm. I’m seeing Nathan from “up in the balcony” at the Met next month. For $150. I think can splurge and get the $40 ticket. After adding all the fees and so on the online ticket price would have been about $50. But I couldn’t tell where the seats were, so I called the box office. Talked with the ticket person about how if I knew a student I could get way cheaper tickets (like, $15 I think). She said if I hadn’t told her that she could have sold me student tickets. I was like, I couldn’t lie about that! She was so impressed by that (kept talking about karma!) that she waived all the fees –so the $40 ticket ACTUALLY COST ME $40! I guess there’s your karma.

The concert is in a chapel and it’s general admission. I plan on sitting squarely in the middle. The Husband would have accompanied me but alas our babysitter isn't free that evening, so I’ll be going solo.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Another Catchy-Uppy

Trying to get back into a regular blogging schedule, rather than this “1 post every 3 months” pattern I’ve fallen into.

Voice lessons are going well. I was supposed to sing at a concert in October but I was ill. Woke up with basically no voice. After discussion with my voice teacher she urged me to drop out, because if I tried to sing and didn’t do my best, I’d beat myself up. Then a few weeks later I got strep throat. Again, no singing. Then the subsequent concert was canceled because it was scheduled for right after Hurricane Sandy, which basically wiped out most of the electricity and half of the trees in New Jersey. So I missed about 3 weeks of lessons due to the storm and the infection. Didn’t sing when I was sick, obviously. So now I’m busy trying to work my way back up to where I was. Amazed at how quickly I’ve lost the placement and breath control. It’s coming back quickly too, but it shows me that taking that much time off from singing and from lessons is not a good idea.

For the concert I dropped out of, I was going to sing Sposa son Disprezzata. For the concert that was canceled, I was given the role of Iolanthe in a scene from Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta of the same name. Yeah I’d never heard of it either. Sounds glamorous to have the title role, but actually it’s a pretty small part in that scene. I’m fine with that – I don’t have the mental energy to learn a huge amount of new music in a relatively short period of time. I’ve also requested (not quite begged, but that’s how I feel) if I could sing Sposa in that concert. I’ve gone over it with the vocal coach, I’m confident with it and am eager to sing it to an audience. They did have some art songs and arias in the program so hopefully they’ll let me. Fingers crossed!

Currently listening to Juan Diego Florez. I’ve written this about a thousand times before, but I must say it again. His voice. Sigh. It washes over me like a warm soft waterfall of happiness. Extremely excited that I’ll be seeing him in January in the same opera with Nathan Gunn. Speaking of Nathan Gunn...  I haven’t blogged about the Gunnster for a while. I do check his website for updates. He’ll be performing in Carousel in NYC around the same time he’ll be at the Met. Those tickets are tres $$$$ so I’m going to have to pass. That makes me sad but what can you do? He'll also be at Zankel Hall again in February but you know. Been there, done that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Meeting Adam Ant!

Don't even know where to begin with this. I'm pretty sure I've written before how important Adam Ant's music was to me when I was a teenager (and beyond). So when I heard he was touring the US after a Very Long Break I knew I had to get tickets the moment they went on sale.

I got tickets to see him in Philly and New York City, two days in a row. The dates were originally set for February of this year, but due to I-don't-know-why they were rescheduled to this past weekend.

So. Friday night. Seeing Adam Ant for the first time since 1992. This would be my 7th or possibly 8th time seeing him. I can't even describe the annoyance I felt as the opening act went on and on. They weren't bad. In fact they were quite pleasant. But I was there to see Adam!!! Finally, FINALLY!! The lights dimmed and this weird recording began, of some guy talking about I-don't-know-what because I don't remember. The show was so much fun!!! I took some videos which I'll post here. His voice is nowhere near as clear as it was 30 years ago. I think ALL singers should take voice lessons!!

A video I took:


Same song, 1981:



You can really hear the difference in the clarity of his voice. He's been through a lot, both physically and emotionally, since then, but I do believe a few voice lessons with a good teacher will help him find that clarity again. And like I said, all singers, no matter what level of skill or experience, benefit from voice lessons. Even professional opera singers take lessons and go for coachings.

And yeah, that song is about fetishes. One of the many words I looked up in the dictionary after first hearing his music at the age of 14 or so. Other "vocabulary" words I learned from him included sadistic, masochistic, truncheon, akimbo and simian. Incidentally, none of those words showed up on the SAT. However I did get quite an education. Luckily, this was way before the Internet so my only source for information was a non-illustrated dictionary.  I had to use my imagination. And trust me, I did. I was at that age where I knew there was something I wanted when I watched him perform these songs, but I wasn't exactly clear on the details. I since learned. Obviously.

So anyway I had a great time. I danced like mad, I did the Prince Charming.


And looking at that video now, I can see why he was so appealing to my 14 year old self; Partly a child, partly a young woman. That video could be for a child. It's a fairy tale. It gives advice to teenagers to not give a crap what anyone thinks about you. And you know. It's Adam Ant. In eyeliner and tight pants. I wanted...something. Just didn't know what. The timing was perfect.

Most of his songs are tales of or reactions to things that happened to him... and he may not have realized it, but they were also messages or lessons to all of us to basically do what you want, there will always be people who will try to ridicule you, cut you, take you down and insult you. Ignore them, and follow your own path. And be silly while doing it. And have a lot of sex. Ok I wasn't doing THAT at age 14 but it sort of flipped a switch in me, or maybe it was there when the switch flipped. Whatever. I can't separate them.

So like I said, I had a great time at the show the other day. BUT THAT WASN'T THE END!!! Oh no. For I had tickets for his show the NEXT night, in New York City. Free tickets, thanks to a friend whose husband knows people and got us on the list. The VIP list. Did I mention that the VIP list included a MEET AND GREET AFTER THE SHOW????



Now you all know how excited I was to meet 30 Seconds to Mars and tell them how they inspire me. That was an awesome experience. But this was different. I came to them as an adult. Adam Ant was indescribably important to me in my formative years. I changed from girl to woman while listening to and learning from his music. Totally.Different.Situation.

I made him a bracelet:


I had planned to write him a note but I didn't, because we didn't know until we got there if we'd have the Meet & Greet, and I didn't want to be all prepared and then disappointed. But I did plan what to say.

The NYC show was better than the Philly show, in some ways. The venue was larger and the energy was palpable. I didn't take any videos. I lost myself in the music. I was dancing and felt high with happiness. I realize I sound like a complete dork but I don't care, because that's how it was.

I knew that his last song would be Physical. And when it started, my stomach started doing flips because I knew that it wouldn't be long before I'd be meeting him. In the flesh. Face to face. (I keep quoting Blondie here, probably because I saw them last week too)

So they had us line up in a hallway that led to a doorway into a room. We went in to the room two or three at a time to meet him. There was a guy taking pictures with whatever cameras you wanted, both phone and regular. He took pictures the entire time so I have photos of Adam looking at the bracelet I gave him, which is kinda cool. It's a little blurry because the iPhone camera doesn't do movement well. Click on the image to make it bigger.


And now I'm going to write about the encounter in excruciatingly boring detail to most of you. But some of you will love it.

So when it was my turn, I went over and he held his hand out for a handshake. I said, "Hi, my name is Susan." He said... I don't remember. Nice to meet you, probably. Then I handed him the bracelet and said, "I made this for you." He admired it, said something like, "Oh isn't this lovely! I'm going to put it on right now." And he did. And I watched to see if it fit. And it did. He was wearing a thick silver bracelet of like a chain of skulls, so it matched. You can kind of see it in the above picture. I'm sure he thanked me but I don't remember. Funny, I don't really specifically remember any of what he said. I remember that he made intense eye contact and that he has amazing green eyes, and that's he's very soft-spoken... so different from his stage persona. He put his arm around me for this picture, also taken with my phone.




Then the camera dude got my friend's camera. While he was doing that, I turned to Adam and said, "I want to thank you for teaching my teenaged self everything... about life." And he very sweetly said something like, "Oh you know. Teenagers." And I said something about also wanting him to know how many wonderful friends I've made because of him, and then I hesitated (because it's against the rules at Mars Meet & Greets) and asked if I could give him a hug. He was like, "Of course." And I hugged Adam Ant. Tightly. And I almost lost it. I seriously was about to start crying. I said, "Thank you. Thank you." while we hugged. I had to let go or I would've started bawling, smearing mascara and snot all over his nice coat. Couldn't have that. Then we took this picture. Could I be standing any closer? He had me squeezered in.



Next, he was ready to sign an autograph. I don't really collect autographs, plus I actually already have his autograph from the last time I very informally met him. Through a fence. Yeah. So anyway... one of my friends was supposed to have gone with me both nights, but she had a baby five weeks ago. She had no childcare for the Philadelphia show so she had to miss it. She came to NYC and was able to score a VIP pass with us, but not the aftershow pass. She was ok with that because she wanted to get home to her baby. So I told him that she was supposed to be there but couldn't because she just had a baby... not exactly a lie... but anyway... I asked that he write the autograph to her, so he said, "Isn't that nice of you" or some other trivial thing along those lines, about how GENEROUS I AM for getting his autograph for SOMEONE ELSE (Ok, he didn't actually say that, but it was implied. Maybe. Probably not.) and wrote it out to her.

Next, my other friends got their meet and greet and photos while I waited on the comfy little couch you can see in my picture. Then the three of them were about to take a pic with him and they called me over. There was no way I was going to NOT be making physical contact, because, you know. So I scootched down in front of him, then realized I needed a little support, so I asked him if I could lean on him. Of COURSE I could. THEN my friend's camera died, so I grabbed my phone. AWKWARD MOMENT when we're all posing and he can't get the camera to work! So we were sort of laughing, and I was like, Are you sure it's ok if I lean on you? And he was like, Of course! So of course I did. If he had stepped back, I would've been flat on the floor. He was so sweet and gentle and patient and accommodating. So here's the group pic, taken with my phone: 

 

We took another, but my other friend's eyes were closed. I'm not sure which of the two I cropped this pic from... Me leaning on Adam Ant while he smiles.


It took 30 years. But I finally got to meet the man who unknowingly guided me through my adolescence. Here's what I wrote on facebook about it:
Guys. I met Adam Ant yesterday. Some of you probably never heard of him, others probably thought he was dead! His music taught me so much about life when I was a teenager. I'm thrilled to pieces that I was able to tell him so, and to thank him, and tell him how I made wonderful friends through our shared love of his music. And we hugged. And all I could say was, "Thank you. Thank you." It was a very emotional moment for me. Everyone should get the chance to thank the person whose music or artwork has inspired them.
Longtime readers of my blog know that I truly believe that, and will always make a point of thanking my favorite performers for doing what they do, and for inspiring me. I have a feeling they never get tired of hearing that. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Winners (Me!) and Spoilfaces (Others!)

THANKS to everyone who voted for my drink in the Elixir of Love contest… I WON!!! I sent facebook messages to groups of people, asking them to vote – opera people, moms groups, 30 Seconds to Mars fans, Adam Ant fans, college and high school friends. I also posted on some people’s walls and put the link as my facebook status every day, reminding people they could vote once a day. I tweeted it up the wazoo (I believe that’s an official term to mean, a lot) and asked people to RT. I tweeted people directly asking them to vote. People asked their friends to vote. And lo and behold…I got 527 votes! The guy in 2nd place got 334:



 
 
Then the Met sent me a letter saying that my drink “won the hearts of their fans…” Well. Not exactly. But I’ll take the win! The contest said to get everyone to vote. That’s what I did.
 
The prize is, two tickets to L’Elisir D’amore and a special gift from the Met Opera. The tickets and the special gift will be waiting for me at the box office on the day of the performance. I will, of course, report back afterwards. The performance is in February so you’ll all just have to be patient.
 
And then while I was busy basking in my win, I ALSO won the Met’s weekly drawing for $25 weekend tickets. So I got to see the Saturday matinee of Il Trovatore from Orchestra Row R. I had a friend meet me, but unfortunately she got there late and had to watch the first act with about 35 other latecomers on a tv screen until intermission.
 
The opera was interesting. The plot was ridiculous, of course… a sort of loosely woven story of revenge, betrayal, misunderstandings and death. But the music was wonderful and the singing WOW as usual. I loved the soprano. She had such a sweet voice. She made it all sound effortless. At times the orchestra was louder than the singers, which was not ideal, but that was only at a couple of points. This is the opera that has the famous “Anvil Chorus.”
 
Afterwards, I got “involved” in a conversation on facebook with someone who has a Bad Attitude. He actually gave me permission to quote the conversation here, although I will leave his name off. Not that it matters. You wouldn’t have heard of him, he hasn’t sung anywhere. But for the sake of anonymity, let's call him, Mr. Snooty Spoilface
 
It all started when a friend "checked in" at the Metropolitan Opera:
 
Mr. Snooty Spoilface I wonder who the soprano is.... I saw the final dress... the MET was TRYING IT.

My Friend: 
They are trying it now...it's a mess

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Hahahahaha the only two great singers are Dolora and Morris.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Who is the soprano?

My Friend:
It's true those two are the best. I don't remember some Asian woman. I'll look at the program on intermission.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Wow. The same one I saw in the final dress on Wednesday. She sings out of tune and I doubt she'll make it thru Act 3.

My Friend: 
It is guanqun yu

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
That's her. Should be singing Susanna from nozze, not Leonora.
 
My Friend:  It was a mess. Dolora and Morris were great...it seemed like they muted the orchestra. How do you even do that?!
 
ME!! : Did we see the same opera? Carmen Giannittasio was Lenora. She was amazing. The sets were a big clunky sounding as they moved around but I thought all the singers were great.

ME!! :
Also the orchestra was pretty loud down in the orchestra. LOL. Row R. They drowned out the singers at some points. Where were you sitting? If you were under an overhang that could explain the muted sound.

My Friend: 
I stood in the back and sat in a few different spots out from under the overhang. The orchestra was muted and you (me I'm guessing everyone) still couldn't hear the singers. I went to the matinee sat afternoon and there was an insert saying that Carmen Giannittasio was sick and that Guanqun Yu was taking her place and making her met debut. The production was kind of awful...with Morris Robinson and Dolora Zajick, and to be fair a few others, as vibrant spots in the mediocrity.

ME!! :
Oh! There was no insert in my or my friend's program. I wasn't thrilled with the production but I did like the singers. I thought the soprano sounded lovely.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
HILARIOUS.

ME!! :
Which part is hilarious? There are so many choices...

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Trust me, you don't want to know.

ME!! :
Hmm. Are you making fun of me for liking the soprano? I can take it, I'm a big girl. wink

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Lol. There were only TWO Verdi singings in that ENTIRE cast, Zajick and Robinson. If we as singings, young and old, begin to accept mediocre singing as the norm there truly is no hope for our art form. I'm not sure if you're a singer but I challenge you to research the singers of the past who have sang that role. Both L. Price and M. Price, Millo, Milanov, just to name a few.

ME!! :
I don't have formal training in music - I'm one of those people who started studying voice as an adult, for fun. So as an audience member, I'm not analyzing every note or technique, and I don't know what composer people have trained to sing or whatever. I experience the performance as it is. I understand where you're coming from, however I have no interest in knowing who sang the role before and how they sang it. I'm there seeing who IS singing it. Does that make sense?

My Friend: 
Lol Susan I wouldn't make fun of you...everyone has different ears. I think she had a nice voice just not for Verdi. I am curious about what specifically you liked. And please don't feel I'm asking you to defend your opinion, simply want to hear it...I want to know exactly what you thought. Feel free to post here or message me.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
I thought I was having a conversation with an actual singer. Oh well. Continue on your journey sugar.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
I apologize, My Friend. You know how I get about singing.

ME!! :
Mr Snooty, Are you implying that someone who hasn't studied formally doesn't have a valid opinion of a performance? I consider myself an actual singer. I don't get paid and I'm not on a career path but I love singing and I love performing. It's part of who I am. I don't have to have gone to music school to have that passion. Your patronizing attitude is one of the reasons opera seems so snobby to the general public.

Each singer brings his or her own self to the character. It's fine to love how a particular singer performed that role, I have my favorites in certain roles too. But I try to see what's good about a performance, and what's enjoyable... not what was wrong. I don't go in expecting a sub-par performance because the singer isn't "trained" to sing Verdi.


Friend
, what I liked was how pretty her voice was. It was sweet. This was my first time seeing Trovatore and I thought the sweetness of her voice was right for the innocence of the character. I also thought the tenor was good too. Yes I've heard better tenors, with stronger voices, but he was fine in the role. And the reception they both got from the audience shows that I wasn't the only one who thought so. She had one show-stopping aria and also a standing ovation at the end. Are we to dismiss the general public's "opinion" as because they're (we're) not "smart" enough to know what's good, so we accept mediocrity?

If you guys don't mind, I'm thinking of using this conversation as the topic of a blog post.. I won't name either of you of course. But that "actual singer" comment is priceless!

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
By all means use want you want. But please become a learned singer so you and actually appreciate what you're hearing. When you and a baritone, soprano and tenor who have no business singing Verdi, yes that bothers me. And what bothers me more is when you have a singer who claims they loves and are learning how to sing in an art form yet doesn't want to do the research of what type of voices should be singing the certain rep. I find that ridiculous. I'm very opinionated when it comes to singing and I know tons of patrons who have never sung a note yet know rep and who should be sing it. Don't be a dummy. Please do some research. Trust me, I will help you with your very own development.
Best in your singing!!

ME!! :
Thank you for your well wishes. And no no no. There is more than one way to appreciate and learn music. Your way is not the only way. You don't know anything about me to say what I want or don't want to do. I started studying at the age of 40. I see it as an achievement to finally do something I've always wanted to do. I have a job and am the parent of a special needs child. I squeeze in 30 minutes of voice lesson a week unless parenting interferes. I am in it for me, to learn what I can do with my voice, not to criticize the casting director at my local opera company for putting the wrong type of singer in a role. I do agree that you appreciate more the more you know. I appreciate opera singing more than I did before I began studying voice now that I know a fraction of what goes into it. I love learning to sing, I love singing, I love going to the opera when I can afford the time and money. But let's switch lives for a few days, and then you tell me when you have time and energy to do anything else for yourself other than the weekly 30 minute lesson. I do most of my practicing in the car because it's the only set chunk of time I have alone.
One piece of advice I have for you is to be nice to everyone you meet, from the friend-of-a-friend mom who studies voice for herself, the person measuring you for your costume, the super who volunteers to be a soldier or townsperson or the person in the box office selling tickets. You never know who is in the position to do the hiring, or who they know. And you never know who is in the position to buy a ticket to see you, or decide NOT to buy a ticket, based on how you treat others. No matter how talented you are, if you are as rude to other people as you have been to me, you will encounter a glass ceiling when the decision for a role is between you and the guy who maybe isn't as strong a singer but sure is nicer to work with.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Sigh.

_______

Yes, Mr. Snooty had to get the last word in. I let him, because it was obvious that he was not getting off the top of his cultural ladder. I suppose another option would have been to attack him. But I figured I went beyond the necessary by defending myself, and he wasn't worth my time to attack. I'm not proud that I played the "I'm the busy parent of a special needs kid" card. But... he called me Sugar!
 
I do believe that it's attitudes like his that keep opera inaccessible, by implying that you need to have all this background knowledge to "properly" enjoy an opera. What a load of garbage. You either like something or you don't. If you have some background knowledge, great, you'll understand it more. But it's not a requirement. And there was no mediocre singing that day. The Met doesn't hire mediocre singers. I realize that all the Snooty Spoilfaces out there will say I'm naive for saying that. And I don't really care. I go in to a production ready to be amazed, not prepared to criticize.

I think what really made me reply at all was that he called me Sugar. So patronizing. Part of me wanted to smack him so hard upside the head that he'd fly ass-over-teakettle against the wall. And truthfully, I wrote that only for the opportunity to write "ass-over-teakettle."