Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a Doll

Happy New Year!

She stole the show here and here.

Now listen to Rachele Gilmore here!!! Yikes those are SOME high notes! I love it.

Olympia's Aria - Les Contes d'Hoffmann Metropolitan Opera December 26, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Lu-Cha-Cha-Chia-ing it Yet Again

I've seen it at the Met. I've seen it at NJ Opera. I've seen it on TV. Now I'm seeing it again - this time in Florida. Ok so remember last year when I took my mom to see Nozze at Florida Grand Opera? Well this year I timed my annual Florida visit to take her to see Lucia di Lammermoor. And remember the year before, when I wrote about that Rigoletto with NJ Opera that I didn't super in because my email address changed between seasons? See where I wrote, "The woman who sang Gilda was FABULOUS!!!!" ? That was Eglise Gutierrez and she is singing the role of Lucia. I'm very excited to see her again, and I'm thrilled to be able to take my mother to the opera again. She's delighted. Two of my cousins are coming too, so we'll have a real girls' night out, with "girls" ranging in age from 29 - 82!

That weekend overlaps with the local production of Carmen, so even if I do get chosen to super (I've applied but have heard nothing) I wouldn't be able to do it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Merry!

It's Christmas Eve and here I am blogging. Why? Because I'm Jewish, that's why! Well, really because I'm finally not too tired or busy to sit at the computer and attempt to string two words together.

Last week my voice lesson was canceled due to SNOW!!!! Big piles of fun fluffy snow. I spoke with my teacher and she said we'll have enough time to get Batti Batti into shape before the recital at the end of January. And I have been practicing! I have been singing it without consonants. I have been singing it while consciously dropping my jaw down, down, down. I have been forcing my shoulders down. I sang it in the yoga tree pose. I've sung it while bent over and hanging down to touch my toes. I have been employing the Julia Child technique to keep the resonance. I want to be ready, I want to nail it.

I've also been trying to teach myself La ci darem la mano. The duet starts about 3 min into that video. You can also see it here, although they need to work on their diction. Ahem.

If only I knew a baritone to sing it with... For now I sing along with whatever recording I have handy - one in the car, one in the house, etc. Perhaps I can slowly teach myself all of Zerlina, wouldn't that be interesting. Hm. I have no idea how to learn or perform recits. I never even thought about it, really. I once had a friend who was a teaching assistant for a Mozart Recit class in a University in the Midwest, that's the closest I've come to it. An entire semester on just recits. So is that something I can teach myself? I doubt it... But I'm not ready for that yet anyway. This recit thing is just a train of thought here.

Work chorus thing happened. It was the same as last year. They asked me to get in front of the microphone. It didn't always work out that way. It didn't matter. We all had fun and even got a free lunch at a swanky restaurant out of it.

My final thought of the evening: I've been offered a free ticket to see Don Pasquale at the Dallas Opera on Feb 24. A free ticket to see Nathan Gunn sing some pretty music. This ticket possibly comes with a post-performance trip backstage. But either way... I have enough frequent flyer miles to do it. I've found a reasonably-priced hotel within a mile of the opera house. The problem is, I'm going to see La Fille at the Met on Feb 22. Husband teaches on the evening of Feb 23 so we'd run into the same old childcare issue. So if I went, it'd have to be the day of. We all know how snow can interfere with travel plans. I'd much rather get a flight for the day before. Plus it'd be exhausting to run to NYC and then fly to TX the next day. I've pretty much told the kind and generous person/friend that I don't think I can swing it. But wow I wish I could! I can't leave him hanging, though, if he wants to offer the ticket to someone else. Ah well. I guess I'll have to resign myself to seeing Mr. Baritone in March and in April.

Damn I'm spoiled. And I like it that way.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Catchy-Uppy

I realize it's almost a week since my last post. I will write, I promise. I haven't forgotten about the blog. There's even stuff to write about - the chorus at work, the snow, stuff with Alex... I will post a catchy-uppy post soon. Very soon. I promise.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Too Much Vibra-a-a-a-a-a-a-to

Friday night after dinner Husband, Alex and I went to a holiday music performance and sing-a-long at a nearby museum. The singers were from the young artist program of my local opera company. They're all so young - fresh out of college - and so talented! The music was nice and almost all if not all in English. Alex's favorite was when the baritone sang the Grinch song. Listening to it again it sounds more bass than bari but the program listed him as a baritone. At the end of the short program they did the sing-a-long. Alex had been waiting all evening, past his bedtime, for Rudolph. As soon as it was over he lost all composure and was Very Ready to leave, so we did. I wanted to stay and sing... but it was not to be. So it was very lovely. I just want to comment/ask about one thing. The soprano, who was tiny, adorable and charismatic, sometimes had so much vibrato in her voice that it was hard to hear the notes. When the vibrato wasn't overwhelming the notes she sounded absolutely lovely. Husband noticed it too.

And now, for your cringing pleasure, here is a video that's so horrible you'll want to watch it twice.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Proud Mamma

Alex brought this home today in his packet of this week's work:



It appears he inherited his drawing skills from me. The teacher drew the notes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Earrings and Opera

Finally got my earrings out there! The gift shop of the local Watershed Organization has started promoting local craftspeople. Husband does some GIS work for them so he knows everyone there, but what really got me in was that we went to an open house there and I admired the earrings of one of the women. She admired the ones I was wearing, I explained I made them, Husband brought a few in the next day and all of a sudden they were emailing me asking for a photo and a bio. I dropped by today to see the display:




And look, my bio! Which I wrote...



I make it sound like all I do is make earrings and study opera. Because really, does it matter where I work or how much time and mental capacity I spend raising a special-needs kid? Of course not. Earrings and opera, that's all anyone needs to know.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Quick Fix

Here's how to get your Quick Fix.
  • Start here.
  • Click on the picture to get here.
  • Second-to-last in the list is your Quick Fix. Go ahead. Get your fix. It's quick.
  • Oh and then you might as well read all the little words there.
  • Squint squint now they're in focus.
More later.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

When it Rains... It Snows!

That was today's weather... rain... then snow!

Had a voice lesson this morning. After the vocalises my teacher asked if I would sing Zerlina for her, Batti Batti. Um, sure, ok. So I did, then she told me that the Conservatory was holding a recital on the main campus to showcase the students of the satellite campus. Each teacher is allowed to send one student over for the recital and she offered the opportunity to me! To sing that aria! It's at the end of January. I'm excited to have another opportunity to perform, even if, like last May, the audience will consist mostly of the parents of the other students. Most of them are kids, studying all sorts of instruments - piano, flute, violin, etc. But I don't care. I'm thrilled at the idea of performing again so soon and I sure can use the practice! One of the things we talked about was how much I move about when I sing. She kept telling me "less is more" and that she could see me doing the hunchy thing in the video from last month. So I will practice standing still, keeping my shoulders down and taking the emotion of our my actions and into my voice. She didn't tell me to do that last thing, but I'll see if I can do it. I think I saw someone do that at a masterclass once. The one masterclass I ever went to. I was bored out of my mind at the time because I had no idea I'd later go on to study voice myself. So it's a great feeling to have something to prepare for, and then hopefully I'll feel comfortable enough to sing that at the next Opera Project recital in March. So the title of my post - when it rains, it pours? Or snows, since that what it did today - I feel like, now that I've had a little experience, more opportunities are suddenly rolling in. Well, I have my umbrella - bring on the precipitation! (I realize how much of a dork I am as I wrote that, so go ahead and make fun of me. I'm used to it.)

After lunch we went on an errand. I turned on the Saturday Afternoon Broadcast and realized I was hearing American Tragedy. I had learned earlier in the day via an email that it was going to be broadcast, but when I turned on the radio I was expecting to get the Met broadcast. But as soon as I heard the singing in English I knew what it was.

It took us about 10 minutes to get where we were going. That was enough time for me to realize that I'm just not that into modern opera. Perhaps being there and seeing it would make a difference. But on the radio I had a hard time with the music. We heard a bit on the way home and I actually turned it off. Yes, I turned off the radio while Our Favorite Baritone was singing. I hope they don't kick me out of the fan club. Heh. I made up for it later by watching the Magic Flute from the Met, DVR'd way back when it was on Great Performances on PBS. Alex sat with me and watched (almost) the entire thing. Husband did too. Then he (Husband) said he would have gone to see this with me at the Met. I told him I would go twice if he wanted to go, but we'd have to sit in the Family Circle, up near the ceiling. He didn't want to risk a concussion when he stood up so he declined.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bidding for Good

Just came across this site, Bidding for Good. A quick search for "opera" brought up this auction. Yes, that's an opening bid of $150 for TWO orchestra seats for Barber of Seville in LA.



As usual, click through to YouTube to see the entire video frame.

And getting back to the Bidding for Good site, there are all sorts of auctions there, for every organization you can think of. Also of interest to me is this one, which I'd consider bidding on if I weren't waiting to find out about supering in it. I'm laughing because I'm thinking, Wait, aren't I busy that day? And that's because I have the performance dates in the back of my mind, just in case.

In case you don't feel like following the links, here are the descriptions:

LA Opera:

Estimated Value $446.00

Two Orchestra Seats at the LA Opera for The Barber of Seville. Dec. 19th, 8PM perf. Value $223 each. For this effervescent comic opera, LA Opera has assembled an all-star cast featuring two celebrated artists. The New York Times commented that the "dashing Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez was a vocally brilliant and charming Count Almaviva...and the perky, rich-toned and vocally brilliant young American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato had a triumph as Rosina." Principals include audience favorite Nathan Gunn as Figaro, who brings to the role "unmistakable star power"


Carmen:

You and 5 friends will enjoy VIP treatment at NJPAC’s presentation of Bizet’s Carmen performed by Opera New Jersey and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra on February 12, 2010. This package includes 6 premium seats in the President’s box, pre-performance and intermission use of a salon complete with refreshments of wine and fruit, and a backstage tour!


Sounds good to me. The opening bid on that is $177. The value listed there is "priceless." But it wouldn't be priceless for me, because I don't know of 5 people who'd want to come with me. I'd have to pay them to come. That, on top of the winning bid... I guess I'll keep my bidding card down for that one.

Radiating Joy!

I'm participating in the holiday chorus at work again this year. We had one of our cafeteria performances yesterday. It was fun. Once again, they took me and one other woman aside and quietly asked us to stand in front of the microphone. But that's not what I want to focus on.

I want to talk about the absolute joy that radiated from our director's face throughout the entire performance. She was dressed in black with red sparkles in her sweater. She has straight black hair and was wearing red lipstick. As she directed us she had this HUGE smile on her face. She looked just like a doll. She was in her element - directing music. And the quality of the singing didn't affect her... because trust me, while a few of us can sing, there are many who have a hard time singing on pitch or even at the correct time. But in spite of that, she radiated joy during the entire performance. It was awesome and contagious.

One odd thing that happened to me, and I seem to recall this happening last year too, is that I got a little light-headed, like I wasn't breathing enough or correctly. We have one more performance so I'll focus on correct breathing. Don't want to hyperventilate my way through the entire thing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Whoaaaaahhh Nellie

Yikes. I guess it's true - if people keep telling you something over and over, eventually you'll start to believe it. Check out this article. Just have to chime in here with my 2 1/2 cents. I'll start with some quotes directly from the article.

"I'd like to take a little bit of responsibility for this nightmare." The source of that generous offer is far from evil. If anything, Nathan Gunn is the dimpled picture of Midwestern nice guy-ness -- think a younger, darker Russell Crowe without the edge. That's why he's volunteering to take the fall for men like himself -- opera's tantalizing new breed of baritone known as "barihunks."

Ok. Take responsibility for ... bloggers (not me) coining this phrase and applying it to you? Oh come on. No no no. Whoa Nellie! Reign in that horsie! That's so the opposite of nice guy-ness. Sorry. In fact, to me, the entire article has an undercurrent of "not such a nice-guy." For example, about teaching:

...when he encounters students who model themselves after Luciano Pavarotti's physical example, he gives them a talking-to.
Oh, that is SO nice. "Hey! I don't care how much talent you have. You're too FAT! Lose the flab or you'll never get hired!" OUCH.

Although I guess I do (or did, at one point) fit into the category of
breathless blogs written by devoted admirers.

But the stalkers - I can safely say I don't do any of that. I agree that it's spooky for people to take your picture on the street without you even knowing it. And then ask you to sign it. People have chutzpah! And they also forget that everyone is human. They think celebrities belong to everyone. I witnessed that first-hand at the Met Opera stage door when I met Juan Diego Florez. And got his photo. With his permission. Next to me.

Speaking of Juan Diego Florez. He and the Barihunk and Joyce DiDonato are doing Barbiere together in Los Angeles this month. I've finally gotten over the disappointment of not seeing them all together in Chicago as planned. Perhaps one day the three of them will perform it together at the Met.

Speaking of the Met, I called them. Again. Apparently my tickets for Carmen and Die Zauberflote weren't resent because they had printed the passes for me to pick up. So in my most recent conversation, the passes have been canceled and the tickets are allegedly in the mail, for real. Uh huh. We'll see.

So back to my original topic. Here's a clip from a recent production. Enjoy.


video

Monday, November 30, 2009

Press!

Well, just a mention. In a list of names. Before the performance. Here. Near the bottom. My first appearance in the press in relation to singing!

No reviews out there, as far as I can tell. What a relief! I'm not quite ready to be torn apart in a public forum. Um, yeah, I'll get back to you when I am ready for that.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vocal Rest

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I haven't sung much for the past two days. I haven't really been home, or when I have, we've had guests over, so my vocal cords have been off-duty. I actually like these unexpected "forced" rests. I hummed a bit this morning and then was singing a little and I feel like I sound better than before. It's hard for me to not sing bits and baubles when I'm home so I don't get that vocal rest very often. I should make an effort to take a day off now and then. It's like exercising at the gym - sometimes you need a day off to give your muscles a chance to rest and repair. I'm sure I've heard/read/been told this about singing. I just forget until by chance it happens to me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Even More Layers

Well of course now I watch that video and cringe, cringe, cringe. I know, the video quality is nothing like Real Life. The horrid beginning is more horrid to me than to anyone else. Sometimes I watch and I'm like, hey, that sounds ok... and other times I'm like, Ohmygod, that note, that screech, what was I thinking. I also feel like I didn't stay in character the entire time. I can totally see my worried expression at the beginning, then other times I sort of lapsed out of it. But I guess the bottom line is: I had a great time, people applauded instead of laughing at me and I am learning a lot - I mean, just seeing how my reactions show up in my face and body - that's something I can learn from, learn to improve my stage presence. Also the bow. Had no idea what to do. Was sort of shocked at the explosion of applause and the shouts of "Brava!" (That loud one was Husband!!) So all those little things, in addition to adding layers to my vocal and singing technique, will make me a better performer in addition to a better singer. Just more layers, more layers. And some, I'm learning, you have to experience in order to even realize they exist.

To change the subject for a moment, I received the info on how to apply to be a super in Carmen. I have to send an arts resume and a full body photo. I'll have to dig up last year's resume and add the singing experience. Then I've been chatting with a friend who is a photographer and she's been giving me some tips on how to get a nice looking full-body pose that doesn't look like the camera is aiming up (or down) your nose. So if I get in, the performances are the first two weekends of Feb, with rehearsals the few weeks prior. They're all over the northern half of the state, and one is in Baltimore. Remember last February... or was that March? When I wanted to go to Baltimore and there was a huge snowstorm? Hm. Anyway, one step at time. Let's get a photo submitted and wait to hear from them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Recital Report

The moment the first note came out of my mouth and I realized that I had a frog, yes a FROG, in my throat, I heard my teacher's voice in my head:

SING THROUGH IT, SUSAN! JUST SING THROUGH IT!

So I did. And the first pause in the singing I did a little throat clear and it was smooth sailing. I forgot where I was and just sang and had fun. Well, I didn't totally forget where I was. There was a step down in front of me and I really really didn't want to, you know, fall... so I did glance down when I moved. The split railings gave me a perfect place for the asides.



I was definitely nervous before but was ok once I got out there. Then the frog in my throat threw me for a loop. Next time I'll give a 15 second explanation of what I'm singing, to get through any future frogs. Ribbit.

Everyone who sang was great. Everyone. Some of the singers have a lot more experience and it shows. But everyone was great. I still have a hard time believing that I was one of them.

Afterwards Husband gave me a bouquet of red roses - hooray Husband!

The woman who gave me the lessons told me I was awesome and that she was so proud of me. She said I "got" it and now that I can sing it like that I'll always be able to. Everyone was so nice, congratulating everyone and telling each other how great everyone was. The mother of one of the other singers asked where I study and thought I was college-aged. She asked me what I'm majoring in! I ended up telling her that I began studying about 2 1/2 years ago, at the age of 39. She said she thought I was brave to start studying at that age and to get up in front of others to sing. I was like, hey, I have a kid. Once you have a kid you can do anything. It's true!

They had brownies and wine so we hung around a little but I hadn't eaten dinner and as much as I love brownies and wine, I needed some real food, so we left.

Ok, when's the next one?????

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tonight I Become an Opera Singer

Woot! Great voice lesson this morning. Before the lesson I went with Alex and Husband to most of Alex's lesson. What a way to warm up! Besides warming up vocally, in Alex's class we had to run and stomp around the room according to the speed of a rhythm the teacher played. There was other running, standing and sitting and so on. A full body warm-up. Then I went to my lesson. We went over Una Donna. I rang out that G, for the most part. My teacher gave me some tips. Nothing new - more like reminding me things, like, jumping off the lower note to bounce to the G, and not thinking of it as a jump. Same old story. We didn't sing too much. After that we went through the song books together to think about what other songs I'd like to eventually sing. She is so sad she can't make it tonight but I'm going to text her right after I sing to let her know how I thought I did. She said that she has found that the things we worry about the most before a performance usually go fine, and we can be surprised by what does go in an unexpected direction. That, she said, is the joy of live performance.

After the lesson I went straight to Sondra's for a fabulous massage. Then we went out to a coffee shop for lunch, and now Alex and I have been playing all afternoon. Soon I'll neti (again) and then start getting ready, no doubt far to early. Then I'll sit around in my nice clothes trying not to sweat. I wrote that somewhere, was it here, yesterday? That wouldn't surprise me. I'm very excited and a bit nervous, which means my brain is even looser and wigglier than it usually is.

So here we go!! Two and a half years of lessons, and now I'm singing opera with other opera singers in front of an opera crowd. WOW!!!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tomorrowwwwwww!!!!

I have been vacillating between excitement and fear about tomorrow. Mostly excitement!! With occasional bouts of nausea thrown in. And every time someone I know tells me they're coming, my stomach does a flip. But other than that, it's all good. I mean, I'm definitely nervous. And excited. I know I can sing the song well enough, even if I don't get that resonance on that one note.

Now... what to wear? I'm leaning toward the long black skirt with the flowers, a black lacy sleeveless top and a small sweater. And rhinestones, of course. So the skirt in that picture with a different top. And some kind of shiny jewelry. And I'll bring my other fancy shoes, just in case the grey shoes with the black piping look odd. And in case my other grey shoe isn't available... although I'm sure it will be. I think they left it at the church for me.

Hair???? I know to keep it off my face. But up in a fancy braid, or pulled back into a barrette? Or loose? I don't have bangs so it wouldn't end up in my face. It'd look like this if I wore it loose, a little longer. And if I wear it in a barrette and then take it out, it'll be pulled back a little, kind of like this. I'm leaning towards a low, loose barrette, which would sort of look like this, only neater. Seriously, I'm not that concerned about how to wear my hair. I'm blogging about it because it naturally follows the "what I'm wearing" paragraph.

I have my regular voice lesson tomorrow morning, then a massage at a local salon, and then I'll fidget through the day, get ready too early and try not to sweat in my nice clothes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Counting Tickets

I was so happy to get the mail today and see that envelope from the Met with the replacement tickets. Or so I thought. I opened it and spread the 4 pieces of what I'll call "ticket stock" on the table. One had my name and address and was used as a mailing label. That left... 3. My first thought was that they had sent 1 ticket for each performance. No... the 2nd piece of "ticket stock" I looked at had the billing and credit info on it. That left two. Two tickets for La Fille. The Internet order. The telephone order tickets were not in the envelope. I peeled that thing apart to make sure. Then I called. Of course my super friendly helper from the other day wasn't there. And the woman who answered had her automatic reply: Oh, you lost the tickets? You'll have to show up at the box office two hours before curtain on the day of the performance to pick up passes...

Um... no. I resolved this all last week... didn't I? She checked the computer and said she saw the authorization to resend all the tickets. I told her I got tickets for La Fille only, and asked if it was possible that since the other tickets had a different order number, perhaps they were mailed separately? She said no, all six tickets were mailed in the one envelope. Um... no? I'm holding the contents of the envelope. Two tickets. She said, no, there are 6. And if I've lost them, I'll have to come to the box office on the day of the performance, two hours before curtain... NO!!! Is anyone LISTENING? And you'd THINK that they'd have the phonetic spelling of the operas available to the people who answer the phone so at least they'd pronounce them correctly. I can't even remember how she butchered Die Zauberflote. I heard the Z and knew which one she meant, barely. So I left a message for the guy with whom I spoke last week.

Why oh why can't they get this right???? It's not that difficult. 3 operas. Print the tickets. Mail them. Am I missing something here?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sheep Jumping Out

Saw my "alternate" voice teacher today. We went over all sorts of breathing exercises (at one point she had me hook my thumbs under my arms and put my hands on my boobs?!!) and talked about keeping my jaw dropped down and back, mouth open, tongue relaxed, soft palate raised, breath in control... all at once. She told me to think of the air as going up and over, onto the soft palate and out between the eyebrows. I know what she means because when I get it it feels right and good and I like how it sounds. And I see sheep jumping over a fence. Seriously, the image of sheep jumping over a fence in a very peaceful field, somewhere in England, all graceful, popped into my head. I didn't conjure that up on purpose, I swear!!

And it still seems like when I get to a g something happens and I lose the resonance. She said she can tell I'm getting tense about it and to relax - and that she knows it's easier said than done! She said not to worry if I don't get the resonance on that note on Saturday - I'll still sound nice and will smile and be cute and everyone will like me. She was so so sweet. And she said so many funny things. I have to listen to the recording because of course I don't remember now - except the boob thing, of course. That was to help me feel my ribs expand outward as I inhaled. We also looked at the music books I have and she gave me advice on what types of songs to do next. I sang Gretchen for her and she said it sounded really really good, and maybe I can do that for the next recital. So I'll work on all of it with my regular teacher on Saturday and I'll just do my best on Saturday night.

Oh and when I told her about the shoe incident she said, "Yep. You're a soprano."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My New Nickname

Yesterday ended with a true Cinderella moment. But first...

Voice lesson in the morning. My teacher was a bit out of sorts. She had just had a death in the family and was leaving that afternoon on a 3 hour drive for the funeral. So she was a bit out of it. But we pressed on. She was very excited to hear about the rehearsal last week. I told her about the lesson. She was pleased and said that when I'm ready to switch teachers I know have someone to switch to. I was like, wait! Are you trying to tell me something? Like, was she moving or something? She laughed at that and said that it's perfectly normal for singers to switch teachers every few years or so, for a fresh perspective on things, and that no, she'll be around for the long haul. Whew.

Unfortunately she can't make it to the recital because it's her mother's 80th or 85th birthday, I forget which but some birthday milestone, and the party that was scheduled for this weekend got moved to next weekend because of the funeral.

Then, rehearsal. It was fun. I was nervous because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to produce the sound we had practiced during the week. But I did fine. The rehearsal was in the preschool classroom and the piano area is set apart from the rest of the room. It wasn't like a rehearsal where we practiced going up and down on stage. It was more like, practice with the accompanist to make sure he/she knows what you want. I spoke with the woman who's accompanying me. She's so so sweet. She explained that my job is to sing. Her job is to pay attention to me and play to how I sing. I never thought of it like that but that's good - I don't have to worry at all, really, what she's doing. And she's good - she really does listen and change according to what I sing. I told her how I have little experience singing with a real life accompanist and I really like the organic nature of it - it's so much more satisfying then singing along with the CD accompaniment.

After I sang I hung around and chatted a little. And then when I was getting ready to leave, I changed from my heels back into my hiking shoes, like I always do. Then when I get home I always put my shoes away in their box with the paper stuffed into them. Neurotic, maybe, but I like my nice shoes to stay nice. So yesterday I got home and there was just one shoe in my bag. OOPS!! I called and luckily some people were still hanging about, so someone is taking care of my shoe for me until next week. "Don't worry, Cinderella, we'll keep your shoe safe," is what they said. Yeah. My new nickname, no doubt.

Today we got an electric keyboard and stand. 88 keys, piano action, the whole deal. I love it. Alex loves it. Husband loves it. And the music store had a promotion going on - 10% off if you bring in a can of food to donate to the local food bank. I ran to the store next door and for under a dollar I got $45 off my purchase. Nice!

I have another mid-week rehearsal with my "new" teacher this week, then one more voice lesson on Saturday morning, before the real performance. A bunch of my neighbors and coworkers are coming!!! Wow!! I'm sure I'll fret more about that later in a post closer to the date.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stereo Vision and Ticketing Issues

I've been practicing the techniques I learned this week. I keep thinking, what if I forget? And then I get to the rehearsal on Saturday and I can't do it? After she spent all that time with me, helping to achieve that resonance. Silly, I know, considering I can achieve it. I'm still working on the consistency.

I've been thinking about how I laugh when I like how I sound. I think I've described here before what I like about live opera - how the singer's voice vibrates through your entire body. It's amazing, a visceral experience. And when I can achieve that resonance, it resonates throughout my own body. I don't know if it's reaching anyone else's body, but I feel it in mine. Mostly in my head, but still it's my entire body. Once I get there, I have to relax into to it to maintain it. And when I feel it I get so excited that I laugh and I lose it. It's kind of like making yourself see the 3D in those 3D pictures. Sort of. You have to relax and go blurry and then when part of it comes into focus your brain will catch it and bring the rest of it into focus. If you let go of that state of mind you'll lose the picture. So it's not exactly like that, but the idea is sort of similar.

I haven't told my teacher yet that I had this extra lesson. Is that weird? Should I have told her? I don't think it matters. I will ask her to listen to me sing Una Donna to see if I can do what I'm trying to do with it. And of course I'll tell her. I just didn't call her or email her or anything like that.

And OH! I have to write about my customer service incident with the Met.

I ordered tickets the day they went on line, in August. To date I still haven't received them so this morning I emailed to find out what the deal was. Here, read it yourself. I cut off the names to protect the innocent, ha ha.

Hello,
I made the attached ticket order online in August. I also ordered tickets on the telephone earlier that same day for Carmen in January and Die Zauberflote in April. Can you give me an idea of when the all tickets will be mailed out? Or, if they were mailed out already, I never received them. What is the procedure if that is the case?
Thank you for your help,

*****

Thank you for contacting us.

We regret your tickets did not arrive at your mailing address and we have processed passes for you to pick up at the Box Office. Our Box Office is located in the North End of the Front lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House.

Your passes will be available for you to pick up starting two hours prior to curtain time for each performance and we recommend you allow at least 45 minutes for any lines that may have formed.

As you may know, Lincoln Center is currently undergoing redevelopment. Access to buildings, parking garages and the ramp in front of the Plaza may be diverted to an alternate entrance. Please allow extra travel time to adjust for any delays you may encounter during this construction. To obtain the most current information, please call 212.546.2656. We appreciate your patience during this time and apologize for any inconvenience you may experience.

Again, we apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused you. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us. Thank you for your support of the Metropolitan Opera.

Sincerely,

***********

Thank you so much for your quick reply.

I'd much rather have the tickets in hand prior to the performance to avoid standing in lines on the day of the performance. Also, for some of the performances I am meeting a friend who will be arriving separately, so she will need her ticket before hand. I have not had problems receiving tickets in the mail in the past.

Here is the info:

My telephone order number was xxxxxxx.
The tickets were:
Carmen - Jan (details details details)
Die Zauberflote - April (details details details)

The email order number was xxxxxx
La Fille du Regiment -
(details details details)

I spent a total of $630.

Please resend the tickets to me at:

(my name and address)

My telephone number is xxxxx

I will send you an email to confirm that I've received the tickets when they arrive. If for some reason the original tickets also come I will of course let you know and will either destroy them or return them, whatever your preferred procedure is.

Thank you so much for your attention to my request.


*******

I regret that we are not able send you replacement tickets as our records indicate these tickets were printed and mailed on August 18th.For security reasons, all passes for lost tickets are held at our box office for pick up. It is not our intention to inconvenience you in any way. This procedure is in place to ensure that you will have tickets in your possession for the performance. We do not want to risk losing your tickets a second time. If you prefer to have your friend pick up the passes (one person can pick them up), you may send us her name and indicate the performances. She will need the order number (xxxxxx or xxxxx) and photo identification to pick up the tickets; however, she will not be required to present the credit card used for purchase.

If the tickets do turn up in the interim, please contact us again and we will remove the passes to allow you to gain entrance with the original tickets. Sometimes customers do find misplace tickets in with other mail or elsewhere prior to the performance dates.

Please let us know if you require further assistance.

Thank you for supporting the Metropolitan Opera.

***********

I understand that your records show that the tickets were printed and mailed and that you have security procedures in place. I also understand that you have no intention of inconveniencing me or any of your customers.

However, it is not possible for me to alter my plans for the evenings I am attending the opera in order to stand in line up to 45 minutes. It sounds as if the original tickets have already been deactivated. Therefore it makes no sense to me why you can't resend a me a set of tickets or else the passes. Again, I paid over $600. That may not seem like a lot of money to many of your customers, but it is a huge amount to me. After paying that sum of money I do not feel I should be inconvenienced simply because your records show the tickets were mailed. Bottom line is, I didn't get them. You did, however, charge my credit card.

I would like to have the tickets in hand prior to the dates of the performances. I will be traveling into New York from central New Jersey for each performance and have made plans for before the performances. After paying over $600 for these tickets, I find it unreasonable to be asked to alter my plans stand in line for possibly up to 45 minutes. Perhaps the passes can be mailed out instead? You have all of my info in your system. I can provide you my credit card number over the phone if that would help you process my request. Certainly there must be a way you can honor my request. Perhaps you can pass my email along to a supervisor who is able to circumvent these security procedures.

Please call me if you would like additional information such as the credit card information.

etc etc


She didn't respond to that email so I called about an hour later. I spoke to a very nice man who immediately said that of course they can print out new tickets and I should have them within two weeks. He gave me his name and extension and said to call him directly if there were any problems. So... why couldn't the woman do that after I sent her two emails asking them to do so? It's not like they tear and take the ticket - they scan a bar code. And she told me in the email that the originals have been deactivated. The man on the phone agreed with me and took care of it. He could see the emails while we were speaking so I didn't need to explain a thing. He figured that since there were two different orders, it's possible that someone might have pulled them aside to combine them into one envelope and somehow an error was made. He said there is no record of the tickets being returned to them, and it's possible that the post office lost the mail. (two orders?) But none of that matters. He was super sweet. I guess I learned my lesson - next time, call first.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Secret SURPRISE Phone Call

Banawoman, a good friend who I've mentioned here in the blog before, was lucky enough to go to a musical event this evening near where she lives. She called me before and after, for we always communicate telephonically before and after these events. But somehow, and I'm not complaining, mind you, her phone accidentally dialed mine during the performance, and stayed connected for about 2 minutes. What a treat! I'm not at liberty to say what the event was, so there will be no links, although my long time readers can no doubt guess the what and the who of it. It was bizarre and cool and there was no way in heck I was hanging up even if it was somewhat against the rules. I mean, it was a mistake. She probably meant the turn the thing off and instead hit redial. Who knows? Either way, I "suffered" through the guilt and let the phone disconnect itself.

There had been a chance that I'd come into a new set of photographs for the other website from the evening from a different source (not Banawoman, for, like me, she does not "sneak" media, and accidental phone calls that are not recorded don't count), but apparently that is not to be - people were specifically requested by the performers to NOT take photos due to "a recent unpleasant photo experience" they had. Wow, that sounds so... gossipy. And you know me, I try to stay away from gossip. So I'm staying away from that one. I honestly have no info. Well, that's not true. I do have an inkling, but it doesn't involve me, and that makes it gossip, so...

I wonder if at the next event they'll make an announcement, "please do not call your friends during the performance, accidentally or on purpose..." *sigh* It wouldn't surprise me.

Moving right along...

Right. Off to bed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Giggling Soubrette

Fabulous, fabulous voice lesson today with the woman I mentioned before. She lives in this beautiful old house with a gorgeous view. I instantly felt comfortable, which is good since I was getting a voice lesson and it wouldn't be a good lesson had I been uptight. I told her my grandfather's story, she told me some things about herself and we got to work. Basically she helped me focus my breath to a point between my eyes, above my nose, to create a resonance in my head. Basically. Of course it's more complicated than that - we went up and down the scale and worked on achieving the sound with different notes and vowels. She had me talking like Julia Child. She told me to relax my throat as if I were vomiting. Of course that made me laugh. I never thought of vomiting as a relaxing activity. But she pointed out that when you vomit, your throat opens up to let it all out so you don't choke. She also had me closing off the top of my nose as if I were swimming underwater. She had me hold a 5 pound weight out in front of me. I had noticed them sitting there next to the recorder and thought it was an odd place for them... now I know why they were there. Holding the weight had the same effect as when my teacher has me sit on the wall or do yoga - it got me to focus my breath to where it needed to be. Then when I achieved the resonance and the bright sound that we were striving for, I'd have to stop singing because I always started to laugh. She laughed too and said that my laughter was from the joy of making music. It sounds really hokey to put it into words like that, but it was great at the time. And when it all came together - the resonance, the brightness, the air pressure and the open throat - it took off on its own. Until I started laughing of course. But it felt great. It really did.

We went over Una Donna and she helped me recreate that feeling in parts of the song where I was losing it. Specifically it was the G. She said I have a passaggio there and I have to flip my voice over to the other side of the shelf. Funny that she used the same term for the upper passaggio that I've been using myself to describe how I manage the lower passaggio - getting over the shelf.

She said that in her opinion I am a soubrette. I nodded and then looked it up as soon as I got home. No, it's not a hot-dog. But I like the description so I'll say ok, I'm a soubrette. Not that I want to lock myself into one type of singer or another. But since I'm not out there auditioning for flirty, street-wise sidekick roles, or any roles for that matter, I think I'm ok with the idea of the label. Plus it makes me seem more official. If someone asks, I can say, "Oh, me? I'm a classic soubrette soprano."

She was so sweet. She asked me about what I'm singing and gave me recommendations of songs to learn. She asked what my teacher and I are working on, vocally, and I said that we are working on getting that full sound at those notes on certain vowels - basically the same stuff. But hearing it described a different way from a different teacher really did make a huge difference. She said she didn't want to... how did she put it... she didn't say "step on her toes," but she was concerned about not wanting to offend my teacher by offering me advice. I assured her that my teacher will be thrilled by any progress I make, no matter how I make it.

I'm sure there's more fun stuff that I'm leaving out, but that's what I can remember now. I recorded the lesson. I can't wait to listen and practice and giggle with disbelief at how I sound.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Still a Disbeliever... Almost

It's slowly sinking in that I was in a room of opera singers yesterday and I WAS ONE OF THEM! I wasn't the super waiting for my turn to walk silently onstage. It's crazy! When I started voice lessons I never imagined that I'd one day be able to get up and sing with other singers. OTHER, because I am one of them. It's so cool.

I spoke with the woman I mentioned yesterday, the one who will be giving me a free lesson tomorrow. Again she was so so sweet! She told me that some of the other singers yesterday had the same problem I had - a lack of fullness on certain vowels at certain pitches. I kept thanking her and she told me that she LIKES doing it, that it gives her joy to help a singer improve. The way she kept telling me the good things - my breath control, the sound for most of the song, how relaxed and natural I seemed, and then how when she told me what needed improvement she said that other people have the same problems - it shows me what a good teacher she is. She didn't just get up and tell me what I had to fix - she told me what was good and made me feel like I wasn't the only one needing to fix something. The psychiatry behind teaching is so important!

I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow. Just keep thinking, Julia Child. It's funny because when I was a kid my mom and I would watch her show together and at the end when she said, "Bon Appetit!" and then the music would start, we'd just burst out laughing like it was the silliest thing we'd ever heard. And that image comes to mind every time I remember yesterday's advice. But the important thing is, it works! I put some Julia into my singing and voila! The dish had added flavor. Another reason it made me laugh was because I used to pretend to be an opera singer as a kid and that's how I'd sing. Who knew that all that pretending would come in handy 35 years later.

So slowly, slowly, I'm starting to believe.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Yummy Day!

Wow wow wow! Fabulous day.

Voice lesson this morning went pretty well. I warmed up beforehand so we'd have more time to work. Learned a new vocalise with triplets going up and down, then went over parts of Batti Batti.

This afternoon I had a rehearsal for the recital in two weeks. I was nervous but excited. I sang Una Donna. They cut me off near the end - they being, the man and woman in charge of the group. They wanted to give me advice on how to get through a certain part - they kept apologizing for offering advice!! I'm like, pour in on! As much as you want!! It was this one part of the song near the end where the woman said I was getting off pitch because I was losing ... I can't remember her exact words... but that I needed to use my entire head as my instrument and bring the sound up to keep it at the right pitch. She said to think of how Julia Child spoke, and use that sort of tone or practice or whatever to maintain the loftiness in the sound. So I tried it again and it did sound better. THEN she asked if I'd be willing to come see her one day this week for a quick coaching FREE OF CHARGE!!!! She's a retired opera singer - she has sung with some Very Famous People. She was super sweet. Both she and the man in charge kept telling me that I have a beautiful instrument and how easy it is to fix what it is I'm doing wrong. I was like, "Beautiful instrument? Me? ME?" Ohmygod. I couldn't believe it. She and I spoke for a while. She said that even after 62 years of singing she still has to think about it to produce that lofty "Julia Child" sound, but once you get there, it feels natural and it feels so good it's like an orgasm. Yes, that's what she told me. She was telling all sorts of great stories about people she's sung with (like one Famous and Handsome tenor whose wife was always around and wouldn't let any women near him!). So we exchanged phone numbers and we'll talk about me coming for a quick lesson/coaching. How friggin cool is that? And as I was leaving the guy in charge told me that my Despina was "cute as hell." Cute as hell. Love that!

Alex and Husband came to retrieve me so they got to see the place and meet everyone too.

Wow. Professional opera singers and teachers told me I have a beautiful instrument and that my singing was "cute as hell." Does it get any better?

Of course it does, because it's Saturday, which means that after my and Alex's music lessons this morning we went to the farmers' market and got those mouth-watering tamales, which we had for dinner. And also on the way to the car after the rehearsal we passed a chocolate shop where I bought a few uber-fancy chocolates at $1.50 a pop, including one with cayenne and one with cardamom, cayenne and other yummy things mixed in.

AND my super comfy old-lady nightgown came in the mail today and is in the dryer as I type this.

So this day has left me all giggly and happy. A yummy day. I was long due.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Warming Up and Staying There

Went poking around this blog to find info about warming up. I haven't had time to fully read what appear to the most relevant entries. It was very hard to choose. But I did print a few out, double sided, and then punched holes so I can put them in my binder. So I will read it. I also made an extra set for my voice teacher.

However, while there is a wealth of fabulous information there, it doesn't tell me what I really want to know: How long does a warm-up last? If I have a rehearsal from 3-5 and I don't know at what point during that rehearsal it'll be my turn to get up and sing, when should I be warming up? Should I warm up at home for 15 minutes, then in the car for 10, then keep quiet for the next 10 until I arrive at 3? Then what if I don't sing until 4:30? Am I still warmed up? Is it all lost? Should I warm up until the moment I park the car? Should I wear a scarf? Would that make a difference? Or should I forget about all that and just take a xanax? Hahaha ok maybe not. I'd still warm up beforehand.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rrrrrrroling Along

Alex is trying very hard to roll his Rs. I have him saying, "Pot of tea," over and over, really quickly, so he can feel sort of where his tongue should be. Learned that trick in a Spanish phonetics class in college. So every now and then I hear him practicing. He's getting better. Maybe I should show him this:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Progress!

Great voice lesson today!!! I warmed up beforehand, like I usually do, but instead of warming up in the car up to the time of the lesson, I warmed up at home and was pretty much silent in the car for the 15 minute drive. Did that make a difference? One of the many questions I have about warming up... that could be its own blog entry.

So we did all these vocal exercises up and down the scale and I was in great voice. Then we did Batti Batti and my teacher was impressed!! She said I sounded really really nice. She jokes that I'm the poster child for a good voice student, because all her other students are teenagers and they don't pick up the music or practice in between lessons. Yeah well when I was a teenager, whenever I sang my two older brothers would tell me to shut up and that my voice stinks. So I can imagine some of them might be in a similar situation that makes them self-conscious. Hell they're teenagers - everything makes them self-conscious. Plus I pay for my lessons... but that's not why I practice. It's the "I don't give a crap what you think" attitude about people overhearing me practice. And as I've said before, my neighbors have all heard me. And I love singing, and I want to sound better and to learn more more more!!! THAT'S the real reason I practice - because I WANT to! I can't NOT sing. Hokey hokey hokey I know. Anyway she gave me some exercises to do for a few of the tricky spots in Batti Batti - the "ah" sound at a certain note is coming out sort of strained, so she reminded me to keep what she calls a "dumb jaw," a wide open mouth to create vertical space. For myself, I also think it forward, sort of up and out, and I have to remember to use my low breath. The more I practice, the more easily I can fit it all together. So I was really pleased at the end of the lesson.

Alex started his lesson today too. He's getting a 30 minute private lesson which will mostly be a piano lesson but will include a lot of music theory appropriate for his current musical knowledge and skill. His teacher is excited because he picks it up so quickly. She said he really fits best in-between the levels of the group classes, so private lessons are perfect for him.

I'm thinking that if he's learning some piano, we really ought to pick up an electric keyboard for him to practice on. But do I need to get one with piano action keys? They're so much more expensive, and who knows if he'll continue with it.

I've decided that I will save the warming-up questions for another post, as it is now 12:01 am and although daylight savings time means an extra hour of sleep for most people, young children aren't clued into that. But the good news is, he'll go to sleep at 6:30 tomorrow night.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tamales are Calling for Me

You should hear Alex sing Art is Calling for Me. He's a pro. I just hope it doesn't get him harassed by his peers as he gets older.

His latest and greatest, in my opinion, was yesterday, when he was singing Una Voce Poco Fa, but instead of "e cento trappole" he was singing, "Cecilia Bartoli." I asked him about that... apparently he thought those were the words. Husband, of course, knows that they're not, which is why HE sings, "a chinchilla barfed on me" in that spot. Charming, no?

The conservatory has been able to arrange private lessons for Alex with his former teacher. He starts tomorrow. I'm so happy! He's happy about it too. I wonder what she'll do with him.

So it's all working out. Since his lesson will be 30 minutes to my 45, Husband will have to take them. Then they'll go to the farmer's market where, besides fresh produce and local meat, this little hole-in-the-wall Mexican grocery store sells fresh tamales from a big container in the back. No doubt someone is up at 3am making these to sell every Saturday at $1.50 each. You unwrap those babies to find chicken or pork with red, green or mole sauce, surrounded by corn meal. Spicy enough to burn but not so spicy that they ruin your day. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. My only fear is that the health department will one day realize what's going on and will shut them down. Until then...Saturday's lunch AND dinner taken are care of each week.

Now I'm so distracted by the thought of those tamales that I can't write any more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First of Three

There are three Carmens going on over the next several months. Well there are probably a lot more, but for this blog's sake, there are three. The first doesn't really affect me, except that I have friends in Madison, opera lovers, who, if they can get a babysitter, will try to make it to Madison Opera's production. Here's an interview with that cast:



My Carmen #2: My local opera co. If I'm not supering I'll go see it.
And Carmen #3: January at the Met.

And as usual, the YouTube box won't fit in my screen no matter how I format it, so click over to youtube if you want to see all of everyone's head.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Saturday!

Two types of singing on Saturday.

Morning: Voice lesson. Of course, the mere presence of my face in front of the computer screen, fingers poised over the keyboard, has made me forget what I wanted to write about the lesson.
Um, we went over Gretchen, she insisted that I didn't sound screechy, I told her I wanted to attack Batti Batti, she gave me the CD accompaniment for Art is Calling to Me, and in between and mostly before all that we did a bunch of different vocal exercises, including some new ones. She said that eventually we'll speed them up, but for now I should practice them slow and work through the break, etc.

Evening: Costume party with karaoke!!

Here I am with Husband:



Can you guess my costume?

And karaoke!! No, I did not get up there and show off with some high soprano song. Oh no. There were plenty of "singers" there doing that. I never planned on it. Instead I chose "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." It was LOWWWWWW. And I rocked it. Look!



There was a guy there who is a singer and sings baritone with a local chorale group. Gave him the Opera Project info. And I sang backup when he sang Monster Mash.

Of course "I Will Survive" was on the list, so I grabbed the mic and called all the women in the room to the stage for a mandatory ensemble performance. They didn't know what they were singing until they got there. Sadly no one caught it on video, but here's a photo:



That's me in the middle with my hands at my breast, being dramatic. You can't just stand there and sing - you have to LIVE it!

Cutting Costs

Shirts can be expensive. Opera companies do what they can to cut expenses. Sometimes that means, no shirt.



Edited to add:
Dang that was quick. Up and down in a day. I wonder... no, not going there.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

By Request

Alex just asked me to sing Una Donna and then Vedrai Carino. Haven't sung VC in a long time. Wow! I sang it the best I ever have. I impressed myself. Notes that before had seemed difficult or sounded screechy to me were easy and sounded nice, natural. I could feel the difference in how I'm now able to control my breath, relax my jaw and open. And a section that before I could never seem to get right just came out correctly. I heard myself singing it - it felt right and it sounded right. If I thought about it I would've lost it so I didn't think, I just sang.

Maybe the key for me is to have the listener bounce on a mini-trampoline while I'm singing. Oh and of course to put things away for a while to let my brain process them.

Friday, October 23, 2009

MishMosh

While away from the computer I can't even tell you how often I've thought, "Oh, I should blog about that." And now, while I'm sitting here, blank box in front of me, it all has flown. Of course. So instead, here's a mish mosh.

I've sent an email to the person who will be accompanying the recital of November 21. Haven't heard back... so I'll probably have to call. I'd so much rather email. Calling is so... personal. I have to interact without a chance to edit and revise. But I have to get the sheet music to her so I guess I'll have to initiate vocal contact.

Better TV still hasn't "activated" the Nathan Gunn interview. I even went and joined the site, thinking that it would make a difference, or that perhaps that would give me access to some part of the website where I could ask a question. No such luck. Perhaps eventually someone will figure it out and fix it.

I heard from the head of the early childhood education department at Westminster. She was in contact with Alex's music teacher from last year. The teacher is willing to give Alex private lessons, so now we just have to figure out the particulars. They are so accommodating. They really want to find a way to let him continue his musical studies. The head of the department taught Alex for a semester and recalls that he was very good at maintaining rhythm and picking up melodies, and that he has a beautiful singing voice. We all agree that he's not quite ready for their Choral Readiness class, offered to kids his age, due to his particular challenges. She said that he might benefit from piano lessons, as it would help improve his fine motor skills while also teaching music theory. We don't have a piano at home, but I'm sure we could pick up an electric keyboard, and if we're willing to shell out some $ we can get one with piano action on the keys. And his teacher is also a piano teacher. So it's all working out.

For last month's recital with the Opera Project, 3 or 4 people canceled last-minute due to illness. So on Saturday the guy in charge asked everyone for a backup aria, just in case. When I spoke with him this week to get the contact info for the accompanist, I told him that he could call me he runs into the same situation tomorrow. I hope they don't mind if I show up in costume... I'll be all warmed up from karaoke. He seemed to think I was involved in some sort of performance. We have been practicing all week, so I guess maybe I am. Sort of.

....

Just finished tucking Alex into bed. Every night I read a story and sing "Goodnight My Someone." Sometimes he sings along. Tonight he sang along and for the final note he sang it a third higher. On his own. No prompting from me. Wow. Of course, I couldn't get him to do it again. I think that was partly because of the words - what does he know of terms thirds or harmony? He just knew that it sounded cool. He continues to impress and amaze me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Strength

The rehearsals at work have begun for this year's annual holiday concert. We're doing most of the same songs as last year, which is good because I haven't been able to make all the rehearsals. But I finally made it to one today.

One of the songs we're doing is Mao Tsur, in 4 part harmony - soprano, alto, tenor and bass. (I can't find a version I like to link to, so if you don't know it, sorry.) So the director asks the group, "Who's singing soprano?" and every woman in the room raises their hand. So the woman who is also playing piano for us (and is probably one of the most talented musicians I know, more on that in a moment) says she'll do alto, and then they ask if I'll do alto because they need strong singers to carry the line. I almost looked behind me to see if they were talking to someone else. I did say I'll sing whatever part they need, but ... I don't feel like a strong singer. I'm a strong singer when I know the part. Usually. The alto part is not only very different from the melody, it's also all off, tempo-wise. I don't know the musical term but it sort of repeats the line after the melody - or in the middle - not exactly on the measure. Then it skips words to catch up. I wasn't feeling so strong about it... and we went over that alto line like 5 times and I still wasn't confident. The woman who plays piano said she couldn't sing and play at the same time. Correction - she said she couldn't sing that alto line and play the piece at the same time. I was surprised. She's that type of talented person who will look at a new piece of music and say, "Wait a sec... ok..." and then just play it. She can play anything on the piano. She has a beautiful singing voice. She probably plays other instruments too. She has two musically talented children. She studied music in school. Her family goes to music "camp" over the summer. So all I could think was, "I better make sure I'm standing near her when we sing this so I can follow along..." She's the strong singer who will be carrying the line ... not me. I will be the strong follower.

It was kind of fun to learn it though. I used to learn harmonies all the time. I'm out of practice. I'm really out of practice. And it's low. Is alto lower than mezzo even? Maybe. The low notes are low. When the notes went up on the staff it was like a drink of water - I felt relief, it was comfortable. So it's a challenge. I may not be the strong singer they think I am, but I guess I can give it a shot.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Six Hands

I feel I don't warrant all the congratulations I'm getting about that pseudo-audition. I mean, the guy told me beforehand that he just needed to hear me sing and then they'd put me in the program. Of course he could have said no, sorry, we don't want you, but I sort of got the feeling that anyone who could carry a tune could get in. If that's the case, do I really deserve all the congratulations and so on? On one hand, I never would have had the nerve to approach the guy if I didn't think I could sing through an aria in a halfway acceptable manner. On the other hand, it seems like anyone who can sing through an aria can sing with the group. On the third hand (break out the octopus, there will be lots of hands here), the other singers are "real." They have that super loud operatic sound. They're former opera singers and/or opera students in music school. And technically I think the part of the group I am with is called the Classical Singer Network, even though the recitals are all one event and everyone performs.

Ok, on the fourth hand... I did get up and sing. For someone in charge. Someone with the power to say, "Thanks but no thanks." I don't remember if I reported this in the last entry, but just before I began he asked how I was and I replied, "Nervous." "Good," he replied, "You should be." Then we began. So that's good. I mean, I did treat it like an audition. So it's good experience, even if was practically guaranteed to be successful. On the fifth hand, good experience for what? It's not like I can compete with opera students, ever. They are in a totally different league. This may be it for me. On the sixth hand, I shouldn't cut myself out of the game here. It's just the beginning, right? A few years of performance experience with this group while I continue to study and who knows what I'll be ready for.

I've come so far already. Should I be content with where I am? Because I'm not. I want to improve, gain confidence, get better, be pleased with my sound. I can certainly achieve the first three, and the fourth comes and goes depending on my mood. (meaning, check the calendar.)

Bottom line: No matter how "guaranteed" the spot with the group was, it's all good. And it can only get better.

Only six hands. I guess that leaves the octopus free to type with the two remaining tentacles.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cute!

Yes!! That's what the guy in charge of the Opera Project said about my audition. "That was really cute. So is that what you'll be singing at our next performance?"

YEAH!!!!!

It was so weird. I couldn't find the place at first. It was in a church, but not in the chapel. Someone in the chapel gave me directions that brought me almost to the right place, but I still had to wander a bit to find where I was supposed to be. When I got there I was the first one there other than the Head Honcho and the accompanist. They were so nice. They asked if I brought my music, I showed it to the pianist and she was all excited because she's currently accompanying a performance of Cosi somewhere else. So then I just took my coat off and suddenly I was singing. I mean, I don't know what else I expected. That's what you do, right? And I nailed every high note. Like, nicely. I was standing about 10 feet from the Head Honcho dude. He was looking right at me of course, and nodding, and I was doing my best to look at a spot just over his head. I actually laughed at one point because the prerecorded accompaniment I have is super fast, and I forgot to slow down for the last , "Col posso e voglio..." and then I laughed but of course kept on going. When I was done, after he said the cute thing, he said, "It's fine to laugh in the middle but make sure you have enough breath to finish the line." Ha! I didn't MEAN to laugh! It just happened. I suppose that's better than crying. And the moment I finished I was thinking that I could have done so much better. But I was so happy that I hit every high note, and I hit it well. No screeching, no cracking, just a nice clear sound. But still I felt like saying, "Wait! Let me do it again, I swear I can do it better!"

I hung out a little longer to meet some of the other singers. Then when they sang I was totally intimidated. They're either opera students or former professional singers who didn't continue pursuing a career, so they all have that huge sound. As they sang, I shrank smaller and smaller into my seat. And that wasn't easy considering we were in a preschool classroom and everything was miniature.

Here's the poster:




I have that karaoke Halloween party on the 24th so he's putting me into the program for November 21st.

I can hardly believe it. I'm singing with an opera group. People will pay to come. It's amazing! I did it! I studied and here I am, singing for real. It seems unreal!

On my way home I called my mom. I asked, "Wouldn't your father be proud?" She was like, "Oh yes! So wonderfully proud! As would your aunt!" so I said, "And what about my mother?" and she said that she too was very proud. So I had to fish for it, but I got it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Inspiration Revelation

I was just thinking about tomorrow's audition, and specifically about how every day on Facebook I see status updates from my Real Opera Singer friends about what show number they're on, what stage (pun!) of rehearsal they're in and so on. And I just realized that having worked with all those talented singers and seeing all their status updates is really inspiring! I know that they've all been at it for years, starting in college if not before, working their butts off, and I've been at it part-time for under 3 years. So by inspiration I don't mean that I feel like I can be where they are without the all the hard work. I am not delusional. (Not about that at least...) But they do inspire me to do my best. It even helps sometimes to imagine that some of them are there in the room, like I want them to be proud of me or something. Not exactly... but sort of. Maybe I just want to prove something, but not in any sort of mean way. I was the silent shy super who brought gummy worms and puzzle books to the green room. Well, not so silent, and not really that shy. But I did bring gummy worms and puzzle books. And now, holy crap, I'm singing. Not like they do of course. Like I do. Well enough to stand up in front of others and perform. Who ever woulda thunk?

I'm babbling. I'm exhausted. I'm singing tomorrow. I'm making much more a big deal out of it then the guy with whom I spoke on the phone did. He said that "everyone and their sister" will show up to sing. At the same time, he said "I just need to hear you sing, then we can put you on the program for the next performance." That's casual. I mean, he hasn't heard me sing. Isn't it premature to say he'll put me on the program? What if I completely screw up, forget the words, crack on half the notes, go sharp (rather than flat, which isn't usually a problem for me) or say or do something stupid. Like, what if I go to the bathroom there and part of my skirt is tucked into my panty hose. That would be embarrassing. Wardrobe/brain failure. What if, what if, what if. It'll be fine, I'll be fine, it's not that big a deal. I just don't want to assume anything, no matter what he told me, because we all know what happens when you assume. I've been through that myself this past year and look where it got me. Ok it didn't get or unget me anywhere. But I did go through it and we all ended up looking like asses. Or, as one of my friends calls her cat when he does something stupid, we all ended up looking like ass-clowns. Not sure what it means but it's funny. And back to the subject, I love to perform. I get such a rush. Even if the "performance" is an audition in a church daycare room. The real performances are downstairs in the chapel. So even if I don't get into the program, I'm hoping to have fun no matter what.

I will, of course, post soon after to tell you all all about it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Following My Own Advice

A few entries ago I said something about identifying a problem not being enough - once you know about it, you have to do something about it. I've been trying in dribs and drabs to solve this one. Over the summer I bought running shoes and a couple of super-duper sport bras. I was running a few times a week. Then Husband's teaching schedule got all wacky - he is out of the house Mon, Tues and Wed afternoons until after 9. So much for going for a run on those days. Now, previously I was able to have Alex be my personal trainer and we'd run through the house, banging into walls. It was very motivating when I was participating in a weight-loss challenge with my friends. In two months I lost over 10 pounds. Well now I'm taking this weight thing to the next step. I've set the DVR to record my fitness boyfriend, Gilad. (Aside: Every time I say his name I think of that Star Trek episode and I think, Darmok and Gilad at Tanagra.) Yes, Gilad, and his fascination with "the thigh." But that's free, or at least, it's one of the benefits of a service I'm already paying for. So I went ahead and ordered a couple of Billy Blanks Freestyle Funk DVDs. On sale of course. But even so, once I pay for something I guilt myself into actually using it. The only challenge to overcome is getting the time to do the workout with Alex interrupting. I try to interest him in doing it along with me, but that works for about, oh, 5 minutes before he "needs" me for something. Ok so here we go. I'm determined to get back at least some of that Tiny Person I used to be.

Other advice I'm following is Alex's. He said I should sing Despina on Saturday. In spite of the questionable quality of the higher notes on the video I posted, I do feel more comfortable singing it. I have more fun singing it. And when I relax and let loose, which oddly enough I can do if strangers are watching, I have a lot of fun. I know I can hit the notes if I use proper form. And I'm hoping that the fun overcomes any technical errors I might make. Plus from the way this guy was talking, they're not that picky? And when I saw the group a few months ago, my first impression was that I would fit right in. So we'll see!

Practiced some karaoke today. My friend and I (did I mention she's coming to see Mr Gunn in Grapes of Wrath with me?) sang the duets from Grease and then we did Heart - Magic Man, B52s- Love Shack (with interruptions to prevent our children from flooding her house), she sang Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend - Or I should say, she ROCKED it, totally awesome... we did so many others... and, of course, that old standard that I know only because it's here, Polka Dots and Moonbeams. And my friend stared at me like I was a freak. Well maybe I am. It's just so comforting to actually know the words when you sing karaoke. It's hard!

Ten days til the party. But first, two days till I Sing For Others. Well, sober Others, as opposed to Others at a party where there's karaoke. And alcohol.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who Am I?

The comments about the "Which Should I Sing" video both here and on facebook made me realize that one of the reasons I was so slow to incorporate proper breathing was the whole poofed-out stomach issue. On facebook someone said that she avoids any activity that requires her to poof out her stomach any more than it already is. I can relate to that. We (women) spend so much time sucking our abs in to look thin (at least, I do) that it was against my instincts at first to unsuck, or I guess I should say, to poof out, my stomach to get the breathing thing going in order to sing correctly.

Then, of course, there is my personal issue with my weight. Before I had Alex I was down to about 120 pounds. My weight varied between 117 and 122 at that time. I was 122 when I got pregnant, 155 I think at 38 weeks, 137 or so right after I gave birth and down to 125 again at some point in the past couple of years. So how did I gain almost 20 pounds back? Stress, finishing Alex's food off his plate, not finding the time to exercise… yes, yes and yes. So who am I? Am I the Tiny Person from my life Before Child? Or am I the Chunky Middle-Aged Mom? I cringe just writing that. We are bombarded with weight-loss ads everywhere we turn. Gym memberships, magic pills, trademarked diets and miraculous fitness equipment. The message is to lose, lose, lose. I just have to figure out if I'm a Tiny Person stuck in this bigger body, or if I'm a chunky person who used to be thin. Or maybe I just have to forget about those labels and just be happy wherever I am. Yeah, good luck with that…

The next who am I question: Mezzo or Soprano? I know, I know - don't categorize yourself into a voice type. Many people are considered one voice type but sound great singing songs that are categorized in the other. Diana Damrau sings Rosina. Cecilia Bartoli sings Despina. Of course they are the best of the best and can probably sing everything backwards while standing on their heads and it'll still sound beautiful. But this post isn't about them and their wonderfulness. It's about me. It's about how sometimes the soprano stuff is too high and the mezzo stuff is too low. But sometimes I can totally rock the soprano stuff. Sometimes the mezzo stuff sounds pretty good too. But other times I crack all over it because it's in That Range. What is going on? Why can't I be consistent? I know there are, as Alex would say, a hundred-infinity-nine reasons why. But obviously it's possible to overcome a few of those reasons and produce a passable sound, a consistent sound. It's frustrating that I can do it, sometimes, but just not all the time. Professionals do it all the time. Or if not, they're good at faking it.

Am I not practicing enough? I don't want to practice too much. I need to figure out what the right amount of practice time is to help coordinate the layers I've learned so far so they become habit. I need to build my core so that I don't end up with sore abs after singing one aria.

I already use the blog as a tool to help with my vocal identity issues. I'm thinking of using it to report my body issues as well. Not in a way that takes over the spirit of the blog, but as a way of having someone out there to report to each week. I used to do cat-pic Friday. Perhaps now I'll do weigh-in (or measure-in) Friday. There's a thought.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Video Bar

See over there, to the right? ---- > There's a video bar thingee. I'm trying to link it to specific videos of Alex being operatic but there's no way to tell it what video to put there. You can put keywords up, so I used "luindriel." I imagine it'll (randomly) display videos I've posted or possibly commented on. We shall see.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Picky Choosy

Had a pretty good voice lesson yesterday. Told my teacher about next week's auditionesque thing. We picked over Una Donna and also the Tipsy Waltz. She said either would be fine. I said I would ask my readers and she was into that. So now y'all have to listen to my teacher and help me pick which one to sing.

Tipsy Waltz is mezzo, French and short.
Una Donna is soprano, Italian and long.

I was home alone all day today so I recorded them and then put them together in a "Which one?" video. Here you go. And as you listen and remember that I will continue to practice connecting to the breath, using the low abs, dropping my jaw and all that other stuff for a fuller, more rounded sound. Please post a comment with your vote. Thanks!

video

Another benefit of being home alone all day was that I could sing without being told to shut up. Uh I mean, to stop singing. I didn't really sing all day, but at one point I put on this CD I had made of the accompaniment for all the pieces I've learned and I sang through that. I also faked through Art is Calling for Me. Last week I promised my teacher I wouldn't sing it yet and we didn't have time to get to it yesterday so I was just being goofy and not really singing it. No one was here to tell me to stop and the neighbors are all too polite. Although suddenly everyone was mowing their lawn... surely a coincidence...

My teacher had to cancel next week's lesson but I'll be calling her after I sing for the group.

So let's see, particulars from yesterday's lesson ... just picky stuff about pronunciation and timing in the songs, the lippiness of French and so on. Breath, using the abs, staying grounded, the usual stuff. She says she loves seeing how far I've come and how much better things sound now. That's nice to hear. And vocal exercises to practice... uh... yeah she gave me some but of course I don't remember them at the moment. Luckily they're all on the tape... assuming, of course, that it recorded.

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EDITING TO ADD:
No I'm not pregnant. I poof out my stomach to breathe and that adds to the fat to make it look like I'm 6 months along, but I'M NOT!!!!! !!!!!!!
Guess it's time to step up that diet and exercise regime...
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