Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bonus Features! Pep Talks! Tessitura! And Much Much More!

Great voice lesson tonight!

First we did Despina and I thought I did pretty well! I relaxed into it, became her, didn't fear the high note and just had fun. My teacher was impressed. Then while we were going over a few tiny things with that, two of her colleagues stopped in to help us with the "mezzo or soprano" debate. I sang If Music in soprano, mezzo and soprano again. The verdict: Split! I feel more comfortable with the soprano, my teacher likes the mezzo and the other two were split. One of them took a look at the music for both and saw that there is a possible key in between to transpose the thing to, and THEN she graciously offered to do it! She said she would try to get to it. How cool is that. We all agreed that the missing middle key would be perfect for me. I hope she can do it.

After they left my teacher started telling me the mistakes she wants to fix and I almost felt like she was annoyed. She wasn't, not at all. She kept saying how much I've improved, and how great it is that I actually listen to what she says and fix things between lessons.

I got a chance to tell her about how I often beat myself up and twist complements around. I usually have to scoot out of there for the next student, but the next student didn't show, so we chatted for another half an hour. I told her about my previous blog post, and about the nice comments people have been leaving, and how great it is to have the support of other students who are going through similar things. She understands all my self-doubt and other similar behaviors having done them all herself. We talked about my blogging, and how sharing what I'm going through helps me learn more about myself in a way that allows me to be a better singer. I feel like I have to be honest with myself, plus I have to allow myself to be vulnerable, in order to really put all I have into the music. I put that all here in the blog. Sometimes I forget that people read it! Let's see, we talked about building the voice, and how it takes time, and how I have to RELAX and be patient and relax and did I mention relax? Yeah tell me something I don't already know. She said singers often switch teachers after a few years just to get a new perspective on things. We talked about tessitura, and how some songs are there and some aren't, but we shouldn't just give up - we can build our voice and learn our way through it. Talking about building the voice led me to tell her about Susan Eichorn-Young's fabulous blog, and she said I should really look into trying to get to one of her workshops if I could. A total pep talk, which was just what I needed. And all thanks to the student who didn't show.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Own Worst Enemy = Me

Today while moving the laundry from the washer to the dryer I listened to myself sing in the echoing basement and realized that I sounded just terrible. And then something one of the neighbors said to Husband the other day came back to me in a flash: Have you considered duct tape? And then my brother this past weekend, also to Husband, How do you put up with this all day, while I was singing with my niece and nephew. Add to that, hearing over and over how much I've improved... well, I know it's a compliment, I really do, but in my twisted mind sometimes it translates to, "I must have really sucked before," since I don't like how I sound now. And then this evening, there I was in the basement, not liking what I was hearing at all. I forgot about how much I love studying voice, learning about music, learning about myself and all that - all I could think was that I've been wasting my time and money and I'll never have a pretty voice, and what the hell have I been doing to everyone around me and and and and, down that spiral ... and when I mentioned to Husband that I should just quit, he joked, "Hey, at least you'd be doing it at the end of the semester so you won't lose any money." I know he was kidding and that I have 100% support from him. But part of me thought, "Hm he's got a point there..." but THEN another part yelled in my head "NOOOOO!!!! You're continuing to study over the summer!!!" So that gave me hope in myself.

I know that this line of thought, all of it, from the beginning of the post, is all insane. I'm having a moment of self-doubt and it's turning into self-pity. The thing is, knowing that it's just some sort of moment and that it will pass doesn't make the moment any easier. I truly am my own worst enemy.

I just want to sound pretty. Is that too much to ask? I think I have to let myself like my voice. I have to hear the niceness in it, the good stuff, as I learn more and add more layers. I have to be patient - that's the hardest part! I want instant results!! Finally, I have to remember that building my voice as I have does not mean that I was bad before. It just means... it means I'm better than I was. No judgment on the past - just a relative comparison.

I'm not writing this to beg or ask for compliments. I just felt like sharing/venting/working through my self-doubts. This vocal journey I've been on feels like a roller-coaster ride sometimes. I'm up, I'm down, I'm all twisted around. The highs are high, the lows are low. I sound like such a drama-llama right now. I should probably stop typing and go slap some sense into myself.

Ok, off I go to do that now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's Fun to Have Fun!

The Cat in the Hat says, "It's fun to have fun BUT you have to know how."

So rather than sit here all mopey because I know that the Summer season at my local opera company is starting next week and I won't be a part of it... ok well in addition to sitting here all mopey... I'm suddenly getting very excited about my June adventures!

First - Studio recital - me and the teenagers! I love it! I never know if I should hang out with them since we're all students, or with their moms since we're the same age. Ok, yes, I end up with the moms, mostly because I don't know any of the pop-culture references so important to my fellow students. Actually the adventure starts the day before the recital. The day before the recital is Alex's 5th birthday and of course we're having a party. It'll be small. A few people are coming from about 90 minutes away so I'll drag a friend and possibly my sis-in-law to the run-through which happens to be smack dab in the middle of the birthday afternoon. My teacher is letting me go first for the run-through so I can arrive, sing and then run home to catch up with the gin-and-tonic crowd in my backyard. It's really mainly an opportunity to practice with the accompanist. So she handed out a permission slip (ha!) that said that only parents are allowed to attend the run-through. Since my parents live in Florida and I can sign my own permission slip, thankyouverymuch, I'll have my girlfriends be my substitute parents. Then the recital is the next evening. I think my teacher said I'm near the end. Of course I'll get Husband to record it. Heck I'll get my surrogate parent (who happens to be younger than me!!) to record the run-through the day before. If it's halfway decent I'll post it!

Then the following week I'm meeting regular reader and commenter, Banawoman, in the flesh!!!! I am so excited! Now what's totally cool about that is, not only are we meeting, but we are going to Rape of Lucretia together. Banawoman and I "met" when she joined Nathan Gunn's Yahoo fan page. I'm one of the moderators there so the membership approval emails come to me. (And just to clarify, my blog is in no way, shape or form affiliated with that group. Totally... Separate...Entity.) So she made some silly comment in her approval request and I replied with an email directly to her, which is odd because most of the time I just approve the memberships without emailing the person, or maybe I'll email a short, "You're approved" note. But I sent her a real reply, and she replied, and suddenly we were emailing and chatting every day. After she went to see Pearl Fishers we started talking on the phone regularly. No, we don't discuss Mr. Gunn. I mean, occasionally, but he is not the main topic of our conversations. Anymore. He was the catalyst and then BOOM it all took off without him. She and I are great friends - we talk about everything. We support each other through annoyances, tough times, joys, happy times and so on, and trust me, both our lives have been full of all of that in the past several months. So I'm super-excited to finally meet her in person, and then to go with her to see the guy who, if it weren't for him, we never would have become friends. I have a few friends thanks to him, actually. So maybe, just maybe, if Banawoman and I do hang out at the stage door afterwards ... unless by some freak of circumstance we get onto the backstage list! That's June 12, in case anyone with the Power to do that checks in... Just leave me an anon comment and I won't approve it, or email me! Yes, this is me NOT asking to get backstage. Right. So where was I? Yeah so if we do hang out at the stage door, I suppose we could thank the man for "introducing" us. And don't worry, Dear Readers, I won't disappoint you - no doubt I'll say/do something stupid and embarrassing for you all to laugh over and be thankful that it wasn't you. And if asked, I will pose for a photo. Maybe it'll have all of everyone's heads. Wouldn't that be novel?

So let's see... I haven't really looked beyond the Philadelphia Opera Nathan Gunn thing, since that would mean thinking about how I'm not supering and wondering how the rehearsals are going. However, a very talented, nice, considerate opera singer/blogger/all-around-wild-and-crazy-gal whose life should one day be portrayed as a comedy series on HBO (but who ever would play her???) and who I think I now owe about 36 drinks has graciously and generously offered me a comp (that means FREE!))) ticket to the final dress of one of the summer's operas because she's IN IT!!! So of course I'll go.

Hmm maybe I can get comps for the other final dresses. I mean, seriously, I was ready and willing to volunteer my time and sweat again this summer. Ok that's totally unrelated to me getting free dress rehearsal tickets but it sounds so dramatic, doesn't it? Anyway, I do know at least one of the supers who DID get in, as well as a few of the singers. I'd gladly donate money to the opera co if I had it. However, I don't have it, so I'm limited to volunteering...even if they don't need me... and of course I'd gladly accept free tickets to the other two final dress rehearsals. Ohh wait a sec can I go to the dress for the production I didn't get into? Hmm... Have to think about that one.

Ah once again opera and it's accouterments are keeping me awake.

Monday, May 25, 2009

If You Have to Ask... Ask the Neighbors

If you have to ask, you can't afford it. So they say. Take, for example, opera tickets. Or voice lessons. Both very expensive habits. Addictions, really. So hopefully I'll sell a bunch more earrings in the coming weeks to help fund my musical education.

Made these tonight:

And the neighbors? Apparently, although I sing only inside my house, apparently they all agree that my singing has improved a great deal over the past several months. Like, they've talked about it. Amongst themselves. And then put a drink or two in any of them and they'll tell me all about it. And here I thought I was safe in my own home with the windows shut. Hm I wonder if I should shut the shades too...

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Yesterday evening on YouTube I did a tour of Vedrai Carino. Wow. There is some pretty hot staging out there. Here's a random one. There's a lot of preamble here - the aria starts about half way through. It starts out warm and ends up HOT. That Mozart... he sure was smart.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fashion (non) Emergency!!!!

Ohhhhhhmygosh. I just realized I have an Opera Adventure coming up and I still don't know what to wear. Like it matters, I hear you say. Yes it matters!! I don't care if I wear a coat until the house lights go down and put it back on the moment they come up - I'll know what I'm wearing under that coat!! And chances are it'll be too hot for a coat. Going to the opera is more than just the music - it's also the outfit. And, of course, the earrings, but that I can figure out once I decide what to wear.

So... the brown outfit I wore in Florida?

The long flowered skirt with the good old black top? Can't find the pic to link to.

The purple-ish skirt with the gold old black top?

The blueish dress? (arm-candy accessories not included!) Look here for the full-length view. I know I should have used that link in the first place, but I wanted an excuse to link to the other photo. Photo... photo... no no no there will be no photo unless I am asked to pose for one. Meaning there will be no photo.

Getting back to the important stuff - my train of thought about what to wear...

The little black dress? Wait I can't squeeze into that anymore... never mind. That's actually a tank-top dress with a long-sleeved black t-shirt underneath.

At this point I'm leaning toward the brown. Unless, of course, I find some fabulous thing on sale somewhere between now and then. So like I said, it's the brown.

Thanks for reading - not much of an emergency after all.

Oh, Who Knows?

Had a really great voice lesson yesterday. I sang If Music in mezzo, in soprano, in mezzo, in soprano, back and forth, while my teacher listened. She couldn't decide which was better for me. She said that soprano sounds prettier, my voice sounds prettier, but I am having problems with some of the higher notes for whatever reason. It's not that I can't hit the notes, it's that it sounds like I'm straining to reach them in that particular song. (Yeah, I know, it's that "fear" factor.) Mezzo sounds good, she said, except for... some of the lower notes. So apparently I need a mezzo and a half? She had some name for it but I can't recall - it was one of the musical Italian terms. Anyway of course for both the high and low ends I need to... yep... open my mouth more. No news there.

We had time to go over Despina. In the land of, let's add another element to the three-dimensional space in my head, she reminded me to think ahead to the next phrase, because it sort of sounds like I'm getting ready to sing parts of it just before it's time to sing those parts. Went over that a few times too.

She said she can hear the difference each week, the improvement. That's nice to hear, especially when all I hear are the mistakes. We did lots of vocal exercises to smooth out different issues, etc.

I also found out that she'll be teaching over the summer. Unfortunately, our lawn mower broke and cost almost as much to repair as a new one so... ah the life of a homeowner. Summer voice lessons or a new lawn mower? Or maybe... a sheep?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

And the verdict is...

Mezzo or Soprano? What do you think? I vote for soprano.

Remember, I'm a Work In Progress. I'm trying to incorporate it all... still need to practice, practice, practice.

And here's the latest version of Despina. Trying to be regal, not always remembering to keep a wide open dumb jaw, but in my defense... this accompaniment is so darn fast!!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Memories of Thirds

When I was growing up, yeah, opera was on in the background a lot, but not always, and not so much as I got older. Older, meaning, like 10 or 11. However, there was always singing. My mother wasn't classically trained, but she could (and still can) carry a tune AND she could take any tune and sing a third higher to make harmonies. We used to sing together all the time - not opera, actually, mostly popular music. I remember singing, I Will Survive in the car pretty much at the top of our lungs. Who hasn't? But how many people sing it in thirds with their mother?

I was a Beatles freak growing up. And have you ever noticed, many Beatles songs have harmonies sung in thirds? So I listened carefully and learned all the harmonies. I taught myself the harmonies in thirds for their songs that don't have them. It was easy because it was something my mom I and did all the time. I mean, sometimes you can find it in another instrument, or they do it in one verse and you can apply it to the others, like here. I figured anyone could do it. Some of their songs are too low for me, and they used to be too high an octave above, so thirds were perfect for me. It actually comes in handy, to be able to sing the harmonies for all their songs. In college I had a friend who was more of a Beatles nut than I was. So in the car (where else?) we'd sing - she'd sing the melodies and I'd sing the harmonies. We sounded pretty good together! It got to the point where I couldn't sing the melodies for many of their songs. Then, once I started studying voice, I realized that an octave higher for those too-low songs was actually... easy. So then I taught myself the melodies again. Only now I have trouble remembering all the words... ah well... Incidentally I also blame The Beatles for my previous singing habits of holding out the consonants. <--That link is great for the harmonies too. Consonant holding here too. And I want to point out that this post is taking me forever because I am listening to too many Beatles songs on YouTube AND while getting lost in the chain of related videos I discovered an entire genre of music videos done in Lego.

I originally was going to embed this one, but after watching it I realized that I don't really want that here on the blog... ha! Plus y'all know I favor the girltini menu.

So I'm embedding this one instead. I might have posted it before, and if so, here it is again.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Other Part of My Blog - Button Your Lip

Voice lessons. Singing. Studying voice. That's one part of my blog. Now, just because I haven't blogged about That Other Stuff doesn't mean that the Other Stuff isn't happening. It's just not happening here on the blog.

So in a few weeks I'll be meeing Banawoman, in person, and together we'll be going to see Rape of Lucretia in Philadelphia. I've been so busy with real life that I haven't even thought about it yet, beyond what to wear. I've narrowed that down to about 3 things. Hmm maybe I'll wear layers and peel one off every few hours - instant new outfit! Ok maybe not but it seemed like a good idea for a millisecond. Except for the shoes.

And of course people are asking me, are you going to get backstage? (no!)
Are you waiting by the stage door afterwards? (Unlikely!) (Ok, maybe)
Will you simply smile and nod and say nothing beyond, "great performance," or something similar? Well, remember that scene in Bugs Bunny where the guy says, "Button your lip," and the sidekick buttons his lip? That'll be me, with the button.

"Rabbit season opens today. "Hundreds of hunters swarm the countryside."
Boy, am I glad I live in the city where it's safe.
A guy could get killed out in the country with all them guns going off.
Couple of times around the park, Mac.

Okay, take off, Mugsy.

I don't mind sharing the ride, but all this laundry! After all...

Stop right there, rabbit.

How much do you know?

Who, me? I know lots of things.

Two and two is four. Carson City is the capital of Nevada.

George Washington was the first President.

Cut it.

This guy knows too much, Mugsy.

We'll take him for a ride.

Okay, boss.

I just love rides. Especially on a lovely spring day.
There's nothing like a motor ride to relax one.

Through winding roads, past the green meadows...

- and down shady lanes.
- Shut up!

Shut up? Why, certainly.

You don't think I'm the kind to keep blabbing?

Some people never know when to stop. When I'm told to shut up, I shut up.

Shut up shutting up.

Hey, Mugsy, if you see a nice, clean gas station, would you stop, please?

I'll need a nickel. Thanks.

Hello, Police Department? I've got the bank robbers.

We're on Highway 55, headed west.

We're driving a '52 Acme, straight eight.

Overhead valves!

With California license plates!

Operator, we've been disconnected.

Come on, rabbit, get out there and see if the coast is clear.

Okay, boss.

Okay, all clear.

Hey, how about a break for lunch?

Keep working, rabbit.

Yeah, keep working, rabbit.

Shut up!

What did I do, boss?

I said button your lip.

Okay, boss.

How's this, boss?

Well, here it is, all done...

but there's a wheel missing.

I'm afraid you're stuck.

We're not stuck, rabbit.

You're stuck.

Yeah, we're not stuck.

Shut up!

Hey, Mugsy...

let's take the scenic route.

Mugsy, take this rabbit...

into the other room and let him have it.

Okay, boss.

All right, Mugsy, let me have it.

Come, you heard what the boss said.

Let me have it.

Okay, but...

That's better.

I let him have it, boss, just like you said.

Get off!

I guess I'll have to take care of that rabbit myself.

All right, Clancy, take the boys and surround the house.

Jiggers, the cops.

Hide me! Quick, hide me.

Here, hide in here, quick.

Hide me, too. Hide me!

It's not fair. You've got to hide me, too.

I must be dreaming.

It couldn't be this easy.

Okay, quick. Hide in here.

Now don't move until I tell you to.

All right, open up. This is the police.

All right, where's Rocky? Where's he hiding?

- He's not in this stove. - He's hiding in that stove, eh?

Now look, would I turn on this gas if my friend Rocky was in there?

You might, rabbit, you might.

Would I throw a lighted match in there if my friend was in there?

All right, rabbit, you've convinced me.

I'll look for Rocky in the city.

The coast is clear, fellas. They've gone.

Okay, Clancy, take the boys and surround the house.

Jiggers, fellas, the cops.

Open up, this is the police.

All right, rabbit, where's Rocky? Where's he hiding?

He's not in this stove.

He's hiding in the stove, eh?

Would I turn on the gas if he was in there?

You might, rabbit. You might.

Would I throw a lighted match in there if he was in there?

Oh, no you don't!

Take me with you! Don't leave me here with him!

I confess. I did it! Arrest me!

Hello. Bugs Bunny, Private Eyeball.

Thugs thwarted, arsonists arrested, bandits booked, forgers found...

counterfeiters caught, and chiselers chiseled.

A Most Helpful Comment

I figure a lot of the people who read the blog (besides the house centipede people, they don't count) don't read the comments for each and every post. Well in this particular case I am going to send you all over here to read the very very nice anon comment. I have been following that person's advice about regal posture and so on and already I can hear and feel a difference. I'm also trying to change my attitude about what I can do. Anon is right - I do chicken out at the high notes and I know I can sing them. When I do vocal exercises I can do them just fine. I somehow psych myself out over certain combination of notes and vowels ... why? Ah who the heck knows? There's a reason I call my voice lessons psychotherapy sessions. And as great as my teacher is, sometimes hearing stuff I already know, stuff she's taught me but for whatever reason haven't been able (or willing?) to do, hearing this from a different source, with different words or something, can kick-start me onto the right path. I still feel myself wanting to hold back on those certain notes here and there, but I'm working on it. Thank you anon!!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mini Opera Adventure and More

Last night I went to a jewelry store, of all places, to see an Arias and Art Songs thing presented by a local organization called The Opera Project.

I found out about the event from an old friend (as in, high school!) who is friends with the woman who owns the jewelry store. So this friend of mine went to support her friend, the entire time saying, "Me? Opera? I don't know..." while I kept assuring her that she will leave in awe of the music people are able to produce from their bodies.

The program was in two acts. Most of the singers in the first act were older and pretty much... in my league! I thought, "Holy S***! I could sing with this group!!" The second half was mostly younger people who definitely have a future in opera. Beautiful voices, beautiful performances, the whole package. Totally out of my league.

Some time in the middle of the second half my friend said something like, "Wow. This is an entirely different level of good singing - it's nothing like American Idol - and I thought the people on that show were good." Yeah no kidding. I actually have never seen American Idol but I can imagine. So when she said that inside I was like, "Hooray!!! She likes it!!!" Or at least she appreciated and understood the appeal.

At some point I got around to reading the blurb on the back of the program. Turns out the Opera Project is two groups - The Opera Project itself supports young singers by providing rehearsal and recital opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have since they're not yet "finished." Then the other group is the Classical Singers Network, for people just like me!! People who maybe started later in life studying voice, who get together to support one another, give feedback and finally, because of the Opera Project, are able to perform in recitals such as the one I saw yesterday. Amazing! So after the performance I found the Guy in Charge and asked him how one gets involved. I explained when I started studying voice, and where, and he was very enthusiastic. Their group is made pretty much exactly for people in my situation, as he cornily said, to give people like me the "operatunity" to perform! I'll call him during the week. I think I want to talk to my voice teacher first. I guess I could call her rather than wait until Thursday... we'll see. I imagine I'll have to audition or something - I definitely need to talk with my teacher before I call this guy!

Another Fun Fact about the evening was that one of the singers was in the chorus when I supered in Romeo two years ago, so of course I had to have the, "You look familiar..." chat and then I helped him guess how he knew me.

Spent this evening making some earrings... I just need to figure out how and where to sell them so I can go to more opera and pay for more voice lessons!!!!

Finally - I've added a new blog link to the list to the right: Once More With Feeling. Check it out!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Go to the Mirror!

I was chatting with one of my professional opera singer friends yesterday. I told him what the reviewers said and asked him if he had any idea what the whole "locked registration" thing means. He said it was very vague and therefore, in his opinion, not very helpful. He suggested that perhaps it means she thought I was using my throat to make some of the notes? He was so cute because he became not exactly outraged but annoyed on my behalf because of the vagueness of the comments from that particular reviewer. Regarding the head/neck out of alignment thing, he suggested that I… yes… sing in front of the mirror to see what my head is doing. He reminded me that it's all about the breath, and that once you get that down, you can sing in any position.
So what it comes down to is… as much as I dislike it… I will go to the mirror… and sing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

This Year's Results

Had a voice lesson tonight and got the results of yesterday's eval. Like last year, I'll type in what each person wrote for each song.

Haha first I have to share that when I went back through the blog so I could link to last year's evaluation, I came across this entry about polka-dot underwear. I also came across this entry about what my teacher said to me immediately after last year's eval. She even posted a comment!

Ok so to get back to yesterday's evaluation:

The Tipsy Waltz:

Evaluator #1:
  • Charming performance!
  • Even in the "tipsy" state sing good , pure French vowels.
  • Keep your jaw more relaxed on [a].
Evaluator #2:
  • I get the sense your registration gets locked into wherever you start in your voice. More exercises going through all sections of your voice may be helpful.
Evaluator #3, aka my teacher:
  • The French has really improved!
  • You need to ground yourself! Connect with the earth!

If Music be the Food of Love:

Evaluator #1:
  • Lovely! You are a good musician.
  • You are very expressive, but sometimes let your head alignment collapse.
  • Keep the back of the neck tall so the whole body stays lined up and you can support your tone more
  • Keep up the good work!
  • Good job!
  • Thank you for singing for us!
Evaluator #2:
  • Larynx sounds high and tight to me.
  • You tend to pull your chin up and forward, which will affect your larynx. When it (larynx) is high, the folds can't come together completely which could contribute to the breathiness.
  • Good musical instincts.
Evaluator #3, aka my teacher:
  • Relax
  • You have come a long way with this one - really!
  • Great phrasing
  • A few funky embellishments
  • Great focus to the very end.
So there you have it. It's interesting that one focused on the purely technical while the other was more performance oriented. And then of course my teacher gave her psychological support. Tonight she told me that she hadn't noticed me doing the neck/chin thing before. I sang to a little statue that was on a filing cabinet across the room - maybe I was sort of stretching out towards it? Who knows. I know some of the problems were due to nerves but I was surprised by the nice comments. She said she was really impressed at how I remained in character in If Music after the piano stopped. I think I've written about that before - it just happens... I become the person singing and believing that song, so when the music ends I'm stuck there for a moment.

Next up we have a studio recital on June 7. I will sing Una Donna a 15 Anni and If Music be the Food of Love. Today we went over Una Donna. She made up some exercises for one of the parts that's giving me trouble near the end. My teacher insists that I watch myself in the mirror while singing to see where I'm not opening my mouth enough. There's a mirror in the room and she made me watch myself. I really don't like to. Why? I don't know. I just felt weird. I'll get over it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pearls and Polka-Dots

As expected, I'm not happy with how I performed during the eval. I guess some of it was ok, but...

Ok so I warmed up, dressed nicely and went out. Well, first, I meant to change into my lucky polka-dot undies before going. I always sing well when I'm wearing the polka-dots. However, when I went upstairs to change, by the time I got there I forgot why I had gone up, so I left in the pair with the little roses. I remembered when I got to the car. Superstition... next time I'm going back to change.

So my eval was set for 6:20. I got there just after 6 and went to wait in the adjacent classroom. I was stretching, humming and sitting on the wall when one of the evaluators stuck her head in and asked if I'd like to go now because the person scheduled before me wasn't there yet. So in I went. And there they were - three voice teachers sitting in desks in the front row about 4 feet away. I started with the Tipsy Waltz and I thought I was doing ok... then I got the nervous warblies in my voice - you know what I'm talking about? I kept on going, the post-nasal drip caused a few cracks... and then... in the 2nd verse I forgot the words of one part! I fudged my way through and didn't flinch. Figured I could worry about it later, meanwhile, go on singing the best I can. Then I sang If Music be the Food of Love. Well first the accompanist played it in the wrong key! She started playing and I was like... uh... and my teacher said, "Wait!" and the accompanist said, "Whoops, what am I doing?" It was actually a good thing - it gave me a chance to recover a bit more. So on we went, I lapsed into my If Music character and gave it my all.

Afterwards my teacher said to focus on the things that went well and not worry about any mistakes. She said that the evaluators know how to hear through the nervousness and cracks, that I did very well and that she was impressed that I didn't acknowledge my errors in any physical way.

I have to say, it was way easier singing in front of a crowd of people at that talent show last month than it was singing in front of 3 people who are looking at you and scribbling about you while you're singing. You're going along and then suddenly one of them starts writing. Why? What did you just do? But you can't think about it, you have to keep on going. I think that's what caused my warbling voice. Next time I'll have to hide my view of the desktops with a music stand or something.

Anyway, tomorrow I get the results.

When I got home I noticed the pearl was missing from my ring. Oh no!! Then I remembered my ring catching in my hair when I was braiding it, and sure enough, there was the pearl... not in my hair, but on the rug in front of the mirror. Whew. Which meant I was there with an empty ring. I'm surprised I didn't notice. I'm glad I didn't. I'm sure they didn't. But of course I have to work that into a superstition, somehow. Guess I won't be wearing that ring the next time I perform. Well not only because of superstition but also because I probably won't have gotten it repaired by then.

It's Skypulous!

I have a distant cousin who is a talented pianist, arranger, teacher and general all-around supporter of the arts. His name is Jeffrey Biegel. He is always looking for new ways to share his enthusiasm, and he turns to the internet for inspiration. Or the internet turns to him! Last month he was called in last-minute to replace a pianist in Bogota, Colombia, all because someone knew someone who was friends with him on Facebook. The organizer sent him a message and the next thing he knew he was on a flight south. But he also takes the initiative - in this case, with Skype. Skype is a messaging system that has real-time audio and video, and after successfully giving piano lessons to a student in Singapore, he has set himself up to give lessons via Skype. How cool is that? So innovative! It opens up such wonderful opportunities, for example, for people who for whatever reason are unable to travel. Or it could be used for a regular student who is traveling and either doesn't want to miss a lesson, or wants a refresher before a performance or audition. Bravo, Jeffrey, for implementing this fabulous idea!

A Sniffling Whine

Ok I'm starting to get a little nervous about tonight. I keep thinking I'll forget the words. I know I won't.
I want so much to do as well as I can so that the feedback I get isn't about something I already know I need to work on.

To add a little wine to my whine… allergies. Yes. There are copious amounts of, uh, allergy-inspired fluids running down the back of my throat. Sudafed helps but it's very drying. On the other hand, thinking I'm going to sing one note and then have another come out due to the mess in there… that's worse. So bring on the drying medications and hand me a glass of water.

I'll report in later with how I think I did.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Starring, the Vowels!

I'm not thinking about the voice evaluation tomorrow. Nope. I wasn't even going to blog about it, not directly. I'm afraid if I say I feel comfortable with the songs, I'll jinx myself, and if I say I don't feel ready, I'll believe it. So I'm saying nothing.

Except this - Vertical space. I have to remember to open open open and create vertical space. I was paying close attention to the singers in La Cenerentola. There was a whole lotta vertical space going on, for both the high and the low notes.

And this - Caressing the notes. How to caress the notes? I decided to go with the vowels and almost ignore the consonants. They're just there to bog me down. I'll use them as much as I need to, and no more, in order to connect the vowels and of course aid in the legato. They will not affect my vowels. They will not upstage the vowels. They will support the song like a bird's skeleton. Or like a mouse's - can't they squish their bones to fit through tiny holes?

Yes it's obvious to me too that I'm rambling.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cenerentola - Small Glitch, Large Fun!

Cenerentola in HD was so much fun!! What a great production. It's the same production I watched last week during the free Met Player weekend, only, of course, with an entirely different cast. It was kind of cool to see it with all different people because that meant that, in spite of the music, the scenery and the costumes being the same, it was still very different because each singer brings his or her own self to the part.

The small glitch was that the people who worked in the theater didn't seem to know what they were doing. Usually during an HD broadcast, the screen is on about 30 minutes before showtime. The people in the movie theaters can watch the people find their seats at the Met, we can watch the orchestra tune up and they also show little trivia questions and ads for other HD productions. This time... nothing. At about 12:25 the lights went out completely for approximately 30 seconds, then came back up. The sound was on and then.. it began. Blank screen. Brightly lit theater. Then we got the sound. We could hear Thomas Hampson introduce the production and then he introduced the Maestro and then... it started... and still... blank screen, bright room. About 3 people went out (including me because I can move fast compared to the rest of the crowd there) to find out what was going on. There was one youngish girl on a walkie talkie trying to reach a manager... a manager type finally showed up behind the popcorn counter and said, "It's a live feed. We're waiting for it." And we were like, "Uh, it's here. Turn on your projector and shut the lights..." Finally someone got a clue and suddenly in the middle of the overture the screen came alive and the house lights went down. Hooray!

I love watching the orchestra. Usually you don't get such a close-up view of the individual musicians. I love seeing how totally absorbed they get with the music, swaying, making faces as they play and so on. I love seeing all the bowed instruments move together like a dance. This particular overture has plucky parts and it was really cool to see them all pluck at the same time. It sounds silly as I reread it but it was cool to see.

The performance was so much fun. Everyone was fabulous. Elīna Garanča (yeah I pasted her name in from wikipedia because I have no idea how to type those characters over the i and c) was so cute!! She was so pleasant to watch. And she sounded wonderful. The two sisters were HILARIOUS!!! Perfect - great sense of timing, beautiful singing, silly but not too silly - perfect.

The guys were all great too - the stepfather was ridiculous. During the intermission interview he said that he takes the ridiculous characters seriously because the characters take themselves seriously. They don't know they appear ridiculous. He was awesome.

Dandini and then of course the Prince - WOW! The Prince - Lawrence Brownlee - WOW WOW WOW! What a voice! Beautiful, like sweet liquid flowing out of him and into your ears. The moment he first sang I regretting not seeing him live in Philadelphia last fall. I'm sure I'll have other opportunities to see him live though. Gotta save my pennies and sell more earrings. And the fairy-godmother character... he's the Prince's advisor, and also, apparently, an angel come to save C. from her wretched life - that was John Relyea. He was great. We've all seen him before - he was the music teacher in the HD Barbiere with Joyce DD and JDF. Basses fascinate me - how do they sing sooooo looowww??????

I was a little distracted during the performance - see my most recent posts where I discuss feeling blue and so on - but the beautiful sounds did finally draw me out of my funk and into their crazy world. Oh and I almost forgot - things caught on fire!! On purpose, that is. Don't get all freaked out! During the thunderstorm scene the house gets struck by lightning. The rain had been leaking in the roof so C. gave the stepfather an umbrella... and... BOOM! FLASH! Umbrella ablaze! The walls caught too. You could hear the entire audience, both at the Met and in the theater, gasp. Love it! Fire. Very exciting moment. And then silly of course because the characters didn't seem to care.

Then today I had a fantabulous day with Husband and Alex - picnic in a park, hike in the woods, we saw lots of people on horseback, played on a cool playground that had a fence-maze, played in the backyard, I had a nap (hooray!!), we grilled chicken and shrimp and then we roasted marshmallows over the coals and made s'mores with spicy chocolate! YUM!!!

Next event: Vocal evaluation, this Wednesday. So far I feel pretty good about it but ask me again on Wednesday afternoon...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Look, Shiny Happy Things!

Been busy as a bee making earrings. These are $20 and $25.

Here are some close-ups:

Wouldn't these all look fabulous at the opera?

A Perplexing Perspective

La Cenerentola in HD was great. I'll post about that later. First I want to ask a question.

Why do some people assume the worst and jump to conclusions?

During intermission of today's broadcast, I checked my email and found a new comment here. Looks like someone took offense that I shared HGO's twitter with the code for the $11 opera tickets. Go ahead, click the link and read the comment and my reply. I mean, seriously, has that person read any other entry in this blog? (actually I know the answer to that) They accuse me of not doing research... yet they jump to this conclusion that I'm throwing out nasty posts about their beloved organization after reading just a few of my blog entries. They have not seen my twitter posts or comments on HGO's twitter posts. So I was kind of taken aback. Am I so naive that I get flustered when people assume the worst and accuse me of things? Am I too friggin nice????

Mind you, this is not the first time someone has jumped to conclusions and accused me of something mean or sneaky related to opera in spite of what I thought was obvious niceness on my part.

And again, I happen to know how many people read the blog. It's not a lot. It may look like a lot if you click on one of the tracker links and glance at the list, but most of the people who come are searching for house centipede, voluMptuous women and the Jane Austen quotes. Oh and a few people search, "I'd rather grammar" and things about something keeping them awake. So the point is, even if I were being intentionally mean or sneaky, about 25 people are actually seeing it. My blogging has very little power. It will not affect anyone's career. I wish it would, because I have lots of nice things to say about my opera singing friends!!!

That leads to another question: In all honesty, does my blog come across as an attack on opera companies or anyone, in general? I'm silly, I make fun sometimes, but... Is this a mean flaming blog? Because to me it's a place where I share my enthusiasm about opera as I learn more about it, about opera singers I like, about singing and so on.

Yesterday it was the blues, today it's the perplexes. Ha ha is that a word? It is now.

HD Today - La Cenerentola

Don't know if I'd classify this as an adventure, unless battling the senior set for ideal seats in the theater qualifies as one. I'm looking forward to seeing La Cenerentola today. I haven't read the reviews so I don't know if the production is more traditional or if some clever person decided to change the setting.

Husband, of course, didn't want to go, plus we have no childcare, so I'm meeting a friend from work there.

It's supposed to be hot out today. Will the theater be warm or will it be overly air-conditioned and freezing? Layers are in order. And snacks. Time to tuck snacks into my giant purse.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Feeling Blueish

I've been sort of bleh and blah all day. Trying to figure out why. I realized it's a combination of things - more Real Life things than opera-keeping-me-awake things. I mean, yeah, I'm disappointed about not supering this summer, but I'll get over it. More of it has to do with Alex and some of the challenges he has because of his sensory processing disorder and PDD-NOS. He goes to a great program provided by our local school district. He is the sweetest and smartest kid (scored in the 90-99%tile in all areas of cognitive development, has perfect pitch and so on) but his behavioral issues are very challenging. He likes things to be exactly the way he wants them to be (who doesn't?) but he doesn't react appropriately when he doesn't get what he wants. Last fall, before he was diagnosed, he was kicked out of preschool because of his impulsive behavior. I dreaded picking him up each day knowing I'd get a report of all the "bad" things he'd done. Each day brings new challenges as we try to rewire him into a regular kid. He's so very smart and eager to learn, but the behavioral and sensory stuff gets in the way of success in school. Socially too - last year, around the same time he was kicked out of preschool, the mother of a friend of his called the day before her son's birthday party to say that Alex couldn't come because she didn't know how he'd be in the unstructured environment of a child's party. (He'd have been fine. She didn't have all the facts.) His response was, "But they INVITED us!" More recently, we were at a birthday party where they had one of those inflatable bouncing house obstacle courses set up in a gymnasium. The fan for the bouncy house was so loud and echoing that he couldn't bear to be in the room. He very much wanted to play in the bouncy house but just couldn't. He has trouble climbing on playground equipment he's never seen before. He has poor fine-motor skills and poor muscle-tone in his upper torso. So all these challenges and let-downs have been going on for a while, and my heart breaks for him every time. So now you can see why I retreat into my fantasy opera life, why I'm silly with my stupid crushes, why I like to perform... it's all an escape. And I guess right now with the supering thing not happening, a chunk of my escape has vanished. So now you know that as you read my blog, all the silliness is my way of escaping. I don't actually want anything from the people I write about. I don't even want to know them. I'm not some freakish fan. I'm just your average mildly depressed 42 year old woman looking for a safe escape.

Sorry for the digression into non-opera topic. Ok, pathetic whining over. We now return to your regularly scheduled silly.

How Much Did You Pay for Yours?

I never understood why airline prices were so wacky. All these people on the same exact flight, and chances are some paid a lot more than others.

Today, HGO's Twitter update:

HouGrandOperaHGO loves twitter! All open seats for Sat night BRIEF ENCOUNTER for $11.25! promo code NEXUS hit go&choose seats

Yeah. Can you imagine... you paid $200 for your orchestra seat. The dude two rows behind you paid... $11.25. That's less than the cheapest glass of champagne at the Balcony bar at the Met.

Speaking of the Met, why doesn't the Met ever do that? Although their $25 pool thingee isn't bad... if you get picked... and I never do...

Cenerentola in HD tomorrow!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

More Therapy

Had a great voice lesson tonight!!! In all the tumult I forgot that lessons themselves are therapy, not only because you have to let it all out in order to give yourself over the music, but also because I generally focus on the lesson the entire time, giving my brain a rest from all the other things that are rolling around in it - usually a list of things I need to get done, places I need to be to get the things done and general "stuff of the day" - so it's refreshing to have a 45 minute time slot devoted to nothing but my lesson.

My vocal evaluation is next week, on Wednesday. I'm not as nervous about it as I was last year, which of course makes sense. Today we went over the two songs I'll be doing for the eval. I record my lessons and also write notes to myself (words, not musical note notes!!) of things to remember, checks on the music for when to breath, how to pronounce things, remember vertical space and so on. I practiced during the week and listened to the tape alot. My teacher was very happy with my progress. I've fixed a few errors and will work on the others by Wednesday. She also coached me on how to be - walk in, say hello, nod to the accompanist, fix on an imaginary person sort of above and behind everyone and sing to that person. I can do that. I did it during the lesson.

So the Tipsy Waltz went pretty well. She keeps sort of reigning me in, movement-wise. "Less is more." Movement, for me, can hinder my technique. So that's one of the things I'll be working on - subtle subtle movements. Then we did If Music Be the Food of Love. Again, problems connecting. Then all on my own I went and sat back against the wall, then slid up just a little so my back was still flat but I was sort of casually leaning on it. I was relaxed, my shoulders were relaxed. I got this dreamy feeling inside and just sang to that imaginary person. I had to come back to myself when the song ended. I was the person singing that song and believing it. I was singing it to an imaginary someone. When it ended I was still there for a moment. I love that. My teacher picked up on it without me saying anything - she said she could tell that I gave myself over to the music. So just like anything else, learning to relax into it makes just a huge difference. Practice, practice, practice. I know I can do it - I've done it before.

At the end of the lesson, I felt so much better about myself and all the crap I whine about. I hope it lasts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


So to get over my disappointment, first I went and made a whole bunch of earrings.

Next I tried some online shopping. Didn't buy anything, but loaded up a few carts here and there.

Now here I am, blogging. Actually, first I sang. I sang sad songs to fit my mood and happy songs to lift me out of it. Then the earrings, then the non-shopping and NOW the blogging.

I was feeling all pathetic and sad and made a mental list of all the operatic disappointments I've experienced. I realized that there was no point to that, and I should instead focus on the opera joys. After all, isn't that the advice I'd give someone else? So to be fair, I'll list both.


Um... in no particular order:

Ok ok enough! Joys, in no particular order:

Look! The joys list is much longer than the disappointment list, and I've probably left stuff off. Just go back to the beginning and read through the entire blog.

Ok I'm crying now - those last few posts about Alex did it - damn maternal hormones - so it's time to post.

Disappointment to the Max

Just heard from the super captain. I wasn't picked for Abduction.
Why why why???? I'm eager and willing. I have experience. I love supering. I bring gummy worms to the green room. Do I not fit the slave girl suit? Or...?? I'm ready to cry. I cry too easily, I know. I'm just so bitterly disappointed.

On the positive side, that leaves my summer free...

That didn't work. I still feel like crying. Boo hoo.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Helloooooo Houston - Brief view of Briefs and More!

Not sure if these links will work. Give it a try - videos of Brief Encounter.

Brief view of Briefs
No joke.

I wonder how many briefs jokes were made during the course of this production... anyway, moving right along...

View from a Bridge Not of briefs...

Sorry, I got excited by the sight of coffee cups.

If the links don't work, go to Facebook. Register if you don't have an account. If you do, search "Houston Grand Opera" and become a fan. The videos are on their Facebook Fan page. And while you're there, search for "Alex, Future Opera Singer and Star," for he too has his own facebook fan page. Then go to "Earrings for Sale" and buy earrings from me so I can afford to go to more Gunnoperas and report back to you. Who knows, maybe I'll even have another embarrassing conversation with him. Ha as if. But I know how fun it is to read about the humiliation of others, and I don't want to let you down.

Talk of humiliation leads me to, naturally, Lucretia. June 12. To wait at the stage door, or not to wait? Any opinions? Especially from those of you with Exclusive Background Information? (sorry to the rest of you, I promised not to tell!)

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Strange Bird (or Two)

I think there are two birds... I don't think the first bird is the same bird as the subsequent bird. The crazy costume makes it hard to tell. The birdsong doesn't sound right though. I'm pretty sure I recognize the song and the face of the bird that flies in at about 2 minutes in.

I actually wasn't too sure about the last one either, until the Signature Move that those of us in the know, know about. (That would be Banawoman and Maria. Anyone else who wants to know, post a comment and I'll tell) On the other hand, it still might be the other guy, in spite of the Signature Move.

Whooosh Queen of the Night looks like a combination of the Tin Man and the Wicked Witch of the West. I hope the entire cast got a discount on makeup remover and soap.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Two Reviews - Near and Far

Two reviews - one for something I saw, one for something I didn't see.

The "near" review is of a performance I saw.

Last night I dragged Husband out to see Westminster Conservatory's Opera Gala. It was in a very pretty and very small theater on Princeton Campus. Westminster's Community Chorus and orchestra performed, and the soloists were all voice teachers - including mine! She told me about it last week and said something about it being the first time she's performing for about 15 or 20 years. I was really so excited and thrilled to see her perform - and she was great! It was all concert staging of course. They did duets and ensembles from a variety of operas, including the opening of Magic Flute, a duet from Cosi, a chorus piece from Aida, that famous Flower Duet from Lakme (is that in a light bulb commercial? Or maybe it's for a car???) and the finale from Die Fledermaus. My voice teacher sang the part of Adele in the Fledermaus scene. She was so cute there on stage! So charming and charismatic! It was such a treat to see her perform. It was a really nice evening.

The "far," as in, far away, review, is this one. Yes, Twitter comes through again. I'll paste the relevant part here, because it hasn't (yet) shown up on this site.
Nathan Gunn confirms his “matinee idol” status as Alec. From his smooth, easeful baritone to his manner and presence, every detail projects the genteel gallantry that draws Laura to Alec. Gunn’s effortlessness and utter sincerity are what make the performance so right. His aria revealing his ambitions as a doctor enhances his heroic aura in Laura’s eyes, but the peak of Gunn’s artistry is his hushed delicacy in the boathouse scene, as he insists that he and Laura have fallen in love and they both know it.
But go to the article to read the most concise synopsis I've seen yet about the opera. There's also a nice photo.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wow wow wow!

The Met is giving us a free weekend of their Met Player service. So even though they're broadcasting this same opera live tonight, and I'm seeing next week in HD in the movies, I've spent the last hour or so watching La Cenerentola, with Cecilia Bartoli and Ramon Vargas. Love love love it!!! You can expand the window to your entire screen and the quality is fabulous. I wish I had more time to watch - in a perfect world, I'd be home alone the entire weekend, the weather would be horrible and I'd have no alternative but to order in Chinese food and watch opera for 72 hours straight. However, the world is not perfect, so I'll have to make do with the rest of Cenerentola and then choice snippets from the other gems there before the free period ends.

More Random Stuff to Appease and Entertain

Mish mosh of stuff for a Friday. Let's see.

pictures. Briefs Included.

Seattle Opera, next season. Watch, look and listen. (on that 2nd link you have to flip through the pages. Mouse around and you'll figure it out.

More Seattle Opera, this season. Elizabeth Caballero as Susanna in Marriage of Figaro. You have to flip through the album to find her as they have two casts.

Finally, the cats.

Diego in his castle:

Remember the friend I stayed with in NYC? The pregnant one? Here's her belly and also her cat enjoying a drink:

And then... Oh my who let these alpacas in?