Friday, July 31, 2009

Thanks But No Thanks? Nice.

Had an interesting interaction with someone today. This person emailed me a link to a Batti Batti video to check out how the singer incorporates acting into the performance. I replied with a thank you and included a link to a version that I particularly enjoy. The person's response:

I have seen so many productions of this I really do not need another video thanks.

Is it just me, or is that strange? Why not just say thanks, or not say anything? Just curious.

It came right after another strange (ok, sarcastic) comment, for which the person later apologized. And a few weeks ago this person did something very similar regarding my blog entry about Lucretia. We were both commenting on a mutual friend's link to a review because we both saw the performance. She then sent me a friend request on Facebook. I mentioned the blog and she said something like, I'll pass, thanks. That's strange too, right? It's almost as if she's saying, "Listen to what I have to say but I'm not interested in what you have to say."

On the other hand, she was very nice to give me advice and recommend a video, so who knows. Focus on the niceness. Focusing... focusing...

Ah well. People are weird. I'm sure there are people out there who think I'm socially inept or whatever. Actually I know there are people out there who think I'm "whatever." Ahhhh there is so much I want to put here in the blog about ... something... but I won't. Niceness... focusing... on... the niceness... because, after all, it's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. That's not weird... is it?

Fun and Profit

I posted the Batti Batti video to my Facebook profile, where someone who doesn't know me (Yeah, I know, a friend who I don't really know...) suggested I make it private or take it down. I explained my situation - I'm in it for fun, not profit. So I figured I post that here too: I have no aspirations of becoming a professional opera singer. I'm not going to quit my (half) day job. Of course you all know, especially if you've been reading for several months. (And I thank you all for that!)

I'm in it for fun. I love learning the music. I love learning what I can do. I love how important the mental aspect is- almost more than the physical aspect. For me, it's much easier to learn the physical steps than it is to relax my brain enough to incorporate it all and create music. Even if I never took another lesson I'll never be the same - I'll never go "back" to my pre-lesson ways of listening to, understanding and creating music. Same with supering - even if I never super in another opera, I'll never watch an opera the same way, knowing what little I know about what goes into a production.

So if I had to choose, lessons or supering, which would I choose? That's a tough one, but I think I'd go for the lessons. Luckily I don't have to choose.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Batti Batti-ing my Head in Frustration

So basically I've taught this to myself. I think I went over the rhythm with my voice teacher at our last lesson. Then I listened to Cecilia Bartoli and others while following along in the music.

The accompaniment was ridiculously fast. Same guy played the accompaniment for Una Donna - he obviously had a golf game to get to. So I put it into Garage Band and slowed it down a little.

Then, since I was home alone this evening, a rarity, I recorded myself singing this about 15 times. I took the four best and, using iMovie, edited them using the best parts of each. Well, sort of. That got tedious pretty quickly, so really I guess you could say I edited parts in to cover mistakes. So I edited out the worst parts. And of course there are still many mistakes. But you should have heard how I was when I first started learning it.

So I'm struggling with breath control and high notes. And low notes. And what's with the lurching forward? That's new.

I could say a lot more about what's wrong with this, what many challenges I have to overcome and all that. But since it's time for me to go to bed, I'll try to end on a positive note... This is a very difficult song and I'm impressed that I got through it. A year ago I never would have believed I could do it, and prior to studying voice it never would have crossed my mind. So in spite of how crippy this sounds, I'm proud that I've gotten this far. My journey is still only just beginning, and it'll last for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sonnambula and Firebrand Messages

Was just watching a bit of the horribly staged version of La Sonnambula. Thank goodness for Juan Diego Florez and Natalie Dessay, because without their singing, the production would be unwatchable. So as I was watching with this dippy smile on my face whenever JDF sang, I was reminded that one of my friends is out tonight seeing the encore/reshowing or whatever of Barbiere in HD. So I sent her a text message asking if she loves it, because seriously how can she not, with that cast? And there on the screen were all the previous text messages we've exchanged - one during intermission at Lucretia, then a whole bunch before, during intermission and exactly one after Firebrand. Only 1 after because if you recall from my post about it, I was first on the phone with Banawoman and then I called my texting friend.

Let me back up for a moment. Watching La Sonnambula tonight reminded me of how much fun I had going to see the opera with my voice teacher - walking around, having dinner, loving and hating the opera and so on. She was, of course, blown away by JDF. Which reminds me - she still has some of my CDs! But anyway it was nice to remember all that because having Firebrand the very next day put my brain into overload, and knocked some of the fabulousness of the previous day down unnecessarily. Make sense? Yeah, not to me either.

And then yeah, Firebrand the next night - I mean, come ON - Juan Diego Florez one day , Nathan Gunn the next. And backstage. And those text messages with my friend - such an interesting progression of anticipation, reporting and then summarizing in as few words as possible.

Good thing there wasn't a third event that week or my brain would have oozed out my ears. But think how good I would have gotten at text messaging?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting High on Vowels

I've been practicing and practicing both Batti Batti and Gretchen Am Spinnrade. Without my voice teacher to guide me I'm still plugging along trying to figure out how to fix what I perceive as problems. I'm absolutely sure that there are problems that I'm not perceiving. That's why I pay someone to teach me. But really what still gets me is certain vowels on the high notes. Why??? Why can I hit a note nicely with one vowel, but it sounds like a tortured cat on a different vowel?

My latest attempt is to remember to drop my jaw and sort of fudge the vowel. I don't mean that I'll compromise diction - I really don't want to do that - but I do know that for some vowels, like, the word "you," for example, I can open my mouth wide, which makes it less U-ish, yet it still sounds ok. I just have to:

A. Remember to do it and
B. Allow myself to do it.

By allow, I mean, allow myself to almost pronounce it wrong, if that makes sense. Not wrong, but... modified.

One thing I am improving at (I think?) is keeping the energy in the vowel sound more consistently.

I've written this before, but I'll say it again - thinking about what my teacher might tell me, or imagining how she might demonstrate something, helps. It forces me to remember different things she's taught me, some of it several months ago. I'm also getting much better at holding all the various aspects of singing in that imaginary three-dimensional space in my brain. I know I've written about that before.

Then when I'm feeling frustrated I'll sing Una Donna, to remind myself of the trouble I used to have with some parts that seem easy to me now.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kazoo Compilation

Alex hums some favorite tunes into his kazoo.

The Rest of the Previous Post

Just reread the last post and realized that I sort of stopped in the middle of describing Alex's Tour of Opera on the DVR. We didn't simply watch JDF drink in the applause. (I just almost wrote applesauce by mistake.) Alex likes two parts: When Figaro's cart comes on stage during All'idea, and the thunderstorm scene near the end. He asks to hear the thunderstorm on recordings too, when there's no video. He'd gladly listen 10 times in a row, or more.

Anyway, then it was time for him to get ready for bed so he only heard it once that evening.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

From Wine to Lucia to La Fille to Barbiere

What did we all do before the days of DVRs? I have mine set to automatically record Great Performances at the Met, and then I can protect them so the DVR doesn't record over them when it runs out of space.

So today after running my finger around the rim of my wine glass to make that tone, I naturally suddenly felt like hearing a bit of Lucia. First I put on the Greatest Moments countdown which has Joan Sutherland doing the mad scene. That link is not the the performance we have recorded, but it looks pretty much the same. I have to say, the shape of her head in that totally freaks me out. So then we switched to the recent HD transmission, with Anna Netrebko. It was set at Alex's favorite part. Well, one of his favorite parts. No, now that I think of it, this is the first thing he asks to see - the scene where Lucia sings about the ghost in the fountain. In the Met's version, a dancer plays the ghost and exits by slowly spinning down in the fountain.

So we watched that. Then he said he wanted the dogs, which is the very opening scene, but quickly changed his mind and asked for "when she's all bloody." Fast forward to the Mad Scene. Meanwhile, Husband and I are talking about other Lucias. I mention Diana Damrau, he mentions Natalie Dessay and asks, "Wasn't she the one in Fille with Juan Diego Florez?" Well of course then Alex wanted to see a scene from that. He pretty much only ever wants to see the Rataplan scene.
Ha well I can't find the video clip at the moment however I did find a Dutch cartoon about a dog named Rataplan. Now I understand how Alex can watch Woody Woodpecker in Russian. Who needs to understand the words? But as usual I digress. So we watch that, which as we all know leads into this.

And I just want to point out, as I point out to Alex every time we watch La Fille, that I was THERE that very day. I tell him that I was in the same room - but it's a Very Big Room. So after the famous 9 high ones, as JDF is standing there basking in the audience's admiration, we switch over the Barbiere. And wouldn't you know... there he is, it's the end of Cessa, and he's in the exact same position, exact same look on his face, pretty much the same adoring crowd. It was funny. I swear it was. Ok, I guess you had to be there.

ps I survived Torchwood, but barely. It wasn't quite as intense as Rape of Lucretia, but it was 5 days of intense tension in a row, culminating with the final episode. I bawled like a baby and even hid behind a pillow at once point. But I survived.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Torchwood Has Taken My Brain

Torchwood has temporarily replaced opera as the Thing That Keeps Me Awake.

One more day of Torchwood, then Dr. Who on Sunday, and then I'll be back to the Opera Insomnia. Until then, Geekdom reigns supreme.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blogging Makes it Better

You know how sometimes you'll have a problem or an issue or something, and just telling someone about it solves it? I feel like that happened here. After I wrote about how I was having trouble staying on the same note during a crescendo, boom, I was able to do it. Is it possible that simply writing about it somehow changed something in my brain?

I'm still missing my voice lessons. I never did get an opportunity to switch to another teacher for the summer. The school just went ahead and refunded my money, and since finances are tight, I didn't do anything else. However, I am still owed 1 lesson from last semester. My teacher keeps telling me to come up to her house for it. Maybe I will one day. Now that I think about it, she lives near the mall that has a Godiva shop in it, or at least it did the last time I was there, uh... almost 20 years ago...

In the interest of Opera Fashion, and of not having the money to go on a shopping spree, I've started a new weight loss and exercise regime. I was spurred on by two, yes, two people this month assuming I was pregnant!! One of them wouldn't leave it alone - when I told her no, it's just too much food, she said, "Oh, kind of like a beer belly?" Right. Um, come stand closer so I can smack you. The other person was the librarian. She said, "You won't be checking out all those pregnancy books like you did when you were pregnant with your first." Umm... what? Oh... I see... I just said no and ducked behind a shelf. She'll eventually figure it out...

Makes me wonder... are my coworkers wondering if I'm pregnant but don't want to ask? Which is good. Never ever ask a woman if she's pregnant. Never assume she is pregnant unless she says, "My water just broke and the baby is coming!" And the proper reply to that is, "Oh, you're pregnant? I couldn't tell."

So I've signed up for this free online calorie counter. You put in what you eat and what you do. It tells you how many calories are going in and out. You give it your current weight and your goal and it tells you how many calories you can take in per day to achieve the goal. My goal is to fit back into last year's opera outfits. And I'm writing about it here so I have a place to check in - makes me less likely to cheat. Wish me luck!

Someone Else's Video

I didn't go to this, but it looks like several thousand other people did. This guy had a pretty good seat. The format of my blogger page cuts off the edge of the video so you have to click through to YouTube to see the entire frame.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Plugging Along

So I've been plugging along this summer without voice lessons and I am really missing them. I'm teaching myself Batti Batti and Gretchen am Spinnrade, but who knows if I'm teaching myself correctly? I could be practicing mistakes.

One of the things I'm trying to do is crescendo into a note. I want to start out quiet and get louder and louder in a slow and steady pace. I'm also trying to do it in reverse - decrescendo. I'm still trying to figure out the breath control. Something in my brain is mixing me up and I end up changing the note along with the volume. As I get louder, I get higher. It seems like no matter how hard I concentrate I still change the notes. I'm sure my teacher would have some way of describing what to do/think about/behave in order to achieve the steady crescendo on one note.

So that's my latest vocal struggle/challenge/desire/whatever. Feel free to post comments with tips if you have any.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Random Ching-a-Ring Dreams

Short post about this-n-that.

Looks like Opera Chic made her way to Central Park yesterday. OC says,

Baritone Nathan Gunn was the soloist for the first work, Aaron Copland's "Old American Songs", the highlight being the final work of five, "Ching-a-Ring Chaw" to which Gunn threw himself into with great cadence and enthusiasm.

Ching a Ring Chaw? Ok. Read all about it and see the photos of a Famous Person eating a sandwich here.

Today Alex asked if I would take him to see Abduction from the Seraglio. I explained why I can't - he's 5 and just won't remember to wait until it's over to ask questions. Turns out his main reason for wanting to go was to see them spit watermelon seeds and throw the banana. Don't think I included the banana in my review - at one point Osmin comes on stage peeling a banana. One of the other characters enters so he throws the banana over his shoulder to deal with whoever it was. (Yeah, I know, I don't remember.) One of the guards catches the banana and starts eating it.

Another silly scene I left out of the description was when Belmonte tosses a little bag of coins to Osmin. It goes past him and lands at the feet of the male slaves. The slave nearest the bag makes nonsense conversation with Osmin - just noises with intonation. He answers in the same nonsense intonation language and they have this little conversation about what to do with the money, all in that nonsense. It was Very Funny.

New link added to the blogroll. --->

One of the posts there reminds me of a dream I had last night.

The dream:

Banawoman and I were going to see a new opera starring Mr. Gunn. We were getting ready when we realized that it was really late, as in, curtain was in 45 minutes. We ran to the airplane and were on our way when the plane suddenly landed, too far from the theater. No one would explain why it stopped. Meanwhile, the start time passed and we realized that even if we went, they wouldn't let us in. We were going to go home. Husband was at the opera so I sent him a text message that we didn't make it. I was really sad because we had been planning to go for about a year. Suddenly I remembered intermission - we could go in during intermission! So we headed back to the opera house. I don't quite remember how we got there. The next thing I remember was being on the street outside and it was sort of like the atmosphere before a rock concert. There were people all over the place, all waiting to go in. And that's all I remember.

And isn't that enough?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Abduction Report!

Here I am, home. Friday night, free concert in Central Park featuring Mr. Gunn, and here I am, not there. Yep. Suburban temps in the upper 80s (that's like, 28-30c to anyone who thinks in Celsius) combined with high humidity got me to thinking about how grimy I'd be by the time I got up there, so instead we had friends over for pizza. Then a thunderstorm moved through, so on top of feeling icky I'd be soaking wet, and then the train home. Twenty years ago it would have been an adventure. Now I'm like, uh, I'll sweat in my own backyard, thanks.

Actually I knew all week that these friends were coming and I'd be staying in hot/humid/muggy New Jersey.

But enough about that boring stuff. What about yesterday? Abduction!! From the Seraglio!! It was great. Everyone was great. Here are my comments/impressions.

Ok, quickie plot synopsis:

Belmonte and Konstanze are in love.
Pedrillo and Blonde are in love.

Pedrillo is Belmonte's squire/servant/butler whatever.
Blonde is the female version (servant/maid) for Konstanze.

Konstanze, Pedrillo and Blonde have been captured by pirates and sold to a Turkish Pasha. The Pasha is in love with Konstanze.
The Pasha's main guard/overseer is Osmin. He, of course, is in love with Blonde. He is slightly insane and is mean to Pedrillo at all times.

So the opera starts when Belmonte finally arrives to save them, and zany hijinks ensue as they sneak around, get caught and then released.

So now on to the particulars.

Scott Ramsay
was Belmonte. WOW. He was great as Romeo and he was even better last night. His voice just floated through the music, light and airy. Some notes he held for so long I thought of that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he has the opera singer holding out the note and turning green, only, Scott made it look easy. And he didn't turn any colors. But click that link because it's pretty funny.

Matthew Lau was Osmin. He was HILARIOUS. In my opinion, he stole the show, with Rachele Gilmore as Blonde right behind/beside him. She was the maid in Die Fleidermaus, and if you remember my post about it, I thought she stole the show then, too. Ok so Osmin was bald with this funny little beard. He's also a bit insane, always shouting about how he's going to torture and kill everyone, but in a funny way. I know these aren't the exact words, but it was a list sort of like, "First you'll be beheaded, then you'll be drowned, then trampled, then burned and then skinned." Beheaded and skinned were first and last, drowned was in there somewhere, but I don't know what else. I'm just guessing at the trampling and burning. His voice was amazing. It's amazing to me that anyone can sing so low. And Rachele Gilmore - she's adorable and has this voice that's clear as a bell, so pretty. She played her character with a British accent. She fell out of the accent every now and then, which didn't surprise me. It's hard to maintain an accent throughout an entire performance. But it didn't take away anything from the performance. Didn't matter to me what kind of accent she had, as long as I could understand her, and I could.

I don't remember the name of the woman who played Konstanze. She was very good, technically. Great voice, really beautiful. But I sort of got this feeling that at times she was singing more like she was giving a recital than participating in an opera with other people. Not every time she sang, just sometimes... it was like she sort of lost the character and just sang to the audience. I mean, they all sing in the direction of the audience of course. But when she looked out at the audience it felt, to me, like she was looking right at everyone. I sat in three different parts of the theater and I felt like she was looking right at me at times. I know she wasn't, of course. But the feeling that she was seeing the audience took away somehow from her acting. It's hard to explain. When she was interacting with her castmates she was invested 100%. Her singing was beautiful and she was also very pretty. The arias were very challenging and she nailed them all. But I did sometimes get that "solo recital" feeling.

It's fun to hear the singers speaking the lines instead of singing recit. They speak them in a sort of singy way, definitely not the way people talk. I really liked the speaking voice (and the singing voice) of the guy who played Pedrillo.

The supers were great. I was pretty much whining, "I could do that!" in my head whenever they were on stage. They wore these beautiful I Dream of Jeannie costumes, but unlike that link they wore bra tops with dangling jingly fringes and see-through gauzy harem pants with the trunks (or whatever that's called) underneath. They wore hats and veils similar to what's in that picture. Each woman was in a different color. The pants were totally see-through.

They came on in the first scene and helped the male watermelon super cut the watermelon. They were on in many other scenes too, including a belly-dance scene at the beginning of Act 2, to an orchestral version of Rondo alla Turca. That Mozart, he sure was clever.

After the performance I decided I might as well go downstairs and say hi. I congratulated Scott in his post-performance sweat-drenched state, then zipped over to the women's dressing room to say hi to one of the supers who was in Romeo with me. She kept telling me how I should have been in it. I know, I know... No control over that... Anyway, they were all taller than me. And it's just as well...a bra top is one thing, but those see-through pants... she said that they were told that you couldn't see through them on stage. Oh no honey, you can see right through them. She also joked that when they first tried on their costumes they were all afraid to leave the dressing room. I think they all looked fabulous.

I'm so glad I went! And I'm so glad I stayed home tonight!

So Many Seats, But Just Three Acts. Do You Write a Blog?

I post a real official unofficial review later, however I wanted to check in to say that Abduction was great! So funny. I will go into all the gory/boring detail in a different post. But I wanted to share these two things:

Standing room tickets were $15. Seats started at $59. I purchased a standing room ticket. As soon as the lights went down, the usher asked me if I'd like to sit, and she showed me and another standing room person to some empty seats in the back, on the side. That was nice. Well, except for the fact that my skirt is a size too small, and sitting down made it really uncomfortable. But I was happy to be sitting.

First intermission. The usher comes over and asks if we'd mind switching seats with someone who wants to be sitting farther back. Sure, why not? So now I'm in row M, center section for Act 2.

Lights come up for second intermission. I notice a bunch of empty seats about 5 rows up. I return from my mad bathroom dash, where, by the way, I was first! I was the FIRST person to reach the bathroom! Oh and I was also the youngest person there so... Anyway, those seats were empty so I moved up and watched Act 3 from like the 7th row, near the center. Nice!

So of course now I'm feeling a wee bit guilty - I paid $15 for $90 seats. Actually, I paid $15 and got to see three operas, all from great seats. I did grab one of the donation envelopes on the way out. Time to become a Patron of the Arts. Every $25 counts, right?

The other thing: First intermission. I'm in the lobby getting some water (they have a pitcher and little cups on the bar) when someone with an opera company badge approaches me and says, "Do you write a blog?" I didn't know what the right answer was. So I said, all drawn out, "Maayyyybe....?" and she said, "No, really, do you write a blog? Aren't you Susan?" I didn't answer. I didn't make eye contact. Then she says, "No, it's ok... Divavixxen told me about it." So I did own up and she said she finds it entertaining. Whew! Thanks!! Not sure what I was scared of. I guess I was afraid someone would be like, stop writing about our operas! And yes, I'm aware that that's totally paranoid verging on insane, but given the history... Anyway, Intermission Lobby Person, if you read this, you know who you are... leave comments if you're inspired!

I really do have lots to say about the performance but it's way past my bedtime so it'll have to wait.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Today and Tomorrow: Aliens, Trains and Lawns

Tonight: Abduction. I hope they don't do the brain probe again. WAIT A SECOND! Not alien abduction. Wrong blog. No! It's Mozart's Abduction!
Fashion: The Florida outfit.

Tomorrow: I'll be either taking a train and sitting on a lawn, or playing with trains and sitting on a lawn.
Fashion: Skirt, t-shirt and flip-flops, either way.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Need...More... Money...

Remember back when I wrote about Firebrand I said I'd go out of my way to see Anna Christy perform again? Well look at this. Anna Christy, Joyce DiDonato, Sam Ramey and many others... Thankfully none of the other upcoming performances appeal to me. But I can only imagine how much tickets for American Voices are going to run. That on top of what I want to see at the Met... eek. Must... sell...more...earrings.

Anyone out there want to buy some earrings? <--- Click that link!! Go ahead! Click it! Look at the photos! Many opera singers out there have a pair (or more) of my creations, including Joyce Didonato, Elizabeth Caballero, Divavixxen and I do believe I gave a pair to Julie Gunn after I saw her perform.

I do believe? As if. I remember every pair. I have pictures of every pair I've ever made.

JDD - green embedded flower earrings with rhinestone rondelles,

And also a pair using the bottom bead in these. It's actually a black bead with two vintage beadcaps.

EC - Vintage orange painted beads - I think it was these, and if not, definitely a pair with those orange beads.

DV- Vintage grey/black oval twisted beads dangling from black tulip beads

JG- Blue I think... embedded flower with blue crystal bicone bead?
(on the far right... I think those are the ones. If not, I think it was something similar. I'm pretty sure they were blue.)

Yep. Sounds about right.

So don't you want to be in good company - all these talented musicians have earrings I've designed! You can too!!

Ok, shameless begging done. Email me if interested.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dos Entrevistas

Hoy he escuchado a 2 entrevistas interesantes.

1. Elizabeth Caballero - El video de La Rueda Bohemia tiene tambien una entravista con su padre, que ha escrito un libro de poesia. Todo esta en Espanol. La entrevista es muy interesante. Ella habla de los 3 tenores y su experiencia con ellos, y mucho mas.

2. Nathan Gunn - Entrevista con Aspen Public Radio sobre mucho, incluyendo unas palabras sobre Rape of Lucretia. La entrevista esta en ingles.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Up Periscope and Other Tidbits

Of course I remembered one more thing about Lucia that I had meant to include in yesterday's post. This isn't related to the performance, although I don't think it qualifies as a tattle either.

You know how when the conductor comes in, he or she has the orchestra stand? From where we were sitting in the second row, we couldn't see the musicians at all. All we could see was the bassoon come up like a periscope. It looked ridiculous and everyone around us laughed. I've sat so far up and back that I couldn't see the orchestra, but I've never been so close that I couldn't see it.

View from my seat after we moved to the center:

You can just see the tops of the seats in the first row, that little bit of red. The orchestra was behind the wall and down a few steps into the pit.

So while I'm posting the "view from my seat" pictures, here is my view for Mikado. The sets were gorgeous. This was the dress rehearsal so you can see tech type people on the stage. You can aslo see the orchestra pit AND you can see where I sat for Lucia - 2nd row, center section, three seats in from the right.

I recommend to anyone in the area to GO SEE THESE PERFORMANCES!

I did break down and buy a ticket for Abduction. Seriously, how could I not? I promise not to whine (too much) about not being a super in it. I did see a photo of the supers in costume, and what stood out to me was that they are all the exact same height. Taller than me by several inches... So yeah, I know, we all live in our own worlds where everything revolves around us and it's all huge in our heads and all, but seeing that made me realize that there was nothing I could do, short of grow 5 inches, to get chosen. And you know what? It's a relief.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Rest of Yesterday

As usual, it has taken my brain a day to process yesterday's Lucia. Of course I have more to say, most of it in the "tattler" department. But first a little more about the production that was really cool.

In Lucia's first aria she sings about seeing a ghost in the fountain. The ghost is of a woman who was stabbed by her lover and either fell into or else he put her into the fountain.

Ok so rewind to the very beginning of the opera. During the overture two people came out (Dancers? Supers? Singers?) and acted that out - lovers meeting, quarreling, he stabs her, she collapses. Then they projected onto the scrim a film of a ghost woman dancing in flowing scarves. Later when Lucia sang the aria they projected it again and at one point they reached for each other. It was neat. I liked how they mixed the projection with the people.

Near the beginning of Act 3 the supers came out carrying a bloody Lucia on a pallet. Ah the life of a super, carrying a dead body. Been there, done that. I'm assuming it was a premonition - it was just before she came out of the bedroom all bloodied for the mad scene. It was creepy too, because one pale bloodied arm was hanging off the pallet.

They cut the scene where Enrico goes to Edgardo's house and they agree to meet at the graveyard at dawn to fight. Without that it seems odd to have Enrico come home to the wedding party to find Lucia in such a state. Where had he been? Why did he leave the party? It's never explained. And then why is Edgardo in the graveyard later? That cut scene tells us why. But I have read elsewhere that that particular scene is often cut.

During the curtain call all the principals got flowers, which was nice.

Ok, tattle time.

1. Before the performance, in the lobby, I overheard one woman say to another in a very strong northern New Jersey accent, "When I found out this was about Scotland I was so happy!"
Hm, it doesn't seem funny now. Guess you had to be there.

2. During intermission I heard a man say to his companion, "What are all these Italians doing in Scotland?" I think (I hope!) he was joking...

3. On line for the ladies room I heard someone say, "This is kind of like a high school play." What??? I must assume that either I misheard, or else she was talking about something else, because there was nothing high-schoolish about the performance.

4. The man I was sitting next to after we moved to the center section hogged the armrest and sort of spilled over into my seat a little.

5. Same man - his wife gave him a hard candy during intermission. He threw the wrapper on the floor. What's with that?

6. Same man - talking about Lissette Oropesa - "I know she sang at the Met but it was just Susanna in Marriage. That's not a big role - she just comes on at the end." Uh, wrong. He must have had Susanna mixed up with... what's her name... the one who ends up with Cherubino ... Marcellina? Something like that. Thankfully his wife corrected him, because I was squirming in my seat in that way when you overhear someone confidently give wrong info and you're not really in a position to correct them.

7. Same man - He pulled out a camera and filmed the curtain call. That's odd, right? They didn't seem to know anyone in the cast...

8. There were two little girls behind us. One of them was the daughter of I think the conductor. I think the other was her friend. They were about 9 years old. After the performance we were walking behind them up the aisle. The friend said, "Why do they repeat everything over and over? It took him so long to die. Why didn't he just do it, instead of singing about it again and again?" Of course that drew chuckles from everyone and several people explained that it's not an opera if it doesn't take the hero 20 minutes to die, and that if there were no repetition the entire opera would be 15 minutes long. I asked her if she is able to understand when several people talk at once. She said no. Then I asked her how she liked it when several people sang different things at the same time. She said that when they all sang different things at once it was "very harmonious." I said that often, first they each do their own section a few times before all joining in together, and that way you can hear and understand it all. Repetition. It's not just the key to comedy. It's also the key to opera.

9. Tattling on myself. My shoes had this sort of stretchy part basically holding them together. They're old enough that I guess the stretchy part has lost some of its stretchiness. Every time I stood up, and every step I took, if my foot wasn't exactly over the center of the shoe, the stretchy part failed to keep it in place and I sort of fell off it. My foot fell off the shoe and I'd stumble. People probably thought I was drunk.

That's all I can remember. No doubt the moment I hit "publish post" some more tidbits will pop into my head.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Free Bloody Lucia!

I want to start off today's post with a huge THANK YOU to Scott R. for hooking me up with tickets for tonight's performance of Lucia di Lammermoor!

Where to begin. Oh I know, how about with the two embarrassing moments. It's ok, only one of them was mine. It was a simple one, really. I thought I recognized this guy outside and started talking to him, and then I realized that no, he wasn't who I thought he was... he didn't seem to mind. I, of course, was embarrassed and ran off to hide at the other side of the building. And here's where embarrassing moment no. 2 takes place. I was walking past the front of the theater. There was just 1 person out there, a fancily-dressed woman, on the phone. Her back was to me. As I approached, she let out this huge whopper of ... well, she passed gas. She immediately spun around with a look of horror on her face to see if anyone was in the vicinity. Hi, it's just me. I didn't look at her and didn't react - just kept going in my own mortification to escape from the case of mistaken identity. So that was her embarrassing moment. Maybe the tables are turning - yesterday I experienced my neighbor's embarrassing moment, today, this. Could it be I've had my quota of embarrassing opera moments? Oh wouldn't that be nice...

Ok so I went in to get the tickets and I didn't seem to be on the list. The Guy in Charge of the comp tickets was holding a wad of them about 2 inches thick though. I'm not sure if he ever found my name, but he scribbled it down and peeled two tickets off the stack... and they were in the 2nd row, off to the side. Then a super-tall person sat right in front of me. For the entire first act he kept moving his head, which meant I had to too, so we moved to the center section for the rest of it.

The opera itself was awesome!! Lisette Oropesa was Lucia. Wow. What a voice - like honey. She didn't quite have that gorgeous timbre that Elizabeth Caballero has, but she was close. In Act 2, when Lucia's fighting with her brother, she really seemed like a young teenager. And the mad scene - WOW. She caressed the notes up and down and all over the scale, made it sound easy. All this while covered in blood of course, lots of it. And I must confess, I liked her Lucia better than Anna Netrebko's. She just seemed to fit the role better.

Everyone in the cast was great. The role of Raimondo, the priest, was sung by a different person than what's printed in the program. That slip of paper fell out... we were treated to someone named Rubin Casas. I don't know when the change was made, but it looked to me like he had rehearsed it with them from the beginning.

Edgardo and Arturo were great too, but I want to especially mention Eric Dubin. When I was reading the cast list yesterday I kept thinking, his name sounds so familiar. Why? Oh yeah, I remember. He was Junius in Rape of Lucretia. Junius is the one who says that all women are whores after his wife is discovered, what was it, getting a massage? Well today he sang Enrico, the mean brother who lies to Lucia about Edgardo and forces her to marry Arturo. He was amazing. I almost want to say he stole the show, but with a part like Lucia it's impossible. Act 2 was his, though. It was an incredibly intense act, the "discussion" between Enrico and Lucia when he does the whole lying-and-convincing thing that sets her off. He was amazing. He scared the crap out of me, the way he was tossing Lucia around like a rag doll.

So I've seen him perform twice, one month apart, from the 2nd row each time, and in each opera the female lead for whom the opera is named kills herself. Different reasons, same result.

I realize now that I absolutely have to go see Abduction. I had budgeted only 1 opera this summer, and while I've seen two, I've paid for none, so my Summer Opera Allowance is still available. I'll probably be a bit blue about the supering thing, but I'll get over it. I've decided that it was probably my own fault I didn't get chosen - in the choice of photos. They wanted a full-body shot, and instead of posing for it specifically, I found a few casual ones I had on hand. I wonder if a purposefully posed shot would have been better. So I don't know if that's the reason or not, but either way, I'll be more professional about the photos I choose to send in the future.

Dressed for the Dress

I want to start off this post with a huge THANK YOU to Divavixxen for generously offering me her two free passes to the final orchestra dress rehearsal of the Mikado. I went last night and it was FABULOUS! Divavixxen was great. What a voice! Beautiful full mezzo, the kind of sound that gives me that Why can't I be a Mezzo-itis bug. She has great comic timing and drew many many laughs from the audience. She owns comedy. I’d love to see her in a dramatic role one day.

But let's back up for a moment. The adventure begins, of course, in the preparations. I narrowed down my shirt options to two. They were both in the basement, freshly washed. One was in a super-heavy laundry basket of clean clothes in the basement. The other was “lay flat to dry” and was doing so on the drying rack. I knew it wouldn’t be dry in time so I took a chance and tossed it into the dryer on fluff. I brought the other shirt upstairs and put it on the dining room table. The rest of the afternoon passed with its normal craziness. Then it was time to get ready. I put on my skirt and thought, hm, both shirts are downstairs. I know we have windows all around and the front door is open to the screen door, but what are the chances that someone will come by if I dash down in my bra? Mind you, I’ve lived there 10 years and this would be the 2nd or 3rd time I’ve ever come downstairs scantily clad. I dash to the basement and the one shirt is still wet. “Fine,” I thought, “I’ll wear the other.” Back up I go... and I can’t find the other shirt. I knew I brought it up, but where the heck did I leave it? About 10 seconds later I hear a “Hello?” And look up to see my next-door neighbor at the door. He’s in his 60s and is one of the most socially awkward people I know. I looked up just as he saw me. He covered his eyes and turned away in embarrassment, stammering that he just wants to drop something off. Meanwhile, I had forgotten that I wasn’t wearing a shirt...I look down, realize, and crouch behind a chair. He was so embarrassed. I’m such a terrible person, I was just trying not to laugh. Poor guy. Husband came to the rescue and I moved a few papers on the table to find my shirt buried underneath. So I was already in a giggly mood before I even left the house.

The performance was great - SO FUNNY!!! What a talented cast. The music and lyrics are so much fun, and they rewrote some of the words to make it relevant. It was HILARIOUS. As I said, Divavixxen ROCKED. She later informed me that it was the guy who played the Lord High Executioner who rewrote the lyrics. Apparently he’s done the role like 30 times so he’s got a flair for keeping it up to date.

Afterwards I ran into the guy who sang Romeo when I supered in it. He’s the lead in Abduction this year. He’s so sweet. The first words out of his mouth: We miss you! Argh! I know! He said that the opera is so funny that he has to keep himself from laughing so he can sing. So of course I said I’d come see it. Then he said he has a few free tickets for Lucia for tonight, am I interested? Hell yeah! Free opera tickets! Of course I can’t find anyone who wants to or is able to come. Story of my life. Well I’ve gone alone to the opera more than I’ve gone with others so, off I go tonight, alone to the opera. Thanks “Romeo!”

Now I all I have to do is figure out what to wear... and remember to get fully dressed before coming downstairs.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

iPod Shuffle Train of Thought - Pirates! And a Confession!

Was out exercising with the random shuffle. It's great to hear Juan Diego Florez and then the Beatles. It's not so great to get a track that's an entire act of an opera, or else a track from a CD of an opera that's all recit. At least the recit tracks are usually under 30 seconds.

But that "entire act" track got me thinking about recordings of operas, and the idea of piracy.

I have never recorded an opera from the audience. Even if I wanted to, I don't have the equipment. But I don't want to deal with the hassle, nor do I wish to break the law and risk getting kicked out, just to have a (cough-ridden) recording of an opera I've attended. I just want to enjoy the moment. However, there are people out there who not only record but willingly share those recordings with other opera fans. Share, as in, free. I want to point out that I'm not including radio broadcasts in this. To me, if it's broadcast on the radio, anyone can record it to listen to again later. Not to sell, but to listen and share. But these pirated recordings... I do wonder sometimes what the artists themselves think. Of course each person is different. If it's taking money out of their pockets, I imagine they wouldn't be too pleased. On the other hand, isn't it sort of flattering to think that there are these unofficial recordings out there, passed around among fans? Perhaps creating new fans, even? Now, I have heard some singers profess that pirated recordings send a bad message. Not sure what/how/why... perhaps I'm naive... Does it send a message (to whom?) that it's ok to record live performances? I doubt it. I'm pretty sure most adults are aware of the legal stuff surrounding it. Does it prevent people from buying tickets? "I've heard this crappy audience recording, so why go see it live?" Does it prevent people from buying CDs? "I've heard this crappy audience recording, so why buy a totally unrelated CD of the artist I heard on the crappy recording?" I doubt it. If anything, it's just the opposite.

Confession: I have come across some pirated recordings, mostly of Nathan Gunn because people would just give them to me, but also of some others. So I guess I've broken the law by accepting and occasionally sharing these recordings. I did once make a video that I was asked to remove... and I did, immediately, with tons of apologies and promises not to do it again, etc. I wasn't trying to be sneaky - I honestly thought at the time that I was doing a nice thing. Yes, I am naive about the music business. And no, don't ask me for a copy of it - it's gone.

But now you all know ... It's true... I'm a scofflaw! A rebel! I confess!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Almost Audition... Postponed

Argh. The thing I've sort of mentioned in the past few posts... the Person In Charge left me a message, they want to hear me sing, can I come Saturday? Totally casual message that if I can make it, great, if not, that's OK too. My first thought upon hearing the message was, "NO! I'm NOT READY!" Even though I am. But there it was, my first thought. Not an auspicious beginning.

Unfortunately, I have an obligation on Saturday that I can't really get out of without causing A Great Deal of Discomfort to Too Many People (including the Discomfort they'd heap upon me). So I had to tell him I couldn't make it. He thought I had previously told him I'd be on vacation that day, so he didn't expect me to be available. The next opportunity will be in September, unless he can get people together in August. He said many people are on vacation and it's hard to schedule stuff, and that he'd call me. I guess I'll call him at the beginning of September if I don't hear from him.

I'm so glad he left a message - it gave me time to think before calling him back. So now I'll have time to prepare an audition piece, maybe two, if they want to hear another. This is not a paid professional thing - it's casual - so it's not like I need a head shot and a portfolio of music for them to choose from for me to sing. On the other hand, it can't hurt. Might as well pretend I'm professional, as much as I'm able to. They know the deal as far as my vocal education and experience goes.

I'm excited, even if I have to wait two more months!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Facebook Fan Pages - Elizabeth Caballero

Ok, how many of you are on Facebook? Almost all, I bet.

Go here. Watch and listen to the videos. Become a fan. See her perform if you ever get a chance.

My next chance will be next season at the Met. Can't wait!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Break a Leg?

I know I'm a little late in posting this "breaking" news, but post it I will.

Superwoman mezzo Joyce Didonato fell in the middle of a production of Barbiere in London this weekend. She continued on to finish the performance with a cane before heading out to the ER. Turns out she broke her leg. Yes. She broke her leg in Act 1, grabbed a cane and kept on going.


Read more here. See pictures here.

Get well soon Joyce!!!!

The Imaginary Lesson

Since I'm not taking voice lessons this summer I decided to give myself an imaginary lesson. I recorded myself singing Batti Batti a few times. No, I'm not posting any of those recordings here. Then I examined the recordings to see what I was doing wrong and right. I categorized it by, things I know I should be doing but didn't do, and problems that I recognize but am not sure what to do about them. Then, I thought, what would my teacher tell me? Obviously I don't know the answer to that... at least, not always.

For example, I'm sounding a bit weak on the higher notes. No surprise there. However I know I can produce a nice, bell-like sound for those notes in a warm-up. Hmm, I thought. Could be the particular order of the vowels coupled, of course, with my fear of the notes. What would my teacher say? Besides reminding me that I can hit those notes nicely, she'd probably take the measure and make a vocalise out of it, and then have me do it up and down the scale and with different vowel combinations. Ok, I can do that. It's just much easier for me to do that when she reads the music and plays the combos on the piano for me in the different keys, and sets up the vowel combinations for me.

Another thing I want to work on is controlling the volume during the fermata while keeping the bell-like and caressing sound.

That's just a taste of the thought process I went through while I made myself some homework assignments. I still need to poke around online for tips and exercises when I get a chance.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My "Fight" with a Singer

It's true, sometimes I do get myself into sticky situations.

So this story is about how I had a conversation with a famous singer that turned sour.

It was 1986, I believe. A friend and I went to see Adam Ant at a small theater about an hour away. We got there early and were wandering around town, idly shopping and what not. We decided to check out the theater, and lo and behold, the backstage door was standing open. We looked at each other and then went in.

The backstage are was a maze of hallways with doors. We had no idea what to do. After a minute or two of wandering around backstage (not unlike how we had wandered around town) some guy was like, "Hey, you're not supposed to be here," or something like that. I explained that I worked for my college radio station (I did, I wasn't making that up) and that I wanted to get a station ID from Adam. A station ID is when they say, "Hi, this is Adam Ant, and you're listening to (call letters, station numbers, location)." The guy led us outside and down the alley behind the theater where he shut and locked a gate. He told us to wait and he'd have him come out. Okay... didn't think he would, but we waited. We didn't have to wait long. He came out about 5 minutes later. I remember he was wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses. I held the tape recorder and gave him the info... and he couldn't repeat it back. He just couldn't remember it. He tried twice and then said, "You should have written it down. That would have been SMART." Well. I felt my indignation rise, here I was, a huge fan, and he was being snarky! So I said in a sort of obnoxious tone, "Oh... Do you want me to write it down NOW?" at which point the guy who brought him out there jumped in and said, "No, that won't be necessary. He'll do it right this time." And he did. And I had the whole thing on tape.

I did end up transferring the station ID to the proper format for use at the station. I did remain a fan. However I must say that my ardor faded quite a bit. I guess that's to be expected. I think that was when I decided that in the future I was never going to try to meet musicians that I liked because it had great potential of breaking the spell. Obviously I learned something from that experience, then conveniently forgot it 20 years later as I ran around for photo opportunities with ng and jdf. Ah well at least I amuse myself with these silly adventures. I wonder what the next 20 years will bring?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

More on summer voice lessons...

Since I'm registered with the music school for four 45 minute lessons, I could either get a refund OR take the lessons with a different teacher.

So now I don't know what to do... how weird would it be to switch to someone new for just a few lessons? In theory I feel like it'd be good - A new teacher brings a new perspective, a new way of looking at things, a different teaching style and so on. On the other hand, I have built a trusting relationship with my current teacher. I joke that my voice lessons are like psychology treatments. Part of that is simply having the 45 minutes to myself (meaning, no child saying mommymommymommymommy), part of it is the release I get from the music and part of it is because of my relationship with my teacher - I can tell her anything. She knows where my insecurities lie. (ooh, double entendre [minus the racy part]!) So how would that trust and familiarity affect lessons with someone else? Especially knowing that it's just for a few lessons? If I were looking for a new teacher, yeah, I'd meet with different teachers over the summer. On the other hand, perhaps I'd end up with another psychologist! And then my biggest fear: What if I like the summer teacher better than my current teacher?

Then, of course, I will ignore all that and just be too lazy to make the phone call(s) to find out the who/where/when of it all. They'll refund my tuition automatically and I'll apply it to a trip to the Met this coming season.

There. Problem solved AND opera ticket guilt absolved as well.

Blogging saves the day!

"You Know What to Do"

So said my voice teacher when she called to give the sad news: She didn't have enough enrollment for summer for the school to give her a room. I could go to her but she lives too far away - something like 45 minutes. I could also go to another teacher over the summer. She said that she's not worried about me taking the summer off from lessons because she knows I practice... "You know what to do..." is what she said.

But now, since she's not teaching Thursday evenings, she'll come with me to the final dress of Mikado next week.

What to wear, what to wear... always a dilemma with my ever-expanding waistline. (from eating too much, not from pregnancy. I'm not pregnant.)