Monday, August 31, 2009

Practice Drive

I know you're supposed to only practice when you do nothing but practice. I know. And I know you're supposed to make the time in your day to do so. But too bad. I can't always do that, and I'm not a professional, so I have to bend these "rules" to fit my lifestyle.

I sing in the car all the time, and yes, I practice there too. To me, the difference between practicing and singing is, when I sing I just sing, but when I practice I focus on incorporating or improving particular aspects of singing.

Today on my way to work it was all about the breath.

A few weeks ago I made a CD of the piano accompaniment of the songs I've learned so far. Some of these are from when I first started my lessons. So today I was going through the CD and singing some of the early songs while focusing on my breath. Or more accurately, on the support. Like in that Pearl Fishers video, I was actively pushing out my abs and then pulling them in in a controlled manner for each measure of the particular song I was singing. Controlled being the important word in that sentence... I'm getting much better at controlling it so I can hit the higher notes without sounding like I'm blurting them out. And one thing about sitting to do this is that I can really focus on the abs while the seat supports the rest of me. I mean, I relax into the seat and really concentrate on what my belly is doing while I'm singing. Or should I say, what I'm doing with it. And when I'm really controlling the outgoing air, I'm then able to focus on relaxing my throat to really open it up. Bit by bit, little by little, I feel the layers adding up.

And one other positive aspect is, it makes the commute (ok it's just 10-15 minutes) fly by!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Funding Options

Still working on the voice lesson and opera ticket funds. Here's the latest set of earrings. Click to enlarge the photo.



Think of me for all your birthday and holiday gift-giving needs! Join the group here to see the full inventory.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Whew! Done. Sort of. Enough.

Well it took what, three days? But I think we've finished putting the unofficial Gunn fansite together. Sort of. Enough that we're willing to share the link. Check it out, tell your friends, etc. Post a comment if you see typos or have suggestions.

And now, back to my online Scrabble games.

Picking and Singing

Words cannot express how eager I am to resume my voice lessons. I spoke with my teacher the other day. I can't get up to her house for that extra lesson so we'll probably just tack the time onto another lesson. That'll be tricky since my lesson coincides with Alex's music class. His is an hour, mine is 45 minute. But WAIT! My lessons start two weeks before his class starts, so maybe we can do it then.

See, once again blogging solves a problem.

I'm thinking I might try to teach myself one of the songs from the songbook. The book comes with a CD with the pronunciation for non-English songs and piano accompaniment, and I can probably find someone singing it on YouTube. Although I am very careful about that - I don't want to end up imitating anyone, incorporating someone else's style or mistakes. However it's a good way to learn the melody since I don't have a piano. So I listen for just the melody and then make it my own. Or at least that's the theory...

So first I have to go through the book and pick something. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Yet Another Project

Something needed to be done. Banawoman and I are working on it. It's turning out to be surprisingly easy, although a bit tedious. Bit by bit... it's a work in progress. Unofficially a work in progress.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Breathing Technique

Someone at Opera Philly has been busy!



Again, click through to YouTube to see the entire frame.
And remember, keep your eyes on the abs to see proper singing technique. (I'm only half joking.)

Wait let's see if I can shrink it:




Not enough... so click.

Rape of Lucretia Clip!

Opera Philadelphia just posted this to YouTube!! This was recorded the night I was there.



The format is too big for my blog, so click through to see the entire frame.

I described this scene in my review. Wow. Still so intense. I'm getting all nervous watching it again - you can see him straining, straining... then he breaks free... then cut to the happy home... he's holding that bridle... turn back, Tarquinius... argh.

How it Began

Looking back over the blog, I realize I never posted the story of the role opera played in my family's history.

Basically, opera kept my grandfather of of jail.

It was 1902 in Kiev and the czarist regime had a stronghold over the land. Poverty was widespread. Living conditions were deplorable. My grandfather Aaron, about 20 years old at the time, was one of a group of revolutionaries who were convinced that socialism was the answer. They decided to infiltrate the world of the rich to let them know how things really were for the rest of the country. They printed up leaflets decrying the deplorable conditions and promoting the socialistic ideal. But how would they get their message out to the wealthy? The opera of course.

On the day of the drop the boys hid along the side of the road near the opera house, watching the wealthy patrons arrive. They had often heard the clop clop clop of the horses pulling the fancy carriages of the rich off to the Kiev Opera House, but they'd never been close enough to see the furs, jewels and fancy clothing. They knew the rich were very rich, but had had no idea such opulence even existed.

Once the street emptied they made their move. With the help of an employee, they snuck into the opera house and up to the balcony. The plan was to drop the leaflets and run. But when my grandfather Aaron heard the music he was entranced. He forgot his mission and simply stared at the stage. He was transfixed. The other young men dropped their leaflets, ran, and of course were caught and arrested. Aaron stayed for the entire opera and snuck out at the end, a changed man. Afterwards he repeatedly risked arrest by sneaking into the opera whenever he could. That may sound like no big deal, but it was a huge risk. He was so enchanted by opera that he was willing to risk his life to hear it.

Because I don’t know the exact date of the incident, I don’t know what opera was being performed. For some reason I imagine it was Madame Butterfly. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps my aunt mentioned it to me once? But there's no way to know for sure.

Aaron brought his love of opera to the United States when he moved here in the early 1900s. The family always had subscriptions to the (old) Met, and at home opera was always on the radio or phonograph. My mother, aunts and uncles always had opera playing too. Every family gathering had an opera soundtrack in the background. Not loud and in your face, but just there. I think that's why it feels so familiar and comfortable to me. Growing up, my mom always had opera playing. Certain operas or pieces of music can transport me back to my childhood. Carmen, Marriage of Figaro, Die Fledermaus... I knew these operas without realizing I knew them.

Naturally, I rejected my parents music as a teenager. After all, it was the 80s and MTV was brand-new. I still played opera games, such as pretending that life was an opera and everything had to be sung. But it wasn't until I had a child of my own that I returned to the music that was such a strong part of my childhood. And I started writing this blog soon after.

Now Alex is enthralled by opera, and while I realize that he, too, might reject it at some point during his childhood, I'm confident that when he's an adult he'll be sharing his love opera with his children. Makes me all weepy and fuzzy to think about it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What Else Is There?

Out for my run today I finally remembered that I have a play list on my iPhone called, "Workout Set." No more opera acts or recits interrupting my workout!! So I thought I'd share my play list here, partially because it's fun, and partially because I suddenly feel the need to show that I do listen to music other than opera or goofy kids stuff. So here's what I like to run to:









Ooh this one's not on the list, but it will be the next time I go out:



Also must add this:



So, what do you work out to? Post a comment with your favorites!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Introductions and Other Subjects

Every now and then someone who wants to learn about opera asks me for recommendations. "What should I listen to first?" or, "I usually don't like opera, although I recognize that the singers are talented." So what is the best thing to recommend? I personally am not into Puccini, so I'd never recommend him as a first listen, although many people recommend Boheme as an easy first opera. I usually recommend Mozart or Rossini. I find it's hard to recommend just one aria, like, just one YouTube clip, because it all has so much meaning within the context of the entire story. So what do you recommend people listen to, either to sit down and read along with, or just view some YouTube clips?

Totally new subject: Back to the "What kind of press is this?" scenario. Meaning, this, from Our Favorite Baritone. Time? Program name? Anyone know? That's sort of important information to include, especially if you take the time to post it in the first place. And look at that list of stations - ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS - all the major commercial networks, all over the country. Other than some sort of political event, what sort of program is shown on several networks at the same time? It's very confusing. Is he running for office? Anyone have any more info about this? There's an entire group of sort of curious people. Post a comment or send me a message at luindriel@gmail.com.

Totally new subject: Was watching La Cenerentola with Alex and I said, "Isn't she cute," referring, of course, to Elina Garanca when she was all dressed up in blue. "No," he replied, "She's beautiful."

Totally new subject: Was listening to Diana Damrau as Lucia today, from the radio broadcast of the performance I saw last October. She is amazing. I'm so glad I'm going to see her in La Fille.

That's all... for now.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Parallel Worlds

If you read my profile here, you'll see that when I'm not being kept awake by opera, I'm often reading. I'm always looking for something good to read so feel free to post comments with recommendations. But for now, I have a few of my own.

This first is actually a trilogy - no, not Lord of the Rings, although I do recommend that also - but in this case it's Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials. The books are The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. It's marketed to teenagers, and two of the main characters are 13 years old or so, but really it's a great story for adults as well. I reread them often. The story is great and it gives you a lot to think about.

Next, I HIGHLY recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora. I couldn't put it down.

Then if you're in the mood for some comedy, go with Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men. Silly silly stuff and a fun story. I seem to recall reading another book of his with the same main character. Could be a sequel - I can't remember at the mo.

Finally, another series that I just loved was the Thursday Next books, by Jasper Fforde. Books play a big part in this. It's like... a meta-book. And also very silly, in a very smart way.

So click the links to read about the books.

Hmm I just realized that all the recommendations have plots about and/or take place in alternate universes. Wishful thinking?

Ok, back to the music. I'm listening to a live performance of Nozze right now, from Arizona Opera. Jason F was in it, remember him? So anyone who's reading this entry on Saturday, 3:00ish Eastern Time, click over and listen.

Friday, August 21, 2009

7th Inning Stretch - Take Me Out to the Opera

When I was a teenager my mother told me that if I hung out with people who did drugs, no matter what my original intentions, eventually I'd start doing drugs with them.

That said, Husband is slowly coming around. He is actually excited to be going to the Met. Excited! He said he'd be willing to listen to Carmen beforehand, to familiarize himself with some of the music. And then yesterday when La Cenerentola was on PBS I pointed out to him that Elina Garanca, who is so adorably cute as Cenerentola, would also be singing the title role in Carmen... Well, that settled it. He has hung around with me long enough, he's finally dipping in and sampling the drug on his own. Ok ok I wouldn't go that far. He's not listening to opera with I'm not around, as far as I know. But while before he went along with me to the local performances, now he's looking forward to going. No doubt some of the prestige surrounding a performance at the Met rather than our local opera company is fueling some of his enthusiasm. I wonder if I'd feel the same about going to see the Yankees in Yankee Stadium after having been to so many games of our local Yankees AA team in the stadium down the road. Thinking about that now... nope. I get bored right around the 4th inning. Hm does this mean he'll get bored by intermission?

Ah so much to think about. Opera. Baseball. Which tickets are more expensive. Are the food and drinks more expensive and/or higher quality in the opera house or at the stadium? If you don't factor fashion into it, I think it's a toss-up.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

That Voice, That Voice!

I'm talking about Juan Diego Florez, of course. Can't get enough of his singing. Can't. Get. Enough. I'm so glad I got those tickets for La Fille. So. Glad. I already found a date - just as I suspected, my friend and voice teacher, who came with me to La Sonnambula, is happy to see Juan Diego again. And Diana Damrau!!! How can I forget! I haven't forgotten. I'm thrilled, that's what I am.

Another That Voice, That Voice person is Elizabeth Caballero, and I'm seeing her in Carmen! She's singing the role of Frasquita. At the Met. I'm thrilled about that too!! That's BEFORE La Fille.

So while we're talking about what I'm seeing at the Met, I'm also seeing Die Zauberflote. And Banawoman is coming to NYC to see it with me! I'm thrilled about that! Oh and about seeing the opera. Mozart! That totally cool puppety Julie Tamor production!

French, French and German. Nothing in Italian? What kind of opera season is that for me? Hahaha!

Yep. Another post about nothing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Successfully Ticketed

Well, what a difference from last year, when I waited 2 hours to spend $200.

Today at noon I had my computer logged on and the phone in my hand. Called once, was a smidge too early and the lines weren't open yet. Called again, got right through, was on hold for about a minute, spoke with a person, ordered tickets for Carmen in January and Die Zauberflote in April. I then looked at the computer to see that the seating section page was only just loading. So this year it took me 5 minutes to spend $450. Someone else I knew had the hardest time getting through. Like last year, his tickets kept getting released from his cart because the system took so long to navigate from page to page. For both performances we're in the Grand Tier, Row E, center section.

So just now, on a lark, I thought, "Hey, let's see if the system is blocked up now."

Nope. Got right in. Looked at La Fille. Found myself putting the two front and center balcony seats into the cart for a day in February. Oh look, they already have all my info saved. Click, click there's another $190 spent in 30 seconds after this morning's $450. I'm half expecting my credit card company to call to alert me to unusually large purchases.

Yes, they are large. Large piles of dollars. HOWEVER Banawoman is paying her own way, (I'd treat her if I could afford it!!) AND I expect to be able to sell the extra La Fille ticket to a companion - perhaps my voice teacher... and Husband and I decided that Carmen will be a date out in NYC for ourselves. Yesterday he kept saying, "Don't worry about the money!! We'll have a great time!!" And hey, the tickets will be paid for by then, so the guilt won't seem so pressing. Gotta get over that. So... anyone wanna babysit that night?

It's so tempting to go back and get more, more, more! Click, click, click. The internet is a dangerous place.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Chorus Line

I just read Susan Eichorn-Young's latest blog entry about how annoying it can be when people find out someone is a singer and ask them why they're not singing on Broadway or at the Met. It reminded me of a conversation I had a while back, which I wrote about here.

To recap, at a friend's art opening she for some reason was introducing me to everyone as an opera singer. I think it was because everyone had some sort of thing that they did, some sort of art, and she was showing me off as her opera singer friend, even though it wasn't true. I wasn't even studying voice yet at the time. So after explaining, again and again, what I did as a super, this one woman started in with these odd questions. Go ahead and read the post. It's short. I'll wait. You need to read only the first part of the post.

....

Ok, done?

....


People definitely have this odd attitude that the Met is the highest level of success. But how bizarre is it that the Met chorus was something that this woman looked down upon. To me, it's so high up that I get a neck strain thinking about it.

And this may sound odd, but, perhaps not everyone wants to be the star? It can be fun and fulfilling to be in the chorus. And hey, it's steady work. You get to be in almost everything the opera company does. You can live in one place, which seems like a big deal to me as a parent. It can't be easy to run off from your family several times a year for weeks or months at a time to perform somewhere away from home. It can't be fun living out of suitcases, in hotels, in other people's houses or apartments and so on. And for some people the chorus is where they're comfortable, where they're at their best. It's a skill to sing with others as a unit. You can't go off on your own ornamentation. You shouldn't sing louder than anyone else. I'm sure there's even more to it, but since the last time I was in any sort of chorus it was high school, I don't really know what else could be involved that makes the chorus for an opera different from singing solo.

That said, I'd love to be in any opera chorus. I have to keep working hard, and keep studying, so maybe by the time I retire I can audition. And the economy being what it is, I won't be retiring for quite some time.

A Quick Word or Two

Just popping in to say that I'm not nervous at all about Met tickets going on sale tomorrow. Right. Not. Nervous.

Truthfully, I know I'll get a ticket into the building, probably on the days I want, most likely in the seats I want, but ...it's like this. Tickets go on sale at noon. tomorrow. Husband will be gone - he's going to a baseball game - so it'll be me and Alex, and you all know what it's like when I try to do anything ... so for now the plan is, put on a video (he's totally into the original Willy Wonka right now, except for the Fizzy Lifting Drink part) and then I'll have the laptop (which I never use so I have to mess about on it tonight) and the phone and will hopefully get through one or the other and done in a reasonable amount of time. I'm hoping they've vamped up their online ticket system since last year's debacle.

The other word is, the music school was able to schedule my voice lesson at the same time as Alex's music class, in the same building. His lesson is 60 min and mine is 45, so I'll be able to drop him off and retrieve him, no problem. I'm also glad to have my voice lesson on a Saturday morning instead of on a weekday evening, when I'm usually exhausted before I even get to the lesson. Instead, I'll be jacked up on caffeine. Hm. Hope that's not a problem, vocally.

Friday, August 14, 2009

McGoofy McBoof

Had a chance to listen to the entire Phineas McBoof CD. It's definitely for kids. Which means, of course, that I love it. It's a bunch of songs tied together in a story of how the band got together. The songs are all different styles and are all catchy and silly. Which means, of course, that I love it. And while there's stuff in there that's fun for parents, I don't think it'd be fun for a someone who didn't have (ever) a little kid. Go to this link and listen to number 10. Alex does wake up at three to pee and he announces it, loudly. Yeah, I need a nap.

Mr. Gunn is on the first couple of tracks as the character Placido Flamingo. There's this sort of orchestral and vocal warmup and you can hear him say something like, "No green M&Ms in my bowl!" (who was that, Van Halen, that had all these weird requests for the backstage hospitality?) You can hear it here, track 1. Anyway I've learned that Placido Flamingo has a much larger presence in the 2nd CD, that Mr. Gunn has already recorded his parts and that they're "hilarious." But we'll all have to wait until next year to hear it, for that's when it'll be released.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sitting - It's Grand (hopefully)

I finally found the price chart for single tickets at the Met. Banawoman and I have agreed to spend about $130 for Zauberflote tickets. That gives us a few options: Orchestra Balance, Grand Tier Rear, Grand Tier Box Front or Dress Circle. All are $100 seats. Where to sit??? Chart can be found here, and from there you can get detailed PDFs of each section. Is the Grand Tier Box Front a partial view seat? Is it all the way to the side?

I'm leaning toward Grand Tier Rear. I sat in row F for Lucia and the view was great. Plus the Grand Tier has that bathroom like, right there, the one that no one uses. I've jogged down from the Balcony just to use that bathroom. There's another bathroom up up up near the ceiling in the Family Circle - thanks to Opera Chic for cluing me in to that last year. Not that I've struggled against the tide of Family Circle bodies to get there - I much prefer the trek down to the G.T. loos - that puts you closer to the better bar. Not that I ever buy a $25 glass of champagne... but I like to know that I can. And if I recall, the Grand Tier has this tiny little bar near the line-free bathrooms.

Then I guess for the other opera(s) I'll spring for Balcony or *gasp* Balcony Premium.

Last year it took me two hours to get through and buy tickets. Hopefully their computer system will be able to handle it all this year. Of course I'll also call, just in case I can get through to a human before the computer clicks through. If I recall correctly, last year the tickets are saved in your cart for 10-15 minutes, but it took so long to click through each page that by the time you went to pay they'd have been released. Talk about frustrating! At least this year I'm prepared, mentally.

Oh, look. This is printed on the bottom of the price chart:

Please note: a facility fee of $2.50 per ticket will be added for the ongoing maintenance of the opera house.

† Please note: the facility fee is not applicable to tickets for galas, premieres, and special events.

* Premium seats:
Orchestra rows A through T, seats 1–4 and center aisle plus adjacent seat;
Center Parterre seats 1–3;

Grand Tier rows A & B, seats 1–8 and 101–122;
Dress Circle rows A & B, seats 1–8 and 101–124;
Balcony rows A & B, seats 1–8 and 101–122.


‡ Please note that box seats in the Side Parterre, Grand Tier, Dress Circle, Balcony, and Family Circle may be partial view.

Isn't This What Always Happens?

I post an entry about not knowing something, then the info comes to me 20 minutes later.

Got the latest Opera News in the mail today. It lists the upcoming seasons for a whole lotta opera companies, including the local company where I super. So next season, according to the listing, they're doing Don Giovanni, Street Scene and Faust. Will they need supers? Adult female supers, that is? Who knows?

I wonder when they'll update their website and send out the emails?

*Yawn*

I know it's been boring around here. I mean, come on. A post about my high school chorus? Video after video of me singing the same song? The thing is, there's nothing going on. Met tickets don't go on sale until Sunday. My local opera company hasn't yet announced next summer's performances. I won't know about supering for several months. There's just... nothing. I have no operatic adventures planned, I've had no recent embarrassing (or other) encounters with Famous Opera Singers, I haven't had a voice lesson since the beginning of June and I don't want to bore everyone with braggy posts about Alex.

Anything you want to know? Post a comment or send me an email. Otherwise, hang in there. When something happens, be assured I'll write about it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

High School Chorus

In high school chorus I sang Alto. There were sopranos, altos, tenors and bass. I think sometimes the sopranos were divided into soprano I and II. Most of the girls wanted to be soprano - there was some sort of status associated with it. I liked alto because it was like a puzzle to learn and sing the harmonies while the sopranos screeched behind me. The teacher would put the "weaker" altos in front of me and my friends so we could sing into their ears and therefore guide them. There were very few boys in chorus, no surprise, so for some songs she actually asked me to sing tenor. Tenor! I sang tenor for the Hallelujah Chorus. To this day it's the only part I know. My voice, no, my throat, would feel warm after singing that low.

My senior year I mustered the courage to try out for the special performing chorus. Well, that's not entirely true. One of my friends wanted to try out and she convinced me to try out too. The group was called "Somethin' Else." Pretty much all the boys who were in the regular chorus were in Somethin' Else, because only the boys who could sing joined chorus in the first place.

Since I was trying out sort of on a whim, I had nothing prepared and nothing rehearsed. Luckily, I had a friend who was an amazing piano player. He could sit down and play any song in any key. So we met for 5 minutes in a practice room and I asked him to play "When I'm 64." He played it in various keys until we found one I was comfortable singing in. We decided to skip certain parts of the song that were just too weird to sing solo. Then I went out and sang. I acted. I got totally into it. My friend went next. She sang that song from Ice Castles that everyone hated. Normally she had a very pretty voice, but I guess she was nervous. She slid into every single note. It was embarrassing. Ended up, I got in and she didn't. Awkward! Luckily for us the teacher knew what my friend could do, and when we went on our trip to Toronto, or Montreal, whereever it was we went, I asked the teacher to let my friend be an alternate in case someone couldn't sing.

The costume we wore was so 80s. Fishnet stockings, black trunks (think, bottom half of a leotard) sequined vest and a white bow tie. We should have been serving drinks in Vegas. Instead we were singing and dancing for the entire school and everyone's parents. We sang Dreamgirls, Long Train Running, Hernando's Hideaway, um... damn I can't remember what else at the moment! All alto for me. Then with the chorus we were given solos. My shining moment, of course, was when the entire chorus sang, "We are the World" and I got to sing Huey Lewis' part, "But if you just believe, there's no way we can fall..." and then "when we, come together as one." Alto part of course. I sang with some screechy soprano. We should have switched parts. So many of the kids were basically imitating the person who sang the part on the recording. I was determined not to, so I didn't.

I know there's a photo of us in my high school yearbook. I'll see if I can't take a picture of it and post it here.

One Week!

Met tickets for us non-subscribers go on sale next Sunday. So in a week I'll know what day of the week I'm going to see Die Zauberflote. I'll have my Carmen ticket. Husband is now saying he'd go to the Met but only to see Barbiere, and he doesn't care if Rosina is Joyce D or Diana D. I'm trying to convince him to come to Carmen. I'm going to see Elizabeth C at the Met no matter what. If I'm supering in the other Carmen I guess he'll see that one too, if only the final dress. But I won't know anything about that for a few months - not sure when, but my guess is that it'll be near or after Thanksgiving (that's the end of November for my non-US readers) before they know anything.

Why why why isn't Juan Diego Florez singing in something I haven't seen? I'm torn - I so want to see/hear him, and I do want to hear Diana D, but I'm not sure if I want to see La Fille again.

Oh who am I kidding. Of course I'll go, in balcony seats in the $65 range. Better seats for the others.

So I guess my plan is, get a pair of tickets for each performance I want to see, and then find a date. Banawoman for Die Zauberflote, I bet I can drag my voice teacher to La Fille to see JDF, Husband to Carmen... and who knows what other events will pop up over the season. Frankly I'm surprised that Husband doesn't want to come to Die Zauberflote. I mean, I know why he doesn't want to see that particular opera - we've seen it before and he admits that while the music is great, the talky bits are a bit tedious. But considering the Papageno, I'm just surprised. And relieved. I'd be nervous, he'd make fun of me for that, he'd make snide comments about... stuff... and silly man, doesn't he know that he's the beneficiary of all this nonsense? Well, anyway. He's not coming. Banawoman and I can be silly to our hearts' content. Husband would cramp my opera-going style. Maybe I'll see if there's a baseball game the same day and if so, get him tickets to that.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tipsy Post: Gretchen Take 1

Time to post a "before" of Gretchen am Spinnrade.

This was my first time really singing it through with the words... which I don't really know. Nor do I really know how to pronounce them. I did my best. I wanted to record it so I could examine and it see what I needed to work on. Like, open my mouth wider. I didn't realize until the end, when I relaxed, that concentrating on the words made my jaw and shoulders a little tense. I'm hoping that once I really have them memorized it'll make a difference.

video

Oh yeah the 1.5 gin and tonics I had before singing this didn't hurt. Not that I think they helped, but I think they lowered my affective filter to take away my potential embarrassment at mistakes and so on. Yeah I know it's a linguistic term but I'm a certified ESL teacher so there you go.

Oh yeah while I was tipsy in front of the camera I did this. Note the lack of dynamics, if that's what you call it... it's all one volume. I have the tipsiness to thank for that.

video

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pricey Peer Pressure

Banawoman is trying to convince me to visit her and see this. $30 tickets, now, that's as good as free in the world of opera ticket prices. Luckily for all involved, and you know who you are, the airfare is prohibitively expensive. Even the promise of free room and board AND a chocolate on my pillow doesn't make up for the fact that for the same money I can get a Very Good seat at the Met for a full-blown opera. So you can all breathe a sigh of relief - she will be going alone. I will, of course, insist that she come out in April.

But getting back to this, why is it not listed anywhere official? The whole lack of information there continues to confuse me. There's much more here (nice Star Trek thing at the bottom of the page there) and here. If anyone is interested.

Side note: Just got the most amazingly wonderful email from a regular reader. Must go reply asap.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Waxing and Waning and Five Minutes and... Phineas McBoof?

I've been listening to Juan Diego Florez a lot lately. I used to listen constantly, then I took a break... not on purpose... but now... I'm back. I'm back to the place where I'd do anything he asked, if he sang it to me.

I took break from that Other Guy too. I must have had Pretty Voice Overload or something. Yeah, or something. But he's slowly creeping back under my skin too. And if you don't know who I mean, then you must be a new reader.

Those two have gone back and forth between my number 1 and 2 spots for a few years now.

The women, I never tire of listening to them.

I wish Elizabeth Caballero would put out a CD. I'm guessing that the Carmen she's in at the Met will be broadcast on the radio, so I'll be able to get a copy, but I'm talking about her very own CD of just her. Ok a duet is allowed. One duet.

Speaking of CDs, I just purchased Taking My Turn, Susan Eichhorn Young's new CD. I've only had a chance to listen to the first two tracks and I'm blown away. Beautiful, beautiful voice! You can hear the emotion as she sings, she really brings you along for the ride. Next time I have 5 minutes in a row to myself I'll listen to another. I hope to hear the entire CD before the end of the summer...And anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about should go here and watch the video. I wasn't sure how I'd like the songs, but they're fun! I did track through it quickly - that means I listened to the beginning of each song for about 10 seconds - enough to get an idea of where the songs are going. One of the tracks sounded familiar... that's because I've heard it before. Yes I'm going to make you read the track listings for both CDs to see which one.

BUT while I was searching that, I found THIS. Oh my. And what do you know, Alex is smack in the middle of the suggested age range. Hahaha I guess I'm not done CD shopping this month...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

GRE Logic Question About Opera Tickets

I'm trying to figure out what operas to see next season. It's kind of like this:

An amusement park roller coaster includes five cars, numbered 1 through 5 from front to back. Each car accommodates up to two riders, seated side by side. Six people—Tom, Gwen, Laurie, Mark, Paul and Jack—are riding the coaster at the same time.

  • Laurie is sharing a car.
  • Mark is not sharing a car and is seated immediately behind an empty car.
  • Tom is not sharing a car with either Gwen or Paul.
  • Gwen is riding in either the third or fourth car.

Which of the following groups of riders could occupy the second car?
.
(A) Laurie only
(B) Tom and Gwen
(C) Laurie and Mark
(D) Jack and Tom
(E) Jack, Gwen, and Paul

If Gwen is riding immediately behind Laurie's car and immediately ahead of Tom's car, all of the following must be true EXCEPT:
.
(A) Gwen is riding in the fourth car.
(B) Paul is riding in the third car.
(C) Tom is riding in the fifth car.
(D) Laurie is riding in the third car.
(E) The first car is empty.

Which one of the following statements CANNOT be true?
.
(A) Neither Tom nor Gwen is sharing a car with
........ another rider
(B) Neither Mark nor Jack is sharing a car with
........ another rider.
(C) Tom is sharing a car, and Jack is sharing a car.
(D) Gwen is sharing a car, and Paul is sharing a car.
(E) Tom is sharing a car, and Gwen is sharing a car.

If Paul is riding in the second car, how many different combinations of riders are possible for the third car?
.
(A) one
(B) two
(C) three
(D) four
(E) five

Assume that a seventh rider is riding with Jack in the first car, but that all other rules remain unchanged. Which of the following is a complete and accurate list of the riders who might be riding in the fifth car?
.
(A) Mark
(B) Gwen, Paul
(C) Tom, Laurie, Paul
(D) Tom, Laurie, Mark
(E) Tom, Paul, Laurie, Mark

Got it? Go here for the answers.


Ok so here's my personal version.
  • I'd rather not see an opera I've already seen.
  • I'm hoping to super in my local opera company's production of Carmen. Performances are February 5, 7 and 12 so the rehearsals will be in the weeks preceding.
  • I want to see Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau, Nathan Gunn and Elizabeth Caballero at the Met in 2009-2010 season.
  • JDF is peforming only in La Fille there next season. Do I want to see it again... maybe... because... Diana Damrau is singing Marie. That's in Feb. Performances after Carmen are Feb 13, 16, 19 and 22.
  • However, DD'll also be in Barbiere, with Lawrence Brownlee as Almaviva. Saw him in the movies in La Cenerentola - I'm sure he'd be fab as Almaviva. Dates are Feb 26, March 1 and March 4.
  • I wouldn't mind seeing Joyce DiDonato in Barbiere. Those performances are in October and November.
  • NG is Papageno on April 1, 6, 8 and 10.
  • EC will be in Carmen on: December 31* , 2009
    January 5, 8, 12, 16 **, 21, 27, & 30
    February 1, 5, 9, & 13, 2010
    April 28 & May 1, 2010
  • Other events: American Voices - Nov 7
  • Diana Damrau at Carnegie - January 24
  • Thomas Hampson is performing locally on Nov 17 - Songs of America Project. Locally as in, 15 minutes from me.

So. Do I go to see La Fille again, so I get to hear JDF again? Or go to Barbiere with Diana D?. And of course if I don't go to anything else, I will go to see Elizabeth Caballero in Carmen. But how can I NOT go see NG as Papageno? Plus Banawoman will come out to see it with me.

Answer: Carmen and Die Zauberflote for sure. Then most likely La Fille to economize and get my JDF and DD fixes at once. To further economize, I could see Carmen and La Fille on the same day. The day AFTER the final performance of the other Carmen, which I may or may not be supering in. Economize? Opera tickets? Those concepts do not appear together except in the sentence, "To economize, I won't buy opera tickets." Um... no. Will have to economize somewhere else. And, if I am in Carmen, could I possibly handle going to the city the very next day and seeing TWO operas that day? One being the same opera I might possibly be in, the other being one I saw before? Could I do two operas in one day, ever?

Hm, better rethink the dates. Perhaps separate days might be better... either way, it looks like next winter/spring will be busy!

ps I took the GRE in 1990 and got a 770 on the logic section, out of a possible 800! Yay me! Husband, of course, got 800. Of course.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Batti Mommy

Trying to incorporate all the advice. I wasn't planning on posting this but... and it's not really about the singing... which is atrocious... it's more about... well, take a listen.

video

You want to know what all that screaming was about? He was in the bath and he wanted a drink of water... or so he said. Really it was simply because I was singing and recording.

I made an executive parental decision and ignored him until I was done. Well, I didn't exactly ignore him. I got louder when he got louder. You can see me turning toward the door. Who's the child? The line is blurred sometimes.

Tough love.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Breath is on the Wall

Breath on the wall? What the heck does that mean?

I know that one thing that I keep forgetting to do, or am still learning, that I need to practice to do consistently is to use my breath deeper in my body, to really use the low breath to support the notes. That and of course open open open my mouth more, but that's for another post.

Keeping the breath low. People keep telling me, but what does it mean? Should I feel like I've done an ab workout at the end of a song?

One thing I've mentioned before is that when my teacher had me "sit on the wall" I produced a much fuller sound, and I could feel that the breath was coming from deeper down. Sitting on the wall is simply pressing your back to a wall and sinking down as if there were a chair under you. You form 90 degree angles at your hips and knees, so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Relax the shoulders. Then, sing. It's a great quad workout too. It's extra challenging because we have hardwood floors everywhere and I'm usually in socks.

So in theory, all I have to do is practice singing on the wall for a bit, and then maintain the breathing when I'm standing. In theory... I'll post again with results.