Thursday, January 28, 2010

Inside Looks - Diva at Work!

Back in my Carmencita post I mentioned that Liz had other friends there to see her after the performance. One of them hosted a dinner party that week at which she sang. They recorded both the prep and the performance and I'm happy to share it here. Enjoy! Oh and as usual, if the format of the blog page cuts off the edge of the video box, click through to YouTube to see what's missing.





The Learning Experience Recital

I've been avoiding writing about Saturday's recital because I just wasn't happy with my performance.

But I'll write about it anyway.

This recital was on the main campus of Westminster Conservatory. My voice lessons are on one of the satellite campuses. There are a few satellite campuses in the area. They decided to have each satellite teacher to send 1 student over to the main campus for a recital. I was one of two voice students... oh and I was the only adult. There were 17 of us. We sat in order of appearance in the first row. I was 2nd to last. At the other end, the earliest performers sat, their legs dangling because they didn't reach the floor. Yep, we're talking, 5 and 6 year old kids getting up and playing piano and violin. Then a few tweens playing wind and brass, a few piano, a teen singer who sang some show tune, and me. And these kids were so cute, and performed as you'd expect a talented kid of their age to perform... and the audience was all their parents and grandparents.

As it got closer and closer to my turn I found myself getting nervous. I had this sudden fear of forgetting the words, of not having warmed up enough, anything... Seriously. So when I got up, I explained in 20 seconds what the aria was about, then sang. First off, in rehearsal the accompanist and I decided she would play a chord and then start. She played a note and I was like, wait, that's not a chord, but I think that's what she's doing, so I went with it.

I felt like I forgot all I had learned. I sang nicely enough but not operatically. I forgot to make the notes ring. I had to struggle to get vibrato. I was actually sharp on some of the high notes. Husband made a video but I'm too embarrassed to even post it. I know, I know, even the most talented of singers don't like how they sound in video recordings, but trust me... it was bad. I'll post snippets of the video, but not the really cringy parts.

At the end of the event, they gave out these certificates.

Yes, I am a participant. In a fit of unnecessary paranoia I just removed my last name from the photo, not that it would make a difference... but whatever... Anyway then they told us to all group together so our parents could take group photos. Um, my parents are in Florida... so... this is about half the group. The little ones are farther down to the right.

So I figure if nothing more, it's a learning experience. Afterward my teacher was nice enough but, "We'll talk next week." gulp. Yeah, can we skip that part? I pretty much know I sucked, thanks.

Here's the ending. The best of a bad performance... that should give you an idea. This is bad. Imagine very, very worse for the rest.


Saturday, January 23, 2010


Carmen was wonderful. No surprise there!!

Husband and I deposited Alex with the neighbor and hopped on an afternoon train to NYC. When we got to Penn Station we walked up to Salumeria Rosi, meaning, we walked from 34th and 8th to Amsterdam between 73rd and 74th, just over 2 miles. Good thing I was wearing my hiking shoes because while my heels are comfy, they're not 2 miles comfy. The block before the restaurant I leaned on a wall and changed into the shoes.

The meal was awesome. Go to the link above to see what the place is about. We ordered the Chef's Choice meat plate, which consisted of two slices of all these different types of cured meat. I didn't take a photo of it, but I did get one of a separate plate of something Husband ordered:

This is some type of meat. Some sort of air-dried beef maybe? I can't recall.

Another fab dish we had was the anchovies:

They may look odd, but they were the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth bites of richness. These are not the same fishy, spiny anchovies you're getting on your local pizza. These were marinated in lemon and oil and other spices and my mouth is watering just writing about them.

All of the dishes are small plates like that, which is great because you get to taste all different sorts of things.

Then we walked to Lincoln Center and took a few photos outside before going in:

We tootled around the gift shop before going in. Asked a security guard where to go after the show to get backstage. He said to go down the right side of the orchestra until we get to a guy with a clipboard. Keep that in mind as you read this because that wasn't entirely accurate... what else is new?

Wasted $11 on a glass of BAD champagne.

All those plastic champagne flutes were lined up on the bar. It was so tempting to "bump" into them, but I restrained myself. Instead I asked the bartender if anyone ever has. He was like, "Oh yeah, all the time! That's why they're plastic!"

We went to our seats. (By the way, I was also tempted to press my nose against the glass of the control booth at the top of the section, but Husband convinced me not to. The champagne may have been cheap, but obviously it had gone to my head.) I have to say that I was mixed up about what bathroom is on what level. The Grand Tier doesn't have that private bar and secret bathroom - that's I think two levels up? But that's ok. Our seats were great and that's what counts... Here's the view from the seat.

Up went the famous chandeliers:

And then... the opera itself was great. The orchestra played the overture at breakneck speed. The scenery was so cool. Roberto Alana was great - what a voice! And Elina Garanca - WOW! She steamed up the role. Whew she was HOT!! And of course Elizabeth Caballero was in it - Fabulous!! Her gorgeous rich soprano soared above the mezzos and rang through the building.


Got yelled at by an usher-type in a cloaky sort of cape when I took this photo in the lobby:

Intermission lasted FOREVER. It was long to begin with but also some piece of the set apparently broke and we could hear them hammering like crazy for an extra 15 minutes. Finally the opera began again, to a loooong boring (yet very beautiful) aria of Micaela, the "good" girl, about how she's afraid of Carmen but will be brave... on and on about that... for far too long... the singing was beautiful but it was just too long!!

At this point, perhaps because it was way past my bedtime, my right eye started watering. Of course it took the mascara with it. Husband insisted that you couldn't tell, but you be the judge when you look at the photos.

The final scene was amazing. Carmen wanted to see Escamillo, her new lover, fight in this very exciting bullfight, but Don Jose showed up all distraught, accusing her of ruining his life and demanding that she go away with him. She tosses him away, saying she no longer loves him. Every time the crowd in the stadium cheered she got more impatient and he got more angry, and finally, in a true, "If I can't have you, nobody can," manner, he stabbed her to death. Then the very final moment, as she died, the stage turned around so you could see the inside of the stadium, and there is Escamillo standing over this bull he just killed. Wow. What a visceral, shocking ending. I mean, I knew that Don Jose killed her, but the way they showed it like that, so that it was obvious that Escamillo killed the bull at the same time, was really effective.

When the opera was over, we made our way down to the right side of the orchestra... where an usher found us and asked if she could assist us... because of course, we were in the wrong place! We had to go back out to the lobby area and down this little flight of stairs opposite the doors to the orchestra, then down a hallway that had a couch at one end, to where some dude stood with a clipboard. I gave him our names, he let us in. He said to go down the hall where we'd have to wait until Wardrobe had finished taking all the costumes from the performers, then they'd let visitors in. So went down another hall past boxes marked "Wardrobe - chorus" and things like that, to a raised security desk. All sorts of people were milling about. I gave our names to the woman at that desk. She directed me to another guy with a clipboard who was standing at yet another door. He confirmed we were on the list but there were so many people coming out that we couldn't get in. Finally we got in and went down a loooong hallway lined with lockers, turned right and there was this open space with lots of doors around it - stairs down, stairs to the stage, green room for soloist singers and the individual dressing rooms. Not too star-struck walking past Roberto Alagna's and Elina G's dressing rooms... hoping they'd come out but not really looking... there were lots of people just standing around. We found Liz's dressing room and gave a little knock. She had another set of visitors too. They were very nice - they brought her flowers and took our photos. I had chosen this lovely pair of earrings for her - multi-faceted crystal beads with a small purple rhinestone rondelle. That means nothing to anyone but me so click here to see a photo. But look no further to see pictures of us all posing together. Yes, this is a dressing room at the Met. Looks just like... a room... with a piano, and a chair, and a desk, and a mirror.

Looking at this photo I'm just realizing now that Liz is holding the flowers backwards! Oops. But you can see the little organza bag for the earrings.

Grabbed Husband for another photo, and then it was well beyond our bedtime and nearing the time of the 12:40am train so off we went!

Future scoop for all you South Floridians out there - keep an eye out for FGO's fall season production of Turandot - Liz will be singing the role of Liu, which means she'll get a fabulous suicide scene.

This production of Carmen will be on PBS in their Great Performances series. I'll post details when I get them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Accessorizing for Carmen

I've narrowed my restaurant choices to two for tomorrow, but I still don't know what to wear!!!

At this point it's down to two non-matching accessories: A necklace and a purse.

The necklace is really cool - more so because I got it in a pile of junk, broken jewelry and loose beads for which I paid $8. Here's a photo of it, next to some earrings I had made last year to match a different necklace:

And here are pictures of the back to show the clasp:

Isn't that cool? Mixed in with a pile of broken stuff??!! I would have paid more than $8 for the necklace alone.

So if I wear the necklace, I have to wear brown. I'd wear this brown top with a multicolor, ankle-length peasant-type skirt and grey pumps. The problem is that all my brown purses are sort of clunky and not very elegant. I have one maybe... but it might be too small to hold all my girlie things and the little camera.

If I bring my black purse I can fit all my stuff but then I can't really wear the brown... which means no brown necklace. And I really want to wear the necklace. But can one wear brown to the Met? The rhinestone bling really dresses it up, but still... the old fallback, long black skirt with the flowers and black top, would go with the purse. On the other hand, the purse has seen better days and I actually had to do some surgery on it today with... yes... packing tape. The lining was torn and it was that or black electrical tape. Hey at least I didn't go with silver duct tape. It doesn't really show, although I know it's there. How classy to wear a purse repaired with packing tape??? Ha! But at least I'd be in black. So I guess I'm leaning toward taking the chance on the brown and choosing between the least clunky of my brown purses.

Well here's a thought. Because we'll be walking uptown from Penn Station, I'll be wearing my hiking shoes and carrying my dainty shoes in a little shopping bag. I could also carry whatever little extras don't fit into the purse. Oh plus I'll have a coat. A ... purple raincoat. Classy again. BUT it has many large pockets.

There. Problem solved. I'll wear the new necklace and the brown-based outfit, carry a brown purse and will stash whatever doesn't fit in the purse in the inside pocket of my coat.

I'll post dress-up photos at some point. And don't be surprised if I end up in the black. With the brown necklace....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Three Reservations

No laughing.

Husband and I have reservations for three different restaurants for Thursday. Hey, it's free, and we'll cancel the ones we don't use, so...

First, Rosa Mexicano. I know, it's a chain and we officially are against chains. It does, however, have some good reviews. And some bad ones.

So just in case, we also made a rezzy at that good old Cafe Fiorello. What the heck - I've gone there all times I've been to the opera, so... and I do love those tiny octopuses. Octopi. Whatever.

And then Husband just found this place, Salumeria Rosi. Tapas style Italian. Right up our alley.

So at this point all three restaurants are expecting us at 5:00. Who will actually get us? My vote goes for Salumeria.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL THURSDAY!!!! I specifically didn't go to the HD broadcast of Carmen today because I want to see it fresh, fresh, fresh. I haven't even read any reviews. But I did listen to the radio broadcast and it was FAB. It was SO COOL to hear Liz sing. I am so excited for her, and to be going to the Met, and to be going on a looooong "date" with Husband, that I'm ready to explode. Explode, I tell you.

So I listened to the radio broadcast - I realized I could listen to the streaming broadcast of the local classical station on my iPhone, meaning, I could go anywhere and still listen. Great, because during intermission we all went outside and joined some neighbors for a walk. One of the girls was at that New Year's Eve party, the one who kept demanding that I sing, sing sing. She's in 2nd grade so she's older than 6 - I guess she's 7 or 8. I told her what I was listening to, explained that it was LIVE and that I know one of the singers. We all ended up at the track field at the nearby school. This girl was so cute. She took me by the hand to lead me to the bleachers to sit and listen. She sat with me and listened for a good half an hour after the interminable intermission ended. She loved it. She kept saying, "Is that your sister?" and I kept saying, "She's my friend, not my sister!" Then she kept asking me to sing a note like that. Ha! Not bloody likely. But I showed her how to sing using her abs, opening wide like a yawn and so on. She was belting out the notes like nobody's business!! She had never heard real opera before. She said her mother watches it on TV - "You know, that woman with the curly hair?" Took me a moment before I realized that I think she meant Susan Boyle. All I said was, "Someone who wins a television contest is not an opera singer. The people you're hearing right now dedicate their lives to studying music and opera, they go to school for it and do nothing else." It was so much fun to share the excitement of the broadcast and the general excitement of live opera with her. She kept telling me that I was so funny, I think because I don't act like a "regular" adult. I tend to talk to kids like they're adults rather than talk "kid talk" to them, if that makes sense. Sharing the experience with her made it even more special.

Then to top off the fabulous day we had tamales for dinner. Oh and I did have my voice lesson this morning. For the very first time, I actually didn't have my music with me! I had taken it out of my bag to go over when to breathe. I do the breathing but sing it only in my head , not out loud. I might have left it on my desk at work. Uh, not that I practice my music while I'm at work. Ahem. I'm sure it was while I was waiting for some work-related computer program to load. So anyway we went over the words and some diction stuff, then for fun worked on Art is Calling for Me. That's going to be fun once I really get it together. We have a lesson next Saturday before the afternoon recital. Should be fun.

Next: What to wear on Thursday, and also, what in the world should Husband wear? He's anti-suit/tie. Dress pants, dress shirt and jacket, sans tie? We'll see. I'm sure I'll post pictures.

Really what I want is, when we're backstage, to be able to put 1 foot, just 1 toe, onto the stage and get a photo. Silly, I know, but that shouldn't surprise anyone.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Snap Crackle Popera!

Rehearsal with the accompanist was so much fun!! We ran through the song a couple times and talked about tempo, etc. I forget how much fun and different it is to sing with a real live piano player. It's so organic and energetic. I really love it. We'll have no more rehearsals - my next time singing with her will be at the recital. Where, once again, I'll probably be the only adult. The Conservatory sent a letter addressed to "The Parents of Susan..." with all the recital info. Ha!

Speaking of HA, here are some glimpses of Opera in Popular Culture from when I was a kid. Enjoy.

The sound quality on this one is a bit harsh - turn your volume down before clicking:

And as usual, if the format of the blog ends up chopping off a section of the video window, click through to YouTube to see them there.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rehearsalish Time

That recital I'm singing in is next week. Of course the rehearsal with the accompanist is next Thursday, when I'm going to see Carmen at the Met. So instead I'm meeting the accompanist in my teacher's studio tonight for a quick run-through. We were joking that I couldn't make the original rehearsal date because I'm making an appearance at the Met... in the audience! Yuk yuk yuk what a jokester. Haha sorry.

Breaking news unrelated to the title of the post:

Billy Budd at the Met the year after next. A friend heard from a Very Reliable Source *cough* that Our Favorite Baritone will be singing the title role. Nothing has been officially announced but the source is Very Reliable so odds are that the contracts have been signed. So we have Die Zauberflote this season, Cosi next season and Billy Budd the following year. Keep saving those pennies!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Met Debuts

It's so cool to see and hear about singers I met in NJ make their Met debut. Elizabeth Caballero, of course, is in Carmen. I'm going next week, HOORAY!!!! ...and therefore I will not be reading or posting any of the reviews until after I've been to see it.

This week Michael Fabiano, who starred in Traviata alongside Elizabeth two years ago while I tried not to spill drinks on stage in my ugly maid outfit, had his Met debut in Stiffelio, and they've published an interview with him on their site. How cool is that?

I'm thrilled and excited for both Michael and Elizabeth - they are so talented, driven and hard-working, they deserve all the success they are achieving, and more!

If you're on Facebook, you can see and join Elizabeth's fan page here. I don't think Michael has one... yet.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Blogs on the Blogroll

Two new blogs added to the roll this week:

The Singing Midwife - Should she catch babies? Should she sing? Why not do both? It's actually more complicated than that, because, well, isn't everything? Her midwifery struggles have to do with the ob vs midwife culture at a large medical institution. Check her blog out.

Also, we used to follow The Concert. Looks like she's having a baby, and to prep, has started a new blog, Baby's First Opera.

And if I can remember how, I'll update that list on the right ---> to include links.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Random Pamina

Here's something random and fun.

A friend at work convinced me to come out to dinner tonight to a local restaurant I've passed countless times but for whatever reason have never been to before. Husband and Alex came too because I was in one of those moods where I wanted to go out but also wanted to be with my boys.

So during the meal I heard the opening notes of Ave Maria. Before I had a chance to say, "That sounds like Ave Maria," the hostess at the restaurant began to sing. Beautiful, beautiful voice. When she was done the CD began to play the next track - the vocal accompaniment to Ach il fuhl's, Pamina's aria from Die Zauberflote. So the next time she passed our table I stopped her, told her how lovely her voice is and said that I expected to hear her sing Pamina next when the music started. She got so excited - turns out she's a grad student in voice and is singing Pamina this coming spring for a performance in her program. She was working at the restaurant while home on Winter break. We chatted a little bit about studying voice. I told her how Alex loves Magic Flute and used to watch the Met's English version and she cut me off and said, "Oh, with Nathan Gunn. Isn't he the best Papageno?" Ha! Um, yeah. So the conversation went there for a few minutes, got sort of silly, we compared notes of opera singers we've met and operas we like and then she sang Pamina. It was really nice. Alex was fading fast as it was well past his bedtime, but he sat on my lap and went into his Opera Trance, with that smile that he gets on his face.

Totally random. Love it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hub City Spoke Repair!

Wow. If you wait long enough, eventually everything turns up online, somewhere. Here it is. Me. Hub City Spoke Repair. 1994.

There was one of me, if I recall, as an operator of a 900 call, where the camera person did an extreme, in-my-face closeup. Like, you can see the pores in my skin. It's not there ... yet.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Some Bel-ish Canto-ish

Pretty much lifting this blog posting from a fellow Gunnfan and Blogger who happens to also be a very nice guy and won't mind at all that I'm being a copycat.

Giuseppe Filianoti and Nathan Gunn — Venti scudi — L’elisir d’amore

As usual, if my blog format chops off a piece of the window, click through to YouTube to see it all.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Austism and Opera

On New Year's Eve one of our neighbors had a party from 5-8pm to celebrate Greenwhich Mean Time New Year's, which was 7:00pm local time. There are a lot of kids in the neighborhood so it was a great way to all get together, have a countdown and still all make it to bed by 10.

One of our neighbors has a 13 year old daughter who has autism and severe learning disabilities. I was hanging out with her and a 6 year old girl just being silly, then I asked if they wanted to hear a song. We were on a back porch with a closed sliding glass door. I didn't sing very loudly, just a few lines of Una Donna and then they started to laugh. The 13 year old threw her head back and laughed and laughed. When she calmed down I asked her what made her laugh. She said it was because it was so high. I asked if she liked it and she said, "YES!!!" Then the other girl demanded, "Sing more!! Sing!!!" and the older girl chimed in. Alex was there too. I sang bits and pieces and put my hands on their arms when I sang. Then the younger girl demanded that I sing it again and touch her arm at the same time. Ok... why? She said because it feels good, and the music feels good when I'm touching her when I sing. The older girl's father was there and he said that she has always been responsive to music. However they've never thought to play opera for her. I invited her over to sing with me and gave my number to her parents. I hope they do call - I had fun playing with the girls, and I'd love it if listening to opera could get a response out of their daughter.