Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Different Opera, A Different Season, and Getting Inside

Turandot was on PBS today. It was the opera that started this blog, really. At the time I thought that except for a few parts here and there it was boring as all hell. Today I turned it on just before the aria that Paul Potts (I can't believe I just typed that man's name in my blog) made famous - Nessun Dorma. We sat through that and about 5 more minutes before Alex said in a tired voice, "I think I need to see a different opera right now." Thank goodness that Barber of Seville is on the DVR.

So there we were, watching Juan Diego Florez jump all over the stage during Ecco Ridente and it hit me - 7 days ago I was standing in the wings of THAT VERY STAGE!!! Sure I felt like I could hurl at any moment, but hey, I'd probably feel that way if I was brought there while healthy. Once again I have to wait for these things to transfer from my short term to my long term memory for the impact to really hit me. InSANE!!!

Anyway, Alex asked me to explain to him everything they were saying or doing so we went over how arias are named for the first few words, how they repeat, what coloratura is, what he's singing and why, and so on. He loves the part where the musicians are chasing him around asking for money. Can't find a quick link on YouTube for it. But it's funny. Trust me.

Voice lesson yesterday. Started Nel cor piu non mi sento (That's Cecilia Bartoli in that link!!) My teacher says it's much easier than the other pieces we've been working on. But since I know one version and the book we use has a slightly different version, it has a built-in challenge of me unlearning what I already know to learn the other version. And as always, me unlearning whatever mistakes I've manage to "teach" myself while learning the other version.

Two things to write about that deserve their own posts:

1. Met Opera's 2010-2011 season and their really cool online brochure


2. A group I just joined called The Opera Insider. Everyone should click that link, read about the group and join if you think it's for you. Note that their abbreviation is "toi." Very clever, no?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pins and Wings - The Full Adventure

Finally ready, I think, to tell about the entire day of the opera. Surreal as it was.

It didn't start out surreal. Looking back, I realized I wasn't feeling 100% earlier in the day but attributed it to nervous excitement. I even remember thinking, funny, this isn't usually what my body does when I'm excited, but what else could it be. Ha!

Anyway, I actually fell asleep on the train on the way into the city. Another red flag. I fell asleep? On the train? I don't do that. For so many reasons, I simply don't do that. Apparently I do... when I'm not in 100% health.

Met my voice teacher (who is also my friend) and we walked uptown. I was fine, no problems. We had drinks and a very nice dinner at Rosa Mexicano. They made guacamole for us at the table, that's their shtick. They serve it with red and green sauce, chips and warm soft tortillas.

It was part of the prix-fixe dinner.

For entrees, we both had salmon over tropical fruit mole. It was delish. I was so full from the guac that I ate only half.

That triangle is a slice of pineapple, in case you were wondering.

Then, a chocolate hazelnut cupcake for dessert! YUM! I managed to eat all of that of course.

Then we rolled out of there, filled to the gills. I ignored that strange feeling in my stomach, attributing it to overindulgence in food and drink. We crossed the street to the Met where we took the usual photos.


Check out my $2 gloves with the sparkly hearts.


View from my seat in the front row of the balcony... you can see the titles system they have there on the panel in front of the seat.

Me in my seat:

And so the opera began. And as I sat there... the odd feeling in my stomach got... odder... and uncomfortable... and suddenly I felt quite unwell... hot prickly... cold sweat... nausea... stomach gurgles... shaking... I did my best to suppress these feelings while my mind began racing... "Ohmygod I can't be getting sick, here at the Met, during an opera. This isn't happening. And Ohmygod if I am sick how the heck am I going to manage going home on the train? What am I going to do? I can't be sick!!!" And my next thought... "...Maybe I'll just sit on the floor and put my head down on my seat, to rest..." and then my rational brain, what was left of it, said, "Uh... no... better to get out of here..." and then I realized that, as much as I wanted to be there, if part of my brain wanted me to get out of there, I should probably listen... I realized that I no longer cared where I was... so I stumbled up the stairs where the usher immediately came over to see if I was ok. She assisted me to the lobby where I was suddenly surrounded by ushers and the bartender, asking if I was ok, can they help, here's some water, here's a damp cloth, and meanwhile I was quite woozy and my brain had pretty much had left my head and I was sort of watching this all happen. I thought I'd be sick so they brought me to the bathroom. Everyone was so concerned and friendly and caring.

When I came out of the bathroom the house doctor was there and he asked me a few questions. After my trip to the bathroom I was feeling a bit better and the head usher actually unlocked the doors and let me back in! Didn't expect that. (I'll credit my dress for that!) I managed to hold it together until intermission, practically passed out in my seat. People probably thought I was drunk. Whatever. I made myself alert for the singing and snoozed during the talking. And with La Fille, that meant I had a lot of snooze time.

At intermission I realized there was no way I could make it through the rest so my companion asked the usher to call the doctor. The doc and the lead usher brought me down to the doc office, which is this tiny room backstage with a too-large desk squeezed in, a little bathroom and a closet with a gurney in it. It was cluttered with medical equipment.

The doctor was so so nice. I was feeling rather stupid for getting ill (irrational but whatever) and was annoyed at myself that I was missing the performance. He told me that there are 4000 seats there and that someone gets ill every night. Every night. And tonight was my night. Then he asked if I'd ever had acupuncture and would I be willing to try it? And in my woozy state I said, "Sure, why not." So there I was, backstage. On a gurney. With pins stuck in me. I could hear the opera going on. I thought I was hearing on a monitor. Little did I know that this little "treatment" room was basically a short hop, skip and a jump down the hall from the stage and I was hearing it live.

I cannot express now nice the doctor was. He stayed with me the whole time. He treated my physical symptoms and made me feel better about the situation. When I was feeling better, he said that if I promise not to throw up on Diana Damrau he'd let me watch from the stage. I guess I wasn't clear on what he meant, exactly... because surely he couldn't mean, from the stage, right?

So I jumped down from the table and he led me through a set of doors and the next thing I knew, we were in the wings! I was like, holy crap! He kept urging me forward, closer to the stage. It was unreal. I was so excited and still vaguely ill and I was right there like 10 feet from Juan Diego Florez and Diana Damrau and they were singing the trio as I mentioned in my last post. Like, right there. Next to me. And my brain was still floating a bit above my body, it was so bizarre. After we left I joked that had I known I'd get to watch from the wings I'd have gotten sick at the Met long before this. And it was also a sort of familiar feeling since I often watch from the wings when I super. But this wasn't my local opera company. This was the Metropolitan Opera. And that was Juan Diego Florez. And Diana Damrau. Right there. Ahhhhh!!!!!

I watched the rest of the performance on a television monitor from this little couch in the hallway. My friend collected me before the curtain calls and we made our way through the freezing rain into a taxi and eventually back to NJ. I stayed home from work the next day and really wasn't myself until the evening - about 24 hours after it all began.

What an adventure!!! Obviously it was no picnic getting sick and almost passing out, but the experience - acupuncture backstage and a view from the wings - totally bizarre - totally surreal - and looking back - It was almost like a gift!!

Everyone at the Met was so so nice, from the bathroom attendant to the ushers, the bartender to the doctor. Today I sent them a thank-you note.

I'm sure there's more to tell, and no doubt I'll remember once I publish the post. But for now, that pretty much covers it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Short Version - Pins and Wings

I'm not ready to write about all of last night yet, but I had to tell everyone about the totally bizarre and surreal aspect of the evening.

Long story short... stomach virus and near-fainting. Ended up in the doctor's office backstage where I had... acupuncture!!! When I was feeling recovered, I was allowed to watch some of the opera... from the wings!!! Like, 10 feet from Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Florez and whoever sang the role of Suplice, while they did the "Tous les trois" trio. All this, except of course with Damrau instead of Dessay. If I didn't pass out from the illness, I was ready to pass out from excitement.

Full story to follow shortly...But I just HAD to share that first!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ready for the Opera, Part Two: Glam!

This time I'm the one who's ready.

Visited Incogneeto Vintage yesterday, the store owned by friend and fellow blogger The Vintage Maven.

Walked out of there with this dress:

The sparkly colors didn't show up until I fiddled with the photo shadow settings, which ended up making my hair look gray. It also made other things in the photo look weird. So just look at the dress and think of the hair as a glimpse into my future. Of course I'll ditch the socks (they're Alex's!) and change to pumps. Still unsure if I should wear black or off-black hose.

So here's more dress.



Then of course I had to whip up a pair of earrings to wear with it:

...and then I checked some other pairs I already had to see how they'd look.

They'd do, I think, but I like the ones I just made.

And then, after the opera tomorrow, I have another reason to wear the dress... I'm singing in another recital with the Opera Project!! I'll post more about that as the date approaches - it's March 27. Batti Batti here I come.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ready for the Opera!!

As you can see, Alex is ready for the opera.

The question is, is Opera ready for Alex????

Still don't know what I'm going to wear on Monday for La Fille. Had a bit of a grmph last week when I found out that BOTH JDF and Damrau canceled one night due to illness!!! JDF is not allowed to cancel on me twice. Nope. Hopefully they're taking it easy and will be all healthy and fabulous on Monday. And no doubt I'll get lazy and just wear what I wore to Carmen and Lucia. I do have this new, long black crinkly skirt that would look Very Glamorous, however, as I will be doing lots of walking in slushy streets, and I pretty much step on the skirt as I walk, I think I'll reserve that one for my next recital appearance. Wow, planning what to wear at a future, as-yet unscheduled recital! How bizarre!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Official Future

Uh oh. I made the mistake, uh, I mean, I had the foresight, to check this site for future Met Opera info. I've already mentioned that I'll be going to see Cosi fan tutti in November or December. But I don't recall seeing this listed before:

LE COMTE ORY [Metropolitan Opera premiere, Mar/Apr] with Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato (Isolier), Juan Diego Florez, Michele Pertusi (The Tutor), Susanne Resmark* (Ragonde), Stephane Degout (Rimbaud), c. Maurizio Benini, dir. Bartlett Sher

WOW!! March/April 2011. Over a year from now. They're also doing the family version of Magic Flute this coming Winter, but the full cast isn't listed there.

The official next-season announcement will be out soon. But I like to plan far far in advance... so ... I will.

So looking even further ahead... for 2011-2012:

BILLY BUDD with John Daszak* (Captain Vere), Nathan Gunn (Billy Budd)

Tough call for me. Don't know if I can handle that particular opera. On the other hand, I don't think I can pass up seeing Mr. Gunn in his "signature" role. Well, there's plenty of time to decide/mull/ruminate over that. Oh come on. Who am I kidding. We all know I'll go. Maybe.

That site lists up through 2015! Wow. I do see that Lisette Oropesa, who I saw as Lucia with NJ Opera this past summer, will be Gilda in Rigoletto in 2012-2013. I hope to see more familiar names up there as unofficial information becomes semi-official and then officially official.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Other Part of Florida

Finally have time to catch up on the blog - got stuck in Florida an extra day due to a snowstorm up north, and then was struck down by a stomach virus.

Lucia in Florida was fun!! My mom, my cousin and I

met another cousin in downtown Fort Lauderdale for dinner. We at at Himmarshee. It was good, although a little noisy. The weather was gorgeous and we sat outside so some of the noise was from the street. Then we walked the two or three blocks to the theater and found a cute guy to take our photo:

Yeah, I know, he's not IN the photo, so use your imagination. Look at our smiles.

The opera was great! Everyone was so talented, as usual. My only beef with the production, and my companions agreed, was with the stage setting. They had this diagonal wall across the stage, pretty much cutting off half the stage, so everything was sort of stuffed into the space in front. Also, some of the scenes seemed out of order from how I remember, some stuff was cut and there were parts that I didn't recognize. I guess that's normal - directors cut sections of the opera for various reasons, and the plot is so ridiculous that doesn't really matter. The mad scene was great - Lucia came in walking on this long long table, and they brought Arturo's body out wrapped in a sheet - wonderfully gruesome!

Opera Tattler type stuff:
  • The chairs squeaked like mad. Someone get out there and oil them! The people in the row behind sat down, heard the squeak and began doing it on purpose, for fun. Not during the production - not on purpose - but anytime anyone moved the chair made a squeeeaaaak.
  • The coughing!! At one point I started counting each time I heard a cough or a nasty throat-clearing. I'd start again from 1 when I heard another. The highest I got was 12. Generally it was: 1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 1....
  • Once again, the cellophane candy wrappers. Or perhaps it was cough drops?
There's nothing else to rant about - just the noise from chairs and people. Everyone was dressed up - some were ultra-glamorous. We were too tired afterward to peek backstage to say hello so we went home.

The rest of the Florida visit was uneventful. When I asked my mother if she'd like to hear me sing she said, "If I have to." Nice. Later in the trip I was singing while doing the laundry. I came out of the laundry room and she said, "Ok, you can stop singing now." Nice. On the other hand, when my cousin showed her the video of me singing with the Opera Project, she was so proud of me she was ready to explode. So... ? Perhaps she was trying to "protect" me from my father's mean comments? Who knows. Anyway, it allowed to me rest my voice. And the snow up north gave us another day to swim in the pool, dip in the hot tub, swim in the pool, dip in the hot tub...

Now we're under a blizzard warning!! Look!



Peril!!! Quick! Duck!! Geez, you'd think I had free tickets to see Nathan Gunn 2 hours away, with weather like this.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Post-Florida Post

I'll rant, rave and whine about my trip later. Meanwhile, enjoy this, and remember to click through to YouTube if the blog format cuts off the edge of the video:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pre-Florida Post

Raise your hand if you sing in the car. Your hand is up, right? Because everyone sings in the car, or has sung in the car at some point.

Sometimes I sing vocalises in the car. I practice the patterns I learned in my voice lesson, make up patterns, go up and down the scale and so on. Sometimes I do that to warm up on my way to my lessons. Other times I warm up by singing along to pop music in that lower vocal range. But this post isn't about preparing for my lessons.

My teacher teases me when I say I want to sing Pamina or when I joke that I want to sing Lucia. She says I'm not ready to go there yet. That said, I've been avoiding singing those roles for fun, and by fun I mean, in the car. That's because when I'm learning a song I avoid singing along with the accompaniment or with a professionally recorded version because I want to learn it fresh and make it mine. But... I'm not learning Pamina or Lucia. I used to sing along for fun. Why shouldn't I sing along now? I don't strain on the high notes - I either skip them or sing an octave lower. I have fun. Why not sing Caro Nome and see how pretty I can make it? Am I teaching myself bad habits when I do that? Or the Doll Song. It's so much fun to sing. Now that I'm studying voice, does that mean I shouldn't sing something that I can't sing "for real" ? I do practice technique when I sing these pieces, even though I'm not actually studying them. So I still don't know.

Just to change things up, this morning I was listening to Phish on my way to work. It was Hoist, which has a lot of female backup vocal, so instead of singing along with Trey I decided to focus solely upon the backup. My conclusion: It's not easy to sing the word "stop" that many times in a row in Down with Disease.

On a final note, a new blog for the blogroll: The Vintage Maven. This is someone I know from the early 90s. She built up a stall in a flea market into a full blown shop and also just released a book about vintage accessories. No doubt she'll be a great resource for opera fashion!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Still My Own Worst Critic

At my voice lesson this week my teacher insisted that I did a fine job. She said that we are our own worst critics... yep I've heard that before!! She also pointed out that I know what I can do in her studio or at home, and even if I didn't believe that my performance at the recital was as good as I believe I could be, the audience doesn't know it, and on its own, comparing it to nothing, I was fine. We talked about the unexpected things that can happen during a live performance, for example, expecting a chord and getting a note. That wasn't such a big deal for me, but it was an example. We talked about what was going through my mind and about how the more you do it, the more you learn... yeah yeah. I know. It was part counseling/cheerleader session, part voice lesson.

We worked a little on Art is Calling for Me, and then we're going to choose the next thing to work on. I want to sing Nel cor piu non mi sento. Since I'll be seeing Eglise as Lucia on Thursday, here she is to show us how it should be sung. And then I won't listen to it again until after I've learned it...

My teacher has another German lieder piece she'd like me to look at. Then eventually we'll go back to Gretchen, after she rests in the back of my brain for a while. That was a good tactic with Una Donna and Batti Batti, so hopefully Gretchen will work the same way. Or my brain will work the same way. Or something.

Day after tomorrow we head to sunny Florida and Thursday is Lucia di Lammermoor with Florida Grand Opera. There has been so much other stuff going on that I keep forgetting first about the trip and then second that we're going to the opera this week. Once I show up for the flight and then at the theater I imagine my brain will catch up with my body.