Friday, April 30, 2010


I have never been to the circus. Yes it's true. I remember when our aunt took my older brothers, saying I was too young to go. More likely two kids at once was all she could handle. And of course they brought me a flashlight. So I am very excited to report that I'm going!!! I'm going to the circus!! And this time I'll get to buy my very own flashlight! I'm very excited, and of course not thinking about all the anti-circus animal lovers out there. I'm going for the acrobats and trapeze artists. And of course the flashlight. And if you read that description in the link - motorcycle riders inside a sphere cage!!! High wire acrobatics!! Elephants!!!

Then later that same day is the Opera Project recital. I'm assuming that they won't have room for me and my short little very short 2 minute Nel Cor song but I'll go anyway to cheer from the audience because I'm like that. I cheer. And I'll bring my flashlight!!

Unless, of course, I join the circus after the show. You never know.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Vocal Hormones

Not much to post but I feel the need to write... something... so I'm going with another one of those, "open the window and the words will come" moments.

Ok, here's something I've noticed over the past... well, more than the past year. I hope it's not a TMI type entry... that said...

Monthly cycles. We've all heard (unless you haven't, in which case, now you have) that the hormone changes affect your voice. Water retention and who knows what else, right? Well for me, I have noticed that just before my period, during the infamous PMS time when I hate everyone and everything, my voice sounds great. To me. Fascinating, because you'd think that I'd be even harsher on myself at that particular time in my cycle, since I am for everything else about myself. The mom guilt, the extra weight and so on... but I am pleased by how I can sing during PMS. In fact I can tell by the change in my voice that my period is coming in a few days. How wacky is that? Imagine how I'd feel about how I sound then if I sounded that way two weeks later. Or earlier. You do the math.
So I feel lucky that while I'm busy beating myself up for all the other stupid stuff, I don't do it about my singing. And also I know that if I ever do get the urge to have my singing skills beaten down during that time, I can always call my mom and sing for her. As much as she'll brag to the relatives, she doesn't hesitate to tell me to stop singing. At least she's consistent. Just like the monthly changes in my voice.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy Birthday!

To me!!! The boys sang to me, reminding me again that I didn't marry Husband for his ability to carry a tune... cuz he dropped it all over the place. And of course I remember that two years ago yesterday I was in that hallway at the Met stage door, chatting with Juan Diego Florez and trying to get a decent pic with the iPhone.

Still don't know if I'm singing in the upcoming Opera Project recital. I'll go either way. I mean, obviously I'd go if I were singing... duh... but also I'll go if I'm not.

Today Alex and I sang together on the swing set. His current obsessions are Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Not only does he know all the music from all of the movies he's seen so far (3 of each!) he also has the Wii Lego game for each and knows all the music for each level in each movie on the games. He can explain the difference between the music of each movie in the Lego game and the actual movie ... and the differences in the theme songs between movies... and he knows the music for each character. He knows the backgrounds and the main melodies. He's taught me the background music so I can chant that while he does the melody. And we do all this while swinging on the swing set. In the correct pitch of course!! It's great fun... and no doubt tedious as heck to anyone else.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What to Sing IF I Sing

I have a bunch of upcoming events. Maybe.
  1. There's the voice evaluation for the music school in mid-May.
  2. There's possibly an Opera Project recital near the end of May. Well there's definitely an OP recital but they're not sure they have room for arias this time around - more on that later.
  3. There's the recital my teacher puts on of her students.
I'll need two songs for the evaluation, two for the student recital and one for OP if I can sing with them next month. Overlap is allowed of course.

I have three songs that I'm shuffling around for the events, plus another I can toss in for the eval.
  1. Art is Calling for Me
  2. Nel Cor and
  3. I've pulled Vedrai Carino out of the closet of my brain.

So here's how I've got it mapped out.... for now.

  1. Voice eval: Batti Batti and Nel Cor (or Art is Calling?)
  2. OP if I get in: Either Nel Cor or Vedrai Carino
  3. Student Recital: Art is Calling for Me and Nel Cor

The voice eval is a few days before the OP event. Shouldn't I sing there what I'd sing for the event? I'd certainly know by then if I'll be in. I'll find out next week. As of now they're doing tons of Wagner, the Lucia sextet and then some duets. I so want to do a duet! They told me they'd find someone for me for a duet so I'll talk to my teacher about what I could do. I'm stuck on Zerlina now and would love to do La ci darem la mano. But as usual, I need a baritone. I guess if I could possibly do it I'd just have to learn my part and ask them if anyone wants to do it with me. I feel so green about this stuff. But as usual I digress. As of now the program is full, although the fact that whatever I'd sing would be very short, like 2 minutes, is a plus.

So the plan for tomorrow's voice lesson is, I'm going to sing the three pieces for my teacher and then we'll decide together which one(s) I can get into shape to perform. I like having a plan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

All I Need is a Baritone

And then I could sing all the duets I want. Like this one.

As usual, click through to YouTube to see the entire frame. If you want. And yes, I know that it's a different singer as Pamina, but it was the only photo of Papageno and Pamina from that production that I could find.

Speaking of YouTube, they changed. Has anyone noticed this? I must be getting old. I was very comfy with the previous version. Now I have to learn where to click all over again. Whine, whine, whine.

Sing for Hope

How cool is this? I wonder where these pianos will show up.

The blog format cuts off the edge of the video. Click through to youtube to see the whole frame, especially if you want to see what's-his-name in the shots with Papagena. I mean, with Monica Y.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Futures" Sticker Shock

Holy Cow!!! After conferring with my neighbor about which operas he and his wife want to see and on which day of the week, yesterday I purchased 2 subscriptions for the Saturday 6 series at the Met, Grand Tier Rear. The total was just under $2000. On my credit card. Divided into four payments. At least there's that. And the neighbor is taking 4 of the 6 performances so I'll get a chunk of the money back... but still... when they gave me the total, I think my heart rate increased a little. But now I am guaranteed tickets in the Grand Tier Rear for the two operas I want to see, Cosi fan tutti and Le Comte Ory. My neighbor will be keeping the Armida tickets and trading the others. I'll have to do it for them since the subscription is in my name, but I don't mind. I had originally wanted to go mid-week because the tickets are about $50 cheaper per seat, but then I figured that since I always take the next day off from work which is a "loss" of way more than $50, I still come out ahead by going on Saturday. Also there was no mid-week series with the two operas both in it. So now I am set and don't have to worry about switching tickets for myself. Plus, if Husband comes with me (as I may insist he do for Le Comte) we'll have an easier time finding a babysitter. I already know who wants to come along to Cosi.

And the best thing of all is, I don't have to sit around the day single tickets go on sale to the general public, waiting to get through online or on the phone!

As far as what to wear to these events... well, that all depends on how much ice-cream I eat this summer.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Photos, Meetings, Gifts

Ann sent me the photos of our Die Zauberflote adventure. Here's one she took of me after our picnic dinner, and then the obligatory photo in front of the sign. You can really see my hair all rolled up into a bun in the first shot.

I think I was laughing during this picture because I felt like an idiot posing by the sign.

I met with the elementary school music teacher yesterday. Refer back to this post to see why. So we showed her what Alex does with the rhythm and pitch cards, then he played around on the piano for her. She told me about the assessment for the Gifted and Talented program. The initial assessment consists of playing two sets of tones or rhythms and the child has to simply determine if the two were the same or different. Like, stuff Alex does for fun. !!!! The second part of the assessment may not apply as it involves playing major and minor scales on an instrument. Maybe he can sing them. Which means I have to teach him the vocab and make sure he remembers which is which.

Today I submitted the application/recommendation form to the school for the program. The assessment is next month. Of course I'm not telling Alex anything about it. He thinks all 5 year olds can do what he does, because, as he told me the other day, "This is so EASY!" I was talking to one of my cousins about it (and by talk, I mean, commenting back and forth on a facebook status) and she pointed out how thrilled our grandfather, aunt and her (musical) father would have been - the musical talent is still alive in yet another generation. From Klezmer in the Ukraine (my great great [possibly one more great] grandfather) in the late 1800s to the Gifted and Talented program in music (hopefully) in 1st grade in the 2000s! I'm proud of him too! (even if he doesn't get into the program!!)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Radio Broadcasts!!

I totally forgot that there are people "out there" who record radio broadcasts and upload them to file sharing servers!!! Hooray!! Now I can listen to Saturday's Die Zauberflote performance and yesterday's Armida performance as much as and whenever I want. These are not pirated recordings - they are the radio broadcasts. And they are free free free. And that's why I'm listening to Die Zauberflote again right now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

An Aha! Moment

Was hanging out on the swing-set this afternoon when the neighbor came by walking another neighbor's dog. (Yes, it's that kind of neighborhood, welcome to suburbia.) We were chatting about the Metropolitan Opera of course. He and his wife usually get a subscription but they didn't this year. They want to for next year but, just like me, for a variety of reasons they're not able to see 5 or 6 operas... and then it clicked... why not SHARE a subscription? You can exchange tickets for performances you'd rather see AND you can purchase single tickets. Plus you can pay it off in a couple of transactions rather than giving a huge chunk of change all at once. So they're going to look at the info and we'll see if we can agree on a subscription and a seating section. Woot!! That would leave my August 15th free of worrying about slow internet connections and busy telephone lines!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Magic Flute & Armida - Two Operas in 24 Hours!

Two adventures to write about - the short version: Both operas were FABULOUS!!

And now to the nitty-gritty details.

Thursday evening was Magic Flute!!! Wow wow and WOW! Ann and I made our way to Lincoln Center and got the requisite photos in front of the fountain and the poster.


Posing with a larger-than-life Papageno:

You can't really tell from the photo but I had my hair in a bun, of all things. I had forgotten my sparkly barrette and it was hot, so I temporarily twisted it up, then decided to leave it. It came out later but I had it up for most of the evening.

The weather was so nice, we canceled our reservation at the Fancy Restaurant and grabbed a take-out dinner from a nearby deli. We had a picnic supper on a low wall with a view of both the front of the Met and the fountain. So here is the photo of my dinner - pesto pasta with chicken. It was quite yummy.

And the front of the Met with the Armida advertisement:

Eventually we made our way in to the Grand Tier Rear. View from the seats:

The music... ahhhh it's just beautiful. To hear it at the Met is like a dream come true. The sound in the Grand Tier is great. Matthew Polenzani was Tamino. His voice is like silk. Just gorgeous. Pamina's voice was so beautiful - beyond words. I fell in love with her as soon as she sang. And Nathan Gunn as Papageno. WOW. He is truly the Best Papageno Ever. He gets the comedy, the music, the timing, all of it. I've seen him in several different roles now and this was by far the best performance of his I've ever seen. The fact that I love the character of Papageno (who doesn't?) doesn't hurt. But he was WOW and there was no problem hearing him (as prior critics have complained) and he was just fab. And oh-so-adorable, especially when his hat was off. The duet he sang with Pamina - yes, I know I seem to cry easily at operas, but that duet did bring tears to my eyes - the beauty of the music, the singing and the words. I just can't help it. I am my mother's daughter. Luckily I was wearing waterproof mascara.

Queen of the Night, Sarastro and everyone - everyone blended together so beautifully. It was a package and it was great. The scenery - holy cow!!! Seeing Julie Taymor's production live, the entire stage, was amazing. It added so much magic to the Magic Flute. The puppetry - WOW!!! The scenery - amazing!! There was one scene with these giant puppet statue people with flaming heads. I mean, giant, like, 30 feet tall. They flanked the door to the temple I think before Tamino and Pamina entered for their trials. Their arms moved and did I mention that their heads were flame? I think it was done with orange cloth and a fan. It looked like real fire!!

What a difference to see the entire stage at once rather than the sections they show in the English TV version. The staging is meant to be seen all at once.

Everyone walked out of there smiling.

Very few tattles to tell:

A couple times there were these crashing sounds from the stage as if things were falling over... oops! Didn't see anything out of place.

Queen of the Night's sails clicked at one point as they were coming down during the aria. If that makes no sense, look here and here. (same production but in English) The costuming was a bit different, just a little. I could swear she was in bright red the whole time instead of the blue. And then audience applauded in the MIDDLE of her 2nd aria, after the first set of amazingly perfect runs up to that high f.

Also, after they unlocked Papageno's mouth, his tumblings caused the pipes to get tangled in the bamboo. Yeah I see that makes no sense either when you read it. Scroll up to the photo or look here. That English version has a section cut ... and the whole time they were singing that cut section, he was trying to untangle the string of the pipes from the piece that pokes up from his left shoulder. All without breaking character and while continuing to sing.

When Papageno ran up the circles (look in about the middle here) he fell and crashed HARD. It looked OUCH painful. His hat flew off. He didn't miss a beat but I bet he's sporting some new bruises.

The woman one seat over from me was worrying a cellophane wrapper during the entire first scene. I'm sure she didn't realize it - Finally I asked her to stop and she did.

And the best part - my own tattle - that morning I had checked the Met website and saw that a section of the front row in front of us in the Grand Tier was unsold. The seats were indeed empty so we moved down during intermission. Great view from the front row of the Grand Tier! Plus you get this little shelf to put your program down, put your feet up (!!!) or whatever.

After the performance Ann and I went back to our hotel and polished off a pint of Ben and Jerry's. I think it's a pattern - we go together to see NG and then eat ice cream in the hotel room. Didn't we do that last year after Rape of Lucretia? And speaking of Lucretia, Tamara Mumford, who was Lucretia, was one of the Three Ladies.

The next day, less than 24 hours later, I jammed myself into an over-packed Path train and went back into the city. I had 40 minutes to make my way to the Met for Armida. Decisions... figure out what subway to take, or hop in a cab? I decided that since my time was short, I was hot and uncomfortable from the crowded train AND I was schlepping my backpack with my overnight stuff that I should treat myself to the cab ride. I'm so glad I did! I opened the window, sat back and relaxed. It was exactly what I needed to relax and enjoy the day. I even thanked the cab driver for the relaxing ride. He said I was the third person that shift to thank him. I think it made his day!

I wove in and out of the various groups of schoolchildren and picked up my ticket at the box office. Look!!

Do you see? Orchestra Row E!! Like, right smack in the middle of the fifth row!! HOLY COW! I sat with John's talented and beautiful wife and adorable daughter. And then during intermission before Act 3, when John's wife and daughter were away from the seats, this other woman joined the row and immediately asked, "Are you friends with Renee? We're all friends with Renee. This entire section." Um... ok. "No, I'm friends with John Osborn." She replied, "Who's that?" I told her he was one of the tenors - the guy in the first act. She brushed that off with, "Oh, I got here late. Better late than never!" and she laughed. Um... ok. She was tall and expensive looking - long, gorgeous hair, designer head-to-toe, your typical NYC upper east side wife who was late probably because she was either out planning for a charity, having a private pilates session or possibly both. I complimented her earrings and she said that the woman in charge of the children's chorus made them. Turns out her that her teenage daughter, who was there for the entire performance, is in the children's chorus. She was very nice but also amusingly stereotypical. But enough about her.

I was next to a herd of photographers.

The constant clicking didn't bother me at all - I found it interesting - whenever the action changed, whenever the characters moved or interacted, there'd be a flurry of shutter clicks. Combined they must have taken over a thousand photos. I, personally, took about 10. Here's one looking straight up at the ceiling:

And a view of the curtain from my seat:

And the performance itself:

I had never heard of this opera before so I was going in fresh. So what I could figure out from the sort of mushy plot was, Armida is a sorceress out to prevent the army from their goal of capturing Zion. She's a soprano and there are 6 tenors!! The performance opened with a dancer suspended from a ribbon and spinning down to the stage. It was beautiful. She looked about 10 but I learned later that she's actually 25. She was Armida's niece and she represented love. Armida also had a sprite or spirit who represented vengeance. Onto the plot - the army is burying their guy-in-charge when Armida shows up and pretends to be a princess in distress. She begs the general (John Osborn) to give her ten soldiers to help her regain her kingdom. She charms the army and everyone falls for it except for the general himself, but he goes against his instinct and agrees to help her because everyone else wants to. The men then promote Rinaldo (Lawrence Brownlee) as their new captain. Of course Rinaldo and Armida have met before when she saved him, they fell in love and then he had to leave. Somehow her uncle holds some sort of grudge against him. The mean spirit or sprite "infects" the soldiers and then this other guy who thought that he himself should have been chosen to lead gets all huffy and acts like a big bad loser. He's busy badmouthing Rinaldo, who overhears and fights the dude for his own honor. Of course he kills him, then the general comes back and is all mad, and then I'm not quite sure what happens except that Rinaldo is charmed by Armida and they run off.

Act two is a reenactment of the story in ballet, presented to Rinaldo and Armida as entertainment. These demons come out and create a beautiful palace and garden, then these nymphs come out and in the ballet they all seduce the dancer Rinaldo. I have never been so close to professional ballet dancers. These men jump 5 feet into the air and land silently. They are all muscle. It was amazing. The women were great too. The demons and the nymphs included the chorus as well as dancers. The demons were in these wacky costumes with horns and tails. I took one blurry photo of them during the curtain call, using one hand and no flash, so it's hard to see, but you get the idea:

That guy to the left wearing what looks like knee pads had a very form-fitting costume. As in, I think everyone in the room was looking at his ... manliness. It was outlined in great detail. Had to avert my eyes to keep from staring. I'm sure I wasn't the only one. He was I think the main demon or devil from the underworld. The dancers interacted with him a lot - they carried him around, and he climbed on them to sing, so his outlined bits were displayed prominently. Not like me to go on and on about some guy's privates but there they were, pretty much in everyone's face!!

So anyway during the dance there's a part where they tempt Rinaldo with fruit, and then the nymph dancers are teasing the dancer Rinaldo and playing a sort of monkey-in-the-middle with him, throwing the fruit back and forth over him while he tries in vain to catch it. At some point the dancer is replaced with the real Rinaldo. There is a gorgeous love-duet in there somewhere. You see the little girl in red in that blurry photo? That's the 25 year old dancer. Anyway back to the opera...

Scene three, two of the soldiers (and the final two tenors) find their way into the enchanted forest and find Rinaldo. They help him realize that he has been charmed by magic and lead him back to battle, bravery, courage and so on. Armida tries in vain to keep him there with her. Then the demon/vengeance spirit and the love spirit battle (via ballet of course) around her and the bad spirit wins. Armida vows that she will seek vengeance and the curtain drops.

The music was full of Rossini's coloratura runs and vocal gymnastics. It was really really pretty.

John Osborn was absolutely awesome. Rossini coloratura is his friend. It seems to come effortlessly for him. The singing, the acting, etc - he was the character and the music flowed out of him.

Lawrence Brownlee has the most unbelievable voice. Except of course I was there so I do believe it. Like John, the coloratura just flows out. It was like beauty flowing out over the audience.

One of the other tenors stood out for me too, it was one of the two soldiers who saved Rinaldo in Act 3, but I don't remember who it was. It was hard to keep track of who was who.

Renee Fleming was Armida. She is so beautiful. She didn't really sing out in the first two acts. Her voice was very pretty but I was like, what's the big deal? Until the third act, when she SANG. And then I was like, Oh, I get it now. At first I was star-struck that I was seeing her, but she was such a good actor that I got totally into it and forgot it was her. If that makes sense. I guess that's the point!

After the performance I wanted to hang out but even more I wanted to get back to my boys - over 24 hours away from them and my arms ached to hug Alex! All the moms out there will understand what I mean!! So I trekked down to Penn Station (remind me NEVER to do that in my little boots again, ever!!) and hopped on the express train to get home to my boys.

Today I listened to the Saturday Afternoon Broadcast of Magic Flute. It was great to hear it all again so soon after seeing it. At one point I put on the English version video and tried to match it up for Alex to see and hear. It worked pretty well for some parts, like when the three ladies find Tamino, but then I had to pause the video for the cut parts and was too much trouble and he got bored with it so I turned off the video.

Now my little spot on the shelf where I keep all my tickets is empty. It looks so sad, all empty. But I'm sure it won't be empty for long.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pre-Adventure Last Minute Fashion Thoughts

I've completely changed my mind about what to wear tonight for Die Zauberflote and tomorrow for the final dress for Armida. Instead of the trippy-skirt outfit (and I mean that in the literal sense, not in the psychedelic sense) I'm going to go with what I wore to the AVA Gala, which is also what I wore last year to La Sonnambula, Firebrand of Florence and Rape of Lucretia. And, come to think of it, to my first Opera Project recital. I was stuck in this, "Gotta wear something different" rut, but then I snapped out of it and realized it didn't matter - go with what works and what's comfortable... however comfortable one can be when one has jammed oneself into body-squeezing underwear.

Then, for tomorrow, this skirt and the brown shirt from the Carmen outfit.

Then instead of those sandals, I'll wear my little brown boots with the low heel. Incidentally, I'm wearing that outfit today and just took that photo in the ladies' room at work. It's hot today, in the 80s F, but it's supposed to be in the 60s tomorrow so it should be perfect. Also I have to keep in mind that I will have my backpack with me, so the fewer things I have to carry, the better.
Wheeeeeee I'm excited!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sitting and Staring and Skirts with Heels

Spring weather is daydream weather! I've found myself sitting and staring a lot. Ok to be honest I did that all winter too. Let's face it, I do it all the time. I truly understand how my cat can sit on the couch, facing the back of the couch, eyes open, not moving. I'm so there.

Just now I was sitting and staring at the Operatic Anthology book I got several months ago - "Celebrated Arias Selected from Operas by Old and Modern Composers, Volume I, Soprano." I'm not familiar with most of the arias, although I've heard of most (but not all) of the operas. So I'm sitting here wondering, how do I know which, if any, of these would be appropriate for me to learn? Just an idle daydream, really. I keep flipping through it, imagining what the arias sound like. I could search on YouTube but that would require more effort.

Geez I sound depressed - sitting and staring, things taking too much effort...

Well perhaps a little Mozart will help!! Because I'm now going to announce that Thursday, the day after tomorrow, is the day I'll be seeing Die Zauberflote. Mozart!!! My plan is to wear the same outfit I wore for the Opera Project recital, you know, the one I kept stepping on and tripping over. At least I know the tags are off. Can't verify at the moment if the little plastic thing that holds the tags on is still there. I'm sure I'll forget to check until I feel something poking me during the overture.

Then the following day is the Armida final dress, if I figure out how to get the ticket that has been set aside for me. I have to check with weather but I think I'm going with the long, multi-colored skirt I wore to Carmen, Lucia and Grapes. I figure I was with different people for each of those so it's not like anyone will notice that I'm wearing the same skirt. Then a white lacy tank-top with a green blouse that matches the green in the skirt, and low-heeled brown boots. A fashion expert at Glamour actually gave me advice on what to wear - she recommended a day dress with heels, or slacks with a jacket and heels. I have neither of those outfits, so... a skirt and boots it is. But hey, at least the boots have a heel. Sort of.

Yeah, maybe it's time to go stare at the insides of my eyelids... Opera keeping me awake again and all that.

Monday, April 5, 2010

This Week

Another adventurous week coming up!

Will be spending some time in NYC this week - I was lucky enough to be offered a ticket for the final dress rehearsal of Armida at the Met. If I can figure out how to actually obtain the ticket (that part was unclear, but I'll figure it out...) I'll go. Also seeing Die Zauberflote one day this week. Banawoman will be out East for that. I anticipate lots of laughter, yummy food and beautiful Mozart.

Now I will use the rest of this blank window to brag about my kid.

Alex has a weekly private music lesson with a very good teacher at Westminster. She uses these music note cards to teach rhythm, pitch and so on. She plays games with the cards and also teaches him patterns with each hand on the piano while singing along. She always tells me he's coming along very well.

Because of behavioral and social issues associated with PDD-NOS, he has a paraprofessional assigned just to him at school. One day before school started they were in the music room and he was showing his para what he can do on the piano. She was surprised, and then while he was doing this the school music teacher entered the room. Well, she was REALLY surprised! She was very, very impressed and amazed at what he was able to do. He was playing piano with both hands and singing along. I think that was the point that he was unofficially excused from the kindergarten music class. It's more a music experience than a music lesson, very chaotic and noisy - not an ideal situation for him anyway. The music teacher has asked to see his piano book but in my opinion it's the games and exercises with the cards that allowed him to learn the songs he plays on the piano. Well, it's all of it, but the cards make a huge difference. They're in spring break now, but I'll contact her next week to see if she and I can meet. The school also has a gifted and talented program for music, so I'll find out more about that. I'd have to apply by the end of April. How cool and brag-worthy would that be? I'll answer that question myself. Very cool. And very VERY bragworthy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

AVA Gala - Wowwwwwwie!!!

Wednesday I went to the AVA "Brava Philadelphia," 75th Anniversary Gala.

Silly me, I didn't check the time on the ticket. I left my house at about 6pm, thinking I'd get there in plenty of time to grab a bite to eat before the performance. But when traffic stopped because of a truck stuck in the left lane, I pulled out the ticket for a peek. OOPS! 7:30 start time. Maybe I'd be able to grab a bag of peanuts somewhere...?

Traffic finally picked up and I made way to the parking garage below the theater. I just want to point out here that I paid $50 for the ticket and then $22 to park!!! There weren't enough spots in the garage so I had to leave my car in the middle along with the keys. They gave me a ticket for the keys which I promptly lost. But on the positive side, the lobby snack bar sold these little sandwiches so I was able to scarf something down in the moments before the bells went off.

So the format was, there were AVA graduates who were the "Gala Artists," and a group of "Resident Artists" who are still students. Everyone was great. A few of the resident artists had solos but for the most part they did ensemble pieces. They were all so good!! And the dresses - OMG one piece of eye candy after another. I'm still talking about the resident artists here. One woman had this gorgeous blond hair and was wearing the most stunning gown ever - it was this reddish/maroonish/brick color, shimmery, with shiny parts on the straps. Should have brought my binocs I guess... that's all the detail I can provide. There was so much glitz and rhinestone on stage. But why am I going off track with the clothing? The singing was phenomenal.

So in between the resident stuff, the Gala Artists came out and did their thing. And their thing was, sing. Oh no I've veered into Dr. Seuss land, sorry about that. I'm not going to write every detail about the evening... but I might come close! I should have taken notes, right? Everyone sang more than one piece. Here's what I remember.

Eglise Gutierrez. So so awesome. Words cannot describe. She did something from La Sonnambula and later a scene from Rigoletto. Legato, legato, legato. I think she took one deep breath at the beginning and then didn't need to breathe again until the end. Emotion in her face, her voice, her eyes. And she was wearing a beautiful purple gown and big sparkly earrings.

Angela Meade sang something from Abduction. She was in NJ Opera's production of it last summer. She is AMAZING. What a voice. The aria had a range from way down here to all the way up there and everything in between. Sounded like one of those arias that he wrote for someone specific. I don't know enough about Mozart to say more than that, but doesn't it make me sound knowledgeable? "Oh yes, he wrote that one for a specific soprano..." Ok, back to business. Her dress: Red gown. Spectacular. Let's see... checking the program...

Latonia Moore. Ok, I don't remember what she was wearing. Black probably? Gorgeous face but her hair kept falling in it!! She kept flipping it back. However it did not distract from her GORGEOUS voice. Madame Butterfly - blew me away.

Ok. Another soprano. Indra Thomas. Wow. WOW! And wow on the black dress with the green wrap! She changed it to a black gauzy type wrap later which made it even more elegant, if that's even possible. Hair pulled back into a tight bun with rhinestone crystals glittering everywhere. She looked like a princess and sang like a goddess.

It wasn't just a girls' night out. The guys - of course, Michael Fabiano!! Nessun Dorma. Don't think there was a dry eye in the house. His voice just washes over you. And after being in a production with him, it was so familiar. I was like, Oh yeah, that's right. He was great then and he's even better now.

Luis Ledesma sang the Toreador song from Carmen, surrounded by the resident artists. Like all the men, he was wearing a tux, but that doesn't stop me from imagining him all Escamillo-ed up. He seemed so familiar to me, I should check and see if I've seen him perform before.

James Valenti!!! We all remember him from this. He just made his Met debut in Traviata. You can read all about that in all the regular places. Here he sang O Sole Mio and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. And this man is TALL!! A tall tenor. Yes, I know, I barely push the bar at 5 feet, but that doesn't mean I can't tell tall from down here. I didn't realize just how tall he was until I saw him later backstage.

Before it started and also in between the singing, someone came out to introduce and thank various people who were involved in putting the evening together. The mayor of Philadelphia even showed up to say a few words. They also explained that Joyce Didonato was supposed to have been there but she injured herself (again?!) on stage in Chicago and needed surgery to repair a torn ligament in her knee. Ouch. But you know what? She's such a huge name, such a huge star, that having her there might have taken some of the spotlight away from the other performers. Not that I wasn't disappointed - but I wonder if the dynamic of the performance would have been different.

The crowd: What a mix. Several men in tuxedos, entire rows of them. Women in ball gowns. Women like me, in a nice long skirt and top. And then some people were very, very casual. Not quite pajamas, but not dressed up either.

The row behind me - one woman was eating Goobers, yes, you know, chocolate-covered peanuts, from one of those movie-size boxes, and offering them to her companions. Apparently she had a box of Raisinettes too. Another guy behind me had running commentary - "Wow. Amazing. Listen to that. Did you hear that?" and so on. It was what we were all thinking, but he said it all out loud.

The row in front of me - just as it was starting, one woman whispered something to her companion and a man two seats down let out this rude "shhhppp!"which did the trick, but still... Where was he when the same woman started humming along????

Over in the row of men-in-tuxes, this one woman kept talking to the people on either side of her. But it's ok. She was whispering. It was the loudest whisper I had ever heard. It echoed throughout the entire theater. It was amazing.

These minor incidents did nothing to mar the evening, they are merely amusing to relate.

When it ended I went back to say hi to Michael and give him a squeeze. You can see me doing that here. See my hand coming around? Squeezing. That's not a smile on his face, it's a grimace. Ok ok, I'm just kidding. I mean yeah I was squeezing but he was (I think) smiling. He was so sweet.

I finally finally got to meet Eglise in person! We have had comment conversations on facebook and it was wonderful to finally meet "for real." She had changed out of her gown but was still absolutely gorgeous in person. Her eyes are WOW! I felt instant warmth from her, as if we had known each other forever.

As usual it was super-crazy hectic back there with visitors and performers all wanting photos of and with each other. So after chatting for a moment I made my way back to the car where they let me have my keys back in spite of me having no idea where my ticket was. After a few crazy city-driving maneuvers, you know, wild u-turns, lane changes and so on, I found my way onto the highway and was home within the hour.

The only think I'd change: Next time I'm writing down what the singers are wearing so I can describe it here in greater detail.