Monday, May 31, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Random Carmen

Start with this so you can see the fabulousness that is Elizabeth Caballero. She's the soprano with the scarf in her hair.

And finish with these Alex-related, Carmen-related, Lego-related tidbits:

Alex asked to watch Carmen today. That was a change from his usual request of either a Star Wars or an Indiana Jones movie. He loves those movies... and he loves playing the Lego versions on the Wii. And, of course, he loves singing all the music, teaching me the background so I can accompany him when he sings the melody (you should hear our Darth Vader and our Indiana Jones pieces!!) and then comparing the music in levels on the Wii games to the corresponding scenes in the movies. So it's only natural that today he said wistfully, "I wish there was a Carmen Lego game for the Wii."

That's my boy. He went on to describe what the cave scene and what the ending would be like in the game. Maybe he'll grow up to be a software developer and will turn operas into interactive Lego video games. The market is open, as far as I can tell.

His favorite scene in Carmen is when the kids are singing during the changing of the guard. I wish that scene from the Met was on YouTube. And I don't recall if I mentioned this already - When he first saw the children he was astonished - "I didn't know KIDS could be in an opera. That looks like fun." Of course he couldn't be in his Kindergarten end-of-the-year show today (sniff) because he couldn't handle the echoing cafeteria during rehearsals... that, and he said he didn't care for the music. But the children's chorus for an opera... I bet he'd overcome those sensory issues pretty quickly... Fascinating. That link is for a little feature on the children's chorus for Carmen in San Diego.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Whole Lot of Nothing, PLUS Being (a) Super

I'm still wondering if/when I'll hear about supering this summer. I'd love to, but like I said in a prior post, I don't want to get my hopes up since I was so sad about not getting in last year. So really, except for right now as I post this, I have sort of tried to ignore it. Sort of. Except that by this time the past three years I already knew if I was supering or not. Which translates to, I went back in the blog to check. Then I think, it's just as well - I have so much stuff going on in June -Alex's birthday, his little stand/bow/stand recital, school events and so on. Plus the next tentative Opera Project event is in July, which means rehearsals and the recital can potentially conflict with 1 or more potential supering rehearsals and/or performances. And then there's the fact that I don't know if I'd even be singing in that recital. And I don't know if I'll be supering. A whole lot of I don't knows.

The one thing I do know is, I'd never commit to one and then back out. So the question is, which would I rather do? The answer is, both. Which, I am aware, isn't an option. But since nothing is scheduled anyway then what the heck am I writing about?

So here's why I love supering. The waiting around at rehearsals, the sweating backstage, the lack of stage vocab that causes the spark of panic when they say, "Stage left" and you think, "wait, which left is that? Is that when I'm facing the audience or ...?" , the uncomfortable costumes, the struggle to jam my hair into a bun... OH WAIT! That's not it. Seeing the process of an opera coming together, hearing the singers develop the roles, the feeling of community with the cast, being surrounded by beautiful music and talented people and being part of something beautiful. Being on stage. And, of course, crawling on stage to wipe up spills.

Ok, not going to think about it any more.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Moving Right Along

I must admit I'm pleased with the comments I received for my voice evaluation. I didn't hear any criticism that I didn't expect; relax the tension, watch certain vowels, raise the palate, etc. I was surprised by the nice comments and had a moment of, "Did they mean me or are they all deluded?" but the truth is I've been practicing, practicing, practicing. And what do you know, it helps to practice.

I had a lesson with my new teacher today. She asked for the results so I read them to her. Then we continued to work on keep the soft palate raised for every phrase in the songs we worked on. She had me hold a 5 lb weight out in front of me at one point. Besides Nel Cor, last week we worked on Se tu m'ami and O Cessate di Piagarme. Then today we went over something by Handel. I don't recall the name. We are doing pieces I've never done before because she says she doesn't want me bringing any habits along. I can see where that could be confusing or challenging. I like these songs and I'm amazed at how I'm able to maintain that full sound as we go over them phrase by phrase. She reads the measure in rhythm, I repeat it, she sings it, I repeat, through each song. Then I listen to the lesson and practice. And of course I find it on YouTube to hear how it sounds all put together.

I'm really enjoying the lessons, the location and the general atmosphere. It's so much more... something... than having a lesson in an elementary school classroom with the chairs stacked up on the desks and so on. The space is just so much more relaxing all around. She lives on this quaint street. There is a beautiful flower garden in front of her house. She has a great front porch with plants and a beautiful view of the river. Inside is lovely too. I'm very happy with the way things have worked out.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Personal Three-Ring Circus Cycle

Talk about a varied and intense day ...

Yesterday, in Ring number 1:

Final meeting with who is now my former voice teacher. I got the results of the vocal eval - here they are. There are two songs and three reviewers.

1. Art is Calling for Me

Reviewer 1:

Brava! Excellent use of breath and consistent, balanced tone quality. I love the characterization - I was enjoying this piece right along with you! My only suggestion is to make sure the high-strung energy of the character doesn't shake your internal calm as a performer. Great job!

Reviewer 2:

Fun performance! Keep your sound open on certain vowels - ee vowels and eh vowels particularly. Try to think of keeping the sound forward which will help to focus your sound and help in intonation as well.

Reviewer 3:

Nice, NICE, right from the start!
You've accomplished amazing things, girl!
Very well sung and acted in spite of nerves!
Need a little work on the final la-la section and phrase endings.

Nel Cor:

Reviewer 1:

Beautifully sung! this piece is challenging to maintain legato and consistent tone, and you did very well. I can see tension in your neck and shoulder; if you can release it, you will find even more ease and flexibility. Wonderful performance!

Reviewer 2:

Good work on this. The Italian is lovely. I'd love to hear you explore more of your vibrato - and dynamic tone as well - specifically in the quieter moments.

Reviewer 3:

Keep that throat open on [o] vowels (or... the famous soft palate raise)
Sounds beautiful - really!
Needs more tapered and graceful phrase endings the first time through
Just got better and better as you progressed
Last cadenza needs attention

In Ring number 2:

Circus!!! Sensory OVERLOAD. Loud music, flashing lights and something crazy going on everywhere you looked. Highlight: 7 motorcycles riding around inside a spherical cage. Found a good video of it:

And I got my $22 (!!!!!!!) spinning flashlight.

In Ring Number 3:

Opera Project recital!! I can't express how bizarre it was to go to the circus in the afternoon and then the recital in the evening. The only thing that would have made it more bizarre would have been if I had sung. The performances were really nice, as always. People kept asking me if I was singing. It was kind of nice - people remembered me from the last one. And I have to say, it sure is relaxing to attend without singing! One funny audience thing to report: A couple came in late and wanted to sit in my row, so I scooted down. The woman was next to me. Her companion put his arm around her over the back of the seat and his hand was on my shoulder. He left it there. I was like, how can you not know that your hand is on my shoulder? I shook my head so my hair fell on his hand and he moved it.

The next OP performance is in July at a winery. Hopefully they'll have room for me in the program.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another, "Look Who is Singing with Whom" Post

Favorite tenor, fabulous soprano.
Click through to see the entire video if the blogger format cuts off the frame.
The sound is a bit wonky with feedback when they hit the high notes. But then... the applause!!!

I Went, I Sang, I Left

Voice eval was yesterday.

I think I did pretty well. I mean, I know I could have done better. I didn’t manage to consistently keep on top of my air to produce that full ringing sound, but I’d say I did do it for the majority of the time. And I actually forgot one word in Art is Calling. "Men sigh at my feet..." I forgot the word sigh. I got to the part and I had no idea what the word was so I sort of made something up to sing the note. I don't know if anyone noticed. I fudged my way through and pressed on. I look forward to seeing the comments from the panel.

I have to say, I admire the accompanist. What a job - I don't think that anyone who plays piano could do it. There was no rehearsal so we were just winging it. So, I had some parts in Art is Calling For Me where I held out the notes or did fancy fun stuff, but she just plunged right on into the next part. Then she’d realize what I was doing, stop and wait for me. Me, I just sang and ignored the piano when that happened. That took some discipline because my instinct was to stop and figure out where we were, especially because what I was singing didn’t match what she was playing. There was one instance where she started the “I want to be a prima donna” part while I was still doing the fancy-fancy notes part just before it, where we actually stopped, then I gave her a nod for when to start it. Then the second time around she waited for me to give her the nod. It was fun - I so much enjoy singing with a real live person at the piano! Then for Nel Cor, my teacher showed her the parts in the music where I sing it out fancy. She pretty much stopped playing when I got to those parts, and then joined me when I resumed. In previous years the piano stuff would have made me anxious, but now it was just fun. I guess that's what happens. I thanked them for listening to me, they thanked me for singing for them, I thanked the accompanist, thanks all around.

While I was waiting my turn I could hear the student who went before me. She was about 13. She sang the Verruca Salt song from Willy Wonka. She was great. She came out of there so upset from being nervous and from thinking she didn't do well. Her mom and I were both like, "Of course you were nervous! Even famous singers get nervous before they sing for people!" And of course I had to add, "Some of them even throw up! And you didn't do that!"

I was nervous too, but I wasn't as worked up about it as I had been for the previous evals. You just have to suffer through the first ones in order to get to that place. It's not like you'll get kicked out of the music school if you don't do well. I wonder if it's not only an evaluation of the singer but also of the teacher?

Anyway, I'm done with the school. I'll get my results on Saturday and then shut the door. I won't lock it, and light will shine under in both directions, but I'm not going back through it. If I ever do, it'll be into a different room. Just came up with that door/room thing as I typed it. Hokey, but not too bad.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Endings and Beginnings of Another Sort

That vocal evaluation that I've fretted over the past two years has arrived again. In fact, my time to sing is about 90 minutes from when I'm typing this. I'm nervous of course but I have a different attitude this time. Why?

Ok here's the skinny. (do people say that anymore?) I can't really type more until I tell.

My current voice teacher and I have decided that I've come as far as I can with her and it's time for me to move to someone new. It's more complicated than that, because everything always is, but anyway this is where we are. I have already found a new teacher - I'm fast like that. I was seeing the O.P. person I've seen before and I asked her for a recommendation. Lo and behold... she's now my new teacher.

I've been to a couple of lessons with her so far. It's interesting to hear the same sort of stuff from someone else, taught in a totally different way. They're both good teachers but they are very different. I'm pleased with the decision. Now I just have to get used to the "studio" stuff. She teaches out of her home and I never know, do I ring the doorbell or just go into the sitting area and wait? I'll figure all that stuff out. The other stuff, which I do like, is that we make the appointment for the next lesson at each lesson, so it's very flexible, and I pay as I go. Very different from my set time slot and annual tuition with the music school. I think I'm going to like the flexibility. And I definitely like her style of teaching. I think it's a good fit.

So to wrap stuff up at the school with my current (old?) teacher, I have the eval tonight, then I'll go Saturday to my regular lesson time to get the results. And that's it. I've decided I'll write my teacher a nice note, etc, and maybe give her a pair of earrings. And as for that recital of her students next month, I unfortunately cannot participate because I can't make the mandatory run-through with the accompanist. It's scheduled for Alex's birthday, and we're having a party here. And Alex's teacher is holding a recital of her students on the same day as the other recital. All he'll do is bow in time to three chords, but it's a big deal for him. So THAT is the skinny!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Summer Non Plans

So here's a list of what I'm probably not doing this summer.

No idea if I'll be supering. I have submitted my info and I now wait to hear. The latest unsubstantiated rumor is that they'll need servants for the wedding party in Don Giovanni. And all my long-time readers know how much I love serving tippy champagne glasses on stage. But after last year's disappointment I'm assuming this year that I won't get picked, and then it'll be a surprise if I do.

Opera Project - I'm actually NOT singing this coming Saturday. They had way too many people interested. They have local composers debuting their pieces, plus the Lucia sextet and an entire section of Wagner. So hopefully I can sing in the following recital, which will be in June or July.

The Met's Summer Recital Series. Free opera in the park. Look. Michael Fabiano, Nathan Gunn and others on the same stage, on the same day. can I not go? I know how - if we have our regular 99 degree, high-humidity week in the middle of July. But it's free so it's not like I'd have to decide until pretty much that day. And I bet I know who would come with me!!! I have to inform her of this asap. (ok, done) And I have other people I'd like to meet in NYC. This might be a great thing to do. If the weather isn't totally gross.

I'll continue to post about what I'm not doing as I learn about it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Orange of Seville

Carmen was on PBS yesterday. It was fun to watch even though I swear I didn't remember some of it. I recorded it on the DVR, and today Alex and I watched it together. Well, not all of it, of course, but surprisingly more than I expected he would want to see.

Now of course we'll be singing this all weekend:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


A transition is taking place. Can't post about the details until I tie up one remaining loose end. But it's all good.

Meanwhile, I've been working on getting that consistent, ringing sound. Did some reading, did some googling and then had a consultation with someone about raising the soft palate and keeping it there while I sing. I think some of it got through my brain and into my singing. I have to practice, practice, practice. I definitely hear the difference - It resonates in my head, I'm louder and yet I have more control over the volume - and isn't that one of the things I mentioned that I wanted to work on? Volume control? Rather than blurt, blurt, blurt? I'm excited about this latest development.

Next week is that annual vocal evaluation that the music school does for/of the students. I'll sing two songs for three people - one is my current voice teacher, the other two are members of the voice faculty. I'll sing, they'll scribble furiously, I'll thank them and I'll leave. Then I'll come home and post about it. I can already predict that it'll be something along the lines of how I could have done better. Hm. Maybe I should write the post now and just wait until after next week to publish it. A few days after that I'll go to my lesson to get the results and of course will post all about that. Actually that's the same day I go to the circus and then to the Opera Project Birthday Concert so posting about the results will probably be delayed.

I have so many random thoughts about voice lessons and singing rushing around in my head these days. I will wait to write about it all until it solidifies into something fit for publishing. Perhaps once I have the results of the voice evaluation I'll have come up with some way of tying it all together.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Video Birthday Gift for a Friend

One of my friends is a fan of a very talented tenor named Bülent Bezdüz. I believe she started and/or is in charge of his official fan club. He recently won an opera award and also had a birthday, and as a gift to him she wanted to put together a slide show video. I offered to do this for her. We discussed what features she wanted the video to have, then she sent me all the files and I got to work. She has since uploaded it to YouTube. Click through to see the full screen because as usual my blog format manages to chop off the edge.

He is very sweet - he actually thanked me for putting the video together! I didn't expect that at all.

He does have a beautiful voice. I hope his career brings him to New York and/or Philadelphia so I can hear him in person.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Students and Teachers

Why does anyone sing? Singing is a way of expressing feelings. Making beautiful music while expressing those feelings can fill you with joy, even when the feelings in the music may be despair, depression, malice or whatever. When I sing I try to express those feelings, whatever they may be, and at the same time, I experience the joy of making music. And once I realized I had the potential to make it sound pretty and on occasion, to me, what sounds beautiful, I wanted to improve, improve, improve. I long for consistency in what I know I can do. So that essentially answers the next question of, why do I study? Simple. I enjoy singing. I enjoy learning the techniques. I enjoy finding the emotions in me, in learning how to get them out into the music. I enjoy learning how to connect to the music and how to meld together the emotions and the techniques. Of course there's almost always some aspect that doesn't show up when I try to meld it all together. But that's why I continue to study. I'm not looking for a career. I just want to enjoy and make beautiful music.

I don't have the academic background of reading music and understanding all the vocab and notations. Sometimes I feel like that holds me back. Other times I wonder, am I just using that lack of knowledge as an excuse? An excuse to not study something, or an excuse as to why I "can't" do something? I'm sure I can read up on it or even find out about an intro class at a nearby music school. And even if I don't, I don't think I can or should use that as an excuse. (Thank you to Susan Eichhorn Young's blog, Once More With Feeling for helping me realize that. It came to me as I typed the paragraph.)

I do love to do research and will listen to advice from different people. Note I say listen... not follow. I feel it is my right and also my responsibility to search out info and enrich myself, to learn as much as possible. I also realize that it's my responsibility to filter out the nonsense from what works for me. But then I wonder, without the formal musical background and without a great deal of experience as a student and as a performer, am I qualified to figure out on my own what to ignore and what to take into consideration? Is it wrong for me to test something out on my own if someone suggests something? Or, should it become part of the lesson with my teacher? How do I figure out when it's appropriate to proceed on my own, and when do I ask for her input? I mean, realize that if I want to go out and learn musical terms and so on, I don't need to bring it up in a voice lesson. There's not going to be a vocab quiz. It can only help me to know all the musical terms. But what if an experienced singer offers advice or something to try... what then? It seems so tricky. Is it ok to tell my teacher about it and ask her opinion, or should I simply try things out on my own and not tell her? But then I think, is that sneaky in some way? It's so confusing. If a student mention to his or her teacher, "I read..." or, "Someone suggested I try it this way..." is it in any way an insult to the teacher? Is it stepping on the teacher's toes? Does it imply somehow that they haven't been doing a good job? Or does it show that you, the student, are excited and want to try out different things? I honestly have no idea.

The only perspective I can bring to this is my own experience as a teacher. I am a teacher of English as a Second Language, although I am currently not teaching. When I did teach, my students were both adults and children, at all levels - from beginner to advanced. For me, teaching went far beyond the time spent in the classroom teaching the lesson. There was tons of prep time. Besides keeping up on the latest language-acquisition theories, I was always writing and tailoring lesson plans to fit my students' needs. I always wanted input from them on what they wanted to learn. They all had different goals. Children want to make friends. Adult ESL students want to be able to understand their children's doctors and teachers, to be able to communicate effectively with their employer and other members of the community. Some ESL students had high English proficiency but wanted to work on their accents. Others were looking for subject-specific vocabulary. The point is, as a teacher, I not only wanted my students to tell me their goals, I needed them too. And like voice lessons, language lessons also require a level of trust between student and teacher. Anyone out there who has studied a foreign language and then tried to use that language "for real," will know how difficult it is to speak a new language. So again I wonder, is the voice studio any different? Or does it depend on the specific relationship between the particular student and teacher?

Before I sign off, I want to urge my readers not to read into this more than what I've put on the page. I'm just thinking about the idea of the teacher-student relationship and what it entails.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

When I'm Not Singing

When I'm not singing, I go to places like this to do stuff like this:

You can hear Husband, "I can feel it on my arm hair" and me, "Am I going to get a shock?" And no, I didn't get a shock. But it felt pretty cool.

I actually did have a voice lesson earlier that day. It was a good lesson, really polished up Nel Cor and did some fun vocal exercises.

Alex has the opportunity to "perform" in his first recital. His teacher is presenting a recital of her students. The little ones who are still learning simply get dressed up, walk on stage holding their instrument (or in his case, he'll walk to the piano) and then bow. She'll play three chords: Stand, bow, stand. That's all. How cute is that? Of course it's the same day that my teacher is presenting her students in recital. In a different location. But his is at 1:30 and mine is at 3 so if he goes early, and I think he will, then I can scoot out and over to where my recital is to get there in time. I can warm up in the car.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Opera Pulse Script Writing Contest

I'm just thinking that I shouldn't post this link (which I have recently fixed. The link, I mean, not the contest.) since I'm entering the competition.... I sort of jokingly suggested it and they went with it!! I'm working on my script now. I knew all these years of writing "natural-sounding language" dialogues for the listening comprehension section of the TOEFL would finally come in handy. After the contest I'll post my entry.