Tuesday, August 31, 2010

30 Seconds to Opera

After a few formatting ups and downs, it looks like they've smoothed out the glitches in the Opera Project website... now look! I'm number 3 on the page. You know, the one with the two-line bio, sandwiched in between the long paragraphs that describe everyone else's accomplishments. But the point is, I'm there!! I'm not TOO intimidated! How in the world did I end up on this list with all these accomplished singers? I feel like someone is going to suddenly realize I don't belong there, because I still can't believe it myself.

So after this week's lesson we decided that I will sing Laschia ch'io pianga for the recital. The rehearsal is Sept 12. I can't wait to sing this in an echoing church. I'll have to put my imaginary cupola man up in the rose window. I showed his picture to my teacher

and she agreed that he's worth singing to! Hahaha!! Me and my silly celebrity crushes. But hey, whatever works to get me on top of the air. This week, it's this. Ask again next week.

I just have to laugh at myself here. I mean, come ON. Look at me. I'm singing to a tiny Jared Leto up in a cupola in a painting. And the other crazy thing is, I actually totally love his band. I mean, it's nuts. They are called 30 Seconds to Mars and they sound like a conglomeration of all my favorite 80s bands rolled into one. They have a cult following that just fascinates me. If I were a teenager I'd be in the cult. I could let myself fall into the cult now, if I weren't old enough to be the mother of most of the other fans. But they do some really fascinating stuff with their music, incorporating the audience as part of it, which is just amazing to me. As usual, click through to YouTube if the blog format cuts off the video window.

And they did this all over the world, and then had people record themselves, and they combined all the recordings into tracks on their album.

This track, for example, starts with the crowd making a tone and just bringing it up.

And the live footage on YouTube is amazing. They have so much energy. The intensity is not unlike opera. The music is different, but the feeling is the same. I mean, I'm sitting here, listening to This is War because it's playing in the window I opened to get the code, and I'm punching the air. And then laughing at myself for doing it. And yes, I do laugh at the pink mohawk. And yeah, I guess rock singers are allowed to go flat occasionally. I do cringe at the occasional flat notes and the sometimes screechy voice. On the other hand, I do love hearing the audience sing along. Look at the related videos to see more live footage - but beware, it's not all safe for work. The language is colorful, if you get my meaning. Just like his hair. But according to Twitter, the mohawk (now bleached white) was cut off today.

They play these giant arenas in Europe, but are still on the small club circuit here in the U.S. I would love to see them before they hit arena status here. They're actually playing about 2.5 hours from here this coming weekend, but it's just a wee bit too far for a solo round trip. I don't know anyone who would go with me. It's also a holiday weekend and the venue happens to be down the shore (that's, at the beach for people who are NOT from New Jersey) so the commute is probably more like 5 hours. On the other hand, tickets are only $25. So now I'm hoping that they come to Philadelphia in the near future, like maybe they can jam a date in there while they're in the area.

So, back to the opera. I'm starting to get excited to see Cosi in November. I have an extra pair of tickets for Le Comte Ory for Sat, April 2, Grand Tier Rear. Trying to figure out how to unload them. Craigslist? Ebay? One of those ticket brokers, like Stub Hub? A loyal reader here?

And getting back to Twitter... I've suddenly been really active there. Find me there and follow me!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Video, Take 2

Don't know why the video isn't displaying correctly in the prior post. It shows up fine at home, but not on my work computer or iPhone, so I'm uploading it again. See the previous post for the details.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Video Time

Ok, here is a clip from yesterday's voice lesson. I set it to these photos I took with my phone a few evenings ago, when the sky was looking weird. You can hear my teacher saying something like, "Passionate!" at the start, and a few things here and there, and then, "Aren't you proud of yourself?" at the end. And you know what? I am.

It starts with a recit, then the aria. Here are lyrics I copied from here. They're slightly different but close enough.


Lascia ch'io pianga
mia cruda sorte,
e che sospiri la libertà.
Il duolo infranga queste ritorte
de' miei martiri sol per pietà.

Let me weep
my cruel fate,
and let me sigh for liberty.
May sorrow break these chains
Of my sufferings, for pity's sake.

EDITED ON AUG 25: The video shows in the editing window, but when I publish, it vanishes. Sorry about that - I'll work on it and will repost when I figure it out.

Almost There

Well, they got my stuff up on the website. I mean, WOW!! They got me up on the website!! But it's all messed up - it needs fixin'. Go here and scroll down. It's like there's a photo album on the page with the three singers, and then mine was added but to a new album? And it doesn't display correctly. The bio shows only halfway. So I want to be all excited, and I am, but I'm also like, uh... anyone out there, can you take a look and fix it? But I don't want to ask because I don't want to sound ungrateful. So I sent an email thanking the person and asking if it's my browser or is the page not displaying correctly? So we'll see.

Voice lesson yesterday was FABULOUS. Holy cow. I'm like, who the hell is that? OH! It's me. Seriously. Srsly. Wow I've been wanting to type that, srsly, for like, a long time. Srsly. Ok. Anyway... I was on top of the air and I produced that sound I've been aiming for. I practice all the time, every note of every song, I make myself go back and re-do if I don't like the sound. And what do you know, practicing really does help. And was also helps is that my teacher has this painting next to the piano, of a street scene, and there's a church with a cupola on top, which is like a little tower, so anyway, because I'm shameless, I imagine that this person is up in that cupola, and he needs to be able to hear me from all the way over here, and if I do well, well, I can't say here what happens because this is a family blog. But, seriously, uh, I mean, srsly, imagining that someone is listening and that I could possibly win some sort of impossible reward or prize actually helps me relax and let it all out... even if my man in the cupola would have to be like 1 or 2 inches tall to actually fit in the painting. Luckily I have a vivid imagination. And wow, rereading that, it sounds really... inappropriate on so many levels. A man only 2 inches tall, and me and my vivid imagination. What I meant was, he'll grow to regular size when he pops out of the painting, thanks to my imagination. I mean, he'll just BE regular size. I won't see him grow from 2 inches to regular size because that would be too disturbing and freaky. Right, so... anyway...

I have to just open up and let the sound out, because when I trust myself to do that, I amaze myself. I realize I'm not in it for a career or anything like that - it's just that I never imagined I'd ever be able to sing like this. I'm in the process of posting a clip from my voice lesson - the only way I can think to do it is to make it into a video. Time consuming, but I see no other way to upload sound here.

Anyway, I'll post again once they fix the web page so it displays correctly. And once I make the little video, I'll post it. And I'll definitely post again if my Cupola Guy pops out of the painting and lands in my lap. Actually, if that happens, I probably won't post about it. Hm. That implies that if I don't post about it, that it may have happened. Well I'll let you all just wonder and imagine.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Photo and a Bio

Things are happening. Things I never fathomed.

The Opera Project has a web page now: http://www.theoperaproject.us/1.html. And if you go to the contacts, eventually, I think, you'll see my photo and bio there!!! I mean, how friggin cool is that? I never in a million years could have imagined that I'd be on a web page as an opera singer, complete with photo and bio. I'm not there as of this writing, but they asked me to send it and I did. And let me tell you, I feel pretty intimidated - look at the bios already there. Prestigious schools, awards, many many roles... My bio is like 3 lines long. I feel like I don't belong there on that list. I'm not there yet. I keep expecting them to change their minds, or something, about who gets their bio and photo posted to the page. But the truth is, I'm plotzing here at the mere idea of this. It's one of those, "I can't stop giggling" moments. Even though it hasn't quite happened. But the moment it does I'll post all about it, and of course I'll email the link to everyone I've ever known.

As you can see from the website, the next recital is that that very same jewelry store where I first saw the group. Then I have plans on October 23 (my friend's long-anticipated, over-the-top, fabulous annual Halloween party) and then she and I are going to see Cosi at the Met on November 27. I'm hoping to be able to sing in the others though.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Reasons to Love the Internet

Confession time!!! I was a teenager, temporarily. Here's how it all happened.

Alex is pretty much obsessed with Star Wars. Eventually I learned the names of the actors in the "new" prequels, googled them, (because I live under a rock ... apparently I was the only female on the face of the planet who hadn't ever heard of Hayden Christensen, the guy who portrayed Anakin Skywalker, you know, Darth Vader before he turned to the dark side) and then looked at their other stuff. And because I'm a teenager at heart, I ended up watching this Canadian tv series about troubled teens at a boarding school in the mountains, called Higher Ground, starring the same Mr Christensen when he was a teenager. That of course led me to watch other angsty high-school tv shows, specifically, Freaks and Geeks (loved it then, still love it!) and My So Called Life (loved it then, still love it!). Then I googled all those people to get the "where are they now" update and found out that the guy everyone wanted to make out with in the boiler room on MSCL, Jared Leto, has been in this sort of progressive rock band for the past several years called 30 Seconds to Mars. It's not opera. No.... way.... but it's compelling. And or course most of their fans are, you know, young enough to be my kids, but... whatever. They have this almost cult following - catch phrases, clothing, war paint, screaming fans, etc. I would have loved these guys had they been around when I was a teenager. I mean, they've got the looks, makeup and fashion of Adam Ant and Duran Duran but they have actual musical talent. I love the drums. So here I am, watching, or trying to watch, a livestream of a chat with the band. It's insane. It was insane... it's already over due to technical difficulties... So the band was on a webcam and there was a live chat window that flew by at the speed of light. Then it all crashed... and thanks to Twitter updates I know that they lost internet access at their hotel in Tel Aviv ... But the cult members, uh, I mean, fans, I'm sure, were shrieking to see their leaders uh I mean, idols, live on the screen for those few minutes. It got me thinking, I can't even imagine what my life would have been like had the internet existed when I was a teenager. It's truly unfathomable. Meanwhile, there I was, listing to Alex play Mario Cart Wii, saying goodbye to Husband as he left to see a baseball game, wondering if maybe I should shut down the computer and feed my child... nah, he knows where the food is.

So as I stated early on in the life of this blog, I love the internet. I love how on Twitter you can follow "famous" people and sort of communicate with them, and know from the time of their updates exactly when they are doing something. So I guess I love the legitimate stalking aspect of it. It's not really stalking - after all, if you use twitter you are giving the world permission to see whatever is it you post there. Also I love how, on the internet you can make friends with people you never would have met before, how you can trade information and how a band can try to hold a live chat with their fans. I mean, how COOL is that? Are opera singers doing that? I don't mean voice lessons on Skype. I think live opera via one of those live video chat feeds is in order.

In a sort of related post, Joyce DiDonato has started a Vlog on YouTube. I hope that doesn't mean she'll slow down her writing, because I love reading her blog. And I can't wait to see her at the Met!!! Next April. It'll be here before I know it. Together with JDF and Diana Damrau. Seems unreal. And my plan is to stay healthy... no backstage acupuncture this time, if only because I can't be guaranteed another view from the wings.

Had a voice lesson yesterday. Will post about that later ... however I do want to mention that the next Opera Project recital is September 26. In fact, I think I'll call the Guy In Charge right now to remind him that I'm interested in performing. And then, perhaps I should feed my child...

Friday, August 13, 2010


I’ve been going for deep tissue massages over the past several weeks for a back thing that was bothering me. When I told my therapist that I’m a singer, she said she’d work on my intercostals.

Quick biology lesson: Costals are ribs. Intercostals are the muscles between the ribs. They aid in breathing in and out.


Now, for the past 15 years or more, I’ve always felt pain in my back when I took a deep breath. I knew it was muscular but didn’t know there was anything I could do about it. I was just... used to it. Then... hello deep tissue massage! Ursula (yes, that’s really her name) is a miracle worker. Besides taking care of the original problem that brought me to her, she has been working on my intercostals. It’s insane, what she does. Near the end of the one hour massage, when I’m on my stomach, she has me take a deep breath and then she pushes, hard, 4or 5 times while I exhale, on 6 different areas of my back, three on each side. Then I turn onto my back and she does this on my sternum. The sternum is that long bone in the front, running vertically between the ribs. It’s like CPR. And when she’s done... holy cow. I can take a deeper breath than I’ve ever been able to take, and without pain! She freed up those muscles and the connective tissue. It’s amazing. I can take these huge breaths. So now I’m working on using my new fillup capacity to really fill up with air before singing a line. I’ve been singing without it for so long that I have to make a conscious effort to remember to do it. Soon it will become habit, I hope. That’s the plan, at least. I’ve found that having all this “extra” air in me has helped me to control my exhalations too, so I can much more easily vary the volume of a note. I think that before, I was blurting out notes by shoving out the last dregs of air. Suddenly there’s no need to blurt. It’s amazing. Like a whole new world of breathing. I can take deeper breaths to relax, and it’s also improved my posture.

The best part of all: My health insurance is paying 70% of the bill. It’s about time my health insurance paid for my voice lessons in some way.

Speaking of health insurance paying for voice lessons, my teacher is away this week. It’s like having your psychiatrist go on vacation. I’m hanging in there. Luckily I can now take long, deep breaths to remain calm and focused.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Dream of Jeannie?

I think y'all know by now that I have a tracker on my blog. I mean, doesn't everyone? So now I'm wondering why all of a sudden am I getting so many hits to this entry, based on a google search of the image I linked to there of a costume. Is it some sort of cascading thing, like, once a few people click to it, it moves up in the google search results, causing more people to click? Did someone from I Dream of Jeannie die or something? Why the sudden run on these costumes? And most importantly, did anyone read more than one entry, or stay for longer than 2 seconds? I bet you can guess the answer to those questions...

Back to our regularly scheduled opera blogging tomorrow. Or maybe the day after.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Matching It Up

Every week I take Alex to a swimming class. The pool is indoors at a nearby school. It's echoing and chaotic. I sit sweating in the stands, taking advantage of the enforced sitting time to read my music.

I want to learn as much of the music I'm working on as I can while I'm NOT in a lesson, so that during the lesson we can focus on singing. I had been having trouble matching the words with the notes for El Majo Discreto so finally I read along while listening on YouTube. Then today during the swimming lesson I tapped out the rhythm and (very quietly) chanted the words, over and over. I realized after listening on YouTube that the triplets were mixing me up. Once again my lack of musical background is getting in the way. I sort of figured out and sort of remembered that the triplet has to fit in the space like a regular note (sorry to the musically knowledgeable, I know there are real terms for all this). Basically, what it boils down to is, I had been giving them too much time and then getting all off beat. So I adjusted how I'd been thinking about the syllables that are attached to those notes and suddenly it all made sense. I can now match the words with the music.

My teacher will be away this coming week so I'll have plenty of time to learn as much of that piece as I can, along with another one she suggested I learn called Songs As Mother Sang Them. Or Songs My Mother Taught Me. I've seen both titles. So in order not to confuse myself with the words, but to help me learn the melody (since my iPhone suddenly refused to record any more voice memos after the warmup of my last lesson, and I'm trying not to take that personally) I've been listening to this one. I'm learning it in English so I'll eventually match up the words to the melody by reading along. I don't always have the luxury of having the music in front of me, or of being able to sing along, or pause and repeat, so I do what I can.

Today I had some time home alone (a rarity!) so I recorded myself singing Lascia Ch'io Pianga to see how I looked and sounded. How I looked was, I had my eyes closed too much and how I sounded was, I still need to work on the legato, but I was able to get my voice on top of the air for most of it. So while the video came out ok, I'm not going to post it because I know I can do better. Legato, legato, legato. Next time I'll swan my arm back and forth as a reminder. Won't that look lovely. Hopefully I won't also sound like a swan.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Doctor and the Diva

Perks! I got one. A perk - a free book!! How awesome is that, since I love reading. With the request that I review it. How awesome is that, since I love sharing my opinion and will do so to the point of embarrassment.

The book is called, The Doctor and the Diva, by Adrienne McDonnell.

I must admit - once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down. You just feel compelled to keep reading to find out what's going to happen next.

So here's the synopsis, without spoilers. (I hope.)

The setting is the early 1900s. A young couple in Boston is unable to conceive a child. They go from one doctor to another until finally ending up with Doctor Ravell, the Doctor in the title. He is young and single and medically adventurous. The woman, of course, is the Diva. Erika. A mezzo. With the most divine, rich voice the Doctor has ever heard. He is determined to help them get pregnant. Meanwhile, he not only slowly falls in love with the Diva, but he and the husband become best friends. Tricky, tricky, tricky situation here.

So without giving anything away... let's just say, the couple is having a very specific problem and the doctor takes it upon himself, so to speak, to help solve it. Conveniently, while hubby is away, she does become pregnant ... and from there the relationships twist and turn. And why oh why is the doctor so very interested in that pregnancy, to the point of tears? I won't mention here what happens with that pregnancy, as that would be a spoiler.

Meanwhile, the Diva is trying to advance her career. Pregnancy does throw a wrench into things of course. She eventually does get to pursue her career, setting us up for more twists and turns.

The twists and turns are not unrealistic, but they are surprising. We change from Erika to Dr. Ravell's point of view. She wants to be a mother, but she wants to be a famous opera singer. What to do? Abandon her family to pursue her career, or compromise her dream, "waste" her voice and settle down? We do spend some time in Italy with her where she is sort of tossed around until she can find her own place in the operatic scene there.

And the Doctor... how can he live with the choices he's made? He actually annoyed me a bit.

He has other problems in the form of older married patients he has had the poor judgment to get mixed up with. Once their hubbies find out, he has no choice but to leave... far, far away... to some tropical island where eventually Erika comes to visit and lo and behold, she gets pregnant again. Hm. Actually this time it's more conventional... but anyway, I won't tell you how it ends... Although I bet you can guess.

Favorite moment: When she talks with her sister (in-law?) about how all pregnant women and/or women who have just given birth fall in love with their obstetricians. Erika has an amusing thought at one point in the waiting room, as she looks around at the women there, that there should be an opera about women and their obstetricians.

Saddest moment: Warning: Children die in this book. It's sad.

Favorite twist: Well, that would be telling, but I will say that it takes place on the tropical plantation in the last half of the book.

Criticism: Well I loved the book, the first time, but when rereading it to write this review I was kind of impatient. I guess once you know the twists and turns the book takes, it's not as compelling as it originally was.

Fun fact: Based on a true story.

Could they make a move: Absolutely.

Do I recommend it: Yes! A fun, entertaining page-turner, great for unwinding after dinner, resting on the beach or forgetting yourself on a long plane ride. The author is very descriptive - I was drawn in to the settings. You can identify with some of the characters' struggles, even if you don't agree with the choices they ultimately make.

More info here, where you can purchase your very own copy. Go ahead, read it. Then there's the author's website, and here's a video about it:

And, as usual, if the blogger format cuts off the video window... you know what to do. Click it.