Saturday, September 25, 2010

Recital Video!

This is the best I've ever sung in front of people, but of course all I hear are the mistakes. First of all, my face looks pinched as if there's something uncomfortable jammed up my butt. There wasn't. Then, I cracked. I didn't open wide enough. I started out poorly. Otherwise, I guess it's ok. Click thru to YouTube if the blog format cuts off the window. I'll write more about the evening another time, but I wanted to get the video up.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Being Brave!

Opera Project recital!! I sing tomorrow! In front of people!! And... I think I'm ready!! I'm excited and nervous at the same time. It's different this time because this is the first time I'm singing since I switched to this voice teacher. It's like a first performance. Especially since I've changed, I've improved so much since I switched. It's like I'm a new singer.

Things have been crazy. I had that one demerol-hazed rehearsal, then I saw my 87 year old vocal coach, whom I adore, she's so much fun and has so many great stories, plus she's an amazing piano player and has given me such wonderful advice about performing, then I had another regular rehearsal where I did much better. After THAT rehearsal one of the guys gave me an impromptu lesson. He said he really likes my voice - he thinks it'd be good for medieval music because I can sing the higher notes straight without going flat, and a lot of the older music was written for that type of singing. Singing them straight means I can do them without vibrato. I hadn't been thinking of that as an asset. I've been trying to figure out how to consistently maintain vibrato on the higher notes. Who knew it was a skill to hit them on pitch without vibrato?

Then I had a lesson yesterday. My teacher had a couple of visitors so after warming up they came in to listen to me sing Lascia ch'io pianga. They responded positively, said that my voice sounded very clear and pure. That's nice! In the middle before the higher notes she called out to be brave... so I did... and out came these gorgeous notes! It was all I could do not to giggle, but I forced myself through it and kept on going. Be brave... such simple words... and I listened and obeyed and dropped my jaw and supported my breath and OUT came the notes! I was reminded of that vocal eval from a few years ago where one teacher wrote, "Courage!" Maybe that's what she meant. Courage to trust myself.

My teacher and I talked about maybe coming up with a program of madrigal-type songs for me, in English, Italian and Latin. She pointed out how nice the music would be with a harp or harpsichord, and I joked that with a harpist I could then sing at wedding ceremonies. And then suddenly we were like, why not? Why not have a goal? I'm not sure at the moment exactly how to get from here to there, but the first step is to learn the appropriate music. The time will pass whether or not I work towards a goal. So who knows, it may never happen, but then again, maybe it will. As 30 Seconds to Mars says, Provehito in Altum - Reach for the Heights, or, Launch Forth into the Deep! Either way, I'm reaching/launching for it. With courage! I will, of course, report in again after the recital!! Hopefully with video!!!

ps must apologize if the font is all wonky. I wrote much of this entry from work in an email to myself and I can't get the formatting to change to the regular font.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Meet Papageno for Charity

By special request, I am writing to tell everyone about a charity auction that Nathan Gunn is participating in. The bidding starts at $200, with an estimated total value of $1000. Not sure how they came up with that total... but anyway... the winning bidder gets two tickets, orchestra row V, to see Magic Flute at the Met, plus a backstage meet and greet with Nathan after the performance. The date is either December 21 at 11am or December 24 at 6:30. And I don't mean you get to choose when to go. What I mean is, it keeps changing on the website. The person who asked me to help promote the event told me that it had been the 24th, but they changed it to the 21st. Then the auction website first listed the 24th, then the 21st, and as of this writing it's back at the 24th. I've followed up for more info. I'd check Nathan's official website except that as of this writing it appears to be down. Or broken. Or something. Whatever this means:
Warning: require_once(Yawp.php) [function.require-once]: failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /data/24/2/60/9/2223661/user/2443256/htdocs/yawp/Yawp_startup.php on line 15

Fatal error: require_once() [function.require]: Failed opening required 'Yawp.php' (include_path='.:/usr/services/vux/lib/php:/nfs/cust/4/54/84/548454/nathan_gunn_config:/nfs/cust/4/54/84/548454/pear') in /data/24/2/60/9/2223661/user/2443256/htdocs/yawp/Yawp_startup.php on line 15
If I can remember how to log into the Our Favorite Baritone site I'll post it there for the 2 readers a month who randomly stop by. So there you have it. Check out the auction, place your bid, and get ready to meet and greet Papageno after the show. One day in December, sorta near Christmas. Happy bidding.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Coaching with Cookies

Wow. All the excitement of my 30 Seconds to Mars adventure has kept me from blogging properly. And there is plenty of singing stuff to mention.

Last week I had my first ever vocal coaching with a lovely and talented woman who happens to live in my town. She' in her 80s and is very good friends with my teacher so she won't take money from any of the students my teacher refers to her. So before the coaching I picked up a half dozen of the most beautiful cupcakes from the bakery for her. I should have taken a picture of them.

The coaching was great. It was my first time hearing Lascia ch'io pianga with the piano. It's so beautiful! She gave me a lot of advice about the recit - we went over it about a thousand times. Each time she said, "Ok, just one more time..." Uh huh. And one more, and one more, and one more... and it was exactly what I needed. She talked about how the recit is talking, even though there are musical notes. It's talking. You phrase it like you're talking. We went over the phrasing a lot. You are not restricted to the meter or rhythm because it's not the music... it's talking. With music. She told me that in about 10 different ways until she was sure I understood. As I relaxed I was able to relax into the part and get the musical recit to sound like talking... talking that just happens to have notes behind it. I still have a lot of practicing to do but I might be slowly starting to get a grasp on the concept.

Then of course we worked on the aria. That, of course, is restricted to the music, and needs to have more legato than the recit. And with me, when I learn something new, my legato is the first thing to go, and then I have to work it back in.

Then on Sunday I had an Opera Project rehearsal. But before I go into that, let's back up to a week ago Saturday, when I jumped like mad during the Jared Leto Aerobics Hour (and a half) that was the 30 Seconds to Mars show. My back, it doesn't like jumping. No, not at all. It was already unhappy before the show, from all that standing around. Then, JumpJumpJumpJump!!! and then ... the next day... OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH. It has gotten progressively worse since then. On Sunday morning I gave in and took half a Demerol I had lying around from when I had a root canal. (c'mon, you all do it, you save the painkillers in case you need them again...) And then, I went to the rehearsal. Hoo boy. Not doing that again. Luckily, Husband drove. So I stagger up there (most of the stagger was from the pain) and explain to them that I am on Demerol, then I try to sing. Actually I did ok, except I was nervous and actually forgot the words. I know the words! I know them very well!! Except ... I forgot them. I was ok with keeping the voice on top of the airstream, but my legato left me. One of the men there came up and asked me if I'm embarrassed to let my belly poof out. Well hell yeah, I'm a woman, I keep that sucker sucked in as much and as often as I can. He urged me to let it out and really use it, to use all my breath and not just the last 15% residual air in my lungs. Duh. I know that. But I wasn't doing it. I blame the Demerol. I actually blamed it at the time. I promised I'd be sober next time. I actually said that. I know I shouldn't have. I was just embarrassed at how sucky I thought I sounded. Then they went on about what a beautiful voice I have and it's a very common problem among singers and I need to work on the legato and see you next week. Husband said I didn't sound as bad as I thought. Someone else in the church (we rehearse in a church) told me I sounded great. They didn't have to do that. But if all these people are telling me how nice I sound, why do I think I sound like a screech owl? As I stumble around on my low dose of narcotics? I tell ya, if there's a way for me to embarrass myself in a situation, I will find it and not only will I do it, I will do it well. Of course all I did was thank them for their help and for the compliments while at the same time thinking, "Holy crap, I suck, they're not going to let me sing, they're finding all this stuff wrong, they're lying about how I sound..." Hello, self-esteem? Are you on vacation this week?

Tomorrow I have another coaching. I'll have to stop by the bakery on my way. Maybe I'll get cookies this time - oooh I know - a linzer tart or two. They're pretty big and they are YUM. Hell maybe I'll get one for myself too, and eat it in the car on my way home so I won't have to share. Bwuaa haa haa.

On a completely unrelated note, sources indicate that Our Favorite Baritone, Nathan Gunn, will finally be singing Don Giovanni. According to this article it's set for some time in 2012 in Washington, DC. I'd almost consider combining a mini-vacation there with a road trip to see the Gunnster as the Don. Plenty of time to think/plan/obsess over that.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cupola Man in the FLESH! Plus Opera in the Parking Lot!

Ok readers this isn't really opera related, but it sort of is because I did manage to sing a few bars and make some spoooooky ghost sounds...

I went to Atlantic City Saturday night to see Thirty Seconds to Mars!!!! I was there!!!!!!!!!! My cupola man (click the link and read to see what I'm talking about) was right in front of me!!!!!!

Ok, calming down to write now. Just remember, I may be 43 but I feel like I'm 14.

So you know from my last post how important Thirty Seconds to Mars has become for me. Their songs helped me fight all that anger and horror of the pedophiles linking to Alex's video and commenting about him. And after watching one live clip of the band after another on YouTube I realized that I had to see them live. I could not pass up on the opportunity to see them in Atlantic City, about 2 hours from here. Easy to say that now. At the time I waffled and waffled... no one I know wanted to come... I had no ticket... although I kept checking the website all day Friday and there were still tickets. Husband finally got tired of me saying, "Should I go? Should I go alone? How can I NOT go? But can I go alone?" and so on, which is stupid considering I go alone to operas, including flying halfway across the country, without a second thought. Finally he told me to cut it out and just GO already. Great!!! It was Friday night prob around 9. So I went online... all sold out. NOOOOOO!!!!!! I had finally decided to go!!!!! Then, serendipity. I look at Twitter... and lo and behold someone is offering an extra ticket to AC!!!! Another twitter user helped connect us and there it was!! Not only was I going, I suddenly had people to meet! Someone else offered to drive me, but they were staying over and it just seemed easier to drive myself. But... that meant more people to meet!!!

So... Fashion!! Just like with going to the opera, I had to decide what to wear. Decided that with the amount jumping I was seeing on these videos I should wear a top with a little extra support to help keep the "girls" in line. The only one I have with that extra panel in it is bright pink. Yes, I wore a bright pink top to a 30 Seconds to Mars show. Please don't tell anyone!! I'm so not a pink person! I wore black capri-ish pants and what I call my zoo shoes, because the first time I wore them was to the Philadelphia Zoo. They are blue plaid wool sneakers and I love them so shut up. And of course I wore earrings, a pair that I've worn to the opera, just because. Just because I wanted to wear something shiny and rhinestoney. And the socks... well, I took them from Alex's drawer. Yes, he's 6 and I'm wearing his socks. With all that I brought this horribly bright orange string bag. I was fashion in motion.

Saturday morning I was so excited I could barely contain myself. I went down in the afternoon and got there at about 3. I hooked up with the woman who had the extra ticket, then we wandered around and made our way to the line for the theater. Or whatever you call it. Venue. It was in a casino. Talk about sensory overload: I spend two hours in the car, yeah with music playing, but still... then wander through a quiet parking deck, stand in a quiet elevator and suddenly burst out onto a casino floor with loud music, flashing lights, bells and people everywhere going in every direction. I wanted to just shut down. It made me wonder if that's what things are like for Alex when he just collapses to the floor sometimes. But anyway we got into the line and I did get a chance to sort of shut down as I snoozed on my ugly bright orange bag. Before long some of the other people from twitter found me and it was like one big party waiting on line to go in. I met so many wonderful people and had to keep trying to remember real names with twitter names to keep track of who was who. I was scared about being near the front of the crowd and everyone assured me that it'll be fine, it's the best place to be, sure it's a little squishy but it's worth it. Well... they were right!! But I'm getting ahead of myself. We got on line at about 3. Doors opened at 7. We went to the front toward the left side of the stage and were about 3 rows from the very front. And there we stood. The opening act came on at 8. They were loads of fun, long hair swinging around and fun, clever songs. They finished at about 8:40 or so. Then we kept standing... and waiting... the anticipation building... and building. I thought I would explode. I was ready to burst. Seriously. I was. I kept telling anyone who would listen. Finally, at about 10 after 9, the lights dimmed and the show began!! (NSFW Warning: Jared Leto curses like a sailor. And that's how we like him.) And as usual, the blogger format cuts off the video, so click through to YouTube to see it all.

Yes, I go to operas. And I go to 30 Seconds to Mars shows and jam myself into the front to see my cupola man right there. Four feet away from me. And he's not 2 inches tall. He's REAL!!! The singer in me can't help but notice he didn't sing the high notes, but let the audience do it for him. I didn't realize it at the time. Now I totally want to give him some private voice lessons - get that voice on top of the air Jared, and drop your jaw, and use your breath, let those high notes ring out! Do you think he'd let me? I believe that he can actually reach the notes, but not while jumping around like the maniac he is. We all jumped. I jumped and jumped and made a few very jumpy videos, most of which I'll link to here.

Now I just have to post a small aside here, because I realized as I wrote that we got there at 3 and the show started soon after 9... when I went into labor with Alex I got to the hospital at 3 and gave birth at about 10 minutes after 9. The same amount of time, and while of course you can't really compare the two experiences, I will because it's my blog and I can do what I want. There was back pain, there was anticipation, there was nervousness, there was back pain. There was no baby on Saturday night - instead there was the most adrenaline-pumping, exciting evening of my life!!! As opposed to the "thank God THAT'S over" feeling of giving birth and not being in labor anymore... The excitement and energy in that room was palpable. It really was. And the guys in the band radiate charisma. Jared Leto is amazing. I'm not talking about his physical beauty (ok, maybe a little) but his presence. It's electrifying. And he's funny. And at the same time he's just normal. Like he goes from being this huge presence to just a regular guy, joking and talking, and then suddenly it's like he's preaching and everyone is worshipping. That's not exactly it... I'm having trouble finding the words. It's almost like the entire show was a religious experience. You can't not look, you can't not participate - the energy and excitement just sweeps you along and it's the most awesome feeling in the world. And the man can sing!!! No, it's not opera. It's all in a lower register. In fact I noticed that they transposed many of the songs into lower keys for the live performance. I sing along an octave above in the car all the time - my muscles know where to go to hit the right notes - so I was a bit messed up when I lapsed into singing along during the show. So I gave it up and just sang down low. And trilled, and whooped, and cheered, and yelled along with everyone else. And jumped!!! It's not like I even had a choice. I was fine in the Very Crowded front until about the 5th song or so when he told everyone to take 3 giant steps forward. Did I mention that it was already Very Crowded? Suddenly I was a sardine, a short sardine in a can of long tall sardines with elbows in my face and people packed all around. The guy in front of me was hugely tall and as excited as everyone else. I thought for sure I was going to be crushed. After about a minute of this wild press of jumping people I had to get out - I was starting to panic! So I made my way to the side and stayed just at the edge of where the crowd started to get rowdy. I was in a good position to help pull out other people who stumbled out to escape the press of people, plus I could dance and jump and go wild without fear of bodily harm.

So here's another video I made before I escaped. Another video I made while jumping... Dude knows how to work the crowd with that insane pause in the middle.

Here's another jumping jumpy video:

And here's another. I had to stop filming because the jumping was so jumpity jump jump that I needed both hands to protect my face from the elbows around me.Not fun being only 5 feet tall in a crowd like this.

For the rest, go to my YouTube page.

So I hung out at the edge of the rowdiness and slowly eased my way back in, and ended up very close to where I started out. My camera card was full and the videos I took with my phone sound AWFUL. The speaker couldn't handle the volume. In fact, one of the videos I took came out with no sound. Looks pretty good, though. I was sad/bummed/disappointed that I wasn't up in the press (yet still relieved) when Jared came down into the crowd. Wanted so badly to be there and was so very glad not to be in there. Can I arrange a private show for just me and my twitter friends? So we can all be wild without the claustrophobia? Husband's theory is that they like to see how far they can push the crowd to do stuff - like they're a little masochistic. Could be. Don't really care. They make it so you WANT to do what they say. It's scary, sort of. But it's not just that. It's the music. It's so full. It surrounds you. You just give yourself up to it and let it wash over you. The lyrics are great, if at times a little teenagery-earnest. But I eat it all up. I love it. And obviously I'm not the only one.

One of the best aspects of it, for me, was hearing and singing along with all the songs that I listened to after those pedophile bastards wrote about Alex on their message boards. It was such a great release to just scream RUN AWAY I'LL ATTACK and all the others, at the top of my lungs, with hundreds of others. It was truly cathartic. So intense. I actually feel a lot better.

After the show we milled about being silly. Jammed ourselves into a photo booth for a picture:

(see the hot pink top?)

Then we hung out on the boardwalk where I met more people that I "knew" from Twitter, even called a tattoo place to check on their hours for someone who had gotten the band to autograph her arm with a Sharpie, but she was eating greasy cheese fries and couldn't touch her phone. That was pretty funny b/c I put on my mom/teacher voice, "Hi, could you please tell me what time you're open til? And what time do you open tomorrow?" and the guy was like Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times, "Uh... 12. Maybe one." Duuuude thanks. I hope you're not the one holding the needle tonight. Not that I'd ever get a tattoo for so many reasons, the main one being not liking pain, and next being I'd never be able to decide what I want on me forever. So I'm happy looking at other people's tattoos.

Then Braxton Olita, who plays keyboards in the band, came out with his guitar and played a few songs on the beach. He was on a live chat last night where I was able to tell him I sing opera and was at the show. He commented on it so now he knows, there was an opera singer at the show Saturday night! But I digress... Meanwhile, a few of us ran over to where the tour buses were b/c the guys usually come out to chat with people. Well me missed Jared by like a minute. We were actually running (did I mention yet that I'm 43 going on 14?) and could see the bus and the crowd and hear the screaming. Then chunks of people were leaving as we got there. Grrr. I heard that he was really nice, telling people to follow their dreams and so on. Very inspirational. He talked about some of that during the show too. But then Shannon, the drummer, came out. He signed autographs and was super sweet. And small!! I mean, really muscular, but much tinier than I imagined. I guess he just looks larger on stage. They all loom large but appear petite in person. While he was signing Jared came out again carrying a cup with his hand over it. He ran over to Shannon and threw the contents of the cup at him. I heard later it was a bug. Ah brothers. I'm not the only 14 year old adult in the world.

We all hung out for a while longer and someone suggested we make a human triad. A little background: The band has these glyph symbols and the triad is a triangle with an extra line part way up. People make the triad out of candles and other things. We made this one out of ... people. See me in there? Near the point, hot pink shirt, long red hair? The other pictures in that flikr set are from that night. You must all go look even though they have absolutely nothing to do with opera.

Then we all chatted a little more before I decided a little before 1 that seeing as how I had a 2 hour drive ahead of me I should probably hit the road. During the goodbyes I found out that someone else likes opera, I sang a few bars of Lascia ch'io pianga, made some ghosty spooky operatic trills and off I went, back through the labyrinthine casino to find my way to the elevator to the parking deck. Then of course I got lost in Atlantic City and while, sure, it's cute to be on all the streets from Monopoly, it's not so cute to be lost in Atlantic City. Miraculously I had gotten onto a street that lead directly to the highway I needed, so all was good, and two hours later I stumbled out of the car and up my front steps.

This weekend was so intense, intense the way Rape of Lucretia was intense. I am so glad I went. I can't believe I went. But I did. I went. It was insane, it was, as everyone kept saying, epic. Epic was the word of the day. I want more, more, more... in spite of the pain I still feel in my back from all that standing, and the sleep deprivation and the sheer terror of being trapped in the crowd. I want to do it again!!! I met so many awesome people. I had a blast.

So today I had a voice lesson. I told my teacher all about the weekend. She's 71, by the way, and she gets a huge kick out of me. She loves that I just go out and live life rather than sit home and wonder and regret. She is the same type of person. She told me about being Debbie Harry's voice teacher and going to a few Blondie shows in New York and understanding how crazy it can be up front by the stage. She also told me about the time David Bowie asked her to dance and she didn't know who he was. Also she sang a duet with some guy from Foreigner. I showed her this picture (yes, yes I did!!) and of course she thought it was hilarious. She knows he's the man I sing to in the cupola in her painting. She said I should write him a letter and tell him he has inspired me to be a better opera singer. She was serious. I have no idea how to do that, so I twittered it to him. My "letter," in under 140 characters, including spaces:

@jaredleto Atl City was my first Mars show - I'M HOOKED! My opera singing is improving in part thanks 2 yr inspiration. Thx 4 that! ~Susan

Do you think I'll get a RT? I doubt it... but there you go. (RT = Retweet, a form of reply on twitter.) I don't think there are any characters left in my message for a RT unless he cuts some of it out. And that is way too much trouble for someone with over 250,000 followers. Do you think I'm the only opera singer in the Mars Army?

There is so much more to tell about the weekend. I'm sure I'll remember it all after I publish the post. But I think this is enough to give you all an idea of the sheer...EPICNESS of the adventure!!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Same Old Story, With Giggles and a Dash of Hatred

Today I was given a gift of an extra, free, double-team voice lesson! My teacher will be unavailable for a while starting next week, and she wanted to see me again before the recital... and she had one of her friends come to the lesson too - another "retired" opera singer (go ahead, click the link!!) who teaches. She had been bragging to him about how much improvement I've made and how quickly I learn, so my goal of course was not to make her into a liar. I sang Lascia and Se Tu M'ami. He had some great advice about maintaining the legato. Same stuff I've heard a million times from other people, but somehow it gets through when you hear it in a new way. So then he had me singing the melodies just on ahhh before singing the actual words. I had been singing kind of choppy - like, when I started concentrating on keeping my voice on top of the air, I lost my legato. That's not unfamiliar to me, as you all know from my many prior posts about it. And then when I concentrate on my legato I lose the tone. But slowly, slowly, they're overlapping. I think of it like, legato is my right hand and tone is my left hand. Bit by bit the fingers are intertwining. And then, you know me, when I liked how I sounded I got the giggles. A giggle fit in the middle of my voice lesson. Again, not unfamiliar. I think they thought it was cute. I just get all giggly when I hear myself singing like that - I can't believe it's me, and then I laugh. But I managed to get myself under control and concentrate. Part of my problem was that I wasn't relaxed enough. Relax... relax... yeah ok gotta work on that one. But when I am relaxed and I do manage to get the legato and the tone all at once - WOW! And then... I giggle.

The giggling didn't end with the voice lesson. Later I was on a video chat with some of my new 30STM friends where we got very very silly. Giggling is good for the soul.

So since my teacher didn't charge me for the lesson, Alex and I went to the supermarket beforehand and he helped me pick out a nice selection of flowers to make into a pretty bouquet for her.

And speaking of Alex, I'm sad to say I had to remove all his videos from YouTube. A mom who checks for these things alerted me that a pedophile website had linked to them on a message board and there was a thread of comments there. And yes, I would like to find these people and strangle them all with my hands. However instead I immediately took down all the videos after downloading the YT stats for them. I then went to Wikisposure, looked at each person's profile and blocked the ones who are on YouTube. I also reported them to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Somehow I managed NOT to barf on my keyboard while doing all this, although I did have a good cry about it in the car while blasting some angst-ridden 30 Seconds to Mars songs. So bye bye Beethoven's Wig videos. Guess I won't be making any more. I will hopefully be able to harness that rage and anger if an aria calls for it. Not to say that there's anything good about the incident. I've just never experienced such strong feelings of hatred, anger or outrage before.

My next lesson is on Monday, and then I don't know when my teacher will be available to resume giving lessons. Luckily her friend who was there today said that he'd teach me in the meantime. A male voice teacher - should be interesting. He was great today, telling me stuff, getting all animated, so I think it'd be fun. I had been wondering what to do while she was unavailable. Now I know.