Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Meeting Adam Ant!

Don't even know where to begin with this. I'm pretty sure I've written before how important Adam Ant's music was to me when I was a teenager (and beyond). So when I heard he was touring the US after a Very Long Break I knew I had to get tickets the moment they went on sale.

I got tickets to see him in Philly and New York City, two days in a row. The dates were originally set for February of this year, but due to I-don't-know-why they were rescheduled to this past weekend.

So. Friday night. Seeing Adam Ant for the first time since 1992. This would be my 7th or possibly 8th time seeing him. I can't even describe the annoyance I felt as the opening act went on and on. They weren't bad. In fact they were quite pleasant. But I was there to see Adam!!! Finally, FINALLY!! The lights dimmed and this weird recording began, of some guy talking about I-don't-know-what because I don't remember. The show was so much fun!!! I took some videos which I'll post here. His voice is nowhere near as clear as it was 30 years ago. I think ALL singers should take voice lessons!!

A video I took:

Same song, 1981:

You can really hear the difference in the clarity of his voice. He's been through a lot, both physically and emotionally, since then, but I do believe a few voice lessons with a good teacher will help him find that clarity again. And like I said, all singers, no matter what level of skill or experience, benefit from voice lessons. Even professional opera singers take lessons and go for coachings.

And yeah, that song is about fetishes. One of the many words I looked up in the dictionary after first hearing his music at the age of 14 or so. Other "vocabulary" words I learned from him included sadistic, masochistic, truncheon, akimbo and simian. Incidentally, none of those words showed up on the SAT. However I did get quite an education. Luckily, this was way before the Internet so my only source for information was a non-illustrated dictionary.  I had to use my imagination. And trust me, I did. I was at that age where I knew there was something I wanted when I watched him perform these songs, but I wasn't exactly clear on the details. I since learned. Obviously.

So anyway I had a great time. I danced like mad, I did the Prince Charming.

And looking at that video now, I can see why he was so appealing to my 14 year old self; Partly a child, partly a young woman. That video could be for a child. It's a fairy tale. It gives advice to teenagers to not give a crap what anyone thinks about you. And you know. It's Adam Ant. In eyeliner and tight pants. I wanted...something. Just didn't know what. The timing was perfect.

Most of his songs are tales of or reactions to things that happened to him... and he may not have realized it, but they were also messages or lessons to all of us to basically do what you want, there will always be people who will try to ridicule you, cut you, take you down and insult you. Ignore them, and follow your own path. And be silly while doing it. And have a lot of sex. Ok I wasn't doing THAT at age 14 but it sort of flipped a switch in me, or maybe it was there when the switch flipped. Whatever. I can't separate them.

So like I said, I had a great time at the show the other day. BUT THAT WASN'T THE END!!! Oh no. For I had tickets for his show the NEXT night, in New York City. Free tickets, thanks to a friend whose husband knows people and got us on the list. The VIP list. Did I mention that the VIP list included a MEET AND GREET AFTER THE SHOW????

Now you all know how excited I was to meet 30 Seconds to Mars and tell them how they inspire me. That was an awesome experience. But this was different. I came to them as an adult. Adam Ant was indescribably important to me in my formative years. I changed from girl to woman while listening to and learning from his music. Totally.Different.Situation.

I made him a bracelet:

I had planned to write him a note but I didn't, because we didn't know until we got there if we'd have the Meet & Greet, and I didn't want to be all prepared and then disappointed. But I did plan what to say.

The NYC show was better than the Philly show, in some ways. The venue was larger and the energy was palpable. I didn't take any videos. I lost myself in the music. I was dancing and felt high with happiness. I realize I sound like a complete dork but I don't care, because that's how it was.

I knew that his last song would be Physical. And when it started, my stomach started doing flips because I knew that it wouldn't be long before I'd be meeting him. In the flesh. Face to face. (I keep quoting Blondie here, probably because I saw them last week too)

So they had us line up in a hallway that led to a doorway into a room. We went in to the room two or three at a time to meet him. There was a guy taking pictures with whatever cameras you wanted, both phone and regular. He took pictures the entire time so I have photos of Adam looking at the bracelet I gave him, which is kinda cool. It's a little blurry because the iPhone camera doesn't do movement well. Click on the image to make it bigger.

And now I'm going to write about the encounter in excruciatingly boring detail to most of you. But some of you will love it.

So when it was my turn, I went over and he held his hand out for a handshake. I said, "Hi, my name is Susan." He said... I don't remember. Nice to meet you, probably. Then I handed him the bracelet and said, "I made this for you." He admired it, said something like, "Oh isn't this lovely! I'm going to put it on right now." And he did. And I watched to see if it fit. And it did. He was wearing a thick silver bracelet of like a chain of skulls, so it matched. You can kind of see it in the above picture. I'm sure he thanked me but I don't remember. Funny, I don't really specifically remember any of what he said. I remember that he made intense eye contact and that he has amazing green eyes, and that's he's very soft-spoken... so different from his stage persona. He put his arm around me for this picture, also taken with my phone.

Then the camera dude got my friend's camera. While he was doing that, I turned to Adam and said, "I want to thank you for teaching my teenaged self everything... about life." And he very sweetly said something like, "Oh you know. Teenagers." And I said something about also wanting him to know how many wonderful friends I've made because of him, and then I hesitated (because it's against the rules at Mars Meet & Greets) and asked if I could give him a hug. He was like, "Of course." And I hugged Adam Ant. Tightly. And I almost lost it. I seriously was about to start crying. I said, "Thank you. Thank you." while we hugged. I had to let go or I would've started bawling, smearing mascara and snot all over his nice coat. Couldn't have that. Then we took this picture. Could I be standing any closer? He had me squeezered in.

Next, he was ready to sign an autograph. I don't really collect autographs, plus I actually already have his autograph from the last time I very informally met him. Through a fence. Yeah. So anyway... one of my friends was supposed to have gone with me both nights, but she had a baby five weeks ago. She had no childcare for the Philadelphia show so she had to miss it. She came to NYC and was able to score a VIP pass with us, but not the aftershow pass. She was ok with that because she wanted to get home to her baby. So I told him that she was supposed to be there but couldn't because she just had a baby... not exactly a lie... but anyway... I asked that he write the autograph to her, so he said, "Isn't that nice of you" or some other trivial thing along those lines, about how GENEROUS I AM for getting his autograph for SOMEONE ELSE (Ok, he didn't actually say that, but it was implied. Maybe. Probably not.) and wrote it out to her.

Next, my other friends got their meet and greet and photos while I waited on the comfy little couch you can see in my picture. Then the three of them were about to take a pic with him and they called me over. There was no way I was going to NOT be making physical contact, because, you know. So I scootched down in front of him, then realized I needed a little support, so I asked him if I could lean on him. Of COURSE I could. THEN my friend's camera died, so I grabbed my phone. AWKWARD MOMENT when we're all posing and he can't get the camera to work! So we were sort of laughing, and I was like, Are you sure it's ok if I lean on you? And he was like, Of course! So of course I did. If he had stepped back, I would've been flat on the floor. He was so sweet and gentle and patient and accommodating. So here's the group pic, taken with my phone: 


We took another, but my other friend's eyes were closed. I'm not sure which of the two I cropped this pic from... Me leaning on Adam Ant while he smiles.

It took 30 years. But I finally got to meet the man who unknowingly guided me through my adolescence. Here's what I wrote on facebook about it:
Guys. I met Adam Ant yesterday. Some of you probably never heard of him, others probably thought he was dead! His music taught me so much about life when I was a teenager. I'm thrilled to pieces that I was able to tell him so, and to thank him, and tell him how I made wonderful friends through our shared love of his music. And we hugged. And all I could say was, "Thank you. Thank you." It was a very emotional moment for me. Everyone should get the chance to thank the person whose music or artwork has inspired them.
Longtime readers of my blog know that I truly believe that, and will always make a point of thanking my favorite performers for doing what they do, and for inspiring me. I have a feeling they never get tired of hearing that. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Winners (Me!) and Spoilfaces (Others!)

THANKS to everyone who voted for my drink in the Elixir of Love contest… I WON!!! I sent facebook messages to groups of people, asking them to vote – opera people, moms groups, 30 Seconds to Mars fans, Adam Ant fans, college and high school friends. I also posted on some people’s walls and put the link as my facebook status every day, reminding people they could vote once a day. I tweeted it up the wazoo (I believe that’s an official term to mean, a lot) and asked people to RT. I tweeted people directly asking them to vote. People asked their friends to vote. And lo and behold…I got 527 votes! The guy in 2nd place got 334:

Then the Met sent me a letter saying that my drink “won the hearts of their fans…” Well. Not exactly. But I’ll take the win! The contest said to get everyone to vote. That’s what I did.
The prize is, two tickets to L’Elisir D’amore and a special gift from the Met Opera. The tickets and the special gift will be waiting for me at the box office on the day of the performance. I will, of course, report back afterwards. The performance is in February so you’ll all just have to be patient.
And then while I was busy basking in my win, I ALSO won the Met’s weekly drawing for $25 weekend tickets. So I got to see the Saturday matinee of Il Trovatore from Orchestra Row R. I had a friend meet me, but unfortunately she got there late and had to watch the first act with about 35 other latecomers on a tv screen until intermission.
The opera was interesting. The plot was ridiculous, of course… a sort of loosely woven story of revenge, betrayal, misunderstandings and death. But the music was wonderful and the singing WOW as usual. I loved the soprano. She had such a sweet voice. She made it all sound effortless. At times the orchestra was louder than the singers, which was not ideal, but that was only at a couple of points. This is the opera that has the famous “Anvil Chorus.”
Afterwards, I got “involved” in a conversation on facebook with someone who has a Bad Attitude. He actually gave me permission to quote the conversation here, although I will leave his name off. Not that it matters. You wouldn’t have heard of him, he hasn’t sung anywhere. But for the sake of anonymity, let's call him, Mr. Snooty Spoilface
It all started when a friend "checked in" at the Metropolitan Opera:
Mr. Snooty Spoilface I wonder who the soprano is.... I saw the final dress... the MET was TRYING IT.

My Friend: 
They are trying it's a mess

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Hahahahaha the only two great singers are Dolora and Morris.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Who is the soprano?

My Friend:
It's true those two are the best. I don't remember some Asian woman. I'll look at the program on intermission.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Wow. The same one I saw in the final dress on Wednesday. She sings out of tune and I doubt she'll make it thru Act 3.

My Friend: 
It is guanqun yu

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
That's her. Should be singing Susanna from nozze, not Leonora.
My Friend:  It was a mess. Dolora and Morris were seemed like they muted the orchestra. How do you even do that?!
ME!! : Did we see the same opera? Carmen Giannittasio was Lenora. She was amazing. The sets were a big clunky sounding as they moved around but I thought all the singers were great.

ME!! :
Also the orchestra was pretty loud down in the orchestra. LOL. Row R. They drowned out the singers at some points. Where were you sitting? If you were under an overhang that could explain the muted sound.

My Friend: 
I stood in the back and sat in a few different spots out from under the overhang. The orchestra was muted and you (me I'm guessing everyone) still couldn't hear the singers. I went to the matinee sat afternoon and there was an insert saying that Carmen Giannittasio was sick and that Guanqun Yu was taking her place and making her met debut. The production was kind of awful...with Morris Robinson and Dolora Zajick, and to be fair a few others, as vibrant spots in the mediocrity.

ME!! :
Oh! There was no insert in my or my friend's program. I wasn't thrilled with the production but I did like the singers. I thought the soprano sounded lovely.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface

ME!! :
Which part is hilarious? There are so many choices...

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Trust me, you don't want to know.

ME!! :
Hmm. Are you making fun of me for liking the soprano? I can take it, I'm a big girl. wink

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
Lol. There were only TWO Verdi singings in that ENTIRE cast, Zajick and Robinson. If we as singings, young and old, begin to accept mediocre singing as the norm there truly is no hope for our art form. I'm not sure if you're a singer but I challenge you to research the singers of the past who have sang that role. Both L. Price and M. Price, Millo, Milanov, just to name a few.

ME!! :
I don't have formal training in music - I'm one of those people who started studying voice as an adult, for fun. So as an audience member, I'm not analyzing every note or technique, and I don't know what composer people have trained to sing or whatever. I experience the performance as it is. I understand where you're coming from, however I have no interest in knowing who sang the role before and how they sang it. I'm there seeing who IS singing it. Does that make sense?

My Friend: 
Lol Susan I wouldn't make fun of you...everyone has different ears. I think she had a nice voice just not for Verdi. I am curious about what specifically you liked. And please don't feel I'm asking you to defend your opinion, simply want to hear it...I want to know exactly what you thought. Feel free to post here or message me.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
I thought I was having a conversation with an actual singer. Oh well. Continue on your journey sugar.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
I apologize, My Friend. You know how I get about singing.

ME!! :
Mr Snooty, Are you implying that someone who hasn't studied formally doesn't have a valid opinion of a performance? I consider myself an actual singer. I don't get paid and I'm not on a career path but I love singing and I love performing. It's part of who I am. I don't have to have gone to music school to have that passion. Your patronizing attitude is one of the reasons opera seems so snobby to the general public.

Each singer brings his or her own self to the character. It's fine to love how a particular singer performed that role, I have my favorites in certain roles too. But I try to see what's good about a performance, and what's enjoyable... not what was wrong. I don't go in expecting a sub-par performance because the singer isn't "trained" to sing Verdi.

, what I liked was how pretty her voice was. It was sweet. This was my first time seeing Trovatore and I thought the sweetness of her voice was right for the innocence of the character. I also thought the tenor was good too. Yes I've heard better tenors, with stronger voices, but he was fine in the role. And the reception they both got from the audience shows that I wasn't the only one who thought so. She had one show-stopping aria and also a standing ovation at the end. Are we to dismiss the general public's "opinion" as because they're (we're) not "smart" enough to know what's good, so we accept mediocrity?

If you guys don't mind, I'm thinking of using this conversation as the topic of a blog post.. I won't name either of you of course. But that "actual singer" comment is priceless!

Mr. Snooty Spoilface
By all means use want you want. But please become a learned singer so you and actually appreciate what you're hearing. When you and a baritone, soprano and tenor who have no business singing Verdi, yes that bothers me. And what bothers me more is when you have a singer who claims they loves and are learning how to sing in an art form yet doesn't want to do the research of what type of voices should be singing the certain rep. I find that ridiculous. I'm very opinionated when it comes to singing and I know tons of patrons who have never sung a note yet know rep and who should be sing it. Don't be a dummy. Please do some research. Trust me, I will help you with your very own development.
Best in your singing!!

ME!! :
Thank you for your well wishes. And no no no. There is more than one way to appreciate and learn music. Your way is not the only way. You don't know anything about me to say what I want or don't want to do. I started studying at the age of 40. I see it as an achievement to finally do something I've always wanted to do. I have a job and am the parent of a special needs child. I squeeze in 30 minutes of voice lesson a week unless parenting interferes. I am in it for me, to learn what I can do with my voice, not to criticize the casting director at my local opera company for putting the wrong type of singer in a role. I do agree that you appreciate more the more you know. I appreciate opera singing more than I did before I began studying voice now that I know a fraction of what goes into it. I love learning to sing, I love singing, I love going to the opera when I can afford the time and money. But let's switch lives for a few days, and then you tell me when you have time and energy to do anything else for yourself other than the weekly 30 minute lesson. I do most of my practicing in the car because it's the only set chunk of time I have alone.
One piece of advice I have for you is to be nice to everyone you meet, from the friend-of-a-friend mom who studies voice for herself, the person measuring you for your costume, the super who volunteers to be a soldier or townsperson or the person in the box office selling tickets. You never know who is in the position to do the hiring, or who they know. And you never know who is in the position to buy a ticket to see you, or decide NOT to buy a ticket, based on how you treat others. No matter how talented you are, if you are as rude to other people as you have been to me, you will encounter a glass ceiling when the decision for a role is between you and the guy who maybe isn't as strong a singer but sure is nicer to work with.

Mr. Snooty Spoilface


Yes, Mr. Snooty had to get the last word in. I let him, because it was obvious that he was not getting off the top of his cultural ladder. I suppose another option would have been to attack him. But I figured I went beyond the necessary by defending myself, and he wasn't worth my time to attack. I'm not proud that I played the "I'm the busy parent of a special needs kid" card. But... he called me Sugar!
I do believe that it's attitudes like his that keep opera inaccessible, by implying that you need to have all this background knowledge to "properly" enjoy an opera. What a load of garbage. You either like something or you don't. If you have some background knowledge, great, you'll understand it more. But it's not a requirement. And there was no mediocre singing that day. The Met doesn't hire mediocre singers. I realize that all the Snooty Spoilfaces out there will say I'm naive for saying that. And I don't really care. I go in to a production ready to be amazed, not prepared to criticize.

I think what really made me reply at all was that he called me Sugar. So patronizing. Part of me wanted to smack him so hard upside the head that he'd fly ass-over-teakettle against the wall. And truthfully, I wrote that only for the opportunity to write "ass-over-teakettle."