Can you tell by the title of my post that I've been going to a lot of operas lately?
There is just so much opera going on in Berlin, it's outrageous. And I've only been seeing operas that people I know are involved in, and I've still been going almost every other night to the opera! The output is just enormous, and of course it can't ALL be completely earth shattering when it's so frequent, but it's comforting to know that I have so many choices of things to see and hear and experience.
Wednesday night I went and saw Carmen at the Deutsche Oper, which was being conducted by a friend of mine. It was a very standard Carmen production - no naked spacemen or anything - but I did get to see Neil Shicoff singing Don Jose. I'm not sure how old he is - I heard maybe in his sixties - but he's just so full of energy and force on stage, it's wild. Would that we could all age that gracefully! Friday I saw The Magic Flute also at the Deutsche Oper, where my friend Heidi Stober was an absolutely stunning Pamina. I know you can be biased when you see your friends perform, but she was definitely the best Pamina I have ever seen. Plus she's so frigging adorable, and she's a mean jump-ropist (something she had to do on a narrow platform in front of the orchestra pit only inches from both the conductor's head and the audience members faces). I liked the production, it was clean and simple and that platform put a lot of the action basically in the audiences lap, which is great for a singspiel that is happening in native tongue. Ah to grow up speaking German and to understand the words to Magic Flute without supertitles - what a luxury that would be! Last night I went and saw Rosenkavalier at the Staatsoper, and it was actually my first time seeing the entire opera. I saw the first act at the Met when I was about 16 but left because I was bored and didn't get it and was confused by all the onstage lesbian action (little did I know at that time how much onstage "lesbian" action I would be performing in the course of my career, but at 16 I was like "why are those ladies making out on that bed?"). Rosenkavalier is definitely not boring if you're a fan of Strauss - which I now am. The music is so profound and it kind of shatters you. And you sit there all night working through the complicated crazy Straussian harmonics and dramatics, only to feel extraordinarily rewarded and overwhelmed by the final trio. The Staatsoper production is really cool - sort of juxtaposing a classical period look with a more modern deconstructed one. I only wished I would have had my own private english supertitles so I could have followed the text more closely.
My Berlin opera tour isn't over yet - wednesday night I will see my first show at the Kommische Oper because another friend will sing Musetta in La Boheme there, and Friday I will be back at the Deutsche to see my favorite Pamina switch over to Nanetta in Falstaff. I have definitely never been to this many operas in one two week period in my entire life.
I also had a really interesting coaching last week with an American who has relocated to Berlin named John Norris. He specializes in doing body work for opera singers - he does some Alexander and other movement and breathing exercises and adjustments, and then works with your body while you sing and helps you align properly to make your best sound. As I have mentioned previously on the blog, I feel like body stuff is the next piece of my puzzle, and this year I've been focused on that particularly. It started with my realization that I was raising my shoulders and that was giving me problems with certain high singing, followed by seeing a video of my performance in Poland and noticing that I was holding onto unnecessary body tension and that releasing it only helped my singing. My session with John was really excellent because not only did he do all these exercises that really opened and loosened me up, but he was able to pinpoint what my body was doing that was constricting my sound in certain moments, and finding ways to release and alter that movement that were kind of mind-blowing. I was singing some really amazing high notes with just a few minor adjustments, and they were easy! I'm going back for another session with him today and I'm totally psyched.
You know, something that I find really addictive about singing is that there is always something to learn, or some way you can improve. You can be considered one of the finest singers in the world, hired by all the major houses, and still learn things in voice lessons and coachings and from directors, conductors and other singers. And as you age, your body and voice change, which gives you constant opportunities to learn something new about yourself and your capabilities. I guess some people would find this annoying - like you're never finished, never perfected, always needing to improve. But I find it stimulating because you always have somewhere to go - the path never ends, and I find learning stuff to be pretty much the reason for existence. So, there ya go, that's my existential / psychological two bits for the day.