So, tonight I'm having a lovely dinner at home with yet another of my mezzo friends whose website I advertise stage right over there, Katherine Pracht, or Katy as she is known to me. Today was rather a bust of a day, since when I woke up this morning I discovered that my bathroom ceiling was leaking and had to call the super and several plumbers to come fix it. I was planning on spending the entire day studying music, but I got all self conscious when my bathroom was suddenly filled with dudes who were punching holes in my ceiling, and didn't feel like singing tritones a few feet away from them. I did my best to study, but when my dear friend Katy (who is making her debut at Avery Fisher Hall this week with the American Symphony Orchestra's performance of Scene's from Goethe's Faust) called to say that she was in the neighborhood, I screamed, "YES! Get over here and we can have a drink!!!" (since I couldn't very well leave the plumbers alone in here without me). We have basically been interviewing each other all night, and since she is a humble midwesterner, I knew she would balk at the the idea that I interview her for tonight's blog, so I asked her if she would interview me, and she agreed. So here goes - another mezzo on mezzo interview for you. Let's see what she wants to know!
Katherine Pracht: Where do you find the time to write, rehearse, perform, and travel, socialize - are you you burning the midnight oil?
Jennifer Rivera: That's a funny question because it makes it sound like I'm sooooooo busy, whereas sometimes I'm on the phone with Will or Georgia saying, "who are my friends again? I need somebody to entertain me because I'm bored." But I guess I'm one of those people that needs to always be "doing" something to feel satisfied, so I find things to fill my time when I'm not at rehearsal. But honestly, even if I'm on a gig, we only rehearse for maximum 6 hours a day - that leaves a lot of hours to fill! And then you're not even called every single day, and even if you have a couple of hours of music to study, that still leaves time for other stuff. I think it would be very different if I were married and had a couple of kids - that totally changes your time table. But as things are now, I usually feel like I have plenty of time for all the stuff I do that is not singing. I wish I had MORE responsibilities, usually. I need projects to be happy. Who knows what that says about me, but it's true.
KP: So when you feel like you're crossing things off your list, that invigorates you to do even more?
JR: I'm definitely more productive when I'm actually rehearsing - when I have free time I tend to not be able to organize it well, and suddenly it's 4PM and Oprah is on, and why the hell not, I'll just plop down and watch it. But when I'm working, that usually never happens.
KP: That's interesting - I tend to treat being on a gig more like a vacation and am more likely to watch Oprah at that point rather than when I'm between jobs. When you shut down completely what do you do?
JR: Well, here's the part of the interview where I admit that I watch television. I usually try to avoid telling anyone about that dirty little habit, but now that you can watch stuff like The Daily Show online, and you can download tv shows and movies off the internet (my favorites recently were Dexter and Mad Men) I have to admit that tv is a really easy way to totally turn your brain off after a day of concentrating. But I also can't watch too much or my productive self will get stir crazy, so one or two episodes on the internet is perfect for me. I have also been getting into photography lately, and taking pictures is a very different type of concentration that I have enjoyed. And obviously writing is cathartic for me. And also spending time with friends - that's a BIG thing that I NEED to do a lot of. And drinking. Wine. Lots of it.
KP: When you're ready to get back to work, what are your first steps to reinvigorate your career - do you update your website, write on your blog, learn new music, have a coaching, voice lesson, alexander lesson - what do you do?
JR: Wow, that's an interesting question.
KP: Thank you (laughs maniacally)
JR: Well, usually what happens for me is I go through a period of lethargy where I feel like a schlub, so when that's over, I get crazily productive - although it doesn't necessarily have to be career productive, I just have to be doing things that make me feel like I'm accomplishing something - anything. The first step is usually pestering my poor agents. Some weeks go by when I call them on the phone and say, "See? I waited until TUESDAY AFTERNOON to call you!!!" Do you know how long I have WAITED since Monday morning???" Also learning music is a good way to remind myself "Yes, you ARE a singer AND a musician!" But I have to say that writing on my blog has never seemed like a career enhancer - if anything, I worry that it's going to be bad for my career because I'm too stupidly honest.
KP: I find you spend a lot of your energy helping others, myself included. It's a rather sisterly way to approach people. You're an only child - do you think that contributes to your desire to help others?
JR: Wow. I'm really moved by that question. Well, I'm glad to know you think that about me. I think that my parents gave me an abundance of love and support as I was growing up, and that caused me to want to give that to other people. And I do think that I tend to "adopt" people as my siblings as a result of being an only child. But I think that the support I got from my mom and dad is what gave me the "strength of character" (if I can say that without sounding pompous) to be ABLE to want to look outside myself and feel like I have enough love to be able to give it away. That answer makes me sound like I'm patting myself on the back, but I mean to be patting my mom and dad. It should also be said that I choose my friends very carefully, so if I give love and support it's to a chosen few that I find really compelling and loving and giving themselves (you included KP). (Did you all barf yet?)
KP: You are a very positive and optimistic person, but also very pragmatic. Does one part of you win in a battle, and which part of you is stronger?
JR: God! These are SUCH interesting questions!!! I guess I have to say that my optimism probably wins out, and I don't always make the most pragmatic choices probably. I really believe that things happen for a reason, and work out the way they are supposed to, etc. If I didn't believe that, this would be a very hard career to pursue and understand. I feel like I'm getting more pragmatic as I'm getting older, and making more choices that weigh all the options (as opposed to just going on impulse as is my nature) but I hope that that optimism will stay in the forefront because being optimistic just seems like a kinder, easier way to exist.
So that's our interview for the evening. I have to say I think those were GREAT questions from my dear Katy (When I first sang Jo in Little Women, she was my sister Meg, and we have always had a sisterly relationship ever since). We are signing off for the evening, because we really need to go look at the hole in my bathroom ceiling one more time.
Katherine Pracht and Jennifer Rivera in Little Women with Lyric Opera Cleveland