Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Italian theaters

First of all, for those of you who have been following my saga, I did finally make it to the bank today, but alas, didn't get to do my laundry. I could have rushed home after rehearsal was over, but I decided to spend the evening hanging out with my colleagues instead because I have been spending a lot of time speaking english to my swiss friend in the cast, and thought I needed to spend the night in italian or I would digress. And going to the bank felt like enough of a victory for one day. 

I finally found the correct bank, and again, was amazed by the high security - I had to be buzzed in through one door, and close that door completely before I was buzzed into another door. When I arrived inside the bank (which looks like a palace - see above photo) I was perplexed by how things worked. There seemed to be some sort of number system like the deli counter at the grocery store, but I didn't see where the numbers were coming from or how to get them. I managed to find a gentleman who seemed to work at the bank, and explained to him in my best italian that I was a singer from the Teatro Regio, they told me I could come here and get my money, but I had never been in an italian bank before (lie - I have been in 3, but didn't ever really know what I was doing) and could he please help me figure out what to do? He said a few things to me that I didn't completely understand and got a number for me from somewhere. Then he winked at me, took the next number from the machine that everybody else was taking numbers from to show me that the special number he had handed me was 141, and the next number from the regular machine was 161. Finally somebody is helping me because I'm blonde! 

The way they have the whole system organized seems totally high tech and yet completely inefficient. There were people sitting around in all these chairs waiting for their numbers to be called, and I swear, if the teller put a number up on the screen and the person didn't arrive IMMEDIATELY they would scroll to the next number (this may have been because it was already 12:45 by this time and they were ready for their 2 hour lunch break). I made sure to wait someplace where I wouldn't be skipped because I was too slow and watched the board like a hawk for my number to come up. When it did I raced to the window, and was praying that I was finally at the right bank (I still wasn't sure because while the nice man had given me a good number, he didn't really ever say YES this is the opera company's bank!) I was so relieved when I walked up to the teller and she knew exactly what I was talking about and dispatched my money immediately. I skipped away and only had to go through three high security glass doors in order to get back on the street. 

Today was our second day of rehearsal on the stage. As I mentioned yesterday, I am totally amazed that we have as much stage time as we do, because in the states, this would be unheard of. There are a few other things that are completely different about working in europe that I've noticed since we've been in the theater as well. First of all, yesterday, somebody important from the opera company (I believe he is the second in command) came into the theater (this photo is the Teatro Regio, where I will be performing) and very informally announced to whoever was sitting in his vicinity that they were going to be making a professionally released dvd of this production (don't get excited - not of my cast), would be broadcasting the performance on national italian radio, and also filming for a tv show in italy called "prima della prima"  (which means "before the opening") which is shown on one of the national television stations here in italy. Everybody seemed pleased, but not particularly overjoyed with any of this news. In the states, we're thrilled if the local tv station wants to do a segment on their 6:00 news where they try to have someone from the opera company break a glass (this has actually happened to me) and here, they are telling the cast a couple weeks before opening, "by the way, we're going to make a professional dvd of this and sell it, cool?" In the states, we can't even get our hands on the archival recording because of orchestra union rules, but here they just make professional dvd's when the mood strikes them. And people actually buy those dvd's, listen to the performances on the radio, and watch the tv programs. 

The other funny thing about italian opera companies is the choruses. Never before have I heard a chorus mark (which means singing with only a tiny part of your voice in order not to tire it out) and today, the chorus was marking. They were totally phoning it in physically, but also they were barely singing. I asked someone about this, and it was explained to me that in italy, the chorus thinks of themselves as both very important and also cannot be bothered to do anything. It's apparently really bad at La Scala, where they refuse to sing until the performance, and have written in their contracts that if they appear on stage at any moment when they are not singing, they must get paid more. One colleague told me that when she sang at La Scala, she was having trouble hearing the orchestra on stage during the performance because the chorus was talking so loud to each other about what they were going to have for dinner later or something. This chorus didn't appear completely apathetic, but they definitely weren't really bothering to sing, and it was cracking me up. A chorus in the U.S could NEVER get away with that, nor would they ever try. 

After rehearsal, I went out for happy hour and then dinner with several non-english speaking colleagues, and was able to participate (although somewhat limitedly and with many hand gestures) in conversations about lesbian stalkers, whether animals have some human emotions, and the complications of singing ensembles in Rossini operas - all in italian! Whenever the I had the floor and everyone quieted down to listen to just me, I usually blushed and fumbled terribly with my words, but luckily, as with most italian meals, usually everybody was talking at once and I could shout out without too much attention being paid to my grammar. The night ended with more gelato (it has been pointed out to me that I am in fact an addict) and finally, with the removal of my pants, which have inevitably become just a little too tight. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

very long day

I am about to fall asleep on my computer, so I'll make it brief. I had rehearsal today from 10:30 AM until 11:30 PM, and again tomorrow morning at 10:30, so I am too tired to be very witty and observant. 

We have now officially moved to the stage, and being on the set this early is a luxury no company in the U.S. ever has. The set is totally fantastic, and it actually helps the acoustic because it is closed in the back and on top. As I was leaving after the morning rehearsal, I ran into a singer that was in a production of Figaro I did in Hong Kong almost two years ago, who was in Torino to sing an audition. He's italian, so it's not that weird that he would be doing an audition in Italy, but it's always jarring to see someone from another experience in your life in the current experience. Without thinking I started speaking Italian to him, and his response was "wait - you don't speak Italian!" (I didn't really speak Italian in Hong Kong). Well, I guess I do now! After his audition he came with me and another singer in the cast to lunch, although he only had a drink and had to catch his train. I kept saying "it's so weird to see you here!" and his reply was "well, it's weirder for ME to see YOU here - I'm actually from Italy!" He had a point. 

Finally tonight the second cast got a chance to get up on our feet and start staging. The actual director didn't show up, but his able assistant was there to talk us through the blocking, and the conductor was kind enough to come, which we all appreciated. The staging went well, and we all remembered what to do quite ably, considering none of us had ever done any of it before. I sang Parto Parto lying on the ground. I didn't like it, but I did it. Now I really have to try to go to sleep because my brain is really starting to shut down. Wish me luck that I get everything done tomorrow that I need to because thursday is another holiday and everything will be closed again. Pray for my laundry. 

Monday, April 28, 2008

my brain is full

For the the first two weeks of rehearsal, I was like a sponge. Even though the rehearsal process happened to be particularly slow with a lot of character discussions and not a lot of action, I was so hyper focused on making sure that I understood the Italian, that I was rarely bored. Today that all changed. My brain didn't want to listen to and process Italian any more. They were finishing up the final scene and doing their usual table reading of the recits before any staging happened, and I found I just couldn't concentrate adequately to listen to all that was being said. It was like my brain was full and no more would fit. But I wasn't the only one who seemed dizzy with information - I noticed the rest of the second cast was particularly restless and giddy today. There is only so much watching one can do before one starts to go crazy with a desire to do something. Luckily, we have our very own 4 hour rehearsal tomorrow night. 

I wasn't able to do my laundry today because I have to do it during the hours that the hotel staff is present, which is always when I am in rehearsal. I wrote an email to an Italian friend of mine who lives in New York that Italy was such a fantastic country - how could he have wanted to move away from here? I was feeling like I never wanted to leave! He responded that he loves and misses his country, but that I should try to do something like going to the post office, and then tell him if I still wanted to stay here forever. I see what he means. While I love the food and the beautiful art and culture that pervade this country, I also really miss being able to buy grapefruit juice at 11:30 PM and being able to do my laundry on Sunday when I actually have the day off from rehearsing. 

Then again, happiness is the freshest bunch of basil you've ever seen, a full ripe tomato, and handmade mozzarella. I guess my laundry can wait a couple more days. It's a trade off, but right now the tomatoes are still winning.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Sorry I took yesterday off from my blogging duties, but I was in Bologna with no internet connection. I took the train there to see my friend Kate sing her dress rehearsal of Norma (she was singing Adalgisa) at the Teatro Communale of Bologna. I had a great time, she was fabulous, and we had a great meal afterwards. 

Taking the train in Italy is somethin' else. There are certain things in Italy that are absolutes, and that you can totally count on like the fact that everything is closed during the lunch hours, and that carbohydrates will become your friend. But one thing that seems to be totally non-standard is train service. I mean, it's wonderful that in europe, you can get around relatively inexpensively pretty much everywhere by high-speed trains. But here in Italy, the whole system is really beyond my grasp. First of all, when I was trying to purchase my tickets to go there, there were some tickets that cost 50 euro, and some that cost 17. That's a big difference, right? It depended on several things; what time you went, if you went directly, and how nice a train happened to be running at that hour. I wanted to leave in the morning and arrive in time for the 4:00 rehearsal, so if I had been choosing totally on my own, I would have chosen one of those 50 euro tickets. Luckily I had my italian buddy Vincenzo to work the ticket machine for me, and figure out that if I took such-and-such a train to Milan and switched for a certain Eurostar train, it would only cost me 39 Euro or something. The confusing thing is that there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason behind when the nicer, more expensive trains run, and when the cheaper ones do. And the cheapest train I took was the one from Torino to Milan, and it was probably the nicest. On the way back this afternoon, I found a non-stop train for only 28 euro total. Go figure.

 As I was boarding the train, Kate yelled after me, "next time get first class - it's much less crazy" and strangely, not much more expensive. I soon understood what she meant. In this particular train, there are little carriages with 6 seats, three facing three, and some of the seats are reserved and some aren't. I never figured out how that worked out, because I somehow didn't have a reserved seat, so I just took a seat in an empty carriage. But then a family of three came in, and they had reserved seats in that particular car. No one kicked me out of my seat by the time we had left Bologna, but I spent the rest of the ride expecting someone to get on at any of the stops and make me get out of my seat. There are also these sad folding seats in the aisles, and people were sitting on those for the entire 3 and a half hour journey. I still have no idea if I was in somebody's seat and they were too polite to tell me so were sitting in the aisle. Although I don't think so because Italians aren't really afraid to tell people what they think. 

The theater in Bologna is one of the oldest in Italy, and it looks exactly like you would imagine an old italian theater should look. One of the interesting things about the set up of the theater is that instead of a balcony, other than the orchestra the entire theater consists of box seats. So you have the orchestra seats, which I estimated to be about 650 seats, tops, and then you have like 4 floors of about 20 boxes each. Because there was no long balcony, the theater seemed teeny to me, and the acoustics were amazing. The other thing that was fascinating was that the production was not particularly traditional (although I'm not sure how you would traditionally represent druid priestesses) but was full of weird abstract art - one of the drop downs was this neon lighted fixture shaped kind of like a tree. It was almost shocking for me to see this very traditional theater filled with these modern abstract art images. It reminded me of putting antique furniture in a really modern loft - which I love, but which can be a little jarring when you first look at it. A lot of the singing was spectacular, especially coming from my friend Kate, who was a super star. 

We went to dinner at this old style rather formal restaurant and we stuffed ourselves (I had the agnolotti, and Kate had what else, but pasta bolognese) and we even had the distinct privilege
of being hit on by some german tourists claiming for some reason to be canadian (Kate dispatched of them swiftly by telling them that there were plenty of college bars they could go to - without us, thank you very much). Bologna is quite a college town, and there were more people out and about on a Saturday night than any college town I've been to in the states. Italians really treasure their leisure time more than any culture I can think of. 

Today after visiting some fountains and piazzas, I was back on the train and back "home" to Torino. I spent the train ride silently reviewing recits in my mind and praying nobody was going to make me sit in the car with the chicken coops or something. I walked back to my apartment from the train station only stopping for a couple scoops of gelato, and then after a brief respite, went out and had a seafood risotto for dinner. There are these big blue antique scales all around Torino that I think are a sign to me that I should slow down with the massive food consumption - however, they only measure your weight in kilos, and since I have no idea what the conversion is, I could weigh myself and remain blissfully ignorant. Hooray for America's shunning of the metric system!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

national holiday

I'm telling you, I feel like an eating machine. I mean there's eating and then there's EATING. I'm doing the one in capital letters. 

Today is kind of like our 4th of July here in Italy - a big holiday commemorating the Italian liberation from the Nazi's. As a result, I have today (and the rest of the week-end) off. I had big plans to take off to Zurich and visit my friend, but he flaked out of me, so instead I'm going to Bologna tomorrow and Sunday to see my friend Kate's dress rehearsal and hang out with her a little bit. That left today free, and luckily, my friend and saviour here in Torino, Vincenzo, invited me to have a big lunch at his house with his family. He lives with his younger brother and his mother is visiting, and they had also invited an uncle and some cousins. I was excited about my first home-made italian lunch. 

Vincenzo met me in the center of town near the theater, where they are having all kinds of festivities to celebrate the holiday. There was a big outdoor stage set up so bands could play, and other booths and stands, and zillions of people. As we were leaving, Vincenzo spotted the "president" of this region, "kind of like the president of Pennsylvania for example" he explained to me. Apparently, and for some reason that still remains unclear to me, Vincenzo is friends with this president, so brought me up to speak to him. When Vincenzo introduced him to me and said my name, the president said, "Ah, si, certo" like he knew who I was. This was very confusing to me, but when we walked away, V said it was probably because he had seen my name in the brochures for the opera and I was feeling pretty famous, until he realized that actually, the president probably mistook me for another american friend of Vincenzo's who he hadn't met but had heard about. Okay, so I'm not famous in Italy. 

We walked a good 25 minutes to his apartment, and waiting there and cooking were his adorable mother and brother. His mother had come up from the South of Italy, and had brought with her on the train 20 eggs, a loaf of bread, and a bushel of artichokes. I am not making this up, she really lugged all that stuff from the bottom of the boot to the top because what they have up here just isn't the same as down there. The meal started out with fresh squeezed orange juice (she didn't bring the huge box of oranges on the train thank god) and gently fried artichoke hearts. V's cousin's arrived, and one of them brought with him fresh ricotta that he had made himself from scratch the night before, so we ate that and some bread next. Then, a pasta very popular in the south called orecchiete, (which apparently Vincenzo brought in HIS suitcase when he returned from his visit over easter) with a tomato and meat ragu. Then, next course was some kind of braised beef, and these egg fritters that are really hard to explain but are extraordinarily delicious. Afterwards, we ate sweets that we had picked up at a local bakery (I ate three cream-puffy canola-ey thingies) and then a glass of limoncello that Vincenzo's grandmother makes herself. After the three glasses of piedmontese red wine and the limoncello, I had to drink an espresso, even though I'm not a coffee drinker normally. 

The whole experience was so warm and relaxed. Somehow I felt totally at ease with these two Italian brothers in their twenties, their Mama, her brother-in-law and his two teen-aged sons, none of whom spoke a word of english. First of all, it seems to me that it's perfectly acceptable for children, even teen-agers, to totally like and get along with their parents. They're happy to spend an afternoon meal all together, and one of the teenage boys even wanted to make and bring his own cheese! Plus, I was absolutely forced to exist in solely in Italian, which in and of itself, is a pretty priceless experience. 

After lunch was over, Vincenzo walked me all the way to the train station to help me get my tickets for tomorrow's journey, and it was crazy trying to wade through all the crowds downtown on this holiday - the streets were absolutely over loaded with people of all ages. The thing I found the most amazing was that all the stores were closed because of the holiday. I mean, here's a time when there are people absolutely filling the streets, and any store who decided to open it's doors would have the best day of business ever, but instead, they all close. They just aren't so focused on earning a buck as we are in the U.S., and as was pointed out to me, "how would the people working in the stores celebrate the holiday if they were at work?" They really just think about everything differently here. 

After all the eating and walking I had to rest for awhile, but only long enough for it to be dinner again. I headed out among the crowds to try to find a restaurant that didn't look too intimidating for a solo diner. I found a trattoria, and had a shrimp appetizer and a lobster pasta entree. I seriously don't know how I managed, but I ate everything, plus two pieces of bread. I'm telling you, eating machine. You've heard of a food baby? I'm having a litter. And tomorrow I'm headed to Bologna where they invented Spaghetti Bolognese. How am I not gaining weight? It's like I'm in the twilight zone of food! But I haven't been served one single thing that I didn't like since I've been here, so how can I not eat it all? Now I have to go pass out in a carbohydrate induced stupor. 

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Well, today was actually just a regular day. I've been here for about a week and a half now, and finally today nothing funny or weird happened to me. In rehearsal we staged my character's second aria (I use the proverbial "we", but of course, I still mean "they") and while there is no more lying on the ground, there are some serious homo-erotic themes being explored in this aria. If you don't know the plot of this opera: it's about this very clement king, who forgives my character, even though I try to murder him (because the woman I'm in love with tells me to - she's mad because she thinks he should have made her queen and didn't). But it is very curious why Tito seems to love Sesto so much that he says "well, I know you tried to kill me, but hey, that's okay, I forgive you", and Graham Vick's take on this is that there's some love going on between those two. Plus since I'm a woman playing a man, it leads to all kinds of confusion and general ambiguity. At one point I overheard Graham, when he wandered over to the set designer, say "well, I've really done it, haven't I" referring to how he just went for the kind of love scene between these two "men." I like it. I think it works. And yesterday at my wig fitting, when I tried on this lovely little young man blond hair, all the gay men were in a dither over it, so it should add something androgynously beguiling to the proceedings.

In the theater there is a cafeteria, or "cambusa" where everyone goes to eat lunch. It's funny - I don't have any idea why we have 2 hours for lunch when we only have to go down the hall and grab food from the buffet style cafeteria - it really doesn't take that long. But it's been fun to eat in the cambusa because I like noticing the differences between an italian cafeteria and an american one. First of all, there is no soda to be found anywhere. No coke, no diet coke, no sprite - just bottled water, flat and sparkling, and cute little boxes of wine. I haven't noticed any of the singers drinking wine at lunch, but I guess I wouldn't be surprised. Also, they all drink their water from these tiny glasses. Tiny glasses are a thing in Italy, they are in all the restaurants and stocked in my kitchen as well. The first day I had lunch in the cafeteria, I had my water bottle from rehearsal with me, so I figured I would just drink that. But after a couple of minutes, I discovered that everybody was pouring their water from the bottles into these tiny little glasses they had obviously taken along with their knives and forks. It seemed so dignified and classy, as they all poured their big bottles little by little into these tiny little glasses and sipped their water daintily. I meanwhile, was slurping away at my oversized bottle like the american heathen that I am, and by the time I realized my error, we were almost finished. Now, I try to remember to take a little glass even if I have my own water with me, and I take little italian sips so that I'll fit right in. 

 I didn't eat any gelato today, but it's only 10:30 and I think Grom might be open until midnight. My question is this: Why the hell did americans invent ice cream when gelato already existed? What's the point of taking something that's already perfect and trying to change it into something else? If you look up the word "ice cream" in an english to italian dictionary, the translation is "gelato". Don't hate me Mr. Baskin and Mr. Robbins, but you totally suck when compared to the real deal. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

La Banca

Today started off well. It's the first sunny warm day since I've been here, and I was full of energy during the morning rehearsal. It wasn't put to great use as I was just sitting there, but I was enjoying listening to two of my colleagues discuss in italian the vocal technique used for singing coloratura. I also had to laugh at the fact that Italians, and it seems europeans in general, are very cold. I don't mean cold as in mean, I mean cold as in body temperature. In the states, I am someone who is always complaining that it's too cold, but here, I am usually the only person in rehearsals not dressed for the arctic tundra. The first day of rehearsal, they all had down coats and scarves wrapped around their heads - I'm not exaggerating, and the temperature actually seemed pretty normal to me. It's probably 70 degrees today, and as I was walking around, I was noticing that unlike in new york, where at the first sign of spring people are practically in their bathing suits, people were still wearing dark jackets and scarves. I was walking around in a t-shirt and sweating, and I ran into the bass who was wearing a sweater and a long wool coat. 

But I digress. The main story today has to be about my misadventures in banking. About a week ago, I was sent to the woman in charge of things like visas and payments to give her all my information and the receipts for my travel. She handed me a paper with a map of where the bank was, and told me I'd be able to pick up my travel reimbursement sometime the following week (which would be this week). I have literally tried and failed to get to the bank every day this week. Monday I walked along the street I thought it was on in both directions but never came upon it. Yesterday I convinced my friend Vincnezo to come help me find it. I hadn't brought the map, but I remembered the names of the two streets where it was supposed to be on the corner. Before we left he asked "what bank is it?" and I replied "I can't remember the name, but I know what corner it's on." He was intelligent enough to ask someone which bank was the company bank before we left, and I realized when we arrived he'd needed to ask because literally all the banks in Italy are on this particular corner. I don't know why they're all clustered together, but apparently it's because it creates a little financial district or something. However, when we arrived at the bank, which we were told by someone was the Banca di Roma, they were, or course, closed for lunch. 

But at least now I knew where it was and how to get there from the theater, so today I set out alone, after the lunch hours (opens at 2:30) but before the closing time of 4:10. It's about a 15 minute walk from the theater, but it was such a nice day that I didn't mind. When I arrived, hooray, the Banca di Roma was open! The first thing about it that was weird was that it was very high security like, and there were two sets of glass doors through which I had to be buzzed by someone behind another glass partition. This took a minute to figure out, I sort of stood there lamely for a minute before I realized I had to push a button before she pushed a button that let me in. I went up to the counter and in pre-rehearsed phrases, I explained to the teller that I was a singer at the Teatro Regio and that they should have some money for me at the bank. He looked at me blankly and didn't know what I was talking about. "Are you the bank for the Teatro Regio?" Some talking amongst him and his colleagues occurred, and he told me no, the Regio bank was the Banco Credito, just out side and to the right. I guess who ever told Vincenzo and I the name had just been mistaken. No problem!

Undaunted I exited the high security glass partitions and went outside to look for the other bank. There were like 5 other banks on that corner but none of them were called Banco Credito. Had I just misheard him? He said go out and to the right, so I went out and to the right and found myself in front of the Banco Nationale. This must be it, I thought, so I tried to go in. Instead of two sets of glass doors, they had some revolving doors which moved on their own, and which allowed me to get in them, but lodged me in no-mans-land, and wouldn't let me out. I finally wrestled my way out and tried again, and got stuck again. An older man behind me went in the other set of revolving doors fine, so I just pushed mine (even though they said NON SPINGERE in big red letters), and made it in. After waiting in line, I explained who I was and asked if this was the bank for the Teatro Regio. He asked a few people just to be sure, but said, no it wasn't. So I went outside and tried one more bank, and they said that no, they weren't the Teatro Regio bank either. 

It was 3:40, and knowing the banks close at 4:10, I figured I would just have time to walk back to the theater, get another piece of paper telling me exactly which bank I should be looking for, hurry back, and get in before they closed. I couldn't go in every single bank and ask them if they were the Teatro Bank because I was beginning to feel like a idiot. 

So I hot-footed it back to the theater office, and after forgetting which floor I was supposed to go to for the admin office, I finally found the woman who had originally given me the map and explained that I had forgotten it and needed a new one. She said "Oh yes, I just got the approval to release your funds to the bank today. It should be ready by next tuesday." Oooooookay, I'm glad I just took the tour of half the banks in Torino for nothin', I thought, but didn't say, mostly because I don't know how to say that in Italian. She gave me a new map, and told me the name of the Bank is Banco Unicredito, which I SWEAR was not one of the 36 banks on that corner. But I guess I'll have to find out next tuesday, if I make it there before they close that day. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I actually did come here for work

Well, at last the reason for my trip to Italy has become evident: to try all the flavors of Gelato. Just kidding, although I have a gelato story for later on in this blog. Actually, I finally got to sing today and luckily I pretty much remembered how even after a week of doing little other than stuffing myself with all types of carbohydrates. But I'll tell you, standing in a room full of only Italians, including one pretty important Italian conductor, and singing to them in their native language is daunting. I'm certainly not the first person to do it, but it's the first time I've done it, so it freaked the hell out of me. I was lying in bed last night thinking, "It's not likely, but it's entirely possible that after they hear me tomorrow, they'll say 'nope - sorry, her italian just isn't good enough to sing on a stage as important as this one. She must be fired.'" Like I said, unlikely, but there's always a possibility you won't be liked, even if you're not fired, so I had some trouble sleeping.

But the good news is that it went well. I started off pretty shaky because I sing the very first thing in the show and I felt like they were all LOOKING at me (well I was singing, so they were) and wondering how the hell this American ended up standing among them. But as we progressed in the opera (we did all the musical numbers first and the recits later) I relaxed as I realized that he had only given me one diction note and we were already in Act II! As we sang I was also happy to hear my colleagues for the first time, and to note how beautifully and musically they all sang because I knew we would have a good show. After we finished singing all the orchestral parts (and I got "Buono. Molto buono" from the maestro after both my arias thank you very much) we moved onto the recits and I started to feel nervous again. 

It's one thing to sing arias and duets with an excellent fake italian accent, but it's quite another thing to sing recits. I also had a feeling that my recits were what all the Italians were wondering and maybe even a little worried about because they understand how difficult it is for a foreigner to sound natural in these parts. I sang through the first scene and the conductor had me do my first speech over, and listened extremely carefully with his head tilted and his eyes shut. I kept expecting him to stop me, and when he tilted his head the opposite direction for a second, I did stop because I thought, oh no here it comes. But he just looked at me and said "go on" and I did, and I finished the act, again with only one correction! That's it!!!! And after the rehearsal he told me that he could tell I had worked very hard and it showed. 

The coda to this story is that my stage manager friend happened to be in the room when the conductor was discussing the rehearsal with the director, and overheard the following conversation: After telling the director that he was very pleased with the second cast, the conductor said "and I was totally stunned by the American. I was worried that she didn't understand italian and had no idea what was going on in rehearsals, but what a happy surprise to discover that not only did she understand what we were saying, she actually applied the things we talked about in rehearsal and her diction was excellent even in the recitatives." Of course when my buddy told me this (all via an IM session on skype and all in Italian - with me furiously looking up words to make sure stupido meant stunned and not stupid) my first response was: "He didn't say anything about my voice?" But I'm a singer, what can you expect? 

As a treat for my first day of actual work, I decided to finally pay a visit to Grom, the famous gelateria that is part of the slow-food movement that originated in Torino. I say originated because we now have one in New York, although I've never been because I looked through the window once and saw that a gelato costs like nine bucks! Not kidding! The one here in Torino was only 2 euros 50 and it was three gigantic scoops of heaven with some kind of crazy cream on top. It's totally unbelievable stuff, and I'm not even sure what flavors I ordered because I didn't want to admit to the guy behind the counter who'd I'd insisted should speak to me in Italian (he's used to tourists) that I didn't really understand what he was saying. But I'll tell you it was damn good. And while I was walking home, I finally got accosted by an Italian man trying to chat me up, but since it was late and I was alone, I decided to tell him I didn't speak italian so he'd leave me alone. But I speak enough to know that he said "that's an awfully big ice cream cone. Be careful or you'll get fat." I'm not kidding, he said that. And probably he's right, but it's SO WORTH IT! 

Monday, April 21, 2008

I finally got paper towels!

Yes that's right folks, I made it to the supermarket today while it was open, and I had money, and I actually bought a few things like paper towels (Hallelujah!) Apparently Mondays in Italy are only half days of work - probably because everything is closed on Sundays so they need time to actually get things done - so I got finished with rehearsal at 3:30!! I didn't make it to the bank, which closes at 4:10 (why 10 I have no idea), but I did manage to get my italian cell phone finally. I insisted on speaking in Italian to the sales people there, even though I kept saying "so, if I to phone someone" because I was forgetting to conjugate the verb "call" and kept repeating the infinitive. It's so frustrating because I KNOW the conjugation of "call", but for some reason my brain couldn't catch up with what my mouth was saying. The phone works, although I just stupidly spent 8 euros having a long conversation with my friend because I mistakenly thought that since she's in Italy, it would be cheap. 

Why am a better cook in Italy? Is it the culinary history rubbing off on me? Am I being creatively inspired to make interesting and delicious choices by the general appreciation of all things artistic and cultural? Is it the recipes my Italian stage manager friend has been IMing me? Actually, I think it's the ingredients. The incredibly fresh vegetables and fruits, not to mention the wonderful cheese, bread, and cured meats, are just creating really yummy things to eat no matter what I do to them. I accidentally bought red wine that had carbonation in it today at the market and even that was good. Tonight's dinner was a frittata with mushrooms, asparagus, and zucchini, with some parmesan and a little sea salt, and a delicious salad with these big buttery lettuce leaves and a red ripe tomato. I am getting really spoiled. 

Rehearsal was more of the same, although something funny happened right when I arrived this morning. I was about 5 minutes late because I forgot my umbrella and had to go back for it, and normally in Italy, nothing would have begun yet, but they had actually already started when I arrived. I tried to sneak in as quietly as possible because they were all sitting in chairs in a circle going through the recitative that was to be staged that day. A minute after I sat down, the director, Graham Vick, who really is totally fluent in Italian, couldn't remember the word for capital, as in "say that "every" with a capital E", and the girl sitting next to me said "capitale" or whatever the translation was ( I already forgot). And Graham said "oh yes Capitale, wonderful - grazie Maurizio" (who is the stage manager, and who was sitting on the other side of me) and Maurizio said "no - c'era Jennifer" because I guess he thought I had said the translation, and Graham said (in italian) "Oh Jennifer!" and, not sure what was going on (I had just walked in and was still processing italian) I said "Si" and so Graham said  "how wonderful - all your italian studying is paying off!!" And I said "si" again because I still hadn't entirely figured out what this conversation was about, and I was kind of freaked out that they were talking about me since I had just walked in. Then after a few minutes went by, I realized that I had just taken credit for this other singer's ability to translate english into italian. I apologized to her at the lunch break, and she didn't care, but I was so embarrassed until I had a chance to talk to her because I felt like a moment stealer or something. She didn't care at all and was really nice about it -  Italians are so laid back! Also, I think she understood in the moment that I had no idea what was going on, which seems to happen to me about 72 times per day. 

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I have to stop watching youtube

Wow - things are really different here in europe in terms of people and their careers. The other night I decided to check and see if any of the singers had videos on youtube just out of curiosity, and sure enough, almost everyone had something. Then tonight I went out to dinner with a couple of people, including the bass in show, and he mentioned something about being on a horse and singing an aria on youtube, and I discovered that he had about 20 videos on youtube as well. I feel so unfamous and american compared to all the people in this cast - it's very daunting. But I'm not sure if I should blame myself. It seems like european singers start performing and working much earlier than american singers, who all often go through our educational system, followed by our young artist system, followed by years of arbitrary decisions made by casting directors who may or may not know the difference between good singing and bad. Here in europe, it just seems to be very different. People know things about opera - regular people - and they care about the art form with such a great passion and energy. Operas are on tv all the time here (hence the large showing of european opera singers on youtube compared to americans) and people tune in and watch with interest. I really regret I didn't try to come here much sooner, but at least I'm here now to be a part of the history and culture of something I've been studying for most of my life. I am VERY happy to be here, and I'm not going to spend my time wondering why I didn't come sooner, but instead, I will work as hard as I can and try to create an opportunity to come back. 

So today was the day off and since it was cold and rainy and everything is closed on Sunday in Italy anyway, I spent most of the day in my apartment resting and studying my music. But, as I mentioned earlier, I did go out with some cast members and spent the night speaking only in Italian. We went to this place called Eataly which is apparently where the "slow-food" movement began, right here in Torino. I'm not entirely sure what the slow-food movement is, but I gather that it's something like organic natural food. Not sure what's slow about it. Eataly is a big market and restaurant that has different counters with different types of foods - meats, fish, pasta, vegetables. The only place there was space for us to sit was at the meat counter, much to the bass's delight and my dismay. But when in Rome (or Torino)...! I only ate about 1/3 of my steak but my companions happily finished the rest off for me as I tried to explain in Italian that the reason I don't have a boyfriend is that I'm just picky. Except I don't know the word for picky in Italian, so somehow I ended up saying "I don't have a boyfriend because I'm just difficult." I meant to say that it was difficult for me to find someone I liked, but of course it came out wrong, and my dinner companions thought the whole thing was hilarious and very much enjoyed pointing out the ways in which I might be difficult (not wanting to eat steak, for example). They also had a discussion about how delicious horse is. When I expressed my disgust at eating horse, they said "you're eating a cow now! What's the difference? And horse tastes even better!" No thank you. 

I had more gelato tonight. If I don't get fat while I'm here, it's seriously going to be a miracle. But even if I do, it will be worth it. I have to go - there's a jar of nutella calling my name.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

why am I always sul pavimento?

So maybe someone can tell me why it is that whenever I make an important debut with a company I have to lie on the ground for my first big aria? My first big role at New York City Opera was Lazuli in L'Etoile and I almost had a heart attack when I discovered that they wanted me to sing the first very delicate and high aria while lying on my stomach with my head propped in my hands. I got them to agree to let me lie on my side, which I deemed a better position for singing, and it has become a long-running joke with my friend Tim, who was the assistant director, that I practically shreiked "you want me to lie like that WHILE I'M SINGING????" at the first suggestion of that position. Well, guess what? I have to lie down while I sing Parto Parto, my first big aria, which also happens to be the most well known aria in the opera. The director has it staged so that the soprano sort of climbs on top of Sesto (my character) and then Sesto sort of turns her over and lies on top of her and sings the whole first section of the aria while lying kind of on top of her. Of course, the famous Italian singer who is singing Sesto in the first cast doesn't really have anything to prove, so she'll try anything. I however, am making my debut here in Italy, so I feel like I want to really wow 'em with my singing, which will be exponentially more difficult to do while straddling the soprano. 

However nervous I am about singing in weird positions, I have to say I have really enjoyed watching this director, Graham Vick, work. First of all I'm impressed that this english man is totally fluent in Italian, and that he seems to know every word of this score by heart. His method for mounting a new production is (at times excruciatingly) slow, but the outcome is really something to behold. Also, I love how he really gets in the middle of the scene while it's happening, kind of lets the actors do their thing, but guides them by being right there among them. He mouths the recits and acts them out while they're happening (which I have noticed I do with my own students while their singing if I'm trying to pull something from them and I really feel it in my own body) and sometimes he just stops everyone and thinks about things silently for several minutes, and then comes up with some totally brilliant idea that nobody was expecting. My favorite thing he does is when he looks at the scene and decides it's not working, walks over to the miniature model of the set, stares at it for a few minutes, and reaches in like it's Barbie's dream house and starts rearranging the miniature furniture. Then the stage managers look at what he has done, move around the real furniture to match what he's done, and suddenly the scene works beautifully. I just love watching him reaching into the tiny set and rearranging the furniture the same way I used to do with my dollhouse. I still haven't sung a peep or done a single thing, but I'm actually getting a lot out of watching. 

I STILL have not been to the supermarket. After rehearsal I went out for "aperitif" and dinner with a lovely Swiss girl in the cast named Rachel. Aperitif is this thing in Torino kind of like happy hour, except with tons of exquisite FREE food just for the price of one drink. A drink costs between 3-6 euros, and in the bar is a table of gorgeous food all for free. There are things like white beans sauteed in garlic, prosciutto and cheese on fresh bread, rice balls, brussel sprouts, all types of grilled vegetables, pizza,  - I could go on for a long time. And all of it is free. You could absolutely eat dinner and be stuffed for the price of your 3 euro beer. Pretty fantastic!!! 

On the way home from dinner I stopped for a 3 scooper of gelato - chocolate, nutella, and some kind of chocolatey,vanilla malt ball flavor. Jealous?

Oh, one more funny thing I learned - toilet paper is called carta igienica, which exactly translated means hygenic cards. And also there's a bidet in my bathroom. I am gonna be SO clean and sanitary! 

Friday, April 18, 2008

the case of the missing food

So last night I chatted with my friend Kate, who was here singing in Torino when I arrived, but who left for Bologna yesterday. Before she departed however, she was kind enough to leave me a couple bags of food and other various items that she didn't want to schlep on the train. We were staying in the same hotel, so when she left, because I was already in rehearsal, she told the front desk that there were two bags in her room, and they should deliver them to my room. They happened to deliver them while I was home for lunch, and I was happy to dig through and find things like olive oil and nutella. However, when I talked to Kate last night, she asked if I had started looking through the magazines she left me. What magazines? So she started asking me about other things she left me - an unopened bottle of balsamic vinegar, a block of parmeggiano cheese, some pre-prepared soups - none of which ended up in the stuff that was delivered to me. At first we thought they had left one bag behind, but then when I reported that I had received the olive oil, she said "but wait - the balsamic and the magazines were in the bag with the olive oil!" We wondered what had happened, and suspected that whoever cleaned the room took all the stuff they wanted figuring I would never ask Kate what was in the bags.

So this morning, when I got back from my first rehearsal, I went to the front desk (armed with the list Kate and I had created of all the things that were missing, that she handily translated into italian for me). The woman at the desk was this nice young brunette who speaks english and usually speaks english to me even when I try to ask for things in Italian. She has always been really nice to me, so I was surprised to see her get all defensive when I calmly began to explain that many things were missing from the bags Kate had left for me. Instead of her usually calm english responses, she started speaking really quickly in Italian, and said "well, maybe they started to throw things away, but when we told them to keep things for you, they stopped." And I responded (in english) "but that doesn't really make sense because they would have had to take some things out of each bag and leave other things in." She replied (in italian) "well maybe they had started to empty the bags already when we called and told them to keep things for you" and I asked "well then why were all the best things the ones that got thrown away?" I could tell we were really having a fight now because we had both reverted back to our original languages. She just seemed really shifty, and even like she was about to start crying. I wasn't even being mean and new york-y with her, I was being very even tempered. Finally she just said she didn't know and retreated into the back office away from the front desk. 

I walked away for a minute, but remembered that they still hadn't delivered a few of the things I had asked for like a knife big enough to cut vegetables, and when I returned to the desk, a nice man had taken her position. He was really friendly and told me not to worry, all the items I had asked for were arriving today and would be brought to my room. Then when I got upstairs, the phone rang, and it was him again. He said (in italian) that he was sorry about what had happened with the missing items, and if I would just tell him how much I thought everything was worth, he would take that much off my hotel bill. Hmmmm - this was interesting. If little miss "suddenly I can't speak english anymore" was so innocent, why was he suddenly offering me compensation? Anyway, I told him I'd give a list of all the missing items and he could help me figure out the cost. He agreed, and when I brought the list down to him, he was incredibly nice, introduced himself (his name is Lino) and said if I ever needed anything at all, I should just ask him. Scaredy-cat was still back at her computer looking furtively out into the lobby. I'm still annoyed that they tried to pull one over on me, but at least an italian man was nice and paid attention to me (finally!!!) and also I can probably now milk the situation for free stuff. 

I went back to the outdoor market today during my lunch hour, but couldn't go to the supermarket because they close for lunch. Then when I finished I rushed over there and made it just before they closed again, but I only had 5 euros in my wallet, so all I could afford was a block of parmesan cheese. Someday I'll get to the supermarket when they're not closed, about to close, and when I have money. I am really REALLY getting desperate for paper towels. 

Thursday, April 17, 2008

sad day

Hi there. First I have to admit that while I was looking forward to writing the blog all day, right now it's going to be a little harder than I thought. Our beloved family dog, Humphrey, died last night unexpectedly. He was only about 9 years old, but he got an infection in his blood that is apparently very uncommon, in the end, he couldn't be cured. He was such a good little boy, and we are going to miss him a lot. 

Losing him makes me realize how important it is to enjoy everything while you can, so in that spirit, I will continue to recount all the funny things that are happening to me here.

Today got off to a rather rocky start. I woke up to discover that I had no hot water, and it was a particular problem, since I hadn't had hot water yesterday either, and had forgone my morning shower because of it. Yesterday I called down to the front desk, and was very pleased with myself for understanding the italian of the clerk who explained to me that they were working on the boiler until one o'clock. I did my best without a shower and went about my day. But this morning, when I had no hot water again, I was a little annoyed. I kept replaying this memory in my mind of the time I went to the hair salon where they are kind of nazis about not washing your hair every day so that it will be healthier, and one of the girls with really amazing hair explained to me that she only washed it once a week! Intrigued, I asked my friend and colorist about this girl and her hair and he said "GOD - it totally disgusts me that she does that. It's unhygenic, and by the way, it totally stinks after like the 4th day." It was only the second day for me, but I was kind of hoping to be beautiful and exotic and foreign in Italy, not smelly and dirty. 

So anyway, I called the front desk again this morning and she said she'd send somebody up. The maid buzzed my door almost immediately and explained to me that actually, I had a boiler in my room, and this switch outside the bathroom controlled it. When it was switched to 1 it was on, and 0 it was off. I realized in that instant that in fact they had not been "working on the boiler until one" yesterday as I thought I had so brilliantly interpreted, but that she had actually said "you have your own boiler and you need to make sure the switch is turned to 1". This is especially embarassing since that means the only words I actually understood in her sentence the day before were "boiler" and "one". You might be thinking - "well, boiler - that's a pretty hard word!" Except in italian, boiler is "boiler". So there you go. I'm practically fluent. I must have switched the 1 to 0 when I was fiddling with all the light switches trying to figure out what turned what one, since none of them actually light something in the room they are in, and I gave myself no hot water. I had also inadvertently turned of my refridgerator at one point and after I noticed my milk had spoiled, I called an complained about my "frigorifero che non funtione." Very bright, I now realize. They're going to start thinking I'm a real dummy soon at this hotel. 

I got up so late and the whole explanation and realization took so long that I had no choice but to attend rehearsals today sans shower for day two. So much for my glamorous american self. 

The rest of the day was a lot more watching other people sing, which I'm kind of getting used to. I did have an exciting experience with the coffee machine however. The coffee that comes out of the machine in the break room is really delicious to me, although I'm not a coffee drinker. If the machine coffee tastes that good, I fear I might get hooked on the cafe coffee while I'm hear. I noticed that all the staff has keys to the coffee machine that they insert and choose their type - long shot, cappuccino, with sugar, etc, and out it comes in a plastic cup with a perfect little matching stirrer. I love their keys because I imagine some union representative arguing for their salaries and crying "and they must have the right to free coffee at all times!" It just seems like a very Italian requirement. 

Some other good things that happened today were that I heard a rumor that the second cast will start working with the conductor on Monday, so somebody will actually finally hear me sing. Also, I really did speak a lot of Italian today  - my colleagues finally started talking to me probably because I seemed to have more confidence in my ability to speak and didn't look like a scared little bird like I probably did on my first day. The singers are all incredibly nice, and I have to say I feel much more comfortable here than I did trying to speak french in France. Not sure why, but it's just the case, and I know a lot more french than I do Italian. 

I have to go to bed now because I have a fitting at 10 AM tomorrow. It was supposed to be today, but I begged to have it be tomorrow because they didn't tell me about it until half way through the day today, and I couldn't possibly disrobe in my smelly unwashed state. I tried to say " I can't have a fitting because I'm all dirty" but I think I might have said "I'm all rotten" which would explain the stage manager's look of concern. Oh, and now I know the assistant stage manager's name, but I don't know the actual stage manager's name, and when we rescheduled my fitting for tomorrow, and I asked him how to find the costume shop, he said "just have me paged when you arrive at the security booth and I'll meet you there and show you." I couldn't say "and what is your name again?" So I walked around the theater after rehearsal and found the costume shop on my own. The theater may be confusing, but I'm not going to let the stage manager know that I don't know his name yet! After I had rescheduled the fitting, one of the other singers joked "just make sure you're clean tomorrow!" At least I think she as joking....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Just the beginning

First exciting news: I had my first Italian pizza tonight. You know how they always say the pizza tastes different in Italy? Well, it does. It somehow seemed more fresh and tasty than anything I had eaten in the states.

The reason I was eating pizza is that I went out with my friend Kate, who had her final performance of Lucrezia Borgia at the theater tonight. I went and saw the production, partly to see her, and partly to get an idea of what the theater was like in a performance mode. The first thing I found totally fascinating was the plethora of firemen backstage. It turns out that they have a whole bunch of firemen and an EMT on site for every performance "just in case." And I think there were at least 10 of them (yes, some of them were very attractive Italian firemen, and no, none of them gave me a second glance. I'm used to it by now). The other thing I found interesting about the performance was the length of the singers bows. Even the singers who I couldn't even remember, who sang one line in the first act, would hang around on stage waving and blowing kisses as if they just sang Norma. I have to keep that in mind as I tend to be a quick and self-deprecating bower. 

I attended the performance with another mezzo in my cast and the assistant to the stage manager. He's the one person who has totally taken pity on my and tried his best to talk to me and show me around when necessary, and I have no idea what his name is. It's terrible - he'll take me to show me where the bathroom is, and then wait for me outside lest I get lost on the way back (which is not impossible - the theater is a total maze) and I don't even know his name. How can I ask him now after so many bathroom escorts?? And the problem is that I'm not entirely sure what his actual job is - I think he's the assistant to the stage manager, but I could be wrong, so I can't look on any lists to try to find his name. Poor guy. 

Oh, if you're ever in Italy, I would strongly suggest avoiding eating middle eastern food while you're here. Why would I possibly eat anything but Italian food you ask? Because all the f***ing restaurants are closed at certain hours, and I found out, so is the grocery store!!! I mean what's the logic in closing the grocery store?  There are just certain hours that Italians decree that not only shouldn't you eat, but you are simply not capable of eating because they don't provide any food. I was starving after I finished rehearsal at 6PM and I had to be at the theater at 8, so even if I wanted to wait until 7:30 for the restaurants to open, I didn't have time. I thought, well, that's okay, I'll just stop by the grocery store and pick up a few things and whip something up for myself. But alas, the grocery store is chiudo also for some reason from like 5 til 7. So the ONLY place open was the kebab place on the corner, and it didn't really hit the spot. Thank goodness for the late night pizza to make me feel fat and happy and Italian. 

If you're wondering about rehearsal today, I didn't mention it because I sat there all day and watched again, so nothing exciting to report. I find it fascinating that not a single person in this theater has ever heard me sing, because I haven't sung a peep in rehearsal yet, and the gentleman who hired me has since left and is running another company. But my name is on the posters, so I know I'm supposed to be here and it's not just some crazy mix up like some weird Italian version of three's company. At some point somebody will hear me sing, I'm just not sure how or when. But who cares when you've got pizza and kebobs???

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The first rehearsal

I got an email from my agent last night telling me that they had changed the first rehearsal today from 10 in the morning til 4 in the afternoon, and I was psyched because I had a feeling getting up at what felt like 2 in the morning wasn't going to be conducive me having my first day trying to work in Italian or to good singing. I needn't have worried.

So, I woke up this morning and took a leisurely stroll to the outdoor market which is only a few blocks from my hotel. It is apparently the largest of it's kind in europe, and it did seem huge and fantastic. The best part is the produce - there are just rows and rows of gorgeous tomatoes and strawberries and arugula and oranges. Everything is beautifully fresh and very cheap! I bought about 8 perfect on the vine tomatoes for 30 cents. Even with the weak dollar, it's still cheap in the exchange! In addition to the outdoor market, there is an indoor one with meats, breads and cheeses, and I decided to try my luck at buying some prosciutto since I have whole-heartedly given up my vegetarian ways. The problem with buying something like prosciutto is trying to explain how much you want. First of all, they weigh everything in kilos here, and I have no concept of how much a kilo is. I just told the woman I wanted some prosciutto, and she put the meat on the deli slicer and started making a pile. As the pile of prosciutto grew and grew, I was freaking out thinking that she was going to cut up the whole ham-hock and give it to me, but eventually she stopped to show me the thickness of the slices and I cried "Basta basta!!!" She looked at me curiously and asked (in italian) but what are you going to do with so little prosciutto??" I replied "but it's only for me!" and she kind of gave me a knowing look and said ." Oh, sei solo." And let me have what she deemed was a tiny amount of cured ham because I was solo. I don't know whether her solo meant alone or single, but either way, she seemed sad for me. I'm surprised she didn't give me the meat for free in sympathy. 

I went home and took a nap and had lunch with my friend who is in town, and made my way to the theater for the first rehearsal. I had to explain who I was to the guard at the artists entrance and he had someone show me the way to the rehearsal room (and thank god because it was a total maze and I could never have found it on my own). The guy who showed me was this big stage-hand looking guy, and when people told me that all the men in Italy were going to fawn over me and tell me I'm beautiful THEY LIED. This guy, who you'd think would be especially nice to a tall blond american, walked so fast and didn't even look back at me to make sure I was keeping up with him. He walked backstage through all these stage-hands and around this corner and when I hesitated for a second because I was confused, he just shouted "VIENI - VIENI QUI!" in an annoyed tone. Finally after walking through the stage and taking two elevators he kind of pointed in the direction of a room. 

I peeked in the window of the door and saw that the room was full of people, which scared me because I was 10 minutes early and in general, Italians are not early. I hesitatingly walked into the room and stood back for a minute, hoping somebody would notice me and take some pity. Nobody did. Everybody was sort of standing around like something had already happened, so I asked the first person I saw if this was in fact Clemenza di Tito rehearsal. It was, and it turns out that it started at 3 and not 4. I guess they changed it and tried to contact my agent but weren't successful. So now here I am, my first rehearsal for my first gig in Italy and I'm an hour late. Great. 

So, after the gentleman I had asked if I was in the right place explained to me that I was late, he just walked away and left me standing there alone. Finally somebody else (who I later learned was the very nice stage manager) took pity on me and started introducing me to people, but I have to say, they were like "yeah, who are you?" It's funny, in the States, somebody from the opera company picks you up and makes sure you get to your hotel, where a welcome packet is waiting for you explaining everything like how to get to the theater and when your first rehearsal is, and what will happen at said rehearsal. Then you arrive and usually have some kind of meet and greet where everybody introduces themselves, maybe says where they live, and welcomes you with open arms. Here apparently, you find your own way, guess what time to arrive, and then just stand there stupidly. I gleaned that what I had missed was the explanation of the production by the director, but the very nice costume designer showed me the drawings of the costumes (while I stood there stupidly) and they look really cool, as does the mock up of the set, which I looked at during another moment when nobody was talking to me. Then I had no idea what we were about to do - staging, musical, which cast, so I just kind of took a chair and sat in it. Of course, when it because clear what we were going to do (musical rehearsal) I realized that I was sitting right in the middle of the first cast, and the whole second cast was sitting on the opposite side of the room together. I'm in the second cast, but it was too late to move, so I just sat there again, feeling like a total dummy.

The conductor rehearsed all the musical numbers with the first cast, and I was told that we'd have a 30 minute break and then return, I assumed to rehearse the music for the second cast. But when we got back I discovered that we were going to be staging - the first cast again, and I was going to be getting a very sore butt from all that sitting around. I'm actually not complaining for real about all the watching though, because it's kind of easier to be watching at first in a situation that is so new for me. Although at the end of the rehearsal, the director asked me if I had sung this role before, and when I answered "no" He said "Oh no! That's terrible because you'll never get enough rehearsal in the second cast." Excellent. 

But the good news is, I actually spoke and understood a great deal of Italian today, and it's only the first day. I have no idea what we're doing tomorrow, but at least I know what time rehearsal starts.

At least I think I know.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Day uno

I'm here. First of all, for all of you that were sitting at your computers breathless since my last entry, my bags were NOT overweight! I mean, since I flew Air France they weighed them in kilos so there seemed to be more leeway, and I think the woman behind the counter was letting me get away with something, but yipee, no surcharges there! 

After waiting in the security line which was only for passengers going to Puerto Rico for a good 20 minutes, I was finally ushered into the correct line and hurried through security to wait in the terminal for 2 hours. But having a late night flight was well worth it because I actually slept some on the plane, and when I wasn't sleeping I was busy putting on my "understanding foreign languages hat", and seeing if I could get the flight attendants to talk to me in french. It worked about half the time, and frankly, it probably confused me more than anything since I know much more french than italian, and should not be trying to conjugate verbs in french when I don't even know the infinitive of most of the italian verbs. 

But it was fun to be in Paris if only for an hour. Ah, I'll always have April in Paris (especially if you don't count that horrible trip 2 Aprils ago to visit a french boyfriend which lead to tears and crisis and lots of long distance phone calls to my mom). And the weirdest coincidence  - I actually saw an Italian coach I had worked with in New York two weeks ago as he was boarding his flight back home to Bologna from Charles de Gaulle. What a coincidence that two weeks ago we were working together not two blocks from my apartment, and that we ended up having a layover in the same airport at the same time. It's a small word after all. 

So, here I am in Torino, Italy. I haven't seen enough of it yet to give my impressions, but what I have seen so far has been very pleasing. Oh, and it took about 4 hours of my being in Italy for me to give up being a vegetarian, as I have been trying to be since the beginning of this year. Did I really think I was going to come to Italy and not eat prosciutto? Who was I kidding? 

Wow - I think that sublingual melatonin is actually making me want to go to sleep at a somewhat normal hour. Or maybe it was the half bottle of wine I shared with my friend. Either way, buona notte - ci vediamo domani!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

on my way to Italay

Here goes. My very first blog entry ever in my whole life (pretty much).

I'm leaving for the airport in a couple of hours to fly to Italy. Everyone keeps asking me two things: have you packed yet? and are you excited? 

I've definitely packed, and I'm praying that my suitcases are each less than 50 pounds. I did the "if it's so heavy I can't really lift it, it's probably too heavy" test, but it's highly unscientific, and I have a feeling the people at Air France would have me open up my suitcase in the middle of the airport and start pulling stuff out as soon as look at me. 

To answer the second question, I am definitely excited, although probably more nervous than anything else at the moment. I haven't ever sung or worked in europe before (in case anyone is reading this besides mom and dad, I should mention that I'm an opera singer, and I'm on my way to Italy to rehearse and perform an opera there), and in fact I only have been to Italy once for about 10 minutes to do some auditions, so I have absolutely no idea what to expect. I know for sure there won't be any nice arts administrator waiting for me at the airport with a sign with my name on it like in Columbus or Milwaukee for example. In fact, the italians won't even know I've arrived until I show up to the first day of rehearsal (how exactly do I get to the theater, by the way?). 

But I've learned my music, packed my life up, and am welcoming this new adventure with open -  if perhaps a bit heavy laden with overweight suitcases - arms. 

Italia - Io vengo!!!