Saturday, November 28, 2009


So, as I was trolling through facebook I saw that someone I know had posted a link to a video on youtube of the soprano that is singing Agrippina in the production I'm about to start rehearsing at the Staatsoper, so I took a closer look. Upon inspection, it turned out to be a video of her singing Sempre Libera from Traviata at 17 YEARS OLD in her native Bulgaria. I don't know her - I've never met her, but I was absolutely astounded when I saw this video. I mean, I started taking lessons really young, and could sing pretty well at 17 (my dad recently found some old tapes which I'm trying to digitize to post on the blog for laughs) but this 17 year old is completely out of control. It would be hard to believe she was that young except when you look at her face, she really looks 17. Prepare to be amazed. Seriously. I mean, I'm not usually posting videos of singers I haven't met on this blog, but this is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen or heard. For realz.

Monday, November 23, 2009

10,000 strong

My blog counter passed the 10,000 hits mark in the last couple of days, so I figured I should do something to commemorate this event. And then I realized I hadn't written a blog post for some time, so maybe actually giving people a reason to look at the blog might be a good way to mark the fact that people are, well, looking at the blog.

I was sort of too busy living it up in New Orleans to be writing stuff down. Not only did I really bond with several members of the cast, but also my best friend Georgia, who now lives in New Orleans, returned from the gig she was away on, so I was abnormally occupied with socializing when I wasn't rehearsing. It's always fantastic when I meet people I really like on gigs, but then terribly sad to leave. And to top it all off, the day before the opening, I got really sick.

I've sung performances sick before, so I try not to get all hysterical when I feel a sore throat creeping up on me, but it still really sucks to have to sing when your throat is on fire, or when you have so much congestion, you sound more frog than human when you try to speak. I have this absurdly deviated septum - so much so, that when a new ENT scopes me and looks up my nose, he usually literally says "WHOA" and jumps out of his chair a little bit. I used to get horrible sinus infections all the time, but luckily, I don't seem to get sick that frequently any more. To call it a "deviated septum" is something of a misnomer - it should really be called a "horrible mangled crashed car on the inside of my nose" and I should probably get it fixed one of these days. But I've never ever cancelled a single performance - I always find some way to make my voice work, so I haven't really had the impetus to embark upon major surgery. But I digress.

The performances went well, in spite of the illness. My biggest complaint about being sick was that I couldn't socialize with everybody enough as our time together drew to a close. But as I travelled back to New York today, I had time to think about the people I'd met this time around and what I will be able to take away from knowing them. Since I have this strange nomadic existence where I get to meet wonderful people, but only have them in my life for a limited amount of time, I try to organize in my brain the lessons I can learn from them, and the things I can take away with me so that they'll remain with me even though we're apart. It sounds totally cheesy, I know, but it's my inner-sentimentalist getting the best of me, so just bear with me.

If there was one thing I learned from the people on this job, it's that being kind is totally possible regardless of who you are. I won't use names so as not to embarrass anybody (they're a rather humble bunch), but when someone is successful enough to sing in all the major opera houses in the world, but still makes a point to ask you how you're feeling (because you're sick) every time you leave the stage, and also makes a point to generously compliment you about your rather small part, it makes you really appreciate that person's ability to be selfless. And when you see someone who is excessively attractive and talented completely choosing to ignore that part of themselves and treating every person - young, old, pretty, ugly, from super to star with exactly the same amount of respect and attention, you realize people really are capable of seeing beyond their own egos. And when someone with a huge role who has a lot more to worry about than you do, insists on driving you to the theater (because you don't have a car) even though your call is 45 minutes before said person, you have a chance to marvel at the fact that some people really do manage to keep things in perspective no matter how many award winning albums they've sold. All this to say that I was continually inspired and amazed by the way people treated one another during this experience, and that's what I'll take away with me even though I had to say goodbye to the people themselves.

Oh lord, I promised you that in this post I would be more sarcastic and be filled with dark humor. Sorry. I guess I'm getting all soft on you. Occupational hazard. But just look at me in this photo taken by a very nice guy from the Montague chorus - I look like I'm ready to be picked up by Wendy and go directly to never-never land. And that I would like it there.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Totally Radical

I know, I know, I am always talking about how wonderful the cast I'm working with is, how nice they are, how well everyone sings. And it's true, I have worked with some good ass singers in my day. But I'm telling you people, this cast for Romeo et Juliette here in New Orleans just couldn't really be any better!! We have some serious world class singing going on, and it's getting me all excited. We had our sitzprobe today (first orchestra rehearsal) and I seriously wished I had a lighter that I could hold up in the air like it was a rock concert because I was so impressed with what was going on onstage.

Leading the cast is Paul Groves, who is probably not only one of the nicest people you could care to know, but one of the best tenors out there singing today for sure. He's from Louisiana and has a house here in New Orleans, so he finds time in his schedule between singing places like the Bastille and the Met to come sing shows here. I was so impressed when I heard him in the theater today - and this is his first time singing Romeo! I was seriously peeing my pants during his aria.

Juliette is Nicole Cabell, and after winning the Cardiff Singer of the World competition, she has gone on to make a recording with Decca and sing all over the world. She just has this really creamy luscious voice - plus she is one of the coolest chicks I've had the pleasure of hanging out with in a long time.

Rounding out the cast, in case you were curious, are a whole bunch of totally awesome singers; Mercutio is Matthew Worth, Tybalt is Jason Bridges, Friar Lawrence is Raymond Aceto, and Father Capulet is Mark Schneible - and then there's lil ol me, playing boy wonder sword fighter and one aria wonder Stephano.

I've been in this business a few years now, and it's pretty rare that I get this enthusiastic about the entire cast. But good singing inspires me, especially when it's attached to such nice, humble people. Did you throw up yet from my sincerity and positivity? Sorry, I'll try to be more acerbic in my next post. Promise.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

the voice, she is a changin'

The last time I sang Stephano, the role I'm currently singing in New Orleans, I was a mere babeh - I'm not even sure but I think it might have been 6 years ago. I haven't had the occasion to sing the aria much since then, so when I sang it in rehearsal the other day (unwarmed-up and probably right after I ate, cause that's the way I roll) I think it was the first time the aria had come out of my mouth in a few years at least. And as I was singing it I was thinking - "hmmm - this feels.....different." I knew my voice had changed when I was singing Cenerentola in the beginning of this year because all the low stuff felt easier, but singing Stephano, which is high, wasn't more difficult, just different. It was weird - I was used to singing it with my old, lighter voice, and when this thicker voice came out, I kind of felt like "whoa - whose voice is this?" Maybe it was just the mayonnaise from my turkey sub, but probably it was also the fact that I've gotten a little thicker, both in the body and the cords, as I've gotten a little older, and so, my voice has too.

I'm also learning the Messiah right now, because I will sing my first one this December. I opened up the score the other day and was filled with nostalgia when I saw that my name and phone number from high school (which was 545-SING by the way, because I was just that awesomely dorky) were inscribed on the inside cover in my Dad's handwriting. When I was a senior in high school, I sang two of the soprano solos from the Messiah at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco because I was in the prepatory department at the San Francisco Conservatory at that time, and was allowed to audition for their big Messiah performance. That was definitely a huge deal to me, and now here I am, x number of years later finally getting around to learning the alto solos for the first time because my voice has finally settled enough that I feel confident with the ultra low tessitura of the alto part.

I still marvel at the fact that I started taking voice lessons at 9 years old. I got REALLY lucky in that the teacher my parents found for me was committed to teaching real, classical technique to every one of her students regardless of their age. She built me a foundation that allowed my voice to change during all these years, and she taught me this phrase, which always holds true no matter how your voice matures (which my dad had to remind me of because my memory is terrible): "It's neither wrong nor right - it's only free or tight." Thanks Thelma!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I want it now Daddy

Now that I've signed the contract, I can officially announce that I will have the distinct pleasure of playing a little brat this summer! I will be singing Veruca Salt in the world premiere of The Golden Ticket, a new opera based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Honestly, playing a bratty child is probably one of the funnest things I can think of to do with my summer!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

And now for a complete change of scenery:

New Orleans.

I have now gone from eating Bratwurst in Berlin to eating Jambalaya in New Orleans in less than a week, from freezing cold rain to 75 degrees, and from corsets to sword fights. My head should be spinning, but I'm too busy enjoying myself.

I also went from singing a part that sort of stresses me out to one that couldn't really be less stressful. That is, except for the sword fighting part. I'm singing Stephano in Romeo et Juliette (he's Romeo's page, a non shakespearean addition to the opera), and while the aria he sings is charming and easy and fun, the sword fight that follows takes some concentration. We had our first meeting with the fight coordinator last night, and I kept apologizing for the fact that I'm a girl. Which is stupid, because girls make great fencers - the problem is that I'm a klutzy girl, and if you put a sword in my hand and I might quite literally put someone's eye out. All of the other guys doing the fighting are pretty athletic and have had some sword fighting experience - my only experience was the last time I sang this role, and I felt equally uncoordinated at that point. My problem is that I tend to over-think the moves; instead of just letting myself naturally parry and thrust, I start to forget how to tell my right from my left. Of course, I'm in no actual danger because all the moves are created to keep one's partner safe (even if one's partner is lacking in the grace and strength departments). But the thing is, I want to look tough and butch, not like some three muskateers reject.

However, I am good at all things pratfall related, so when my partner has to smack me on the butt with his sword and knock me to the floor, I'm golden. It's just the parry / thrusting that I'm still a little fuzzy about. But according to our fight coordinator, I'm well on the road to studville. I just have to keep my eye on the target and concentrate. And maybe do some push-ups. And also, maybe take some steroids.