Saturday, May 29, 2010

Personal Lives

You know, I usually never discuss my personal life on my blog. The subtitle of my blog is "the life of an opera singer equals comedy", but it also equals drama, and boy, do I have some stories. Not just about myself of course, but about all the friends and colleagues I've encountered over the years. Now, that would be a book - maybe when I retire I can write a tell-all. Not just yet though.

That being said, I was inspired recently by my dear friend Nick Phan's blog post on being gay and open about it in the entertainment industry. He is brave enough to discuss one element of his private life in a public forum, because it's important and it helps other people overcome their own fears and promotes understanding and empathy. So I figured I could to write a blog post, not about the specifics of my personal life, but about some of the challenges of being a woman who is a traveling artist and who is working regularly. It's going to be a difficult post for me to write, but one that I think will be interesting and hopefully thought provoking, so bear with me.

I'm 34 years old and single, with no children. The perfect age and status to be having an opera career. I'm at an age where my voice has fully matured, but still has room for growth, where I've learned enough emotional lessons to make me strong enough to battle the demons that this career inflicts, and secure enough in my vocal technique to make it through a variety of crazy situations. Being single and childless also allows me the freedom to take any job I want, be on the road as much as I need to, and take every opportunity that comes my way. I don't have to worry about making money to feed my family, and can take any job that might be artistically fulfilling, even if it means I barely break even because the cost of the housing alone eats up most of my fee. I can jet all over the world from St Louis to Austria to France to Berlin (just to name the next few places I'll find myself) and I can set up apartments in both the U.S. and Europe, and find out which place I might like to call home for the next period of my life. I can go get a massage when I'm stressed and buy myself a new pair of shoes, because I'm not saving for my child's college fund. I can get enough sleep and I can learn music at any hour of the day or night. I can make deep and lasting friendships with all the extraordinary people I meet because I'm not spending hours skyping with my family back home. And I even have time to write a blog, a hobby I find fabulously cathartic.


But it can get super lonely. And the more you work, and the more successful you become, the harder it gets to find someone who is willing to deal with your insane lifestyle and settle down and have a relationship with you. Unless someone is in the business and therefore has a deep understanding of what you do (and not even then, in come cases) most people find it impossible to imagine trying to sustain a relationship with someone who could be on the road for 10 months. Women seem more wiling to cope with this - I even know a lot of couples where the woman travels with the man to all of his gigs. I don't know any couples however, where the man travels everywhere with the working woman. I'm sure there are some, I just don't know any. And so many of the couples that I know in the business who got married in their twenties are getting divorced now - this lifestyle really takes it's toll on relationships. And unlike some lucky women singers, who have no desire to have children, I have always known that I was a mother, and that I would one day have some kids. I'm just not entirely sure how that's going to manifest itself within the confines of the reality I have created for myself thus far. And as wonderful and fulfilling as it is to have a career as an artist, I can tell you, your career isn't going to kiss you goodnight, or come visit you in the hospital if you're sick.

I don't mean to be overly pessimistic - I certainly also have friends who are singers who are married and have fantastic relationships with their spouses, and who find ways to make everything work. But I do have to say that even though it's 2010, and our society has come a long way in the last hundred years, it's still really difficult for a woman to have a successful career, and have a family. How do you keep your relationship together when you never see each other? Maybe you travel with your kids until they are of school age, but what about when they need to start going to school? I'm curious what Anna Netrebko is going to do when her son needs to start first grade - is she going to be away from him for 10 months or bring him on the road with a tutor? How are she and Erwin Schrott, another incredibly successful and busy singer, going to make it work, I wonder? And although her career is obviously on a very different level than mine, I think she was just a couple of years older than me when she got pregnant, so I find myself wondering how she plans to make it all work.

I can honestly say that at this point in my life, overall, I'm pretty happy. I've had my share of successful and not so successful relationships (although I haven't been married yet), but the time that I have been on my own, I've been able to focus on my career and get it off the ground, and to make some incredible, life long friendships that I will always have no matter what romantic relationships may come in and out of my life. But having chosen the life of a nomadic artist poses some huge challenges to one's social life that I haven't quite found the answers to yet. And I guess, like everyone else in this business, I'll have to cross each bridge when I come to it, to find the solution that works best for me.

In the end, I think the best way to find a relationship of any kind and make it last is to know yourself, and have confidence in who you are as an individual. That way, you are not necessarily relying on the other person to give you strength, but instead, you are choosing to share the best of your individuality with one another. And if this career does anything, it allows you - no - it forces you - to see who you really are and what you are really made of - something that can only help you be a better partner. And maybe, just maybe, assuming you find the right person - this makes opera singers excellent spouses and parents, not impossible and difficult ones. Learning to overcome obstacles is, after all, kind of our specialty.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Willy WonKA, Willy WonKA

I'm writing it like that because in the chorus of the first act finale, they sing his name a million times, in a very catchy tune with the accent on the last syllable. Someone asked me the other day how I was getting the songs from the movie out of my head, and I could honestly say that I don't remember how a single one of those songs goes, so catchy are the tunes from this opera.

I think this show is going to be really funny and really magical. I had very little concept of what it would be like from just learning my own part, but hearing the whole thing a couple of times through now in musical rehearsals, and seeing some of it up on it's feet, I have fallen a little in love with the whole thing. The idea of four bratty, spoiled children played by adults and one innocent, honest child played by a (fabulous) little boy is brilliant. And the director, Jim Robinson, is giving each character very specific personalities and personality traits - I have been given a comic affectation - I won't say what, because I think it will be funnier if it is a surprise - but let's just say it makes an already funny character a whole lot funnier.

It's very interesting taking a beloved children's story and an iconic movie and making it into an opera. Of course there is pressure to do it justice, but there are also a great many possibilities. In this version, one child is played by a countertenor, who sings a stuttering aria in the style of Handel, one child is a coloratura soprano who explodes with high fast notes when she's blowing up into a blueberry, one gluttonous child is played by a tenor who is asked to wail and swoop up to many sustained high notes while he's drowning in a river of chocolate, and one child (me) is written for a mezzo singing into the stratosphere of her range to denote her derangement.

One thing that's interesting about this project for me is that I don't get to do any beautiful singing that shows off "my voice." I put "my voice" in quotation marks because of course, you can hear my voice - I sing a lot of high B flats for example - but because the role is so heavy with character, it doesn't exactly shine the light on my vocal strengths. It couldn't - you wouldn't want to give a beautiful aria to such an ugly character! But as a singer, my ego is tested when I don't get the chance to "show my stuff" the way I'm used to. Instead, the role is a challenge musically, dramatically, and in having to find the balance between being outrageous but not overdoing the comedy. There are certainly plenty of things to keep my brain busy, and perhaps less pressure than if I were singing a standard lyric role. But it's funny for me to notice how much I get used to hearing certain types of praise, and how quickly my ego deflates when there are no opportunities to show off in the way that elicits that particular praise. But how ridiculous! There are so many challenges to singing opera - when you lack one, there are 10 other things to focus on and hone to the best of your ability. But it's interesting to see how easy it is for singers to define ourselves by our VOICE and our VOICE alone. Stripped of the opportunity to show our VOICE (in the ways we may be used to), we are forced to show our other strengths, making us slightly vulnerable, but allowing us huge opportunities for growth.

God - Opera is such a fantastic medium for telling a story. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, but when I see a familiar story told in a new way, I get excited. I might even start doing an oompa loompa dance of joy - let's hope I get around to making a video blog of that one.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hamburger Meat

Nope, not what I had for dinner, but what my throat feels like.

Yesterday, I had a blissfully free day from rehearsal, and managed to get lost in St Louis a record number of times. I didn't think it was physically possible for someone to take as many wrong turns as I did, but I did end up accidentally finding the mall, which, according to me, is always a priority.

And today was my "first day of school" - although we didn't have the traditional sing through with everybody, but instead had more of a work through, so we could hit all the difficult ensemble spots with the conductor once before the "official" sing through tomorrow. And why does my throat feel like hamburger meat? Well, mostly because this role is quite high and often rhythmic, and it's very difficult not to "count with your throat" when something is new in your voice. Plus we repeated all my sections several times, and I sang about 57 high B naturals and B flats. Then after my larynx was somewhere on the second floor of the building, I rehearsed the duet from Barber that I will sing at a donor event this week. So.... hamburger meat.

But wowie wow - I was SO impressed with a) the level of preparation from the cast, and b) what a fantastic group of voices they have assembled for this premiere! It's actually kind of astonishing. I was reminded of what excellent training we have here in the U.S., because to assemble such a large cast like this for an unusual work, and to have every single person sound like a million bucks is really something. American singers tend to have such strong techniques, and that was absolutely evident in today's rehearsal.

Another weird thing about today was that I realized that it was (gulp) 10 YEARS AGO that I was a young artist at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis!!! It was pretty much the only summer young artist program I ever did, and it was while I was still in school, but 10 YEARS???? I cannot believe both how quickly 10 years has gone by, and how much I have changed and grown since then. I'm trying to remember some of the guest artists who were singing in St Louis when I was a YAP here to imagine how the current YAPs might relate to me and my colleagues, but since I still FEEL like a young artist myself, I can't make sense of it in my brain. Add to that the fact that the General Director of the company is someone I became friends with before he ever had this position, and now he is for all intents and purposes, my boss, and let me tell you, this whole experience is making my brain feel like it's turning itself inside out. It's as if my entire life is flashing before my eyes, coming full circle, and reminding me that even though time passes, some things don't change. It may be 10 years later, but I'm still walking through a neighborhood in St Louis on a sunny day, making my way to the same theater, passing the same Starbucks, and the same neighborhood Pub. I'm saying hello to the same music director and the same artistic administrator, and attending the same company welcome party. And maybe the biggest miracle of all for anybody in this field; I'm still singing. Now that just might be worth celebrating.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Story Time

Let me tell you all a little (true) story.

When I was 9 years old, I had already been singing in musicals for 3 years - I'm pretty sure I came out of the womb with jazz hands. But anyway, there were a lot of opportunities to perform with children's theaters where I lived in California, and I took them all, and I was a full on belter - a baby Patty Lupone. At some point, one of the kids I knew from the musical theater circuit developed vocal nodes, and the doctor told her it was from belting, so my parents figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to get me some voice lessons. My dad hunted around, and discovered that there was a teacher in my town who had had a career singing opera, operetta, and musical theater, and who was supposed to be the best teacher around. But she didn't teach children. Somehow, my dad convinced her to make a special case for me, citing the other kid with vocal nodes, so she finally agreed to teach me on one condition; I had to stop belting and learn to sing properly. Which meant training my "head voice" with the proper breathing and sound producing techniques.

I resisted at first, not wanting to lose my loud, brassy belt voice. But by the time I was 10, I was singing Italian Art songs and Deanna Durbin songs, and loved all the things I could do with my new voice. I decided that if belting was bad for me, and I could sing even louder with this new voice, that what I wanted to be was an opera singer. I didn't really have any idea of what that meant, or what it entailed, but I liked singing with this new voice and wanted to continue. I'm not sure how many 10 year olds decide they want to be opera singers because they like how loud their voice sounds when they sing it, but there you go. Of course, now, all these years later, I feel like I was destined to meet and begin studying with that teacher, because clearly this was what I was supposed to do with my life.

The teacher's name was Thelma Dare Ahner, and I studied with her from the time I was 9 until I was 14 or 15 and started studying in the pre-college division at the San Francisco Conservatory. Not only did she teach me singing techniques that have remained with me all these years, but she also instilled in me a sense of discipline for the every day work that is being a singer. I am pretty certain that had I not met her, I would never have become an opera singer at all, and so I was delighted a few months back when she got back in touch with me through facebook, and we exchanged some emails. She made me laugh when she sent me a note that said, "When are you singing in California? I want to hear you sing before I kick the bucket!" (she'll be 85 this June). And since I didn't have any engagements in California on the books, I bought her a plane ticket to Portland instead. She has never seen me perform in an opera, and I haven't even seen her in many years, so I figured it would be exciting to bring her up here and show her what I've been up to for the last 20 or so years.

I didn't realize it at the time that I was studying with her (because we mostly were singing - not having too much small talk) but she performed in the original Broadway productions of Most Happy Fella and Kismet, and the first Broadway national tour of South Pacific. She knew Rodgers and Hammerstein by the names Dick and Oscar, and she toured all over the U.S. during that golden age of musical theater. She also lived in Chicago where she performed Opera at the Chicago Lyric and toured with the Gilbert and Sullivan Players during the war, beginning when she was only 18 years old. She has lived an absolutely amazing life, and I wish I had been able to spend even more time with her to hear some more stories about her years as a performer, but as is always the case when people come in town to see you in a show, your time together is limited. It was a hugely special moment to have her here observing the life of a traveling performer that I am now leading, and to compare notes and discover how many things we have in common. She saw last night's performance, and loved it.

The last two performances here in Portland, alas, were not as good as the first two for me - it's just what I was explaining in one of my previous posts - you can't control what voice you wake up with or how nervous you'll get or how that will affect your performance that evening, so every night varies. But I had many special moments in every performance, and the experience of being here in Portland was so positive, that I am very sad to leave. However, I really don't have much time to mope, since I'm off to St Louis for my first rehearsal for The Golden Ticket tomorrow. Gear switch; Activate!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gratitude, in spades

The other morning, I was feeling a little annoyed. I had just discovered that an opera company was doing a production I've been in before somewhere else, but they had already cast my role. I was also dealing with some scheduling problems that have yet to resolve themselves, and I started to feel that icky, "I have no control over my life" feeling that often creeps up on those of us who are trying to fashion a career out of being an artist. Luckily, I had my friend Nick around, and he thought it would be a good idea to drag me on a hike in the mountains of Portland. Now, people; I don't hike. My poor dad was always trying to get me to appreciate the beauty of nature since we had an incredible state park practically in our backyard where I grew up in California, but I was always more interested in learning how to shuffle off to buffalo or listening to the soundtrack to "Les Mis" than convening with nature. And while I can absolutely appreciate the beauty and majesty of the outdoors now that I'm an adult, I would probably rather spend my afternoon getting a pedicure if I really had the choice. But Nick has been wanting to go hiking since we arrived, and I do love him, so I agreed to go.

As we were hiking the (extremely mountainous and muddy) trails, I was telling him about my career frustrations of that morning, and how easy it was to get into a spiral of "why am I not singing at xxx company???" if you let yourself go there. "Yes, Jenny, but what are you grateful for? Maybe it's time to start listing all the reasons why you are incredibly lucky, and all the things that make your life special." And there, among the beautiful, astoundingly green (because it rains all the time) trees and pathways, I started listing why I was, in fact, ridiculously lucky. Our conversation went like this:
Me:"Well, the point of life is to find your bliss right?" Him: "I should hope so". Me "Well, the truth is, sometimes I get frustrated by the fact that I'm not singing at the Met for example - but if I were singing at the Met, I wouldn't necessarily have had this experience here in Portland. And this experience in Portland has been sheer bliss - everything about it has made me happy and fulfilled. And if I were singing at the Met, I wouldn't necessarily be happier - in fact, I'd almost certainly be more stressed and freaked out, and less happy than I am at this moment. So what I'm grateful for is that I have the opportunity to work as a singer, have artistic satisfaction, AND actually get to be happy and enjoy myself. So the real question is, what the !@#$ do I actually have to complain about? NOTHING." And then I turned the camera on him:

And it's true. Life is much too short to sweat what you don't have, especially when your life is an embarrassment of riches, which for most of us, it truly is. Definitely for me. I'm grateful for it all - including the fact that I have friends who remind me to remember what's important. And you know what? I'm grateful we took that hike. I actually enjoyed it tremendously. Go figure.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Barber, baby

Two down, two to go.

The opening went quite well - there wasn't much I could complain about. But one truly fabulous thing did happen; a piece of flying laundry landed directly on my head, providing a very comedic moment. During the finale of the first act, we are all fighting with each other, and I'm behind the Count, trying to pull him and his sword away from Berta, Bartolo, and Basilio, while Berta throws laundry at us. When I first found out that laundry tossing was in the staging, I recall saying, "Man, if she can just get that to land on somebody's head, that would be comedy GOLD!" It never happened in any rehearsals, although sometimes Nick would catch a piece of it on his sword. But sure enough, opening night, a pair of bloomers flew over his head and directly on top of my head, completely covering my face. The audience went nuts, and since the very next moment was a freeze, I just left the laundry there, on top of my head, until we un-froze. And sure enough, it WAS comedy gold. Alas, this afternoon, the laundry didn't manage to make it atop my head - it was probably a once in a lifetime occurrence.

Before the matinee started today, I was noticing how relaxed I was compared to how I was before the opening performance. I don't know what it is, but I seem to be conditioned to get way more nervous for the opening performances than for the rest of the run. We always have an audience at the final dress, and yet still, when the opening rolls around, my brain seems to scream "IT'S OPENING! MUST BE NERVOUS" and I get more than just the natural butterflies that sit in my stomach before my first entrance. I really wish I could just somehow hypnotize myself out of those opening night jitters, because I have a lot more fun on stage when I'm more relaxed. Singing opera is such a bizarre thing to do- you have to do a lot of work to prepare, but you also have to focus on being completely in the moment when the performance rolls around. Sometimes I literally think - I can't believe I'm doing this right now. This is a completely insane thing to be doing.

But what a fun cast. Bonding with Danny and Nick, my Figaro and Almaviva (and the stars of so many of my videos thus far) has made our stage chemistry unique and special, and allows us to have a lot of give and take on stage as actors. When the three of us are on stage together, I feel a fantastic energy that results from all the fun times we've had together off stage, enjoying happy hours and making wacky videos. It's not often that you have the kind of comfort and connection with your fellow singers that has developed between the three of us, and I am not for a minute taking this wonderful dynamic for granted. Sometimes when art and life overlap, you get the best of both worlds, and I think it's really important to appreciate those moments when they come along.

And then today I had to knock myself in the head, and remind myself that a week from tomorrow I will be at the first sing-through for The Golden Ticket. Daddy, I want an oompa loompa now! Gulp.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Opening night thoughts

So, tonight we open our production of Barber here in Portland. I honestly never know exactly what to do with myself to fill the hours between when I wake up and when I go to the theater, especially on the day of a performance. Some people have very specific rituals, which they must partake in on the day of a performance. But superstitious person that I am, I'm afraid that if I have any rituals, and they become disrupted somehow, I will feel out of sorts. So what happens to me between say 9 AM and 6PM on the day of a performance is anybody's guess.

Part of it depends on how nervous I am about the evening's performance. Opening Night is always the worst, although thank god, I haven't been having any of that debilitating anxiety that makes me want to stare out the window all day and question my own sanity for agreeing to go through with something so frightening. Instead I take walks, I read, I eat, I take pictures, I look at the internet, and I wait for the hours to slowly tick by until I can make my way to the theater and start getting ready to GO!

Today as I was browsing facebook, I got one of those little annoying facebook suggestions about who I should be adding as a friend based on how many friends we have in common; Joyce Didonato. I met Joyce only one time, after she had come to see a performance of Little Women at City Opera (and I was singing the role she premiered, Meg) and she couldn't have been nicer or more supportive. But seeing as that was our only encounter, (and also that she's, oh, I dunno, FAMOUS) I don't think I'll be bothering her on facebook with a friend request. However, it did prompt me to think about one sister friend we do have in common big time - Rosina. I would guess she's probably sung Rosina more than any other role, as I have, albeit in different types of theaters than her. So facebook wasn't wrong - we do have "friends" in common - just not necessarily the ones they were talking about.

One of the many things that I really loved about Joyce's Rosina, when I saw her do it at the Met, was that she was really likable. She was spunky, yes, but you also really liked this girl and wanted to be her friend. I think that's probably because Joyce is really likable, and she was letting those parts of her personality shine through (much like another beloved mezzo, Frederica von Stade was known to be able to do with her characters). So tonight, instead of trying to "make" Rosina likable, I think I'm going to focus on letting myself shine through in her. My impetuousness, my girlishness, my shyness, my strength, my gawkiness, my humor, and my excitement about overcoming obstacles and finding new paths to take. These are all things we share, and I hope I can keep those alive and available in her tonight.

That and my tap dancing skills. You didn't know Rosina could tap? Oh totally - she was WAY ahead of her time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The same but different

I've been very lazy today as I prepare for the final dress rehearsal of Barber here in Portland, and I started thinking about how certain things in this career are so incredibly variable, and how some things always stay exactly the same.

My colleagues and I were just chatting the other night about how one of the most difficult parts of this career is how little control you have over your life. You really want San Francisco Opera to hire you for their productions of X? Too bad, there's nothing you can do about it. You really want to go to your sister's wedding? Too bad, you have a dress rehearsal in France that night. You would really like to plan some big things in your life in the next few years? Too bad, you have very little idea where you'll be in the world, or how much money you'll be making, unless of course you're a big star who is booked way in advance, and that is only a very select few. And when you're at the level that I'm at, things vary so wildly, you cannot even believe sometimes that it is all part of the same career. Sometimes, things are bliss - as they are here in Portland - but not always. Here in Portland I have a big dressing room all to myself, with a couch and a chair and my very own bathroom. But I've been in situations where I shared a dressing room with 16 other women and one co-ed bathroom with the entire cast. Yesterday, the opera company picked us up in a Limo(!!!) in order to bring us to our tv interview, but I've been in a production where I literally had to spray paint my own pair of shoes, or driven myself to a performance in a huge cargo van after slamming my gown in the door. Fees vary amazingly as well - sometimes I get way more money than I think I can possibly deserve to run around the stage and have fun, and sometimes the fee doesn't even cover the amount of money I have to spend on coachings and lessons in order to prepare for the project. Sometimes the opera company puts you up in a great hotel, sometimes they put you in a terrible apartment, and sometimes they leave you completely to your own devices to find a place to live and to pay for it yourself. Sometimes you know 3 years in advance where you'll be singing, and sometimes the contract isn't completed until a month before you're supposed to arrive. One day you might wake up and for no reason, your voice is really rough and doesn't want to do anything, and other days you wake up and feel like god himself curled up inside your throat and is ready to extend his golden rays through your mouth. Some gigs you arrive at and you instantly bond with all of your colleagues and spend 4 weeks having fabulous dinners at wonderful restaurants and getting to know incredible people in a deep and real way. Other times nobody talks to you, and you spend every night in your hotel room reheating food and watching reruns on tv. And you have absolutely no control over any of these factors - you just have to be willing to accept them all, and know that your life is almost never going to be boring (except maybe when you're watching those tv reruns).

But then, there are some things that remain the same. For me, I always get a little nervous, whether I'm performing at the opening of La Scala (okay, that's never happened, but you know what I mean) or for 1200 school kids (like I will be doing tonight). I always warm up with the same set of exercises (pretty much) and I never want to eat much before the performance. I always get nervous when I first look at a review, and I am always overly critical of my own performances. I always have that same feeling the day of a performance - like I have to conserve my energy, but am not really sure how to fill the day, and can't decide when the best time is to eat. And I always feel more relaxed if no one I know is in the audience before the performance, but disappointed after when nobody I know saw what I did. And I always get that same sense of great purpose mixed with fear and excitement just before I step out onto the stage.

And since I'm not religious, I always say a little prayer to the composer whose work I'm about to perform. I say, "If you're up there (or out there, in the case of the living ones), and you can do anything about it, help me do what you would have wanted for this piece of yours tonight. Deal? Wolfgang, or Gioachino, or Georg, or Bob?" And hopefully they hear me and say "Pshaw, you're fine. I've gotta attend to this weird eurotrash production where they have everyone standing on their heads and wearing spacesuits while singing MY music."

What happens next varies wildly, and that can be pretty wonderful.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Talking on camera

So, today Danny, Nick and I went on a local Portland television show to promote our performances. After we left, I commented, "Remember that time we all got interviewed, and Danny answered all the questions, Nick cracked jokes and I just sat there looking stunned?" After watching the clip on the internet, I see that I didn't look too stunned, but I have to admit that they were playing those clips from yesterday's dress rehearsal on the monitors while we were talking, and when they started playing Una Voce, my aria, I was totally focused on watching it and and analyzing my own performance, and not on what we were talking to the host about. In fact, when I watched the whole clip of the interview just now, I was honestly hearing the things Nick was saying for the first time, even though I had been sitting right next to him as he said them. I'm like Narcissus falling into the water because I'm too busy staring at my own reflection. Yikes. Anyway, it was fun and funny, and I'm glad Portland Opera is really working all the PR angles because every community should be doing that in order to make opera more accessible to the mainstream. If this teeny version is causing you undue eyestrain, click menu and you can look at a full screen, albeit slightly pixilated version:

click here for link to the website containing clip
(I had to remove the embedded clip because it played automatically every time you pulled up my blog, and I didn't want everyone who looks at my blog from now on for all eternity to have to listen to a clip of me not talking on an interview just because they want to look at my blog)

And just for fun, here's a video interview that Nick, Steven Condy and I did for the Portland Opera website about our characters in the opera: