Friday, October 8, 2010

Wien and beyond

I arrived Wednesday evening in Vienna, and was excited to see this amazing historical city for the first time. I was only slightly dismayed to discover that my hotel, which is right in the center of Vienna on a street called Schubertring, was wedged between a TGI Fridays and a McDonald's. Sigh. But that didn't deter me from finding an excellent Schnitzel and a very large Austrian Beer at a very non American, non fast food chain before falling into bed, still jet-lagged and exhausted.

I didn't have rehearsal until 5 PM the next day and had to check out of the hotel at 11, so I used the time to visit a few places in Vienna that had the most significance to me personally; Mozart's house, the Staatsoper, an most importantly, the famous chocolate and pastry shop Demel. No actually, I guess Mozart is the one figure who I would actually say is more important to me than chocolate. And that is saying A LOT. I was very excited to get to see the actual apartment where he composed Le Nozze di Figaro, and I'm sure I wasn't the first one to try to surreptitiously touch things like the walls in the hopes that my fingers would come into contact with something his fingers had touched. The movie Amadeus has made it impossible for me to picture anyone other than Tom Hulce whenever I try to picture Mozart and what he must have been like, so as I wandered the rooms, I kept seeing a white wigged Tom/Wolfgang running around and getting into trouble. I also kept trying to have a "profound experience" but I kind of felt more like I was looking at a potential sublet or something because they don't really have furniture in there since they don't know what was there or what each room would have actually had in it. But I did get teary in the section of the museum where they were talking about his death and playing the Requiem. He was exactly my age when the world lost the greatest composer of all time, and he managed to write every single one of my most favorite musical moments in those 35 years, whereas I haven't even managed to get married or spit out a kid yet. It's mind boggling to comprehend what he accomplished in the space of my lifetime thus far.

I also had my first rehearsal with the conductor on the Kindertotenlieder yesterday, and it did feel good to make music again, despite my protestations that I wasn't ready to get back in the saddle. It's especially nice to work with a conductor I know and who knows my voice, and to finally turn these pieces into music. What I mean by that is that I really am happier when I'm collaborating on something than when I'm trying to do it all by myself. I certainly have my own ideas, but being shaped and coaxed by a good conductor makes me feel so much more like I'm creating something, even without the orchestra present.

Then I was driven to St Pölten (the town an hour outside of Vienna where the concert will take place) last night after the rehearsal, and had my first rehearsal with the orchestra today. It all seemed to go well, and other than the challenge of getting used to singing something so low in a big hall as opposed to in the little rooms I've been practicing in, the pieces felt good. Now I just have the dress rehearsal and the concert, both tomorrow, and then Sunday I fly back to Berlin for rehearsals of Barbiere, which begin Monday.

Speaking of Barbiere, I saw via her blog that Joyce DiDonato has launched a new website, and when I looked at it, I nearly pooped my pants when I noticed on her schedule that she will be singing Rosina at the Deutsche Oper TWO DAYS after I sing it at the Staatsoper. Also, because of renovations to the Staatsoper, we will be performing in the Schiller Theater, which is only a few blocks away from the Deutsche Oper. So two days and a couple of blocks are all that separate THE Rosina of our time I'm not even freaked out because I think someone will compare us or something - it's just, why did I have to be simultaneously performing the same role with Joyce - why couldn't it have been someone who's name I didn't recognize, like it was last year when the Staats and the Deutsche had dueling Barbieres? I know it's ridiculous to compare one artist to another, but it's very hard not to be intimidated by someone who has so obviously mastered a certain role when you still feel like parts of that same role give you hives. Luckily I'm skipping town the day after my second performance, so I won't be in town to hear the applause for her Una Voce, that will almost certainly resonate not only two blocks down to the Schiller Theater, but all the way over to East Berlin, where my apartment is. Instead of crying into my currywurst, I will be safely ensconced in Chicago and out of the fray. You think I'm kidding, but I saw her sing Rosina at the Met and she got even more applause at the end than Juan Diego. More than JUAN DIEGO. For his signature role in The Barber of Seville.

Yeah, I'm totally out of there.


Andra Dan said...

Hey, I am glad that you are writing again here on your blog. I missed you and your news.
I have listened to Joyce's Una voce poco fa- a lot, and I do believe that the has the most magnificent version of it until now. But you really can't be that freaked out or feel strange because people will compare... they will or they won't, you can't control it in any way. But your mission is to be the best Rosina you can be-and that will bring the public to tears, I assure you. An with that wonderful voice of yours, I can't believe that it will be so much different than any other great Rosina. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, this may be considered heresy, but I honestly prefer the colors, weight, even technique of your instrument! So don't you worry one milisecond about Joyce. I know you're kidding with much of this, but still - know your own talent. I love Joyce, don't get me wrong on that.

I do hope you are enjoying the joys of's not to be underestimated ;-).

Thanks for continuing to write about the singer's experience and process, all the details such as how one has to make the shift from practice room to performance hall. Huge difference; even the most veteran singers have to contend with this adjustment.

Good luck with your concerts, you will be wonderful. And your Rosina will be great, truly.

Sibyl said...

There are innumerable colors and interpretations for any given role, and the world needs them all. Trust your talent, intellect and hard work! A constitution that can handle a currywurst is certainly up to all challenges!

E. Moore said...

I wanted to tell you that over the past few months, I've read your entire blog from the beginning and I really enjoy your witty and insightful take on the "inside" perspective of opera. Keep on writing and I'll keep on reading!

I should preference my next comment by saying I am a 27 year old new opera fan who knows very little about opera and music theory in general so I apologize if this seems completely off but here goes... I saw Les contes d'Hoffmann at the Met on Sat and the entire time I kept thinking that you would make an amazing Muse/Nicklausse. Have you ever performed this role or considered performing it? Although I've never seen you in person, I feel like I've gotten to know you through your blog and video posts. (Forgive me if my suggestion/question is insulting musically in some way.. I'm really just not knowledgeable. All I know is that I enjoy opera.) :-)

AlisonDee said...

Hehe it would be an interesting fact for you to know that the word Demel in Maltese means manure LOL.