Friday, June 25, 2010

And Away We Go!



Just a quick post before I leave for New York Opera Studio.

This is going to be opera 24/7. Ahhhh!!

I just hope I don't forget anything...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Who Stole the Cookie From The Cookie Jar?

Friday I'm leaving for the New York Opera Studio Summer Intensive. I'm so excited! I'm ready for tons of German rep, diction lessons with Nico Castel, and, of course, pants roles! (I'm still getting used to the idea that I'm playing a woman in the opera in January...)

I will be singing Hänsel (Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel) and the Third Spirit in the Pamina "suicide scene" (Mozart's Die Zauberflöte). Both characters are little boys. This should be so much fun!

My music in the Hänsel scene was a bit tricky at first but I'm really having fun with it now. The melodies are so gorgeous and downright cute at times. The witch's music is horrifying - I won't have to act at all! She sings repetitive staccato high Bs, trills, huge leaps, and other crazy stuff. I'm looking forward to bringing this scene to life.

Here's a clip from Hänsel und Gretel with the charming Brigitte Fassbänder and Edita Gruberova. It's not the scene that I'm doing, but it exemplifies Humperdinck's musical style and it shows you just how cute Hänsel and Gretel are! :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Elvira

In January 2011, I will be singing Donna Elvira in Hofstra Opera Theater's fully-staged production of Don Giovanni. I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!

I am beyond excited for this opportunity. First of all, this is the largest role that I've ever been given the privilege to sing. Second of all, it's a Mozart opera. Third, it's Don Giovanni and we're talking about Elvira. She is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting female characters in the Mozart repertoire (and that's saying a lot considering her competition). And her music is out-of-this-world amazing. I mean, she gets to enter to the opening of "Ah chi mi dice mai." What more could you ask for?

Her dilemma is so compelling to me. I've already begun to really imagine how it all went down for her and how she must be feeling throughout the opera. I still can't believe that I'm going to have the privilege to interpret her character and bring her to life.

I feel so intensely grateful. Every day I'm reminded of how lucky I am and I just get chills, thinking "How could I be so lucky? How could I be allowed to be a part of this incredible art form of opera? How could I be allowed to be such an active part of this great story of Don Giovanni and his brush with mortality?" The gratitude within me is just overwhelming. There are no other words for the way I feel.

I take this all very seriously. There's a responsibility to do things to the best of my ability. It's like when a writer sits down to create their novel: she (or he) owes it to her readers to give her absolute best on every page. So I'm ready to wrestle through recit and coloratura and Italian to get to the heart of it all.

I cannot wait. This will surely be another great adventure. :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Maureen Forrester, 79

Maureen Forrester, a well-known operatic contralto and one of my favorite singers, passed away last night at the age of 79. She has left behind a gold mine of recordings, all of which have taught me invaluable lessons about music, expression, and life.

Her Orfeo was the first recording of hers that I ever heard. I was studying "Che faro senza Euridice" at the time and this is the first recording of the entire opera that I listened to. I was swept away by the deep expression she evoked with her singing. Even the recit stuck out as immensely alive. I sat there with my headphones on and my eyes closed and I could see Orfeo and understand his predicament. I felt the depth of his loss and it moved me.

A bit later, when I was studying Mahler's Rückertlieder, I turned once again to her recordings and once again, I was blown away. She is a subtle and expressive artist and her singing has changed the way I feel about music.

Even though the world has lost a great singer, we have not truly lost her because her recordings remain and they can still affect us. I suppose that's the beauty of music; in a way, it's eternal and time cannot dim its power.

Here is a segment from Ms. Forrester's Orfeo where he enters Elysium, the Greek version of Heaven, and sings about its beauty.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Checkin' Out Chekhov

I know this isn't opera or music, but it's something that I enjoy, so here is my find for today:

I love Chekhov's plays, but I had never read any of his prose until I picked up his The Story of a Nobody. It's short (under a 100 pages) and sweet and beautiful. His prose is stunningly poignant; its simplicity has an inherent profundity. I absolutely loved it.

I picked it up to fulfill my Mission101 goal #74: read a book by a Russian author. I didn't really want to suffer through War and Peace or anything and I've always wanted to read Chekhov's prose. They had this little book at my library so I took it out. I finished it in two days.

For some reason, his writing reminds me so much of F. Scott Fitzgerald. They really don't have much in common, but I think it's the way they describe their characters. Their characters are so real that you can imagine them sitting in your living room without causing a stir. They belong anywhere and everywhere -- they are simply people and it is rewarding to probe their depths, or lack thereof.

And I think it's also the feeling that these writers leave with you. At the end of the story, you feel fulfilled, as if you've just discovered some great secret, but you also feel a bit lost, as though something was left unresolved. It results in something nearly perfect with its perfection marred by a single unsettled object. It's like a beautiful room, decorated with much grace and intelligence, with a single painting that is slightly crooked or a vase that simply does not match the style of the room. In a normal situation, the object would be inconsequential, easily overlooked, but amidst the great web of the story, it is essential, irreplaceable. It demands intense attention. The ordinary transforms itself into the unique, the commonplace into the singular. The phenomenon is not new to me, but it continues to shock me; just as good writing can again and again wriggle itself into my innermost heart and stun me with its brilliance.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Infamous Carmen

Everyone always disagrees about the character of Carmen. I've thought about her a lot (she is infinitely intriguing) and I was reminded about her again today while I watched an interview with Vesselina Kasarova (found here - Thanks Smorg!). Unfortunately, if you don't speak German, you won't be able to follow any of it, but here are some things that I found especially interesting.

First of all, everyone always seems extremely animate when it comes to their interpretation of Carmen. Ms. Kasarova is always animated (she's so much fun to watch) but she seemed especially insistent in this interview about her view of Carmen. The interviewer brought up the idea of critics and VK laughed, saying that this was her opinion and no one had any right to criticize it.

She brought up the fact that Carmen is a sort of Don Giovanni. This is an idea that I've toyed with myself. They are both epic characters - they stand out from other characters because they are so huge, they are so legendary. Some people consider Don Giovanni to be an archetype. I think the same could be said for Carmen.

Another thing that VK talked about was that, for her, less eroticism is better because "less is more." It is true that the amount of eroticism in opera in general has increased over time, but I think this is especially true of Carmen (I think immediately of Anne Sophie von Otter's Carmen in David McVicar's recent Glyndebourne production). I'm intrigued by VK's thoughts and I'd love to see her interpretation in full. Her voice is so much suited to the role in general, and I think her unique artistry would definitely bring something new to the character.

Looking over VK's upcoming schedule, I am once again dismayed to find that she is not venturing into the States this year. I don't blame her, since she is nice and settled in Europe and she has a family to consider, but I cannot wait for the day when I get to see her perform live. I guess I'll just have to make another trip to Europe sometime soon. ;)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Gluck Attracts the Punks

So I have a little brother - he's seventeen and intoxicated with music. Music and card tricks are about the only two things that can keep his attention for more than five minutes. He plays the guitar, the oboe, and percussion, but I think his favorite instrument is the stereo. He listens to music all day long. Since he is a seventeen year old boy, he's really into metal and screamo and all that, but he also has an ear for orchestral music (he loves Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture and Beethoven's 7th symphony). Even though he enjoys orchestral music, he has never showed any interest in opera. At least, not until now.

I was sitting on my couch, watching Kasarova sing Gluck's Orfeo (Munich Opera), and my brother suddenly sat down with me. Together we watched Orfeo lament the loss of his beloved Euridice, be told by Cupid that he could get his beloved back, and then descend into the underworld to find her. He didn't say a word: he just watched.

Then, just as Orfeo was about to conquer the evil spirits of Hades, my mom called us to dinner and the opera went off. But my brother's fascination with Gluck's masterpiece didn't end there. He started commenting on the singing and the music and the story. He was really impressed by Deborah York (the woman singing Cupid); he said that he'd never heard such perfect high notes. When my sister came in and asked a question, he took the initiative and said, "He [Orfeo] just wants his girl back. This is a really good story."

I told him that they were playing Orfeo at the Met next season and I asked him if he wanted me to take him to see it. He's never been to the Met despite my urgings that he go. He was ecstatic that I'd bring him to see Orfeo and quickly agreed.

Another score for Team Opera. This is just more proof that opera is not as "inaccessible to the youth" as everyone seems to think it is. ;)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Personally...

It seems that there is a constant debate over how personal a blog should be. Certainly everyone can read it and ultimately you're responsible for everything you write, but where does the line lie? When does a blog become so sterile that it ceases to be an extension of a personality but instead a dry recording of facts? But when is one saying too much?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and I've been meaning to write about it. Then I read two posts in the same day on this very issue (consequently both written by opera singers, here and here) and I knew I had to address it.

I've come to realize that ultimately, life is always a tight-rope act: it's about learning how to stay on the rope and not lean too far to either side. It's about scouting the territory, finding the boundary lines, and deciding which lines you should cross and which lines you should completely avoid. Some things are obvious, but others are not. There are grey zones and we must learn how to navigate them.

We are all unique -- each of us is singular in this universe, and I think we should share our selves, our intricately crafting being, with others. We all can harbor a light inside us and if we let that light shine in the world, it can work against the darkness that already lurks about us, plaguing us with its presence every day. I write to share my ideas and thoughts and experiences with those who would care to hear them and I write to shine my light in the dark places of the world. We all deal with things and have bad days; why shouldn't I write about the good things in life? I can't tell you how many times I've gone over to Joyce DiDonato's blog and been inspired or uplifted by her positive posts. When I see something that I like, I try to do the same; I always try to follow a good example and this is one of those instances.

I don't claim to be able to do much - to be anything great or peerless. But I do want to do good things, and if I can help one person at one time in his or her life, then all I have done will be worth it because there is no greater thing than to help someone else. This is one of the reasons I sing and this is one of the reasons I write. I will not be stifled, I will not be stopped when I am doing what I know is right.

So this blog will be personal. I will do my best to shine my unique light and perhaps scare away a few rain clouds along the way.