Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Poetry Has Been Published!

Attention all lovers of music, opera, literature, and poetry!

I’m very excited to announce that my book of poetry, The Songs of Orpheus, has been published by Amazon as an Ebook. That means you can read it on your Kindle or on your computer (you just have to download the Kindle application here). I would love for you all to check it out and maybe purchase it - it’s only $2.99 (you can spend that much on one latte at Starbucks). Not only is it about 50 pages of my poetry, but there are photographs dispersed throughout to add to the mood of the book.

The Songs of Orpheus is a chapbook in two parts: the first is a collection of 23 poems based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Narrated by Orpheus, it isn’t simply a retelling of the story. Instead, it’s an artistic view on the major themes of the myth, adding decoration to the basic scaffolding of the original plot. The second part is composed of stand-alone poems which all explore the artist’s view of the world, with a strong emphasis on music and culture. The first half is heavily influenced by Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice and the second half has many musical allusions, including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, and Massenet’s (Goethe’s) Werther so you will really appreciate it if you’re a music lover.

I’ve worked hard on this little book and I’m very happy to see it finally published. I’d love to share my work and passion with you, so if you’d like to check it out, please do. Also, if you read it and have opinions about it, please leave a review. I’m trying to make my place in the literary world and every little bit helps!

You can buy it by clicking the title above or by clicking here. Even if you can’t buy it, I’d love for you to promote it to your friends. Also, here is my official Author Page.

You guys rock and I really hope you enjoy it!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Artist's Body

While I was rehearsing for L'elisir, the company brought in their choreographer from time to time to sit in on rehearsal. For the first time in my experience, the choreographer was watching every scene that we rehearsed, making comments on our body language and on how we moved onstage. I found this both extremely helpful and a bit intimidating.

Granted, I'm always aware of my body when I'm onstage. It's crucial not only for good stage presence, but also for creating character and bringing across emotion and mood to the audience. But when the choreographer was sitting in on rehearsal, I became hyper-aware of how I was using every single part of my body at every moment. I learned a lot from her comments and probably avoided even more comments simply because I was conscious of what I was doing all the time.

The best lesson I took away from this was to keep this hyper-awareness all the time. It taught me this new level of paying attention to my body, no matter how important I am to the scene at a given moment.

I just love how body movement can define a character. This concept has intrigued me from the very start of my love affair with opera. I love to see a singer play different roles and develop a completely different set of mannerisms for each one. It is this attention to detail that makes opera so rich and exciting.

Here is one of my favorite examples of the extremes that a singer can take to create a specific body language for a character. Here is a video of Joyce Didonato as Rosina from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia and here is another video of her playing Isolier in Rossini's Le Comte Ory. Each character's movement vocabulary is determined by their personality, gender, social station, etc and that is very clear in Ms. Didonato's portrayals.

Personally, I love playing with different types of movement every time I'm given a new character to learn. I find this particular part of the process to be simultaneously challenging and fun. It's been a huge change to go from my character in L'elisir to Hansel. Although, to be honest, Hansel is one of my favorite characters to play because of his physicality. He has so much energy and youth in him; you can always find something new to do with the role. Besides, I find the pants roles to be a special challenge since a male body language differs so much from a female one.

Speaking of pants roles, there is a new resource out there now for pants roles. This website goes through all the basics and answers the questions that most mezzos encounter when they're preparing pants roles. It covers everything from movement to binding and it presents good videos and DVDs to study. I would recommend it to anyone who is preparing a pants role or will most likely have to in the future.

Just as an announcement: all the information for my Hansel and Gretel is up on the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts website. I'll be performing Dec. 10 at 2pm in Bethel, NY. It's going to be so much fun! Not only are we doing the show, but we're having a Q&A in costume with the kids after the show. I am really pumped for this production. It's a great cast and the production is simply adorable. It's going to be fun to have so many kids in the audience! I fully support exposing children to opera as early as possible and I think this is a great way to do it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Art of Storytelling: Opera for the Masses

Over the past weekend, I participated in a very interesting and different experience. I sang in Divaria Productions' L'elisir d'amore and we performed as part of a private party at the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park. The people ate dinner and then watched as we put on an entire opera in the dining hall.

Not only did the venue interest me, but the response of the audience also intrigued me. There were no subtitles or English translations of any kind: there was only the music and the actors on stage, bridging the language gap and bringing the story to life with their actions and emotions. I could tell during the show that the audience was completely engaged. They laughed and gasped right along with the plot. We had the chance to mingle with the audience at a reception after the show and everyone mentioned that they'd completely understood the story. I know now, for a fact, that opera transcends language and time period and culture. It speaks to everyone. I guess the question is: are they willing to listen?

I'm always trying to get more people interested in opera. I think this is a great new way to reach yet another type of audience. It reminds me of the "olden days" when opera was a type of after-dinner entertainment. It felt like we were reliving some old pastime that has since been abandoned. It was simply exciting. I'd love to have the opportunity to do something like this again.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Super Update!

There is so much going on right now! I could just drown in music, but instead, I'll write this blog to let you know what I'm up to!

First of all, Eugene Onegin with Delaware Valley Opera was an incredible experience. I had the opportunity to collaborate with so many talented and experienced artists! I learned some very important craft (and life!) skills from my cast- and crew-mates.

Here's a picture of me as Mama Larina with my "daughters." They had to make me look old with makeup because apparently I "look like I'm 2." LOL. Like I said, I really loved working with them.

That's why I'm very excited to work with DVO again soon in their production of Hansel and Gretel. I'll be singing Hansel in their abridged, children's version of Humperdinck's opera. I adore the role of Hansel and I'm so beyond excited to be singing it so soon! That production will run in December and will be on tour throughout the Delaware Valley area (NY and PA).

But right now, I'm focusing on L'elisir d'amore with Divaria Productions. They mounted this production last Spring and they've been asked to revive it for a private dinner party in Tuxedo Park. How cool is that? It's like Ariadne auf Naxos without the Composer. I've performed in some really interesting places, but I've never before performed in a ballroom! I'm looking forward to the experience: it should be unique!

Besides all this opera stuff, I've been applying to grad schools and summer programs. Some programs have really streamlined their application process this year and I appreciate it. I mean, I still spend hours filling these things out, but it seems like less to me.

Well, that's all for now, but I'll keep you updated as things progress. I have things lined up for the spring, too, so there's tons to talk about!

Also, I wanted to let you know that I have a very active blog over at Tumblr. It's Operarox! and not only do I post opera-related things every day, but I host opera liveshows where opera lovers come to chat about opera. I show clips on a given topic and then we discuss them. Past topics have been: Love Duets, Best Sidekicks, Unknown Singers, Old School Heroes, and Scary Moments in Opera. It's a lot of fun and I would suggest it to anyone who enjoys opera. I'm also currently running a contest to boost my following and I'll be giving away opera prizes. So far, I've announced two prizes: a Don Giovanni DVD and a Susan Graham CD. So if you're on Tumblr, stop by and check out my blog! If not, you might want to check it out because there's a fun and vivacious opera-loving community on there that would love to have you!

I hope you are all well and I'm looking forward to all the fun stuff that's happening!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

30 Miles to Civilization

Hello from sunny Nowhere!

I'm kidding. Kind of.

It's been fun creating Eugene Onegin out here in the middle of nowhere. Here we are, a band of singers, learning to live in a place where there isn't much to do. Most of us are from Manhattan or some other city, so it's been a bit of culture shock getting used to driving 30 miles to get anywhere.

And, yet, it's such great character research. The characters in Eugene Onegin have to stave off boredom and the mundane lifestyle of the country. In this way, every little social interaction becomes a really huge deal. Hence the tragedy of Eugene Onegin. Like I keep saying: this all could have been avoided if Eugene had just put a ring on it the first time around! (lol)

All kidding aside, I'm having a great time here at DVO learning and studying and just bonding with other singers. I'm basically the youngest in the cast, so there are so many people to learn from! I've definitely grown as a performer throughout this experience already, having been confronted with all new challenges. It's such a leap to go from school to this, but I couldn't love it more. I've been given the opportunity to be part of a professional production and it has taught me a lot about how to handle the ropes out here in "the real world," among other things.

One of the best parts of being out here in the country (besides being able to hear myself think!) is the absolutely gorgeous house where I'm allowed to stay. It is absolutely charming and I am so grateful for it. There's nothing like going back after a long day of rehearsals and being able to just relax in a comfortable, beautiful home. I'm sharing it with a Tatiana and an Onegin and we've been having so much fun together.

There is something special about being part of a cast: for a little while, they become like your adopted family. This sense of belonging, and of working to create something together, is one of the most satisfying elements of this art form. And when you hit it just right, it can be magic. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Lesson of NaNoWriMo

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo (or, National Novel Writing Month) is an annual extravaganza where many brave souls join together to try and achieve the impossible: a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. This lovely adventure takes place every November and I have had the privilege of not only participating, but of actually completing the task.

"But what does this have to do with opera?" I hear you all asking. This is not just a moment for me to brag about my extra-opera achievements (because, believe me, that novel was a piece of crap), but to use this idea to explain another.

NaNoWriMo was an adventure in every sense of the word. It had the thrill of starting something new, the frustration of getting stuck after a while, and the joyous exhaustion of falling across the finish line at the last possible moment. I finished with 50,003 words with 3 minutes to spare. But getting there was the most difficult part, because in order to finish on time, you have to write around 2,000 words (or roughly 4 Word Document pages) a day. That means you have to sit your butt down in that chair every single day no matter what and get those words written. NaNoWriMo taught me a new type of discipline and I haven't forgotten that lesson.

When I was given my first assignment with Delaware Valley Opera, I had to learn a 38-page role in 30 days. Not to mention, this role was in Russian, a language that I cannot speak or even read. I was learning it all by rote (aka, by IPA). That meant I had to sit my butt down on that piano bench every single day no matter what and learn/memorize that music. It was a new sort of discipline, but I already knew that I could do it because I'd done it before. I'd made it over that finish line just in the nick of time and I could do it again. It was a matter of discipline and focus.

And I did do it. I finished memorizing the role just in time, just as I thought I would. Every project brings new challenges and this one has been no different. I'm learning so much from rehearsals and from working with older and more experienced singers. I feel so incredibly lucky to be training in this way. But I'm also lucky for my non-opera experiences, because we can learn from anywhere and every lesson is important.

NaNoWriMo and Eugene Onegin together taught me that it's best to try as many things as you can, because you never know when one thing will help you achieve another. The world is a huge web made of connections that you can sometimes not foresee, but are grateful for in the end. I'm happy to be learning and growing and finishing things one day at a time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Announcement

I feel that I can now officially announce that this year, I will be part of Delaware Valley Opera's Professional Artist Development Program!

I'm so excited! This is such an amazing opportunity and I can't wait to get started!

My first opera with them will be Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. I'm singing the role of Larina (Tatyana's mother), which is exceedingly beautiful and rather challenging. The language itself is extremely difficult (for me), but IPA helps so it's not impossible. Besides, this is a great time to get better at it! And of course Tchaikovsky's music is just the right blend of beauty and complexity. It's not easy but it's so worth it!

Right now I'm just pouring over my score and carrying it everywhere (basically sleeping with it like a stuffed animal), spending every spare moment working on it. I sent in my costume measurements and realized, "This is for real!"

I have to admit that I'm rather nervous: the rehearsals start in a month and this will be my first real "professional" experience. I just really want to be über-ready. Needless to say, I'm pumped! And I'll be sure to fill you all in on things as they progress. Until then, no rest for the weary!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Recital Wrap-up

I just got my pictures back from my recital. Here are a few highlights. :)

All photos by David Salazar

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Darn you, Carol Vaness...You Make It Sound So Easy

That aria never gets old. And Ms. Vaness sings it so effortlessly. The beauty of her tone always cuts right to my heart.

You could say that this video is a peace-offering of sorts: an apology for being so quiet recently. My life has been a bit of a roller-coaster and it's hard to sort ideas and feelings into words when they are so turbulent. But I'm back now and I can tell you a little bit, if not all, of what's going on.

First of all, my senior recital went well and from what I understand, the audience enjoyed it (which, arguably, is the best sort of reward). I had tons of fun, sang stunningly gorgeous music, and was blessed to collaborate with incredible artists. What more could a girl ask for?

With that wrapped up, I only have opera scenes left (in terms of solo singing) at school before I graduate. I'm excited to sing both Carmen and Hermia, but I'm equally excited to graduate. It's been a good four years. They've been instructive, challenging, frustrating, exhilarating, and fun. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to experience them and now I'm happy to move on and do something new.

I'm just as committed to my dreams and goals. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for me! I can't tell you everything just yet, but I have some exciting news on the horizon. Just hold tight until I can make the proper announcements!

But I can tell you that I will be attending New York Opera Studio's Summer Intensive in June. Let's hear it for opera boot camp! They haven't released the scenes yet, but I'm very excited to find out what I'll be working on this summer. I'm sure it will be a great learning experience and another chance to meet more singers. :)

Until next time -- Tchüss and Happy Easter!

Friday, April 8, 2011


I can hardly believe it, but tonight is my senior recital! It's been a really crazy week leading up, but I'm ready and I'm really excited. It should be a lot of fun and just a nice night of music. What else could you ask for?

Family + Friends + Mozart* + Music + Food + Pretty Dress =

*Due to an unforeseen outbreak of strep throat, Herr Mozart will not be in attendance as planned.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Caption Capers

"I finally got to sing at the Deutsche Oper but all I got for a costume was this stupid towel."

There are some things that make me a bit less envious of older, "more successful" singers.

And there are some things that just make my day. :)

Read/see more about Deutsche Oper's production of Tristan und Isolde at Intermezzo's blog.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

An Empty Inbox

"But the important thing about learning to wait, I feel sure, is to know what you are waiting for." -Anna Neagle

When I imagine things, I always see the beginning and the end, but I never seem to foresee the place between them, the void that begs to be filled. This unfortunately oversight always leaves me scrambling, desperately searching for a solution to this unforeseen problem.

I finished my auditions and it took a day for the fact to sink in that I'm actually done. It seemed like a miracle. Then the brilliance of completion faded and the dullness of waiting swept in to take its place.

I have never been so upset by an empty inbox.

I feel like I'm living in suspended animation -- it takes everything in me to focus on other things (like, for example, my senior recital which is only a month away!), things which are necessarily important. I just can't stop thinking about the results of my auditions. These little emails will determine how my life will continue for the next few years. Right now, that seems like a big deal.

I know I'm probably dramatizing this whole thing. In fact, I know I am. The emails just have to come and then I can deal with it all. Until then, I have to accept the fact that the suspense will continue to torture me.

I guess until then, I can just laugh at opera shenanigans. That Carmen skit never gets old...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pants or Skirts?

If I project my schedule into May, I will have done no pants roles for 10 months. NO pants roles. 10 months. I never thought those two ideas would occur in the same sentence.

Skirt roles can be fun and interesting and challenging and complex. Donna Elvira was nothing short of a challenge (in every sense of the word) and now I'm confronted with another challenging role: Carmen. I'm also happy to play a romantic lead (Hermia) even though I'm a bit miscast since she's supposed to be short (haha).

It's just a bit jarring to go from all those pants roles to absolutely none. I never realized how freeing playing a pants role can be. When I was playing Orlofsky, I showed up to rehearsal every day in jeans and sneakers and lounged around all day. When I played Elvira, I had to wear a pencil skirt, high heels, and a 1950s style corset every day. As Orlofsky, I could basically do whatever I wanted but as Elvira, I had to hold myself to her exacting standards. I mean, those are the difference between those two roles specifically, but I think, in general, as a pants role you can run around and have fun but as a skirts role, you have to be on your toes and walking on eggshells, just as most women do every day.

So it's just another change that's happening right now. I'm sure I'll be playing pants roles again soon enough. I mean, who knows what I'll be doing in a few months? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I'd love to share one of my favorite new videos, courtesy of the lovely Joyce Didonato. And if you asked me, I'd pick pants any day. ;)

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's With All The Preparing? Just Go!

It's hallway time -- that place between the closing door and the opening one.

Closing door: Don Giovanni

I got my first review! Sure, it's only in my school newspaper, but my name was mentioned and in the printed article there was a picture of me holding a gun to Don Giovanni's head so I'm more than happy to share it with the world. Naturally, my favorite line from the review is: "The three female leads Pecce, Feltkamp, and Fabian had voices so powerfully moving that they made the show." :)

Don Giovanni: The Man, The Myth, The Sex Addict (not my colorful title, but the author's)

Opening door: Grad school auditions

I'm less than a week away from my first audition! I'm very excited and a bit nervous, but I know that I'm ready. Or, at least, as ready as I'll ever be. I did some last minute shopping yesterday to spruce up my audition attire, so I feel that my preparations are officially complete. I'm grateful that this first audition is so much earlier than the others because it gives me a chance to learn from this first experience and have time to implement some improvements before my next set of auditions at the end of the month.

Things just keep zooming along and I have to do everything I can just to hang on.

Oh! And I'd love to extend my congratulations to the lovely Cecilia Bartoli on her (long-awaited) marriage to the talented Oliver Widmer! I wish them all the happiness in the world.

I'm always so happy to hear about people in the opera world getting married. I'm not sure that it happens often enough, but when it does happen, it always brings a little bit of sunshine into my day.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Questo il fin

Don Giovanni, my work and my passion for the past 9 months, has come to a close. It's always strange and difficult to say goodbye to something that was such a huge part of your life for such a long time. Of course I'm not overly sad because 1. it was such a rewarding and satisfying experience and 2. it's never "goodbye forever" with opera because there's always the chance that you will play that role again. However, this cast and this production was a one-time thing and I will miss it, but I'm not sad at all because it was such a positive experience and I feel accomplished.

This production involved a ton of "firsts" for me:
-first time playing a woman
-having something more than terza donna
-working with a conductor who is not my professor
-bowing last (woman)
-"receiving" the maestro during the bows
-curtsying (!) during the bows
-singing a role that's often considered a "soprano" role
-performing secco recitative in a full-length opera
And there were many more-- I'm sure of it.

I think the worst part about closing a show is putting aside the character. Elvira was fun and she had so much energy. I learned from her and from the journey that it took to find her. I will miss singing her music and living her life, but I'm happy because I had the opportunity to do so in the first place.

For me, the end of a show, more than anything else, births gratitude. I am constantly in awe of the wonderful and incredible things that I'm able to experience and be a part of. Now I have to go back to "normal life" and get ready for some more important things. It's different, but it's still exciting. There is so much to prepare for and to look forward to.

So I'll leave you with a few visual highlights from the show. As usual, I adored my costume, which is something that I always hate giving back.

Pictures Courtesy of David Salazar (#1 & #3) and Joseph Estrema (#2).

Friday, January 21, 2011

And Straight On 'Til Morning...

My life is a whirlwind of Mozart and high heels and '50s lingerie. Rehearsals for Don Giovanni are constant and intense. But I couldn't be happier! It's so thrilling to wake up every morning and think, "Today I'm going to have the opportunity to create something. Today I get a chance to be somewhere else, to be someone else, and to experience something completely new." I feel so lucky, so privileged.

We had Sitzproben on Tuesday and Wednesday and a Wandelprobe last night. It felt so wonderful to sing in the theater again. My voice always feels a little cooped-up in the rehearsal space. It was so freeing to let it loose in the big house again. And of course it's always a treat to have an entire orchestra to sing with! Mozart's music just soars and I feel that rush of adrenaline as I simply enjoy the ride.

I can't wait for tech week/"hell week" to start! I'm really attached to this production and I love it to pieces. My fellow artists and the production team are so great to work with and I'm just so grateful for the entire experience. It's only going to get better from here on out!

My favorite part of the early rehearsal period (before you add in all the trimmings) is those moments of discovery. For example, during one of our rehearsals, my director called out a Shakespearean character for me to integrate into the scene. I did and instantly the scene took on a completely new life for me. That's one of the things I love most about art: one art form or work of art can inform and enhance another. Shakespeare's characters are so deep and complex. Therefore, bringing even one element of one of his characters into my interpretation enriched my character and my scene.

And we all learn from one another. I've watched some incredibly talented artists render Shakespeare's works and they have inspired my own work. I have watched the others in my cast and listened to my directors. Art is all about building. True art is always increasing and never diminishing. Each individual adds their uniqueness to the mix and the final product is so much bigger and greater than any one person could have achieved on their own. Differences don't divide the whole, but instead they multiply it. This is the lesson I've learned these past few weeks in rehearsal.

This realization encourages me, inspires me. I can only hope that what we've created will inspire others and bring something new and good into a world that desperately needs the new and the good.