Monday, December 10, 2012

Jingle All the Way

My first semester at grad school is wrapping up at an insane speed.  At this point, I'm just trying to hold on and get everything done on time.  I had a concert this past week and I have two more in the next two weeks.

This Sunday, we're having our big holiday gala: Dawn Upshaw & Friends, A Winter Songfest.  We've been working on ensemble and solo pieces, pulling together through additional rehearsals and coachings.  Today, I was having major dance class flashbacks as we choreographed the Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters (and, more recently, Michael Buble/Puppini Sisters) version of "Jingle Bells."  This is not something that I ever imagined myself doing in grad school.  However, I can't help but enjoy a good surprise.

These past few months have been nothing short of thrilling.  Sure, it's been a tremendous challenge, but I feel good about the things that I've accomplished so far.  I know that I have so much more to do, but I look forward to it with enthusiasm.  Naturally, it has been overwhelming at times, but the people around me have helped me get through every stressful moment.  I'm realizing more every day how important it is to have a strong support system.  My mentors and peers are immensely helpful, but it's also good to have people outside of this environment who are always there for me.  And they're the ones that I'm looking forward to seeing when I go home for Christmas.

At the end of the day, I can't help but think about the holidays.  I'm unabashedly soaking up all the Christmas music I can get and I've made a list of all the Christmas movies that I have to watch when I get home.  I can almost feel the sticky cookie dough between my fingers -- it's so close!  I can't wait to spend some down-time with my family, boyfriend, and friends.  It seems like a fitting reward for this semester's work and I know it'll be a great way to recharge for next semester.

But it ain't over 'til it's over, so I've got to go catch some Zzzs.  I'm wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and an amazing New Year.  Here's to fun and exciting things! 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

First Semester Run-Down

It's been a while, I know, but you should forgive me because I've been running like the Energizer Bunny.  When I'm not studying or practicing or trying to reclaim the use of my brain, I'm irrevocably asleep.  In short: I love this program but it's a heck of a lot of work.

In other words, I'm in heaven.

It's only fair to catch you all up, though.  Basically, I have class every day except Friday, when we all pile into a van and drive down to NYC for our voice lessons.  Needless to say, a van full of singers is never a dull experience.  Thankfully, our driver has a strict no-singing policy, so we all stay more or less sane.  The best part is when one of us brings a home-baked snack.  We have some really serious bakers in this program.

My Core class is definitely my favorite.  It's a combination of literature, poetry, and art song study.  We're all required to learn one art song per week.  We have to recite the text for the class, give some background on the piece, and then get coached on the piece in a master-class type setting.  Right now, we're reading Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and studying Goethe.  I love Goethe's poetry, so this has been a blast for me.  I also happen to love the German language, so memorizing the poetry hasn't been too bad.  It's definitely a challenge to have an art song performance-ready in one week, but everyone has risen to the occasion.

I'm also taking the following classes: German diction, German language and translation, acting, movement, Alexander Technique, and coachings.  I coach with the heads of the program, Kayo Iwama and Dawn Upshaw, and also with my collaborative pianists.  I've been getting so much feedback and it's been so extremely helpful.

We have our first public concert, "Arias and Barcarolles," next Wednesday.  I'm excited to sing for the community.  I've also been assigned to a smaller concert later in October.  It's great to have a venue to perform recital works more than once a year.

My current assignment in Core is Wolf's setting of Mignon's song, "So lasst mich scheinen."  I love the creepy factor of this piece and the surprising harmonic shifts.  Wolf really understood this strange character.  Here's a performance by Arleen Auger from 1988.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rhinebeck Wildlife - 1, Kim - 0


Well, here I am at my new pad in Rhinebeck.  Do you like my backyard?  (I'm told that it's technically the front yard, but I can't bring myself to think of it that way.)  It's been a bunch of work getting settled in, but I think that I'm finally ready to go.  I've got a stash of Goldfish, so I'm all set. ;)

I went to the farmer's market this morning and they had an entire beehive on display.  It was amazing and a bit scary to see so many bees in one place.  Most of them stayed in the glass structure, but some came and went, landing on the bottles of their honey or just flying around aimlessly.  I found it so strange that the bees were completely ignoring the people, who were rather close to the bees' honey stash.

Later, I went to the mall to pick up a few things and as I was getting into my car, I felt a sharp pain on my arm.  I looked and a bee was sitting there, stinging me.  What's the chance?  I haven't been stung in at least five years, so I forgot what it feels like.  In the words of a famous British kid, "It hurt and it's still hurting."  I drove home, my arm swelling up and throbbing, and I couldn't get over the irony of it all.

After some ice, pain killers, and weird home remedies, it's doing much better.  On the bright side, I'm all moved in and ready to start orientation tomorrow.  My classes start on Tuesday.  I'm equal parts nervous and excited, which I must admit is a bit confusing.  But I know that I'm as prepared as I can be, so I'm just going to ride this thing out and do my absolute best.  I know that in a week I'll feel better about everything.

It's just amazing to see one of my dreams coming true right before my eyes.  It's been an interesting adventure getting to this point and I know that my journey as a singer will only continue to be thrilling, challenging, and unexpected.  So, here's to a new chapter!  I'm sure that I'll have tons more stories to tell soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

As I was packing, I found myself mentally making a list of things that I've recently come to love.  Since I need a break from packing, I figured that I'd share these things with you.

1. Jessica's blog, A Soprano Steps Out

This blog has really inspired me this summer.  I especially love her post about choosing love instead of fear.  I also like her sillier posts about freezer food and shopping.  She's honest, down-to-earth, and a passionate writer.  I haven't enjoyed a blog this much in a long time.  Best of all, this summer I got to meet her, hang out with her, watch/hear her perform, and get to know what an awesome person she is.  This blog is an accurate reflection of her personality and heart, and that's what I love most about it.

2. My New Justice League Mug


Who doesn't love a new mug?  I thought that I should bring at least one of my famous/infamous mugs with me to my new place, so why not this one?  The only thing wrong with this mug is that it's completely lacking Wonder Woman.  But I guess you can't have everything...

3. Mailchimp

This is for all my singer friends out there who are thinking about starting an email newsletter.  I found this great service and, so far, I'm absolutely loving it.  I'm hoping to send out my first email newsletter in the middle of September.  If you'd like to join my mailing list, you can sign up here! :)

4. Eisley's The Valley

I've really been grooving to this CD.  Below is the video for their title song, "The Valley."

 

5. Milk and Sugar Cafe's Coffee

As you all know, I'm an absolute coffee fiend.  Some of my favorite coffee is served at the Milk and Sugar Cafe.  Chris and I went last night and I remembered just how much I LOVE that coffee.  If any of you coffee people are on Long Island, you have to check it out.  Also, if you're just a foodie, you should probably check it out as well, because their food is great.  They made this sweet potato fry sauce for us that was out of this world and their desserts are always exquisite (red velvet cake, anyone?).

6. My Little Sis's Blog

It's really too cute - my younger sister started blogging.  It's fun to see how different hers is from mine.  That's the lovely thing about blogging: it's personal, so every blog is unique. :)

Well, besides raindrops on roses and schnitzel with noodles, those are a few of my favorite things.  Feel free to share a few of your favorite things in the comments section.  Now it's back to packing for me!  Alas, packing is such sweet sorrow...

Friday, August 24, 2012

From Weakness to Strength: The Elina Garanca Paradox

The first two times I saw Elina Garanca perform live, she was singing the devilishly difficult heroines of Rossini at the Met.  She commanded the stage with her acting and her singing, her voice seemingly perfect in all things.  Her coloratura was flawless and I could only gape in awe.

When I met her at the stage door after La Cenerentola, I complimented her on her coloratura.  She shook her head and said, "No, my coloratura is no good.  It is so difficult for me.  It takes much work."  Taken aback, I insisted that it was perfect and that I could only hope to sing like that one day.  I complimented her overall performance and she thanked me before signing my program and moving on.

I couldn't stop thinking about what she had said.  When I got home, I went online and listened to some interviews with her.  Over and over again, she said how difficult coloratura was for her: that it didn't come naturally and she had to painstakingly learn it and work it to perfection.  I couldn't understand this - it seemed like an insolvable paradox to me.  So I stored the story away in my brain and went about my life.

I remembered this story yesterday when I got an email from Ms. Wong, the composer I had worked with this summer.  She mentioned twice how she loved how smooth my voice was in the recording.  This struck me because I have always struggled with keeping a smooth line in my singing.  Like Elina Garanca's coloratura, smooth singing is my "weakness."  It is the thing that I work painstakingly to improve.  My music is covered with notes like "keep this even" and "smooth" and "line" and (as my old teacher liked to say) "no sausages."  But here is an outsider pointing out my one weakness and labeling it a strength.  Everything clicked and I unraveled the Elina Garanca paradox: hard work and perseverance can transform any weakness into a strength.

It's amazing and liberating to think that anything we see as a struggle, as an inherent weakness, can be beaten into something that lifts us up.  We are not bound by the things that we struggle with - they can be overcome.  The negative can become the positive.

So the next time I feel like I'm cursed by this crippling weakness in my personality or in my singing or in my life, I'll just remember the Elina Garanca paradox and push through, because I know that I can make that weakness into something that shines.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Role Model: Frederica Von Stade

I'm sure that almost every mezzo-soprano in the world will say that Frederica Von Stade, or "Flicka" as she's endearingly called, is an artist they consider a role model.  I have many mezzo role models and Ms. Von Stade is definitely one of them.

The thing I love most about Ms. Von Stade is her personality.  She has an incredible attitude about life, singing, and people.  I recently stumbled upon an interview with her from the Houston PBS in 2009 and it confirmed all the things that I admire about her.  In this interview with Ernie Manouse, she covers everything: her own career, the pressures on young artists, how to balance a home life with a career, arts education, and the continual joy of learning.  This woman still takes voice lessons!  And she's not ashamed or embarrassed to admit it.  She's one of the most humble artists that I've encountered (in interviews, personal statements, other artists' opinions, etc) and a real role model to me in that way.

This interview is really a breath of fresh air.  I hope that I can always be as positive as Ms. Von Stade and just keep learning, because there is no end to exploring and growing it comes to music and to singing.  That's one of the things that I love about this craft - the endlessness of it.  I know that I will never truly reach the point where I know everything.  There will always be something to challenge me.  And that idea excites me.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Here's to Waiting

Two orders of business, and then the real stuff.

1. Last Sunday, I officially finished my recording for composer Cynthia Lee Wong.  I think everyone is really happy with the finished product.  I know that I am.  After the final session, we went to Koreatown for dinner.  The Korean dishes were all new to me and there were a few things that I didn't quite expect.  I've never had to mix a raw egg into my fried rice before!  I was a bit nervous at first, but my colleagues showed me the ropes.  I'm just really glad that I'm good with chopsticks, because otherwise I would have looked like a complete newbie.  Overall, it was a great experience (Korean food included!) and I can't wait to get the opportunity again.

2. This weekend, I'm going up to Bard to see Chabrier's Le roi malgré lui as part of their SummerScape festival.  I've been looking forward to this all summer for a few reasons.  First of all, it's going to be so nice to see a live opera again!  It's been way too long since I've seen one.  Secondly, Bard always does a stellar job with their operas.  I saw their production of Die Liebe der Danae last summer and it was nothing short of stunning.  Third, I adore Chabrier and I can't wait to attend another one of his operas.  Fourth, it will be great to see my family up there and it will be great to show my parents my new school.  It's weird to think that I've been actively pursuing Bard for so long and my parents haven't even seen it!  I'm sure they will love it as much as I do.

The Real Stuff: Exactly one month from today, I'll be attending my first day of grad school!  I'm excited and nervous all at once.  I still have a lurking suspicion that I'm going to wake up and find out that none of it is true.  It remains a miracle to me.  And an honor, of course.  I just keep looking up my teachers and getting more and more giddy about it all.  It's exactly where I want to be and I just can't wait to get started.

This time one year ago, I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't gotten into any of the schools that I wanted to go to.  I'd come so close and been so hopeful only to have it all fall through.  It was not my favorite time, but I see now that it was an important one.  I have done so much this year and grown so much as a singer, an artist, and a person.  A year ago, I wasn't ready for Bard, but now I feel as ready as ever.  The timing has worked out perfectly. 

Did things happen exactly as I wanted them to?  Yes and no.  Yes, because I got into my dream school.  No, because I wanted things to happen right away.  I wanted to go straight from undergrad into grad school.  But that wasn't how it was meant to be.  If I had, I probably never would have gone to Bard and I wouldn't have felt that desperate wanting that I've felt this entire year.  I thought I wanted to get into grad school, but after waiting a year and going through the application process a second time, I really wanted to get into grad school.  There was this new level of desperation that I found that I had no idea even existed.  I started to concoct these crazy plans: what would I do if I didn't get into the schools I wanted?  Would I go travel?  Volunteer for the Peace Corps?  Go to school for something else?  It forced me to ask the tough questions.  But in the end, I know that I know that opera is the thing for me and that assurance is priceless.

So I guess Kelly is right about "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" because I feel a whole lot tougher this year.  I'm ready to get my butt kicked at school and learn some really awesome stuff along the way.  So here's to waiting.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Mechanics of Inspiration

A reader over at OperaRox asked me: Who or what inspires you the most to do what you love?

I love this question!  There are so many ways to answer this, so it might take me a little while to get all my thoughts out.

To start, I'm not really sure if the reader is asking what inspires me to sing opera or what inspires me to pursue the things that I love (which happens to include opera, of course).  I think that both are very important questions, so I'll be sure to cover everything.

It's not always easy to have the courage to pursue what you love and, in my case, it was especially risky since music isn't a surefire job market in any sense.  Also, there's sometimes a certain stigma associated to pursuing a career in the arts -- some people don't think it's a "real" job.  That is (of course!) nonsense, but it's something that I confronted when I decided to pursue music.  I went to college for book publishing, but I changed my major to music during orientation.  On the car ride home from orientation, I told my father about my decision and he didn't say anything.  Instead, he laughed for five minutes straight.  In his defense, he has since drastically changed his mind and is extremely supportive, but it took a while.  However, disbelief or skepticism is the general reaction when I say that I want to make a living in opera.  There are so many obstacles and factors involved with a career in opera, so I guess that I can understand some of the skepticism.  Needless to say, I need a lot of inspiration to keep me strong.

The things that first inspired me to pursue opera were my overwhelming love for music and the works of the great composers.  These remain two of the greatest driving forces that inspire me to sing opera and create music.  There's nothing like a little Mozart or Massenet or Strauss to get me going.  If there's ever a doubt in my mind, I just sit and watch Le nozze di Figaro and it all comes rushing back to me.  The love that I have for music nearly overwhelms me at times.  If I tried to cut it out of my life, I'd have a very hard time getting through.

Another great source of inspiration is other artists.  I love listening to the greats, the currents, and the up-and-coming.  Every artist has something to offer and I try to get something out of every performance.  I have been inspired sitting alone in my room, listening to Fassbaender or Callas or Hampson and I have been inspired sitting in a live concert, listening to other students like myself.  There is inspiration everywhere.  I also love to listen to instrumentalists and to watch dancers -- all art inspires me in new ways and I just love to soak it all in.

But besides music and art itself, the people in my life are the greatest force of inspiration to me.  In the beginning, I wasn't sure that I should pursue opera, but people encouraged me.  My mother has always pushed me to chase the things that I love.  Both of my parents have done everything in their power to help me become what I want to be.  I've also been blessed with awesome friends and family who support me and cheer me on.  Teachers have helped me immensely along the way, giving me resources and help when I most needed it.  There have been so many people who have deposited hope and love into my life and they inspire me more than I could ever express.

My curious reader, I hope that answers your question!  Since I think that I should be more specific, I'm going to make a few lists.  These are by no means extensive, but they'll give you an idea.  :)

Most Inspirational (to me!) Composers
Mozart
Handel
Gluck
Massenet
Rossini
J. S. Bach
R. Strauss
Mahler
R. Schumann
Heggie

Most Inspirational Singers
Brigitte Fassbaender
Maria Callas
Cecilia Bartoli
Vesselina Kasarova
Joyce DiDonato
Susan Graham
Marilyn Horne
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Christa Ludwig
Renee Fleming

Monday, July 23, 2012

Opera Teens Taking Over the World

I'm very excited to announce that my liveshow viewer and blogger buddy, OperaTeen, has been picked up by the Huffington Post!  You can view his debut article about Classical music apps here.

It's so thrilling to see the opera world recognizing the young people who are interested in opera.  Everyone always thinks that opera is some stogy, old art form that can only be appreciated by the elderly and sophisticated.  I have been working very hard to prove that this is not true.  That is why my other blog is named OperaRox and its motto is: contrary to popular belief, opera can be cool.  OperaTeen's succession to contributor in the HP is just more proof of this!

I went to the public library today and my friend the librarian informed me that the library was selling opera VHS tapes.  An older man, probably between 80 and 90 (bless his heart), perked up his ears and asked the librarian where he could see the videos that were for sale.  So, I darted to the video section and ended up rifling through tapes at the same time as the old man.  If a stranger had been watching, who would they have guessed would be more excited about opera tapes - the elderly man or me?  Well, I can tell you that I'm very happy because I walked home with Tannhauser, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Tosca (all fantastic recordings) and it only cost me a dollar.  That is highway robbery in my mind.

But here's my point: opera companies are always trying to find ways to "attract young people" but young people are already excited about opera.  I host opera liveshows every week and people of all ages come and fangirl about opera.  I'm finding more and more people my age on Twitter and Tumblr who not only care deeply about opera, but are very knowledgeable about it.  When I went to opera camp, I met so many young people who geeked out over opera the same way that I do.  OperaTeen is just another one of us and I'm so proud that he's bringing our voice, the voice of the young opera lovers, into the mainstream opera community.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pants Role Concerns

I've been getting some questions recently on my other blog about pants roles.  They're very good questions - questions that I think a lot of singers have - so I'm going to put them up here.

Singing-through-thenight asked: Hello! I will be auditioning for pant roles in the fall for a few productions, and I was wondering if I should invest in a pant suit? Is it really unacceptable to call for a pant role while in a dress? What do yo do? Help! :)

My answer: Great question!  I’ve asked this same question to many different coaches/conductors/directors/etc and basically gotten the same answer.

First of all, it isn’t completely unacceptable to wear a dress.  If that’s all you have, then go with it.  Also, if you’re doing a general audition where you’re singing arias from several different roles (and they’re not all pants roles) then you should probably side with a dress.

However, if you are specifically auditioning for a pants role, it is a good idea to come in a pants suit or at least dress pants and a blouse.  It’s good for them to see you in a way that is closer to how you’ll look in costume.  I’d also do your hair in a way that’s flattering but is off your face/pulled back.  My hair is short so I don’t really have to worry about this part. ;)

Pants suits are a touchy subject, though, because it’s easy to go wrong.  You must wear a suit that flatters your body - you don’t want to hide your form or make it look different from what it normally looks like.  Also, you must find a suit that is professional and classy yet stylish.  Remember, you’d normally be wearing a dress for this audition - the suit should be on the same level of formality but you don’t want to look like you’re headed for a business meeting.  You still want to show a bit of your personality with what you’re wearing.  It’s a tough balance, but it’s completely achievable.  When in doubt, wear something that makes you feel confident and that shows you off in your best light.  :)


Mag4ever asked:  Saw your photos from Hansel and Gretel! My performing arts high school is doing that as our opera this year! Super excited! Any advice for a teenage mezzo on performing, pants roles, or anything else? How about specifically for the role of Hansel (which is who I want to be)? Thanks! 

My answer:  Thanks!  And this is definitely a question that I’m more than happy to answer.  :)

First of all, check out this website for some of the best tips on playing a pants role.  It goes over everything and even gives helpful examples.  Hansel is mentioned specifically there, so it’s definitely worth a look.

Second, watch and listen to every production of Hansel and Gretel that you can get your hands on.  How do professional singers portray the character, both vocally and physically?  What can you learn from them?  My favorite Hansels are Brigitte Fassbaender and Angelika Kirchschlager.  And besides listening to the singers, just really get the music in your head.  That opera has an extremely complex orchestration and it will help you immensely in the long run if you know all the vocal lines and the orchestration inside and out.

Third, practice the crap out of your music.  Just when you think you know that part, something crazy will happen and you’ll be headed right back to your piano to relearn something.  Know every note, every dynamic, every meter change, etc etc.  Hansel is a tricky role - he’s all over the place both musically and physically - so be over-prepared so you can be ready for anything.

Fourth, do some hands-on research of your own.  Watch how little boys play, how they move, what they’re interested in, and how they interact with the people around them.  I’m sure you have brothers or cousins or neighbors who could be helpful in this.  I’ve learned almost everything I know about pants roles from observing.  Just start mimicking guy’s movements and gestures.  It will all come in handy later.

Fifth, have fun!  Good luck with everything and please ask if you have any further questions :)


If you have any questions for me, or if you have anything to add to what I've said here, please don't hesitate to send me a comment.  I'll do my best to answer your questions or pass along your suggestions.

Also, a very happy birthday to a favorite mezzo of mine (who plays her fair share of pants roles!), Ms. Vesselina Kasarova.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nerves of Steel

It takes a lot for me to get nervous.  It happens so infrequently that I can distinctly remember every time in the past five years that I've felt nervous about anything.  Granted, I wasn't always like that.  Between the ages of 14 and 17, I used to get so nervous that I couldn't sing well at all.  It's been a journey between then and now - a journey that I almost forgot about.  And I think this is an issue that almost every singer deals with.

I've found that it's common for singers to beat themselves up for feeling nervous for an audition or performance.  Honestly, I've done the exact same thing at times.  But what I think we all forget is that it's normal to be nervous.  Many singers have written or spoken about nerves and how they deal with them.  It seems to be part of the craft.  I've read many singer autobiographies where the author admits to dealing with large amounts of stress and nerves related to their job.  There's a really interesting blog post about it by mezzo Jennifer Rivera that proves that even professional singers deal with performance-related anxiety.

I had an epiphany this weekend while I was waiting with my boyfriend at an open casting call.  It was the preliminary step, so he only had to fill out some forms, take a picture, and hand the agency his headshot/resume before we were all set to go.  While we were waiting, I noticed that he was nervous.  My immediate (and rather insensitive) thought was "He doesn't have to do anything.  Why would he be nervous?"  But then I realized that these sort of environments breed nerves and it's perfectly natural to feel that way.  It's basically biology and you almost can't escape it.

So here's my point: we, as singers, get so wrapped up in everything that we forget how crazy singing opera truly is.  We're singing extremely difficult music, usually in a foreign language, for a bunch of people while trying to juggle a thousand things on stage.  I've met people who claim they'd never dream of doing what opera singers do all the time.  We should give ourselves a break!  Of course we're nervous! 

I'm not saying that opera singers are better or anything insane like that.  I'm just saying that the circumstances of opera singing are very different from normal life and if nerves begin to play a role, that isn't a horrible or unnatural thing.  The real challenge is conquering our nerves and doing well in spite of them.  I think we singers are too quick to find faults in ourselves and our performances when we should just take things as they come, do our best, and be happy with the fact that we've done our absolute best.  There's always another shot-- another chance to do it better.  The thing I'm talking about here is perspective.

Of course I'm not promoting laziness or a laissez faire attitude.  That would be ludicrous since opera singing takes a large amount of preparation, hard work, and dedication.  All I'm saying is that we all need to try to see things as they truly are and not let things get us down when they really shouldn't.

So I'm striving to build nerves of steel so that I can face the craziest situations and come out of them doing well.



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From Little Black Dots to MP3s

These days, it seems like every story starts with a phone call.  To make a long story short, I got a phone call from someone I had never met before and now I have a new summer project. 

I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to record a new piece for NYC composer Cynthia Lee Wong.  It's always been a dream of mine to be the first to tackle/record a piece of music and it seems that my dream has now become a reality.

I can't say much about it yet, but the piece is really right up my alley and it's been an absolute pleasure learning it.  I love the entire process of taking notes on a page and watching them transform into a work of art.  Collaboration is one of my favorite things in the world and I'm reveling in every moment of it.  Since I've spent time in orchestras, choruses, chamber ensembles, and opera casts, I've experienced all different types of collaborative environments.  This interplay between artist and composer (and, by extension, librettist) is a completely new realm for me and I'm really enjoying it.

And, of course, it's wonderful to work with Ms. Wong.  She is the best kind of collaborator.  She is so humble and yet she has accomplished so much.  Her compositions have been commissioned and performed by such prestigious groups as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.  It's only an honor and privilege to work with such a high-level artist.

This year has been so exciting for me and I'm ready for things to get even more exciting.  I can only feel blessed.

Monday, July 9, 2012

NYCO Hope

I was sitting on my couch preparing my liveshow and listening to Chabrier's L'Etoile when my phone rang.  The caller ID read NYC Opera and I thought, "What's the chance that I just wrote a blog post about NYCO and now they're calling me?"  So I picked up.

It was a marketing representative from NYCO and she wanted to speak with me.  She told me that she'd read my blog post and wanted to inform me that I could, in fact, attend NYCO next year.  BAM and New York City Center are large enough to accommodate a sizable crowd and NYCO is offering a subscription program where you can purchase $25 tickets for each show of the season.

Naturally, I was overjoyed to hear this.  As you read in my previous post, I was extremely disappointed at my inability to attend the shows last year.  Yes, the student ticket program no longer exists, but they have come pretty close with this $100 subscription program.  You can read about all the season subscription options on the NYCO website here.

I asked the representative if she wanted me to change what I'd written and she said that there was no need to; they had simply called to tell me that I could, in fact, attend the upcoming season.  I've included the promotional video for their upcoming season below.

I'm thrilled and hopeful to hear this!  Obviously the future is bright and exciting for NYCO and I hope very much to be a part of it. :)



NYCO Woes

Let me begin this post by saying that I have a deep affinity for the New York City Opera.  I loved it the moment I learned of its existence and I've only loved it more as I've gotten to know it and attended operas there.  I'm not trying to criticize the decisions of NYCO's staff or complain about things that I have no control over, but I feel the need to air my feelings about how things have changed.

NYCO has been a part of my opera experience since I first got into opera.  My first live opera was at the Met, but many of the live operas I attended after that were at NYCO.  During the 2009-2010 season, my friend and I attempted to see every opera that NYCO was offering that season.  I only missed one, Partenope, and I actually attended L'Etoile twice.  Many of my friends saw their first live opera at NYCO that season.  I saw my first American opera there (Esther) and my first Puccini (Madama Butterfly).  It was easy to get tickets and since we were students, the tickets were extremely inexpensive.  I loved having the luxury of seeing incredible productions with fantastic singers for affordable prices.  In all fairness, the Met has gotten better since then about having student tickets and rush tickets and the like, but it will never be the same as the NYCO student tickets.

This past season, I was really looking forward to what NYCO had to offer, especially Alden's Cosi fan tutte and the production of Telemann's Orpheus.  Even though we were all sad about NYCO leaving Lincoln Center, I was encouraged by the fact that they were still presenting the same sort of productions.  I love how NYCO dares to be edgy and unpredictable with its productions and opera choices.  (Seeing the upcoming season package, I'm glad to report that they are continuing this trend.)  But when I went to order tickets, I was completely unable to afford them on my student budget.  I know that this is due to the fact that the venues are smaller and NYCO is suffering financially.  I respect that and I know that I should have just been glad that a season even existed, but I was still so disappointed that I couldn't attend these operas that I so much wanted to see.  And, of course, the friends and family that I would have brought with me missed out as well.

I was a bit crushed when I got the NYCO bulletin in the mail yesterday.  I was excited by the new season, but then something stopped my enthusiasm: the prediction that NYCO would not be returning to Lincoln Center for at least another three years.  For me, that means that I'll most likely be unable to attend NYCO for that amount of time.  And if they do return to Lincoln Center, I'll no longer be a student and I will have missed all those opportunities to see great opera at one of my favorite companies.  I realized that that part of my opera-going experience is over and it's not coming back.  It may seem silly, but I have very fond memories of NYCO-going as a student and I wish that didn't have to end so soon.

Of course, many people are much more affected by all this than I am.  There are people for whom this is an end of an era-- people who were so much a part of the opera and now can no longer have any ties to it.  There is an inevitable history to NYCO and a community that goes with that history.  Now all that is over and I can't help but be saddened by it.

The one thing that I really hope will return is NYCO's ability and propensity to hire Young Artists.  From the day I saw Julie Boulianne sing Lazuli in L'Etoile, I've wanted to perform as a Young Artist at NYCO.  It seemed like such a nurturing yet exposing place to be a Young Artist.  Many great artists have sung in that house and many YAs have come through and gone onto great things.  I know that mezzo Jennifer Rivera got her start there, singing many leads (including Lazuli) and gaining international recognition for her performances.  It's a great opportunity for a YA to be so close to the Met and yet not have the pressure of it.  Besides, I love NYCO so much and I can't help but want to be a YA there. 

NYCO always seemed like the friendly neighborhood opera where old Vets and YAs could meet and grow together.  It was a place where anyone could afford to attend the opera and they could choose to see a traditional production of a well-known opera, experience a fresh and edgy production, or see an opera that no one else was producing.  It was a low-pressure and welcoming environment for the artists and the patrons.  And, yes, I'm glad that places like BAM and New York City Center have taken NYCO in and I'm glad that NYCO can continue to do the sort of productions that it always has, but it's still not exactly the same.  I guess we all hate change and we all hate to be reminded that nothing lasts forever, but I do miss the old NYCO and I really hope that I will see it again one day.

Edit: I have written a follow-up post to this one, which can be found here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Coming and Going - A Singer's Tale

Sometimes the summer can feel very void of opera and sometimes it can feel very full of it.  This summer is most definitely the latter.

I returned from the Westchester Summer Vocal Institute about two weeks ago and I still feel that I'm recovering from it.  It was a wonderfully huge dose of opera and singing.  It was also a huge dose of getting my butt kicked by coaches and conductors.  But there is nothing better than that!

I'm still trying to get everything straight: to apply everything that I've learned and fully understand the things that I've simply absorbed without even realizing it.  Every experience changes you and this seemed like a lot of change jam-packed into ten days.  I met so many new people, heard so many new opinions, and learned so many new techniques.  My brain is still trying to categorize it all, but I'm beginning to think that maybe some things can't be categorized.  Maybe, like opera, these things span a wide variety of categorizations.  Maybe I need to stop trying to box them up and start trying to accept them simply for what they are.

So much is happening!  I've just come from that great ten-day adventure and I'm headed toward another two-year adventure at Bard.  The whole Bard acceptance thing has been quite a roller-coaster ride for me.  At first, I was overwhelmed by the euphoria of getting in.  Bard was such a pipe-dream for me and when it really happened, I almost didn't know what to do.  I had let myself think for so long that I would never, ever get in and that I could only give it my best shot and then settle for my second or third-choice school.  So when I got in, I could only be amazed by it.  That stage of amazement continued as I got a scholarship and then a personal phone call from Dawn Upshaw herself.

But, finally, the high wore off and I realized that I had to prepare myself for the huge task of actually attending Bard.  Of living up to the potential that I'd shown in my audition.  Of making good on my promises and paying forward on it all.  And that can be a very scary thing.

I was in that stage when I left for Westchester.  And now that I'm back, now that I've experienced all those things at WSVI, I am in the next stage-- the stage of purely excited anticipation and a dogged determination to be the best I can be.  I can truly thank all the people at Westchester: my fellow singers, my coaches, my mentors, and everyone who came to support me.  Of course, I always have people back home who encourage me and help keep me strong, but Westchester was like an IV of criticism, encouragement, and just plain enthusiasm for the incredible artform of opera.  It did me a world of good and I can't wait to see what's in store for me at Bard.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Opera Festivities Galore!

I know that I haven't been too active here on Blogger. That's mostly because I've been a very busy bee over at my OperaRox Tumblr blog. I've been hosting weekly liveshows on various opera topics, trying to unify the opera community on Tumblr, and holding contests. My newest contest is currently in swing and you are all welcome to participate. There are opera prizes involved! All the info can be found here on Tumblr.

If you'd like to participate in my opera liveshow/chatroom, come to www.livestream.com/operarox this Thursday, March 29 from 8-10pm EST. The topic is TBD. You can follow all my liveshow announcements on my OperaRox blog. We always get a lively crowd with some very good discussion and a lot of fun.

Also, if you're a Hunger Games fan, OperaTeen is hosting a Hunger Games: The Opera contest and giving away a Met Shop giftcard to the winner! Modern music scholar and WQXR host Olivia Giovetti is judging, so it's sure to be interesting!

There is so much going on in the opera-internet world!