Thursday, May 22, 2014


A little while ago, an OperaRox reader asked me a really tough question.  I figured it would be timely and beneficial to post it here.

Q: How do you stay motivated and on track when you feel like you've hit rock bottom?

A: Wow, that is a very relevant question to my life right now!

I’m going to be real with you and tell you that it’s really hard.  This is the most difficult season that I’ve ever walked through.  I fight every day to stay positive, because I think that having negative thoughts and saying negative things about yourself/your situation is not helpful.  Sometimes, the situation just totally sucks and you’re like, “How can I be positive about this?”  Well, first you have to be realistic.  You have to acknowledge something for what it is.  I let myself think, “Ok, this is happening and it’s the worst.”  But I don’t dwell on it.  I start to think of ways to profit from it, ways to turn it around.  Peter Sellars said something that really spoke to me.  He said, “One thing that’s not allowed in opera, or in life, is self-pity.”  Self-pity is paralyzing and destructive.  So, you find another way around it.

This works generally, but there are some days that are so bad that I can’t be positive.  Sometimes I am just too exhausted to be positive.  That’s when I turn to my friends.  They help lift me up; they encourage me and say the positive things for me.  Or, they just let me rant and then say “That sucks” and that helps immensely.  Or, they do silly things and make me laugh.  Friends are the best ammunition against a bad day.  Find these people and then don’t be afraid to rely on them, to share with them.  If they’re your real friends, they’ll want to be there for you.  They’ll want to help you and support you when you can’t support yourself.  It’s important to remember that these times make you feel alone, but you’re not really alone.  There’s always someone who can help you carry the burden.

So, my main silver lining thought is this: when I come out of this, I’m going to be stronger, wiser, and more well-rounded.  This situation is changing me so much and I’m trying my best to make sure that all the changes are for the better.  I want to come out of this with something.  All of these experiences are feeding my future art, too.  Peter Sellars (he’s a genius) also said: "The light exits through the wound."  In other words, all the truly thrilling and beautiful things about us come out of the painful times.  It might seem like a platitude, but it’s not.  It’s really true.  So I think, “Damn, there’s going to be a lot of light, because I have a lot of wounds.”

On the more practical level, I’ve worked hard to find ways to cope with stress and fight off bad feelings.  I’ve taken up meditating (this website has been a godsend) and I listen to uplifting music as much as I can.  I surround myself with beautiful things — books, poetry, movies….  Also, I’ve been writing to a friend who is going through something similar and this has been an incredible solace.  I’m writing for myself a lot (poetry, blog stuff, fiction) and I’m keeping in touch with the opera world that I love so much.  I go to the theater/opera when I can and soak up as much live music as possible.  I’ve been watching operas on YouTube that I don’t know and studying others that I do know.  I’m trying to learn as much as I can.  Also, I always wear a yellow ribbon around my wrist to remind myself that the sun is always there, even if I can’t see it.

I’m sorry if you yourself are going through something difficult.  Just know that I’m always here to talk, if you need it.  :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

OperaRox in NYC

It's been an exciting couple of weeks for me and my OperaRox gang!

On April 25, a bunch of us got together at the Metropolitan Opera for a performance of Rossini's La Cenerentola starring Joyce DiDonato, Javier Camarena, and Luca Pisaroni.  The show was fun, moving, and beautifully sung.  Mr. Camarena's singing was so compelling that he received an encore in the middle of the opera! 

Joyce DiDonato was kind enough to come out to talk with us after the show.  She must have been exhausted after all that coloratura, but she took her time with all of us, signing autographs and taking pictures.  She even took a selfie with all of us!

Joyce DiDonato and some of the OperaRox gang
Then, Ms. DiDonato did us another huge favor and gave OperaRox a shout-out in her OperaNews Singer Studio masterclass and interview.  We are so lucky to have such a wonderful and successful advocate!  She also mentioned my other project, Opera21, which I edit with founder Jen Choi.  Opera is alive and well in the 21st Century.

In other news, one of my favorite NYC opera companies, New York Opera Exchange, is opening their new production of La Traviata this week.  I conducted interviews with leads soprano Samantha Guevrekian (Violetta) and tenor Kyle Van Schoonhoven (Alfredo).  They talk about their own artistry and their opinions on these characters.  I love talking with singers and learning about their personalities and how they prepare a role.

I hate how people are always inferring that opera is a "dying" art form.  I disagree completely.  I think opera speaks to us now, just as it always has, and there is nothing less accessible about it than any other art form.  We just need to learn how to overcome the stigmas that society has put on it and improve opera education.  Because, OperaRox!