30 November, 2006

audition and callback

Sang for 'opera-in-the-biggest-red-state-there-is' today in the broadway cattle call style auditions.
It was actually a really good experience. I was singer number 14 of 15 in the "hour" allotted to me (and the other 15 singers), and I sang the 2nd verse of Durch Z and they asked for Noch glaub from the Zerbinetta aria in my "minutes". As soon as I left the room one of them came out and asked the monitor to schedule me for a callback--sweeeet!
So I'm singing for them again on Friday evening. 4:42 to be exact!

There was also another certain someone at the auditions today besides the two from the opera company and it was interesting to finally meet/sing for this person face to face, as I have been following said person's advice and insight for a while now on nfcs. Said person comes from a management/opera company background and always chimes in with very informative if not real world advice about the business- everything from resume formatting to answering why you can't get an unmanaged mainstage audition. Although I did not meet said person, it was nice to put a name and a face to an online identity.

My 2nd audition was a re-sing for 'yap-from-last-year'. I sang Durch Z., and then they talked to me, asked me where else I was auditioning, and what I was doing this year.

Why is it strange to sing for these people who know me, know what I can do, and already let me in once? Precisely because I have NO idea if they'll accept me again. The season is great for covering one very big role, and singing one or two comprimario roles---for my voice type or a soubrettish voice type.
Why is it strange to tell them that I'm waiting for only one other program to notify me? And then when they asked me to let them know if I get a call- does that mean, that if I don't get a call- I'm getting in again?

Well, it was strange. In truth I would LOVE to go back there and do the roles and cover the role that I think I'd do again in my future. But what if I DON"T get those roles? Or, don't even get to go back? I mean, more than a few of us from last year are singing for them again. True, that they do "need" an apprentice of my voice type...but--they could also cast a flexible/moveable soubrette with a great extension or a light soprano of any ilk.

It's late and I'm tired and for some reason even though I do NOTHING in NYC except go from one audition to the next (well, only two a day though!), I am exhausted all the time.
All that walking maybe?


28 November, 2006

nyc part deux

Sang for "arid-climate-kind-of-in-the-desert" YAP today. Durch and the 2nd half of Doll. They took a really long time to decide what the second piece would be. I mean, really- do you WANT to hear half of O luce- high notes, high notes and Italian, or half of the Doll- high notes, high notes, and French?

I sang both well, but as another poster, Saustal, on the nfcs forum put it this evening, I felt like I was low-character energy.

Could have been the 1.5 hr. ride to the train this morning, and then the 3 hr. train into the city- which began at 5:30am. And of course I couldn't fall asleep like a NORMAL person the night before the audition, so I had about 4 hrs. of sleep.

Could have just been an 'eh' kind of day. Vocally- I felt good again. Liederkranz which I have very much enjoyed in the past is turning into a weird room for me to sing in. I keep hearing the very top of the piano out of tune with the very bottom, and when you sing runs that go up to high Q's that's not the best thing- to be 2nd guessing yourself on the tuning of that run or turn.

I've pretty much decided on not taking any breaths before the first 2 coloratura runs in Durch, and then taking a dramatic breath/pause breath before the third run. I don't NEED it, but I think the high note sounds better if I get a catch breath before that last run.

Not sure how many singers hold the breath or breathe before each run, or none of the runs.
Would be interesting to know.

Tomorrow: Lesson with first/high school/most beloved voice teacher who started me on this whole journey into opera (when all I wanted to do was be Christine from Phantom) and continues to help me become the performer I want to be and the vocalist I know that I can be.


25 November, 2006

the week ahead

Two summer YAP auditions, one mainstage audition, two lessons with voice teachers, hopefully two or more coachings when I finally have cellphone contact again and can be in touch with people in New York, seeing friends from college, other summer programs from the past two years, and generally (hopefully) enjoying decent weather and culture in NYC.


22 November, 2006

turkey for me, turkey for you..let's eat turkey in my big brown shoe

This post is not about turkey, but the Adam Sandler song from way back does come to mind since it's seasonally appropriate.

This post is about relaxation. "Deep deep relaxation" (Zoolander).
And energy.
And performance.

In my reading about the Eastern cultural and mystical traditions in preparation for Lakme, I have also searching for ways to find freedom in--everything. The voice, the acting, the subconscious stress and pressure and nervousness and anxiety that I may feel before going onstage, and sometimes even while onstage.

The short of the story is, I do not FEEL/GET nervous. Ever. Consciously.
But my body (larynx) and subconscious think/react otherwise. And that, and all of its manifestations whether onstage or off, I want to deal with and think about.
So while my present mind is completely clear and can be focusing on the excitement of a role, getting into character, being in character onstage, delivering a performance... sometimes this unconscious nervousness or anxiety (and I don't know what it's about yet) affects me dramatically or vocally, or I should say- interrupts what I'm trying to do dramatically and vocally and starts to mess with my head.

I've been reading, among other things, "The Book of Secrets" by D. Chopra.
Yes, it's new age-y, but it also seems a bit sacred in terms of the personal experiences he relates growing up in his culture and religion.

In speaking about spiritual awareness he has a few pointers which I've meditated on for a few nights now:
Follow the flow of awareness
Don't resist what's happening inside
Open yourself to the unknown
Don't censor or deny what you feel
Reach beyond yourself
Be genuine, speak your truth
Let the center be your home

All of these, although meant to achieve a spiritual height, I can relate to in terms of freedom on stage during a performance. Vocal freedom, dramatic concentration, and letting the art/music/drama happen.

One passage about energy in particular struck me as interesting, because as singers we always talk about energy. How much can you give in a performance? Can you do it again the next day? do you have the energy to give in this? Do you run out of energy/breath/drama? etc.

So here is a little mad-lib, in which HIS word was Love/Heart, and MY word will be (Sing (or commit, or give, or something to that effect)/Throat:

People who are afraid to ____, wind up constricting _____'s expression.
They feel tight in the _______ rather than expanded. Words stick in their throat. Tightness develops fear of expansion.

"We talk about having limited energy, but that is if you believe that energy is limited.
If you have ever committed yourself professionally to anything, you've found the more energy you devote to it, the more you have. Passion replenishes itself.
What drains energy is the act of holding back. The more you conserve energy the more narrow become the channels through which it can flow."

Yes- this is exactly it. You can't keep thinking about how it's going, whether it's going, whether you'll have enough energy/voice for the end. You give all of yourself from the start and the passion continues because you ARE the energy. You are not making it, it is you.

Now, of course, these are things that I knew already. But these words eloquently summed up feelings that I think I'm not alone in- in terms of singing, career, stagework, development of character, live performance, anxiety, nerves, debuts, the business, technique, passion, drama, putting yourself out there, telling a story, and everything that we do, and everything that can get in the way of what we do.

Happy turkey day.

21 November, 2006

a nice reception at the waaaaaldorf with chaaaampagne and caaaviar

Just found out couple number 3 will be getting married as well this summer. So far: Best friend from college, very good friend from college, and very good post-college friend will all be getting married (BEFORE ME!).

Yea, yea, I'm happy for them. They also have the kind of lives where they can make "sacrifices" for the other party involved. Like- moving where their husbands-to-be work or study, and still being able to find work in that area. Not so for the life of a regional, national, international, or otherwise traveling opera singer who wants to marry a to-be-doctor/researcher who will most likely work in one of three big East Coast cities and their famous research medical centers and hospitals.

Also, I know that the diamond industry is mostly fueled by American consumerism and materialism, but LORDY if those rings didn't sparkle in the pics! I like sparkly things. They're pretty.

And will I be able to attend? Most likely NOT- if I get into Previous Summer YAP or New Summer YAP.
That's a little sad. And it has so far prompted me to do preliminary research in language immersion programs for this summer.

Would it be giving up another summer of contacts? Or something that my resume would really need? I'm not sure--depends on what I hear from the few auditions I have left.
But missing the most important day in three friends' lives in terms of their relationships and future- that's a tough one--and I've already missed three important weddings last year too..in the summer of course.


20 November, 2006

bleu(s), or, it's not easy being "green"

Back in the middle of no-where, with cellphone charger and re-discovered ipod charger.
Received first "no" of the audition season today. Must press on.

Jeez, I feel like I'm writing some journal as a scientist doing geothermal research on the antarctic peninsula or something. Maybe I'll start using complete sentences.

Question to the empty echoing chambers of the internet:

Do you have to be between the ages of 27-30 and already famous/managed, or have already attended certain top 5 programs to be the soubrette/coloratura soprano that the top 5 summer young artist programs accept?
And even when you are that age/level- why is it that in this business you are for some reason still considered an apprentice artist and covet so much the tiny role of "maid"- which was originally written for a 9 year old girl to sing in Mozart's time? -Even though you have a steady career, work for a year or two in regional houses, and people in the "biz" have their eye on you for the future?

This isn't my way of dealing with the "no"--- blaming ageism. I did my best at the audition, felt as if I made a good impression, and felt really good vocally and dramatically. That's all I can control. So I smile and say thank you after my 10 minutes is up.

It's just that a few minutes after I received that no, a friend of mine- very different voice, kind of same castable rep., emailed me her good news of acceptance into one of the top summer programs out there--one that she had attended last year, and one that she will be returning to after getting one of the best up and coming managers to sign her this past week, and turning the big... well, yea.

I've seen ageism work from both ends of the spectrum in this business. You're either a wunderkind (Bass or baritone, age 20- usually or Wagnerian Soprano- age 24), or you don't look the "soubrette" part anymore.

Again, no complaining, just a reflection of what I'm seeing around me...as I am currently in a year-round residency and am getting opportunities and visibility and training and mainstage time, etc. NO COMPLAINING.

I think I've just had in my head since the age of 22 and my first "go" at auditioning for summer YAPs that 25 was going to be the turning point- that point where I was taken seriously as an artist because of talent combined with the "right" age- the right age being, not too young and untested or being "green". But from the successful (soubrette- I don't really know any young successful coloratura) sopranos around me who have just this year or last year been accepted to the top programs for the summer, it's not 25. It's more like 27-30. Is it a hard fact? No, I'm sure there are exceptions. In fact, I know there are exceptions. So yes, there still is a chance that I could be that "exception" this year for one or two other summer programs. But then again, IS it an exception? Oh, this could go on forever in my head and in this post.

I have been among the youngest, if not the youngest member of all YAPs I've sung in so far. What does that mean? Nothing, really. Maybe I got in the "game" early and had it together a year or two before other sopranos my age. Maybe that's why I've always felt on par with singers who are two and three years older than me in terms of vocal development, performance opportunity, and in "resume-comparison"-ie, experience.

Even though I only sent my materials to three or four summer programs, they are among the top programs out there. I'll be interested to see (google) the final crop of singers that each of them picks and to once again do my yearly analysis of "non vocal" categorizations- ie, where they went to school, who they studied with, how old they are, what other programs they've done, who they've coached with, who their manager is, and whether any of the aforementioned biographical/schooling/contact facts have current connections or trends within that certain summer program.

Dorky, I know---Maybe I should have stuck with studying economics and international relations--but these charts do make me more aware of the business and the trends of casting and hiring and re-hiring.

Too bad I love music so much! If I were a 22 year old Mid-East policy genius I could be having dinner at the White House and on a special "young person's panel" to discuss peace in the Middle East. (Mentioned only because an undergrad friend of mine is getting to do JUST that- and we were classmates/co-conspirateurs for a better world through negotiation...oh, just three years ago).


18 November, 2006

vocal satisfaction

A. I left my phone charger at my special someone's apartment and had to drive for four hours today with a dead cellphone. He called me (like I would get the message in 4 hours calling from a landline to my voicemail) to let me know that he had it...thanks honey! See ya when my phone works around Thanksgiving :)

B. (and even more egregious) I left my IPOD CHARGER....somewhere....in between the two suitcases, one big black bag (and black hole) and two purses that I decided to pack with me on this 2 month break. My IPOD only lived for 2.2 hours of the drive. Then I had to (gasp) SCAN for stations on the radio! (of course during the section of the Mass Pike that was BEFORE Amherst and was therefore filled with static, country, or talk radio. Too far away from the "big city".

C. The concert tonight really made me smile. They took 6 new Froshies, all great looking YOUNG young'ns, with definite vocal promise. I saw 13 friends of mine who had been in the group throughout my 4 years and also came back for the show.

Contented Sigh, Smile ;)

a cappella!

Missed reading the WTOC blog yesterday, but caught up tonight and Ms. Witman's daughter's a cappella concert as well as my upcoming and forthcoming news I think merit this post:

I'm SO excited because tomorrow night will be the first time since I graduated from undergrad that I return to campus as an "alum" to see my college a cappella group sing their Fall Show!
How I loved every year's Fall and Spring show, when alumni from the past 10 years would show up and we'd all sing our final song together- which has not changed since our first season. In harmony, hugging, laughing, with memories of days and years and friends gone by.

I've always either been in more school, or singing somewhere in some other part of the country for the fall and spring shows, and even though I've pretty much kept in touch with my best friends from my 4 years in the group, it will be great to see the "seniors" that were my mentors and guides the first year, as well as meet a whole NEW group of members, NONE of whom were ever in the group with me--even the current seniors!!

I listen to our cd's on long car rides (like I'll have tomorrow to GET to Boston), and really just think about all of the moments on spring and winter tour when we sang those songs, how we recorded them in a tiny attic studio of one of our friends who wanted to be a music engineer, how the parts that I had to sing with all of the high notes were called "randoms" because they weren't an "ooh" chord or a "rhythm" part with syllables like:
j'oh j'now jow, or det doo det det doo, or wer ner, or jikajenjijenjijenjikajikajenjen.

I remember being the music director senior year, arranging the songs myself- first by hand and then on cakewalk and finale. I remember coming up with acronyms for the order of our sets in performance. I remember having auditions for new members and debating whom to take that year until 4am with the current group members, then waking those poor freshmen up at 4:30am and making them come outside in their PJs, take pictures, walk around and get all of the new kids, and then take them to Dunkies (dunkin donuts) for an early breakfast and induct them into the group.

But mostly I remember how happy we were. And the look on our faces when we sang for young kids, families, parents, other college students. And how proud we were of the impact we were making as a musical group committed to our audience and our voices.

And of course, how can I forget my last Spring show--my graduation show, that happened to fall on the night before my "opera scenes" performance at "double-degree-school-number-two-for-overachieving-students

Alternating between belting pop music and singing my high "randoms", and then staying up all night continuing to sing, and having fun at the party in the basement of one of our apartments followed by singing a scene from L'Egisto, Street Scene and the "If I loved you" scene from Carousel was ***interesting****. Although I do have to say I didn't have time to be tired, since I was still basking in the triumph of our previous night's performance, our skits, our jokes, and just ourselves.

My brother at Duke has followed in my a cappella tradition and sings and was music dir. of one of their well-known all male groups. He loves it, too. I just found out that HIS senior spring show is the same day as my Lakme.
Where or where shall my parents choose to go?
Well, I've told them that they can and should go to my bro's concert, since he's accepted a "real" job after this and is going to be all "financially stable" and may not be performing for a while unless it's his own songs in coffee shops!

Oh, wow...remembering those days, and our WEBSITE which listed everything from our audition songs to our majors and even little crazy blurbs we wrote about ourselves

My goal at the time was to be a voice in Disney movies and to be the next UN ambassador to the Middle East. My audition songs were "Because you Loved Me" ----YES, Celine!, and oh, my gosh, am I actually going to admit this?-- the PROLOGUE from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"--the OTHER big goal in my life at the time was to one day sing/belt the part of the narrator. (Yes, I can STILL remember all of the coat colors in order in that song).

I think I've since begged our technical web-person to take my slightly collegiate bio off of the site and direct anyone who may be surfing to my current "opera" bio site- still nothing to look at, but at least it doesn't mention my unhealthy relationship with Disney films or obsession with evading parking tickets and paying meters in Boston, or mention any of my other "talents" at the time which pretty much had to do with singing pop music or MT in an "operatic" style while my friends rolled around on the floor laughing and trying to stump me:
"Sing Brittney Spears 'Baby one more Time' in the style of Julie Andrews".
"Sing Jewel 'Hands' in the style of Celine Dione".

Yep, that was my contribution to the musical society around me at the time--with the larger hope of being discovered by either the "Capitol Steps", "Forbidden Broadway", or Disney.

And look how far I've come...


15 November, 2006

overboard posting

I know I've been posting a lot . It's because I'm on "vaycay" and my only daily task is memorzing Lakme- THEN looking at new arias, roles for next year, upcoming concert works.

But I had to post this: I just typed out all of the libretto of Lakme's part- including repeated parts of duets and arias. It's 5 pages single spaced.

I cheated about 6 times by looking at the score- only for a FEW words in a FEW recits.


itunes weirdness and French

For some reason itunes "Europe" has a 2006 Dessay CD of French arias that is available for 168.00Kr, but it's not in the "American" itunes.
Darn! And I really wanted to hear just the "Lucie" excerpts without having to buy the entire CD.

Instead I bought her Lakme. Can I discuss the French 'r' here? I grew up studying French and also speaking a "guttural middle eastern language" at home-since my home was there, and so I've always just said it the way you speak it.

EVERYONE in America practically had their panties in a twist over it in college and diction classes. "No, that's "pauper" French. Even the Bastille Opera doesn't use guttural 'r's! MAYBE the Opera Comique does..." Are we using rolled/flipped r's just so Americans can understand sung French? Because I don't think the French would have too much trouble understanding their own language with its own inflections.

I understand that there are two (or more) schools of thought on this. But in French it's just so....French ...to use the guttural.

Interestingly enough, Dessay is the only one using the guttural here. All of the other singers are flipping all over the place and adding a few gutturals when they feel like it (or when they forget!)

Hmm, final word will -I suppose- be handed down by the baton-wielder in March.

I was looking up old posts on nfcs today regarding coloratura rep.
I'm always looking for new roles and especially short but showy arias for auditions. French rep. is so comfortable in my voice, but it is just so rarely done.

I mean, I would learn any of these great roles/arias/operas in a heartbeat if there were a chance of them being performed anywhere except somewhere in France..and by Natalie Dessay!

Dinorah's Shadow Song
Je suis Titania
Esclarmonde (there's an optional G in this role--ha, optional--not for me!)
The Queen's Aria (Heugonots)
Eudoxie's Aria (La Juive)
Ophelie's Mad Scene (fun F# at the end)
The Pearl of Brasil
Robinson Crusoe (offenbach)
Chers Corinthiens

And so many more---- Mireille, Rossignol...

Alas. I can't paint myself into a corner with French rep. for crazy coloraturas.

The next best thing would be the Strauss girls- Zerbie, Sophie, Fiakermilli. (Again, how often are these performed?)
Then the Mozart/Donizetti popular chicks- music that I Love and know that I bring something to, but is often (these days) cast with a more lyric voice that can move (for reasons which I can't understand, because the orchestrations are NOT large, and sometimes, (not always) those voices struggle with the fioratura and even the final high notes..and you can forget about the interpolations from previous divas being there).

Back to..wait, WHAT? Dessay just used a flipped r. Wow. Oh wait, there was a guttural one. Hmm, she seems to be using guttural on "little" words, and flipped on "real vocabulary". Interesting. Update after I hear more.


14 November, 2006

Acts I and III...and fellow singer news!

....are memorized!

Frankly, I'm a bit surprised at the pace that I'm getting things done. I mean, I'm obviously not working on this more than just a few hours a day, whether it's reciting words in my head, listening to my ipod, or looking at the score and flipping through sections to test my memory.

Today I worked from 10:30-1, and was able to get through III about three times, and then go back and recite I.
Yes, there are still places I'm remembering "small" words incorrectly--- like ou/on, qui/qu'a, sous/sur..and yes, that obviously makes a huge difference. But in recits that fast, my focus is getting the whole sentence out without tripping up, and then realize what grammar and vocab. mistake I've made, and making a mental note to go back and fix it the next time--and it's working!

Fast parts for practice:
allors, Hadji, dans l'ombre se glissant, t'a transporte SUR le toit de verdure. j'ai ramenais LA vie dans TON front pallissant, les filles de ma caste apprennent en naissance comme le suc des fleurs guerit une blessure.

quand tu parlais,ton ame SUR tes levres se posait, ton regard n'est pas LA flamme que m'embrasait, sur ton visage un nouage passait et la glace.

Ok, that was pretty decent. I only went back and corrected one thing in the last sentence and I typed it as fast as I have to sing it :)

I'll review again tonight, but I'm really excited because Act II is the one with the aria that I already know, and that plus one little duet and two pages of recit is all I have left!

OOHHHH and I forgot- a fellow singer from "currentyap" is a Sullivan Winner! One of the Big ones!!! Yea!!! She totally deserves it, as she sounds gorgeoise (yes, pronounced like you think), and she may be getting a reaaalllly realllly great manager in the near future, and she also advanced in MONCA!
And ANOTHER fellow singer from "summeryap" just got AWESOME management AND won some competition in NY! She's also way fantabular.

Me likey- watching singers who are about 4 or 5 years ahead of me age-wise and visibility-wise (that word doesn't make sense, but I mean, they've had certain opportunities to present themselves to management and do certain audition/competition circuits for a number of years that I'm just in my 2nd or 1st year doing)- actually getting to that next step of management, and the booked life of a regional/national singer.

It just makes me more excited about my career path plan(s) after the next year at "currentyap" and perhaps another one too depending on the season!



13 November, 2006

progress, career B.(o).S.

I'm currently listening to Sutherland sing Lakme, and also finishing up the last few pages of "Le Marriage de Loti", the travel historical novel that the Lakme libretto was based on. Nevermind that it takes place in Tahiti and is told from the point of view of Loti, the British sailor, who falls in love with the native savage. There are still beautiful descriptions of first love, whimsical childishness, lush forests, and the fickle yet innocent fear of love and the unknown.

This B.o.S. (Business of Singing) post is for all of the sopranos who have not gotten auditions this year even though their resumes have grown over the past year and they feel as if they have made very good vocal, technical, and dramatic strides and are absolutely ready to begin their fulltime year round mid-high level YAP and regional opera careers.

Perhaps they are currently in a smaller year-round residency. Perhaps they have sung leading roles there for two years. Perhaps they already have a Master's Degree and have completed a high-level pay-to-sing in Italy or Germany. Perhaps they are on the young side to have completed all of the previous accomplishments and this is the first year they're sending out all of their materials.

I have heard from so many soprano friends this year that they are simply not getting heard. Whether they have sung for a summer or residency previously or not, they just can't even get in to get a time in New York. One would think that if your resume just grew to include Musetta, Juliette, Widow, Pamina, Marguerite or other leading roles over the past year and a half, that many companies would at least give you the chance to sing for them for the first time.
Or is it that tough for lyrics and lyric coloraturas to get heard? Or any other soprano for that matter?

So, after hearing of friends with 22 applications sent, and three auditions granted, I'm deciding to write about other paths you can take to continue a performing career that are not necessarily through summer young artist programs.

note- there are all just my opinions on the fly, as I like to keep a record of what my general thoughts are regarding this career and look back on them and compare them to my path so far....

The Yap chain of events seems to be: get into a summer Yap, create a buzz for year-long young artist programs, get in there, have a decent chance of being hired back as a professional artist in later years..and voila- you've "made" it...on some level---and if you get lucky enough to have management hear you while you're at the Yap, even better.

YAPs are not the only way to have a career, obviously, and I would venture to say that most singers are actually not involved in them.

Many singers move to NY or other large metropolitan areas after graduating, continue to study voice, perhaps participate in a famous workshop or two, get a church job, start singing with the local and very small community or regional opera companies, and can sometimes work their way up to comprimario roles without management in the larger regional houses in their state or tri-state area. Once they've gotten that far, it MAY only be a matter of time before a comprimario role at a good regional house leads to a chance at a larger role.

At the same time, whether in a big city or not, you have the following options at some point after you have had enough stage and vocal experience:

Cold letters to management and to regional houses for mainstage auditions.
I've written about management recently in the "ladies who lunch" post. I don't know much about it yet, and have always been told that the right time to get management is when THEY approach you, but you also have to be in a position to be seen and heard. And singing at very small, but still paying, opera houses, may not afford you that opportunity. So I think at a point when you're ready but may not have the big credits, why NOT send the letters out?

Sending out cold materials (of course hopefully aided by SOME contact that you have- a coach, teacher, director who may be familiar with someone on their staff, someone on their roster, etc) including cover letter, resume, recording (or website with recording), headshot, reviews and offering to come to NYC to arrange a time to sing for them I think is good idea #1 IF you are prepared to move to NYC for however many months a year it takes to do the actual auditions, should you get signed.

Sending out cold materials to regional houses (again with a contact name if possible) seems also a decent way to get heard, IF the house hears unmanaged singers. I'm excited about FWO's unmanaged auditions this year, because, b'way style or not, it's a chance to sing for a company for a leading role that I otherwise would not have had.

Now, how to narrow all of the names down?
Well, where are you located? And do you want to stay there?

When I was in Boston and not sure what I was going to do the year after I finished undergrad, I mapped out and googled every opera house or musical solo/orchestra opportunity in MA, NH, VT, CT, ME and RI, and was printing out the letters to them all (when of course the whole first yap/grad school thing came up for me)- explaining that I was a young singer that has done such and such in school and the local regional opera scene, and I hope to be considered for an audition with their company for the upcoming season.

Europe. Well, there is just so much to be said about the opportunities here if you find the right way to get there. Grants, grants, grants is what I have to say. The money is out there from the American Berlin Foundation to the Huntington Beebe Awards, to Fulbright, Rotary---if you can write those great essays and really put together a plan of audition and cultural immersion, you could really get a fully funded year of study and audition in Europe.

I won't begin to step on the toes of nfcs poster nem1962 who has most recently posted an amazing guide entitled "what the fach"!! to German audition trip planning, but this information, whether you are funded or not, is out there. People are doing it right now. You can ask for advice, follow in their footsteps, and if you're willing to commit a number of years abroad, I think it's a great way to be a working singer.

Concert Work and how else can you market your voice?
Messiahs, Requiems, Cantatas and new works. Depending on what area you're in, don't overlook the fact that you can get concert work and it's MONEY. Yes, the stuff that makes sure we have a roof over our head and food in our bellies! I know, we want to sing opera (or DO we? Some people, don't!!), but you get your name out there. One conductor likes you. Maybe next year he gets to conduct a concert version of Traviata, and he remembers how you nailed those high notes in Carmina and voila- you're hired. Maybe there's a director in the audience that is thinking about mounting a production of Traviata. And there you are, sparkly and darling in your concert dress, and jus the perfect Violetta even before he does a search.

A few friends I know also have CDs of their own music, their own NEW music, arias, anything--that if you have a large enough base of contacts, once you engineer and publish yourself, you are pretty much assured a certain number of buyers for. And it's just a good way of getting your voice out there as well.

In closing since this is getting long and I am obviously not the oracle of information, ---I'm just offering some thoughts about what I would personally do were I in the situation of two or three specific friends who could take any of these routes in the coming year,--- I'll say that from what I have experienced, this IS indeed a business. And singers who don't realize that I think are at a disadvantage. It's not just about your package of 5. It's about keeping track of all musical coaches, directors, teachers, colleagues, and authorities who you have ever worked with, keeping them in the loop with what you're doing, asking what they are doing. Being in the know about upcoming repertoire in houses you're interested in singing in. Devoting a certain amount of time each day or week to researching online what other singers in your fach are doing- whether they are at your level, above, or below. Tracking where they came from, where they are going, and seeing if there is any opportunity for you that you can make happen.

Too long.


12 November, 2006

Lakme progress

Today I memorized about 20 more pages of Lakme- all of the recit and couplets leading up to the final 3 "dying ariettas" as I call them. This is actually one of the toughest sections I think, so yay me!
I have to chart out my progress instead of just thinking of it in my head, but in short:
Act I- memorized
Act II- aria and post-aria memorized, a few recits and duets left, and making sure I know all of the flowery words in the "dans la foret" arietta.
Act III- those 20 pages memorized (yea!), three recits, half of the duet to go...and all of the last three ariettas memorized (minus the recits in between them).

Is it actually possible that I will be able to have the whole score memorized this week?
That would be really great, since when I get over this cold I'll be calling up my favorite coach, conductor/coach, director/coach, and very first voice teacher to sing through the whole thing!


11 November, 2006

new reading materials

Whether it's amazon.com or Borders, I always walk in or log on with at least four books that I want to buy from friend suggestions, nytimes best sellers, indie authors. I put them all in my arms or checkout page, then realize how much this purchase will cost, and then put all of the books back. I just can't bring myself to spend the hundred dollars. But I also can't just buy one book, wanting the rest of the group.

Today at the local yet wonderful bookstore in the small town where my parents live I finally bought the first installment of books since I have so much time to read over these two months (of course, not to put off studying my Lakme score or any of the other scores I'm supposed to be learning).

The current list in no particular reading order:
Atlas Shrugged- Rand Enjoyed Anthem, why not pick up a book 10 times as long?
The God of Small Things- Roy A little Indian influence perhaps
The Tipping Point- Gladwell Friend's rec. regarding society and playing follow the leader
Shame- Rushdie One of my favorite authors, have 2 or 3 novels of his left to go
The Grapes of Wrath- Steinbeck Pre-show research, plus I never read it in school


retort at WTOC and French work

Over at WTOC the male "crotch grabber" has emailed Ms. Witman with an explanation and character description similar to what I wrote below regarding what MAY have been my performance as the "female" of this hot topic.

Oooh, I'm debating emailing that entry to them after some editing for relevant content (obviously they don't need to hear about my current cold or vacation musings). Or maybe my blog is just sooo popular (note the abundant comments at the end of every entry) (note the sarcasm) that they'll read it and comment here.

Back to real work update:
I started on Lakme backwards. Why not? I know the first act. I know all of the ariettas. So today I memorized numbers 15-17 in the international score.
How? You ask?
Word was open. I typed what I knew in French. If I came to a word or phrase I didn't remember, I bolded it. Next time typing, I typed it twice.
I read it. I said it to myself in just words. Then in words and rhythm and then on the pitches- not full voice or anything, this wasn't singing practice, it was memorization role prep.

THEN as I said it I thought about the English meaning (not word for word translation) and added some inflection as to how I'd say it as a character.
THEN as I said it I thought of it as the French meaning (word for word in English) and tried to get that same English emotional inflection into the French interpretation.

At this rate (3-4 pages a day--not that I worked a day on it at ALL), I could get the 150 more that I have to learn finished by...uhh...
Hopefully when I need to know it in early March!


10 November, 2006


I'm in the greenery of the northeast in my parents lovely secluded house 8 miles away from town and the outlets.

It's nice that after the two singing "things" this week I am finally getting this cold out of the way. My throat is raw, my nose is stuffy, I'm generally tired, and I can actually take something because I don't need to sing! Yesterday it was advil cold and sinus. Today it'll probably be theraflu, tea, cough drops.

I got a lovely "no" email from the Sullivans. Two other sop friends who sang for them did as well. Ah well- next year maybe. Hope I'm free in November.

Just read TWOC blog for NY day two/three, which mentions "gestures" in arias- in the "nether" regions....Hmm, I can't really imagine what guy aria would refer to that area. I do, however, think that there are many girl arias that could potentially go there without distracting in a negative way from the performance. Opera may be a higher artform, yes, however, in its heyday there was very often a comedic element, a level of "shock", something that would read for educated and uneducated audiences.
Whether it was a furtive glance or wave of a fan in the Victorian age, or actually a scene set in bed, or any other intimation of sexuality and intimacy...I do believe that these kinds of gestures belong in arias, scenes, character representations- IF they are not used for shock value alone, but have something to do with the story line.

For example, I'm not sure if I was one of the "females" of the WTOC post, but I definitely went for the physical in "Glitter". You can't ignore Bernstein's choice of words, choice of setting (notes, runs, etc), and I think the characters from the start in Candide all have a strong sexual presence.
So if I'm singing about "honor, lost"- yes, I'm going to refer right to where that honor was taken from and not feel like it's over the top, because the character is herself distraught, has no strong moral views about the acts that she has been committing with the high priest and the head rabbi, and therefore is one which I think merits pointing to wherever- since she's been handled so freely in the first place.

In addition, many of the "soubrette" characters, the sly maids, the saucy and informed ladies in waiting- what do you do with those characters today? To audiences today it's no shocker if despina sings about the "devil's tail", if Susanna and Figaro are measuring out a bed together, if Zerbinetta's "ah's" are "awww, I'm so in love and I love boys and it's fun to be saucy". But if you change some of that to rolling around on that "to be bed space" for Susanna, and Zerbie's Ah's come from a feeling that is not so much in her mind but a sensation a bit lower down, that to me is what will let the audience feel as excited/titillated as they may have in Mozart and Strauss's eras. So I agree with updating gestures and stagings to make the opera just as "cutting edge" as it was to audiences of the day it was written for.

Of course there is no need to be crude. There is no need for scantily clad women either. But the level of stakes can be raised from eye-lash batting and fanning to a little more, can it not?

Back to my vacation.

08 November, 2006

the audition today

Last night in a fit of nervous good energy I posted a comment over at WTOC regarding pre-audition practices that I've been experiencing this time around in NYC:

A few thoughts to share from the other side of the table...actually, from the arch of the piano.
Pre-audition prep:
1. Get to NYC and into Manhattan on Marathon Day with no issues (check)

2. Get to NYC with all of the materials that you will need for the X number of auditions that you are doing this season- headshots, resumes, bios, replists (versions one, two and three depending on the day, the time, and probably what you ate last night for dinner in midtown where you met up with college friends) (check)

3. The night before: Water, water, some Emergen-C, cough drop for some dessert and to convince yourself that you're only coughing because the heat is on and not because you are getting a cold (check)

4. Look through aria binder to make sure no pages are missing, your markings are clear, no holes are punched through key changes, and your alternate cadenzas are legible. (check- even though you know you'll do this tomorrow too)

5. Can't fall asleep? Can't stay asleep? While I personally haven't tried any sleeping pills, waking up every hour from anticipation/nerves/new apartment acclimation/the sounds of NYC can be a sure way to not be in your best voice the next day. The remedy? Well, if you have one let me know! I'm lucky that I don't have to sing until well into the afternoon- so even if I don't get a good night's sleep, I can stay in bed all morning until I feel refreshed enough to start the day in great voice and energy.

Good luck to all, and I'll see you at the table tomorrow ....

Now that my audition is over, I'll add to the comments for "day of".
It was raining SOOOOO hard today in the city. I'm sure there are many flooded areas and feel for the commuters who were trying to get into the city for auditions.
I, luckily, in my apartment which is 7 blocks away from Lincoln Center, was high and dry--at least for the few minutes before I stepped onto the street. During the walk over to the audition my hair got ruined, my socks and stockings got drenched, and my aria binder got a bit misty.

But I got there early, and they were in the GOOD room! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! That room on the side makes us feel like we're singing into a pillow. The rooms on the inside are wonderful.

Specific notes:
The panel- all smiles! (and laptops of course)
The pieces: Durch Z and GLITTER! YEAH!! No one EVER asks for it! and I love it so!!! It's like, my musical theater dreams come true. I get to be a little of what I had hoped would be my career all through middle school and high school. Livin' the dream, yea!
How I did: I thought, pretty good. First time offering Durch Z first. Loved it. Worked the character. Took my time with a "Mozart" and I thought I was pretty artistic about it too.
Glitter- always a favorite, although tough without props, obviously. Still, I think I kept it exciting and funny- I hope!

---and with that, the end of the first NYC leg of the auditon season.
As I said before, I'm not audition for much this season- just 3 or 4 summer programs. So I'll be back after Thanksgiving.
Until then, learning music, learning roles, reconnecting with friends and teachers, and seeing special someone.


07 November, 2006


Oh, competitions... I sang today (as did ACB - although I only know this from reading her blog, not personally meeting her in the real not bloggy world) for the Sullivan's.
I was having first piece issues.
Ok, this season I know what I'm using as my starter for auditions.
But competitions are different. You want to get the most bang for your buck, you want to wow them, you want to use every cliche possible to describe getting the most exciting piece and performance you have and showing it to the audience.

I was originally going to start with Lakme. Then for reasons mentioned in yesterday's post, I knew I'd NOT be as good as I could be if I started with that.
So I was down to my "audition" starter- Durch Z, or Queen- something that people either like or hate in my voice. I'm not a huge thunderous voice, but the F's are always there and I am definitely HEARD over the orchestra, as recordings and live performances in the past month will attest to--in the lovely Orchestra Hall which I hop to be asked back for yet another season of concerts.

My other pieces are just too long- but they're great competition pieces- Zerbie, Doll, O luce, Glitter- all just ONE minute too long to start with, but good 2nd pieces that the panel could ask for from a second verse perhaps.

So I'm sitting in Liederkrantz just basically playing eenie meenie etc. with my replists which I've typed out. I finally decided to go with Queen. I sang it really well I think, and it definitely contrasted with the piece THEY chose- the 2nd half of the doll!!!! (I even got to make a little joke about revisiting this past weekend and the recent Olympia I just finished singing in "currentyap"

Here comes the over-analyzing part. Now, I could be thinking too much about this (inner voice: yes, you are), but in choosing the doll (and knowing that I impressed them because suddenly everyone was looking up and smiling instead of writing), did they think that my Queen was on the "inappropriate" side and wanted to hear the possibly "lightest/youngest" thing that I could sing?
I have no idea.

If ACB is correct in knowing that the number of awards given out and the number of people they hear, I have a one in 8 chance of getting SOMETHING out of the competition- besides a chance to impress the panel of all-powerful and mighty operatis.

Still tired and achy,

06 November, 2006

N Y C....--just thinkin' about you....

I'm in New York. My flight arrived at Kennedy last night, and I'm tucked away warm and cozy in the UWS at my 2nd cousins 7 times removed (but they have an awesome apt. a few blocks away from Lincoln Center!) place.
I have NOTHING to do today! I have a competition and a YAP in the next two days, but I feel like the pressure is really off this summer season because I do have a place to be next year.

On a TMI note not meant to be read by those of the male species: It's that time, and jeez- I'm in pain today. I don't want to sing at all, and I probably won't, but I hope that warming up tomorrow doesn't prove to be a problem with the high Qs in the arias that I've listed.

Back to information that can be appreciated by all.
I was so peeved yesterday as I went through security because I had just bought a bottled water (still unopened) and my breakfast (half eaten bagel) and I forgot that I couldn't take liquids through with me. Had to throw it out unopened. Bye Bye $1.25 plus tax.
And that quart-sized clear baggy? Does everyone need to see what kind of moisturizer I use? Thank goodness I wasn't bringing some weird medications or "ointments" or something like that.

I must have looked like such an idiot at the line though. It was the first or 2nd time traveling by plane with my laptop, and I forgot to take it out of the bag. In that jumble I also managed to put AWAY the boarding pass, which they want you to take through the machine as you walk without your shoes on! I swear they backed that conveyor belt up three times for me.

"uh, ma'am? do you have a computer in there? You need to take that out of your bag and place it in a bin. Ma'am, where is your boarding pass? Well, she'll need to see it as you walk through. And the clear baggy needs to be on top of your shoes. Jacket in the bin please".

hahahah...my bad.
Thank goodness I have such an "American" name---NOT. In MY country they would have had me strip searched in a private room as soon as I didn't take the computer out.


03 November, 2006

more reviews and last few days

So far:

"vocally agile and funny"
"impressively scaling the loftiest peaks of her register while strutting about like a wind-up toy."

and my personal favorite of today:

"... with singers like "coloratur...aaah" as the fetching automaton Olympia, the cast is deep with talent.

Tomorrow is closing night of the show. I'm excited, a bit sad of course, but also completely busy (yet still procrastinating) getting my life for the next 2 months ready. We are released from the program and encouraged to take auditions, etc. Well, this year I'm actually NOT doing 25 auditions, I'm just singing for a few summer programs. I'm also singing at my alma mater as a soprano soloist, and other than that- visiting teachers, coaches, friends, family, and the special someone all pretty much on the East Coast.

I have been deluding myself about how much actual music I have to learn over the break.
We're doing a world premiere opera here when we return, so I have to learn a few small parts plus the ensemble. I have GOT to prepare all of Lakme. I have the first act memorized very well. I have most of the ariettas and duets in Acts II and II memorized, but definitely not all of the French-y Recit-y parts in those acts. And I also have to work on Nozze for May.
And then of course at some point during the break we're being sent scenes and arias and songs for two to three concerts and master classes that we'll be having with "world premiere" composer when he's here for the opera.


01 November, 2006

ladies who lunch

This afternoon three other fellow female resident artists and I had a lovely lunch date with one of the principal artists in the opera who generously offered to share with us her experiences and answer any questions we had. We had two first years (including me) and two second years. The questions mainly revolved around "what's next"? and how to get there.

The Next, being- Management.

Ways to snag a manager:
1. Send out cold mailings. Hopefully you have just done a great role, gotten great press, have a great upcoming gig, or are in a great program- which will catch their eye, and make them want to offer to hear you in New York when you are there anyway for your gazillion summer young artist program auditions. Research the top names, middle names and starting-out names, while avoiding the "hated and problem" names like the plague. Hope you sing well, hope that maybe half of the people you send your info. to are interested, 1/3 want to hear you, and maybe, just maybe you get an offer OR start a dialogue for future signing from a low, mid or high level manager.

2. Be in a show where the principals are already managed. When their managers come to see the shows of the people on their roster, try to meet said managers. Contact said managers after the show and establish a rapport, add them to your contact list, and work on building a relationship of visibility- letting them know when you are performing, etc- until the "time is right" and you request an audition for them, or they request to hear you sing.

3. A combination of the above two, plus good business savvy. Whether you meet those managers of other principals after the show, or get in touch through cold mailings and emails, it's all about contacts. It's about who knows that you are doing what. Word of mouth. Which director or conductor is represented by which manager who is looking for the next whatever--and are you that person.

But what is most important, is don't just move to NYC to move to NYC. So many singers expect that if they have just finished a degree at a prestigious school, have done one or two great summer programs, just completed a young artist residency or whatever their background--if they move to NYC they will be in the middle of it all and somehow make it. They are starry-eyed and according to Ms. Principal today, somewhat misled by the prospect of being discovered in NY.
YES, you are closer to 99,9 percet of auditions in New York City. From October to December, and then again for a while in March/April.
But in the meantime- what are you doing? Paying exhorbitant rent? temping? paying coaches and teachers 150 per lesson?

I get why though. When you finish school you want to be out of there. You don't want to go home. Where else do you go? The general metropolitan area that you like best? Chicago, Boston, NY, LA, DC? All of those will be just as expensive. But let's think about this for a second. Maybe you've been in school for the past 2 years, and maybe you've had a chance to get to know the music community where you ARE. What are the smaller and regional companies around where you are right NOW? And can you audition for those? Instead of just packing up and trying out NYC?

So- to sum up a smaller part of the conversation- New York- not the best idea unless you want to be in New York. But sometimes you don't have other choices. I mean, you finish with the residency, or you finish your degree- and then--where do you go?
Stay and keep contacts that you've already established that are hopefully good regional houses? Audition for the first time for those regional houses in the area of your choice?
Audition regionally but also nationally as an unmanaged singer for a year?
Well, in a word, yes.

I'm not saying you're not going to make it if you move to NY. I'm just agreeing with this successful singer who mentioned that many of her co-graduates who DID move to NY are still waiting for their career to happen, while she is happily managed for over 5 years and is booked for the next 2 years with interesting projects and operas.

The same can be said for those who stay in their hometown or their school town and don't move up a level in their opera house levels.

Now, here were most of our situations, or upcoming situations.
We're singing A roles and B roles in a major opera house. As resident artists. We have visibility in terms of letter B (the principal's agents coming to see us). We have summer YAP experience. But when we leave this program, we will not necessarily have an agent. We may have some interest from an agent. We will have great credits to do a round of unmanaged house auditions, but that is just the situation.

So today's conversation really helped put into perspective our next steps.
It also helped put into perspective the fact that I have to keep sight of the musical process and exploration that is part of this art- and not just the performance.
This particular artist was so passionate about what she did, how she committed to a role- how she spoke about Nicklausse and her relationship to Hoffmann--you could tell that this was more than music and performance to her. It was a part of who she was every day.

And of course, yes, that's what you want to put into your art. But sometimes that only happens when you're onstage. Sometimes it only happens in a fleeting coaching- maybe for one or two seconds. It's rare for me to feel so empowered, so passionate and so committed all the time- onstage, rehearsal, preparation, character development. I want to make that more of a goal, as I work on Act II and III of the opera that I will be singing in April during this upcoming audition break- and to date probably the most challenging roles I've done since Lucia.