23 August, 2006

technique of the week

I will now attempt to describe the magic that occured in my lessons today and yesterday- the first in two months since this summer program.

1. On a supported 'ng', sing a note with one nostril blocked. Feel that point right in the middle of the forehead? And that buzzing in the top of the nose? And how the eyes are engaged?
Now sing any vowel, word, note, etc. It shall thenceforth sound as resonant and supported and free as it will ever be.

note to self: stop cheating and making up voices to try to achieve that same sound- because you can achieve that same sound, but not that feeling of ring/buzz/freedom any other way but the right way.

2. Starting on an A below middle C, sing in speaking voice: Ah, eh, Ee, Oh, Oo (on C, D,C,D,C) just the last Ooh. Go up lightly by halfsteps to the F above middle C, slowly adding the "singing" voice into the "spoken" voice.
From nowforth warming up low will completely make the extreme high Q's and the usually weird passagio middle seem like angel food cake melting in my mouth.

There were about 4 more that did the trick as well, but in the end it was me who realized that there are no tricks, there is just singing freely, and understanding what that feeling is. I can oversupport, undersupport, oversing, undersing, chew words, have lazy vowels- and I do all of these things for the sound that I think my head is what is coming out of my mouth. But what I have to do is totally trust in that original free sound first, not what I think I have to do to make it.
What I really have to do is nothing- just let the voice be, smile in the eyes, and love what I do.


20 August, 2006

leavin' in a packed car

This morning was reserved for sleeping late, being woken up by young artists who stayed up all night and were still somewhat tipsy and running their mouths about all of the last night "get togethers" that some pairs seemed to be having in their respective rooms.
Then it was on to packing. One suitcase down, one half of a messy room to go.
The question is- do I do my laundry today? Oh how I despise doing laundry when it's not in my own apartment.
But it's even more disgusting to have it in my car in a bag dirty!
I think I have to do it today.

The major things I have left to pack into my last empty suitcase are- very few clothes, the dirty-now-clean clothes when I wash them, much music, sheetmusic, scores, papers that I'm keeping and will maybe scrapbook with pics from the program, shoes, all of my electric/computer/minidisk/camera/ipod wires and wares, and my dvds and I think that's about it! I may make it out of here by Tuesday at 8am as planned if I can actually choose the outfits I'll wear for the next two days and really zip up every other bag that I own.

I just gave away a very nice pair of heels that I bought 6 months ago. I've worn them once, I find them uncomfortable (although that is the case with all my heels except for 2 pairs), and it was nice to make someone else who is a size 7.5 happy.


upon relistening

Yes, it's 3:33am.
And I've just played through every recording that I have of me singing on my itunes.
Undergraduate recital, graduate recital, and some operas in between.

Ok, undergrad: lighter, sweeter, less vibrato-much less.
Operas through now- umm, I sound older, the vibrato is much more pronounced. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I mean, really- how much squillo should one hear in the voice? I feel like there is almost no just held out note anymore since you can always hear the ring. In the doll last summer you can't because it's only coloratura. In the recital pieces it's all over the place and horribly annoying (I hated my recital anyway), in the arias from last september I sound the best I think. Settled vocally, but not this almost too pingy vibrato vibration thing that I hear going on in my recital and today's scene--NOW, a huge reason for this may be that I was really nervous for both, and wasn't in a technically and vocally good place. No excuses, but I did feel like crap today, and I know my recital was in a vocal/technique bad place for me...but how do I get that line? And do I still have it? Dammit, the minidisk shall now be my best friend.



This afternoon was the opera scenes performance for the studio artists.
As I said in my exit interview, I wish these scenes would have been assigned and coached earlier. Actually, they were assigned the second week, but they were not coached or staged until the week and a half leading up to the program today.
Now, if I would have been given an easier or shorter scene than letter aria and the two duets following it from Baby Doe, then I may not have felt so ill at ease.
I hate the feeling of knowing that I could do better in every way--vocal, dramatic, etc.- in an assigned piece of music if I just had a little more time. And that is what I felt today.

I listened to it afterwards on my minidisk. This must have been the first thing I've recorded since Queen in February, and maybe Lucia before that.

Oh, and my graduate recital in March.

I didn't really know that that's how I sound. At least on lyric things.
I know in coloratura stuff it's just a lot easier, pingy, bright, clear, pointed (but in a good way).
In this lyric stuff I'm a bit more concerned with phrasing. I think that will be the key work of this upcoming year in terms of my work. It's not pitches that are under, it's that I'm not supporting through until the end of the phrase, or I'm overattacking the onset, and pushing into something that I don't need to- making things sound- dare I say it--pitchy? It's there, and then not there for a split second, and then it's fine again...and I can tell it's because of the breath or nonbreath that I took to get there, and also because I was only thinking of that one note- not what came after it, not how long it was, and not that I had to shape it.

I'm going to listen again now.
Oh the torture.
I guess I should start recording myself a LOT more often. Because to me, this isn't necessarily the sound that I want. I know I've been working on the middle. And it's stronger, more present, and round. And the top is always there...but in these pieces that aren't just coloratura I don'tknow if I just pushed today, or I was nervous, or was thinking about it too much,but it wasn't the sound that I thought I had on this.


16 August, 2006


At this time next week I will be probably on the road after having spent a day and a half seeing friends, teachers and coaches one last time before I leave for the big move. I'll be on my way to my parents' house to load up the car, then do one last competition, and then drive across the country.

Until that happens though, the following:
Opening night, scenes program, closing night.

I got the dancing down, I even swish my skirt for the opera.
It's the scenes that I feel less good about.

In some programs you receive your scene/role assignments well in advance of arrival. Here you receive them sometime during week two.
I have "learned" it. I know the notes, words (I hope!), style, history, but I can't say that I've routined this large scene to a place where I feel comfortable performing an aria, duet, arietta, duet for 10 minutes and not thinking at some point about notes, words, technique, staging. In other words, how do I fake this feeling and make everything seem natural and easy?

Usually before performing an aria I would have had a chance to sing it for at least a teacher and a coach. Get some feedback. Maybe do it in a masterclass setting to see how it goes.
Now I'm just up there winging-but-hopefully-it-doesn't-look-like-I'm-winging it.

Then there are ensembles- two duets- where if anything, the reaction of the person who is not singing is stronger than the one who is. I would just like to spend more than 30 minutes on it musically and then 30 minutes dramatically before the run-through (tomorrow) and the dress (Friday) and the performance (Saturday).

I'm just frustrated because I know there is so much more that COULD be done, that COULD be in the scene dramatically and vocally, that MAY not happen just because we haven't had two to three solid hours of run-through. In fact, I think it's been around 1 hour musically (for three people in a 10 minute scene) and 45 minutes for staging.
It's not that I can't "work under these conditions" I just know that I have more, I can do better, I can give more and make it more.


13 August, 2006

business issues

I've drafted all of the thank you notes/emails that I'd like to send, and am polling some other singers right now about whether/what format to send them.
Here is my view.

We are already at a program this summer, which already distinguished us from the "masses" of general NY auditions in December (which I would NOT write thank-you notes for unless I had a great audition and they talked to me a lot after it). These people came here specifically to see their artists that they represent (if they're management companies), or to see a certain production, or to have a mini-session with the young artists here.

They also happened to get an audition session with us for 5-7 minutes. There was no real conversation, there was no real feedback, but I sang well at all of the auditions. Is it NOT a good idea to send them a card or an email saying- thank you for taking an interest in the careers of young artists here, and for hearing us at the short auditions--I hope to sing for you again in the future...etc. etc.?

I mean, is that really an inconvenience or a wrong thing to do?

I don't think it's TOO much of sucking up.
I'm being honest. I appreciate that they dragged their butts all the way out here to hear 27 artists for 5 minutes each, they went to a concert or the opera, and then went on their way. I appreciate that I am now in their "files", and that maybe I'll get a chance to sing for them again in the future. I'm not expecting a job (although two people have gotten called for outreach from one company), they saw on my resume where I'm going next year, I'd just like to be polite and say thank you, and if you have any feedback I'd be very appreciative to hear it.

The second issue is whether to send emails or real handwritten letters. Now, there are two companies here who are really big and I'd like to continue to be in touch with in the future who I don't want to mess anything up with by sending them an email which they may think is impersonal as they have only met me in an audition for 5 minutes....OR by sending them a handwritten note which has to go through 3 administrative assistants before it gets to them on their desk..and then they have to answer me by email which turned out to be their preferred method of communication anyway.

Therein lies the problem.
I could "find out" their emails because people here know them personally and know how to get in touch with them, but the company websites don't list direct emails for them, and only give their mailing addresses.

I know that I impressed one v.i.p. and I'd like to stay in touch with them and make sure that they know about what I'm doing. And their email address is not public, but there are people here who know it.
I also know at that same audition someone from a big house with a big YAP residency program was also impressed...and I would again, like to say thank you ...especially since they both sat down and had a Q&A session with the artists here after the auditions.

So, that's it.
I think it's old-school mail for those two.


11 August, 2006

remember to not forget....

Masterclass today with the director of the program.
I was on the fence between Zerbie and O luce- bel canto won out- also I think I have a better handle on Zerb dramatically than the "ah's" of joy in O luce.

But, breakthrough of all breakthroughs--- I don't have to be cute and sweet in every ingenoue role that I play!

O luce has happy words in it, it has happy music, but I"M NOT HAPPY! I'm a teenager who is not "wishing" for her love to show up....I'm dreading the fact that he hasn't shown up yet and that he may NEVER show up!
Wow, did that ever change the aria.

So I grew up. Welcome to adulthood. The stakes were raised. I was not wishing and hoping and pining and lovey. I was hurt and scared and confused and wanting so so badly for him to show up because if he didn't I'd just die.

Notes to remember:
Arm tension- and here I thought my gestures were so well planned. Well, they are but they were all inward or sideways..nothing out and longing. So, add that.

Don't explain through gestures. Say the words.

Musical beats- the aria/cadenza/line doesn't end when I stop singing or when the music stops. It ends when I have a new musical beat/thought.

Want it want it want it so badly that I can't do anything but express myself through that final cadenza with my hands reaching toward him.

And then of course hit that g.

All of this brings new light into my arias..that I say that I hate all the time- but really it's because I feel like I have to be this sweet thing, or this coy thing, or this excited young thing. I think young is the key word--that I don't want to really be, but all of these character are...but you know---the younger, the more immature, the more melodramatic-the more things really are life and death.

I had a Zerbie coaching afterwards and I really felt more grown up. I was instructing, I was actually telling the honest truth about myself, the character, the truth about relationships that don't work out, men and women--it felt really good.

So, to rethink my "cute" rep. in that manner will be really exciting for me over the last 11 days that I'm here, where hopefully I'll get to have some more coachings on most anything I do to get these back into singing shape.

Other news- got asked to do a concert in NY in september..but have to get a release from company-to-be---have sent an email asking for the release, no response...
I don't care SO much if I dont sing the concert, I'd just like to be able to tell the maestro and the planners that I can't do it..like- soon.
I guess I'll have to call them on Monday if I don't get an email.

What else?
Things are not yet winding down here. Last opera full of dancing and singing, scenes program. Cunegonde and Baby Doe (letter scene and the two duets following). I have never done the Baby Doe before (well, I sing the other two arias), but this is the first program to put me in something inherently not just coloratura, and it's fun and pretty and I feel good about it.
Too many words in Candide, and you'd think that I know it since I've done both of those scenes before, but with each new staging every year you get a taste for something different and get all flustered eventually. I hope we have one more run-through before the dress rehearsal!

I haven't done nearly as much work on Lakme as I would have liked to this summer. I actually don't think I've listened to it once. I "know" it--on book-- for pretty much the entire show. But my memory has not been tested nor have I started to test it. I have to decide whether to work from the French or from the English.
It's the only language where I actually KNOW what the words mean, so I have to decide whether to try and memorize it only fromthe French and then inherently know the meaning while I sing, or memorize it from the meaning (meaning I think ahead in English and then say the French). It may sound dumb, but it's kind of complicated.
I want the words to roll right off- and it seems that just doing French would be what I should do...but then what if I have a brain freeze at some point? Then I won't have any clue what the next French word is because I didn't learn it through the English, I just learned it in the French getting ready to know what I wanted to say as I say it (which to me is what it SHOULD be, but it's a danger as well).
Ok, too confused and complicated to go any further.
Maybe I'll just listen to it tonight with my score open!

Yoga tomorrow (last class), and then tech at the theater all day (hooray for sneakers and marking).


10 August, 2006

get 'er done

Ok, I just composed about 5 different versions of emails and thank you letters that I think I can work with as basic texts for all of the thank you/I'm still alive/how are you/aren't I wonderful emails and notes that I have to send within the next two weeks.

And it's 2:14am. wonderful.

For the past 3 days we've had a yoga class here.
This is my previous experience with yoga.

South Beach, family vacation 2004- did my first "Hot" yoga class, felt awesome, got hungry on the 20 block walk back to the hotel with my cousins, stopped for Greek food, got food poisoning for the next three days and wore a SWEATSHIRT on the beach in december, looking more pale than Hussein on the 17th day of his hunger strike.

Signed up for a 6 class community college yoga thing for 50 bucks this year. Went once- awesome. Went a second week- awesome. Felt really good after both of those sessions. Week three- was a little tired. Ate dinner instead. Weeks 4-6- well, if I already missed week 3 I may as well not go to any of them.

Here is the thing. I like starting all of these things. Things that make me feel better about myself. Going to the gym, eating right, and yes, even doing yoga. Medidating, writing in a journal every night, writing letters, keeping in touch with friends not just by impersonal emails...I mean, the list really does go on....
but what ends up happening is that I'm great for about 2 or 3 weeks, and then in fizzles off, as something more important like music takes its place. Things to learn, things to sing, things I have to be listening to and working on, tests, students, what have you.

Next year I have no excuse I think because I have to take those classes as part of the program, and I can't set my alarm for 5:50am to go to the gym and then wake up and decide it's too cold to get out of bed.

So, about this yoga.
It's called---umm, kundelini? That is probably really wrong.
It's about Mudras and chanting and breathing and light and energy. It's definitely not about downward facing dog.
I feel really relaxed and peaceful afterwards, but everyone has been coming up to me asking if I'm ok. Yes I'm ok! Can I not be pensive and thoughtful after meditating on "The Word?"?
But I also feel a bit restless. Because although I do not identify with the chanting, and don't believe all of the scientific background of "touch your pinky to your thumb for 11 minutes and it will stop a heart attack" business, I do feel like I am somehow centered, and able to tap into something that I usually keep closed. Maybe all those "emotions" that girls are always supposed to be having. Those ones that I don't show anyone??? Yes.

They come out sometimes, but I'm usually quick to dismiss and disengage. I don't need that drama.
But just breathing and thinking and seeing pictures of family, friends, love, flying in front of my closed eyes, gave me a sense of center that I have not had in a while- being here and only being surrounded by music music music drama drama drama in opera bootcamp.


07 August, 2006

no business like show....

What I did on our day off:
Wake up at 10:30 and call my "OPs" (opera parents) who invited me out for lunch the day before to say, yes, I'd come over.
Rolled around in bed and fell asleep until 11:30, got up, showered, went to lunch from 12:30-2.
Got back and spent the good part of the afternoon cleaning my room, and trying to download someone else's ipod onto my itunes (after ipodrip and extractor didn't work, senuti did), listened to Baby Doe for a while, fell asleep at 6pm, woke up at 7:30 realizing I had only eaten a small chicken salad all day, hung around in the kitchen with the girls trying to figure out what to eat and also if I was going to see the 9:45 showing of Devil Wears Prada, decided to have a bagel and peanut butter at 9:25 and still made the movie, got back and googled the conductor who I'm going to sing for tomorrow, and now am procrastinating on sleep because I feel like somewhere somewhere should be writing me an email update about their life, but they aren't.

The point of the title of this post was actually to say there's no business like the business of showbusiness...
I have once again happily been taking on the role of coach/manager of life and music for some people here...it really makes me feel good to help other people with some of the things I know about this business in my few years of having contact with professional companies, and my year or so of working for one, grantwriting, and being in real business situations otherwise.

The only problem is, I have a huge to-do, to-write, to-email list of people for my OWN business purposes and somehow I can't get motivated to get that done.

It would be sooo easy just to write the form email and then individually tailor. That's ALL I have to do, but I just feel not in the mood. I even actually have things to say..I suppose I just don't have that buttery business smile in the back of my head to guide my "I'm not doing this just to network, I really care, but by the way, here's what I've been doing and here's what I have coming up" email.

There's always tomorrow.

04 August, 2006

tired, audition, opera

Last night was the final performance of our Revue. It went really well even though we have all been exhausted, the temperatures have been in the mid-90s for the past 3 days, and the orchestra concert before we began got out late (again), so we had to begin after 10:30pm (again).

We pulled together one last time to give the folks a great country-western musical show, and it was really a lot of fun.

Today- auditions for company X, manager Y, and conductor Z.
They were supposed to be yesterday but were cancelled due to a missed flight by company X.

So today at 8:15am I woke up, showered, drank some Emergen-C, and hoped that I'd have that high G for any of the selections in which I interpolate them, and went off to the practice room.
Boy, was it slow-going. After 45 minutes of not even singing a song, I graduated from lip trills and raspberries to caro mio ben on vowels only.
And I still felt not warm enough, that the top was squeezing, and that g could go at any minute.

Then we had 2 hours of dance rehearsal (which will soon be dance and sing rehearsal, but right now we can only dance it and look on in anguish as the conductor's baton keeps getting faster and faster and our feet have to keep up).
THEN I got to put my dress on, get prettied up, kind of warm up for 10 minutes (by singing through the one aria that no one ever picks because of time- Zerbie), and then beg people for a vitamin-C drop or a ricola for the next 10 minutes, and then it was time to go in.

I had heard about this particular company X that they like to pick your piece, so I just handed them a replist with 5 that I was ready to sing.
Durch Z- second verse and Glitter (wow! not been chosen in over a year, I think!)- for English? ;)
Everything was fine.
I think I have to find some new way to love my arias.

They really aren't going to change unless I add some early Mozart or early something else coloratura-ish to the package---and it's not that they're stale, it's just that I feel like I WANT to approach it differently to make it interesting for me AND the panel.

Because really, I know Durch Z is my kind of character and rep, but I've never gotten the chance to explore her as a whole character, it's just this darn aria- where I'm not very nice, but have to be sweet anyway.

I do like Chacun because I still feel it impresses above all my others due to the high added in, and that I've done the role and know what I'm doing.

Anyway, Vanessa opens tonight and me being the spritely maid Clara, I have to take a little nap now so I can get ready for my big (silent) crying moment in the last 10 minutes of the opera.
This is a truly gorgeous piece, and I'm lucky to get to see it every night even if I'm just bringing in things and taking things off people.
It's not every "modern" or contemporary piece that I like, but this is one of them, and it's because of the classical structure, but new musical aspect of it at the same time.