Monday, December 15, 2008

Can I just move to Europe?

The concert yesterday went very well, in my opinion. The Bach really pulled itself together, and all of the soloists really sounded wonderful. And of course, the children's choir was just as adorable as is possible. As I said before, I could go on about the musicians, but I won't.
After the concert, I went to dinner with one of the other altos in choir, Alison. Her husband, Helmuth, is from Austria, and besides the three of us there was our choir director, Jon, another member of the choir, Kelly, a graduate piano student who sings with us, Alice, Heidi-Marie, Alison and Helmuth's daughter, and two Italian astrophysicists, Massimo and Claudia. I was definitely the youngest person there, but I didn't mind in the least; I've always gotten along better with adults then people my own age.
So, the first course is brought out. Yes, course. Sorry, I may get a little carried away. The first course was individual quiches and a mixed greens salad. I love quiche. A lot. So after we were finished, the main course is set out. We had almond-encrusted salmon accompanied by a sweet salsa. Along with this were sauteed zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and basil, peas with shrimp, and a citrus rice dish with basil and maybe saffron. It was, in a word, amazing.
So I thought this might be the end. But no! There's more! After that came the bread and cheese. And really good European cheese. After the cheese came desserts. Homemade puff pastries and a coffee-chocolate mouse. And on top of all of this, when Alison invited me on Tuesday, and I mentioned that I was very excited to come, she said, "Oh, don't be. It's not going to be much."
But besides the wonderful food (this is honestly the best I've eaten in months), the company was great! Alison and Helmuth are very sweet and interesting people, and well rounded in many subjects. Discussion at the table covered everything from politics (both American and Italian) to things at church to literature to the stupid things undergraduates do (but I was informed that I do not fall into that category) to how Jon met Chelsea Clinton when he was at Yale. Part of the flavor of the conversation came from everyone's varied backgrounds. Jon grew up outside of New York City, Massimo and Claudia are from Rome (and moving to Paris by January), and here I am from Lake WobeDecatur. I didn't get back to my house until midnight, and was beyond tired; I'd been up since 7 that morning so that I get some studying done before Thomas picked me up for church at 10. But it was entirely worth the exhaustion.
And I'm thankful that I can have opportunities and experiences like this. Although it may sound odd, this is the sort of experience one doesn't expect to have when growing up in a place like Lake WobeDecatur. Being cast in an opera, learning Russian, and working with world-class artists also fall into this category. It blows my mind sometimes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Almost done

My last coaching with Marcello before the break was on Friday. He told me that I've improved, and even sounded good on some parts. We had time after we were finished with the diction part, and went on to actually singing. As I've said before, he's on the pickiest coaches I've worked with, but brilliant. I've never really done recitative before this, and he's been a great help making it sound good.
In about 45 minutes I'll be getting picked up for the choir concert at my church down here in Bloomington. We're performing a bunch of different Christmas and Advent selections, including Bach's cantata "Hertz und Mund und That und Leben". Even though this is a volunteer choir, we've actually got a voice major on each part plus quite a few people who know what they're doing. Jon, our director, got a few members of the Early Music Institute (EMI) to be our orchestra, plus some outside soloists (he told me and the tenor in our choir that he would have picked us for those solos, but I came in kind of late and the tenor had his junior recital to prepare). Our soprano soloist was in opera workshop with me last year, singing Maria to my Anita in "A Boy Like That", and is actually the one who introduced me to this church down here. The bass soloist sang Figaro here last year and Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor this fall. His voice sounds slightly like Nathan Gunn's, only with more "bass" qualities. He's also one of the funniest people I've ever met, and Jeff and Kelli's (our pastors) kids just love him. I could go on but I'll stop.
My first two finals are tomorrow; Russian at 8:00 am (honestly, Russian is a language that really shouldn't be spoken before 10:00 am. It's unhealthy) and French at 12:30. Then nothing until my music theory final Friday at 12:30. I have no idea what the heck I'm going to do for three days, and really wish I could take it earlier (already tried, won't work sadly) and get home sooner.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Italain Diction Boot Camp Part 2

My second coaching with Marcello was today. I've worked on my text, but there's still a lot of work to be done. However, he did tell me that I've improved, and some of it sounds very good. But, as he was telling me that my mouth was working too much to enunciate, he said, "You look like you're under pressure. You just need to relax. I know you want to do a good job, but just relax a little. If you work too hard, it's counterproductive." Of course, once I did, it improved! This isn't the first time I've been told by a music person or anyone, that I'm tense and need to loosen up. Do I work too hard sometimes? Yes. Do I need to loosen up? Probably. Of course, part of the nervousness comes from having a native speaker (who happens to be gorgeous) coach you in his native language. I'm very glad he's being extremely picky though, because this will help tremendously in the longrun.
Yesterday I had my first musical coaching. I've never done recitative before, and it is much harder than one might think. But I'm getting the hang of it, and very much enjoying it. It's better to learn to do recitative now than a few years from now. But my musical coach asked me if I was a grad student. I'm not, but this question has come up several times since I started college. I think part of people thinking I'm tense and nervous is because I am; I'm 19 and doing my first role at a major voice school. Of course I'm nervous! It's scary!
And, as a fellow opera-blogger and facebook friend Susan pointed out, "You know... if you relax, the Italian will just come. :) So go have a glass of chianti."
Chianti...mmmmm. =)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

All fached up

Today I sang for the first and last time an aria from Britten's Billy Budd. This opera is based on the novella of the same name by Herman Melville, and has an all male cast. There's not even a pants role, sadly. Therefore, I'll never be in this opera. But in English diction, I got a chance to sing one of the arias as part of an "all fached up" day.
Surprisingly, very few people sang, especially given the excitement that had gone into setting this up. There were three of us who sang something we'll never sing again. A tenor sang "My man's gone now" from Porgy and Bess in his falsetto, and blew everyone away. Seriously, his high C is better than most women's. He might consider a career as a countertenor. One of the other women in the class sang "Joey" from The Most Happy Fella, which nearly every baritone sang this year at cattle calls. In fact, between that and the many people who sang it in her studio, that's how she learned it. And I sang "And farewell to ye, old Rights o Man" from Billy Budd. It's a very beautiful piece, and surprisingly tonal by Britten's standards. Billy sings this only minutes before he's hanged for killing Claggart, and in these final moments he explains that he's at peace, and that all of the horrible things that are about to happen to him don't matter now. I felt like I sang it well, but after I was done, Ms. McNair said to me, "Didn't you just feel the energy in the room that you created? It was wonderful!" And then went on to explain that no matter what you're singing, if you take it seriously, so will the audience. She then said to me, "You go and be Billy Budd!"
Later in the class, she herself sang "The Devil went down to Georgia" and played the violin part. It was, to say the least, freaking amazing.

Monday, December 01, 2008


My week:
Russian exam
"All fached up" day in English diction
French listening exam
English diction exam
Theory homework
Italian diction coaching for Giulio Cesare
Musical coaching for Giulio Cesare
Voice lesson
Work on theory project
Church choir rehearsal
Dinner with Stephanie in celebration of her engagement

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oranges, shoes, and pancakes

Since it's closing night tonight, I'll post some photos from The Love for Three Oranges.
These are the infamous blue shoes I wear in the opera. Fabulous, no?

Members from my studio in the opera. From left; Jessica as a Romanic, Jerome as an Eccentric, Ariel as a Tragical. Leah as Fata Morgana, me as a Comical, Charlotte as a Romanic, and Kelly as Princess Ninetta.
Towards the end of the opera, the King sings that Leander, Clarissa, and Smeraldina are sentenced to "death by hanging." After one of the dress rehearsals, David (in the photo, another chorus member), being his usual funny self, declared, "death by pancakes". Now it's hard to keep a straight face during that part of the opera. Thanks.

Also, we're having an "all fached up" day in my English diction class. Before I continue; "fach" is a German word that is used to talk about voice types. It's not a curse word. Anyway, for this "all fached up" class, we can sing something we'd never sing in real life. For example, one of the tenors is going to sing "Glitter and be Gay" from Candide. And me? "And farewell to ye, old Rights o Man" from Billy Budd, which is a baritone aria; I'll sing it in my octave though. And be channeling Nathan Gunn the whole time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Giulio Cesare Dicton Boot Camp

My first diction coaching for Giulio Cesare was on Wednesday. We're fortunate to have an Italian, Marcello, as one of our vocal coaches/accompanists, and he's also helping us out with the Italian diction. I haven't taken Italian yet, but I did have some diction coachings back at Interlochen with Donna, and I feel like I've got a good ear for languages. So, I thought my Italian would be in at least decent shape.
So, after my lesson, I wnet up one more flight of stairs to Marcello's office, and we begin the coaching. I read the text aloud, and he corrected me. I didn't realize just how many small intricacies there were in Italian diction, like the implied double consonants. I didn't seem to be screwing up on too many ideas, but the ones I did were huge; consonants and vowels. Marcello told me often, "No, you're using too much consonants, and your vowels aren't pure." I actually didn't realize I was putting diphthongs in some of these words, and its harder than heck to not say them. But Marcello was really a huge help. I was able to mention that I hadn't taken Italian yet, and he said, "Oh! Well you're doing well then." And whenever I would come close to saying something correctly, he would sort of jump in his chair and say, "This is best one." So now I have a lot of work to do between now and our next coaching, which will probably be after the Thanksgiving break.
Speaking of Thanksgiving...
It can't come soon enough. End of story. This semester has been my roughest yet in more ways than one, and it has left me totally exhausted. My white noise machine has helped me sleep, but I still haven't felt rested in about a month. So this break and a chance to have some quiet will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"You'll see a performance, a special kind of opera, striking and original..."

Last night was la prima of The Love for Three Oranges at IU. My parents came down to Bloomington for the performance, which I thought went very well. I never cease to be amazed at how much energy is gained from having an audience. The house was fairly well filled up too, which was nice. The group of the chorus I'm in, the Comicals, actually start out in the house, sitting with everyone else. And because of our costumes, we all got some bizarre looks, like "Doesn't that girl realize that dress went out of style 15 years ago?"

If anyone is interested, all performances will be streamed live via the IU website, starting at 7:45 in the evening (central time). You can access it here. =)

But my costume. Oh my the costume. Well, here's a photo.

One of the baritones in the cast told me at intermission "Girl, whenever I see your floral dress, I just want to puke." It made me laugh. Too bad you can't see the cobalt blue shoes in this photo.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Susan, a fellow opera-blogger, has tagged me in this blog game. Here's what you do:

The rules
1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog. Susan tagged me =)
2. Share 7 facts about yourself - some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. If you don't have 7 blog friends, or if one of them has already been tagged, find a random blog.

My bizarre facts:

1. I'm very particular about my socks. I hardly ever walk around the house in stocking feet because I don't like the sock bottoms getting dirty.

2. When I first became involved in theater, I seemed to get cast as boys. I'm a mezzo-soprano now, which means...I get cast as boys. Maybe someday I'll get to play a woman under the age of 50.

3. Green beans are one of a very few foods that I do not like.

4. I've been twice attacked by dogs, which may explain why I'm such a big cat person.

5. I own and can use a spinning wheel. I've spun quite a bit of yarn (the most recent product being a blend of angora mohair and merino wool), and and still learning how to knit.

6. Due to close-up double vision, I now have reading glasses. They're more than just magnifiers, and they help my eyes to focus.

7. I prefer cold temperatures over hot.

And now I'm going to change the rules. I don't know seven people with a blog, and I feel a bit odd about randomly tagging people, so I'll just leave it here. Which means you now know seven bizarre things about me. =) If you want to begin this on your blog, however, go right ahead!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


The Love for Three Oranges
Yesterday three other chorus members and myself wiped out while running across the stage. In front of everyone. Thank God people thought it was funny. As one of the tenors told me, "People thought it was funny, or they were worried." Apparently one of the other people running with me slipped on a newspaper, fell, and brought the rest down with us. I was also told it looked like it was in slow motion. Actually, it was kind of cool.
Today, as part of a scene in which we try to make the Prince laugh, I was beat up with giant inflatable swords. While wearing a mask.

Giulio Cesare
At our cast meeting, the director (freaking brilliant man, by the way) told us that as actors we have to believe we can do anything. He turns to me and asked, "Like you, do you think you could ever kill anybody?" I had no idea what kind of a response he was looking for, so, " don't know!", which brought on some laughs. He then asks, "Do you ever plan on having a child?" I said yes and he continued, "Suppose some creep tries to hurt or kill your child. Would you kill him?" I said I definitely would. "See, you can kill. Whenever I do this exercise, I try to find a woman who looks like she wants to have a child and ask her." This once again proves my awkwardness. But I am excited to start coachings in about three weeks, first on diction, then adding the music. =)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Now I can actually talk about this.

It's official! The lists are posted!
I bought my score early this week and am busy learning my role. Nireno does have an aira, but it is often cut, as it will be in this production. Obviously, there are going to be lots of cuts, because Giulio Cesare uncut is almost Wagnerian in length. Since the aria is cut (I actually haven't seen it in any editions of the score), my entire role is recitative, plus the small ensemble at the very end. I've really never done recitative before, so this will be extremely good for me, and will really push me as far as memorization. Nireno is actually a very interesting character; he's an instigator, telling many of the characters, especially Cleopatra, "No, don't do that. Why don't you do this instead?" and working behind the scenes for his favorable outcome. This namely involves getting Cleopatra and Ceasar to hook up and for someone to take down Tolomeo. And these both happen.

Thursday the entire cast met with our conductor. The opera isn't until next semester (last weekend in March, first weekend in February), but learning the stylistic elements and preparation needs to begin as soon as possible. I only knew a few of the other singers going into the production, and a few others I had seen but really never met. I dashed to the basement of the MAC (Musical Arts Center) as soon as our first staging rehearsal for The Love for Three Oranges, of which I am in the chorus, was over. In the basement where all the dressing rooms and such are, I saw two or three guys who appear to be looking for something. I was right in assuming that they were also looking for the same room I was. One of them says to me, "Oh, are you in the cast? How wonderful!" and introduced himself. We finally found the room, which turned out to be the women's chorus dressing room, all ready for The Merry Wives of Windsor, which opens next weekend. My first impression on meeting the entire cast is that I'm very young. When I say young, I mean I'm the only person under 20 in the entire cast. Consequently, I feel like a small child. But I'm excited to learn this role and be a part of this wonderful and beautiful opera!

Here's a closer look at the cast list. I still can't believe my name is actually on it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Breaking News

I found out only a few hours ago that I've been cast as Nireno in IU Opera Theater's production of Giulio Cesare! I'm absolutely beside myself with happiness and cannot believe this has happened!! More updates to come.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

More freak-outs

Here's what my last week or so has been like:

Monday, 22 September: I receive an e-mail that golden age soprano and former Jacobs School Distinguished Professor of Voice Virginia Zeani (who sang with everybody; think Corelli, Simionato, Domingo, Pavarotti, del get the idea) will be giving two masterclasses here in honor of her 60th anniversary of her operatic debut as Violetta, which coincides with IU Opera Theater's 60th anniversary. And we opened this season with La Traviata. I sign up for the Wednesday masterclass, prepared to sing "Parto, ma tu ben mio". This is big stuff, guys.

Wednesday, 24 September: I sing for Miss Zeani in the masterclass. I was very pleased with how I sang, one of those few circumstances where I walk away from a performance feeling very happy. Miss Zeani turns to me and asks, "Tell me, have you ever considered that you might be a soprano?" I told her that I had, but that I feel more comfortable as a mezzo. She said, "Very good. You have a very beautiful voice, very lyric. Your legato is very beautiful, and your diction is excellent. I just thought, 'She has such a beautiful voice, maybe she could sing Mimi, or "Senza Mama" or other Puccini.' But if you feel more comfortable as a mezzo, then stay there. Sing what you love. You can do Mozart, and someday Werther."
Alice, my teacher, who was a student of Miss Zeani and lived with her for 12 years, talked to her afterwords about the soprano/mezzo debate, since this has been an ongoing thing with my voice. They both agreed that I should stay a mezzo for now, but later on I may move into soprano repertoire. Like, 15 years from now.

Thursday, 25 September: Miss Zeani gives a closed masterclass for students of three specific studios, one of which was the one I'm in. I soaked up every word she said in these masterclasses. She's done so much, sung with so many people, and knows so much that its impossible not to. And on top of that, she's a very fun and sweet person, full of stories about everyone you can think of, and has a great sense of humor. Basically, I want to be Virginia Zeani. My parents considered naming me Virginia, you know, but obviously didn't pick it. Zeani's first teacher's name was Lydia though. So there you go.

Friday, 26 September: I see that I have a new voicemail on my phone, and I listen to it. It's a message from Alice; "Hi Lydia, this is Alice. Please call me back as soon as you can. Bye." Of course, my first thought is that someone has died. I don't know why, but that's what I thought. But then I thought, "Why would she be calling me?" So, I called her back promptly. She tole me, "I got a call from the opera casting committee, and they want to you to do a callback for Julius Caesar next Thursday, singing Cornelia's 'Priva son'." I have never been more stunned and surprised in my entire life, and never never never imagined this would or could happen. I kept saying "ohmygod ohmygod" over and over and feeling absolutely and genuinely shocked.

Saturday, 27 September through Wednesday, 1 October: Prepare for callback. Insert embellishments to A section in the da capo. The aria is memorized.

Thursday, 2 October: I skipped my morning classes to get physically and mentally warmed up and prepared for the callback. When I get to the MAC (Musical Arts Center, where we perform all of our operas), I'm, of course, early. But once everyone shows up, I realized that there have been 4 mezzos called back for this role. That's right, 4. Three graduate students and myself. And since everything is double-cast, this means I have a 50% chance of being cast. I'm not hopeful that this will happen, since I'm only a sophomore, but I'm still thrilled I got called back. I was the first to sing, and despite a less-than-perfect beginning few measures, I believe I sang well. I was very nervous for many reasons, but overall I am happy with how I sang. The casting committee is made up of about a third of the voice faculty (it changes every two years, I think), plus conductors and directors. My teacher isn't on the casting committee this year, but I told her to keep my posted if she hears anything about how I sang. So....we'll have to see what happens. As I said before, I don't anticipate being cast, as much as I would love to be.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Joshua Bell Experience: Take 2

Now the words to explain the photo.
Violin virtuoso and Indiana native Joshua Bell is officially on faculty here at IU this semester, and everyone has an opinion about it. His appointment isn't full time, but during his week here he was able to give a concert, some lessons and coachings, and dominate the IU campus.
Plus, I had a major meltdown totally unrelated to Joshua Bell beginning Monday night, but that's a story for another blog post. Let's just say I looked like hell the next day and half the music faculty has now seen an impression of it. My life is so bizzare.

Moving on.

So I'm walking down the hallway in the Music Annex (the MA, the Round Building) in search of a practice room, and as I approach Clouse's Lounge, I see the virtuoso himself talking with another student. I continue on my way, but am closely followed as he exits the building. Of course, people saw him walking through, and stopped and started, but me being in front of him, I felt like a celebrity.

Wednesday, the day of the concert, rolls around. He played Corigliano's "The Red Violin Concerto" based on music he wrote for the film The Red Violin, in which Bell played the solo violin part. Amazing movie, go and see it. Two of my housemates were in the orchestra for this concert, giving the inside scoop of what was going on with the music, the other players, and Bell himself. Although I won't disclose many details here, there are some very interesting happenings. However, I was told he really earned the respect of the orchestra and the other musicians. There's quite a few people who aren't big Bell fans for the reason, in my personal opinion, that he's a celebrity and has a "flashy" style of playing that is unique to him. I, for one, don't agree with this, and now neither do many IU students.

The performance was beautiful. I have Bell's recording of the concerto, but hearing it live was another experience. As with any live performance versus a recording, there are always things you hear in one that you don't in the other, and this wasn't an exception. In addition to this, seeing the concerto performed live made the piece all the more interesting and more beautiful. I've actually never seen Bell get that drawn into the music, and it was thrilling to watch. My seats weren't as good as last year, when I was in the second row. This time, I was in the second balcony. As an encore, he played one of the most challenging pieces of the movie score that isn't in the concerto; Pope's Concert, which makes Paganini look like nothing. Find the clip from the movie on YouTube (because I don't know how to post videos), and you'll see what I mean.

Afterwords, being the big dork that I am, I waited in the autograph-meet-and-greet line, which was surprisingly short, considering the 3000 people that attended the concert. This experience was much different than the last one, and if you wish to know details, please send me a message. Sound good? OK.

I ran into Bell a few more times during the week as I was going to class or practicing. My grandmother sent me an article about him that arrived the day of the concert that greatly improved my mood from my "meltdown" state. This quote particularly inspired me: "Don't worry about the occasional risk. You must be willing to take risks if you really want to live. 'Go for it', and the music will be much more meaningful."

I'm going to go for it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Deja vu?

Hmmm....haven't we seen this before?

More details later.

Friday, August 29, 2008

College, Take 2

I'm finally all moved into the house here in Bloomington and am beginning to feel settled in. The first few days were a little rough, missing home, my parents, and my cats, and just feeling emotionally lost. But I'm adjusting to college life again, and I'm glad I made this choice. There are, of course, some aspects of the dorm that are still appealing; not having to go across campus to hang out with friends, the food that's just there, and having the staff looking out for you a bit. But living off campus is much better. I have my own room, and the house is fairly quiet. Nobody runs down the halls screaming at 3:00 a.m. Plus, my room is good-sized, and I have lots of storage space (two closets!!). And we're only a block off campus, which is almost closer than my dorm was last year. So even though its a little scary having to do my own grocery shopping, I'm glad I'm here.

My desk.
My bed and dresser. The big yellow cat poster I got on sale last year, and the other four small posters are parts of old Met calanders.
I'm hoping to put a chair in the nook so that I'll have some reading space, but right now, it's just there. But I love having two closets.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bottle Shock

Since this is my last weekend home before the semester begins, Mom and I decided to see a movie. The last thing I'd seen in a theater was Sweeney Todd back in January, so why not go on a little spree? We saw Bottle Shock, and I believe I was the youngest person in the theater. I didn't mind though, because Alan Rickman was in the movie, which is mostly why we saw this particular film. Yes, we're Rickman fans, and find him particularly attractive despite his age. My friends think I'm nuts...but they're the nuts. In fact, for my birthday this year, Kelly (my roommate), Kristin (her best friend, who also lived on our floor) and Stephanie (our lovely dancer friend) made me a card that said "On your birthday, you should get all of your favorite things" and inside were pictures of Alan Rickman, Joshua Bell, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. They just don't get it...oh well.
OK, back to the movie.
Mom felt a little queasy because of some of the handheld camera shots, but otherwise, it was a very good movie. It's based on the Napa Valley victory over the French wines in a blind taste-test in France in 1976. I won't bore you with a long description of the cast's good characterization, the beautiful on location scenery, yadda, yadda, yadda. But Dennis Farina and Rickman were very entertaining. Wouldn't mind hanging out at their wine shop in Paris. Not at all.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Less than one week

Packing is still going slowly, although I managed to fill one more plastic bin with mostly books. When I went to Interlochen, I made sure I brought along some of my favorite books to help alleviate the homesickness. That pile got bigger when I went to IU last fall, and now I'm bringing even more, making the bin very heavy. War and Peace is the major addition, and being the bookworm that I am, I'm bringing two translations of Eugene Onegin.

This is probably the last Cat Pic Friday for a while, since I'll be at school and away from my cats.

Salem lounging the the hallway.

Tacy sleeping on my bed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

One week

By this time next week, I'll be in Bloomington again, preparing for yet another semester or college. I'm ready to go back and see my friends, work with Alice, and begin classes (because I'm a nerd and I actually like classes. I know.). However, the nerves are also kicking in (auditions, new beginnings, all of those things), making me not excited about going back to school. I'm looking forward to living off campus and not having to deal with all of the dorm junk; people yelling in the halls at ungodly hours, the boring floor meetings about nothing, having my own room, and no more bunk beds. So, have I been packing?...not really. It'll get done. =)

But I am nervous about living off campus. Even though I know this is a good step for me, I still question myself, wondering if this is the right thing, or if I should have waited a year. At the end of first semester, I reapplied for housing, which is recommended to all students, even those who plan on living off campus. I requested a single room and was told that I probably would not get one, due to the many requests for single rooms and a larger than usual incoming freshman class. But with the house, I'll have my own room (yay!!!!). But the many "I just don't see how this is going to work" comments really have increased the nervousness about this, especially from a certain person, who constantly asks who is going to clean the house (that would be us, duh), if we have a maid service (heck freaking no), if this is a co-op (no, we're renters, just like an apartment), that I can't possibly manage living with 10 people (um, I lived with 50 people on my dorm floor last year, and 1200 people in the dorm, so I think 10 is fine) and that I won't be able to manage it. Yeah, that makes me feel soooo much better.

OK, how about some non-college-freak-out?

Finally finished War and Peace. The ending was, well, slightly boring, as Part 1 of the Epilogue was really the end of the storyline. Part 2 basically consists of Tolstoy's opinion of historians, the definition of power, and what true greatness is. It was interesting, but it was a bit of a letdown after the powerful and fulfilling last pages of Part 1. My friend Mary told me that reading War and Peace this summer would be "freaking awesome", and of course, she was right. Although I still like Dostoevsky overall, I can't say I've disliked anything I've read of Tolstoy. Dostoevsky's philosophical, political, and social ideas are embedded directly into the plot (i.e. Ivan Karamazov's "The Grand Inquisitor", or the Extraordinary Man discussion in Crime and Punishment), something Tolstoy does some of the time. He does this perfectly in The Death of Ivan Ilych, Anna Karenina's Levin, Prince Andrey's death scene, and Anna Karenina herself. However, like Part 2 of War and Peace, he many times could simply write "insert my idea" and verge away from the plot, often proving to be distracting. But I love them both, and War and Peace just blew my mind.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Random Post

I'm nearly finished with War and Peace with about 20 pages left. It's amazing. Go and read this book now. Right now. Part 1 of the Epilogue is very satisfying, a good mix of humor and sadness. Too bad Tolstoy didn't write even a sliver of a sequel, just so we can see what happens to Nikolay Bolkonsky, Prince Andrey's son. He's a character that's in the background for most of the novel, but his 15-year-old self becomes more important towards the end, being inspired by Pierre and his late father.

Due to the muscles in my eyes not liking to focus close-up and leading to some double-vision, I need reading glasses. Groovy.

Early this week, I found the trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and I can hardly wait until November! Yes, I am that big of a Harry Potter fan. Proud of it. =)

Cat Pic Friday. This is one of the few times Tacy actually looked at the camera.

Monday, August 04, 2008

RE: Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

As I said before, my exposure to Solzhenitsyn's works are limited. At Interlochen I read the speech he gave at Harvard, ironically, in my Political Philosophy class. This was my first experience with Solzhenitsyn, and I remember being stunned by him, especially by his deep spirituality. At the end of our final exam, there were a series of questions that didn't count for anything asking our opinion of the philosophers we read, wondering which we found the most interesting, who we agreed with, disagreed with, would like to speak to in person, and so on. I believe I wrote Solzhenitsyn's name several times, since I found him the one of the most interesting, and found myself agreeing with him the most.
I came across Solzhenitsyn again in my Russian lit class at IU with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. I knew some of his life, but not in the detail that I dove into it at IU, learning of how he came to writing, of the horrors he experienced under Stalin's cruelty, and of his unique political and literary place in the world. And I'm amazed by him, of how anyone can endure the things he did and so many did, and how he held to what he believed in despite the political and social pressure and persecution. That kind of strength is to be admired and sought after.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

And I thought I had interesting roommates...

As I was checking out, I noticed a news story reporting the death of Nobel winner and Russian author Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. My exposure to Solzhenitsyn is mostly limited to One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, one of the most interesting and insightful books I have ever read. My Russian lit teacher at Interlochen didn't have us read any of his works, mostly because there was not room in the schedule for it. On an interesting note, one of her former students ended up being the college roommate of Solzhenitsyn's son Ignat, an acclaimed pianist and conductor. Can you even imagine move-in day?

Friday, August 01, 2008

I know this is late...

As promised, I've got the low-down from Sunday's recital. I know it's a bit late, but my final English comp paper has consumed my life this week. And it's done!

To my happiness, the recital went very well! The majority of our audience didn't belong in the classical music devotee category, so they enjoyed the wide variety of music we performed, getting a taste of what music from all of the major eras sounds like. Caleb and I really didn't intend for our program to fall into place like that, but it did, and it worked very well.

Caleb, of course, played beautifully. Having played the violin a little myself (I'm not a good player at all) I can understand and appreciate all of the coordination and flexibility that goes into good violin playing. As I mentioned before, the Bach Ciaconna sounded amazing in the church, but the "Gypsy Airs" by Sarasate got the audience into a frenzy; they just went nuts.

I was especially pleased with the way I sang my English-language pieces. The audience really seemed to like "The trees on the mountains" from Susannah, which was one of my favorites on the program. I was very happy with how I sang "Parto, ma tu ben mio", and felt that the coloratura was smooth and in place. I can't wait to sing this aria again, and I hope to sing the whole role someday.

I had great fun working with Dale, our accompanist, a very talented and hysterically funny man who can sight-read Rachmaninoff like it's nothing. The church was fairly well filled up, both with familiar faces and new ones. Caleb mentioned that we should make a summer recital an annual event, an idea that I agree with. We might be repeating this program later in Indianapolis, but that's still in the works and not a for-sure happening.

However, I consider this recital a success. I was happy with how I sang and pleased with my accomplishments this summer, especially "Parto, ma tu ben mio", one of the hardest arias I've learned so far. I've vocally taken a few days off, getting my mind back into learning mode for what I need to prepare for this fall.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Last night was the final rehearsal for the recital. This was the first time I'd actually heard Caleb (the violinist) play by himself, having only heard him in ensemble situations, and since I'll be hanging out "backstage" while he's playing tomorrow, this was really my only chance to hear him. His first piece is from one of the Bach unaccompanied Partitas, and it very well suited for the church we're performing in. The building itself is wonderful for music and especially for voices, and the Bach and "The trees on the mountains" sound really nice in there. Yesterday was also the first time we had rehearsed "Si mantiene il mio amor" with any of the strings. Caleb's sister, who is playing the second violin part in it, wasn't there, so tomorrow will be the first time we'll have run it with everyone. I'm sure it will be fine though. I'll be sure to post how it all goes, and if I can get some video or sound clips, I might post those as well, only if I can figure out how to do that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Edu-world madness

Rehearsal today with Dale (my accompanist) went very well. We're all doing a dress rehearsal on Friday, which means...I get to get out of class early! Only two more sessions of this class remain, and I couldn't be happier. My last paper for this class is one of the most ridiculous projects I've ever had to do in my life, involving 5 genres of writing...basically making a research project a creative writing assignment. I could go into the details of the insanity of this assignment, but it's just too frustrating. Let's just say it all involves bad scholarship, or no scholarship at all, all because my hippie prof thinks people need to stick it to The Man.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Can't think of a title

8 days until the recital...
Nearly everything is ready. Next week everyone involved will have a "dress rehearsal" of sorts so that we know where we'll be entering from, where the piano will be, and matters along those lines. There's only one piece that everyone is involved in, and I don't anticipate that many problems will arise with that (I hope not, as we haven't had the time to rehearse it!). The piece, "Si mantiene il mio amor" is really a bizarre piece to end a recital with. The text translates to "My love is nourished by grief, anxiety, and pain, so much that I cannot think about my beloved without being unhappy. I love, even thought I do not hope." Kind of a downer, you know? But it's a beautiful piece, and it will sound very nice with the two violins. I still need to finish the program notes and the actual program. Except for the English pieces, I printed all the texts and translations. Not being computer savvy, I had a heck of a time figuring out how to line up the original text and the translation, and finally came up with a method that isn't great, but worked. However, the Rachmaninoff text isn't side-by-side with the translation. Just couldn't pull that off.

This week, it's Cat Pic Saturday

Friday, July 11, 2008

On the vocal highwire

Sometimes, my voice surprises me.
After Alice made the comment that I might be a coloratura Rossini mezzo, I decided to take a closer look at Rosina's aria "Una voce poco fa" from The Barber of Seville. And, as anyone who has ever heard the aria knows, the repeated sections of the aria often include variations and ornaments. None of these are "officially" written in, but most singers who sing this aria put them in. I FINALLY got my hands on these variations and tried them out. Although some of the specific variations seemed to be aimed for sopranos (don't get me started on the topic of sopranos singing Rosina and other Rossini heroines. They just shouldn't and that's that. Maria Callas could, but she could have sung Figaro, Rosina, and Almaviva at the same time if she wanted to), but surprisingly, they fit in my voice. I won't be doing the high D# however; it's there, but it really doesn't like to be. Obviously, it's nowhere near being polished yet, but I know it can be. And that makes me happy.
My Russian education is continuing this summer, with a great deal of help. About a month ago, my dad had to do a funeral at a neighboring church because their pastor was in Germany visiting his daughter. The funeral was for a local farmer that many people knew, but no one had ever mentioned (to me at least) that his wife was Russian. During the preparations for the funeral, my dad talked to her several times, and mentioned that I was taking Russian and also that I'm a musician. So she told him to have me call her, saying that she would be happy to help me with my Russian. I've gone over to her house twice and have learned quite a bit! Who would have thought that in little Adams County, with our 30,000 people (lordy more people go to my university than live in my county), that there would be someone within 10 miles of me who speaks Russian! Funny story; she saw Dmitri Hvorostovsky sing in Moscow about 20 years ago before he really was anybody, and said that he was the only good singer in the whole show and that the chorus was especially bad. She also asked me where I work, and when I told her I work at a pizza place she shuddered and said, "No. No, don't work there. You protect voice, work on that." But I've enjoyed having someone to speak the language with and learn more of it myself. Fluency is my eventual goal, but if that ever happens, it won't be for years. But I've gained some new vocabulary and know some more complicated grammar structures.

Cat Pic Friday. Tacy's newest bad habit. Now we have to make sure the lids are down.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Cat Pic Friday!

Salem and Tacy on the kitchen stool.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Mozart is my man.

It's always good to know that my education is worth it. Mom and I drove down to Bloomington yesterday. My teacher spends most of her summers in Florida taking care of her elderly mother, but is usually in Bloomington for a week or so. Three of her students have recitals this week, so this was her week to come back to Indiana. I had the day off, so Mom and I took a mini-roadtrip to Bloomington to see my teacher. I wanted her to hear a few of the pieces I'm doing on my recital at the end of this month, especially some of the new pieces I'm working on. My main focus was "Parto, ma tu ben mio" from Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, a mezzo showpiece aria. Being the dork that I am, I've wanted to sing this aria since I heard a recording of Cecilia Bartoli singing it when I was 14. Mr. Norris, my teacher at Interlochen, and Donna (the diction coach who had worked at the Lyric Opera of Chicago) both recommended that I work on this aria, saying that it would fit well in my voice. I looked at it here and there, but the coloratura always scared me off a little. But, at my last lesson this past semester, I asked Alice, my current teacher, if I could work on it, and got the ok.

So, I've been working my butt of this summer getting it learned and conquering the coloratura. It's one of the most difficult pieces I've done, perhaps with the exception of "The trees on the mountains" from Susannah (yeah I know that's a soprano aria and I'm not a soprano, but I can sing it-- so there), but I felt satisfied with my work.

I sang "Parto" for Alice, and I was very pleased with the result. The coloratura, to my surprise, fell into place; the bass of the accompaniment helped keep the momentum going. The whole aria felt free and natural, making it one of the best times I've sung it. Alice was also very pleased with my hard work in learning this aria, commenting that the coloratura was very good and that I might be a coloratura Rossini mezzo. Insert good freak out. Coloratura mezzo? omg what? I've been told over the years that I may end up being a Verdi or Wagner mezzo, or even a dramatic soprano, but I never really considered Rossini and his pals as much. This is a bit nutty on my part, since Mr. Norris and Alice both recommended "Una voce poco fa" from The Barber of Seville for me. You bet your life I'm going to be looking at it a lot more now.

Besides the Mozart, we also looked at a few of the other pieces I'm doing on the recital: "Somewhere" from West Side Story, Rachmaninoff's "In the silence of the secret night", and Cesti's "Si mantiene il mio amor", which I'm performing with the violinist that's sharing my recital.

Afterwords, Mom and I had dinner with my friend Loralee. She's staying in Bloomington for the summer due to her parents moving from Virginia to Oregon. There were a few living complications with the apartment she's subletting, namely, her roommate going to Spain and having a guy unknown to both of them living in her place. So, Loralee's living on a friend's couch until this girl comes back from Spain and the guy moves out. Apparently he turned out to be a nice enough guy, but she's uncomfortable living with him, especially if there's only her and him. If I was in this situation, I'd be furious and showing it, but Loralee has the ability to be calm and collected. I have no idea how she does it.

But now I feel more comfortable singing the Mozart aria for the recital, knowing that I've successfully learned it. Naturally there's still a lot of work to be done on it, but it feels ready. =)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sometimes, my hair color speaks for itself...

A few days ago, I was looking through my desk drawers and came across a program from the Stars of the Lyric Opera Millennium Park concert from 2005. This would have been at the beginning of my junior year of high school. Flipping through the pages, I remembered a lot from the concert; being in the open air with my mom and aunt Jan, the blisters on my feet, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo's beautiful voice, hair, and his music nearly flying away in the wind while singing the crap out of "Suoni la tromba" with Quinn Kelsey, Matthew Polenzani stopping in the middle of "Salut, demeure" because of the fireworks from the Rolling Stones concert at Soldier Feild, and Denyce Graves singing one of the most beautiful renditions of "Mon coeur s'ouvere a ta voix" I've ever heard. Oh yeah, and Nathan Gunn singing the first Figaro/Almaviva duet and the Hamlet Drinking Song. But this had somehow slipped my memory momentarily:

Les pecheurs de perles
Act One, Duet: "Au fond du temple saint"
Matthew Polenzani (Nadir)
Nathan Gunn (Zurga)

Obviously I remember it, and yes, it was basically gorgeous. This duet, as with many pieces, really needs to be experienced live to appreciate its total beauty. The Lyric Opera of Chicago is presenting this opera next season, with Gunn in the cast. This is giving me roadtrip ideas...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cat Pic Friday!

Salem is almost back to normal. He wants to go outside and is back to his old habits, like lounging on his back on the kitchen floor. Here he proudly displays his stitches.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Vocal Poetry

Yesterday a pleasant surprise arrived in the mail; a belated birthday gift, in the form of Dmitri Hvorostovsky's Sviridov album (thank you Mom!). Georgi Sviridov, who died in 1998, finished the song cycle Petersburg, a vocal poem for Hvorostovsky in 1995, using poems by Russian poet Alexandr Blok. I read some Blok in my Russian lit class last semester, including his bizarre short play The Puppet Booth. His poetry does not employ many words, but those he chooses are powerful, even if the poetry is obscure and difficult to understand. Blok was at the beginning of what is known as The Silver Age of Russian poetry (the Golden Age being that of Pushkin and friends), which produced many of the early Soviet poets. I can't believe it took me until this past year to discover these poets, and I wish more people would read them. In my class, many of the poems we read also included the original Russian text, which was a big plus for me. Sviridov makes platinum out of these already golden words, and Hvorostovsky's dark-chocolate voice brings them to life with pianist Mikhail Arkadiev.

Also on this disc are Sviridov's Six Romances to words by Alexandr Pushkin, written in 1935. Of course, Pushkin is a totally different poet than Blok, and his style reflects that. Pushkin belonged to the Romantic age and uses more flowery and beautiful language than Blok. This is the man, after all, who wrote Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades. "To Nanny" is especially beautiful.

My advice? Go out and buy this album. Now. Right now. Honestly, this album is so good it makes everything else he's done look like crap. It's that good.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another cat update

Salem is back at home! He isn't quite out of the woods yet, but he's on the road to recovery. At the moment, he's being very sluggish and seems a little confused, but that's to be expected; he had surgery yesterday and is on pain killers related to morphine. So now we have a druggie cat. His diet has also been changed to moist food, since it has more water in it. However, he seems to be happy to be home. The vet staff seemed to glad to be rid of Salem, because he is very angry when at the vet. At home, he's very sweet and affectionate, but once he gets in that office, he turns into a terror. Swatting is one of his favorite ways to irritate the staff; they had to put a towel over him a few times. You'd never know that seeing him at home.

This is my cat...
This is my cat on drugs.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cat update

Just got a call from the vet's office. All of Salem's kidney stones were removed, and we'll be able to pick him up tomorrow or Wednesday! We're going to have to adjust his diet so that this doesn't happen again, and I'm sure there are going to be some other changes as well. But I'm just glad he's coming home!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cat Pic Sunday?

This is Salem, our tabby. He's currently at the vet for kidney stones, and we're unsure of what exactly is going to happen to him. Salem and Tacy are my first pets, so I'm not taking this as well as I should be. More updates later.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cat Pic Friday!

I'm also joining in on Cat Pic Friday. This is Tacy, my calico cat. It isn't a great picture, but it shows what she does all day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another reason not to like small towns...

We all know college is expensive. The logical solution, therefore, would be to get good grades, do a good job in your studies, and apply for scholarships to reward your good work. Makes sense, right? Apparently in Adams County, this is most definitely not the case.

Last year I was not able to apply for any of the scholarships available from the Adams County Community Foundation, even though I graduated from high school with honors and was accepted to the Jacobs School of Music. Why? Because Interlochen Arts Academy is not in Adams County (well duh!), and to be eligible for these scholarships, graduation from an Adams County high school was required. It doesn't matter that Interlochen turns down 2/3 of the applicants and is regarded as one of the nation's finest fine arts schools, it isn't in Adams County. OK fine. I knew I could apply for at least one scholarship this year, which required the applicant to have either graduated from an Adams County high school or have been a resident in the county for at least 5 years; I'm 19 and have lived here all my life, so I assumed everything would be ok. Wrong again.

I filled out the application in May, explaining why I wanted to go to college, what classes I had taken, why I deserved to receive this scholarship, yadda, yadda, yadda. I took 19 credit hours both semesters, got close to a 4.00 gpa, and took very difficult classes, so I figured that I could get at least $500 out of these people. After all, I've known others who have less fatiguing schedules and worse grades who have gotten more.

Yesterday, however, I received a letter saying that I got...nothing. Not a dime. My first thought was, "What the #%$*?!" I remained calm enough to call the Foundation and ask why I had not received anything. The reason basically was this; I had never applied before. Priority for the scholarship was given in this order: 1. students commuting state school students (basically, a local public college, of which we have the IU and Purdue local campus and some community colleges who take basically everybody), commuting private school students (only about two of those in the area), state school students (my category), and private school students (usually harder to get into and cost more money).

Now for the actual students: the "non-traditional" students also get first priority. These are people who have been out of high school for 5 years without going to college. Then they look at students who have gotten the scholarship before, and finally, the newbies. The person I talked to said that most of the students going to local schools often did because of a lack of money, which I think is only partly true. I have known so many kids who go to the local colleges because they simply lack the courage or desire to see life beyond what they know, or challenge themselves to a school like IU. Many have little ambition or motivation, and some in this category did not have the grades to get into a challenging university. So, these students are rewarded for their lack of achievement. Of course, there are those who do stay at home because of lack of money, but generally this is not the case. I remember that during the three years I spent at the local high school, going away to school was generally not encouraged, and the local schools, which offer often less-then-great programs.

So by the time my pile is reached, most of the money is gone. My brother got some money, but he is a returning applicant. I would be, but the Interlochen issue kind of screwed me over.

This is what is wrong with this community; there is no reward from the community for trying to better yourself academically. I did some theater with a girl some years ago who went to a college prep high school not in the county and went on to Harvard. Her mother was disabled and her step-father's job didn't have a huge income. But, since she chose to go to a good high school and then one of the world's most prestigious universities, she was ineligible for any scholarship from the community. This community does not encourage this level of achievement, and often doesn't really talk about people who do great things outside of the county, such as Don Neuen, who is from Bern and currently the choir director of the Crystal Cathedral and formerly taught at the Eastman School of Music, or David Anspaugh of Decatur, director of such movies as Rudy and Hoosiers. But are these people ever spoken of as role modals for reaching your dreams. Instead, high school football players from thirty years ago are still on a pedestal. This backwards thinking is ruining this county.

In other words, if I had messed up in high school, or if I chose a lesser music program and stayed at home, I would have a better chance of getting scholarship from this county. Some programs, such as architecture, are only offered at one university, in this case Ball State University. What, then, is the reward for wanting to pursue architecture if the community doesn't support going away? It would seem sensible to promote going away to college as a way to promote the county and show the rest of the state, or the country, what we're made of. But this is Adams County, Indiana, where most things make little or no sense...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Decatur has hit the blogosphere...

Opera blogger Susan has found Decatur...all 8000 of us. =)

Little known Indiana fact; baritone Nathan Gunn is an Indiana native. As is violinist Joshua Bell. Indiana rocks.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mariinsky fever!

I just found the website of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater, formerly called the Kirov, where the amazing and slightly creepy Valery Gergiev is artistic director. The Mariinsky is also the host of the famous Stars of the White Nights Festival of Music, which runs from May through July, this year celebrating 225 years of the Mariinsky. Here are just some highlights of this year's Festival:

May 12 (obviously already happened): Olga Borodina in concert

June 12 and 14: Great ballerinas of the Mariinsky ballet gala

June 17: Les Noces. Le Sacre du printemps. The Firebird

June 24: Bryn Terfel in concert

June 29: Dmitri Hvorostovksy in concert

July 12: Marking 225 Years of the Mariinsky Theatre La forza del destino

July 17: pianist Olga Kern

July 23 and 24: World premiere The Brothers Karamazov

As well as performances of Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades, Tristan und Isolde, Tosca, Don Giovanni, Carmen, The Love for Three Oranges, and all four operas of Wagner's Ring.

Seventy-nine days of pure bliss. The very thought of The Brothers Karamazov as an opera makes me want to scream with giddy excitement.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

2008; the year of Russian hawtness

In addition to beginning my study of the Russian language in 2008, singing in Russian, meeting our favorite Russian baritone, and possibly preparing to study in Russia next year, I'm also reading Tolstoy's War and Peace, on highest recommendation by my friend Mary. My reaction so far?
oh. my. lord.
I'm not sure what I was expecting out of this novel, but I've been blown away. I was familiar with the story, having read the synopsis of the Prokofiev opera, but I'm more than glad I'm taking the time to read the whole novel. I actually have three copies of it; the Maud translation, which unfortunately anglicizes some of the names, changing Andrey to Andrew and things like that. Idiots. I have another from my great-grandmother's house, which is abridged, so I bought a third, the good old Constance Garnett translation. Mary is proud of me. And we both have an extremely nerdy crush on Prince Andrey Bolkonsky. He's about as hawt as a literary character can be. If you don't believe me, read the book. If you do believe me, read the book. If you don't care about the attractiveness of a fictional person, read the book. It's well worth your time.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I wish I was in Europe...

The title of this post really has nothing to do with the actual post. I just really wish I was in Europe right now, as part of an ongoing battle of figuring out my place in the music world...

I was up at Interlochen last weekend for graduation. While it was wonderful to see my friends and teachers again, but it also felt very strange to be back. Mostly everything was the same; the Concourse and Rotundas still had gritty sandy floors, TJ House still had that aweful disgusting smell that I lived with for a year, the lake was still beautiful, and you still saw a lot of blue. Lots of blue. It didn't seem true that I could have been away from the pines for a year, as if everything had stayed exactly the same until that day.
While at Interlochen, I was able to reconnect with some friends and teachers from my year there. I briefly went to the bonfire Andrew set up across the street at the state park campsite (word to the wise; flashlights in a dark woods are a good idea, and cell phones just don't do the same thing). I finally met Pei-Ting's mom and sister who came all the way from Taiwan for her graduation. Her mom speaks no English, and I speak no Chinese, but I feel like we could still understand each other, proving one again that language is not necessarily needed to communicate with another person. I talked with Mr. Norris, my voice teacher at IAA, as well as my IAA accompanist, Mr. Larson, who found out about the Facebook fanclub I created for him.

After our excursion to the American Siberia, mom and I went to Chicago for annual Girl's Weekend. We explored the downtown area just north of Michigan Avenue we hadn't seen much of before. We came across a delightful tea shop called TeaGeschwender, a German-based tea merchant that sold every imaginable sort of tea. Our cute clerk showed us several sorts of teas from the over 70 selections, and we finally settled on a Darjeeling and a Russian Samovar tea. Both taste wonderful. We also walked past several of the beautiful (and freaking expensive) houses in that area, and of course I'd like to live in one of them. But....well, that probably won't happen. Oh, but we can dream, can't we?

I want a samovar.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The war on dough and my bizzare dreams

Last night's dream: I'm at a gas station on highway 37 near Bloomington filling up my car (which I don't have at school), and I'm surprised, yet not, to see gas at $4.50 a gallon. I then realize that it's Sunday and that Filippa will be picking me up any minute, and I'm nowhere near my dorm. Did I mention I'm still in my pajamas? So I start freaking out, thinking she'll be waiting to pick me up and I won't be there. I look at my car clock and see that its 6:30 a.m., an hour before she'll be there...but then I realize that I didn't switch my clock when Daylight Savings Time kicked in! And then I woke up.

The night before's dream: I'm hanging out with baritone Nathan Gunn and his family. I think we're at one of his kid's birthday parties, or I might be their nanny or something. But the whole time I'm thinking, "Oh lordy I'm hanging out with Nathan Gunn!!" And I freak out, but in a good way. So when I come back home (but all my college friends are there), I'm talking about how fun it was, and that Nathan Gunn is good-looking. And none of my friends agree with me in regards to his looks, and think I'm a nutter. Some people...Then I'm driving down Bloomington's Kirkwood Avenue, but it doesn't look quite like Kirkwood. I'm amazed at how many pizza places there are in B-town...

Lessons I learned while making palmeni today:
1. It's 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup water, not 2 cups of each. It makes for very gooey, unkneedable dough.
2. That gooey unkneedable dough is hard to get out of your hair.
3. Let the meat defrost longer. Its much easier to work with when its mostly unfrozen.
4. I can rip frozen meat apart with my hands. Arggg!!
5. I'm a palmeni champion!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Semester Wrap-up

Finally the semester has ended. Finally. Despite the fact that it was one heck of a semester, I'm very glad its finished. 19 credit hours keep a person busy, and can drive that same person insane. Do I still have my sanity....I have no idea. So, we'll wrap up my second semester at the Jacobs School of Music in this way. Photos!! Bloomington in winter. I think I took this photo in February... Pei-Ting, my roommate from Interlochen, came to Bloomington in February to audition for IU.Joshua Bell and I after his recital with Jeremy Denk at IU on February 10. Yeah, he's awesome. And dang...I'm short. And I was wearing heels.Dmitri Hvorostovsky and I after a performance of Eugene Onegin at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, March 14. He's also awesome. And I'm still short. And still wearing heels.
omg eye contact!!Soprano Mary Cloud, myself, and soprano Jessica Skiba after our recitals in April. I'm a mezzo-soprano, although I sang "The trees on the mountains" from Susannah, a soprano aria, on my program. We're staying in mezzo territory for now, and I'm so glad. Opera Workshop!! Picnics during finals week.
Bloomington in the spring...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cara speme...

A reality check is always a good idea...

The past few weeks were great as far as my vocal progress; my recital seemed to have been a success, opera workshop was moving along splendidly, audition music was good to go, the arias and songs I'm newly looking at started off great. And then...that feeling of "What am I doing here?" comes back...again. In the middle of finals week. Yesterday ended in me feeling rather down about my progress here in comparison to others, in my abilities as a singer, an artist, a performer, in my potential in general. These are unhealthy for a singer, and often begin an emotional roller coaster that has no real clear finish.

The good side though, before you think I'm some emo college kid...

I become more balanced in the end. I work harder to prove to others (and myself) that there is something there. Even though yesterday's practicing wasn't good, I know where I need to improve and what needs to be fixed. It makes my goals for this summer much clearer. I also happened upon a recent issue of Opera News featuring an article about mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and her struggles starting out, even in college. A competition judge once told her she had "nothing to offer as an artist", and she also had many vocal issues as she saw her collegiate colleagues praised and awarded. Few thought she would become much of a singer, and often regarded her as unrefined silver. And now she's one of the top lyric mezzos around. I checked out her website, and the caption of a photo of her and bass-baritone Samuel Ramey talked of how much he inspired her; they're both from Kansas and attended the same university (not at the same time, obviously), and both made it. It is from singers like these that I take inspiration; Birgit Nilsson, Sherrill Milnes, and Bryn Terfel grew up on farms, Samuel Ramey's hometown is smaller than mine, Michelle DeYoung is the daughter of a Michigan minister. People like these singer have to work twice as hard as some others, but because of them, I know that hard work pays in the end...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Juan Diego Florez: Der Supertanker

I was finally able to see one of the Met's HD Broadcasts in movie theaters, today's being Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment, starring Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez. This was the conclusion to Mary's and my birthday spree. I'm not as familiar with Donizetti as I should be (shame on you Lydia!), but I knew Marie's Act I aria and of course, the famous "Ah, mes amis!" and its 9 (count 'em!) high Cs for the tenor.
Natalie Dessay is a crazy actress, but brilliant. Some actors, like Dmitri Hvorostovsky, draw the audience to them by stillness, but Dessay does the same thing by constantly being in motion. She sang the crap out of tomboy Marie's crazy music, making jokes with the coloratura and making her legato smooth.
Now to Florez...he's adorable. You just want to take him home and feed him a very large meal and then have him sing to you out on a balcony. Maybe comb his hair. He looked cute in the lederhosen in Act I. Yes, lederhosen, you read me correctly. His voice has an incredible ring to it that I haven't heard before, and his high notes are sound ridiculously effortless. I'm generally a baritone girl (Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Thomas Hampson, Nathan Gunn, Sherrill Milnes...) but Florez is one of my few tenor exceptions. I've rarely heard something as thrilling as him singing "Ah mes amis"; sadly he didn't encore it this time. Silly tenor. During the first intermission he and Dessay were interviewed by Renee Fleming, and he really is that adorable. He said a send-out to those in Peru, but then said, "But its not being shown there, but hello!" and then scampered off camera. His Act II aria contained a high D-flat, which Florez said isn't written in the music, but he sings it anyways. And his last entrance in Act II was on an army tank. Why? Because he's that awesome.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

idk my bff Riff?

Its "Dead Week". Here's a little known fact about dead week; it isn't dead at all. In fact, its one of the busiest weeks of the semester, with exams, papers, presentations, juries and upper divisionals, performances, and preparation for finals week. Not dead at all. However, my time of insanity hit a few weeks ago, and I'm surprised that I have a little more time on my hands than I thought. Either that, or I'm forgetting something terribly important.

Yesterday marked the end of my favorite class this semester, Opera Workshop, taught by none other than Sylvia McNair, a woman whom I respect and admire tremendously. Our work this semester concentrated on singing and staging seven scenes from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, which is done by opera companies as much as it is by musical theatre companies; Bernstein himself conducted a recording of the masterpiece with opera singers Kiri Te Kanawa, Jose Carerras, and Tatiana Troyanos. Ms. McNair is perfect to instruct us in this music, having sung everything from Mozart to Cole Porter, and Bernstein himself was able to bridge the gap between the opera stage and the Broadway venue. Brilliant man. Just brilliant.

I sang mostly in "I Feel Pretty" (as Rosalia) and "A Boy Like That" (as Anita), two scenes which can't be more different. One of the reasons I enjoyed doing these scenes is because I'll probably never get to actually do this show; who would ever cast a blond-haired, blue-eyed girl in West Side Story, especially as one of the Shark girls? I was especially glad to sing "A Boy Like That"; I've never had to sing music like that before. Anita's part sits especially low, and I quickly learned that I couldn't sing it beautifully. But Anita's music at that point shouldn't be beautiful; her thoughts are, to quote Ms. McNair "Your man killed my man, and that isn't enough for you to stop loving him." The music is angry, and more than angry. I sang almost the whole piece in total chest voice, and screamed more than I sang. We also had a wonderful director for this scene (all were staged by graduate students of Vince Liotta). Our first rehearsal, he told us to just go on instinct and to see what happened. I was very surprised at the results of that first run-through; I shook the soprano playing Maria, and felt an rush of emotion that I've never felt onstage before. The dialogue preceding the duet also had an emotional intensity I've never felt before; the anger I felt when I shouted "And you still don't know; Tony is one of them!" was real to me. I hope the audience felt it. But the biggest trill of all was Ms. McNair telling me that she was proud of me, proud of how far I've come this semester. She nearly had me crying.

Finally, its spring in Bloomington! The flowering trees are in full bloom, and its even been hot for a few days (ahh!). And while the weather makes me feel somewhat lazy, I still have lots of work to do; a presentation in Russian, four finals next week, an audition, and packing up to go home!! And my birthday is tomorrow...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Reasons why I belong in a madhouse:

1. The T 132 Transcription Project. We get about half the music and a recording. The task? Listen to the recording and write the missing notes in a different key. This project ate my soul.

2. Freshman recital. I had a wonderful time preparing for it and performing it, but it still required a lot of work. However, the result was well worth it.

3. Next semester. I miscalculated the amount of classes I wanted to take next semester and nearly signed up for 22 credit hours. This will not happen, and I'm saying good-bye to algebra for the time being. The schedule includes; French, Russian, Music Theory, English Diction, Choir, Lessons.

4. Rehearsals. My last choir concert is on Tuesday, but that's the least of my worries. I was a soloist in the University Chorale's presentation of Schumann's Szenen aus Geothes Faust, which got me positive feedback from Ms. McNair! We're still in the staging process of the West Side Story scenes, which involves me shaking the soprano playing Maria, throwing furniture, and collapsing to the floor. Intense? Yes, and I'm loving every minute of it. There's also a student composition project I'm involved in that's a collaboration with the music and modern dance departments. The music, however, is some of the most challenging I've ever sung, making Vaughn Williams look easy. It is making me a better musician, which is my goal every day, to be better than the day before.

5. The Church Job. I get up earlier on Sundays than during the week. But they pay me!

6. Russian. I love the language, one of the most beautiful, in my opinion, but sometimes I forget that I read Cyrillic. Other times I'm writing be writing in English and find myself writing a word in Russian. холодильник is my parent's favorite word.

7. Finals that are approaching.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Who says its cold in Russia? Its hawt!

After nearly 14 months of planning, waiting for tickets and then the performance, I finally saw Tchaikovsky's masterpiece Eugene Onegin, presented by the Lyric Opera of Chicago, with baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role. Early in the season, Hvorostovsky pulled out of half the performances, causing a bit of anxiety on this part, seeing as there was really only one performance that I could attend. Thankfully, he was singing that night. In fact, this was the last night he performed the role in Chicago, and supposedly for the rest of his career, according to Opera News in September 2006. The production by Robert Carson (presented at the Metropolitan Opera last season, and telecast across the world February 07) also featured Dina Kuznestova as Tatyana and Frank Lopardo as Lensky. Kuznestova's Tatyana was heartfelt and beautiful, with liquid high notes and a perfect Letter Scene. In the final scene of the opera, her face clearly showed Tatyana's anxiety as she struggles with the choice in front of her, and we knew that her final rejection of Onegin was concrete.
I wasn't sure how I felt about Lopardo's Lensky; his was a sound I wasn't used to in the role, but by the end of his first scene, he had won the audience over. His interpretation of "Kuda, kuda", sung just before the duel, was wrenching and heartbreaking. His Lensky almost seems to know that he'll die, making the aria all the more tragic.

But of course, Eugene Onegin cannot succeed without a strong baritone in the title role. And we had Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a singer who's name has become synonymous with Eugene Onegin. I had seen the telecast of the opera from the Met last year, with Hvorostovsky and Renee Fleming as Onegin and Tatyana, and his Onegin was cold and unsympathetic towards Tatyana. However, his present Onegin was much warmer and his rejection was easier to take, although it still breaks that heart to see. Instead of simply rejecting her in the traditional "Its not you, its me" fashion, which is how Hvorostovsky played it at the Met, he was much more paternal in turning from her affection, wanting to protect her. Only his last line in that scene was as heartbreaking as always "Learn to control yourself in the future. Not every man will be as understanding as me." (loosely translated) The rejection is always painful, and nothing Onegin could have said would have been easy on Tatyana. His flirtation with Olga in the party scene would have worked on anyone in the audience, and he dances well too. =) He played with cards and talked with Olga during Triqiet's song, and ignored Lensky's despair at Onegin's flirting with Olga. The duel scene had no scenery, with only the singers and the drama onstage. Most of the scene occurred in darkness, with the sun only appearing after Lensky was shot. Instead of taking a break in between the duel scene and the Polonaise, the time was used rather well. Hvorostovsky stepped away from Lensky's body and proceeded to change his costume with the help of several footmen. Needless to say, shirtless Dmitri was worth the price of admission. =) But perhaps the most passionate and emotionally intense moment in the opera occurred after Tatyana's exit, when Onegin, alone on stage, cries out in his despair. Hvorostovsky could not have expressed that very despair with any more perfection; it ripped your heart to shreds, although it was much deeper than that.

We waited by the stage door after the performance hoping to get a chance to see some of the singers. Some annoying (and reasonably untalented) saxophonist whom had been hanging around after Orfeo two seasons ago was again playing on the sidewalk. We saw a small crowd in the entryway by the stage door, and, assuming they also wanted to meet and greet, we went it. It was a good choice. We saw a few singers leave, but we either weren't sure who they were or how to pronounce their names, as in the case of the spectacular Ukrainian bass Vitalij Kowaljow, who sang Prince Gremin. But after about 10 minutes, there was a collective "Ahh!" as Dmitri Hvorostovsky and his white hair were spotted.

To answer the obvious question; yes, Hvorostovsky really is that good-looking, to the point of being overwhelming. He knows how to work a crowd and signed programs and answered questions, from the normal to the obscure. I was about 5th in line to talk to him, which I did. I worked with a former Italian diction coach of his while I was Interlochen, so I made sure to mention her. He seemed pleased and asked me to send her his love. Will gladly do. He also was kind enough to let me grab a photo.
Of course, I could post much more about the whole experience, but I'll spare you. I will say that Eugene Onegin is an underrated opera, and I wish that more people knew it. Anyone can relate to it, because everyone has experienced disappointment and regret, not to mention that Tchaikovsky knows how to express human emotion in a way that no one else has been able to. I adore this opera.

Friday, March 07, 2008

One Week!

One more week until Eugene Onegin!

Photo from

Monday, March 03, 2008

More Countdowns...

11 days until Eugene Onegin in Chicago!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Joshua Bell Experience: Footnotes

So here are a few things I forgot to mention about the Joshua Bell recital of awesome yesterday.
For one thing, Kelly, Stephanie, Joanna, and I were in the second row. The second freaking row. About twenty feet from the man himself. We could see the sweat and hear him breathe. From our angle, we could mostly see the side and back of him (not exactly a bad view, mind you), but we could also see his music. As soon has he pulled out the last movement of the Saint-Saens piece, I knew it was going to be wild; there were so many notes it looked like one big blurr.

Also, while we were getting Jeremy Denk's autograph, the manager of the MAC (dont' remember his name) inquired him about the reception at Mimi's (that would be Mimi Zweig, current IU faculty member, and Bell's first teacher). Denk said that he didn't have a ride, to which the manager said he could drive him there, and added, "I think Josh's mom is taking some people there." And yes, that would be Bell's mom he's talking about, for she still lives in Bloomington, to my knowledge.

Here are some photos of my autographs:

The Recital Program; this one isn't autographed, but I thought I'd include a photo

Jeremy Denk's autograph on my Red Violin Concerto CD

Joshua Bell's autophrah on the same CD. It is harder to see in a photograph.

Joshua Bell's autograph on my The Romantic Violin CD.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Joshua Bell Experience

So, the day finally came, after much anticipation...the Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk recital. The tickets sold out in a matter of hours, suprising no one. Not to mention is was a free concert, when tickets to see him other places go for hundreds of dollars. So...this was something to be excited for.

I'm not going to lie, I was way more than excited...or ecstatic...or overjoyed. He's a great violinist (obviously), but he's also an Indiana native (from B-town) and an IU School of Music graduate. So, he's won a place in the hearts of many Hoosiers just because of that.

But on to the actual program!

The first selection was Tartini's Sonata in G Minor, the "Devil's Trill" sonata. After hearing the piece, the title is obvious; there's more trills in it than I think I've heard in a piece. The next selection was Prokofiev's Sonata in F Minor, a beautiful and still piece. One of the reasons I love Russian music is because it has so much passion and soul in it, and Bell is especially good at bringing out those qualities in whatever he plays. But a few bars into the second movement (Allegro brusco), he turned around to the people who were seated on stage and said, "Excuse me, but what is that noise? Is somebody unwrapping something?" Indeed, a noise could be heard. He continued, "This movement needs special atmosphere. Please excuse me." I know in writing it sounds very jerk-ish, but believe me, as a wittness, it wasn't. He began again and played through the movement. And indeed, you really do need a totally still atmophere for it, and I think his concentration had been broken, which could have ruined the piece. He played it beautifully.

The first piece after intermission was Dvorak's Four Romantic Pieces, which were all short, sweet and pretty tunes with, in great Bell tradition, a lot of passion. Its obvious why they're called "Romantic" (do I even need to explain?) In everything he played, you could hear him breathe between the phrases. The last piece was Saint-Saens's Sonata in D Minor. Of course the whole thing was beautiful, but the last movement was the most impressive. Let's just say he played so fast you couldn't even count the notes. Your pulse literally sped up to the tempo of the music. When he finished, everyone in the MAC got to their feet within 3 seconds.

He played 2 encores; the first, his own transcription of Faure's vocal song "Apres un reve" (After a dream). The second, the march from the opera The Love for Three Oranges, a very trippy opera. But it was thrilling, absolutely and totally thrilling.

Right after the performance, Kelly, Stephanie, and I went downstairs to the Green room of the MAC to get some autographs (Stephanie and I knew the back way). The only thing was that we weren't sure if we were allowed to be back there. We saw Jeremy Denk wander back from the stage area and got his autograph; he's a very nice guy. =) The page turner walked by and knocked on the door of the conductor's dressing room, and from within we heard Bell say "I'll be out in just a minute." Mental freak out begins. We wait there as a line forms, with us at the beginning (yes we're that awesome), and a few minutes later, Bell came out of the room, Stradivarius with him (in the case of course). Stephanie was the first of us brave ones to ask for an autograph, and then it was my turn...freak out continues. So I ask him to please sign both (yes I brought two) CDs and if I might have a photo...more freaking out. Apparently, my hands were shaking as I turned on the camera...but I got the photo. Right after Kelly took the photo, Bell patted my back between the shoulder blades and smiled at me. Freak out concludes.

Baisically, I've been giddy ever since.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Counting down...

Approximately 53 hours until Joshua Bell!