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.