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