Monday, December 31, 2007

Gratitude - Day 43

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for having a husband with a tremendous, outrageous, wicked and always surprising sense of humor. (I had to wrestle this wig off his head for my entrance in the Act 1 Finale!)

He actually pulls it off quite well!

I wish each of you the most wonderful finish to 2007 - be safe, but celebrate in grand style!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gratitude - Day 42

I'm grateful for my first bonafide, authentic, far-off-the-Ramblas tapas meal. A local friend recommended this place, and I lost track after roughly 20 dishes of assorted meats, salads, and various sundry creations split between the table of 9. We sampled everything, savoring each different flavor and variety of vegetable and sausage, and did not leave the table hungry. It is quite possible, however, that after all the plates were cleared, my favorite remained the simple pa amb tomàquet, prepared by the diner, himself: fresh bread rubbed with garlic and fresh tomato, sprinke with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Perfection.

The meal was the perfect finish to an incredibly delightful evening in the theater: Joan Font (creator of the Comediants, and director of our "Cenerentola" at the Liceu) invited us to his showing of "Tren de somnis" in the Teatre Nacional de Cataluyna. It was truly a special creation, centering around the old silent movies of, primarily, Buster Keaton, with modern score and modern spin. What a discovery to see those old silent films brought to light again. The main topic of discussion at dinner was how MUCH can be done with so LITTLE money and so little 'tools' - the imagination and creativity of a Keaton puts to shame most modern filmmakers who have the entire technological world at their fingertips, but with sadly little creativity.

Where is the age of enlightenment when we need it?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Gratitude - Day 41

I'm grateful I get to see Carlos Chausson again! We met nearly 6 years ago during my very first Cenerentola in Europe (Madrid in June of '01, actually!), and immediately, he befriended this shy, out of place, homesick singer. We later shared the stage in Paris for a challenging, but ultimately beautiful "Barbiere", and my respect and adoration of him was cemented eternally! What a generous, gifted, talented performer and an even kinder, funnier, sweeter human being! BRAVO, amico mio!

I snapped this photo of Carlos before his performance of "Cenerentola" at the Liceu.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gratitude - Day 40

I'm grateful for being in a city where it's OK to be a tourist. One of the things I enjoy about spending weeks at a time in foreign cities is that eventually you start to feel a bit like a local, as I tend to detest being made to feel like a 'lowly' tourist - however, here in Barcelona, it all seems to be woven into the city's fabric, so on my overtly 'touristy' days, I still feel as though I fit in.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Gratitude - Day 39

So, as I mentioned, I'm finally catching up: I admit I fell a few days behind in posting because of some 'minor' events such as opening night and Christmas - not in actually taking the photos each day, but in physically getting them up on the blog. I'm back in step now, and can say that after a wonderful, memorable Christmas, full of great Spanish wine, food, friends, laughter and family, a great card game was the perfect finish - and I am indeed grateful for that! We started around 1:30 am this morning, and finished at ... well, in true Barcelonian style....4:27 am. When in Rome, right?

Back in the 'old days' of the Houston Opera Studio, a ferocious game of Spades was always waiting to be played during lunch or dinner breaks, between acts, and often after a show with a good stash of beer on hand - we fellow singers played a mean game of cards, and it seemed to be around the card table that deep friendships were forged. It's been a few years since I've had that particular competitive itch of mine scratched, but when Larry Brownlee (a mean game player and happily visiting us from Hamburg for the big day) pulled out that deck of cards, it was a challenge I could not resist. It really was the perfect finish to a wonderful day.

Here, my younger brother Brian makes a great partner - including bidding one daring hand of "nil" with a solitary King of Spades. We actually made the bid!

Gratitude - Day 38

I'm grateful for new traditions. In this case, being in Barcelona, the old and presumably ensconced Catalan tradition is not to have a Christmas Tree, but instead to have a "Tió", which is an adorable, smiling, innocent little log, propped up on two sticks (his legs), and a little red cap. The eager children sing a song around this adorable, unassuming little creation asking it to, well, without knowing how to phrase it delicately, here is one of the various versions of the song:

"Caga tió,
d'avellanes i torró;
tant si cagues com si no
et donaré un cop de bastó.
Caga tió!!!"

I'm not sure I could translate it perfectly, but essentially the local, eager children ask it to 'caga' out their gifts, and if Tió doesn't, they'll keep hitting him with their sticks until he does. I guarantee this wouldn't fly in the States, but somehow, it seems perfectly cheery and downright "Christmas-y" here in Beautiful Barcelona!

With his ever watchful eye, our Tió served as a type of Mascot for our Christmas Festivities, and it seems a great time was had by all. I can say without reservation that it was a definite improvement over last year's solitary event in Paris, so the addition of many friends visiting from different regions of the States, of my younger brother, and of my husband were all the gifts I could ask for - even if they didn't come from our resident Tió!

I've gotten a bit behind on my daily postings, but catching up here, I hope you'll accept my belated wish for a very Peaceful and Joyous Holiday for each of you - we can presumably all use plenty of these sentiments these days!

Bon Nadal!

Gratitude - Day 37

I'm grateful for finished projects. We sprinted to find the final key of this 1000 member puzzle just in time to make room for the impending feast the following afternoon. The myriad pieces transformed themselves into the lush and slightly demented "Garden of Earthly Delights" by the Dutch painter, Bosch. In case you'd ever like an intimate, detailed, near-tedious way to study the countless and occasionally shocking 'happenings' in this scene, I can recommend spending many hours piecing it together, one surprising piece at a time!

(The nice thing is that it was the perfect combination of distraction and relaxation leading up to the opening - I was in truth more grateful for that aspect of it than just in finishing it!)

(posted 12/26 for 12/24)

Gratitude - Day 36

I'm grateful for the perfect dinner celebration after our opening night. "Attic" is a lovely restaurant (the only one on the Ramblas which serves really good food) who took care of our big (and loud!) group perfectly: the tapas and wine were both flowing, and the laughter was non-stop. This is the chandelier hanging in the entry way, made ingeniously out of hanging cutlery. (I could also mention that I'm grateful for creative recycling!)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gratitude - Day 35

I'm grateful for the Theater, and all the riches it can, on those golden days, bring! Happily, we had a very good final dress rehearsal today, where the various elements finally seemed to come together, which is a great feeling. I'm very much looking forward to the opening on Sunday, and hope that our show will bring much pleasure to the Holiday crowd here in Barcelona!

(This shot is taken from the proscenium of the Liceu theater, looking up and stage left onto the 'tragedy' figure - the 'comedy' figure is stage right, and both are resplendent, guiding the happenings on 'their' stage with an ever watchful eye!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gratitude - Day 34

I'm grateful for my maiden name, for all of my family which carries this name proudly, and for the Irish Pub around the corner of the same name, which serves the perfect cheeseburger to sate one's hunger after a long piano dress rehearsal! Yes, very grateful indeed!

And happily, I am feeling better - thank you all for your concern. Seems like every person at the opera house is coughing and wheezing, so I'm happy to be escaping it for the moment (touch wood, please!). We had a good, if long, rehearsal today, our final dress is tomorrow, so we should be in great shape for the opening on Sunday!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gratitude - Day 33

I'm grateful for a challenge. It so happens that nearly all of the Cenerentola cast has been sick or is fighting being sick, myself included, so capitalizing on today being an off day at the theater, I chose to abandon the idea of touring more of this glorious city and stay indoors all day with my orange juice and vitamins. This became my mission.

Gratitude - Day 32

After another somewhat rough day of rehearsal, we were 'walking it off', and stumbled across a little church tucked into an unlikely side street and marveled at its simplicity and serenity. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gratitude - Day 31

I'm immensely grateful for the life and compositions of Fernando J Obradors! I think one of the most beautiful songs ever written was set by him:


"Del cabello más sutil
Que tienes en tu trenzado
He de hacer una cadena
Para traerte a mi lado.
Una alcarraza en tu casa,
Chiquilla, quisiera ser,
Para besarte en la boca,
Cuando fueras a beber."

"Of the softest hair
which you have in your braid,
I would make a chain
so that I may bring you to my side.
A jug in your home,
little one, I would like to be...
so that I may kiss you
each time you take a drink."

Recording his pieces for ¡PASIÓN! was such a dream - and they are pieces I truly never tire of. I happily walked down his street today (avoiding the drug pushers, of course, but that's another story!)

Muchas gracias, Señor!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gratitude - Day 30

I'm grateful I'm not this dog. ;-)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gratitude - Day 29

I'm immensely grateful for a lovely day of sightseeing that culminated in this stunning light, making it feel as if heaven truly were here on earth.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gratitude - Day 28

While it's not my most technically proficient photo, the subject matter more than makes up for it! I'm grateful for my little brother (a most talented cook) who is visiting here for the Christmas Holiday, and for the savory home-cooked meal he whipped up for us tonight. It hit about 10 different spots for this tired singer after a rather trying day 'at the office'.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gratitude - Day 27

I'm grateful for helping hands.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gratitude - Day 26

I'm grateful my 'beauty regime' is not terribly high maintenance.

(This photo was snapped out of my dressing room window down onto the Ramblas, where this performer methodically and systematically got ready for his contribution to living art on the streets of Barcelona.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gratitude - Day 25

I'm grateful for amazing, inventive, vivacious colleagues, like Joan & Xevi, who make coming to the theater an unabashed JOY!

Gratitude - Day 24

I'm grateful for a beautiful "office". In this case, the Teatro del Liceu. We were on stage for the first time, and as they turned up the lights during our first pausa, it was impossible not to gasp at the beautiful site in front of me; even if I've sung in some of the most beautiful theaters in the world, this feeling of "seeing the Christmas Tree early Christmas morning" never gets old!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Gratitude - Day 23

I'm grateful for good directions.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Gratitude - Day 22

I'm grateful for intense, honest gazes.


*"Edward Scissorhands" on La Rambla

*Beautiful old soul in the Boqueria Market

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gratitude - Day 21

I'm grateful for 'fresh' fruit and imagination!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Gratitude - Day 20

I'm grateful for the beautiful view from the rehearsal room at the Liceu - there is nothing like working through the Act 1 quintet and turning to see this light begin to fall over the city.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Gratitude - Day 19

I am grateful for a beautiful walk to work and for palm trees in December!

It's funny to me also, that after nearly 3 days of rehearsing here in Barcelona, almost all the opera is up on its feet! (As opposed to the 3 weeks we took to stage it last time around!) I appreciate so much the patience and willingness of the director, Joan Font, to integrate the different personalities into 'his' production - something which not all directors are always willing to concede. This time around we have a good mixture of veterans ("there's some Peruvian tenor who apparently has made a name for himself singing this repertoire", she says with tongue firmly in cheek) and newbies, (a Spanish baritone debuting as Dandini - NOT an easy role!) For me, stepping back into the shoes of Angelina is such a welcome, wonderful fit, and it reminds me (once again!) the importance of repeating roles - and repeating them - and repeating them. It's so wonderful to have my mind free of the musical intricacies (aside from working on a few new variations) and technicalities of the role, and simply being able to PLAY her. That is when freedom can spring up, and freedom on stage can be such a magical quality!


*The Plaza Real, Barcelona

*Joan Font, in an elevator at the Liceu

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gratitude - Day 18

I'm definitely grateful to be back in rehearsal for a role that I know inside and out, and in a production that I not only know, but really adore; it's surrounded by a team of enthusiastic, imaginative, life-affirming people who truly enjoy their work, and that makes it a joy to come to the theater each day.

In what will surely become a theme over the next few weeks, I'm also incredibly happy to be in the city of Barcelona! What an amazing city! I was here nearly 2 years ago for 2 quick concerts (my debut and likely retirement of the role "Fenena" in Verdi's Nabucco. I still remember the ovation that rained down on Maria Guleghina and Leo Nucci from the palchi after those performances, as the Liceu crowd immediately introduced itself to me as comprised of truly passionate music lovers. Singing here, I expect, will be a unique thrill. But the fever and pulse of this city hooked me, and I've been counting down the days until I could come back and explore it fully! So far, it has not disappointed:

Getting settled into a routine again feels very good. Since the final days of performing in Geneva, it has been non-stop for me. My time in NYC was exactly what I needed. First on the list was visiting my voice teacher and checking in to make sure things were in working order. It had probably been close to 2 years since I last saw him, and a lot of new notes have flown under the vocal bridge - and that can spell trouble for a singer. While I closely monitored and scrutinized myself through the new Massenet and the Strauss and the Handel, there still is no replacing that trusted set of ears outside of yourself to keep you in line. (Oh, how I miss the luxury of weekly voice lessons!) I do remember one of Steve's very first comments to those of us fresh and wide-eyed to the Houston Opera Studio some 10 or so years ago:

"My goal is to get you out of my studio."

Well, goal achieved! And truth be told, he was 100% right. I did not have the luxury of being near NY to systematically prepare all the past new repertoire with him - I had to rely on the skills and technique he taught me over the years to guide me, and ultimately I had to trust myself. (Easier said than sometimes done, by the way!) Reality crashes into your psyche when there is no one to turn to, and you must provide the answers to the questions you are seeking. My theory is that this is the process which begins to define us as artists - slowly, but hopefully surely, we begin to form what it is we want and need to say. That is our own to discover along the way.

A quick stop in Paris brought a crazy concert, which ended up being quite fun, despite no sleep, no jewels, and brand new repertoire being rolled out for the first time! A wonderfully supportive public made the evening quite special for me, and any chance to sing those pieces of Handel are such a gift. However, I should have known better than to use music not in a binder: there was a minor mishap due to a faulty page turn which left the poor bassoonist in "Venti turbini" playing a rather exposed solo when it should have been a ravishing duet with the hired singer! Note well taken.

But now, it's back to familiar fare, and honestly, the timing couldn't be better!


*Our choreographer, Xevi, puts Cenerentola's 'rats' through their paces.

*One of the many extraordinary street artists which adorn the streets of Barcelona, "Edward Scissorhands"

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Gratitude - Day 17

Each time I get to a new city, usually I'm renting an unfamiliar apartment. Most times pictures have been sent ahead of my signing the leasing contract, but more often than not the pictures depict a scenario far from the reality of the actual dwelling place, painting it in a much (much!) more flattering light than it deserves. Then begins the struggle of finding everything you need, orientating yourself with the surroundings, getting used to the odd smells, and sadly, knowing that the bed will be far from comfortable - simply because it is not your own. What a surprise and a delight, then, to find this apartment in which the pictures underplayed the comfort and space of my new 'home', and waiting for me were fresh flowers and a heaping bowl of fresh fruit, just the thing this spent, jewel-less, jet-lagged singer needs to boost her immune system! Fresh orange juice, anyone?!?!?!?

Gratitude - Day 16

I'm grateful for exquisite craftsmanship. Anyone who excels at something has my deep respect, and someone who can design a shoe like this, carrying the name "Valentino" no less, even if I could never walk in it as much as I'd like to be able to, makes me stop and think, "That is extraordinary."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Gratitude - Day 15

So I realize I've gotten a few days behind on my postings, due to travel and lack of (aaaaargh!) high speed internet. You see, yesterday was the PERFECT reason of why I decided to do this 'Gratitude Journal', because truly, it was a sucky day. I arrived in Paris yesterday morning to an enormous traffic jam, so what should have been a 25 minute journey morphed into a nearly 2 hour tour of the scenic suburbs. (As the meter rose to a heated crescendo, I disciplined myself not, under any circumstance, to convert the ever increasing number into dollars!) After several failed attempts at closing my eyes, courtesy of the impatient taxi driver's frequent outbursts of both speed and curse, I thought I might be able to get some work done, so I pulled out the music I was meant to rehearse that afternoon. Whether it was the jet lag, fatigue, or the sudden pulses forward, this traveller did NOT fare well mixing the reading and the driving, and proceeded to get sick. Fabulous way to start my time in Paris.

I made it to the hotel, the one with the broken internet connection, and got a quick 30 minute Churchill-style power nap in, and proceeded to open my suitcases to organize myself for the rehearsal. "That's strange," I thought to myself, "my jewelry container is open .... and .... oh holy %&#*$ ... and ... it's totally empty!" Wait, "Surely it just slipped out of its zipped pouch, and out of the zipped pocket I keep it in ... surely .... surely ... I've been totally ransacked."

Yes. It's true. I normally carry 3 different 'containers' of my jewelry with me - and we're not talking diamonds and rubies, etc - simply my every day items, plus my 'stage' jewelry, which I happened to have loved. I normally spread out the boxes in my luggage, zip it, tuck it away, etc, and in over 15 years of heavy travel, I've never had a problem. Well, now someone ELSE has a problem with the terrible karma they just incurred! They broke into both of my bags, ransacked it all, and took every last piece. I am really glad I know how to curse in so many different languages!

So, it comes time to post for the 'gratitude journal', and you know what? It worked! I quickly realized that in the broad scheme of things, it's so miniscule and minor and unimportant. I feel very violated, I have a surge of feelings regarding the stupid, pointless, degrading antics we have to go through like trained seals to pass through a "security" checkpoint at the airport meanwhile the workers in the back get free reign over our private items as if it were their own personal holiday shopping spree, and I do get quite tired of putting my belongings at risk each time I step out the door.

However, it is still rare that this happens, and the fact remains that in all my travels, I have been quite fortunate. I have also never been one to put a lot of stock in physical things, so this particular loss of 'bling' ultimately means nothing. (And if anyone is wondering why I didn't carry them on-board with me, I know...I know...I know...but in the end, we can only carry so much on-board with us.)

So, I took a few photos of the empty boxes lying carelessly in my luggage for any claim issues and went to rehearsal - tired, pissed off, and really, really jet-lagged. Singing was the very last thing in the world I felt like doing. But damn that Handel! After roughly 5 minutes of hearing the horns punch out their hunting calls in "Sta nell'ircana", my mood was lifted and indeed, I felt grateful. I also felt grateful posting this picture I took in the morning of the sunrise. Nothing ever seems that bad when we get a bit of perspective, right? Except for the bastard who stole all my things -- that karmic retribution is going to bite him in the ....... Gratitude. Right. I'll work on it!

Gratitude - Day 14

I'm so grateful for New York City - what an amazing, energizing place! I went in for a few voice lessons (more on that in a later posting), and took in the new "Iphegenie" at the MET, which was a very exciting evening to attend, and got my "New York Fix" to carry me through the winter!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gratitude - Day 13

A good friend of mine has a fabulous Provençal restaurant, "Café du Soleil" at 104th and Broadway in NYC, and I met a dear friend of mine there for dinner tonight, giving us a chance to enjoy amazing food (a heavenly "casserole du champignons") and great company - gratitude abounds!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gratitude - Day 11

I'm definitely grateful to have the chance to bake in my very own kitchen - not a rented space, not a borrowed pan or spoon - all mine! In this case, the craving was for cinnamon rolls, and I caught the dough just before being rolled together.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Gratitude - Day 10

I am grateful for light, in all its forms.


In honor of all the left over turkey breast today, here is a fascinating, almost surreal video wherein some of the Grand Italian Divas offer their opinions on the use (or non-use) of the chest voice. Fascinating on so many levels! ENJOY!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gratitude - Day 9

Part of the fabulous tech crew of "Ariodante"; this was my 4th time at the opera house, and now it truly is like coming home to family which makes performing here a joy. To steal from a contemporary advert: that, my friends, 'is priceless'.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

(I think technically I've fallen one day behind, but on transatlantic travel days, I'll cut myself a little slack!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gratitude - Day 8

I'm grateful for actually being able to celebrate someone's birthday on their actual birthday-day!

Normally I miss all the big occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, bar mitzvahs, you name it) and so to be a part of the celebration in a non-belated fashion is a real treat. It was also a nice way for our cast to have a final outing before heading our separate ways on Thursday. The gathering was at "Carosello", and if you're ever in Geneva, I can't recommend their pizza enough - particularly the "Pecorino/Rucola" pizza.

In the meantime, "Happy Birthday, girls" - it has been a joy sharing these long, 8 weeks together!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gratitude - Day 7

"Comfortable shoes"

It's lovely to be able to wear shoes like this on stage and not worry about tripping over stiletto heels for once. (Sadly, I have a bit of a reputation as a 'tripper', as I can count 4 sprained ankles from the role of Rosina, alone!) But these 'tea-stained' tennis shoes, along with my khaki pants and bomber jacket complete my transformation of feeling like Ellen Degeneres singing Ariodante! (And I love Ellen, mind you! I'd love to see her dancing to "Dopo Notte"!)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Note to self:

"Treat every show as if it were a broadcast!"

Last night we sang our 4th performance of "Ariodante" here in Geneva, and conventional wisdom would probably say it was our best show: what is it about the thrill of knowing your voice is going out live into the Universe, no re-takes, no 'patch session', just live, direct, immediate theater? I think I stumbled upon one of the reasons why I love this new technological wizardry last night: there is absolutely nothing else to rely upon to convey the story - simply the voice. Of course, this is the 'old-fashioned' approach to singing, which some might reasonably argue is a lost art - the art of text painting, vocal coloring, heart-breaking phrasing. Today a great deal of emphasis seems to be on furniture acting, trench coats, and the all-too-quick dismissal of 'literal interpretations of the text' which somehow has become 'banal' or 'passè'.


Don't call me a convert to that approach. I survived 3 years of studying under one of those (gasp!) old-fashioned Maestros who, for sport it seemed, used to send singers (like me) home in tears because they wouldn't open or close their vowels enough, or because they were too preoccupied about making a 'pretty sound' and couldn't take a white or black color far enough to truly express the devastation of "son MMMMmorta". It was not a unique experience for me to recoil in rage or frustration because I couldn't get all that he was asking for, professing all the time that he expected "too much". Those were 3 of the toughest years in my musical life. But his is a voice that now, in the heat of the moment, continues to echo in the hollows of my head; when I know a broadcast is coming up, I can see his white-hot eyes burning 3 inches from my face, wider than a Michelin tire, screaming, "MEZZO!! OPEN THAT VOWEL! I DON'T HEAR IT IN THE VOICE!!! QUIT AAAACTING AND LET ME HEAR IT IN YOUR VOICE." (He probably couldn't hear it, because all I could think at the time was "Don't cry. Joyce, don't you DARE cry!")

Perhaps I remember it harsher than it actually was (however, I'm pretty sure that's not the case), but isn't it ironic that years later, his is the guiding voice I return to for how I approach roles today? All the little red marks under the text in my score are what I would imagine he would scream for. And the longer I do this, the more I believe in his philosophy, the more I realize I have to learn, and the higher I set the bar for myself. A broadcast like last night serves to remind me that someone listening in Akron, Ohio (or, literally, in URUGUAY!) should be just as involved in the dramatic action, as someone sitting in the front row of the Grand Theâtre here in Geneva. It's not that I don't give my all for a perfomance without microphones at the front of the stage - not at all; instead, it's the knowledge that the folks tuning in on their PC's and MAC's at home have ONLY the voice to tell them the story, sadly without the aid of those character-revealing trench coats. (Sarcasm intended.) THAT is real acting, me thinks.

In the meantime, got this photo of our soprano with the famous, fire-red hair getting into makeup:

Gratitude - Day 6

Champagne & Candlelight

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gratitude - Day 5

I am grateful for concealer - nothing else needs to be said!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The show will go on. Oh YES. It WILL go on!

I once wondered out-loud here in my blogging world (or should that by 'typed' out loud?), what listeners would think if they knew what was going on in the minds of performers at any given moment during a performance; the mental cacophony would challenge even the most atonal of 21st Century composers!! But last night the backstage area buzzed and bustled with intrigue and exceptional happenings, making for a challenging, "I'm glad this one is over" performance!

First up: the weather change: a very stubborn and insistent northern wind took up camp in Geneva yesterday, playing havoc with vocal cords, temperaments, and over-all mood. It was the kind of blustery, gray day straight out of Winnie the Pooh's playbook that seemed intent on squelching all energy, trying in vain to seduce you to remain under the covers wasting the day away, eating junk food -- the furthest possible thing from princes, betrayals, and da capo arias.

Next up: a mini-cancellation. Sadly one of our singers had been fighting a cold since the opening night (although no one listening in would have been privy to that annoying obstacle!), and during our second performance, the cold won out in the third act, claiming victory over the singer's vocal cords. A quick visit to the doctor confirmed the assessment that the prudent decision would be not to sing the third performance in order to be back in the game for the rest of the shows. (No singer EVER likes to be in this position - but we are all susceptible at any time, any where.) The solution for this 3rd performance was to have our singer deliver the recitatives, while an imported singer (from Magic Flute, currently in rehearsals) sang the role from the stage. That singer had 1 day to learn the role. And so here you have the original singer 'walking the part' to a voice which is not her own, the substitute essentially sight-reading and trying to fit in with a staging/setting she has never seen before, an orchestra accompanying a new singer with no rehearsal, and an audience seamlessly processing everything as a finished performance. (Perhaps the impromptu nature of this staging was actually enhanced by these improvisations?) For the record: BRAVA to both singers for pulling off a very difficult situation with incredible bravura and committment!

Thirdly: a pain the back! During the second intermission I heard calls over the PA for doctors, nurses, staff, you-name-it, and immediately alarm bells go off. Another of our singers had been fighting terrible back pain over the past few days, (undoubtedly made worse by Old Man Winter) and it managed to hit a crescendo during the 2nd Act, so the prospect of singing another act was apparently coming into question. Evidently the brilliant Swiss doctors worked their magic, because the 3rd Act went off without a hitch, and certainly the audience had not a clue that anything was amiss. Again - what a pro, singing through pain like that. BRAVA!

Finally, a sticky topic, which I probably should avoid altogether, but like a grotesque, firey car wreck, I just can't avoid it: If someone asks me, "Do you read your reviews?", I'm 100% honest and respond, "Why yes, I do." But the next thing out of my mouth is that I take EACH and EVERY ONE of them with a LARGE grain of salt. If they are good, I will use them liberally and purposefully, for it is simply part of the business. If they are bad, I'll *try* and honestly assess if I think there is a grain of truth in it, or at least attempt to understand what the critic's point of view was, hoping there is something constructive at the heart of it from which I can learn.

But in the end, it is simply and uniquely ONE person's point of view, and the reality is that in no way, shape or form do I sing for the critics -- their tickets are free, after all. I sing for the folks who fork out the cold, hard cash. Period. However, it would be naive to think that reviews, whether written well or not, whether educated and informative or not, do not still hold a place of importance in our business. (And let it be said, I'm always grateful for the kind word - no mistake about it!) Anyone following our performances of "Ariodante" here in Geneva will discover that we have not received stellar reviews for this production. (I'll reserve my opinon on whether I agree with their point of view or not for my unauthorized biography when I'm long gone from the stage.) But right or wrong,I can feel the effect of those reviews on the cast, and I think, even on the audience, for overall, I sense a feeling of disconnect from the public. (In fairness, even the Genevoise public will admit that perhaps they are not the most likely audience to break into a frenzied ovation at the drop of a hat - but they are an educated, appreciative bunch of whom I have grown very fond.) If the cast senses that the show will not be a HUGE, ROUSING, OFF-THE-CHARTS success at the end of the evening, it's a bit of a trial to find the energy to zip up your costume and emerge from the wings ready to dazzle the audience.

However, here at the bottom line there is indeed great news: the music is the unquestionable winner in this, and THAT is no small victory! We have a very special cast in this show from veterans to newbies, and even when the morale-meter has wavered a bit on the low side, we come together, sing this music with great respect and enjoyment, and play the staging for all it is worth, relishing the interactions on stage and the glorious, challenging, profound music that was written nearly 250 years ago. Any chance to see or hear "Ariodante" is not one to be missed, and I think having weathered a tough, up-hill performance like last night will serve to lift us all up for The Big Broadcast tomorrow, and we will have an outstanding remaining three performances.

In the end, little hiccups such as these simply serve to make my job all the more interesting, and make me smile at the end of the night thinking, "The audience had no idea!"


*The blustery north wind coming in to bring a beautiful sunset view outside my window

*Getting into make-up while discussing life's dilemas
(photo by Leonardo Vordoni)

Gratitude - Day 4

One of the most haunting, complex, rich arias in all of opera: "Scherza infida" from Handel's "Ariodante". To say I'm 'grateful' to be able to sing this piece of music seems a tad 'trite', perhaps, but it is the unadulterated truth. As with most Handel arias, the range of interpretive possibilities seems endless, so one can employ countless colors, shades and meanings that change with each performance. Perhaps the opportunities are even greater with this particular collection of notes and words centered on Ariodante's learning that his love has seemingly betrayed him, for being the victim of such perfidy can morph into so many different colors: red hot anger, bitterness, despair, devastation, white-hot pain, black emptiness, the list goes on and on.

I marvel at how opera can freeze a moment in time (in this case, the freezing takes about 10 minutes!): often Handel is berated because "they keep repeating the same text over and over", but silly dismissers, this gives the opportunity for such rich exploration - the ten times I utter "infida" ("unfaithful one") in this aria can each carry a different weight - different percentages of venom, loss, rage and even love. The complexity of human emotion takes a long time to sort out, to sift through and to digest - yet another reason I love singing Handel.

Yep - gratitude abounds in this opera score!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gratitude - Day 3

I'm definitely grateful for renting an apartment here that has a fully stocked kitchen, providing the chance to make fresh-squeezed orange juice: a front-line defender against colds as the weather turns combative.

PS - Still at the start of this daily endeavor, I predict MANY entries will revolve around food. Call it an educated guess!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gratitude - Day 2

While it was perhaps the rose in the bouquet which inspired me to start this photographic journal, I'd be a fool's fool if I didn't post, right at the start of this endeavor, a photo of my Prince Charming - who has single-handedly made me understand the magnitude of true gratitude. Grazie, Amore!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gratitude Journal - Day 1

So in a risky move, I am going to mix two of my cyber worlds even more, and post more pictures from my photo blog here on my 'whatever this is' blog. In theory, however, they do cross-polinate in a way, so I should be OK with the CBP (Cyber-Blog-Police).

I know I'm not alone in this (at least I pray I am not) but for all the travelling musicians out there, life on the road can be quite difficult. Don't misunderstand me - I am well aware that I am not shoveling coal for a living, or doing hard labor under a scorching sun for $.48 a day -- I am without question living out a dream, and I'm well aware of that each and every day. But I'm also aware that my lifestyle challenges me on many, many levels: how to maintain balance in my professional and personal life (HA!), how to navigate through the pressures of new roles and openings and constant demands on your time and energy and talent, how to keep perspective amongst the pursuit of perfection and idealistic, unreachable goals, all the time being good to your psyche, knowing you'll never reach that utopian perfection you strive for, etc. I found years ago that it all comes down to what I choose to see, what elements of this life I choose to focus on: the good or the bad.

Since coming to this realization, I've been successful more often than not in focusing on the positive, but God knows there are still periods of true difficulty and struggle in this business, and through those ghastly moments, we still have to breathe in and "turn it on" for a public that deserves our everything and, rightly so, could not care less about how hard it was for us to get into makeup and warm up that particular night. I consider it a LARGE part of my job to keep healthy mentally so that these difficult moments happen less and less. (In part, it's wishful thinking, I know, but it's my goal!)

In a slightly unrelated topic, for the moment only, I've recently taken up a hobby of amateur photography, relishing how it takes me out of the world of music for a moment or two, but how it also fulfills part of my desire for art and beauty. I've got loads to learn still, but here's the beautiful part -- I'm not a pro, so I don't have to be perfect or brilliant! I was thinking recently, "what do I actually want to do with my photos?" I don't HAVE to do anything, but then again, that's not exactly my nature -- my mind is often going in the direction of, "what do I hope to accomplish with this", as I tend to be a bit result-oriented! Well, last night, I hit on it: I can use photos not only as a way to chronicle my travels, but I can use it as a type of "diary of gratitude". (I think I may be stealing this idea in some form from Oprah!!!) I know it sounds horribly cheesy, but I have found that when I start thinking about looking through a lens to capture a moment in time, I look very differently at the world around me - my observation takes on a much deeper, slow-motion quality, and I LOVE that! I thought, if I can attempt to take ONE photo a day, to show something that I am grateful for or something that brings beauty into my life, then my search for balance and perspective will surely have a better chance for success!

So, that's a big prouncement, and considering my procrastinating tendancy, I will STRIVE to make this a "365 day" project, but you know, I will give myself a lot of latitude on that front -- it sounded like a great idea at 4:00 am this morning, we'll see how I feel about it in 2 months!

So, my first submission:

"Opening night rose"
I think Geneva florists must do some of the most beautiful arrangements in the world. This is from opening night of "Ariodante" here in Geneva, and the colors in this bouquet are amazing!