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."