Sunday, June 15, 2008

Final countdown

Nearly 2 months ago to the day, I turned the key in my lock on my apartment in Kansas City and have been involved in a whirlwind of recordings, performances, learning-learning-learning, flying, recital-ing, filming, interviewing, gala-ing, photographing, decision-making, autographing, and occasionally indulging in fois gras ever since. To quote a high level friend, it has been one of the "richest" periods of my professional life - and I'm ready for a break! I get one more blessed performance of Romeo this afternoon (where has the time gone?), and then I say goodbye to the lovestruck lad, and fly halfway around the world to find my own! Am I there, yet?

More a bit later, but in the meantime, here is a most unrepresentative glimpse of what I've been doing with my time the past 3 days!


Friday, June 6, 2008

Gratitude - Day 127

Gratitude - Day 127
Once again, a reminder pops up to discreetly remind me how many people it takes to put on a show. The audience for this show sees 5 "Principal Artists", or cast members, a chorus of about 40, and 20 or so "extras" that do the fight scene at the end of Act 1 so wonderfully, among other things - trained by the brilliant Bernard Chabin, plus the Conductor and orchestra members. But I remind you (again, sorry!) that there are SO many more people behind the scenes, many more than appear on the front of the stage - from makeup artists to technicians to stagehands to lighting guys to costume makers to the lady who serves the coffee at the canteen! Some of them do their job just because it's their job, and that's perfectly fine. Some, however, go above and beyond, and some (I'm assuming - but could be wrong) "lady" not only tagged my shirt in my costume (keeping it from getting mixed up with, let's say Tebaldo's), but did it with the most perfect stitches giving this sad, black, ordinary cotton t-shirt a real boost of character, this under shirt that no one ever sees. Trust me - you don't often see THAT kind of detail and attention - that's a sign of someone who loves their work. (Or, was extremely bored, but I favor the former possibility.) I'm grateful for the hands that took the time to do this.

Here's a quick pic of me with my "All-knowing Sword Guru", Bernard - he has been a big help on this show, helping me feel at home wielding that (not very light!) sword around at various singers.

Gratitude - Day 126

Gratitude - Day 126
I'm grateful for my fast (1.4) 50 mm fixed lens!!! I was walking home last night after the show and after a delicious meal (filet de bar, scallops, and risotto - along with a lot of laughs), and happened upon a sight you never really see in Paris, except in the wee hours: empty streets. You especially never see that at the Places des Voges, and what has always been one of my favorite spots in this beautiful city stole my heart, yet again, with it's empty corridors of archways and warm, golden light. The fact that a pair of lovers literally "just happened" into my shot was the "pièce de resistance!" I wish I could travel with a tri-pod for these very shots, but that's one more thing to pack - however, my fast lens went far in helping me preserve this beautiful memory with relatively little damage!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Apologies and Thanks

I just randomly checked this little section on my blog that says "moderate comments" and found a SLEW of old comments many of you have written which weren't forwarded to my personal email (as most of them, I thought, were) so I never saw them! I believe I have just successfully published all the back comments - but I apologize if you didn't see yours posted and thought I was filtering you!!

I sincerely thank you for all your enthusiasm and support!


Gratitude - Day 125

Gratitude - Day 125
I'm grateful for reminders that essentially, we are all the same, regardless of nationality, race, religion, blah, blah, blah. There is a vast number of things that unites us (so much more than we bother to acknowledge) than which divides us: we all have to answer to our Mothers ("Time to come in for dinner", "Do I have to?" "Yes, my dear - you do."), and we all are trying to live our lives as best as we possibly can. Am I wrong on this? Sure we get off track here and there, sure our doctrines differ, but really - what culture doesn't recognize and embrace the above scene I encountered this afternoon, strolling home from a slew of interviews? It makes me smile. It makes me hopeful.

And while this is DECIDEDLY NOT a political blog (although I have had to work in earnest at times to not throw a bloody fit or two here) and will not ever become one, I did, however, just want to share with you that today I am very happy and, indeed, proud to be an American. Regardless of your affiliation, regardless of how you may vote in November (if you're American), right or left, green or pink, surely no one can deny that what occurred yesterday in my country was monumental.

The Times of London captured it beautifully, in my most humble opinion, by stating, "The United States remains a land of opportunity...This moment's significance is its resounding proof of the truism about America as a land of opportunity: Mr Obama's opportunity to graduate from Harvard and take Washington by storm."

It said his victory also "demonstrates the opportunity that the world's most responsive democratic system gives its voters to be inspired by an unknown; the opportunity that outsiders now have to reassess the superpower that too many of them love to hate. Win or lose in November, he will have gone farther than anyone in history to bury the toxic enmity that fueled America's civil war and has haunted it ever since."

It was nearly 40 years ago that Martin Luther King inspired and boldly declared "I have a dream." It's a beautiful thing to see that dream come to fruition - not only with his nomination, but with the historic primary which led to it: a woman and a black man vying for the Presidency of the United States of America. I couldn't let this moment pass without saying it feels so very good, as an American who sees the world from outside her borders so often, to be able to say that I am proud of my country today. (It also puts me in a wonderful frame of mind for my all-American recital on Saturday!)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gratitude - Day 124

Gratitude - Day 124
I'm grateful for every single worker and designer and financier who built the Eiffel Tower, as WELL as the organizers who made the BRILLIANT decision to add sparkling, diamond lights which switch on at the top of the hour each night and dance for 7 minutes. It makes an iconic, breathtaking structure dazzling beyond words.

I was trying my best to be discreet during this gala party - I mean, really, it's terribly tacky for the diva to sling her DSLR over her shoulder instead of a Gucci evening clutch encrusted in crystals - I know! But honestly, I couldn't care less....I was glad I had my camera to sneak this shot out the window of the 7th floor of the Opera Bastille, tinged with the purple hue of the decorative lighting and swarming in balloons. It rivaled the souffle and wine to be sure, and reminded me one more time of how truly magical this city can be. (Um, when you're not stepping in the dog p**p on the street, that is!)

Sometimes these gala dinner's can feel like more work than the actual opera, to be perfectly frank, but this one was a delight. I was seated between two fascinating people - to my right a man who runs 2 theaters in Paris, one is the host to a popular hip-hop festival in January, and to my left the head of the Paris Opera Ballet. She's a fascinating lady, and I hung on her every word as she spoke of watching each performance of Maria Callas's run of "Norma" here at the Paris Opera from the wings. What I found fascinating was watching her gesture with her expressive arms, describing how it seemed that Callas was gathering up all the forces of all the energy around her with immense intensity and then emitting it from very deep in her torso. It was obvious how much this "dancer" took from that "singer" and it highlighted for me how intertwined our different disciplines are. I was very fortunate to hear her take on those historic moments on the stage. When I've spoken about being a tiny link in the chain of this opera world, feeling the ghosts of these historic singers as I stand on the same stages as they did, this is what I am talking about! That is never lost on me.

It was a lovely way to finish celebrating the 4th of my Capuleti's - officially, I'm halfway through the run, which again makes me shake my head in disbelief and ask "how is it possible?" I am amazed at how much I learn with each show, and while I'm still completely devastated at the end, I am enjoying myself completely and totally. The pacing comes more with each performance, and hopefully the depth does as well.

I do have to share one comment which I received that may be rank as one of the oddest, and yet coolest compliments ever: before the curtain call of the last show, as I'm peeling myself off the floor of the tomb, my Giuletta said, "I forgot to tell you before, don't look at my stomach when you are singing to me!" (It's no surprise that she happens to be a bit pregnant at present....) so I'm thinking, "Oh fabulous - I just played this whole death scene holding her hands and her stomach - great! - I'm making her self-conscience!" and I quickly apologized, to which she replied, "No, no - it's not that - it's that he likes your singing so much he's kicking like crazy, and I don't want you to see that and start laughing!" So the baby likes my singing? That's cool. Maybe they'll name him Romeo in my honor...

UPDATE! Whoops! I forgot to add my photo credits!
I got lucky w/ the Eiffel Tower shot,
Ms. Anna Netrebko captured the photo of me surrounded by the balloons,
and Operafan graciously shot the photo of Anna and I after a show!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Gratitude - Day 123

Gratitude - Day 123
I'm grateful for a wine so heavenly that it defies description. Is it the color caramel? Butter? Pure Gold??? This is a sauterne which was served at a dinner after a recent performance. None other than the Baroness Rothschild, herself, furnished the wine for the amazing dinner, and this particular glass sent me over the moon. It was the perfect pairing for the fois gras (I know - I'm not writing this to be mean, I swear!)

Must. Go. Wine. Shopping.

The kicker of this evening was that I was seated across from the charming Baroness, herself, and she was the most delightful dinner companion imaginable. I was actually able to share with her several of my earliest encounters with her wine - not as a drinker, but as a server!

Several (don't make me say "many") years ago in college, I worked as a waitress for the best restaurant in Wichita, Kansas - the only real "fine dining" establishment in town. (Oh, the lamb chops - sweet papaya, they were good!) It was a great job, and helped me pay my way through college during tough days. On the rare occasion someone REALLY felt like celebrating, it meant opening an astonishing bottle of wine - and without fail, that meant only one possibility: Rothschild. Of course, I also had to admit that the first time I was called on to OPEN a bottle of the heavenly elixir, I discovered in the WORST WAY that these great wines contained extra long corks: yes, I broke it on the first try. Classy, I know! Never again, mind you, but I'm sure it was due to my hand shaking with excitement and nerves! Happily, I think the patrons took pity on me and didn't garnish my tip too much.

She got a kick out of the story, and I got a kick out of connecting beautiful, random dots in my life.

PS - it will be a miracle if I still fit into my costume at the end of this run! Thankfully, the pants are quite "roomy" to say the least! I might, however, have a harder time fitting into these:

Vintage shopping in Paris - oh yeah!

Gratitude - Day 122

I'm grateful for butter, sugar, cocoa and, most likely, nuts of some sort - quite possibly even dried currents? Oh yes, very grateful!

Gratitude - Day 121

Gratitude - Day 121
I'm grateful for PARIS which seems to equal LOVE. Of course, maybe it's just that "young lovers" are on my mind these days, being Romeo and all...but signs of love spring up everywhere during the summer in Paris, and it's beautiful to behold.

Gratitude - Day 120

Gratitude - Day 120
(Again, catching up, here...)

I'm grateful for things that make you marvel. Seriously. Beautiful flowers existing just to exist and make you smile? Truly marvelous.

Wish I knew the name of these - guess I can put "gardening" on my list of things to do when I retire!

PS - just found out, they're called "FOXGLOVE"