Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gratitude - Day 149

So, my last day of gratitude before hopping a plane to a long, wonderful, delicious vacation. You won't hear much from me for the next few weeks - my computer needs a vacation as well, but I'll catch up where I left off (day 150 when I return!), probably with a ridiculous number of photos of beaches and landscapes and blue sky, wine bottles and grapes and olives, and sunscreen! Thank you all so much for your support over the past season - it has been one of incredible intensity, reward and discovery for me, and I thank you for taking the journey with me!

As I sign off for the time being, I am grateful for this reminder of whom I'll have to be paying homage to in preparation for my first big role back: my very first Donna Elvira. (Which, by the way, the opening night will be broadcast LIVE - that's right, my FIRST EVER Donna Elvira broadcast LIVE in theaters across Europe - on September 8. I know it will be here before any of us knows it, but before then, there is some serious "lazy" on order!)

Gratitude - Day 148

I'm grateful for ITALY! I'm grateful for being given the chance to have spent so much time here. I'm grateful for their influence on the world of their culture, food, wine, art, and fashion. I'm particularly grateful this time around....

...for their hats,

...their shoes,

...their artists,

...and their cherubs!

Gratitude - Day 147

I'm grateful for people with amazing spirits! This project, like all projects, takes so many people to bring it together and breathe life into it. You have the orchestra players (and this bass player is a dead ringer for Pete Sampras!),


sound engineers,

and in this case even a video team!

I cannot stress how beneficial it is to me to have people that are positive and involved with more than just their brains or egos - I want heart and soul! And happily, this experience epitomized that in every element, making it a most grateful-filled experience for me! Grazie a tutti, especially the shining Patrizia Ciofi!

Gratitude - Day 146

I'm grateful for the brilliance of the Europa Galante Orchestra, under the direction and inspiration of Fabio Biondi. We all met up in the HEIGHT of the HEAT here in Florence, Italy - our first meeting; there's truly nothing quite like jumping into the fire and making glorious music together from the very first downbeat! However, I will say that trying to find inspiration to sing about cool breezes on long, floaty, languid lines and NOT have them go flat and lag in tempo in this heat and humidity and thick, heavy air is a challenge of the first order, but I think we managed.

The group is dedicated, positive, uplifting, full of spirit, ideas and imagination and a complete joy to work with! Happily, we also had a great audio team on board to capture everything, and I trust that the final result will be something DEFINITELY worth waiting for. Of course, I can't speak in detail about the project, but I will tell you some of the lucky participants will be back in January to finish the project! (Lucky dogs - cooler temperatures and fewer tourists!!!) And I will also say that should you save your pennies and splurge on it, it will most assuredly be worth the wait!

Gratitude - Day 145

I'm grateful for a safe arrival in this amazing, inspiring, breathtaking, Hotter-Than-Hades, hotbed of beauty and renaissance, Florence.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gratitude - Day 144

I'm grateful for an unexpected, yet perfect "oomph" of inspiration. Tonight before my last show here in lovely Madrid, I'll admit it - being the last show and so close to vacation, it was challenging, shall we say, to keep focused on the task at hand, and for Mozart, you pretty much have to stay focused on every little semi-quaver, or else...

Well, in addition to all the amazing people I meet backstage, the theater here also boasts the most wonderful Press Department, and tonight I met the daughter of one of the beautiful ladies who deals with all things "pressing". (Ha - can you tell it's 3:00 am???) Well, she walked in the door, and just like her Mom, she lit up the entire dressing room. I went on to learn that she comes to most of the shows - most recently Makropolis Case, which she in fact, loved! I warned her she was in for a lot of Mozart's notes, but assured me she was really looking forward to it. (Come to find out, at the end, while she was definitely ready for her bed, she loved every note of it!) She also plays both the cello and piano. When I asked her, most presumptuously, if she would play me something, in great Spanish Style, she hesitated not, and went on to play a really beautiful piece for me - oozing musicality.

Come to find out, she also recently lost her father, and immediately I felt a pinch of kinship with her, separated by a few decades obviously, but I felt her pain. I assured her, as best I could, that I was pretty sure her Dad could hear the music she makes, and while that made her smile, I got the feeling I wasn't telling her anything she didn't already know. Her shining eyes and eager thirst for new adventures was the perfect "oomph" of inspiration for me in this last show of the season.

On a side note, I got a big chuckle out of walking past this sign each day while carrying my bag of apples and yogurt from the Corte Inglese supermarket - (if you click on it, you can see it larger, and you just might be able to make out the list of names on the know, you have your "Domingo", your "Villazon", your "Heppner" and "Stimme". Well, you also have a little "DiDonato". And no - I never get used to seeing my name on lists like that blown up over a huge square in a huge city! But it reminded me that I'll soon be back to kick off my FURORE concert on December 3rd. It is the first of a big tour, and I simply cannot wait. I've put so much work into this project, I've heard the final edit of THE DISC, I've seen the final cover art for THE DISC - and it's ACTUALLY REALLY HAPPENING! Wow.

So for now, it is "Adios" to Madrid, this wonderful town, "Adios" to Idamante for the time being, "Adios" to a wonderful theater and a lovely cast, and I'll be back with (furious!) bells on before long.

Now I'm off to Florence for (another!) exciting (I promise - you won't believe it!) recording project. Three days of lots of notes and recits (I swear - you'll want this one on your shelf as well!!) and THEN ... VACATION! (Am I there, yet???)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gratitude - Day 143

I'm not really sure how to categorize this feeling of gratitude today, but I think perhaps a day like today is exactly why I need to always search for the little gifts - or, as fate may point out, the big gifts as well.

This morning I woke up in a really bad mood: I'm tired from a long, hard season, my mind is already on vacation (am I there, yet?) while my body sweats in these hot costumes, I miss my husband, I miss my family, I miss my parents, this has been a challenging run of shows, and I'm swimming in oceans of new notes and words and feel like I'll never get it all learned in time. And what do I hear upon arriving at the theater? That the Teatro Real family lost a dear member today: Josè Luis Fernandez, a 34 year old carpenter for the theater, a son, a husband and father of 2 young children was killed in a motorcycle accident earlier in the day. The man was beloved. To sum up the words of a fellow worker, "Of course, you never want anyone to die, but especially not him - he was too good."

I don't know that I ever met him. It's possible that he was one of the pairs of hands working the scenery that I met with a "buenos tardes", but never knew him by name, but I wouldn't know a face to go with the name. But I do know that, as I've written here many times before, it takes countless people to put together a show, to enable me to walk on stage and open my mouth, and this theater, of all the theaters, is an incredibly special family, so I feel the loss in my own, small, but deeply felt way. Tonight, the show was dedicated to his memory and his honor, and I hope that in some small way, it helped carry him onward.

It makes me realize, once again, how precious, and fleeting this life is. It makes gratitude spill out of me that I can wear hot costumes at the end of a long season, tired and exhausted, and sing the notes of Mozart as if he had written them just yesterday for us all to hear anew. It makes me look at this photo of father and son, lost in a moment that belonged to just the two of them, that shows life's enormity in its most beautiful glory, and feel more gratitude than I knew I possessed.

I wish the family of Josè Luis all the strength and comfort to walk through these days with each other, knowing how special his presence here was.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gratitude - Day 142

I'm grateful for bold, uninhibited displays of sheer joy.

This little energy bundle, belonging to a fellow cast member, rarely stands still for a single, solitary second, so actually capturing him in a non-blurred moment was nothing short of a miracle. (I'm not kidding - I probably took close to 80 shots, and got this ONE good one! It was exhausting!) However, this expression seems to embody the pure, unadulterated joy of life, and nothing less - and I plan on returning to it as often as I need to, to be reminded of the good life!

There are two casts here in Madrid, both taking at stab at this opera, and last night was our only shared evening off, so we took ripe advantage and had a tapas/wine party. Laughter was the theme of the evening (mostly due to this rambunctious one), and we all enjoyed kicking up our heels here in the dry, Madrid HEAT.

How can you not be grateful for something this fabulous? ¡Olè!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gratitude - Day 141

I'm grateful for my husband, who celebrates his birthday today. Sadly, he is celebrating it in another part of the world tonight, but I thought it a beautiful moment of serendipity running into this place in the hot sun today.

Happy birthday, Amore Mio - how much more beautiful the world is because you were born!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gratitude - Day 140

I'm grateful for faces that light up everyone around them! After our opening last night of Idomeneo we celebrated in a nearby restaurant, Gastroteca. If my dish of risotto with virgin olive oil and carpaccio di pulpo was any indicator, they've found the recipe for perfection. I'm pretty sure it's all this man's fault! I walked in the door, and was just immediately lifted up with his smiling face (and his not-dissimilar resemblance to the great Pavarotti!) He was as "simpatico" as he looks, cooked us this wonderful meal, and left me with a face I'll never forget! (I hear he sings, too!)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gratitude - Day 139

I am breaking my rule by posting a "gratitude photo" that I didn't actually take, but I made the rule, so, what? Who's gonna tell?

I'm just so darn grateful that I know Josè-Manuel Zapata. Truly, he is one of those people that makes my life SO much better and brighter and more beautiful. He makes me laugh with his sardonic wit, cry with his plangeant voice, and love life all the more by his incredible spirit! (He is also apparently a pretty good role model for my "Idamante" - although I'm pretty sure I could take him!!)

I'm grateful for this beautiful man!

(and technically, I set up the shot, so it counts a little bit - thank you to Eva, my wonderful makeup artist not only for transforming me into a guy - more or less, but also for taking this photo: Muchas gracias, Guapa!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gratitude - Day 138

I'm so grateful to have met this guy - he redefines the words "joy", "unbounded", "free", and "ADORABLE"!

But sadly, I don't think he could fit in the overhead compartment.....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gratitude - Day 137

I'm grateful for the Teatro Real (especially in this RIDICULOUS LIGHT! I mean, seriously, are you kidding me with this?!?!) It's a truly lovely place to work for a number of reasons, but really the only one I need to list, is the amazing people that make up the staff here. It's a relatively "new" theater, in that it re-opened just over (roughly) 10 years ago as an opera theater, and so all the people on the staff have a sense of ownership, that they have built this theater back with their own sweat, and there is a tremendous, beautiful sense of pride that permeates all aspects of the hustle and bustle backstage. They really treasure the quality of work they do, and THEY LOVE THE MUSIC! I'll tell you, in as much as my experience can judge, this is the only backstage staff I've encountered that can sing along with "Fuor del Mar" - and I promise I'm not exaggerating! It's a gift to be working alongside people who really love the music, the singers, their jobs - and that have great senses of humor, something especially valuable in a show like "Idomeneo".

I first stepped into this city nearly 7 years ago to the day for my first European "Cenerentola" in the summer of 2001. I don't think I had the nerve to actually speak to too many people, as I was just trying to stay above water and act like I was full of confidence, when I was anything but, and I just remember secretly hoping that I wouldn't be fired. It was the first time I met singers like Raul Gimenez and Carlos Chausson, and I remember them for their generosity and willingness to offer advice and support to a new kid on the block. I think it was when I first started to realize that I was joining a family of remarkable people - not an evil den of divas waiting to rip your vocal cords out, but kind hearted, hard working, real people. I snuck into the back door as a complete (and I mean, completely) unknown singer, and the public here reached out to me with their warmth and made this scared singer feel most welcome.

Two years ago I sang my first German role here (Since it was only one line, I'll opt not to count the "Slave" in Salome which was my official Houston Grand Opera debut role.) During the run, my Dad turned quite ill, and I knew I had to go home to be with him in the hospital; the outpouring of support from the theater made an unbearable situation possible to endure. I will never forget their kindness. And now I'm back, surrounded by the same beautiful people, a bit less worried about being fired, more familiar with where to find the best gazpacho in town, and happy to listen to them sing along backstage! Besos para todos!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gratitude - Day 136 (or, "Monday in the Park with Me")

I was minding my own business taking in the AMAZING light (once again) here in Madrid, and as the sunset was unfolding in front of me, I turned around just to see what was happening behind me (a tip from some admired photographer friends of mine: be sure to look behind instead of exclusively in front of you, to catch the unexpected) and lo and behold, this shot jumped out at me. It's only now that I look at it enlarged a bit to notice that it reminds me of that famous Seurat painting that I loved seeing recently at the Chicago Art Institute- minus the hats and parasols, obviously. Kind of makes me want to break out into song.

Life in Madrid - colorful, beautiful, and definitely not dull, and definitely a thing to be grateful for!

PS - you can click on the photo to see it in in larger format...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gratitude - Day 135

I'm grateful for unexpected reminders that life is BEAUTIFUL, and that we must never stop living in the NOW.

I was enjoying amazing weather (and breathtaking light) in front of the Royal Palace here in Madrid, just snapping the random photo here and there, when these two angelic creatures bounded in front of me (a total stranger) and begged me to take their photo - no barriers, no fear, no wall - just an unfettered love of life! I got the impression they were the best of friends, not siblings, and it brought back a RUSH of childhood memories - and I was left really touched by these two open, shining faces. I shot about 5 frames, and they were off - they had life to live, after all!!!

In an instant, as is always the case in life, our encounter was over.

Beautiful! I wish them both a simply spectacular future.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gratitude - Day 134

I'm grateful for those moments when everything seems completely, utterly right with the world.

Gratitude - Day 134

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Me and my pants

I got a most interesting email from a dear friend of mine who happens to be a stage director hard at work staging various scenes for a summer program in the States. As sometimes happens between us, one of us throws the other a curveball question that opens up a sometimes monstrous discussion, and always serves to be interesting food for thought for yours truly. I thought I would share the latest, because I found it very interesting to ponder. Without his EXPRESS permission (because it's much later here than it is there) but with the relative certainty that he wouldn't mind my divulging his question, here goes:

"Hey there!
channeling your wisdom and experience this weekend -- working on

1) Stephano
2) Sesto
3) Annio
4) Romeo
5) Idamante

scenes in the past 2 days and trying to invigorate young minds into keeping these characters honest and open and not caricatures. How do you keep these guys physically different ?"

My response, with some liberal editing of the somewhat unfit things:

"Wow - see, this is why I adore you! You toss me great things to think about! I haven't actually thoroughly thought through how these guys may "differ" - but perhaps I should? I suppose I tend to play them from their actual pending situation rather than consciously considering how to physically play them differently (maybe this makes me a bad actor??) But let's explore:

Stephano is quite young and I think a real trouble maker, more or less, so there exists a lot of youthful, adolescent bravura and bravado (that reckless arrogance) as he taunts the sleeping enemy in song. It's actually quite cheeky of him. But he shows a certain fearlessness since he hasn't yet been called on to really participate in battle (which actually follows very quickly, however) He is definitely a younger physicality - probably closer to Cherubino certainly than Romeo - which means quick steps, sudden bursts of energy, a constant restlessness. Granted, I sang 2 performances of this guy (and I think it's safe to say I've since retired the role!), and on a week's notice, so to be fair, I can't say I put a lot of psychological thought into his one scene!!

Sesto? Ah. S-E-S-T-O!!! Glorious, rich, complicated Sesto!!! He is definitely more of a "man" compared to Annio - because he's older, has seen more, has been asked to do more, carries more responsibility, he has seen the world now with different eyes and knows things do not function in a simple black and white dimension as Annio most likely perceives them. Sesto is carrying a very heavy weight in this opera, because he struggles to find the solution that will satisfy those he loves so dearly. What his lover is asking him to do is unimaginable, and yet he feels compelled to follow her wishes, because he truly loves her. And yet, at what cost? I think this heaviness translates into the body: the quickness of a Cherubino is no where to be found, for he is carrying too much sorrow and confusion. There is most likely a heaviness in his step, and an unsure physicality of which way to turn - after his leader and friend, or after his love. It's also very interesting to me to explore the eye contact (it's all in the feet and the eyes, my friend!!) When can he bring himself to look at Vitellia? When does he not have the courage to look Tito, who he betrayed, in the eye? How painful is it the first time he looks into his eyes to ask for clemency? In Annio, we see someone who doesn't have the same life experience as Sesto (or Tito) and so things are much more clear to him - he is the voice of reason because he has no reason to doubt that there is only one right way. As a result, his love duet is pure innocence and light, while all of Sesto's interactions are quite full of pain and questions and doubt - Annio can be lighter on his feet, with more assurance in his step, for he does not doubt what the absolute right is of the situation.

Romèo - oh, don't even get me started. He's certainly the biggest "warrior" of the group, as the leader of the Montecchi's, he carries much responsibility and certainly is revered by his camp. For his first appearance on stage he has donned the appearance of a page to plead first hand to the enemy to find a solution to live in peace (and it should be noted, to marry Giuletta...). That alone is a wildly brave action. Of course love is driving him, so there is no stopping him. For me, then, there is a real swagger and confidence in the opening scene, as he truly is not afraid of anyone in front of him - his only fear is losing Giuletta - but through his music and his text he is standing firm in his confrontation. (To be sure, there is a lot of testosterone pouring out of him here, so every gesture is swiftly fierce and loads of eye contact with the enemies!) But I found that when with Giuletta for the first duet, his impetuousness comes out, ("everything will be fine if we just flee together, what's the problem?"), his adolescence shows its hand and he becomes much more boy-like in his accusations ("you have no pity for me") and his pleas ("if you really loved me, you'd come with me"). I think he doesn't yet have the maturity to find the right words here, as he knew how to find in his confrontation with his enemies earlier - but while his love for her is great, his youth keeps him from understanding her plight. And so it follows that his body becomes a bit more unsure, a bit more flighty with impatience, the shoulders slump a bit in frustration. When can he make eye contact with her, and when is it too painful?

Then, of course, we have the brilliant, heroic duet with Tebaldo, which is once again ALL testosterone and bravado (flying swords, disdainful gestures, etc), contrasted immediately with the discovery of Giuletta's death, when, because his gut has instantly turned to both sharp ice and hot coals, his legs fold in under him, and he literally collapses in a puddle of despair. The chest caves in, he staggers, he falls, and then it takes all the strength he has to bring himself to stand back on those faulty legs to enter the tomb - simply because he must see her one last time. There is, I think, a numbness at the start of the tomb scene - a denial and disbelief, manifested by hardly being able to lift his feet or arms, moving almost as if comatose. Then of course, through the long scene, the despair and anguish build. We see a broken man at this point, I think, as the adolescent was left behind the minute he sees the funeral parade. Oh. What a role!

That leaves Idamante? He, like I think Romèo, teeters between adolescence and manhood. He is lost for much of the opera, in search of to whom and where he belongs, as well as to where his allegiance lies - how can he be a ruler of his people when in love with the enemy? (Think daughter of George Bush falling in love with son of Osama bin Laden...) He is a de facto ruler of sorts, who doesn't quite know what to do with his power - we see this as he stumbles through his first scene with Ilia, awkward and confused as to what to do, how to step, where to look. To me, this scene is the complete opposite of the opening Romèo scene, for there is much ambivalence and searching going on, "can't anyone tell me what to do?!?" - which means a lack of confidence in the body, an unsure stance, perhaps even a bit of shame in the eyes for not having the answers? Nothing is resolved, then as soon as he hears of his father's "death" and then subsequent heart-breaking face-to-face rejection, he becomes totally lost, comprehending nothing - like a lost little boy. I think the way he walks is without direction in these moments, unsure with each step.

But then, in Act 2, Ilia in fact declares her love for him which is the catalyst for a boost in his confidence, and one reason he can stand up to his father demanding to know why he has rejected him. All of a sudden there is a more straight posture, a more sure step, more direction and less wavering in the physicality/gesture, and finally he can stand perfectly still as he takes the decision in the quartet of "yes - I'll go and march into my most probable death - but you remember, you asked for this." - and that's the first real decision (I think) that he makes as a man, and so immediately the posture ages - it's straighter and immovable. Then of course, because he's made this transition into real maturity and understanding, the final offering of himself in the final scene is pure, uncomplicated and noble - something he earned, and therefore something he owns. The son in fact comforts the father. This is one of those roles where I think you physically see the character come into manhood over the course of the evening."

Ok. Now that I've done this it feels incredibly pretentious!!! Yikes! These aren't set in stone - if I were to revisit one of these guys, I'd surely find different subtexts, different tilts of the head as I took in a reaction in a new way. You see, I'm not the kind of "actor" that ponders these things ahead of time in a scientific method - I'm a bit more instinctual, delving into the text, emotion and the situation and reacting more in "real-time". HOWEVER, thank you to my dear friend for giving me pause to line up some of "my boys" in a row and see how they measure up to each other!!!

(I think the winner in head to head competition would be Idamante - but only if competing at the END of the opera - after what he's been through, he could survive anything. BUT I would predict a final match between Romèo and Idamante to be on the scale of a Federer v. Nadal!)

Those are my random, free-flowing thoughts on the subject, and definitely subject to revision at any given moment! But see how he gets me thinking? Love that!


1. Cherubino, Paris, with Gerald Finley as Figaro. ("Non piu andrai")
*I don't have any photos of me as Stephano, but couldn't resist posting this because it was one of the most beautiful productions I've ever done, courtesy of Giorgio Strehler)

2. Sesto, Geneva, with Charles Workman as Tito. ("Deh, per questo")

3. Romèo, Paris ("Vivi, ah vivi")

4. Idamante, Paris, with Ramon Vargas as Idomeneo ("Rammenta il tuo dover")

Gratitude - Day 133

I'm grateful for beautiful views from my window at sunset. The bonus is that this building is the side of the Teatro Real, and that means I have about a 30 second walk to the stage door, which in this heat is a decidedly beautiful bonus!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Gratitude - Day 132

I'm grateful for amazing experiences. One such event, which I sadly don't have a picture to help illustrate, was watching the MOST astonishing tennis match I think I've ever seen (and I even remember those epic McEnroe/Borg marathons) yesterday on a backstage monitor during our piano stage rehearsal. I'll tell you, there is nothing like watching those monstrous battles for every single point in the 5th set while listening to "Fuor del mar" live in the background - that messes with your head a bit!! But the match was everything I love about sports: great sportsmanship, the battle for each point, unbelievable displays of sheer excellence, and an absolute tenacity to stay firmly concentrated in the moment! Oh, it was breathtaking! Thankfully for us (less so for the two exhausted players, I'm afraid) the weather cooperated in delaying the match so much so that we could sit in the technicians lounge backstage and watch the final 20 heart-stopping moments. The other reason it was so fabulous? I was watching Nadal, the Spaniard, win his first Wimbledon Trophy in arguably the greatest tennis match ever played - IN Spain surrounded by nervous, excited, PROUD Spaniards! Tears were shed, embraces all around - ah, yes, it was very good!

I DO, however, happen to have a few snapshots to illustrate another wonderful experience which I hinted at briefly a few weeks ago. Between performances of Romeo in Paris, I jetted off to an amazing castle just outside of Hannover and spent the day filming a scene for what promises to be a fascinating docu-drama on Handel for "The Big Handel Year" of 2009 to be aired on German Television (and perhaps later on DVD) in this modest "room". I met the dashing filmmaker while recording "Alcina" last fall, and he invited me to take part in one of several clever re-enactment scenes. It's hard to describe the day, other than to say it was one of the longest working days of my life, (a LOT of singing, a fair amount of screaming, and some rather odd positions....) but I LOVED every single fascinating moment of it. The day was full of learning, observing, risk-taking, people-meeting, and serene, overwhelming surroundings - everything a good adventure needs!

I don't want to give too much away, as I feel the obligation to let the editing happen and to let the air date get a bit closer - but I think it will prove to be the perfect mix between entertainment, information and shedding light on this fascinating figure, G. F. Handel. They employed an incredibly colorful German actor to fulfill the role of the master himself, and when in wig, he is a deadringer for the late composer. They also had a number of supers on the set to fill in the roles of townspeople, cobbler, etc, including the daughter of the lighting wizard, who was wily enough to play right into my camera - girl even knows her angles already! (I loved watching how he lit the room to capture the mood of candlelight on the high definition screen - that was a lesson in true art)

I'll keep the suspense going a bit more, and as the date gets closer (most likely in early spring) I'll fill in a bit more. But in parting, the Singer rocks out, once again, with the Master (on their lunch break, mind you!):

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Gratitude - Day 131

A question that often pops up in conversation with various people is, "How do you stay so grounded with everything that's happened to you?"

Well. This should pretty much sum it up. This kind of thing happens to me ALL the time, so even if I took the opportunity, every ONCE in a while to feel the least bit grand, the universe pretty much slaps me right back down - so it all evens out.

I'm singing in a truly lovely theater right now - a theater where they know me - I've performed here twice before to pretty decent acclaim. And yet, apparently they know me as "Joyde". I'm not complaining - I'm just saying....

After all, I'm grateful for the chance to smile a little bit!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Gratitude - Day 130

I'm grateful for holidays that involve FIREWORKS!! Even if I had to work today because I'm in Madrid where they don't celebrate Independence Day (the nerve!), I'm glad for the rest of my compatriots who get the day off and can indulge in hot dogs, ice cream, potato salad, bike parades, dives off the high dive, painted faces, sunburns and block parties! This lovely sight greeted me last Sunday while I was home for a full 18 hours or so - the Kansas City Symphony gave a free concert just outside my window, so as I was going through heaps of mail and French taxes and laundry and xeroxing, I was able to get a touch of the festivities which carried me through today.

(Luckily, the display lasted a long time so I could really play around with my camera!!!)

Happy 4th of July to America and all it's ex-pats - and speaking on behalf of my Country, I hope we live up to our promise a bit better in the future...

PS - the monument in the background is the Liberty Memorial - the National World War I memorial in the United States - the only museum dedicated solely to WWI.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Gratitude - Day 129

I'm grateful for people who make me laugh out loud, who make me think with more than just my head - people who connect me to something greater than myself. I can say that I feel enormously blessed for having a number of people like this in my life, but while in Santa Fe, I was given the chance to spend a few days with one of the tops on the list: Richard Stilwell.

Richard played my Dad in Cendrillon two summers ago, and we hit it off immediately, with our duet as father and daughter being one of the most special moments I've ever shared on stage with anyone. His contribution to this art form is truly staggering: the Met's first Billy Budd, Karajan's landmark Pelleas alongside another of these golden folks, Frederica von Stade, the voice of the Count in the film Amadeus with that heart-melting line, "Contessa perdona", to name but only a few. Now he performs a bit less, but is shaping the future generation of performers as an inspirational teacher at Roosevelt University. I've seen him teach, and he strikes that beautiful balance of being demanding while offering unwavering support.

He was in Santa Fe rehearsing the role of Mr. Redburn with a cast that will surely make many hearts flutter, but, more importantly, will bring an unbeatable group of men together to sing this gripping opera. (I will admit, on my brief stay there, I found myself hanging out quite a bit at their rehearsals, soaking up a lifetime's worth of "sailor" jokes. Oh, it was testosterone bliss ... I mean overload!) It was over margarita's one night (I don't want to talk about it...) that I had the real privilege of watching one of the first Billy Budd's (Richard) talk shop with the latest, Teddy Tahu Rhodes who, lucky for Santa Fe Opera, debuts the role this summer.

Add into the mix Bill Burden, Peter Rose, Tim Nolan, Lucas Meacham - oh, the list is endless - and you'll understand why I was petitioning the director to add in a token role for me. I tried to explain that I could butch it up with the best of them, but alas, it was not to be - Idamante in Madrid was calling me - but at least we shared some laughs, some drinks, some guacamole, and even a little baseball.

See why it was so hard to leave?

But I was also so grateful to get more time with a mentor and friend like Richard. He loves this craft. He loves his life and his family. He's a true inspiration and a true light in this world.

Last Photo: Young Billy (Teddy) pitches to Old Billy (Richard) who knocks it out of the park. And just fyi, that is the view from the rehearsal space - all outdoors, all sunshine and heaven, except, of course, when a monsoon whirls in. Ah, Santa Fe....

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Gratitude - Day 128

Once again, resuming where I left off. (At this point my "365 day project" will take me a decade!) But I digress.

I'm grateful for the best hamburger in the universe, or at least that I've ever tasted. Having sampled this particular divine creation 2 summers ago, it was first on my list of where I wanted to dine, hands down. It's one of those meals that the minute you start thinking about it, the craving builds and builds, and nothing can talk you down from the ledge. The restaurant is called "Bobcat Bite" and it's a little slice of Southwestern heaven.

It used to be one of the original trading posts on the Santa Fe Trail, then became a gun shop, probably a few other things, and then this restaurant. The name comes from its history of feeding the bobcats which used to wander up to the back screen door for scraps.

The specialty is their "Green Chili Cheeseburger". For those of you who don't know about Green Chili or haven't yet made it to Santa Fe, it's a spicy chili that they put on everything. And I mean EVERYTHING - from eggs to tortillas to cheeseburgers. Now I'm not a huge green chili fan, nor am I a big hamburger fan - even being from Kansas! - but whatever it is the folks at this gem of a dive do to this burger, well, they had me at "may I take your order?"

Gratitude abounds - even if it is with a side of grease!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Boom de yada

After a brilliant break in Santa Fe, I'm pulling myself (with a lot of effort, I'm afraid) back into the "real world". It will take a few days for me to catch up here, but in the meantime, enjoy the following - not only will it put a smile on your face, but let's consider it my past two weeks' worth of gratitude. It's cheating, I know, but who's counting!!