Thursday, October 29, 2009

Meet Gabriel, the sweetest, scene-stealing Donkey you'll ever meet.

This is Gabriel, the adorable, mild-mannered Donkey that graces the stage of the Metropolitan Opera for our production of The Barber of Seville. He's only one element that makes this run so fun and refreshing and wonderful. We are actually rehearsing this week to add in 2 new cast members, which means those of us that have been performing these past weeks have to bring in the new colleagues and get them settled in and familiar to the production, as well as adapt our performances to incorporate the new colors and interpretations of the new guys. I'll be honest - it's a BIT hard to come back to the rehearsal room and focus on the details again since we've already opened, but happily this group of singers (and friends, really), is so great, we've been having a wonderful time - with more laughter than should probably be allowed!

It makes me step back (once again!) and just revel in the reality of how much I love what I do. We're singing, we're playing, and we're laughing (along with working, of course!), but it's an environment of joy and celebration, and that makes all the difference in the world! We have had wonderful audiences who seem so HAPPY to come to the theater and LAUGH and let loose a bit, and so for us up on the stage, the enjoyment is all the greater.

Last Sunday I sang a joint recital with Eric Owens for the George London Foundation. A number of years ago I was the recipient of an award from the London Foundation, and it was an enormous help for me - not only financially, but also a huge vote of confidence, and I'm sure it helped a few reluctant people in the business start to take me a bit more seriously. Eric was also a lucky recipient and a fellow Houston Opera Studio Member. We hadn't shared a stage since "Jackie O" back in 1997, and it was brilliant to hear his sonorous voice again.

This is just a short update, as so many things are going on here in NY this trip! If you're in the Big Apple, please feel free to stop by the Met Opera Shop on Tuesday, Nov 3, for my first CD Signing at the Met for the COLBRAN DISC (in the top 10 on the Billboard chart this week!), and come help New York City Opera kick off its all-important 2009-10 season with our big gala on November 5, "American Voices" with a great line-up of American Singers helping kick off the festivities.

I think that's more hyper-links than I've ever used in a single post before, but just trying to keep everyone informed!

I've also received a few bits of really exciting news this past week - can't post anything yet, but I believe there will be some happy fans out there....will post as soon as I can! Oh, and for the FINAL kicker - THIS absolutely knocked me over when a friend from college sent it to me! You have to actually scroll through Halle Berry and Charlize Theron, etc. to get to me (I'm #14), but I thought it was pretty wild!! It will be one for the scrapbook - if I only had time to keep one!

So it's a scattered, random-type posting, but it's a big accomplishment during the World Series Week!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rest, Relaxtion, Restoration ... ah, Alaskaaaaaah

Thank you

I had the extreme pleasure of singing on board the US AMSTERDAM recently on a 7-day cruise of Alaska for the Metropolitan Opera Guild. The brilliant Jake Heggie was my collaborative pianist, the dashing Michael Snider the organizer, and a number of enthusiastic opera lovers our audience and travel companions! The week could not have been more memorable, more relaxing, more breathtaking, or more restorative. I was ready for a great week, but wasn't quite ready for the astonishment that was Alaska. The sights, the sounds (mostly of silence!), the fish, the friendship, the music making. It did this soul such good!

Perhaps my greatest memory was standing next to Jake as we were whale watching (which turned into whale astonishment over and over!), as he scoured the quiet, still waters waiting for that puff of mist to signal they were coming to the surface. You see, Jake is in the middle of writing his next opera, Moby Dick, which is set to open this spring in Dallas. As we set sail, he has just finished the piano vocal score of the piece and had workshopped it in San Francisco, giving him the opportunity to identify the parts of the opera that needed tweaking, and to know what was already working quite well. Upon our return, he would have to start the actual orchestration. So to stand on board next to him as he took in the SILENCE, the expanse, and the MAJESTY of these creatures as they would come to the surface was an experience I'll never forget. I could see the sounds beginning to formulate in his ear, and I just knew then and there that he would write a masterpiece.

We spoke one day of how nimble and agile these creatures were for their enormous size. "They're just HUGE", I said. And then Jake would take a look around us, 360*, at the entire world encapsulating us, and he said, "Actually, they're not THAT big, all things considered." That was Alaska - giving us the chance to remember where we fit into the scheme of things, and what real life is actually about.

And then of course, we got to play together!!

As with all things "Cruise ship", one never knows exactly what to expect. For example, for our first concert, they didn't have an actual piano available. So they brought down and actual "SLAM GRAND" which was an approximation of an electric keyboard housed in the casing that was made to look, almost, like a grand piano. We couldn't stop laughing about it - thinking it probably was the only time in our careers we had faced something QUITE like that before. Yeah, the piano was completely hollow:

Truly, it was the trip of a lifetime, wish such great sights, smells, tastes, and just that perfect silence that came with the majesty that was Alaska. It made me realize how important silence is in my life. It makes the sound that follows all that more meaningful.

(More pictures are posted on my FLICKR page, if you're curious!)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Good times!

It feels WONDERFUL to be able to report that I believe a good time was had by ALL on Saturday night for the opening of "The Barber of Seville" here in NYC! I think the audience was happy to be given the chance to laugh out loud a bit, as laughter truly does tend to work magic, even on the most unsuspecting!

Yesterday was a huge day, as I had a big brainstorming session with my recording team of EMI/Virgin, and there are definitely exciting prospects lurking ahead! Knowing the Rossini disc has been well anticipated had everyone in a good mood, and ideas were flying about how to beat this apparent downward trend in music sales. I don't believe people are no longer interested in buying music, I think simply the means to purchase it has changed so drastically, and so quickly, that the folks on both sides of the aisle don't quite know how to proceed. One thing I'm beyond happy about is that this team around me believes 100% in the importance of QUALITY programming and producing. No one around that table was hinting at dumbing down, or watering down what it is that I do and love. Everyone believes in keeping the standard extremely high, no question. The caveat comes in how we market that, so they can afford to keep the level at such a premium.

But we also tossed around some very fun ideas - ideas that really excite me, so the future should prove to be interesting, to say the least!!!

I then hopped in a taxi with a REALLY belligerent NY Taxi Driver (how I love them!), and arrived 2 minutes late to a master class I was giving for the young artists at the Met. First thing I always say, "Be on TIME", so I'm not sure how much credibility I carried for the next 90 minutes, BUT I still think it was a good class. I'm always astonished at how much I feel I have learned in doing sessions like this - and I can only hope that it's a mutual gaining of knowledge, as I just love the exchange of ideas and seeing the occasional light bulb click on over the soprano's head! It's a scary proposition to work with such talented singers who are already receiving the best coaching in the world, but what never fails to impress me is how tireless and infinite the learning process is for an artist.

Most of the session consisted of me asking questions, and feeding the singers possible sub-texts for what they are singing. Does Donna Elvira need to convince herself that she will REALLY tear off Giovanni's face when she sees him (hence the need for the wayward, yet driving ascending scales at the end of "Ah, chi me dice mai?", or is she utterly convinced and sure of herself? That absolutely affects the intention with which she sings those tricky phrases. Does regret enter into any of her thirst for revenge? Is perhaps the more legato, less angular phrasing of "Ah si ritrovo l'empio" a chance to show her more delicate side? (Does she have a delicate side?) I'm sure that once the vocal foundation for an aria is established (legato, breath support, phrasing, pure vowels, etc), questions become a singers best friend. And the license to chose different answers, and then experiment with different colors as a result, start to lead to comprehensive, deep portrayals.

How I love that moment when the singer starts to leave the rehearsal studio and starts to inhabit their character. Oh, it's GOOD!

And in keeping with the need for laughter, let's just enter the world of the panda for fun. I mean seriously, why NOT?!?!?

Have a wonderful day!

Panda Sneeze Attack - Watch more Funny Videos

Friday, October 2, 2009

In celebration...

...of Leontyne Price. Just because.

Yes. Oh yes yes yes.