Sunday, June 20, 2010

Parisian Photo Safari

Sadly, the weather here in Paris hasn't inspired me to be out and about too much with my beloved camera: grey, dreary, rainy, cool. And I've been a bit preoccupied with recitals (I LOVE YOU PARIS and the TCE!) and openings (which includes body-recovery-time from the heavy costume!) and promotions (I wish my abs where getting as good a workout as my French!) and role preparation (HELLO ADALGISA, finally we have the pleasure of meeting properly!) Yes, it's been a whirlwind of time here in lovely-even-when-you're-grey Paris, overflowing with learning curves and struggles and triumphs and celebrations and overwhelming beauty, of both art and people.

Last Saturday I had the great pleasure of attending the final dress rehearsal of "Pelléas et Mélisande" at the Opéra Comique, the very theater, it so happens, where this very masterpiece debuted 98 years ago. I had never seen the opera before, but my curiosity had been long piqued by the great Richard Stilwell declaring it was the greatest opera ever written. I was lucky enough to attend with David Zobel who, other than warning me it was essentially a 5-act long French Recitative, he was able to steer me through much of the symbolism, leit-motifs and subtler points, enhancing my experience greatly.

I was transported to another world, suspended in this alternate sonic and aural universe for over three hours and I loved it. It was a complete departure from the "lake" where I had been abiding for weeks, and I welcomed the stimulating and rewarding, beautifully conducted and directed evening.

As I was sitting outside waiting for friends, I was reminded that in looking for inspiration, it rarely perches itself directly in front of you at eye-level. Often it asks that you change perspective, shift things around, and perhaps even gaze upwards...

Now here is the part where I beg your indulgence not to hate me too much! I apologize straight away to any of you who may dream of having such an afternoon but have yet to experience it: it really wasn't my fault! But I wish that should you desire it, you may each experience this, or something close to it!

Last Tuesday I had a private tour of the Louvre. Not the WHOLE Louvre, mind you, but some spectacular highlights. It was indescribable and unforgettable. Priceless, in fact, like each piece of art that makes their home in those hallowed, storied walls.

(Feel free to click on the photos - they can open in a larger format)

I cannot tell you how this experience lifted me up. To walk in silence and solitude among these enormous galleries, filled with the efforts of artists across the ages who strove to put their stamp on goodness, beauty and truth, well, it touched me very deeply. Without the chaos of the crowds and the (gasp!) tourists, the silence almost becomes deafening and you can imagine that each of these works of such great art have a life of their own.

You can hear Pygmalion's near gasp as he realizes that Galatea, his beloved statue is coming to life before his astonished eyes (the feet still in alabaster, the cheeks flushed with the first signs of love):

You can hear the soft, erotic sighs as Cupid and Psyche entwine their arms around each other. If there is a more perfect sculpture from each and every angle, I've never seen it! It steals the breath.

The lovely Ms. Lisa gets photographed over and over, but it's nice to see what she's actually peering at night and day, day and night:

Not a bad view, if you ask me!

The amazing thing of this visit, as wonderful as the individual works of art were, was being able to see the scope and the scale of these rooms without pedestrian interference! You realize how important art has been to the human race over the centuries, how it deserves a place of honor, and how the space and grand aesthetic help prepare us to absorb the truths waiting to be discovered.

It was an extraordinary afternoon, one that will long remain in my heart, and one that fed me deeply, which I was desperately needing! It helped inspire me for the little song-fest I gave over at the TCE last Wednesday. I wanted to thank those of you who attended. I don't know that I have ever experienced such a warm, overwhelming reception before (I was truly overcome!) and it will live in my memory for a long time. I had a BALL and David (the magnificent!) and I duly celebrated with his family and close friends afterwards. We felt so lucky to make music together that evening in Paris!

Goodness, what else could possibly be missing? I'm in Paris: did the opera, the museum, the wine, the friends....


It was a beautiful week, and despite the grey, overcast skies, the light of true art, beauty, wonderful food and wine, and most importantly, wonderful friends, was truly shining brightly. My cup truly runneth over.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The 411

Good SUNNY morning! After what feels like about 500 years of rain between my time in Geneva and here in Paris, le soleil has decided to make a celebrated appearance and show us those amazing Parisian Blue Skies today. I could not be happier.

It's also the day of the final dress rehearsal here in Paris, for "La Donna del Lago". It's always an exciting rehearsal - the adrenalin is pumping full force, nerves are running rampant, expectations are elevated and curiosity abounds as we wonder how the new show will be received. It's fascinatingly bizarre for me, because the designs for a new production are done years in advance, the massive sets and incredible costumes are built up, and it all comes down to a few hours on the stage in front of the hungry public, and instantly it is reviewed and scrutinized and applauded or booed (the latter of which we have already discussed here!)

I'm very curious to see what people's reactions will be to this production. It could not be further away from the Geneva production I recently participated in. In many ways, I see this production as a love letter to the days of "Grand Opera", with the stunning sets and spectacle, where the voice reigned supreme. But it will be curious to me to see if, as Lluís Pasqual describes in a recent article, a modern hymn to bel canto will be embraced by this audience.

I've been challenged by this production in a very different way than in Geneva (which I ended up enjoying enormously, for the record! The process was very rich for me artistically!), and if you've been reading this blog with any regularity, you know that I tend not to shy away from challenges! I try to meet them head on and search for the absolute best solution to them. The difficulty for me is that this production is in a very different style than I have ever done before, and it has taken me awhile to find my footing in it. But during this past week, as we went onto the beautiful set, added the UNBELIEVABLE costumes, and the orchestra joined us, I was able to enter into this rather ethereal, other-worldly atmosphere where amid a burned down, aged theater, music still emerges victorious.

I find that I'm enjoying immensely the grandeur of it all, the spectacle, the atmosphere. And, above all - the music. So I look forward to ironing out the final wrinkles tonight, solving a few of the remaining problems, and then be ready for, hopefully, a SPECTACULAR opening here in Paris on Monday evening!

Ah, but speaking of the costumes. I hope I don't get sued for this, but I thought it would be fun to give you a sneak peak of my costume. It's still in flux a bit, and the costume/wig on opening night will most likely be slightly different, but this is the general idea:

The AMAZING thing about this costume is that the "fabric" that our amazing costume designer, the Academy Award winning Franca Squarciapino, wanted didn't exist. She wanted a metallic material symbolizing the armor of the men going into battle, since it is war and conflict that dominates so much of her world, and so they built this "fabric" from scratch. It's astonishing how they could create a dress from metal and have it be supple and fluid. Although I can't see it from the stage, it MUST reflect beautifully in the lights. I've never worn anything like it before, and this is definitely one of those times where you realize that being an opera singer, well, sometimes it's just way cool.

HOWEVER: you cannot imagine how much it weighs!!!!!!! (I have a feeling I may well lose a few kilo's during this run, which would delight me, naturally!) It is unbelievably heavy, and waking up the next morning after rehearsing in it for 6 hours, my body felt as if it had run the NY Marathon! It's astonishing how much strength it requires to carry that thing around all night - oh, yes, and to try and sing! But as heavy as my dress is, it doesn't compare to the men who are actually in armor! It's stunning! The technical aspect of how these costumes are put together completely boggles my mind!

So as the title of this post implies, I have some information to pass on to you. ("411" is the number you dial in the States when you are looking for someone's contact information...) I don't normally use this blog for promotional purposes, but there are a few things I'd love for you to be aware of:

* If you like hearing me stutter in French, for the next 6 days you can see my appearance on France 2 "13:00 Heures" news program. It was amazing to me to sing opera on a mid-day news program seen by over 3 million people! Classical Music in the NEWS?!?! AMAZING! So I thank them for the invitation and the HUGELY warm welcome which they extended to me!

* SATURDAY, JUNE 12!!!!! 8:00 CET, 2:00 EST Please take a listen to the broadcast of "La Donna del Lago" from Geneva. I'm very proud of the work we did under the superb direction of Paolo Arrivabeni, and starring Luciano Botelho, Gregory Kunde, and Mariselle Martinez. It was a very special cast and production for us all, and I'm most happy to be able to share it with you!

* Speaking of broadcasts, tune in on JULY 3 for the broadcast of "Le Nozze di Figaro" from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, with another very special cast under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis. Pretty proud of that one, as well!

* If you're anywhere near Paris on JUNE 16, please come by the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées for a recital with David Zobel and myself. We're reprising our "Over 3 Centuries of Amore" recital for the beautiful Parisian audience, and I think it promises to be a very special evening of song. (I'll be signing discs afterwards, now that my Rossini disc is finally available here in France!!)

* Also for the folks near Paris, I'll be appearing at the FNAC at Montparnasse on JUNE 25 at 5:30 pm for an interview and signing. Hey - it's a chance to stock up on early Christmas presents!! ;-) I'll also be doing a signing after the matinee performance on JUNE 27 at the Palais Garnier.

* Website redesign! My summer project is to work on a major redesign of my current website. It's time, I'm afraid! It's funny how quickly things become out-dated in modern times! But if you have any special requests or ideas of how to make the site more interesting, informative, interactive, etc, please let me know! Special requests? Brilliant ideas? It's really there for you, so I'm all ears!

So yes, I'm in Paris, and that means I'm insanely busy, but it's an exciting time, and I'm so happy to share it with this public that has been so supportive of me over the years. C'est un plaisir, mes amis!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


We moved into the Palais Garnier, the original Paris Opera House, yesterday to start our on-stage rehearsals for "La Donna del Lago", and that burst of excitement of being in such a VERY special theater took hold of me once again, making me giggle and gasp with wonder at all the glitz and gold and gilded centimeters around me. A few of the cast members hadn't yet performed in this theater and I said, "Have you seen the foyer yet???" Astonished that they hadn't scrambled into the hallways on the very first break, I immediately said, "Come with me! YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!" Seeing their reactions: priceless!

Now, I'll admit - this is the part that gets a little boastful, but I can't help it. You haven't seen the Garnier unless you can wander those famed marble staircases in utter silence: no tourists around, just you and your wonder as you marvel and take in the vastness of it all. That is a definite job perk - and I treasure it and cannot get enough of it!

The House that Garnier Built

I still pinch myself when I realize this is where I come to work. As I was leaving the opera house after a long day of staging, I stopped to take a few moments to capture a bit of it with my camera, and it struck me that the modern day world rushes past, in all its fervor and technology and mass transportation, and I often wonder if they know of the magic that can transpire inside those imposing walls of granite and marble. Do they know that for YEARS music has been transporting humanity and bringing beauty and provoking questions before them, trying to help them open their hearts to new levels of understanding? Do they know that cultures are explored and united on that humble stage - which means that true peace actually exists in real time for those fleeting moments? That risks are taken and truths probed so that we might just advance a little bit as human beings? That we might feel a little bit less alone and isolated? Ah, indeed, it is a magical place. And I have to say that this particular building in all it's over-done glory actually seems to capture the glory and reverence that music and the arts deserve.


Across the front of the house are busts of famous composers from Beethoven to Mozart to Halevy (hey, this is Paris - that's cool!), and the first one on the left is none other than Rossini, himself. I love the fact that I'm singing my second of his compositions on a stage that bears such beautiful witness to his legacy. It truly inspires awe!

Not every opera production we participate in is easy-going and hassle free. (I have a dear friend in the business who sometimes says "Honey, sometimes we just have to take the check and die a little inside.") Happily, those instances are very rare, for if they were the rule, I could never, ever do this career. But it does happen occasionally, for a vast variety of reasons, and I find that in those moments I need to go deep inside and find inspiration from somewhere within when it isn't coming from the usual sources, and then work hard on remembering how grateful I am to do what I do, and how amazing it is to share it with so many of you who value music and the theater greatly in your lives. No, not every production will be to your liking, but you keep coming back for the magic, the mystery, the truth...

Which leads me to this video! I just discovered it today, and the timing was perfect for me. I have a long week ahead (tech week - the week leading up to opening night - is notoriously difficult and tension-filled and stressful, which may be one reason a number of singers are not at their best on opening night: they're recovering from a hellishly long tech week!), and need to be in great form for opening night and then for my recital 2 nights later! So I'm doing my best to be rested, rejuvenated and in a good mental place as we go forward - this video was a great find for me, and spoke to me deeply about why I do what I do:

I get angry with myself when I forget this most fundamental aspect of WHY we need music/theater/arts, and when I let a multitude of other factors (including myself, sometimes!) stand in my way of expressing this freely. I think the hardest work an actor/musician/performer must face is stripping away all the things that keep him/her from being free to express truth. That can be insecurity, fear, lack of preparation, ego, lack of humility - it can be a million different things. But more than the actual DOING of something, I think it's the stripping away of those things that keep one from being free which inhibits singers/actors more than anything. It's why I think being a performer requires an enormous amount of self-discovery and a willingness to look at the obstacles in themselves that inhibit this freedom of expression, and then to try to do the work to bring them crashing down.

Ah yes - that's the key! I've got it ALL figured out, so the rest must be all downhill for me, right?!?! Ah, no - sadly, it's not that easy, and is ALWAYS a work in progress, one that I get to continually agree to face as I try to grow and learn. I know that I'm not the only singer to say, "Why must this career be so hard sometimes?" - but that's when I come back and think that it's not a bad thing that we have to earn our way onto the stage and to fight for what our ideals are. No - that can be a wonderfully empowering thing, and it helps us to clarify WHY we do this and what we wish to achieve through our music.

It's funny how a building built over a century ago by complete strangers can still speak to one little singer in 2010, and inspire her to do her very best. Another example of the need for great art in our lives.