Monthly Archives: August 2014

Reading Dante, His Life and Poetry

Pubic libraries are magical. You walk in and pick books, scores, DVDs, and CDs off the shelf and take them home for free. My latest find was this gem, Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity by Prue Shaw:

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Color-coordinated and reading in the park. Bryant Park, 2014.

As you know, Baritone Boy and I named our puppy after this genius. Every time I come across the name Dante in this book, this is the face I picture:

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Dante the Puppy hanging out at home. Washington Heights, 2014.

Moving through a series of seven themes — Friendship, Power, Life, Love, Time, Numbers, and Words — Shaw weaves together biographical information and commentary on Divine Comedy to lead us through a journey of Dante’s life, principles, literary works, and aspirations. With this kind of introduction, I can’t wait to pick up a more traditional biography and also read the full poem, all 99 cantos.

These 99 cantos are divided into three canticles, each corresponding to a different leg of Dante’s pilgrimage through Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. He began writing in 1307 (or 1308) but set the journey in the year 1300. This allowed the characters of Divine Comedy to be able to accurately forecast and allude to events of the “future,” which in the real world had already occurred. Mind-blowing.

I am so used to conceptualizing Italian words as part of music that it is startlingly impactful just to read it as poetry.

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Competition and Contemplation

I had a lot to be grateful for this year, developments and opportunities I was eager to share, but I deliberated for a while before deciding to share some of my very private thoughts about singing in this year’s Musical Merit. It would have been easier to say nothing about my experience, but as this blog is about life and not just the best and most amazing parts of being a singer, I felt it was important not to sweep it under the rug.

So what happened? I was nervous in the hours leading up to my time slot, but once the music started, most of the nerves melted away. I started with “At the Well,” and the judges asked for “Silver Aria,” Presentation of the Rose, and “Green.” Everything went just fine. Nothing terrible happened. Perhaps if something had gone horribly wrong, I would have been able to come up with a clear cause-and-effect — I made Debussy roll over in his grave with my intonation and horrible French diction, therefore I did not place. 

There were a few things I wish I’d done differently (hmmm that C# could have been narrower and taller), but overall, I was happy with how I sang. I left the room in a great mood and ready to enjoy the rest of my mini-vacation:

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Feeling pretty good after the semi. San Diego, 2014.

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