Tag Archives: New York Lyric Opera

The Fairy Godmother, a Dream Role

About 3 years ago, a fellow soprano-friend and I were in San Francisco and chatting about repertoire and roles when she suggested I look into the fairy godmother in Massenet’s take on the Cinderella story, Cendrillon. Massenet, I knew, but Cendrillon?

Back then, a YouTube search resulted in only about five Cendrillon clips that weren’t French dubs of the Disney movie, one of which was this recording of Esther Heideman singing La Fée’s aria “Ah! douce enfant.”

One listen, and I was in love.

Over the next few years I learned the aria even though it was on the obscure side and, therefore, not a great audition choice — I wanted to learn it just to learn it and to sing it, even if it was just for myself. I even had the opportunity to learn and perform La Fée’s second big scene, in Act 3, when she works a bit of magic to bring Cendrillon and the Prince together after their first encounter at the ball. Annalise Belnap sang Cendrillon, Kristin Roney sang the Prince, and during rehearsals the three of us would melt into puddles over the way Massenet spun these soaring, pleading lines.

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La Fée with her Cendrillon, Annalise Belnap. ASU Lyric Opera Scenes, 2013.

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La folle journée: a crazy Mozart day

How appropriate that the full title of Beaumarchais’ play, the basis for Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, begins with La Folle Journée, “A Crazy Day.” Although my day wasn’t quite as crazy as Susanna’s, it definitely stands out as one of the craziest days I’ve had in a while!

I had really been looking forward to this concert, not only because I was excited to sing some more Mozart, but also because Baritone Boy was going to be Figaro to my Susanna. Can you believe this was only the third time we’ve shared a stage after being a couple for almost two years? It was even more special that this would be his first Figaro, my first Susanna, and our first Figaranna together.

The morning was calm and gave no hints of what was to come. Baritone Boy made breakfast, and I curled my hair. We got to the venue at 12:30, and the concert was starting at 2:00 PM. Our schedules had listed the The Magic Flute first, a 15 minute set, followed by Le nozze di Figaro, 1 hour and 10 minutes. I changed into my gown, took my cough medicine, and we talked with the other singers and even took some pictures:

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Susanna and Figaro backstage. NYC, 2014.

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with Noelle Banks, our lovely Countess. NYC, 2014.

Then we found out from the Magic Flute cast that their set was 1 hour and 20 minutes long.

This was 1 hour and 5 minutes more than what the schedule had listed. It  meant that instead of finishing at 3:30, our set was starting at 3:30, which posed an enormous problem because Baritone Boy and I both had counted on leaving at 3:30: he had to get to Jersey City to cantor mass, and I had to make the tail-end of the Mozart Requiem dress rehearsal.

After an initial three minutes of confusion, disbelief, and confirmation that this was actually happening, Baritone Boy started making calls and sending texts to his music director and to possible subs, and I called the director of the Cornerstone Chorale to explain the situation. Attendance at the Cornerstone Chorale dress rehearsal was mandatory to sing in the performance, but the dress rehearsal would be over by the time  Figaro wrapped up – what could I do?

I didn’t want to leave and not sing Susanna — I’d worked hard and didn’t want to leave the rest of the group in a lurch —  but I also didn’t think it was right to flake out on Cornerstone Chorale. At my audition, the director had asked if I could really commit to the group’s projects if I was also auditioning and involved in other performances. I’d said yes, of course, with every intention of keeping my word … and the irony of potentially missing this dress rehearsal and being disqualified from the Sunday concert was immense.

Since there was no way for me to go to the second half of rehearsal, the music director asked me to come up to the rehearsal as soon as possible and to stay for as long as I could before going back down for Figaro. So I jumped into a cab to rush up to Washington Heights, which felt worlds away:

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Cabbing it uptown. NYC, 2014.

I made it to the rehearsal (and got a text from Baritone Boy that he had managed to find a sub):

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View from the choir during rehearsal. Holyrood Church. NYC, 2014.

Stayed about 30 minutes and then ran three blocks to find a cab to take me back to 96th St:

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Cabbing it downtown. NYC, 2014.

Oh, did I mention New York City also decided today was the perfect day to rain and briefly hail? At least I had this gentleman to help me out:

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Baritone Boy, a gentleman through and through. NYC, 2014.

I got back in time to freshen up my make-up, eat a cheese danish, re-center, and then we were up. My voice held up nicely, and I didn’t feel I was pushing to sing through the lingering cold or to be heard in the hall. Baritone Boy usually acts as my ears in the audience, but today we were on stage together – from his spot next to me, he said I sounded fine, if a bit cautious in the first number. I wasn’t consciously holding back, but it may have been a combination of a bumpy start (we couldn’t actually see the conductor/pianist) and my chords not being fully recovered yet.

There was a good-sized crowd, and they really enjoyed the performance. A few audience members stopped to chat with us afterwards, and I know they could at least hear me. Baritone Boy and I even received a few comments about being a good on-stage couple! It was a roller-coaster of a day, but we walked away happy, relieved, and quite pleased with ourselves for pulling it off.

Of course, there was only one way to properly reward ourselves and decompress from the craziness: Boba!!

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Enjoying some Tea Magic post-performance. NYC, 2014.

And now it’s time to get back to preparing for the other two big events on the horizon. Musical Merit is at the end of May, and I leave for Astoria in exactly one month!

To give myself the opportunity to perform my Musical Merit rep at least once in a setting other than my living room or my teacher’s studio, I’m giving a recital at the church where Cornerstone Chorale rehearses and is ensemble in residence. The church was very generous to allow me the use of their space, and that recital is in one week, Sunday, May 18th. I better get to work!

 

 

Aside

Diving into two more Mozart roles in the upcoming months: Susanna with New York Lyric and Despina with Astoria Music Festival! It is going to be a very busy spring and a very rewarding summer. There will be plenty for me to post about… so thank you for coming along on this journey with me! Continue reading

Bastien und Bastienne

Tomorrow I’ll be singing my first full Mozart role! It may be a role from one-act opera that he wrote when he was a pre-teen, but it still counts!

Each of the little numbers Mozart has composed for this piece is a gem. I can just imagine a mini-Mozart sitting at a desk that dwarves him, his feet dangling from a too-high chair, scribbling away as these ideas come to him. Hear for yourself: a recording of the whole work is available here, with Dagmar Schellenberger as Bastienne, Ralph Eschrig as Bastien, and René Pape as Colas.

The story is simple: Bastien has left Bastienne for a fancier city girl, and Colas, the local pseudo-magician (I envision him as a slightly drunk Santa – I’m not the only one, am I?), helps bring the two lovers back together. The music seems simple, which is appropriate for these country folks, but there are nuances in the changing meter, shifting tempi, and the layers of emotions revealed phrase by phrase. As I was going through the text and writing in the translation, I was surprised at how infrequently Mozart allowed Bastienne, a heartbroken shepherdess, to descend into melodramatic moping and sighing. My sense is that Bastienne is fairly young, and as a country girl, not too sophisticated. However, Mozart writes music for her that is graceful, charming, and clever. Given how upset she must be (a teenager who has just been dumped by her boyfriend), she doesn’t spend too much time wallowing in minor keys. I find this pretty impressive.

Getting this music in my voice has been a bit of an experiment. By the time I knew the notes well enough that taking into my lesson made sense, my teacher was heading out of town for a month-plus of traveling and performing. Bastienne’s music isn’t flashy and virtuosic, but it has definitely challenged me in other ways. Many of the phrases dip into the lower end of my voice, and I sing quite a few notes below the staff. This is a pretty big deal for me because for a long time I considered anything below a B4 to be problematic in tone, resonance, and volume.

I’ve been working on my middle voice, and I actually added a predominantly middle-voice aria, “Piangerò, la sorte mia,” to my rep last year and felt really good about it. Since moving to NYC, I’ve been learning how to relax into my middle voice instead of trying to control it in my search for resonance. As a result, I think that part of my voice is getting stronger and fuller. Along with that, my teacher and Baritone Boy say that my overall sound is getting warmer… things are opening up, and I’ve started looking at music I previously thought to be unlikely/improbable. But I digress! Back to Bastienne: the performance is tomorrow. I’ve never sung in the space before, so I have no sense of how big or live or unfriendly it is. I will remind myself to focus on the sensations of breath flowing rather than fixating on whether it sounds good.

I’m excited for tomorrow, and I wonder what Mozart I’ll tackle next!

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Aside

IN THE WORKS @ September 2, 2013 I’ve been cast for my first NYC shows: Oberto (Alcina scenes, Handel) with New York Lyric Opera September 28, 11:00 AM at Symphony Space contact me for tickets! 1st Lay Sister, 2nd Alms Sister, and Novice (Suor … Continue reading