Tag Archives: Richard Strauss

Successful Celebration of Strauss and Friendship

As the launch project of the newly formed Cantanti Project, our Strauss Celebration was a huge success! With Bill Lewis at the piano, we presented an afternoon of Strauss’s lieder and opera in Washington Heights. In the audience were Strauss experts and novices, musicians and non-musicians, conductors, artists, singers of all kinds, people who knew a little about classical music and some who know a whole lot. The feedback we received has been overwhelmingly positive. Along with compliments on the wonderful voices, the ensemble work, and the sensitivity and musicality of the piano-playing, we also received inquiries as to whether we would be performing this program again. I can’t help but glow at the idea that people would want to hear the music again and would want others to hear it too.

Musik ist eine heilege Kunst

– Composer, Der Rosenkavalier

Basking in the aftermath of adrenaline, satisfaction, and joy, I realized the most valuable outcome of this project was not the singing I got to do but the friendships I reaffirmed with each of the singers involved. I reconnected with friends, most of whom I hadn’t seen or sung with in years and one whom I met just this summer at Astoria Music Festival, and partnered with newer friends whom I’ve never worked with before. The weeks leading up to the performance, though stressful, were filled with rehearsing, discussing, sharing ideas — it was the kind of “busy” that makes you feel alive. It’s truly beautiful that music and music-making brings people together like this.

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In the works update (November 21, 2014)

IN THE WORKS @ November 21, 2014

A Strauss Celebration: 150 years

  • Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
  • 3:00 PM
  • Lieder and selections from Arabella, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Der Rosenkavalier
  • Holyrood Church (179th and Fort Washington), Washington Heights, NYC
  • The launch project of Cantanti PROJECT, a project-based performance group in NYC, for singers and by singers.

Cornerstone Chorale’s Winter Concert

  • Sunday, December 7th, 2014
  • 3:30 PM
  • Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit pour Noël and other holiday pieces
  • Holyrood Church, Washington Heights, NYC

Zerlina in Don Giovanni with New York Lyric

  • Monday, December 15th, 2014
  • 7:00 PM
  • NOLA Studios, NYC

Covering the role of Dalinda in Handel’s Ariodante in 2015 with New York Opera Forum

  •  Performance details TBA

A Strauss Celebration: 150 Years

The last two months of 2014 are turning out to be exciting and overwhelming. Things were supposed to wind down after Cendrillon, but after just a few weeks of quiet it picked back up with auditions, new repertoire, and the news that I was cast to sing Zerlina in Don Giovanni this December.

Another project just around the corner is one I am especially proud of, a concert celebrating Richard Strauss’s 150th birthday.

Cantanti - Strauss Celebration Flier with Headshots v2

Even if you don’t care much for birthdays, you’ve go to admit that 150 years is a big deal. This one was celebrated all over the world, most noticeably with performances of his works. Statistics from Operabase.com show how Strauss-mania kicked in for 2014:

  • In 2013: 364 performances of 85 productions, in 57 cities
  • In 2014: 625 performances of 153 productions, in 92 cities

The idea of putting on a Strauss concert had been on my mind all year, and after summer came and went I knew I was running out of time. It’s taken plenty of sweat and a bit of stress (but thankfully, no blood), and everything has come together beautifully.

I’m thrilled and honored to be making this music with eight fabulous women, the majority of whom are old friends and a handful of whom are new ones. Our concert is this Saturday at 3 PM in Washington Heights, NYC. We’ll be performing at the same church I had my recital at earlier this year, Holyrood Church. If you’re in the neighborhood, please come by to hear some Strauss!




In the works update (October 19, 2014)

IN THE WORKS @ October 19, 2014

A Strauss Celebration: 150 years

  • Monday, November 24th,  7 PM
  • Holyrood Church (179th and Fort Washington), Washington Heights, NYC
  • Lieder and selections from Arabella, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Der Rosenkavalier
  • I’ll be singing “Einkehr” (Op 47) and Sophie in the Der Rosenkavalier selections
  • The launch project of Cantanti PROJECT, a project-based performance group in NYC, for singers and by singers.

Covering the role of Dalinda in Handel’s Ariodante in 2015 with New York Opera Forum

  •  Performance details TBA


Astoria 2014: Singing

One of the many aspects of the Vocal Apprentice program I adored this year was the plethora of performance opportunities we took part in. While Così fan tutte was the culmination of our efforts and our growth as performers, the other singing we did was just as important in our self-discovery and learning.


Despina rocking the apron look. Astoria, 2014.

Through a series of Apprentice concerts held at various venues around town, we had the opportunity to share our repertoire with others and put into practice ideas from masterclasses, lessons, and coachings. I mentioned last time that the amount of talent in Astoria was astounding, and I can, without hesitation, include the abilities of the Apprentices in this statement as well. Over the course of the Festival I got to hear beautiful singing from my peers, and they introduced me to new repertoire as well as different interpretations of music I was already familiar with. It’s no wonder we had a group of regular attendees at our concerts!

Many of the pieces I used for these concerts I had performed fairly recently at my recital, and I was surprised at how differently some of them felt just a month later. I am very, very thankful for the coaches and teachers who guided me through these developments: Gustavo Castro and Karen Esquivel, Paul Floyd, Allan Glassman, Marie Plette, Mark Robson, and Richard Zeller.

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In the works update (March 22, 2014)

IN THE WORKS @ March 22, 2014

I am absolutely thrilled to be singing the role of Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos this summer in New York.

  • Conducted by Lloyd Arriola
  • Celebrating Strauss @ 150
  • Our first rehearsal/meeting is next Saturday!
  • Further details TBA

Prepping to do some recording since I don’t have anything recent:

  • Presentation of the rose from Der Rosenkavalier
  • “Da tempeste” from Giulio Cesare

I also made the decision to travel across the country to sing in Musical Merit again. The plane ticket was expensive, and it’s a lot of rep to put together – but I know myself, and I know I would regret not giving it a shot. So without any expectations, instead, with a focus on preparing my music with as much passion as possible and using what I’ve learned in the last 8 months, here I go:

  • “Solitudini amiche … Zeffiretti lusinghieri” from Idomeneo
  • Presentation of the rose from Der Rosenkavalier
  • “Silver Aria” from The Ballad of Baby Doe
  • “Phöbus eilt mit schnellen Pferden” from Cantata 202 (Bach)
  • Green (Debussy)
  • Breit’ über mein Haupt (Strauss)
  • At the Well (Hageman)
  • Zion’s Walls (Copland)

Since I love biting off more than is smart to bite off, I’m also hoping to have other announcements in the next few months. But no matter how things play out, it’s going to be an incredible summer. I know I’ve made some progress out here, and I will keep moving forward, keep getting stronger, and keep stretching that extension. Thank you to everyone who has been cheering me along – my family, Baritone Boy, my teacher, my coach, and my friends. Thank you, thank you!

Lush and warm

San Diego flora

Lush and warm. Words that could be used to describe a tropical island, but in this case I’m talking about the music of Richard Strauss. If his music had a smell, I think it would be jasmine. If it had color, fuchsia, navy blue, and yellow. Anyone with synaesthesia  reading, please chime in and let me know how close I am.

I can’t remember the title or even composer of the first German song I worked on as an undergrad, but the first lieder I can recall clearly are Schlagende Herzen, Die Stern, and Ich schwebe – all Strauss. I went on a brief Wolf kick a few years ago, but I’m back on Strauss now.

Picking favorites of any kind (i.e. movies, books, actors, singers) is hard for me, but you could get me to say Strauss is currently my go-to guy for German art song. Yes, there are other really good composers out there, but they can’t get me to cry as often as Strauss does with the sheer beauty of their work. Seriously, I’ve teared up the last nine times I had to sing Morgen! and some of those times were just in a practice room. I have more Strauss in my lieder repertoire than any other composer, and it’s probably going to stay that way for a while (although my boyfriend probably wants to change that because Schumann is, without hesitation, his favorite).

Morgen! is a hit with everyone and anyone who possesses a heart and a soul. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re probably a robot. There’s a gorgeous version with violin, but this performance with Arleen Auger is probably my favorite.

Allerseelen is my latest Strauss, which is coming along very nicely and feels great to sing. (Sidebar: I actually learned the text first before working on the notes, and score-studied a few times before singing anything – and, wow, did things click into place quickly. I’m usually too impatient to work this way even though plenty of teachers have recommended learning in stages instead of all at once, but I was forced to this time because every moment in the practice room was spent on my recital rep. That left me with opportunities like waiting at the doctor’s office and the 30 minutes going to bed to make some kind of progress with Allerseelen. Here’s one of my score-studying resources, a performance by Kathleen Battle)

Strauss is so clever – the song is through-composed and each statement of  “wie einst im Mai” [like once in May], the unifying refrain at the end of each verse, is different. The contrast of different music combined with repeated text highlights the emotional complexity of the moment as someone remembers a loved one on All Soul’s’ Day, the day dedicated to the departed. The first “wie einst im Mai” is an ascending chromatic line in the upper register. The second is in the lower register, begins with a chromatic ascent that recalls the first statement, leaps up and then resolves by step. The third descends by step, simply and gently. Feel how the triplets introduced in verse three at “ein Tag im Jahr ist ja den Toten frei, komm an mein Herze” [one day of the year the dead are indeed free, come to my heart] launch into the climax at “dass ich dich wieder habe” [that I have you again]. As quickly as the outburst built over three measures, it dissipates in the same length of time. There is a brief instrumental interlude, and then “wie einst im Mai” is echoed one last time using a bittersweet ascending two-note gesture.

I’m very excited to be singing Allerseelen and the Act 1 Finale of Don Giovanni as Zerlina with MusicaNova Orchestra in the concert “And Open to All” on Thursday, April 25, 2013. Concert details and tickets are available here, and you can read Maestro Cohen’s post about Strauss’ lieder here.