Tag Archives: Susanna

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!

 

 

Despina Chronicles: Susanna Detour

Despina was off to a great start, but I’ve been on a slight detour the past few weeks as I prepare for the two Mozart concerts this weekend: selections from Le nozze di Figaro on Saturday, and the Mozart Requiem on Sunday.

Susanna has been an absolute joy to work on. It does not lie particularly high, and the absence of outrageous high notes has been a nice break for someone who has been obsessed with stretching the extension! The challenge has actually been in the opposite direction. Susanna repeatedly visits Bb below the staff – for example, in the Act II and IV finales – and even traverses all the way down to A3 in “Deh vieni non tardar.” That one note is quite notorious (and it’s fun to see how various singers navigate it).

Although Susanna is regularly lumped into the soubrette category, I’m not sure I would consider her a soubrette beyond the stock attributes she has been assigned: young, fun, and the maid. The whole opera is built on the premise that people are not (or are more than) what they appear to be, so why wouldn’t Susanna be more than just the light-hearted, light-voiced comic relief? The Countess is supposed to be the heroine, but I think Susanna’s brains and heart make her as much a leading lady, if not more.

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Preparing the Susanna and Cherubino duet. NYC, 2014.

Pondering about these characters and their relationships to each other has been just as fun as learning the music. There was an element of pressure involved given the amount of music, the amount of time, and this awful cough and cold/virus I’ve been battling, but much of it was lessened by the fact that it didn’t take long for it to feel good in my voice. Some music takes a while to settle in, and other music seems to fit your voice immediately. Thankfully, Susanna felt right from the start and despite a very short rehearsal period, I think I’m ready for tomorrow’s concert. I have a few concerns, but they’re more about keeping the terrible coughing under control and catching all the entrances in the ensemble numbers. Vocally, other than an overabundance of phlegm from being sick, everything feels easy and accessible!

I’m excited but also a bit nervous for tomorrow. I essentially lost my voice this past week after cantoring three masses and singing a four hour rehearsal while sick and on all sorts of medication. I put myself on vocal rest for two days when I realized my voice was gone, limiting my talking at work and marking during rehearsals. My voice has gotten a little better each day, but it still gets tired very quickly, whether I’m speaking or singing. At tonight’s run-through, I tried using a little more voice, but I didn’t want to give it my all just in case 18 hours wasn’t enough recovery time. I’ll drink lots of water, take my cough medicine, and we’ll see how it goes!

Even if I’m not able to sing my very best, I’m so glad I had this opportunity and pushed myself to learn all this music. Susanna is an intimidating role because of how much singing she does – now that I have some of it under my belt, I’ll be less likely to panic if/when the time comes to learn the whole thing!

Saturday’s selections:

  • Act I Susanna/Marcelinna duet “Via, resti servita, madama brillante”
  • Act II trio “Susanna, or via sortite!”
  • Act II Susanna/Cherubino duet “Aprite, presto, aprite”
  • Act II Finale
  • Act III sextet “Riconosci in questo amplesso una madre”
  • Act III Susanna/Countess duet “ Sull’aria”
  • Act IV Finale

Chronicles of Despina: the Journey Begins

Less than two months to go before I head to Oregon for the Astoria Music Festival this summer! Which means less than two months to learn the role of Despina in Così fan tutte!

Little did I know after singing Bastienne this past February that Despina would be my next Mozart role! Since this opportunity is a bit of a milestone for me — first full-length Mozart role, staged and with orchestra — I thought I would chronicle my progress and the process of getting to know this character and this opera.

Of course, I was absolutely thrilled when I got the news about Despina — I jumped up and down and hugged Baritone Boy (who didn’t know at the time I would be hijacking his Così Bärenreiter) — but by the next morning, the enormity of what I’d gotten myself into was settling in:

Just a week prior I had committed myself to singing Susanna in selections from Le nozze di Figaro. This concert is scheduled for mid-May, with Cornerstone Chorale’s Mozart Requiem literally the next day and the Musical Merit Auditions three weeks later. A week and half after that, Vocal Apprentices for the Festival are to arrive in Astoria.

A partial role, a requiem, a competition, and my first full-length Mozart role — what have I gotten myself into?!

If I’ve gotten myself into trouble, I suppose this is the best kind of trouble: too much wonderful music to sing.

Within 48 hours of getting the email from Astoria about the casting, I raided the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and started highlighting the Bärenreiter I’d gotten Baritone Boy as a Christmas gift (no time to order one — I’ll make this up to him!):

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Stocking up on Mozart and Cosi study materials. NYC, 2014.

I have a lot of work to do, but saying no never crossed my mind. Astoria is too enriching of a festival to pass by, and Despina is too amazing of a role to turn down. I just have to find a way to manage my time and get it all done (and done well).

One of the biggest contributors to the anxiety is that this is the most significant amount of music and recitative I have had to prepare. I don’t actually know how long it will take me, so the big question constantly being asked inside my head is “Can you really do this in less than two months?” With all the other music I’m learning and polishing, while working full-time, taking care of Dante, and trying to fit in yoga and quality time with Baritone Boy, I’m slightly nervous.

I definitely had mild panic attacks every two hours for the first two days. A week later, the panic attacks occur less frequently and — more significantly — I have also memorized the recit and translation for Despina’s first two scenes and have a working knowledge of both arias!

I had such a beautiful and eye-opening experience in Astoria last year, and it is an honored to have the opportunity to participate again. I’m looking forward to the fabulous masterclasses, concerts, and workshops (check out all the events and artists they have lined up!!), not to mention the breath-taking scenery and the new friends I’ll make. I need every minute of the next 49 days to prepare my music, but I also can’t wait for the Festival to get underway…

Stay tuned for more Chronicles of Despina!

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

Post-Bastienne

Last Sunday’s performance of Bastien und Bastienne went well! Baritone Boy sang in an earlier performance at the same venue, and so of course he stayed for the concert. Several of my friends from work also came out to cheer for me, and I loved having them there. My NYU family has been enthusiastic about my singing (they managed to find some YouTube videos of me), and their support has truly been humbling and encouraging.

I had a fantastic time singing with Grant Mech (Colas) and Nils Neubert (Bastien). Both gentlemen were very talented, and I’d say our group had excellent chemistry. Grant’s “Diggi, daggi” was a blast, and Nils and I had such fun during our duet. One of my favorite musical moments is the mini-figuette in the second half of the trio (at 40:44); ten regal, stately, grown-up, glorious seconds that really pop out from the rest of the opera.

What made it such a fun performance was that the three of us were doing more than just singing what was on the page. We were reflecting, thinking, feeling, emoting – all the things that turn a dry, correct performance into an entertaining one. Then there were a few times when I would be in the middle of doing just that, and suddenly a corner of my brain said, “Hold up, what words come next and when’s your entrance?” and my eyes would have to find my place on the page. For this concert performance we weren’t required to be off-book, a detail which, initially, is a relief since memorizing can be a pain/stressful. And while I knew my music well enough to not be buried in my score, I still found myself relying on the music a little more than I would have liked. If I have the opportunity to do something like this again, I think I’ll work to be at least 75% memorized even if it’s not a requirement.

Pei-wen Chen, our conductor and pianist, was fantastic to work with as well. She made several observations about phrasing, vowels, and articulation that I will be keeping in mind moving forward. Collaborating with her was a great experience. She was working with multiple casts, and I saw how she made suggestions based on each individual singers’ voice, personality, and preferences. I had added a small sprinkling of embellishments at cadence points that I hoped to get away with, and after my interest in Handel came up in conversation, Pei-wen then gave me a bunch more to spice things up while keeping it Mozartian and tasteful. The extra notes probably weren’t obvious as extra notes to those without a score, but having those little flourishes throughout was like finding secret bonuses in a video game.

This Bastienne was a great experience, and it has me fired up to do more Mozart. Pei-wen pointed out similarities between Bastienne and Susanna… so maybe there’s my answer to what Mozart role I should look at next!

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With Pei-wen Chen, conductor and pianist, post-concert. NOLA, 2014.