Tag Archives: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Don Giovanni at the Met, Plus a Stage Door Stake-Out

One of the perks of my day job at a major NYC institution is getting discount tickets to various shows and events. When I saw “The Metropolitan Opera,” “Don Giovanni,” and “Luca Pisaroni,” listed, I actually put it in my calendar to buy tickets as soon as they went on sale. After singing my first Zerlina last December, I was even more eager to see a full production of Don Giovanni live. Plus, I’ve been a big fan of Luca’s for a while now and really wanted to see him in one of his signature roles: Leporello (I dare you to watch this rendition of the Catalog Aria, “Madamina, il catalogo è questo,” and not be charmed).

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Settling in for Don Giovanni. NYC, 2015.

It had been a while since my last visit to the Met and I was going to see Don Giovanni, so it was with great anticipation and excitement that I made my way to Lincoln Center after work on Friday. Fellow soprano Jen and I met up for a coffee and catch-up session before the show, and Baritone Boy joined us a little later.

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Lincoln Center at twilight. NYC, 2015.

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Baritone Boy and I in the cold. NYC, 2015.

It was a great performance, with all the characters well-portrayed and fully-embodied. We were sitting up in Family Circle, and more so than any other time I’ve been to the Met, I wished for opera glasses to really see and get the full effect of facial expressions and nuanced moments. It’s really the intricate relationships between the characters (combined with the magical music, of course) that makes this opera so interesting and so well-loved. Continue reading

Despina Chronicles: Words, words, words!

My teachers would be proud! I have taken their advice and am learning Despina the “right” way – text first and then notes. This approach was a success when learning Allerseelen last year, but I admit that it was the exception rather than the rule. The excitement of having new rep usually overwhelms my patience and common sense – I want to dive in, learn it all immediately, and practice until I can’t sing anymore. This really isn’t the best way to go about it, though…

It can be difficult to slow down and learn all the various elements separately. I think there are two sides to a singer: the Performer and the Musician. The Performer loves the drama, the excitement, the plot twists and turns, the gorgeous soaring lines, the orchestra, the flood of feelings. The Performer doesn’t want to wait – the Performer wants to do.

Then there’s the Musician. That’s the part of us that was listening when our teachers spoke their words of wisdom, the systematic and logical part of us that realizes the importance of establishing a solid technical foundation upon which we can then layer all the feeling and emoting and performing. By technical, I don’t just mean vocal technique (although that’s certainly one aspect of the foundation singers need); I also mean the technical details of language, diction, rhythm, pitch, and articulation — the tools through which we can effectively and honestly interpret what is printed on the page. Continue reading

Shall We Gather: an Evening of Songs and Arias

I’ve made a poster, which means this recital is really happening!

Shall We Gather: An Evening of Songs and Arias
May 18th, 2014
Sunday, 7 PM
Holyrood Church
179th & Fort Washington
New York City, NY
 
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Photo by Still in Motion Photography. School of Music*, ASU, 2013.

Continue reading

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

iPad Mini: my new best friend

In addition to La Sonnambula at The Met and dinner at French restaurant Le Relais de Venise, my birthday also included a very special gift: my first iPad mini.

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Dante observes the iPad mini carefully. NYC, 2014.

I’ve avoided the iPad bandwagon for years and even considered purchasing a Microsoft Surface Pro for a while. Yet here I am. A convert. Deliriously happy and in love with my mini.

It’s no secret that an iPad are great for playing Candy Crush and watching videos/movies, but in a very short amount of time I’ve learned that it can be a singer’s best friend:

  • Music. Music and Apple products have been inseparable since the iPod, so throw your favorite recordings and playlists on there and listen away! There are also radio-like apps and websites that stream music. I recently discovered Opera Music Broadcast, which streams music 24/7. Their name says opera, but they also include art song, oratorio, choral pieces, motets, and more — a very respectable range spanning many time periods and styles.
  • PDFs. Load PDFs of your favorite scores and score study anywhere. I even know musicians who have foregone sheets of music all together and pianists who play directly from tablets. A tip: check out IMSLP for free access to the world’s public domain music. Download and enjoy to your heart’s content. 
  • Combine the two above points and you can listen to a recording and follow along in the score without having to juggle multiple items. This is one of my favorite things to do, and the iPad mini makes it all that much easier. The screen is smaller than most scores, but this has not been a problem for me. The regular iPad is slightly larger, though, for those who would like more screen-space. 
  • Piano apps. Learning new rep and need to pick out your notes or hear the harmony underneath you? Want to do some warm-ups? There are plenty of piano apps to pick from.
  • Research. The convenient size, wi-fi/data plan capabilities, and variety of apps in the App Store make the iPad mini a fabulous research tool. I can read just about anything and everything, from history books to biographies to reviews, to industry news. I am currently reading The Letters of Mozart and His Family, translated by Emily Anderson, which I downloaded for free from a public library. Research also includes watching video clips and movies. For this, YouTube is an absolute treasure trove. I love the interviews, the concert clips, the amateur and the professional productions, and especially the full-length operas in HD.

If anyone has other tips or tricks for getting the most out of the iPad’s capabilities, or apps that I should try out, please leave a comment and let me know!

Before I moved to NYC, I naively imagined how productive I could be while riding the subway – learning music, writing in IPA/translations, reading, blogging. Then I experienced the subway system first-hand and had my naiveté remedied by the watch-out-or-get-trampled reality of taking public transportation. Lugging around a score was not only cumbersome (those hardcover Bärenreiters are like 12 lbs!), but 85% of the time I couldn’t even use it once I got in the subway car. Holding the score open, following along, and flipping pages is impossible when there isn’t an open seat, you’re crammed in between three stranger, or holding on for dear life as you stop-and-started your way down the track.

But now I have a versatile, lightweight piece of technology that doesn’t smack other riders in the face, that I can easily hold with one hand and flip pages with a flick of a finger. I spend approximately two hours traveling each day, and now those two hours are infinitely more productive and enjoyable.

For a girl who’s short on time, this slightly expensive splurge investment is already paying off!

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Multi-tasking with the iPad mini – listening and following along in the score. NYC, 2014.