Hello All! Just wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Holiday season and a successful and joyous New Year's celebration, and take some time to update you on what is keeping me busy these days since I've not posted anything in a few weeks.
I've done some more Young Artist Program auditions- and actually the first weekend of this month I had four auditions back-to-back for really wonderful programs. I was lucky just to be able to sing for, and meet some of these wonderful Artistic Administrators who are behind the YAPs (Young Artist Programs) nowadays- they are such nice people! They certainly help to make the audition process enjoyable during somewhat questionable weather (I had one audition that was in the middle of a snowstorm!).
I just completed my final audition on Friday in NYC, so I'm looking forward to having a little bit more time during the holidays to try and learn new repertoire that I did not get a chance to work on as much as I would have liked during the hectic audition season this fall.
What's in the works, you ask? Well, that is for me to know, and you to find out--when it gets performed! :) Now is the time to really hone these roles and try to get a more accurate picture of how to show their characters through the music the composers provided, as well as what I know about their time period, their situation in the story, and things like that. It's funny, more often than not, as an Opera Singer, you're also working as a detective. You're unearthing all those things that the composer put in the music that tells you his opinion about the character, and the things the librettist slipped in which show you what kind of a person the character was, and then making a conglomeration of these facts that you've found, coupled with your own knowledge about life circumstances, to bring about the finished product- or, more aptly put, the character that you can play. It's an interesting process; I know that I learn something more about myself every time that I learn something more about the character that I'm portraying.
Anyway, enough of my soapbox about characterization, I'm probably just at the point now where that would have gotten boring to you readers anyway.....lol!
WIshing everyone a Happy Holiday Season and a Very Happy, Healthy, and Successful New Year!!
I reserve entries to this blog having to do with my opinions on other peoples singing performances to a minimum, and I include them only when I really feel that they were examples of superb artistry and a deep love for opera and or classical singing. That being said, I feel that I would be doing you, the readers and audience members, a huge disservice if I were to neglect to tell you about my experience at The Metropolitan Opera earlier this evening.
The performance of Janacek's 'House of the Dead' was critically acclaimed in the papers in the past week, and since I am a fan of every Janacek work that I have thus far heard, I decided that I needed to go. I was not disappointed; my experience at the opera this evening was not merely a display of beautiful vocalism. Janacek's adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel (of the same name--which was loosely based on his own experiences as a political prisoner) could be described with all the words you'd associate with a blockbuster hit at movie box offices. Spellbinding, thrilling, exhilarating, nothing-like-you've-ever-seen, gripping, heart-stopping, chilling. These words only begin to skim the surface of all that lurks beneath the waters of Janacek's icy depths.
The orchestral accompaniment began with a quasi-overture, as it wasn't really long enough to merit the title, but served as a purely instrumental introduction to the themes of the plot, and the common threads which Janacek would later revisit in the soliloquies of the three main soloists. It was interesting in a tonal sound scape perspective because since the cast was 95% male, the sonorities produced by the orchestra were not able to be wielded as typically done. There were actually many times where the voices were singing in the higher part of their tessitura to create a haunting and empty sort of color to their sound and with the ostinato chugging along beneath to keep the audible "visual", if you will, of the constancy and stagnation of prison life, it was masterfully handled. His harmonies were also delicious, in that, they were quasi grating. But only in a way that became apparent after a few repeats of the figure. However, he then simply dissolves those grating harmonies into something quite beautiful, in an almost fragile-sounding way. Perhaps he was evoking the transiency of the beauty of life, or the double-edged quality to every circumstance.
The most striking and poignant part of this work though, was definitely the psychological aspect that was explored through the libretto (which was transliterated from Janacek himself from Dostoevsky's original Russian--and was not a literal translation) and was communicated in a series of vignettes which Janacek strung together to create a cohesive whole with a common theme. It's hard for me as an audience member to know where to begin to explain this, as it was all so wonderful, and there were so many layers of meaning to appreciate and consider. Basically the story hinges on prisioners in a jail in Siberia, and focuses on three prisoners' stories, and as the stories are told, in a sometimes roundabout and minimalistic way, the audience member gets a sense of the general experience of the prisoners and of their humanity (even in spite of their horrible crimes). This piece becomes more about the human needs of the prisoners rather than what they did to deserve punishment of this degree.
I could certainly go on and on (and on and on!) about the wonders of the psychological complexities of this work, but it would only really make sense to do that if you were familiar with the storyline. However, I don't feel adequately equipped to tell the story to you, as it wouldn't really work for me to relate a quickly boiled down version and then for me to tell you the psychological implications, because the very way in which the story is presented has everything to do with how its perceived, and nothing with what actually happens IN the story. It's a very ingenious and complex architecture that Janacek constructs here. He was certainly a master, as are most poets, of saying what he meant but using words that mean nothing even close to his actual underlying message.
So, as I am in danger of starving your brains with commentary about something which cannot be fully explained in a written medium (of a critical nature, at least), I would like to urge you to please PLEASE see this work for yourself. And if you are not in New York City, please at least read up about it online or get a recording. It's absolutely something to which everyone can relate, and something of which everyone should experience a part.
And for goodness sake--if you're not familiar with Janacek and you love haunting and thought-provoking storytelling- you owe it to yourself to check out his work!!
I've decided to make a career change. And by that I don't mean, changing my focus away from my singing studies. On the contrary, I'm actually talking about voluntarily devoting all of my time to the pursuit of my artistic preparations. This may seem like a strange time to do such a thing, as the country is in the throes of an economic downturn, however, I'm of the opinion that there is no time like the present, and so I have decided to make that leap of faith even in this most trying of times. In order to better prepare for this period of low income but high yields (in the department of learning roles and honing my craft, that is) I've decided to apply for several grants which hopefully will help to fund my decision and allow me to pay for necessary singing expenses (audition fees, coaching fees, transportation costs, new scores, reprints of headshots, etc...) while still devoting the large part of my time to the study of singing. (So, for those of you readers who are grant writers- email me if you feel like lending some charitable advice!)
This might be a shock to people who are not musicians or did not grow up knowing someone who was living and working as a musician, but it does take much more time to really develop your ability in order to make a living from it than most people think. So, with this new found knowledge, the determination to learn as much as I can in this year's time, and my recent acceptance to Center City Opera Theater as an Apprentice Artist, my decision to take this year and make it count has actually been pretty aptly timed. I am hoping that those of you who read my blog and follow along on my singing exploits in this wonderful field will be tickled and equally excited for me. Just think--you will soon be able to read about what it will be like for me to devote my entire life (starting now) to singing. I have heard the popular quote "Fate is a fickle master" and I have decided that I am going to meet whatever Fate has to throw my way with a smile and some good ol' fashioned gumption, and then just let the rest go.
So far I've only gotten one difficult hurdle to overcome which has been cropping up in the past weeks in relation to this decision--an full schedule! You know, whoever said that when you work for yourself you work longer and harder was definitely right! I guess it's easier to divorce yourself from you work if you don't like what you do, or if you work for a large company where you might not see the direct result of your efforts, but I can certainly affirm that when you are working for yourself toward a goal that is important to you, boy, you certainly do move your butt to get to that goal! But, I guess, if that's the only problem that I've come across thus far, then I can't really complain, can I? :)