Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dream Baroque Drama Queens Roles

I was battling between writing about the dream Pants Roles and the Dream Mozart Roles, but then I decided I wanted to write about baroque music since I’m doing so much baroque music this semester. By the way I’m so writing this to the sound of the Met’s production of Eugene Onegin with Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, so off topic, but it’s glorious, and I love it!
Before getting down to it I’d like to make a few announcements, first that I decided to break it off with the so called Don Giovanni I was seeing. And when I say Don Giovanni you can think of him with every aspect of the character, and elas, I was Elvira. But never more, as I’ve said in twitter earlier, I’m too young for that character anyways! And second and coolest news is that I’ll be watching Vesselina Kasarova’s concert here in São Paulo next week and I’m super excited, but I have two big perception tests before it so the concert will be like a gift for studying so hard.
I’m kinda terrified because of one of these tests, surprisingly so, it’s the easiest one I’m most terrified of. I had a problem with the teacher a couple of semesters ago (he basically humiliated me in front of the whole class and wouldn’t let me do the test, it was awful) and I spoke out and complained to the director, I don’t know what the director did to him, he’s still teaching same as he was before, but I am pretty sure he hates my guts.  And this test is an individual and oral one, and I really do not know what to expect when I’m put in a room alone with him, I’m terrified actually. Not that I think that he’s gonna hit me of anything, but he’s likely to destroy me verbally and I’m probably going to burst into tears and it’s gonna suck and I’ll fail this subject YET AGAIN. Therefore, I’m terrified.
Well anyways, we gotta wait and see, in the meantime all I can do is study, which is exactly what I’m doing, I’ll give it my best, let’s just see if it’s enough…
Happy talk now, let’s talk about some cool baroque Drama Queens roles to honor my favorite singer Joyce DiDonato and her fabulous recording. So I’m picking my favorite four baroque queens to talk about, but this is probably gonna be Baroque Dream Roles (part 1) since, there’s so much cool stuff in this repertoire!
First, in no particular order whatsoever, maybe because I’m totally doing her this semester, Cleopatra from Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto. I mean, come on! Cleopatra is super iconic and such an awesome personality, as David Daniels said in a recent interview, that all little girls dream about being Cleopatra and so did he as a little boy! That was just amazing!  And the character goes through so many transformations, she actually falls for Cesare, something she wasn’t particularly planning to do, and their reunion is so romantic. All their parts together are quite inspiring and her alone solos go from witty and “Wee, I got him!” to extremely dramatic which is fantastic to have in one character alone.

Danielle De Niese as Cleopatra above in the Metropolian Opera and bellow in Gynderbourne

Then we go from Drama Queen from Egypt to super awesome sorceress, but since she’s in Joyce DiDonato’s Drama Queens, I totally consider her a queen as well. The life destroying Alcina from Handel’s Alcina. Just a parenthesis here, my friend has a teacher named Alcina, and I freaked when I found out and asked him if she turned her naughty students into stone, he just started as I laughed at my pathetic joke alone. Anyways, Alcina is ass kicking and an amazing baroque queen, having power and beauty and being in control of everything around her until she falls helplessly in love and literally looses the ground beneath her. Plus “Ah mio cor” is one of my favorite arias ever, I totally can relate to it I every level you can possibly image (who can’t hun?) and she’s also a two faced character just like Cleopatra, which I like a lot.

Anja Harteros as Alcina, with Vesselina Kasarova as Ruggiero.

Next another empress in the making, Poppea from Monteverdi’s L’Incornazione di Poppea. That’s another great character, one that is control of probably one of the most dangerous man in history, at least in the opera she is. He’s completely crazy for her, and you can never know if she’s crazy for him or not, it depends on the production. There are Poppeas that act purely selfishly and don’t look like they care much about him, but others she seems to like him, even love him, I prefer the latter interpretation. Their first duet is super sexy and super one of my favorite baroque “duets” ever, although their last duet is so beautiful, ending in unison meaning that now they are one.

Danielle De Niese as Poppea and Alice Coote as Nerone
Last but definitely not least is the first baroque opera I ever saw, Rodelinda from Handel’s Rodelinda, yet another awesome queen. I first saw this opera in a sort of gangster European (duh) production with Dorothea Röschmann as Rodelinda, and absolutely adored it. A queen standing still against all odds to protect her throne and her child, she’s so bad ass. Then I saw Renée Fleming as Rodelinda and my love was solidified for all eternity. Strangely so my favorite Rodelinda aria is “Morrai Si” but “Ritorna Caro” comes right after it. Again 2 facets, one grieving and weak because of her husband’s disappearance and another strong and firm that won’t be manipulated. Love it, love her.
Renée Fleming at the Metropolitan Opera as Rodelinda
And I guess that’s it! For now, next post will probably be my views on Vesselina Kasarova’s concert here in São Paulo, I’m thinking about going to both, because who knows when she will return, right? One more thing, I’ve decided to post here in the end of every post some of the quotes I’ve been collecting in my little green book, some are huge, others just a sentence, but all very wise. Peace everyone!
“Big rockets require big launchers” – Marilyn Horne

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

La Cenerentola

Just back from an AMAZING performance of Rossini’s La Cenerentola. As some of you guys know I attended some rehearsals the last weeks and now have gone there on their closing night to see the finished product. This was by far the best opera I've seen here in Brasil.
Well my cousin who was going with me took “sick” and didn’t go, but that’s quite alright because I sat with a very good buddy of mine from college, a fellow musician. The first thing that made me real real happy was the fact that I was seeing loads of young faces, not teenager young but still under 60/50 which is already a huge accomplishment. The house was packed, and you could feel the enthusiasm building up.
First things first, cast list;
Loriana Castellano Angelina
Leonardo Ferrando Don Ramiro
Homero Velho Dandini
Bruno Praticò Don Magnifico
Carlos Eduardo Marcos Alidoro
Edna D’Oliveira Clorinda
Ednéia de Oliveira Tisbe

Maestro in, and let the party begin. We start off with a very clever way to not losing the public on the overture, because let’s be honest, those Rossini overtures just really take their time hun? While the overture played we had a scene with Dandini, Don Ramiro and Alidoro, where they discuss (silently of course) their plan to trade roles. Curtain opens we have the two sisters drowning in makeup and fake lashes, No, no, no, nooooo!... Si, si, si, siiiiiii! These sisters were on fire! I must admit that when I first saw this opera I found the sisters quite dull, but these ladies stole the show, they were hilarious!
Just a thing, I’m writing on the balcony because my cousin is asleep and I just saw the entire cast pass by on the street, COOL! Back to the opera, the sweet adorable Cenerentola enters with her Una volta… and the sisters almost kill her with daggers shot by their eyes! Enters Don Magnifico, the guy is awesome, let me just say that, he’s a wondrous singer and a fantastic comedian. He kept up with the frantic and amazing real life sisters and together the trio was unstoppable, it was very clear that they were improvising things as they went and doing so absolutely organically and with loads of fantastic humor.

Then comes my favorite duet from the whole opera Un soave non so che… Oh man, the guy who played Don Ramiro was super dreamy and has a silky very refined voice, their duet was deliciously romantic, it made us feel as if walking on clouds too mesmerized, such good quality! First rate stuff! Then we have our very Dandini dressed up as the prince, kind of trying too hard to imitate royalty, waving like a pageant girl which was real funny.
This is one part I really have mixed feelings about, what follows when Cenerentola asks to go to the ball and Don Magnifico is such a pig to her you want to rip is throat out! I don’t even have to comment that it was all perfectly executed, but this part gets me real mad. Cenerentola is left alone and on he comes her fairy Godfather/father/tutor of the prince where have you been all these years? (I feel like that is what Cenerentola should say to him when he shows, but she’s too forgiving…) Again we had a first rate singer, absolutely perfect for the repertoire, while he sang his two impressive arias the set changed from Don Magnifico’s house to Prince Ramiro’s palace. In the palace we have Tisbe and Clorinda running after the so called Prince with arduous fervor, they hit on him quite sexily, well their version of sexy anyways…

The thing with the sisters is that since they are real life sisters they have an organic timing and it’s absolutely perfect, they are those kind of sisters that complete each other’s sentences (they actually do that, Tisbe goes GRA and Clorinda goes CIE!), And also the faces they make were hard to not crack up upon looking at, anger, pleasure, rage, hope, all were seen as if using a magnifying glass!
And here comes on Magnifico drunk as drunk can get wearing a grape tiara just like Bacco! He sang his aria with majesty and yes, a lot of humor too, he actually asked for an audience member to write down the letter he as dictating.

Another thing I found very smart that they did was add some jokes, speaking one or two words in Portuguese, this quickly won over the public who was dying of laughter! Plus, some of the times the characters would enter the scene from the audience another great thing that I think helped the pubic warm up to the piece even more! Not it really needed special effort for the singers won everyone over with their stellar performances.

Cenerentola finally gets to the ball and the sisters look as if they are going to rip her to shreds! The first act ending was a beautiful scene with everyone on stage and good staging. The public went wild with applause at that, actually, after every single thing they sang, solos, duos, trios, quartets, quintets, you name it the crowd would give it’s all in enthusiastic clapping, which made me real happy!
Intermission went by quite quickly, me and my buddy didn’t even get up, we talked to our other buddies who were working there and before we knew it second act was starting.
We have another glorious aria for Don Magnifico and the sisters accompany him quite rightly, they even danced the samba, YES, they danced the SAMBA, it was supper cool! The sisters try to make yet another bold move on the “prince” and when he tells them that the other sister should marry is friend, they freak out and it was ooh so hilarious! The actual prince is quite taken by Cenerentola, as we all know, and Dandini tries to make a move and she ends up confessing her love to his friend. This part I find rather funny, because she’s telling something to Dandini super hush, hush and then suddenly the subject of the conversation just springs out of nowhere talking of love, but it’s Rossini, we will let it go…

One of the pics I took in the dress rehearsal
She leaves but before she does she gives him a bracelet so he can look for her. Next the prince takes his rightful place at the throne and wants to trovar his bella! What a VOICE, smooth and AWESOME! This cast was really a gift! Wonderful, just wonderful!

Don Ramiro singing his kick ass aria

Then the FUNNIEST MOMENT OF MY OPERA LIFE HAPPENED! Curtain closes and we have Dandini telling Don Magnifico he’s actually not the prince, alrightly. UNTIL Don Magnifico is singing and accidentally drops his walking stick on the ORCHESTRA PIT! There was a huge gasp from the audience and since I was sitting in the third role I could see Don Magnifico going Scusa! To the Maestro and the Maestro giving him the eye, but the funniest thing was, they did not stop! But then Dandini and Magnifico went near the pit to look over and see if everything was ok, while singing. At this the audience was filled with laughter and clapping, I myself laughed my behind off! And at the end of the duet Don Magnifico said “AI MINHA NOSSA SENHORA” which means OH HOLY MOTHER OF GOD in Portuguese, and the funniest thing is, he isn’t even brasilian, he’s Italian. Great guy, great singer and great actor!

The funniest moment of my life!
After this accident it was quite hard going back to Cenerentola’s Una volta… I wanted to laugh so bad! Well, the prince found his Cinderella and after Queste è un nodo… We are left again with the sisters not wanting to bow to Cenerentola not even for their lives, but eventually giving in. Skip, skip, skip we get to the most important aria of the piece Non Piu Mesta, I’m picky about this one, but the girl rocked it out, she was fabulous.
Thunderous applause, the curtain closed and even before it opened again most of the audience was on their feet clapping, cheering and screaming loads of BRAVA, BRAVO, BRAVI!

After it was over everyone went to the main lobby to talk to the singers, but me and Anara (my friend who super got me in!) waited in the deserted theatre. I just took in everything, what a night, and then being there at that theatre alone, I felt like I belonged. I did sing my praises to all of the singers, so cool to actually get to say “Bravo Signore!”. Then I went to talk to Don Ramiro and he was a sweet pie, so, so, so nice! I said I wanted a picture and Cenerentola was just running by and I said quietly, “Oh I wish she could be in the picture too.” No need to say anything more, he called after her and we took an AWESOME picture in the theatre!

Awesome ending to an awesome evening! Gracie tutti!
Another awesome thing was that I got to leave the theatre yet again from the stage door, therefore going through the stage and all the feels happened, specially since they had actually performed for a whole audience tonight for the last time, the energy was crazy!

Well, please I’m a crazy happy bunny tonight, it’s super late, 2:00 in the morning, it’s super cold around here, yes I’m still in the balcony, but I’m radiating happiness. This life is awesome, ooh, and I started learning how to play the piano on Friday, it was so much fun! :) Peace peeps!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Inner Voice by Renée Fleming (part1)

As many of you know, I took advantage of the fact I was spending 3 weeks in the US and ordered quite a big number of things on Amazon. And one of them was the book “The Inner Voice” by the exquisite Renée Fleming which two friends of mine had recommended. The book is fantastic, as Renée herself says it’s a biography of the life of her voice, and what a story. You don’t think someone has been through so much stuff, even in her prime, when you see her own the show as Thäis.
The book is divided in 13 chapters that tell her story chronologically. From the first called Family in which she talks about her childhood and growing up with not one but two musician parents. She starts out by telling us how she fell in love with singing in the most dreamlike of situations her parents were singing Porgy and Bess duets and their voices were being carried out to the streets and the neighbors came to the house to listen to them sing. And soon everyone was there and her mother sang Puccini and the crowd went wild. And this is awesome I gotta quote her :
“Finally, it was over, and the thrilled and exhausted neighbors wandered back to their own houses, and my parents sent us to bed.  I was Eliza Doolittle, too excited to sleep. I was the luckiest girl in the world to have parents that other people marveled at, to live in the center of such singing.”
Even though it didn’t really happen like that as she points out right after this quotation, but I found it quite magical. And the fact that she was actually quite shy and kind of a goodie pants was quite surprising for me too. But one thing I liked is the fact that she considers herself an eternal student, always learning and wanting to know more, which I think is so important not just for artists but for everyone. The eternal search for knowledge of any kind is essential for any human being who wants to evolve, the moment you stop and say “I know enough now, I don’t need to learn anything anymore” you might as well give up. But I’m getting off track here, back to the book.
Then in Education she tells us about her college experiences and how very fortunate she was to get a singing teacher who had the time to coach her several times a week during a long number of hours. And how really she began building her technique and ‘tuning’ her instrument. She also tells how she almost became a jazz singer.
“One of the reasons my work is so endlessly exciting is that you never know who is going to be in the audience or the orchestra pit, holding your fate in his hands.
Then in chapter 3 Apprenticeship she tells us about her time at Julliard, kind of coming and going from Europe. And to my delight gives quite a Master Class on breathing, because as she says, some of our tuning problems actually come from not breathing correctly. And the road to fixing that is a long and arduous one, it’s so weird, because I have gotten to a point where I fully understand the right kind of breathing, I know what I have to do, but I’m not always successful in doing so. That’s what Renée says, you gotta build your body brick by brick to have a well functioning instrument. Got off topic again, sorry!
Renée Fleming playing one of her most iconic roles, the Marschallin in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier
But this particular chapter talks about loads of things we must worry so much about, like the passaggio, languages, covering your voice, and so very interestingly about Master Classes and what makes a great teacher and finally and most importantly about being a student.
Then we go to Mentor she talks about starting a career and the so feared auditions. Starting to go into competitions, and a curious thing she said about being a great second place winner. Because it surely did feel great to win second but it didn’t carry the responsibly of being the best. It was a great incentive to keep her continually working and striving.
Then we finally arrive at Success she starts off with:
“Picture the education of an opera singer as a beautiful country – say England – full of museums and concert halls, palaces and rose gardens, where people study and learn and grow. Now picture a career as a successful opera star as another country - say France – and imagine it being full of culture and couture, Champagne and the Eiffel Tower, where the power of a single voice is lauded and adored. Now picture the English Channel separating those two countries, with its icy grey waters and choppy waves. Having completed my stay at Julliard in 1987, I found myself stranded on the English side with no boat, no plane, no Chunnel, trying to figure out how to get across.”
Doesn’t sound very nice hun? This book, apart from being such great reading material, gives us so many tips about absolutely everything. In this chapter Renée highlights repertoire choices and especially audition repertoire choices, about how to act in an audition, how to present yourself. I’m going to quote her once more on this:
“I’ve given enough master classes by now to know that the thing that really distinguishes an individual, voice and singing aside, is Personality with a capital P. Charisma. Touch me, move me, take me out of this stuffy little room with its fluorescent lights and dropped ceiling, its linoleum floor and badly tuned piano… That kind of conviction and engagement will win the audition and, later, the audience”
Also in this chapter she talks about dealing with the famous inner voice and how to keep positive. How it is at first being a “star is born” soprano and how to deal with everything. How it was for her getting pregnant in the middle of that fabulous and oh so demanding career and how she sang pregnant (something I though not possible until I saw Anna Netrebko sing Giulietta pregnant).
 Renée Fleming as Desdemona in Verdi's Otello to the left and as Rodelinda in Handel's Rodelinda to the right, two iconic queens
Ok this post has taken a length I wasn’t expecting it to get, so here is what I’m going to do I’m going to wrap this up right now and make another one or maybe two more posts talking about chapter 6 onward. But really guys, this book is a real keeper and a MUST HAVE for anyone who is aspiring to be an opera singer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thomas Hampson MasterClass

So today all of us internet people had the great pleasure of being able to watch the amazing MasterClass Thomas Hampson gave at the Manhattan School of Music this afternoon. This whole idea I think started with the Joyce DiDonato MasterClass streaming, and I’m so glad that other schools are doing the same. Because there wouldn’t be a chance in the world for me to be there to watch those.
I super took this picture from Thomas Hampson's Facebook page
I have a little confession to make just before I start talking about this amazing MasterClass. This was actually the second MasterClass I’ve ever watched, like ever, I’ve never been to one, just watched this one and Joyce’s in the beginning of the year. But I think it’s rather fantastic to say that the only Master Classes I’ve ever watched were given by Joyce DiDonato and Thomas Hampson.
Well, the MasterClass itself was extremely enlightening. This time I didn’t have any of my friends with me since I’m in São Paulo, but my cousin made sure he’d bug me a bit during the MasterClass as I frantically made notes. I made LOADS of notes, which I think is so important for me, especially because I tend to forget stuff very easily.
One thing he taught most of the students was about staying grounded, having your feet firm on the ground, but at the same time be a “butterfly” from your waist up. I loved the way he explified this by not exactly stomping his feet on the floor and telling them to do the same, I did it as well, it does help a lot. And also it’s so enlightening to hear someone really explain how to keep firmly grounded while also free on the upper body part with a single word, balance.
There were some pretty important and food for thoughtish things he said about all sorts of things. Something he said about having a normal life was quite cool, he said that if you want to have a normal life you gotta be a normal person and there’s nothing normal about being a musician.

“If you sing for approval go home, sing for singing. If you set your sail on the winds of approval you will crash in the rocks of depression. ”

That really got me thinking, but I never had that kind of problem since my singing most of the time is so not welcomed in my home, not that my family doesn’t support me, it’s just that the singing annoys them, because I sing a lot. But we really do it for ourselves, maybe to fulfill a need to exteriorize something absolutely non tangible, at least that’s how I feel. I think it's the only thing that can make me completely happy, as a job, I'd be utterly furfiled if I could do this for the rest of my life.
I also really liked the way he said voices are like airplanes, we need a good take off, otherwise the ride will be rocky and difficult, and that’s such a brilliant way to put it!
It’s a short post but I’m kind of tired and my cousin won’t stop bugging me, I’ll probably edit this post with more thoughts on the MasterClass tomorrow. But for now let me leave you guys with something that you could say was one of the pillars of the MasterClass.

“Never let a sound out of your mouth that you don’t want people to hear”

That’s just brilliant; it was an amazing MasterClass, best 3 hours of my week for sure! Peace peeps!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dream Mezzo Roles

So, these last few days I’ve been wanting to write so much, almost like in the beginning of the blog when I’d post every day. Ah well, who listened to La Traviata on Thursday night? It was quite something hun? This one I really wish I was actually seeing, I mean, Placido and Diana in roles debuts, it’s too good to miss. Well there is another radio broadcast on the 30th so I’ll have to make do with that.
I’ve decided to make the dream role thing a series, I already got loads of categories like Dream Pants Roles, Dream French Roles, Dream Baroque Roles, Dream Mozart Roles… But today I decided I’d talk about roles I’m not very likely to play, My Dream Mezzo Roles.
This is in no particular order, but the first role I wrote down was Carmen from Bizet’s Carmen. I mean, she is all kinds of awesome, and absolutely can have the world on the tip of her finger. Apart from the fact that the music written for this whole opera is just perfection, and one of my favorites, the character is so iconic that I’d love to give it a go. She’s a proud woman which I like a lot, plus you get to die on stage maybe being murdered by Jonas Kauffmann, you never know… (So not gonna happen!)
Vesselina Kasarova as Carmen
Another French heroin(ish) that I’d love to play is Charlotte from Massenet’s Werther. At first I must admit she kind of annoyed me a bit because she wouldn’t just give in and run away with Werther. But in this sort of situation you have to put yourself in their shoes but not with your 21st Century they can get a divorce anyway eyes but with their eyes and see how they were brought up and such to see that it is absurd and against everything they believe leaving one’s spouse. It’s sad, but true, I’d love to play the parts they are together in the third act and she almost gives in, it’s such a dramatic role and I love it.
Alice Coote as Charlotte
Still talking about the fantastic roles Massenet wrote for mezzos one of my biggest dream roles is definitely Cendrillon/Lucette in his Cendrillon. This one is mainly because of the beautiful, beautiful music that is written for Cinderella, and who never wanted to play a princess, hun? It might as well be in French and with lush and melodramatic melodies! Plus the trio from the third act makes it all worth it, and the way Prince Charmant and Cendrillon love each other is so different from say Cenerentola and her whole “let good reign” motto. They are indescribably in love not just dazzled by one another, and that I think is super!
 Joyce Didonato as Cendrillon in the 2008 Royal Opera House production

Now let’s go, back, back, back to one of favorite baroque characters, the most definitely unstable Dejanira from Handel’s Hercules. I say that Dejanira’s mad aria “Where Shall I Fly?” is hands down the best mad scene/aria EVER! I know what you are gonna say, what about Lucia? Yeah, I get that a lot, but think about it, Dejanira just killed the REAL love of her life, not someone she was forced to marry, but someone she wanted to grow old with and whom she utterly adored, and she, with her suspicion killed him. And the fact that she starts also hallucinating is fantastic, but it’s not the nice kind of hallucination like in Lucia, it’s the sisters or whomever that have come to judge her and punish her. Awesome role!
Alice Coote as Dejarina
Something I just could not leave out is Rosina from Rossini's Il Barbieri di Siviglia one of the sassiest roles in opera. I mean she has beautiful arias and musical interventions and actually is smarter than anyone else in this opera. Sure she gets fooled by Figaro and Almaviva to think Almaviva is Lindoro, but she makes up the most ridiculously brilliant excuses to get out of trouble. Plus she is the kind of strong proud character I love (funny how these are always the Spanish girls, Carmen, Rosina, Beatrice). And it’s comedy, as much as I love to die on stage, making the audience laugh does something to me, it gives me a lot of joy, that sometimes I laugh myself because I’m so happy they laughed at my joke, but I have that under control now…

Vesselina Kasarova as Rosina

Last but definitely not least is the amazing Béatrice from Berlioz’s Beatrice et Bénédict. I’ve already played this character in the Shakespearean play Much Ado About Nothing and I must say it’s one of the most fun roles I’ve ever played. She’s , just like Rosina, sassy and impetuous, plus you get to real spit on the guy before you say, “Ahh, ok, I love you too, let’s get married”. The fights they have are absolutely delicious and their vocal exchange is hard to match!
Joyce DiDonato as Béatrice in the Houston Grand Opera in 2008
That’s basically it, again my examples of the roles floated around my favorite singers (aka Joyce DiDonato, Vesselina Kasarova and Alice Coote). Today I have a pretty wild party to go to, and still have to make lunch. Yesterday I made risotto while singing along to Danielle De Niese’s Cleopatra arias and Joyce DiDonato’s Furore. So when my mum asked me what was my secret because it tasted wonderful I just said “Well, I sang on it” hahaha I’m pathetic, ok bye!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dream Roles (part 1)

Dream roles, everyone has one, even the top notch singers do. If you ask Joyce DiDonato she’s gonna say Violetta and Don Giovanni and a few other baritone roles. Well, I was watching La Traviata for like the thousandth time today and decided to make a list of my dream roles!
First of all is the stellar Violetta from Verdi’s La Traviata, I think this is a dream role for a lot of people. Amongst other reasons I think it’s because La Traviata is many people’s first opera love. And the part is a gift to the performer; people say you have to be three kinds of singers to play Violetta. The playful and sassy coloratura soprano for the first act of love discovery, a lyric soprano in the second act to face your reproaching father in law and make the hardest and most painful decision of your life and face the consequences, and finally a dramatic soprano to suffer because of your terminal illness until the love of your life returns to you only for you to die in his arms. That’s quite a lot, and I love it! ;)
The gorgeous Renée Fleming as Violetta in a 2007 production of La Traviata at the
Another three (maybe four) facet role(s) are the lovers from Offenbach’s Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Those are also dream roles but I’d like to play them all at once, like Diana Damrau did just two years ago at the Bayesrische Staatsoper. Starting with the silent role of Stella, the opera singer who is thrilling audiences doing Don Giovanni. Then the creepy, creepy doll Olympia, I love her, that’s a role with which you can really play with; you can make her the most graceful thing in the world or the strangest yet enchanting perfect girl. Then there’s the poor sick yet full of hopes and dreams Antonia, with such sublime music, and I mean, getting to die because you sang too much is just so cool! And then you go to a completely different personality when playing Giulietta, a prostitute who deceives Hoffman in order to get what she wants and also ends up dying, I mean double death deal with these roles (I love to die on stage, don’t judge me hahaha).

Above we have Diana Damrau playing all four of Hoffman's loves, Stella, Olympia, Giulietta and Antonia all in the same production at the Bayesrische Staatsoper in 2011
I’m not going to make a gigantic list not just yet; these are the dream roles I can think of at the top of my head.
There are two other that I’d be more than happy to play; unfortunately I’d have to choose since I can’t play both in the same production. The awesome queens from Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda. I mean apart from the out of this constellation confrontation scene they have, the roles have amazing depth and historical richness. Maria Stuarda is such an ambiguous character, since the way she’s written in the opera isn’t really what I would expect having read her true story, but she’s proud and so strong at the very end, and that inspires me enormously. And Elisabeth is another treat, the Queen of England such an imagine, and her almost possessive not corresponded love towards Roberto that in the opera triggers Maria’s misfortunes is inspiring. These two roles make my eyes go on fire to play them someday.

Joyce DiDonato as Maria Stuarda in 2013 at the Met Opera 

Joyce DiDonato as Elisabeth in 2004 at the Grand Théâtre de Genève
Coincidently all the singers I used as an example of the roles are also my favorite singers of all time, you figure! I think the next post I’m making on this subject will be my mezzo dream roles or pant roles dream roles something like that, stay tuned!
Short post, just felt like writing something like that, and don’t forget peeps, today is opening of La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera, staring Diana Damrau as Violetta and Placido Domingo as Germont  in their role debuts. It’s gonna be streamed live trough the Met website, this is a moment in opera history no one can miss ;) Cheers peeps!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fairytaleish Dress Rehearsal

Yay, happy sappy me! As most of you know last week I went to the rehearsal of La Cenerentola here in São Paulo and had a blast! Well, today was the last dress rehearsal and I was able to get in. It was quite different from the other rehearsal, but equally fun. Getting in from backstage is so thrilling for me, getting to see all the props and the singers with half their makeup on, apart from the fact that you get to be on stage, even if it is for a few minutes. I know it sounds slightly silly to hear someone say they get chills when they step on stage, but I’m a theatre geek, for me the theatre is so much more than a place to perform, it’s a temple. But I’ll make a post only about that someday.

Once inside I had a seat, another great thing about dress rehearsals, you get to pick whatever seat you like, you get to try them all and see which you like best. The buzz was much much louder than last time, there were a lot of people there to watch, about 50 or something.
I guess I can post at least a picture of the stage before the rehearsal
This rehearsal was much like a performance, and it was insanely cool! I felt as if part of a special club that was able to get into this sort of things, everyone there was super into it. They’d clap enthusiastically after the arias and group numbers and I’d shout my brava/bravo/bravi along.
I’m not gonna talk about the production itself because I want to leave that for when I watch an actual performance (already got tickets for myself and my cousin) but I can tell you guys this, the cast is STELLAR! Everyone is so great in their own roles and bring in something fresh and wonderful to it!
I did take a lot of pictures, I must admit, but I won’t post them until at least their opening night. When it was finished we all went wild with clapping and cheering our Rossini heroes. Something quite funny that happened was that when the maestro took too long to get to the stage, the tenor playing the Prince took another bow quite in divo style to everyone’s delight.
My friends were utterly exhausted, why of course they were, while I was enjoying the wonderful performance they were running around with their scores telling everyone their cue. When me and my friend Anara were leaving (again passing through the stage, oh joy!) we heard one of the awesome sisters speak, so I went to talk to her. We hugged and I got a lot of glitter on me (something which I was totally ok with because first I was hugging a super awesome opera star and a wonderful person and second because I love glitter). I asked for a picture and when we took it my friend said it was too dark in there. So Edineia suggested we’d go to the dressing room because the lighting there is better and we could take a picture with her sister also.
I couldn't go without posting this picture, Edna D'Oliveira and Edineia De Oliveira the awesome sisters and moi in center haha
I was stunned and giggling like a four year old going up those stairs heading to their dressing room. We got there and Edna had almost taken half her makeup off and she looked hilarious, they both looked quite funny with their over the top glittery makeup. We talked and took pictures and there I was, in heaven again, in an opera house dressing room talking to amazing people after an out of this world performance.
I say it again, I love this, my life without art and music would be absolutely meaningless. I rejoice on the fact that I found my true love and what makes me really happy, now it’s off to study my behind off! Peace everyone!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Opera in Rehearsal

I wanna write this fresh fresh. Yesterday was the first professional opera rehearsal I ever watched. The opera house just around the corner from my cousin’s apartment (where I’m currently living during the week in São Paulo) is doing Cenerentola a week from this. And the conducting professor in my college is the conductor in this opera and was letting some of his students watch the rehearsal, I asked my friend if it was ok if I went and so after he said yes, off I was to the opera house.
Nice pic of the Theatro São Pedro, I did take some pics of the rehearsal but I don't wanna post them before the opening
Walking into the opera house was already thrilling to me, we entered from backstage, so we walked on the stage and I tried to take in as much as I could from those 2 minutes we made our way to the audience. It’s very much like Renée Fleming’s description of the Met's backstage, it’s not as beautiful and as glamorous as the parts the public sees, it’s got wires and things we singers cannot comprehend but it’s also kind of cozy. It definitely has a very good feel to it.

The rehearsal startsed at 7, so 6:30 we were there and so was the majority of the orchestra and the singers. The noise I heard was indescribably amazing. A mixture of all the orchestra instruments warming up,  playing their scales at their own time and tone, people talking in Portuguese and Italian, the scenery coming in and out of stage. I just sat in the audience in total bliss, feeling like the luckiest person in the world!
My friends who went with me were actually helping backstage and were a bit lost, so they had the scores with them so they could write down stuff. But I didn’t need that; I was there to watch, only. I felt sort of special then, because we were the only ones in the audience apart from the crew and I was the only one there that didn’t have my nose glued to the sheet music, so I felt as if they were singing only to me. And boy could they sing!

As the opera started I was absolutely transported, the singers weren’t in costume and the lightings weren’t up but I left that to my imagination. Sometimes I’d imagine the costumes from that famous production of the Teatro Liceu in Barcelona. The blocking had already been rehearsed so it was more like a run-through with the orchestra, meaning there were very little pauses and so I could sit back and watch just as if it was the day of the performance.
But something very cool about being in the rehearsal is seeing the singers up close sitting in the audience near you. In their normal people self persona, they laugh, make jokes, talk, you could mistake them for everyday people. But then when they step on stage they are transformed, it’s like they’re all two meters tall when they take the stage!
My friends chitchatted during some of the arias, but I didn’t even move, I couldn’t take my eyes off that stage. The breaks came and went by so fast, and then I’d finally unglue my butt off the chair and chitchat as well.

All that coloratura made me dizzy! But I was loving it, it’s at these moments that you reaffirm what you really love and want to do, and this is definitely something I love and need to do. Their rehearsal isn’t like the ones I’m used to, with hundreds of jokes and silly things. The jokes were made but the music didn’t stop so the singers would actually laugh and sing at the same time which was quite amazing.
In the end and mustered my courage and went to talk to the two sisters playing the sisters. Let me explain this one from the beginning, the day before yesterday I was leaving the subway station when I saw them and was too shy to talk to them and then immediately regretted not talking to them. So today after the rehearsal was done I went up to talk to them, and when I told them I had seen them yesterday they asked me why I hadn’t talked to them. When I said that I was shy, they both gave me big big hugs! So sweet! We talked for a while and I was feeling like the luckiest cookie in the jar! They said “See you tomorrow!” and ah I wish I would see them tomorrow, because if it were up to me I’d live in that theatre!
I got home 2 minutes after saying goodbye to everyone and felt as if I was Eliza Doolittle singing “I could have danced all night”, too excited to go to sleep!
Ah opera is life, you gotta love this, it’s so cool! I will try and get into other rehearsals next week. If I do I’ll be sure to post my experience here! Cheers everyone!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Ugly Truth

This has been a happy week for opera fans with the announcement of the 2013/2014 season of the Metropolitan Opera. I for one was thrilled, and already started making loads of plans to go to New York at least twice this season. And although I am super excited on one hand, I can’t help but feel miserable in the other. You see, this discovering of new friends and operas and fangirling is amazing, but in the real world here for me things are not going so smoothly.

For starters, studying music around here was never easy; I don’t think studying music is easy anywhere, but apart from the run of the mill difficulties, we have to deal with a lot of extra problemas. 
As some of you know I am a music major here in Brasil and I study in a college called FAAM in which I chose to go to because of the stellar teachers it has. We have people teaching there that already played in big time international orchestras and sang in major opera houses in Europe. We also have teachers who are authors of super important books here in Brasil raging from Music education to Opera critics and History books. And quite a few teachers also play in the biggest most important Orchestra in the country, OSESP.
Well, our campus was far from ideal, it was in an old huge house that once was a psychiatric hospital, so, yeah, loads of feels. The underground bathrooms once were the morgues, but we lived with it, whatever it might have been. The wooden floors were giving in, being eaten by time and by the complete lack of interest the University has regarding our course. But that haunted house was home, we made it work, since it was a small campus just for us musicians we could study all day anywhere and stay there until early in the evening playing/singing.

One of our only blackboards with pentagrams being used as a bullet board. One of the studens left a note in chalk that reads "Please use me as a blackboard not as a bullet board. PAULO (our course director) DO SOMETHING!"
But last year the issue of accessibility was raised and our campus didn’t fit the part. So this year we are in a new campus, from my point of view far too new, and I say that because the campus is still under construction. So our classes are joined by hammers and drillers and all the noise they make. The place is absolutely filthy; the University has a 10 people staff to do the cleaning in three 14 floors buildings. Back in other campus we had a similar staff for our comparably smaller space. Some windows are broken, and glasses on a few of them are loose, meaning they can fall on our heads anytime.

one of the many broken windows
The music course has taken the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th floors, all of which are in their own ways under construction. For all the 10 people staff, teachers and the 300 students we have ONE ladies and ONE gents restroom on the 8th floor and that’s it. And they are not gigantic, each has three stalls. And like the rest of the place they are also filthy, some people even got sick after using them.

Back on the other campus, we could get the keys for classrooms where the pianos were so we could study. So we could leave the classroom if we wanted to use the restroom, or have a cup of coffee, or even a sip of water. Now we can’t have any keys, resulting on us having to carry all of our things to the restroom or hiding them somewhere obscure around the classroom. Plus we take the risk of losing the classroom to another student when we leave it since they are all opened. A girl recently left her IPod charging on one of the classrooms and left for a couple of minutes to talk to her teacher. You can only imagine how many IPods she found upon her return. Plus we can only study until 5 in the afternoon, after that all the classrooms are locked even though there are night classes happening on the Campus, that only closes around 11 in the evening. And the music classrooms aren’t used by the night classes.
Another rather humiliating fact is that we are forced to eat our food cold. Yes, you read right, cold lunch. Most of us cannot afford to eat out every day (and when I say us I mean students, staff and teachers), so we cook at home and bring it to college for lunch. Back on the other campus we had a very old heater, but it worked and our food was warm. Sadly this item was not brought into the new campus. There is a cafeteria in the Campus, but the owner has strictly forbidden his staff to heat anyone’s food. So neither staff nor students can eat their food brought from home warm. This isn’t even rather humiliating; it’s utterly and completely humiliating.
Even the basics are lacking. Some teachers have no chalk in their classrooms, yeah, CHALK! So they have to go around the other classrooms asking for some and the other teachers can only give them a bit of it because chalk is apparently extinct on the Campus. Also there are no batteries on the remote controls of the ancient music players; only yesterday one of the teachers bought a pair of batteries so he could teach his class properly.

this is all the chalk one of my teachers had to teach yesterday

All of the equipment is misplaced or broken, for instance, I was having piano lessons the other day and my 70 something year old teacher had to play the piano in a half broken wheeled chair. This week the drums teacher had to once again apologize to his students because he couldn’t give class without drums. Where are the drums? None of the blackboards have the pentagram in them and we did have those sort of blackboards before, but now or brilliant course director found a better use to them, a bullet board. Very insightful I must say, I never thought blackboards with pentagrams would be so much more useful as bullet boards.
this is the "stool" my teacher had to sit on to play

The situation on the old Campus wasn’t always ideal, whenever I see any movie that shows Music Colleges in other countries I can’t help but cry. But we soldiered on, because we love what we do, and even in the most awful of circumstances we want to make music happen. 
But what we are facing now is too much. Of course it doesn’t stop us from studying and making music, even though the key lady has to kick me out of the classrooms everyday at 5pm, I still linger there after finding myself a spot where I can study something that doesn’t require a piano. And I did find a rather cool “balcony” that has an awesome view of the city where I can sing and study, I do have to bring a chair up the stairs everyday in order to sit there, but I really don’t mind, there I can study without being heard or found (meaning I don’t disturb any of the classes taking place in the evening). But when they do find me they are probably going to seal the passage to the balcony, because that’s how things work around here. When you find a way to get your stuff together and do your thing they always stop you telling you you can’t be there or that you can’t do it the way you worked it out.
We students are trying every way we can to change our situation, and I wouldn’t normally post this kind of thing here. But I see that people from so many different places, from all around the world, sometimes read this blog and I think it’s nice for this situation to be known by other musicians and music lovers apart from us.
So that’s basically it. Watching Parsifal tomorrow, YAY!