Monday, December 9, 2013

Sans Wifi

Sorry, everyone! I know I've been neglecting the blog, but I just moved last week and have yet to get any sort of internet in the new apartment which makes updating the blog a bit difficult. Please bear with me, and I'll try to share our moving adventures with you soon!

Monday, November 25, 2013

In Conversation with Susan Graham

     I'll keep this post brief because the video speaks for itself. Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending an event hosted by Opera America at The National Opera Center. I hadn't been to their fancy headquarters since I moved out here, and I was thoroughly impressed. There are still many aspects of the center that I have yet to explore, but I definitely plan on numerous future visits.

    The event itself was part of a series entitled "Conversations," and I am looking forward to the next installment on March 20th which will feature tenor Lawrence Brownlee. Check it out!

     It is always so inspiring to learn more about the development of beloved operatic artists, and Susan Graham was such a joyful and sincere person. She clearly has a great passion for music as well as support for young singers. It's encouraging to hear that opera stars like her were also 25, broke, and loving life in NYC. Hopefully I absorbed some of her determination and charm. I highly encourage all of you to watch the video below and soak up some knowledge as well as inspiration.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Learning to Explore New Ideas with an Old Favorite

     This past Thursday I had the pleasure of participating in an unique experience courtesy of Vital Opera. Their Artist Development Workshop presented scenes from Le nozze di Figaro, but the event turned out to be much more than that.

     As an audience member, it was strange initially to watch a sort of public rehearsal, but after the first couple scenes, the format had won me over. The ensemble of singers was so courageous and willing to experiment in front of a skeptical  crowd, and their enthusiasm and acceptance was infectious.

     Now I'm not going to pretend that I absolutely loved every moment of the experience because I didn't. Le nozze di Figaro is one of my absolute favorite operas, and often I get annoyed if a performance doesn't live up to my standards. I found myself falling into this trend a lot during the workshop, but I had to just keep reminding myself that this wasn't supposed to be a finished product. I had no qualms whatsoever about the singers' abilities themselves. Every role was well sung and performed. It was a talented group, and they worked well together for how little time they'd been rehearsing together.

    In the end, it was the discussion after the scenes that had the greatest impact upon me personally. There were a few points made that struck me the most, and I'd like to expound upon them briefly for you here:

1. Rules of "The Room"

     One of the very first things the director of Vital Opera, Kelvin Chan, did at this event was share with the audience the "Room Rules" that the ensemble had created during their rehearsal process. I don't remember every single rule, but the main goal seemed to be to create an environment in which the cast members would feel secure and open minded enough to experiment as performers.
     This concept of  "the Room" where each person was invested in not only his/her own explorations but also those of fellow cast mates was refreshing. It seems like something that should be more fundamental and not so surprising to me as a performer, but it is all too easy to forget. I applaud the singers in this workshop for their willingness to accept these rules with complete trust and enthusiasm. Their performances were all the stronger for this open minded attitude, and I hope that I can apply these concepts in my own career.

2. The conundrum

     Once the ideal scenario of "the Room" has been experienced, the more difficult question arises: How does one carry these concepts into environments that may not be so encouraging or supportive?  There is really no simple answer to this, but it is worth pondering.
     All too often as performers we find ourselves in environments that do not allow us to experiment. Sometimes it is because of a director with a very specific vision. Sometimes it is because of a competitive atmosphere between singers. Sometimes the issue lies in our own heads because of difficult music, staging that makes us uncomfortable, non-musical stress, or the ever present fear of failure. Whatever the reason, it holds us back from taking risks, and that is a crucial element of performing. I like to think that being aware of the need to foster creativity is half the battle, and when I am preparing a role and rehearsing in the future, I hope that I may be able to infuse some of Vital Opera's vitality into my own process.

3. Stock characters and preconceptions

     The biggest moment of self-awareness that I experienced that night, however, was related to the idea of stock characters and conventions. Now, as I mentioned earlier, Le nozze di Figaro is a very beloved opera to me, and I can get annoyed when I don't think Mozart's creation is getting properly displayed. My friends have experienced this after numerous recitals when I insist on playing recordings for them to contrast whichever aria has just been butchered according to my opinion.
     As I watched Vital Opera's workshop, I often found myself having adverse reactions to various experimentations. They would try some extreme alteration in a characterization, and while I knew it was simply to explore a new perspective, I would immediately dislike it. They stated many times that the process involved asking a lot of questions about a character without committing to any answer or decision. The perfectionist control freak in me was not pleased, crying out, "No! They're doing it wrong! Bartolo would never do that! The Count isn't like that at all!"
     It wasn't until the discussion turned to stock characters and preconceptions that I started to recognize my hang ups. I generally like to think of myself as open minded about stagings and such, so why was I so horrified by a simple exercise in character development? Maybe I wasn't as open to change as I thought I was. What was the possible harm in trying something new? Who was to say what was right or wrong with a choice in character portrayal? I had set myself up as an authority where I had no right, and while I am still sensitive about upholding the works I cherish, I am determined to be more accepting of new ideas in an old favorite. Art of any kind is up to interpretation. I don't have to agree with every choice made in an opera production, but I will respect the rights of singers, directors, and designers to make their own choices and try to glean what I can from their perspective.

     By the end of the night, I had learned much more than I anticipated, and I want to thank Vital Opera for welcoming their audience members to participate in their workshop and for nurturing such an energetic and open environment of artistic growth. The opera world needs more experiences like this, and I look forward to this company's future work.

     And just for fun, here's a clip from The Met's 1999 production of Le nozze di Figaro:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blogger Guilt and Giving New Opera a Chance

     I have been overwhelmed with blog related guilt lately. I know I've been neglecting my duties here, and I'm sorry. As life in NYC progresses forward, I've been trying to lay low a little more and save money. That in combination with the decline in temperature makes it seem much more appealing to curl up on the couch and watch Doctor Who instead of venturing out to explore the city.

     The few adventures that I have had recently I have not done the best job of documenting. I simply don't remember to take pictures of events in my life! I promise I will remedy this issue in the future. In the meantime, I'd like to share a bit about one of my recent little outings with you.

     While my friend Becky was in town for an audition, she was kind enough to let me tag along with her to an event hosted by the New York Opera Alliance. It was fascinating to get a taste of so many local opera companies which I expected but also to get a sample of many new operas which was a pleasant surprise. I don't have time to talk in depth about all the amazing companies that are putting on so many exciting new works in the NYC area, but I will focus on a few of my favorite discoveries.

1. The Indie Opera Podcast

     I was fascinated just by their promo video, and anyone who makes fun of Beethoven's Fidelio like that has won me over.

2. The Dwarf

     This was one of the few humorous scenes of the modern opera medly. Man, new operas are depressing! This quirky, fun show being produced by Vertical Player Repertory is definitely on my to do list.

3. Dog Days

Dog Days from Beth Morrison Projects on Vimeo.

     This new opera, written by composer David T. Little, and produced by Beth Morrison Projects looks totally gut wrenching and captivating. I really wish it was still being performed right now!

     If nothing else, attending this event has reaffirmed that there is so much exciting growth in the opera genre happening at this very moment. New works never cease to amaze and intrigue me, and while I may not have been a fan of every piece of music we heard that afternoon, every scene got me to think critically about the art form and what the future may hold for it. My curiosity will never cease, and for all you aspiring opera composers out there: Keep it coming! I want to see more!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Brooklyn, Britten, and Bloody Marys

I loved this building. So gorgeous!
     While I've been sharing all my adventures in various neighborhoods of Manhattan, I haven't been venturing out to the other boroughs very much. So last weekend when I managed to coerce Andy to journey out to Brooklyn to see his friend in a recital, I leaped at the opportunity to explore this area of NYC together.

     Let's begin with the event that prompted our expedition to parts unknown: Britten in Song: A Centennial Celebration. This year would have been Britten's 100th birthday, and naturally as a result, there is an abundance of his works being performed. This event featured some of the composer's smaller vocal works--his art songs.

     The recital was splendidly performed by the two singers and their accompanist, and I was pleased to expand my knowledge of the composer's song repertoire. The location was equally beautiful and acoustically ideal, the recently renovated Brooklyn Historical Society. There were two other recitals that afternoon, but we decided that we weren't ready to handle that much Britten in one day.

     Once I had convinced Andy to make the trek out to Brooklyn with me (I make it sound difficult. He was much more willing than I let on.), my next goal was to get out there early enough for brunch.  As a big Bloody Mary fanatic, I've been looking to try as many epic versions of the drink as I can. The majority of my findings online seemed to point in the same direction...toward Brooklyn. My Bloody Mary craving was both satisfied and intrigued by our choice of brunch location, Char No. 4.

     I've only had traditional vodka based Bloody Marys before, so I was very curious about Char No. 4's Chipotle Bourbon Bloody Mary. I love whiskey, chipotle, and bloodies, so why wouldn't I love them in combination? I was not disappointed. It was rather sweet with as smooth finish, and while I don't know if bourbon surpassed vodka as the ideal liquor choice for this drink, I was surprised by how well it worked in the cocktail. I honestly expected it to be spicier. That was the only let down about the Bloody Mary, however, so if you are ever in Brooklyn and looking for a unique spin on the classic brunch cocktail, you should definitely give Char No. 4 a sample.

Farmer's Market
     After brunch and the recital, we figured since we were already out in the borough we might as well continue our explorations. Just a few blocks from the historical society, we stumbled upon a farmer's market and discussed our plan. The next stop on our agenda? Williamsburg (aka the Hipster Capital of the East Coast)

      This expedition resulted in yet another New York first: we navigated the NYC bus system! It was actually fascinating to traverse Brooklyn above ground. We could watch as the various neighborhoods transitioned into each other, and we even spotted a few Hasidic fashions on display. The variety and beauty of this city never ceases to amaze me. Finally we arrived in Williamsburg, ready to soak in as much hipster culture as our tolerance would allow.

     There were so many unique shops, restaurants, and bars in Williamsburg. It was hard to know where to begin. Luckily Andy was in the know as usual and immediately led the way to the flea markets. First we hit up the indoor shopping. I enjoyed just studying the vintage clothes, artwork, and jewelry. The space was jam packed with people, so often it felt like a battle to get to the next stall. I even got a compliment on my dress from a couple girls at a jewelry booth, so I am pleased to inform you that my fashion choices are hipster approved. I resisted the urge to purchase anything, however, which I consider my biggest success of the day. Being broke requires so much self-control!

     Throughout our Williamsburg wanderings, we encountered a ton of street art. Andy's enthusiasm for the art form has really rubbed off on me, and I even acted as his amateur model in a couple photographs that he took. I must be out of practice with my modelling skills, however, because I was pretty awkward and unaware of my limbs. He's an encouraging photographer despite all this, and with his suggestions, I think we managed to get a few nice shots.

     After the indoor shopping, we walked a block down to the outdoor flea market only to discover that it featured solely food stands. I'm a glutton, so this was fine by me...but Andy had been looking forward to perusing the more traditional flea market fare. We never did figure out why this weekend was only food, but I'm hoping we can make the trip out there again someday and enjoy the full flea market experience. My main dilemma of the afternoon was which of the many delicious looking entrees should I try? There was such a variety with everything from gourmet grilled cheese to sticky rice in a bamboo shoot! How could I choose just one?

     I ended up settling on my favorite Italian standby: gnocchi. I was a little more adventurous with my beverage choice however. Andy suggested that I give kombucha a try, and as usual he did not lead me astray with his advice. All in all it made for a tasty, refreshing meal, despite our disappointment in the gnocchi to vegetable ratio. What do they think we are? Health nuts? Heck no! More pasta and more cheese!

      The best part of the outdoor flea market space without a doubt was the view of Manhattan, and it was relaxing to spend an hour or so just wandering the rocky beach as Andy searched for sea glass and took photos the skyline.

     As we prepared to head back to Manhattan for the evening, we made one last pit stop at the cheese shop. It was a quaint little establishment and filled to the brim with customers. I've never seen so many kinds of cheese in one place! It was very exhilarating for my gluttonous side. Thankfully the shop attendant was more than willing to help us find a cheese that was just right. When we first entered the shop, Andy was quick to point out one cheese with a humorous name, "The Drunk Monk." Funnily enough that was the very first option our attendant picked for us when we asked for something "soft and stinky." She seemed amused by our request, but we were more than satisfied by her selection. It was the perfect end to our chaotic day, relaxing over stinky cheese and crackers.

     In retrospect, I found Brooklyn charming. It had a feeling that is very unique from Manhattan, and I would definitely love to make more trips out to the borough to discover the many sites and treasures that we didn't even begin to search out. As my adventures continue, I will try my best to be better about posting more regularly. It's never a dull moment these days, and with my helpful tour guide Andy leading the way, I am bound to have more exciting experiences to share. Who knows? I may even venture out to Queens and the Bronx sometime in the near future!

A view of Manhattan.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My First Con Experience

Photo credit: Andy Oakden
     I've had a lot of New York firsts recently, but last Thursday I had a completely nerdy first experience at the New York Comic Con. Andy mentioned months ago that it was happening in October, and I thought, "Yeah, that might be interesting." So by the time October rolled around and he brought it up again, my curiosity wouldn't let me resist.

Obi Wan striking a pose.
     Now, I know some of you may be disappointed that I didn't wear some sort of awesome cosplay outfit, but I had neither the time nor money to put something together. (I knew I should have purchased that vinyl cat suit like I always joked about it in college!) Instead I opted to wear one of my many nerdy t-shirts and just enjoy taking in all the creativity that others had put into their apparel.

     My initial impression upon entering the con was, "Well, thankfully I'm not claustrophobic because it is packed in here!" There were so many people, and this was only the first night! I don't even want to think about how mobbed that building got on the weekend. Let's just say it put my crowd navigation and dodging skills to the test...and all while trying to read the hefty program/map and to stay out of Andy's way when he was taking photos of comic book heroes and heroines. I must say it's a miracle I got out of there without getting jabbed by a katana or clocked by a Go Go Gadget Propeller Hat (an awesome costume by the way).

I could definitely use a Time-Turner.
      My next impression was, "I am way out of my depth here." I'm not really a comic reader or into anime, and I haven't played video games seriously for many years. I'm a nerd for sure, but my nerdy obsessions consist mainly of opera, musical theater, and books. The former two of these obsessions were not featured at the con at all (obviously), and while latter was represented, I had to work hard to seek out literary nerdiness in the chaos.

     My main fandom has always been Harry Potter, and of course it was the easiest to find. Don't worry. I resisted the urge to purchase more Slytherin apparel. (I already own a tie, a t-shirt, and a scarf. Pretty soon I'll have a whole outfit.)

     Of course, I got my Dr. Who fix while I was there too. I refused to strike a pose next to the giant Dalek pictured above much to Andy's frustration, but he also refused to pronounce Dalek we're even.

I couldn't find the real Alan Rickman, Aliese, but I found the next best Snape lookalike?

      Once again, Andy's interests led me to experience aspects of Comic Con that I otherwise would never have given a chance. The preview of the American Museum of Natural History's new exhibition, Dark Universe, turned out to be one of my favorite activities. It reminded me of all those elementary school trips to the science center where we'd learn about the constellations. Hopefully we'll get a chance to go check out the actual exhibition, and I'll be sure to share that with you.

     As I mentioned before, I am primarily a book nerd, so as soon as I saw the list of literary guests in the program I was determined to find some authors! And what a frustrating quest it was! We ventured down to the first level to both the autograph section and the panels (That's right there were three levels of con!), but authors were nowhere to be seen. So we acted practically and consulted the information desk...this was not helpful. All the guy did was tell us that the authors were in the big empty autograph room which we had already checked and then showed us the NYC Comic Con app which Andy had already been using. Ugh!

     I was tired, hungry, and limping (an unfortunate step ladder and ankle collision the day before). All these things in combination with being thwarted in my quest produced an epic sulk on my face. We persevered, however, and tried to console ourselves by heading over to the Artists Alley. After wandering down a few aisles and glancing at exquisite fanart and original comic creations, I spotted a banner that made me jump with glee: Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn.

Photo credit: Andy Oakden
(Seriously when have I ever taken
a photo that looks this good?)

     I had found him completely by accident!!! The literary gods had finally looked upon me favorably. If I could only meet one author on that list, I was so thrilled it would be him.

     For those of you who don't know who Peter S. Beagle is...Google him immediately! He's written great stuff, but he is best known for his fantasy novel, The Last Unicorn, which was turned into a cartoon movie in 1982. If you haven't seen the film, it is worth the watch. It is trippy and strange and in retrospect creepily sexual in a hilarious way, but it captivated me as a kid. The evil Red Bull freaked my toddler psyche completely. Peter S. Beagle wrote the screenplay for the film as well which makes it even better.

     I was surprised by how giddy and nervous I was to meet Peter S. Beagle. What was I supposed to say? I didn't have anything for him to sign! I think Andy found my panic amusing.

     There were a few people at the table, but they all seemed to busy talking to the man selling various editions of The Last Unicorn rather than the author. In fact, Peter S. Beagle looked downright BORED. So when I did work up the nerve to approach him, I reconciled my awkwardness with the fact that he looked relieved to have something to do other than stare off into space.

Photo credit: Andy Oakden
     HE. WAS. AWESOME. I cannot stress this enough. It was fascinating to learn more about him, and he didn't just talk at me. He was so sweet and genuinely interested in conversing. It felt like talking to a kind friend. He asked me tons of questions about myself, my move out to New York, my Iowan homeland, and opera.

     I am so glad to have met such an amazing literary figure. Plus he is fond of Iowa, grew up in the Bronx, and loves opera and theater. Apparently he used to sing French songs when he worked at a restaurant. I even dragged Andy into the conversation, forcing them to bond over being baritenors. Luckily Andy managed to document this great experience for me since I was too busy geeking out, or I would have nothing to show for it! The author also dutifully showed me how to sign up for their website after the salesman chastised him, so I'm looking forward to getting more Peter S. Beagle related news (provided I didn't screw up my email address because of my nerves...seriously, I struggled with typing).

     Also, the opera nerd was super intrigued to learn that Peter S. Beagle wrote a libretto for an opera?!?! He collaborated with composer David Carlson on an operatic version of his short story, "Come Lady Death." The Midnight Angel premiered in 1993 at Sacramento Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Glimmerglass and had a recent revival in 2007 at Skylight Opera Theatre. I want to see this opera so bad! Nerd worlds collide! 

Photo Credit: Andy Oakden
     Also, because I couldn't resist...the trailer for The Last Unicorn:


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cupcake Crawl: Georgetown

So much pink!

     It's no secret that I am a cupcake fanatic! So naturally when a co-worker told me about an awesome cupcake shop that was nearby, I jumped at the opportunity to check it out. I was not disappointed by the experience, and as a result, I've decided to explore as many New York cupcake shops as I can.

     So this post is just the first of many in a series I would like to title, "Cupcake Crawl." It's like a pub crawl (another favorite activity of mine), but instead of binging on my favorite single-serving desserts in a single night, I plan to try a new cupcake establishment every month and share my experience with you here. So if you're a fellow cupcake enthusiast, I hope you enjoy my insights, and if you have any suggestions on venues I should visit, I welcome your advice.

     Georgetown Cupcake is just a dangerously short walk from my new job, and the shop itself has a simple and adorable look that immediately made me feel welcome. If you're a fan of white and pink, then you'll love their interior design.

     The selection was amazing, and as I studied the menu and the ample display case, the most difficult moment was deciding which flavors to choose! They have the classics that everyone is sure to love, but there was also a great selection of rotating flavors and seasonal options.

     We were on a mission to find street art that afternoon and only spent a few minutes at Georgetown, but the shop also featured a quaint seating area and a variety of beverages. I'm sure someday after a long shift at work I will take advantage of this and just relax over hot cocoa and a cupcake. Since all the tables were taken, however, Andy and I took our cupcakes on the road...which means I scarfed mine down on a bench just a few shops away...

     It was a painful decision process for me to choose which flavor of cupcake I wanted, so of course I ended up picking two! I mean, come on! I'm a cupcake addict. Did you really expect me to settle for one? I didn't think so.

Check out their bling-tastic mixer!
     I went for a reliable favorite of mine, red velvet with cream cheese frosting, and a seasonal must have, pumpkin spice with a maple frosting. I was not disappointed by either choice. I never met a red velvet cupcake I didn't like, and this was no exception. The pumpkin spice was perfect for fall, and the maple frosting, although a bit sweet for my taste, made for a nice flavor combination. Andy chose the peanut butter chocolate swirl, and he assured me that it was delicious. (I may have stolen a taste of the peanut butter frosting...) So whether you're looking for a flavor that you already love or want to try something new, Georgetown has plenty of great options.

     I definitely plan on making future visits to Georgetown Cupcake.  There are so many flavors I haven't tried yet! I've also already scoped out other cupcakes shops I'd like to sample, and I look forward to sharing my next cupcake adventure with you soon. Also, I'm always on the look out for pink champagne cupcakes since they are my favorite, and while Georgetown offers a similar flavor seasonally, I am impatient. So if you have any information pertaining to the whereabouts of pink champagne cupcakes in NYC, please let me know!

Why yes...they do taste as good as they look!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Medieval Cleavage Not Pictured

     I know...I know... I've been a total slacker at this whole blogging thing lately, but in my defense, it has been a chaotic and jam-packed week for me. I started my new job which kept me busy during the day, and it was tech week for Magic Flute which took over my evenings. Both experiences were a bit stressful but rewarding.

     I've officially had my New York debut performance! How crazy is that? I really tried to cram in as many New York firsts as I possibly could into the month of September, and before I could even start to step back and savor it all, October snuck up on me!

Andy had anvil envy I think.
    Another unexpected benefit of my experience in Magic Flute occurred when I overheard the Second and Third Ladies talking about how they were going to a renaissance festival the next day. I used to love going to the ren fest in Des Moines when I was in high school, and I was surprised by how homesick and nostalgic the idea made me feel.

     So the next day, we joined the hoards of other ren fest enthusiasts on the subway and headed uptown. It was certainly a strange sight to surrounded by busty wenches in corsets, men in colorful tights, and children dressed as their favorite Disney princesses and/or brandishing wooden swords. (We even saw a little boy dressed up as Woody from Toy Story, carrying a shield, and thought to ourselves, "Why not?")

     This renaissance festival was packed! I've never seen such a varied crowd at this kind of event, and the people watching was the best part. Luckily I had Andy with me who was much more observant than I am, and without his drawing my attention to characters at the right moment, I would have missed some of the most interesting sights of the day. I'm still disappointed I never got a picture of the giant man in a viking costume who looked as if he just dressed like that everyday. He's probably pillaging upper Manhattan as I'm typing this.

      My first priority once we arrived was beer and food! I've been getting in touch with my gluttonous side this month, and it was not disappointed by the medieval refreshments. I made sure to get all the classics: Oktoberfest beer, a massive turkey leg (don't worry I shared with Andy), and kettle corn.

     We had to wait in an extensive line for the turkey leg, but it was worth it in the end. Delicious smoked turkey and a cold beer in the hot sun? The perfect pairing even when one is being jostled  by sweaty men in flashy capes and wizard beards or being shouted over by scantily clad jousting tournament groupies.

     Ren fests can be so infectiously fun. There is such a general feeling of acceptance, enthusiasm, and activity, and no matter how many fairs I attend, there is always something new to see or learn. It was interesting to get Andy's take on the various demonstrations and performances. On my own, I probably would never have stopped to watch a blacksmith at work, and getting Andy's insights on a magician's tricks was vastly more fascinating than the performance itself. I also would never have tried to use Devil Sticks without his encouragement. (I was hopeless with them, but he was too nice to admit it.) His presence gave me a fresh perspective on the renaissance festival world, and I liked it.

I knew I should have brought my kilt to NYC!
      As a performer, I admire the variety and quality of dramatic and musical events offered at the fair. They had everything from kilt-clad bagpipe bands to abridged Shakespeare (sometimes performed while balancing upon fellow players) to whimsical harp music to a ubiquitous grey haired storyteller in black. There were tons of acts we missed as well, and I still wish we had made it to the Celtic dances or could have found seats at the jousting tournament. We can only be so many places at once, however, so I'll have to learn to live with those regrets.

     All in all it was the perfect way to end my busiest week in NYC so far, relaxing and re-energizing. I'm starting to feel more settled into my new surroundings, and I want to thank all my old friends and new acquaintances that have helped make this possible. I want to thank Andy most of all for always being supportive when I am freaking out and answering all my NYC related questions. He's been the sweetest tour guide and consultant a girl could ask for, and my first month here would have been confusing and dull without him.

     Almost everyone I have met in New York has been so friendly and welcoming, especially my new co-workers. Life is starting to feel more secure, and as a result, my overall mood has brightened despite the early morning commute and sleep deprivation. I've only been living here for less than a month, but I can tell already that this city has a special place in my heart. I've grown so much in my short time here, and I hope that it foreshadows lots of positive changes to come.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Scenes from Central Park

     So much has happened in the past week, and I just don't have the time to write about all of it in one go! For my sanity's sake then, I've decided to just focus on one of my new favorite locations in New York: CENTRAL PARK.

     I have ventured into the park numerous times already, and I've only just explored a small portion of the city's biggest patch of green. During my wanderings, I have encountered all sorts of interesting sights and people, including two wedding parties being photographed in which the couples looked like eerily identical pre-teen brides and grooms...

      Luckily, I have my unofficial NYC tour guide, Andy, to show me around the park sometimes. We even managed to stumble into a filming site one day and didn't realize until an official looking man in a hat instructed us to keep walking toward the lights that something was amiss. After we got out of their way, we turned around to watch. Much to our surprise, we had inadvertently sauntered into the area where they were filming Lea Michele for Glee. Second celebrity sighting? Check!

     Above all, I enjoy Central Park because it is an accessible, relaxing place to go when I'm between appointments or just don't have any set plans for the afternoon. I've even used it as my practice space when I need to fit in a little mental rehearsal with my opera recording and score in hand. Sitting on a park bench and dramatically mouthing German lyrics probably makes me look mentally unbalanced, but New Yorkers seem pretty accustomed to crazy types in the park.

     I'm looking forward to venturing further into the park when I can and revisiting places that have already captured my heart. The Metropolitan Museum of Art alone demands that I return in the future. There's so much art I have yet to see! Once the leaves start changing and sweater weather sets in, I am sure it will be even more gorgeous. Numerous autumn strolls are in my future!

     I will try to update you on more of my New York excursions when I can, but this next week may be a little hectic because...I FINALLY LANDED A JOB! It is such a relief to be employed, and while I won't be as free to wander the city, I am kind of looking forward to a more set schedule and definitely eager to have an income.

     Thank you to everyone who was sending positive vibes my way during my job hunt. I am so grateful to have found work this quickly, and without the support of my friends and family, the wait would have been even more unbearable. (A special shout out to Andy who spent many nights via text message telling me not to stress out and that I would find a job in no time. Late night job hunt anxiety leads to insomnia!) Things are starting to fall into place for me, and I can't wait to share more with you all!

     Just as a reminder (because I'm a singer and have to promote myself at every opportunity): I will be singing in New York Lyric Opera Theatre's Mozart Concert next Saturday, September 28th!!!! If you want to hear me saving Tamino from a monster and handing out magical musical instruments as the First Lady, please contact me immediately so I can get you on the will call list. Email me if you're interested! I'd love to have your support at my NYC debut!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Upcoming Performance: New York Lyric Opera Theatre

     I'll keep this brief, but I have an announcement to share! I will be singing First Lady in Die Zauberflote with New York Lyric Opera Theatre. It all fell into place very quickly, but I am excited to be making my NYC debut performance.

     You can find more information about the performance and cast on their website here, but here are the details:


WHEN: Saturday, September 28th, 2013 at 8:30 PM

WHERE: Symphony Space on Broadway
                2537 Broadway at 95th Street
                New York City

     That's only two weeks away! Another New York first within my first month of living here.

     Now for anyone in the NYC area or visiting at the end of the month, if you are interested in coming to hear me sing, let me know immediately! I had to buy tickets ahead of time, so if you want to purchase a ticket, CONTACT ME DIRECTLY. You can email me at I'm so thrilled to be a part of this production, and I'd love to know I have some supporters in the audience for my first NYC performance.

     More updates on my past week in New York coming soon with plenty of pictures. In the meantime, I've got some practicing to do!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My New York Firsts

     I've been in New York for a few days now, and it still doesn't quite seem real. I don't think I'll start to feel fully adjusted until I've got a job pegged down. I often return from the city at night and start panicking about not having a job yet... I'm not usually the type to let stress overwhelm me like this, but luckily I have friends that are skilled at calming me down and assuring me that I will find something.

     When I'm not busy worrying, however, I find myself overwhelmed with excitement at my surroundings. I've only been down to Manhattan two days, but already I feel like I've crammed in so many New York experiences. This blog entry is dedicated to a few of them.

My view of the Hudson on the train ride.
     On my initial venture into the city, my main goal was to try to navigate the public transit without getting miserably lost. Thanks to some phone apps and explanations by friends, my adventure was pretty successful.

     I must have at least looked like I knew what I was doing, because five different tourists asked me questions about the subway system during my trip. Unfortunately for them, I was just about as clueless as they were.

     My dad assured me that I must have looked like a New Yorker because I looked pissed off which may well have been true. In my defense, I had managed to sit next to the crazy person in the car, and it was difficult to look chipper while he was yelling at a Levi's ad the whole time. (Check that experience off the NYC bucket list.) Fortunately, I mastered the art of ignoring strange characters on public transit in Duluth, so this time it was just a normal commute.

     So I made it to my destination unscathed and free to explore for the afternoon. With my bagged lunch in hand, I set a course for Central Park. The weather here has been ideal since my arrival, hovering on the border between summer and fall. The cool but sunny day had drawn crowds of people to the park, but it was still enjoyable to wander and lounge in the shade.

     I have been informed that I barely made a dent in Central Park that day, but I already have plans for further expeditions. (Don't worry. I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures when I do.)

     After my transient lunch, I headed over to Lincoln Center to discover even more crowds of people. This time, however, they were all fabulously (and sometimes strangely) dressed for Fashion Week. I found myself interrupting all kinds of mini-fashion shoots as I walked across the plaza. Who knows? I may be making an unintended appearance in the background of some fashion blogger's latest post at this very moment!

     The highlight of my first Manhattan afternoon, of course, was getting a backstage tour of the Met! I had more fangirl moments than I care to disclose. Hopefully I didn't embarrass my guide too much. I've warned him many times about my tendency to nerd out, so he was prepared for probably much worse.

     I can hardly be blamed for my giddiness though. I've never been to the Met before, so it was an exhilarating experience! We even stumbled across an orchestra rehearsal being conducted by James Levine. It's like this big, beautiful maze full of gorgeous music!

     My most starstruck moment, however, was when we slipped into the theater and watched Mariusz Kwiecien and Anna Netrebko rehearse the last scene of Eugene Onegin. I tried to squee as quietly as possible. And yes, I did manage to restrain myself from rushing the stage and tackling Mariusz or throwing my panties at him. I do have some self-control...

     It was amazing! It was so inspiring to watch them rehearse, even the little moments when they would mess up the staging and Kwiecien would awkwardly scoot them across the stage as Netrebko giggled. Sometimes it's easy to build them up as the idols in my mind, so it was refreshing to see them having fun while they worked but still being utterly committed to performing. I definitely hope I can see the production in full.  With such beautiful singing and the stunning set, I'm already enamored.

     Later that evening, I did make it to Times Square. I'm already getting annoyed by tourists there, so I'm adapting to some aspects of the New York lifestyle quickly. I can't deny the energy and excitement of the area though. It can be a little overstimulating. I still refuse to do the prerequisite Times Square selfie, but I did manage to take one decent photo without a tourist's head in the way before I made the trek back to Grand Central to catch  my train.

     My second evening in Manhattan covered less ground but was equally jam packed. Perhaps the most important first milestone in my NYC experience happened yesterday: MY FIRST AUDITION. I thought I performed admirably. They were running at least twenty minutes behind, so I only ended up singing for about two minutes tops. Hopefully I made those two minutes count!

     After my audition, I was rewarded with Indian food and a Broadway play. The Glass Menagerie is still technically in previews, but I would highly recommend it to anyone. I've always loved the play, and this production was brilliantly performed. All four actors were incredibly strong in their roles, and the production was intimate in the best ways.

     Although this was not technically the first Broadway show that I've attended, I did manage to check another New York first off the list at the play. I had my first celebrity sighting! Just two rows ahead of us was Andrew Rannells of The New Normal and The Book of Mormon fame. I couldn't remember his name at the time though, so I just kept pointing at him and babbling, "It's that guy!" I suppose technically you could count Zachary Quinto as my first sighting, but as he was starring in the play I was attending, I don't think that really counts. Still, I'm sure I made a few friends jealous that I got to see him in his Broadway debut.

     Even more important than all the firsts I've had in New York thus far, I treasure the reunions with old friends. It's been great to see familiar faces in this foreign place, and I look forward to catching up with people who are dear to me that I haven't seen in awhile. I also want to thank my New York friends for their incredible generosity and helpfulness as I am adjusting to my new life. Without them, my stress may overwhelm me completely.

     I have exciting news to share with you very soon, so keep an eye on this blog! In the meantime, I've got some practicing to do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Last Week in Limbo

Gin fizz on the dock: Perfection.
     Sorry I haven't updated in awhile. I move in just a few days, so all the packing and preparations in combination with Labor Day weekend has kept me sufficiently distracted from blogging. It feels like every time I cross a task off my to do list there is something new to replace it, but I am determined to fill you in a little before I fly out on Thursday.

     I truly wish I could have written about all this during my stint at the cabin, but the absence of internet service and my own dedication to relaxation prevented any productivity. I consider it sort of the crowning moment of my month of wandering. It has been a strange month, lacking a true feeling of structure or stability, and I have often equated it to being in a kind of limbo.

     Without a current job, sleeping on couches and in guest rooms, and with the majority of my possessions in boxes, my life hasn't felt like it has a lot of direction. This isn't to say that I've been a worthless bum or anything. Sure I've been watching plenty of trashy reality TV, but I've been sending in applications regularly and practicing too! Without a routine or a room to call my own, however, I just end up feeling like a vagabond or something.

    The week between Chicago Summer Opera and my move has been especially strange for me. Part of me wants to start gearing up for the unavoidable stress that moving and finding a job will force upon me in just a few days, but as my dual Pisces nature always insists, there is simultaneously part of me that keeps screaming out, "JUST RELAX WHILE YOU CAN! Cherish this last week, because your life is going to change drastically very soon."

     As usual with a prospective move, there is an overwhelming need to reconnect with friends and family before the departure. Thus, I was so thrilled that I could make it up to the family lake cabin in Wisconsin one last time this summer. The realistic side of Meghan made sure that I was responsible and packed up a sufficient amount of belongings before I made the trek up north, and once we arrived, my escapist side was like, "GAME ON!"

      It was only hot and sunny for one day at the cabin, but even in the shade and the rain, I had a great time. So while I may not have gotten a tan, I have plenty of other accomplishments to celebrate, including the following:

     1. I started and finished an entire book. The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure. As a major Little House on the Praire geek as a kid, it was a humorous and touching read. I highly recommend it.

     2. I brushed up on my bartending skills. Wouldn't want to get rusty would I? And no one seemed to complain when I brought gin fizzes down to the dock.

     3. Introduced Card Against Humanity to my parents and my aunt. We laughed so hard it hurt.

     4. After making my friend watch episodes of Sherlock, I may or may not have inadvertently created a fellow Sherlock/Watson shipper.

     5. I drank on a pontoon as we cruised our little lake. It did not live up to the country song hype, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

     6. I bonded with my cousin and fellow cat lady about how much we will miss our cats this year! (I'm still in denial about it.)

     7.  I got regularly dominated by my friend and my mom at the game Hearts. Whist was also a frequently discussed endeavor that never came to be.

     8. Bonfire. This is always a requirement.

     9. I resisted the urge to yell back at annoying children on the other side of the lake. Eventually I reconciled my feelings by acknowledging that I would totally have been one of those obnoxiously loud kids, so I can't judge.

     10. I got to have one last reunion with my Wisconsin relatives Duluth bestie! It was a complete last minute coincidence that he could join us for the weekend, and I was so glad. We hadn't been able to hang out all summer, so it was nice to touch base and goof off one more time before I head east. Pisces bonding weekend to the max!

     As we drove through the pastoral vision that is Wisconsin farmland on our way home, I joked with my mom that I would go into shock transitioning from these wide open, green spaces to the crowded city. I found myself trying to take in every moment, as if to catalog each image in my brain so that I could draw upon the memory when I needed it in New York.

     I'm not a big outdoorsy type, but I am still a Midwestern gal at heart. I like knowing that nature is at least easily accessible, just a short walk or drive away. It may not be every day that I long for Lake Superior or the wide open Iowa sky, but I will miss these places and the emotions I associate with them. I will have to be proactive about getting my nature fix in New York. Even if I have to open my computer to sift through photos, it will help. I can't believe I'm getting homesick about it already.

     Unfortunately, the time for relaxing and storing up fond memories of my homeland is at an end. I've got two days to finish packing and shipping my stuff, so it's time for productive Meghan to take over. Keep in mind when I post my next entry on this blog it will be from my new home in New York! I'm excited and terrified at the same time. I already have two auditions lined up, and the first one is just two days after I arrive. I'm jumping head first into the deep end it would seem. It's time to sink or swim!

     This last week in limbo has been amazing, and as I bid the Midwest at least a temporary "adieu," I can't help but feel blessed by my past and eager about my future. NYC, prepare yourself!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Upcoming Performance: Chicago Summer Opera

      As many of you may already know, I will be singing the role of Barbarina in Chicago Summer Opera's opening night performance of Le nozze di Figaro. I'll give you more details on the where and when at the end of this entry, but if anyone in the Chicago area is interested, I would love to see you there!

     Le nozze di Figaro is my favorite Mozart opera (and definitely near the top of my list for favorite operas ever), so I was thrilled when Chicago Summer Opera offered me a role in their inaugural production. As with most scenarios that are designated as the "first," one can feel like a bit of a guinea pig at times, but it also feels special to be a part of the creation process. I usually feel like a very safe guinea pig because of the stellar coaches, teachers, and directors that are leading the way. It's clear that our growth as singers is the main goal in their minds, and it's comforting to know that you have supportive mentors on hand at all times. Often I have to take a step back and pinch myself because I'm working with such talent musicians, including the staff and my fellow cast members. Those surreal moments make all the hard work worthwhile.

     Most interesting for me in this experience has been becoming reacquainted with the beloved opera from a totally new perspective. I played Susanna in my undergraduate production of Le nozze di Figaro, and it was one of my favorite roles so far. After playing that character, I sort of felt as if I understood the opera on an intimate level, but as I've delved further into the story from Barbarina's point of view, I'm finding all sorts details and ideas that I hadn't previously considered.

My fellow Barbarina singing about her lost pin.
     The well-meaning peasant girl at first struck me as a very simple, straight forward character, but I was quickly reminded that I should never underestimate any role as an actor. Barbarina may not be onstage as much as other characters, but she's important and charming. I'm learning to love her the more I sing her music. Beaumarchais and Mozart have a way of making every character captivating, and with clever little lines like, "e v’amerรณ com'amo il mio gattino," I can probably relate to Barbarina more than I first thought.
(You can't take the cat lady out of the soubrette I guess...)

     I'd love to wax poetic on my love of Mozart's beautiful masterpiece, but it would probably be more productive to give you the details on performances so you can come watch and listen and experience the joy for yourself. You can get the full run down on casts and such at Chicago Summer Opera's website here, but I'll give you the when and where below:

It's worth it just to see the gorgeous sanctuary!

(If you want to see yours truly, this is the night!)
Where: Edgebrook Lutheran Church 5252 W. Devon ave. Chicago, IL

If you can't make it Friday, I still highly recommend the second performance on Sunday, August 25th at 4:00 pm at the same location. Both casts are awesome, and you can't go wrong with Mozart. Also, if you have any questions about the performances, feel free to contact me or comment.

Also, I swear this is the last time I will plug my donation page, but the program isn't over yet...all the help I can get is still welcome! My friends and family members have been so generous, and believe me when I say that none of this would be possible without all that love and support.