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.



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Solitary Exploration

     As I've started to travel more for auditions and such, I've learned how to become more comfortable exploring new places on my own. Luckily I'm a pretty introverted person, so solitude in general doesn't bother me. But there's something about being in a strange place that can make you feel alone in even the more bustling areas...

     When I had to fly to various regions of the country for graduate school auditions, I had my first taste of extended solo travel. It was liberating but weird at first. I remember feeling like the waitstaff at an Italian restaurant in North Carolina thought I was a pitiful, lonely girl with no friends. My server kept giving me concerned stares as she came to refill my water as if dining alone was a crime or something. By the time I got to Austin, Texas a few days later, I still felt odd eating at a sit down restaurant by myself, but I tried to exude more confidence about it. I'm sure I was quite a sight to see as I gobbled down sushi while reading Anna Karenina, a lone silent diner surrounded by chatty groups of college students at happy hour.

     I'd like to say that I've learned to overcome my self-consciousness about eating alone in public, but it's still there. As with many of my introverted tendencies, however, I've learned to cope with it. I'm more particular about the kinds of restaurants I choose when dining alone. Cafes and smaller venues are most comfortable. Bars with televisions can be nice if I don't have a book handy (or if I've just finished the book in my purse which happens sometimes). Something to read is never amiss, and it helps deter overly sympathetic servers from pestering you too much. I definitely appreciate when a server tries to talk to me when I'm alone, but after a bit, small talk makes me feel awkward. A book or magazine is a nice way to make it clear to the staff that you're friendly but not there to chat.
    I like to think that I've definitely gotten better about venturing out of my hotel (or in this case, my friend's apartment) and making an effort to discover new things. I'm often too fond of just curling up on the couch and watching trashy cable television. It's tempting to just relax, but in the end, I've realized that traveling is only worthwhile if you actually get out and experience the new places!
     One of my new goals with this blog is to be more persistent about documenting my travels. I've never been good at remembering to take pictures when I'm on a trip or at social events. This is partially because throughout high school and college I've always had a photographer friend, so while I became accustomed to having a camera lens in my face at any moment, I never took an active role in capturing those memories for myself. My two years in Duluth are relatively short on photographic evidence because there was no persistent shutterbug in my group of friends, and while some of us would make loud assertions that we would bring our cameras and take pictures at the next outing, it just never seemed to happen.

   So when I set out for downtown Chicago yesterday afternoon, I made a vow to pull out my cell phone and take some snapshots no matter how awkward I felt doing it. My first stop: Millennium Park.

This shot made me feel particularly like a sidewalk nuisance.
     It was a gorgeous day, so of course the park was crammed full of people and families in particular. I couldn't help but wander aimlessly and take in all the green beauty which was only enhanced by the sculptures and fountains.

It was a mad house at The Bean, complete with this bride and her unruly veil.

     Of course, I couldn't go to Millennium Park without the mandatory photo of The Bean. It was surrounded by hoards of enthusiastic cellphone photographers, however, so I opted for a more long distance shot. Sorry if you were hoping for a distorted Bean selfie....

   As soon as I entered the park, I caught a summer breeze off of Lake Michigan, and like a siren call, that scent of fresh water took over all my other desires. I had to get down by the lake! Perhaps Duluth has rubbed off on me more than I realized, because in that moment I had a profound longing for Lake Superior. I had no real agenda for the day, so I figured why not?

      The first thing that struck me about the harbor area in Chicago is that it felt so crowded and commercial. In Duluth, the shore felt much more natural and untamed.

      I just couldn't access the lake itself easily. There were so many boats tucked in next to each other, and so many people seemed to be enjoying their vessels without even taking them out for a ride. They just lounged on them a few mere feet from their neighbors. It seemed strange to me. How much fun could that really be?

     I longed to feel more connected to nature when I was by the lake, but I found myself surrounded by even stronger reminders that I was no longer in the land of "granola hipsters." I was by a Great Lake, but the culture of the harbor could not have been more contrasting. This was a big city, tourist centered harbor.
I didn't get too far on the bike path that runs along the shore, so I like to think that had I had the time to keep venturing north I would have discovered a more peaceful, accessible lake shore. Perhaps if I'm ambitious and have another day off, I will throw on a pair of tennis shoes and give it a try.
    There were, however, plenty of shady, grassy areas ideal for reading, and I managed to polish off the remainder of Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra as I overlooked the glassy blue waters. Ever the book worm, I will inevitably associate locations and trips with whatever literature I am reading at the time. (Prime example is the story I told earlier mentioning Anna Karenina.)

      As for the rest of my evening downtown, I spent it at a very cute production of  The Magic Flute by American Chamber Opera. If you're in the Chicago area, I recommend it. I believe it still runs through next weekend. Tickets and information are available here.

     I'm genuinely surprised at how long winded of a blogger I am. I was not expecting this to be such a lengthy entry. The intention was to showcase the photos, but it seems to have morphed into something else entirely.

     As my Chicago adventures continue, I encourage you to keep an eye here for more photos and updates about Chicago Summer Opera. I can't wait to share the experience with all of you as it progresses. So far I'm loving it. Also, my donation site is still open, so if any of you are feeling generous, your help would be greatly appreciated by this broke artist. Feel free to drop by and donate at the link below:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Goodbye, Duluth!

      Now that I am in Chicago learning Barbarina and preparing for my eastward journey in a month, I would like to take a moment to write about the place that has been my home for the past two years, Duluth, Minnesota.

What brought me to Duluth?

     After my undergraduate studies, I took a year off to work and apply to graduate schools. It was a long, grueling process that cost me a lot of time and money, but in retrospect, I'm glad I took that year to figure things out. I always joke with people that if the music thing doesn't work out I should just get a job helping other music students apply to grad schools because I'm so experienced at it. After sending in almost 20 applications and traveling all over the country for live auditions, I got accepted into two great programs, one in voice and another in opera directing. In the end, I landed on University of Minnesota Duluth because I found a voice teacher that I loved and because I wanted to keep pursuing the performance career.


     My two years at UMD helped me grow tremendously as a singer. I got a lot of performance time under my belt, and despite the large size of the university, I received a great amount of individual attention in the music department which is invaluable.
     I was also lucky enough to receive an amazing and unique graduate assistantship through UMD's School of Fine Arts. Not only did I get to go to grad school practically free of charge, but I got paid to dress up like a pirate captain and a princess and sing about nutrition and anti-bullying. Voyageurs revealed so many talents I didn't even know I possessed. I got to stage direct two middle school musical theater productions and tour the state of Minnesota in two different outreach productions. As someone who was never particularly enthused about teaching, I was surprised by how rewarding it could be to share my passion for performance with young students. I also learned the power of ingenuity, creativity, and hard work when it comes to pulling a show together with limited resources. My experience with Voyageurs helped me appreciate all aspects of theatrical productions in addition to reinforcing my love of performing.I'm sure many of the skills I picked up will be invaluable in the future.
     Now that I am leaving Duluth with my Master of Music degree, I just want to say THANKS. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.

Things I will miss about Duluth:

Dubh Linn Irish Pub

   When I first went up to Duluth to audition for grad school, my mom and I were staying at a hotel downtown. After my audition, we returned to our hotel to change and get some dinner. It had been inexplicably warm that day, especially for January, but as soon as we ventured out to find some food, a blizzard started. We staggered downhill and into the first establishment we could find. We probably looked like half-drowned cats as we trudged in and asked, "Do you serve food? Oh thank god!"
     That establishment was Dubh Linn Irish Pub, and little did I know I would be working there just seven months later.

     When I moved to Duluth that next August, I didn't know anyone in town and was in desperate need of a weekend job. I also didn't have a car, so a job within walking distance of my apartment was essential. So I set off downtown with my resume in hand on a mission... One of my first stops was Dubh Linn. I walked in and gave my resume to the manager.
     "Do you have time for an interview right now?" he asked. 
     "Sure." I was not expecting such a quick turnaround.
     After the interview I was surprised once again. "Can you start tomorrow?"
     "Sure!" I had no serving experience whatsoever, so I was a little nervous. I started cocktailing the next day, and a year later I started bartending.
     I will definitely miss the gang at Dubh Linn. They became my second Duluth family, and as a performer, it was wonderful to have bosses that were so accomodating when I had operas and recitals...even if I did get pestered regularly by my co-workers at 2 am to sing for them...

Lake Superior

     It is a total cliche that people move to Duluth for the lake. It sounds odd at first that the body of water is the main draw. As a native of Iowa, the land of very few lakes and numerous flat cornfields, the lake didn't really factor in when I decided to move up to Duluth. After just a few treks on the lake walk, however, I was a big fan.
    Lake Superior adds such an aesthetic beauty to everyday life in Duluth. If I was stressed out, I could just wander down to the shore and decompress. If I was freezing my butt off at the bus stop (a frequent occurrence), I could at least enjoy a stunning view while I shivered uncontrollably. Sometimes the view almost made up for the bitter cold in those moments...almost.
     As a Pisces, I'm drawn to water. Anytime I could hit the beach with friends it was a great day. I didn't usually go swimming because I'm not a hearty Minnesotan, but if I managed to get about ankle deep in the icy waters of Superior, it was all the refreshment I needed.
     Lake Superior also played a big role in keeping me physically active during grad school. I get bored walking on a treadmill, so being able to work out on the scenic lake walk was a huge incentive.


     Of course, I will miss all the friends I made in Duluth most of all!


     We formed so many great memories together. We made beautiful music together. We made drinks together. Some of us even made palaces out of cardboard together!

     We laughed. Some of us cried. We even hugged (some of us more reluctantly than others). I will miss you all! (Even if I couldn't fit in pictures of all of you...)

     As we journey out separate ways to all corners of the country, I will always remember the great two years we shared.

The big thing I will not miss about Duluth:

     It's freaking cold! Trudging uphill in snow that reaches my waist in -20 degree weather will not be missed in the least. Brr!

     In conclusion, closing the Duluth chapter of my life is bittersweet. I'll miss many aspects of Duluth, but I'm so eager for the next step. Today kicked off my three week program with Chicago Summer Opera. It's so exciting to be singing Le nozze di Figaro again. Also, for those generous souls that may be interested, I am still accepting donations on my GoFundMe site. As a poor singer, I appreciate all the help and donations I have received so far. The support of my family and friends is priceless.
     I'll be sure to post more about Chicago Summer Opera as it progresses, and I'll try to take pictures as much as I can. More information on the casts and performance dates can be found here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

And so it begins...

     I decided to start this blog for a variety of reasons. As an avid blog reader, I have been toying with the idea of starting my own blog for awhile now. As an opera fan, I am constantly on the lookout for an opera blog that focuses on the real lives of opera singers--including all the trials and triumphs that this career path entails--but I couldn't seem to find what I was looking for online.
     Don't get me wrong. I love blogs like Barihunks and What Should We Call Opera. They are clever and modern blogs that share opera with the world, but I wanted to find a blog that connects with a singer on a more individual level. This blog is mainly personal for the moment, but hopefully with more time and practice, I can start to create that dream blog I have in my mind.
     I am an opera nerd, and as my friends and family will tell you, I talk about opera ALL THE TIME. So naturally, when I see an amazing performance or discover an awesome aria, I will want to share it with the world. Hopefully, some of my enthusiasm will be contagious, and perhaps at least one person will discover something new and unexpected about an art form I love. 
     The biggest impetus for creating this blog right now is the BIG MOVE. I am on the cusp of a major life change--mainly moving to New York to pursue an opera career--and I thought a blog would be a fun way to share my journey with my friends and family. It's all very exciting and daunting at this point, and as I venture out into a new region and a new life post-academia, I want to share my struggles and successes with you.
     I will do my best to keep you posted regularly as my journey begins. I am headed off to Chicago for the majority of August where I will be singing with Chicago Summer Opera (more on that later), and then it's off to New York in September!