Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Optimum Performance

I have completed two performances in Dresden and I have written about my time, but I just haven't had good internet connection in order to upload my blogs. So, when time permits I am going to be uploading previous entries. They will be out of order, but you'll get an idea of what I've been up to over here across the great pond.

Last night I finished performance #2 with conductor #2. That's how they do it over here a lot of the times. People come and go out of the production. It doesn't happen much in the States but here a lot of the supporting roles are sung by people on staff. If someone gets sick or has to sing in another production, then that singer is easily replaced by someone under what is called a fest contract. They are singers paid by the government to be a member of an opera company and have what most people would deem a normal life. Kind of nice, huh? On the one hand it is nice because you can be home every night to see your family and on the other you don't get to travel. So, depending on who you talk to, the pluses and minuses are weighed differently. Most singers are like me and want the best of both worlds. I could certainly do six months at home and six months on the road!

Last night was a very fun performance for me because, with opening night behind me, my nerves and energies were back down to a normal level, thus letting me breath deeper and settle into the production more. I felt that last night I was really able to calmly sing and be a part of each note. I've heard football players speak about how when they catch a fabulous pass or run a long sprint to a touchdown, that they feel time stops or slows down as they are participating in it. That's right, participating. It's kind of like it is happening to you rather than you being the person making it happen. That's called being in the moment and that is what a lot of last night was for me. I could sense everything I did. I wasn't ahead of myself thinking of what difficulties lay ahead and I wasn't behind myself wishing for a little more time on a phrase. I was just there, doing my thing, and I had a great time. That's really what we work hard for as performers or athletes. It's called optimum performance. It doesn't mean that the performance is perfect, but it means that you are operating on a high functioning level, that you are in complete control and in a relaxed state of being while doing it. I've been working hard over the years to add this layer to my performances. Yoga helps me tremendously and so does just plain ole being nice to myself while I'm singing. Once I get Sue Sylvester to shut up I'm free to have fun and do whatever I want! (Click here for one of my favorite Sue moments!)

This morning I flew to Paris because I have an audition tomorrow. I spent the afternoon walking around visiting my favorite places. Paris is amazing in the fall. I wrote a handwritten journal entry that I will type and share soon. Until then, here it goes for this entry... Proofread and then upload. Come on internet, ignite!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saxony Saturday

I am spoiled here in Dresden. As I was sitting out on the rooftop terrace of my apartment last night I saw a shooting star and made a wish. The glow of the Frauenkirche was in view as I sat on the rooftop with a dear friend among the stars, some creepy night time birds, and a warm cup of tea. Earlier in the day I had completed a long rehearsal on Act II of La Traviata at the Semper Oper. It was a good rehearsal and we ended at 1:00. It was a gorgeous fall afternoon so we got on our bikes and headed out into the country at least two or three miles out of town. We biked along the Elbe and marveled at the towns off in the distance. We could see spires of churches or of old castles. Saxony is a breathtaking place. As we rode along we came upon a windmill. It reminded me of the Keebler Elf windmill. It had been there for ages and as we topped the cobblestoned hill path we realized it had a biergarten in the rear with a spectacular view of the river. We parked our bikes and shared a delicious slice of buttermilk cake and two dark local beers. Families were out with their children and older people were out with their dogs. Fall began to creep into the air later that day and you could tell that people were out grasping the last bit of warmth left in the month of September. I drove my bike back to Dresden with a smile on my face counting my blessings for my day of work and play, for balance, and for beauty.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Perfect what?

“No man is perfect, he just has perfect intentions.” I believe that quote came from the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie from the early 90’s. It popped into my head this morning as I decided to get back on the blogging wagon. Five whole months have passed since I’ve written and although regretful, I am not too ashamed. I know it’s hard to gain a following of readers if one only writes every five months, but the last five months have been, let’s just say, scattered and a bit transitional for me. My internet connections were iffy and my focus was on packing up my home in Atlanta and moving to Philadelphia, spending time with family, and writing just wasn’t feeling natural. BUT, it’s a new season of opera and I’m now back into my rhythm and want to share with you some adventures! So, welcome back to all of us!

I arrived in Dresden, Germany on September 1 to get ready for my next performances as Violetta in La Traviata at the Semper Oper. I am ecstatic to be working in Europe again and am very much looking forward to singing in this magnificent house. Dresden is a very cool city, for lack of a better word. It sits on the surging Elbe River and has a majestic baroque skyline. It was completely destroyed in 1945 by American bombings and thankfully has seen recent growth and commitment to reconstruction. I must say that it is rather painful to visit museums here and see how devastated this city was after WWII. So, the word cool seems like a good description. The people are cool, nice, but not overly warm and the new construction with its lingering old facades makes its modernity chic and sehr hip.

I’m living in the restored home of the composer Heinrich Shutz. This building has been completely renovated and is brand spanking new. I believe I was the first to use the dishwasher, like a good American would. The building was built to serve as a retirement home for the elderly. It isn’t a nursing home like you would have in the states, but rather like a spa for the elderly. In every room there is an emergency call button and in the basement there is a spa where you can get massages and facials and spend time in the sauna or steam room. I think it is nice that they let young, loud opera singers stay here. I’ve heard there are four singers in the building. It’s actually a really good combination to pair the elderly with jubilant vocalizes and I hope they will think of our noises as a sort of music therapy. So far, no complaints.

Welcome back to How Can I Keep from Singing. I’m eager to begin a regular blogging practice and keep you all informed of my whereabouts, doings, and thoughts. Thanks for joining me again! Now off to Prague for a day before rehearsals start later this week. Happiness!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Six Weeks with Violetta Valery

For the next six weeks I am going to focus blogging about my journey with the role of Violetta in La Traviata. I am performing this role with the Opera Company of Philadelphia in May and I want to write about my progress, process, excitements, and ambitions concerning this beloved tragic character.

My relationship with Violetta began early in my career. In 2003 I was selected right out of the Young Artist Program of the Florida Grand Opera to appear in the opening show for the 2003-2004 season as Violetta which was directed by the world renowned soprano and great interpreter of the role, Renata Scotto. When I was told that I would be given the part I was in shock and really didn’t believe it. I didn’t think it would happen. I couldn’t understand how they would take such a risk with a young singer. It wasn’t that I doubted that I could do it, I just doubted that everyone else believed I could do it. I was wrong. They believed it too, and before I knew it I was sent to Italy to study Italian and was sent to New York to begin coachings with Ms. Scotto. I had the entire summer to prepare for the role which I would debut in October of 2003.

That summer I spent a lot of time listening to recordings of La Traviata. I was still connected with Indiana University at the time, and spent time browsing their magnificent library of the countless recordings of the opera. I would sit in the library with my score and a notebook and I would take notes on the performances. I would write whether or not a soprano followed Verdi’s score or whether she took liberties. I would note whether she used a mezza di voce or whether she used portamenti. I was obsessed with finding out everything I could about the performance practices of Violetta. Who took the high e flat at the end of the Act I aria? Who sang all verses of the arias? Who read the letter simply and who gave elaborate, emoted soliloquies? There were lots of voice types that sang the role. I was worried about being young and on the lighter side of the soprano types and I was trying to find recordings of singers who matched me in vocal weight. I wanted to see where the orchestra drowned them out or if I could find parts in the opera that were problems for other lighter voiced Violettas. I was meticulous in my note taking and obsessed with Violetta Valery.

I was very nervous about doing Violetta for the first time because there is such a plethora of great performances preserved for us on recordings. Everyone you talk to has their favorite recording and then the other handful of people you talk to have actually heard their favorite performance live. My teacher at the time was a great Violetta, Virginia Zeani, and I was well versed in the many recordings available of her which spanned her entire career. I was so afraid I was going to miss something about this character whom I consider to be one of the most, if not the most interesting character in all of opera. I was afraid of embarrassing myself if I didn’t portray the character in the ‘right’ way. For three months I was submerged in everything Violetta. I put her on the highest pedestal possible and I made myself a nervous wreck. My expectations were high for anyone who performed this role and I knew that opera audiences probably high expectations as well. Gulp.

When I began working the role with Renata Scotto she did me a huge favor. She made me learn the role without any vocal mannerisms. She made me learn the role come scritto, which means as written , in Italian. This means I was to take out all of the portamenti from note to note and exaggerations of emotion and instead, ordered me to do exactly what was written on the page. It seemed very boring to me and I knew from all my research that this was not the way most women had sung the part. If I knew anything, it was that Violetta was all about emotion and I was going to need to emote. I spent a good part of the summer stripping my Violetta of all vocal mannerisms and it seemed to me that I was stripping her of all of her emotions too. Ms. Scotto begged me to trust her. So I did. Gulp, sigh.

When we began staging the opera Ms. Scotto was still coaching me musically. Slowly, based on my emotions from the staging and from working with the other performers, she began to allow me to add more expression. Ms. Scotto wanted it to be spontaneous and from my emotions through the character. Over the three week rehearsal period I began to understand that I couldn’t look to a recording of someone else’s performance to determine what I needed to do in the role. I didn’t need to look to another performance to find what was acceptable. All I needed to do was to listen to myself and go with my natural instincts with the character. These natural emotions would give me all I needed and would sound authentic and true because they were authentic and true for me. By the time the performances came I was risking holding a note longer, or singing a different color on a word, or singing something with chest voice, not because Caballe, or Sills, or Callas had done it that way, but because I was feeling it that way. It was a huge lesson for a young singer and one that I try to implement in every role I undertake.

Just a few days ago I was having lunch with my friend Brian and I was talking about my upcoming rendezvous with Ms. Violetta and I told him that I was eager to listen to some recordings because I wanted to hear how - insert famous singer - sang the part. He said to me, “Why don’t you just do it the way Leah Partridge sings the part? I bet that would be pretty good too.” Hmm, gulp, not a bad idea! Then I thought of my work the first time around and what I had learned from Renata Scotto. Now, the next weeks of preparation are all about how I want to do it and how I feel. That is a pretty exciting place to be as an artist!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Good Vibrations

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about sound and how we respond to different types of sounds. Why is the screech of a crow less appealing than the sweet tweet of a robin? Why is one voice appealing to us and another completely unmoving? Most people would agree that the operatic sounds of Florence Foster Jenkins are less desirable than that of Renata Scotto. But why? Okay, I know, pitch is a factor and consistency in breath production, blah blah blah…yes, I took vocal pedagogy in school. But, let’s compare two other voices. Why would someone love Leontyne Price over Eleanor Steber? Each one of these singers possesses outstanding qualities that put them in leagues way above the average singer, and yet there are still people who prefer Price to Freni. Okay, yes certain voice color and artistic expression is preferable to some and not a factor to others. The arguments could go on forever as to who has the best voice, and trust me, in some circles the arguments are still going on. To me it is like trying to count shades of light.

I have always thought of sound more as vibration than aural aesthetic. What I mean is, I like to feel sound rather than hear it. What I mean by that is, sound vibrations are more pleasing to me than simply listening to singing. When I listen to a singer and I can feel how that sound or vibration moves through their body then I connect to that singer. When I feel what they feel then I connect to them as well. I am not speaking necessarily of emotions derived from the text being sung. I can feel emotion with or without words and we know this well when we listen to symphonic works. I can be moved by the feel of a clarinet as well as a voice. What is that we are feeling? Why does is feel different for every person?

What we are feeling is vibration and energy and every being and object has it and every being and object is completely different. Is this too new-agey? Perhaps. But think for a moment about how sound is energy and has power in almost a magical sort of way. Think of sound as form and that it can affect other forms. What if you could hold sound in your hand or see it on a screen or watch it vibrate through water? Yes, pretty cool, huh? Well, we can. Enter stage left, the character , cymatics.

Cymatics isn’t a new discovery. The mastermind Galileo knew about it. Cymatics is the study of vibrations and their visual effects on particles. In its early study it was done by vibrating a sheet of metal and watching small particles move around according to the frequency of the vibration. I used to watch cymatics and didn’t even know it. I would stand and watch the saw dust move around from the vibration of my Granddaddy’s skill saw and marvel at how it always moved to the same spot. Some of the particles were moving because of the vibrating machine, but there were some that moved on metal because of the high pitch of the saw. It’s pretty cool stuff when you think about it.

Maybe we connect to certain sounds not just through our ears but through the vibrations that those sound make us feel. Or, we connect to those sounds because they vibrate us in a pleasing way. These sounds actually play us. Imagine that by listening to Beethoven that you are actually being stimulated by invisible massage hands. What a thought! I love thinking of sound this way and even more, singing. What if by singing we actually are vibrating people and spreading, oh my, good vibrations? (Sorry for that one, I couldn’t resist.)

Take a look at this clip from Ted: Ideas Worth Spreading. Here creative technologist, Evan Grant, gives us examples of how sound actually vibrates shapes. He states, “Well for me, Cymatics is an almost magical tool. It’s like a looking glass into a hidden world.” I feel he is right. What does each bird look like according to sound? What shape does the robin make? What does the voice of Florence Foster Jenkins look like? What does Rap music look like? How does the look of all these sounds through cymatics compare to the actual enjoyment of that sound. Can I dislike rap music but like the look of the music as art through cymatics? What if Florence Foster Jenkins’ cymatic picture is a brilliant work of art? Most importantly, what if sound is form and it does affect other forms? What does that mean for me as a singer? To me it means that we have the ability to change or alter people with our music. We know this to be true ultimately because we have experienced it at some point in our lives. We remember the first time we were moved by music but we didn’t really know what was happening. But, now we can see it. Our sounds, our words, our sighs, and our exaltations have energy and vibrations that ripple out to others. That is our tsunami of healing magic.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dream Big

Hello, is it really morning….Can someone please tell me that last night wasn’t a dream?? Okay, confirmed, not a dream. It was REAL, folks! I went on as Marie in La fille du Regiment last night at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City!!! I can’t even believe I just typed that sentence and I can’t believe that what I have had as a faint picture in my mind for many years, actually happened.

I am going to try and write about what it was like, but as I even begin to start, I realize that there are no words for the emotions that I had yesterday and there will be no way for me to really describe how I felt and how I feel now. Stay with me, I shall ramble a spell.

We grow up in this business being taught in school that at any moment we could get “the call” and be asked to go on for an ailing singer. I remember being told this in graduate school and actually thinking that after one of my performances at Indiana University that the MET could have heard about it and might give me a call. I’ve always taken things very seriously, you see. We were drilled into believing that we could never be prepared enough because we just may be called upon to save the day. We have been told numerous stories of careers being made by someone stepping in at the last minute. I know Renata Scotto rocketed to stardom after filling in for Maria Callas and I remember a similar story about Franco Corelli…you get the point, it happens. People get sick, things come up, they cancel.

Well, I have known it was a possibility that I would go on since I am covering this season at the MET. It has been in the back of my mind for some time that I very well could go on, and the thought of it sometimes made me crazy and sometimes made me wince. However, after doing the cover rehearsals last week, I was feeling pretty confident and excited about the possibility and after all, that is the job I signed up for and that is what I was prepared to do.

So let me give you all the details, because I know many of you are dying to know how this all works. I was notified Monday that Diana Damrau was sick and that she would be canceling rehearsals that afternoon for her upcoming run of Barbiere. People in the MET office said that she may feel better for the performance but that they wanted me to be on call just in case. So, I canceled my Hamlet coaching at 1:00 (I am also covering Natalie Dessay in her upcoming performances of Ophelia in Hamlet…..hmmm what if…….well, let me not get ahead of myself) and went to see Greg Keller, the fabulous assistant stage director at the MET. He and I went through the role together. He spoke the other singers’ lines, oh yeah, let me mention that this particular production has tons of spoken French dialogue. I have been working on it for months. We went through the staging quickly just to make sure I remembered where I was supposed to be. Then I spent an hour alone going through some of the phrases that I knew I wanted to double check. I left the MET that day feeling pretty good and on my way out I ran into an old friend.

Get this, the old friend I ran into was none other than Larry Brownlee. We went to school together at Indiana Univerisity not too long ago and we were catching up on things. The dialogue went a bit like this, “Oh that’s great! So, good to see you…..Wow, it has been so long…what two years?....How are things? Yep, married and you are a newly wed too, right?......Yes, I am covering Fille here and am on call because Diana is sick, but she probably will be fine for tomorrow…..insert more dialogue about how long we are both in NYC and about roles coming up etc…..then the big ender…… “So, we should get together while we are here and do something fun…….Yeah! That would be great!” Then we swapped phone numbers and went on our way. Who knew that less than 24 hours later that fun thing to do would be an opera at the MET! You can’t make this stuff up!!!!! Larry was called on Tuesday to fill in for the ailing Juan Diego Florez.

Tuesday afternoon we both got the call that we were going on. I was so excited! Really, I have imagined this moment many times. I usually do so when I hear other singers tell their stories about getting the call and when I have thought about it, it would always bring utter terror into my body and I would imagine the sky falling in. Luckily, when I got the call I heard my mouth say, “Sure, I’d love to sing tonight. I’ll be down at the theater as soon as I can!”
I calmly packed my bag, grabbed my score, an extra pair of underwear (it’s amazing what we can remember during these moments) and headed to the theater. It was blizzard number 2 in NYC yesterday and the roads were a mess. I hopped in a cab and within half an hour of sliding down West End Ave, I arrived at the Met stage door.

I went to the 5th floor studio and when I walked in, Larry and I burst into laughter. We told everyone the story of what had happened Monday afternoon and how casually we suggested we should get together again. Goose bumps. We rehearsed our scenes together and Larry was amazing. He had never seen the production and was learning French dialogue on the fly!! Fearless is this man and what a brilliant artist.

So, fast forward…..yes, I know, get to the good stuff. I went to the MET cafeteria and got something to eat and then went to my dressing room. It was 6 pm and make-up came. I don’t even remember that whole ordeal and hardly remember getting my wig put on. But, what I do remember is looking in the mirror and seeing Marie! I know, weird, but when I was dressed and all put together my energy surge was enough to power all of Manhattan. Yep, just like that. I started jumping around. I went into the hall to show everybody my cute little wig and bouncy pony tail. I WAS Marie!

People started coming by my room. Music staff, props people, microphone lady, dressing people who had worked with me before, colleagues who needed to rehearse lifting me up (yep, my Lincoln Co. cheerleading days came in real handy last night.), it seemed like Grand Central for a spell. General Director Peter Gelb stopped by to wish me luck and Maestro Marco Armiliato, the conductor for the evening stopped by to give me a pep talk. You would think that we talked about music, but we didn’t. He is a singers conductor for sure. I was not worried in the least that he would be with me. His kind eyes and exuberant face say everything about this man. He told me, “Leah, give the audience a good time. You have a good time, and they will have a good time.” Simple. Good.

I went out onto the stage. They were holding the audience so that Larry and I could walk on the set. I checked my props. I moved things around so that they worked better for me. I ran around a little bit. I made peace with the vastness of the MET. It’s huge but very intimate. I was feeling good. On my way from the stage I saw Peter Gelb talking with Kiri Te Kanawa. Without a thought I ran over to them and introduced myself to Dame Kiri. She is a legend. I was going to be sharing the stage with her and I wanted to introduce myself. She was lovely and very encouraging. Then, I bounced all the way back to my dressing room.

I stood a moment. I sang a verse of Blessed Assurance. I flipped through my score and sang a few passages from the beginning of the opera. I was calm. I don’t know what happened exactly, but the mean little gremlin that sometimes creeps his way onto my shoulder when pressure is high took the night off. Hallelujah. I went to my place off stage to wait for my entrance. I had such support backstage. My friend and colleague Steven White, who is assistant conductor on this production, was in the wings and told me he would be there. He was just an arms length away. It is a marvelous feeling having positive energy that close to you when you are about to throw yourself into the unknown.

The next thing I knew, I picked up a pile of laundry and walked out on stage and started singing. Everything became like an out of body experience. Really, there were times that I felt as if I were hovering above myself. I was having fun. I was playing with my colleagues and I was FLOATING, BEAMING, REJOICING, PRAISING…..I don’t know. It was all the hard work of my entire life coming out of my body. It was all the people who had helped me in some way holding my hand. It was all the memories of people I miss so much now, there with me. I know, I sound like a commercial and please let me have this moment of indulgence, it was unforgettable.

I can’t remember every detail, but some of my favorite moments were singing with Larry in the duet. We were both so happy to be there and his energy was so positive and confident. I loved singing with the soldiers and all the energy I was getting from them as I slapped their hands during Chacun Le Sait. I really enjoyed the lesson scene in Act II playing with the hilarious Meridith Arwady as my Aunt. Meridith and I were in the MET competition in 2004 together. She went on to be a winner, I believe, and I was in the semi-finals. She was a sweetie and gave me a back massage during Tonio’s 9 high C’s aria. I absolutely loved singing Salut a la France and running across the stage and banging on the piano. I messed up the ending to the aria because I just had a brain slip, but I kept going and ended with a heartful high note while being lifted into the air by 5 strong dancers. I laughed out loud on stage when Kiri Te Kanawa screamed in my ear. She did it exceptionally long last night and Larry and I were in shock just looking at her. It really was like a silly dream, all of it.

I had some random thoughts throughout the show like, I am glad I shaved this morning, I wonder if these Army pants give me a camel toe, thank God I remembered my toothbrush….those kinds of things that make you laugh at yourself. Most of my thoughts were of telling myself to breathe. Then I would tell myself to exhale and then breathe again. I found this really works. Simple, huh? Hard to do when the world is watching.

I was so happy that some of my dear friends could come at the last minute and I was THRILLED beyond words that my loving husband braved all the snow and drove from Philadelphia and was on the third row. He was a nervous wreck from it all, but so proud. I never thought I would be thankful that he was laid off from work and forced to move to Philly, but seeing that it is 80 miles from NY, that painful layoff allowed him to share in my big day. That is how life works.

Today I am happy. I had an incredible time doing my work last night. I love, absolutely love and adore what I do for a living. Sometimes, I have such fear that it all will come to a screeching halt. Last night those fears were very far away. Was it perfect? No. Was it fun? YES!! Did I give all of myself? Hell, yes! I am sore in so many parts of my body today like I am when I work out with a personal trainer. Would I change some things? Oh, of course. But, it is live theater and anything goes. Oh, did I mention it was broadcast live on the radio? I didn’t really let myself think about this aspect, you know that thousands more people were listening live on Sirius Radio. Better that I didn’t think to hard on that one. But, I was thrilled to find out that a bunch of Mercer Students listened together at Jittery Joes on the Mercer campus! C'est chouette!

Well, I know that my story was a ramble and you can probably tell how frazzled my mind is today. I slept 4 hours and I am coming off one gigantic adrenaline rush. But, there is work to do! I have Hamlet rehearsal in a few hours. Who knows, maybe I’ll have another story to tell in a few weeks. I would like to share some music with you. I got in the shower this morning and turned on my ipod to shuffle. This song by Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband came on and I cried like a baby. Tears of joy, of course. DREAM BIG!!!!!!!!! Cause when you dream it might come true, so when you dream, DREAM BIG.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I went to a debate last week at Columbia University and the topic was Freedom of Expression: The Controversy. During the debate the panelists centered around the idea that although we have freedom of speech, there must always be a limit to that freedom and that the controversy lies in who determines what type of speech is appropriate and what is blasphemous. It was an intense conversation between the panelists who were arguing that 'insanity' or false proclamations tend to exhaust themselves and die out (example given in the debate was the denial of the Holocaust by certain groups) and that truth will eventually triumph. By the end of the discussion, as you can imagine, there wasn't a resolution as to who or what should control our freedom of speech. Words can be the most vile weapon and certainly can be the soul that unifies a people. Insert large audible inhale and exhale.

All I know is that I love words. I love to talk them and I love to sing them. I love to express myself and for others to do the same. I hate the thought of limits to our speech and freedom with words but I also hate how irresponsible people can be with their words. So, insert another long large audible inhale and exhale. The pendulum swings.

Enjoy these words from a poet, who I believe knows the power and responsibility of her words.
Say Yes by Andrea Gibson

Monday, February 1, 2010

Under Cover

I am in New York City right now for the next few months working at the Metropolitan Opera. My job is to cover two main stage roles, both of which I have never performed before. I have told family and friends that I am covering at the MET and they are completely lost as to what this means. I know, it is an odd term. One person actually thought I was hovering at the MET and that is really closer to what it feels like. Basically, it is the new term we use instead of ‘understudy’. It is like being second string on a football team. I have to be prepared with all the plays and strategy in the case that I get put into the big game. So, I learn the music, watch rehearsals, get some play by play staging rehearsals, and then sit around waiting to see if I am ever needed to come in and save the day by throwing the 90 yard touchdown pass. Yes, it is stressful work but I am happy to say that I am very excited. Covering is more stressful because you lack the rehearsal time to get the role into your body. You have to do all of this on your own, in your apartment or in the small amount of rehearsal time you get when they give you the blueprint of the role. I am covering the effervescent Diana Damrau in La fille du Regiment and the show opens this Saturday and I still haven’t staged Act II. Am I worried? Nah. Do I fret at night over the pages of French dialogue that I will have to perform? A little, but Nah. For me there is something so enticing about the possibility of being thrown on stage with little rehearsal. I know it sounds crazy but I am kind of an adrenaline addict. I’ve never done drugs but I can only imagine that an adrenaline rush must be something close to it. So, I say bring it on! Opera is my drug!