Saturday, October 29, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
As for the 'overcompensating' statement. Be kind to yourself. Don't try so hard. You already are a singer. Your mission is to find a way of singing that is easy, but strong. It really must come from a CALM place. You do your best singing in the shower and in privacy. Learn to cultivate that energy and presence while you are in the midst of people. Most of the time it isn't singer issues people have, it is intimacy issues. This isn't always the case, but I imagine it happens a lot. Learn to go deep inside yourself and calm yourself so that your singing flows out of your breath and not from the things you think you can do with your brain. If your body is tense from stress or nerves...you will disconnect from your body and your breath. Go inside. Do meditation. Really learn to sing as if no one is watching. Once you have that tamed then you can see if it helps with technical areas. I imagine you will find that your high notes are easier and you like it more. Calm. Take time to get a good inhale and good exhale. Phrase by phrase. Slow it all down for awhile and you will see what I mean by 'go inside'.
I hope this helps! I wish you all kinds of good luck and love for yourself to pursue the craft of singing.
Keep me posted!
Friday, October 14, 2011
My first week of auditions is done! I am happy to say that I am very pleased with my two auditions so far in Switzerland and Belgium. Oh, how I would love to return to those cities and sing! Let's keep our fingers and toes crossed, okay?
Travel has been easy and smooth and I am fortunate to have run into some old friends from college and a few new ones along the way and only in the first week of travel. Auditions can be daunting and it is such a joy when you can spend time with friends especially ones who know what you are going through. It's like having your own traveling cheerleading squad.
To get ready for my audition tour I began reading some books on auditions by actors. I've probably read all the books on auditions for singers so I wanted a fresh perspective. Actors have to do just as many or more auditions than singers and it is true that most performing artists are actually professional job seekers, thus my second European Audition Tour! It's been a blast so far and I've been re-reading some passages from a really great book by Paul Russell called Acting - - Making It Your Business: How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success As a Working Actor. Yes, I know the title is a little over simplified, as if all the tools to be a success could be summed up in one book. Right. But, it does have some good points for auditioning and since the audition season is upon us, I thought I would share a few points on my blog.
"The audition is my time. It's not about the auditors. It's about me. When I walk into the room I try to make it, for however many minutes, The Mark Price Show. That doesn't mean bullshitting them or buttering them up. It's about, this is the package that I have to offer and I'm going to see how well I can do this package for myself. If they like it, great! If they don't like it...great!"
"I always feel that I'm a little social worker and I'm there to help them cast. You want to be of help to them instead of putting it on the other shoe that they are the judge. Don't go into that. You don't have time for that. You don't have time for fear. Wipe the fear out and do your homework and if you have to read cold, try to find some truth in what you're working with. Go with the strength of truth. Be full of something positive. The nervousness and the anxiety take away from your creativity. Then you're not free."
"Auditioning has become more about a personal achievement than a public achievement. If I approach an audition with that in mind and do the best that I can, when I leave, I don't care what the auditors think 'cause I know I've done the best job that I can. It's about me; it's not about them."
"Most important for you, the actor, in an audition is ... to have fun! Fun is letting yourself enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate what you can bring to the project. But apart from enjoying the audition, and being prepared, wonderfully talented, and physically right, is there anything else an actor can do to be more successful at an audition? Yes. Be yourself."
"Find in the audition process the same feelings that made you want to be an actor in the first place."
All of these statements resonated with me and I although I had heard them stated in some form before, I really appreciated the views of these actors. Wow. Be yourself. Had I forgotten that over the years? Perhaps. It should be about me in an audition and not in aIf you have to audition regularly or even if you find yourself doing a lot of job interviews these days, you should grab a copy of this book. There is a plethora of candid super-direct information in there for actors which is also relevant for singers.
Personally when I audition I try to be as calm as I am when I am rehearsing with my coach in NY. I find that if I can bring my body into a relaxed state then I can access all those beautiful notes and get in touch with my best music making self. It's as if my body has to be on vacation while at work. I'm getting there! After many years auditioning I am beginning to enjoy the process. Being in Paris in the fall is just an added perk.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Opera Beat: : Opera Idol I have the pleasure of knowing Barbara Conrad and I want you to know her story. She is the epitome of never give up. She once told me as I was on my way to a big day at the Metropolitan Opera, "Shoot ya biggest gun, girl." Brava B!!
Opera Funny Bone: : It ain't all about dying of TB NPR article on where all the funny operas have gone.
Poem: : A little bird voice What does your heart do?
Opera Beat: : Song of America Baritone Thomas Hampson has quite an inspiring project and one that speaks close to my heart through the love of American Art Song. "Our goal is to build and curate a comprehensive archive of American song that tells the story of our culture and nation, through the eyes of our poets and the ears of our composers."
Art Works: : Of course, it helps to be sexy The top 12 Classical Music Pinups. No, I'm not kidding. Well, sex sells folks!
How to: : Shameless promotion Click this link to see a small documentary on the making of David DiChiera's Cyrano with the Florida Grand Opera and yours truly. Great backstage footage. Thanks Plum TV!
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Mind Body : : Awakening the Artist How Yoga can awaken your focus and skill and tap into your bravest creativity. Basically, tools to get your mind to shut up and your body to run the show.
Opera Beat: : Opera Idol My opera idol Renee Fleming offers a free concert in Chicago. Brava Renee!
Art Works: : Architecture from Music London-based architectural firm Orproject displays their proposal for the Busan Opera House in South Korea slated to begin construction in 2014. The design of the proposed structure, entitled "Anisotropia," is informed by a piano piece composed by the firm's director. The repetition of musical elements become the repetition of structural elements, such that "complex architectural rhythms...are used to control the light, view and shading properties of the facade." Check this out! Very unusual combination of two art forms. I think this is an incredible idea.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Cyrano wrapped up in Miami a few weeks ago and I remained to enjoy some of the South Florida sun while also learning new music. My husband and I work in the mornings on our various projects and then we enjoy a fun adventure. We are making sure to enjoy ourselves outdoors going for walks, kayaking in the bay, or with yoga. We've had a crazy two years (we've only been married two years!). The life of an opera singer has its ups and downs and at times it the most exhilarating experience and then there are others that make you want to hunker down bury your face and cry. The same can be said for being in the financial or banking world these days, which is the business my husband is in. After a long ten years with a company in Atlanta he was laid off in 2009 during the big kick of the anthill, as I like to call it. He was lucky to find another job fairly quickly and for two years we were in Philadelphia where he worked for a small company. Now, we find ourselves at a junction once again, at least this time with less financial responsibilities, no house tying us down, and now we are free to go where the southerly wind takes us. At least I hope it's southerly enough to take us to Atlanta or further south.
I'm writing this personal information because I've been thinking a lot about trust and acceptance lately. In the music business we never know from year to year what money we will make, how many jobs we will have, whether or not we will get sick and miss a performance, or if the company we hope to work for will go bankrupt. It is a rickety life as a musician and one must learn to live moment to moment trusting in art that it will sustain us as it always has. It is a constant movement of faith and practice of letting go. Trust. Living with fear all around us, thrown in our faces everyday by every way imaginable doesn't leave much room for fear in our jobs and means of stability. The thing is, eventually you come to standing with hands up, face to the sky, and saying, "I have no control over what happens to me" and this realization somehow, somewhere, gives you peace. After all, no job is ever stable and nothing is forever. I don't mean to be so preachy and philosophical. After all, this is a blog about music. However, I find that in our music making we are at our best when we trust, when we surrender. We make the best music when we permit the creative forces to have their way, just go with the flow and allow the music to happen to us and through us. It takes us on wild adventures, moves us to tears, transforms our minds, and connects us to others. Imagine if we could let that flow into every area of our lives?
So, even though we are voyaging into the somewhat uncomfortable realm of the unknown, I am filled with excitement and as my yoga teacher says, "I am crazy grateful." Our next stop along this beautiful life path just might take my breath away.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
For three weeks now I’ve been rehearsing an opera that is very dear to my heart. The opera Cyrano, by David DiChiera, was premiered in Detroit in October of 2007. I had the enormous opportunity to debut the role of Roxane, an extraordinary part in a breathtaking story. I am more than delighted that Florida Grand Opera co-produced the opera and have included it in their season. The past three weeks have been filled with much joy as I dig back into this character and bring to life, with deliciously gorgeous music, this precious girl, Roxane! For those of you unfamiliar with the story, the opera is based on the play Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand. You may also be more familiar with the late 1980’s Steve Martin film, Roxanne, which is a loose adaptation of the story. As I mentioned, the world premiere took place nearly 4 years ago. It was performed a few times in Philadelphia in 2008 but with the hardships of the economy, several performances at various opera houses had to be canceled. I am thrilled things are recovering around the country and that we are now bringing most of the original cast back together for these performances in Miami.
When I prepare a role I spend some time listening to the singers of the past to gain familiarity with the score. I like to hear how different each performance can be and how the slightest change of tempo can alter the mood of the scene and intention of character. It is one of the most fun parts of learning a new role. Obviously, being part of a new opera meant that this learning curve was no longer available to me and that gave me an even more exciting learning opportunity. For the first time, I have been able to create a role from the bottom up, note by note with my personal stamp on it first! Dr. DiChiera wrote most of the role with my voice in mind. I remember in fall of 2006 when I was covering Natalie Dessay at the Paris Opera, I received a phone call from Dr. D. He was working on Act II and specifically my aria that would start the act. We talked about things that I liked to do with my voice, things that I thought made it unique. I remember telling him that I loved high notes! He asked for ones in particular and I told him that high D’s would be just perfect! I remember thinking of how extraordinary it was to request how a piece be written and it made me wonder how much other singers in the past influenced a composer’s writing. We do know that Mozart was highly influenced by his women! I felt honored to be continuing in such a long tradition. So much so, I had to pinch myself!! Roxane’s music has many arching lines and sustained high notes and the aria Dr. D wrote is exquisite. It’s a sensual explosion in reaction to the letters of Christian.
My dear character Roxane is a delight to play. Our director and librettist Bernard Uzan, upon being asked by me if I was being too cute and cunning with my character, kindly suggested that I need not to worry. He said they cast me as Roxane because I WAS Roxane. Bernard said, “You need not do anything but be yourself.” It’s amazing how we don’t see ourselves the way others see us! Of course, he is right. I only need to focus on those elements of myself that are most like the character. I love that she obsesses over beautiful things. It is most poignant that her allure to what is beautiful and perfect blinds her from ever seeing the possibility of love with Cyrano who was the most genuine love she could ever have known. I guess we all tend to miss the forest for the trees? She is elegant and intelligent and I love how passionate she is about Christian without even knowing a thing about him. She reminds me of my 16 year old self and maybe some of my 35 year old self who tends to day-dream and create wild stories of love and romance. These lovely parts of Roxane make the character pleasurable to play and it is easy to find myself in that realm of naïveté. The challenge of the role is the realization of Cyrano as the one behind the letters and the voice of Christian. The realization happens during a duet and can’t happen all at once. Finding the balance of when the tears come, the shock, or the desperation, has been the largest challenge. Sometimes just the beginning phrases of the music make me cry and I know I have a lot further to go, but I just go with it and hope that the tears can seem to be coming from many levels of emotions. Pacing emotions over bars of music can sometimes be quite difficult, but it has now become my favorite scene. The words in this scene are the most stunning. Cyrano tells Roxane that he was unaware of feminine comforts and that his mother didn’t find him handsome, he had no sister, and he dreaded the lover for fear of being mocked. He tells Roxane, “Je vous dois d’avoir eu, tout au moins une amie. Grâce à vous, une robe a passé dans ma vie.” (I owe you to have had at least one friend. Thanks to you a dress has passed through my life.) After this incredibly heartbreaking line Roxane replies with my most favorite line in all of opera, “Je n’aimais qu’un seul être, et je le perds deux fois.” (I loved only one soul and now I have lost him twice.) Well, the rest you will have to come to the opera to see. To say that I am completely infatuated with this role and this music is an understatement.
I know that it is typical to boast about how perfect everything is in an opera in order to lure the public into buying tickets. I do not take my words lightly. It certainly isn’t like me to sit and write a dissertation about an opera just to get you to come. I write these things because I believe in this opera AND because I do think we have the perfect cast. Our Cyrano is being inhabited by the extraordinary Marian Pop. I say inhabited because that is really what he does. It is as if all the great parts of Gerard Depardieu, José Ferrer, and Kevin Cline morph into Marian. If only any of these legends had Marian’s voice! He gives a splendid, exhilarating performance and is truly the definition of a singing actor. Our Christian is new to the role and comes from France. Sebastian Geuze is everything a Christian is supposed to be. Handsome beyond words, witty, and he is a formidable singer. The duet between Christian and Cyrano is stunning, reminiscent of other great tenor/baritone duets we have come to love in opera. I am thrilled to be singing again with the great bass Peter Volpe. Peter plays the role of De Guiche, a lustful, vengeful count who attempts to marry Roxane off to another man so that he can have his courtly rights with her. In my scene with Peter I get to trick him into keeping Christian and Cyrano out of harm’s way by suggesting it would be the best way to get revenge since Cyrano adores dueling and action more than anything else. It works and crisis is averted. I secretly marry Christian instead!
Since most of us have performed this opera before we have had the great opportunity to be adding layers to our characters. Whenever you perform a role for the first time you are really focusing 75% on getting the music and words right. The other 25% is spent on remembering where you go on stage, how to remove hats, capes, and gloves appropriately, and then add some layer of believability on the top. This time we have the luxury of knowing the part really well, so we have spent a lot of our time working as actors do. Our director Bernard Uzan has pushed us to find ourselves in our roles and to layer many more specific elements to our characters that we just didn’t have the space for when we performed it in Detroit. Not that our performances were bad, but this time we are coming from a place of knowing how it goes which gives us security in knowing we have room to play and grow. I’ve loved going to work each day trying to find new ways to say a word or new ways to respond to my colleagues. The level of commitment and effort put into this production astounds me and I am very proud of our work. Our conductor and orchestrator Mark Flint has helped us everyday stay true to the score and his orchestration is stunning. The colors he brings out in the orchestra really make this piece come to life. I know that I am very fortunate to be working in the arts these days. It isn’t lost on me that times are hard and we must enjoy the opportunities when they come our way. I hope that if you are in the Miami area you will come to see Cyrano. We open next Saturday night, April 23 at the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami. You can find tickets at www.fgo.org and you may want to follow my tweets this week. I’ll be tweeting all about the final rehearsals and be giving some backstage pictures as well. I can be found on Twitter as leahoperabird. Come join us and may I suggest you bring your tissue?
Thursday, February 17, 2011
To be down there spending time in this way was therapeutic for this country girl currently caught up in the big city life.
Having the recital and master class was just icing on the cake! I had a great performance with Mary Chung, a doctoral student at Southern Miss. She was such a great collaborator and hard worker. We managed to pull together a really nice performance with such little time. I salute her for her hard work and fun spirit. We really enjoyed working together and laughed when we realized we were both married to men named Carlos.
I didn't' think the week could get any better or more rewarding and then it was time for the master class. I don't usually like master classes. More often than not they turn into episodes of American Idol with better music. I've never really liked the term 'master' as part of the class. I'd prefer it to be called student class , since that is what we all really are and should never forget we are all always learning and always searching for better ways to sing. Anyway...
The master class was incredibly fun and the singers were very talented and most importantly, extremely receptive to my suggestions. All the ladies who sang had such eager personalities and were good sports. It isn't easy getting up in front of people to sing. It is double hard getting up in front of people to sing knowing that critical thoughts are going through everyone's head. But, they did it and took my suggestions, and all in all, made some enormous changes fairly quickly. I didn't have any magical words to say. I mainly focused on having them take breaths that were part of the character and getting each singer to take their own time in the phrasing of the music. We often get ahead of ourselves as singers, trying to fit into someone else's tempo whether it be the pianist accompanying the singer or a conductor. Finding your own tempo and own space to breathe is a challenge and one that has to be incorporated in a young singers' practice. I loved my time with these ladies in Hattiesburg and heard some really great, mature singing. I saw eager students willing to put it out there and experiment with new ideas and I felt a true openness from them, too. There are good things going on at so many schools across the country and after this visit down south, I am hopeful for the arts knowing that they will continue through these fine talented young ladies! Bravi girls!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
On January 23 I had the wonderful opportunity to perform in recital the songs from my upcoming recording in Roanoke, VA. Last year while I was covering at the MET I was hanging out with conductor Steven White in the green room. We were talking career stuff and I started telling him about my idea for my recording and one thing led to another and he suggested I bring the program to Roanoke to try it out before I record it. Brilliant! I had been dying to get back to Roanoke since my debut there with Opera Roanoke in 2004 as Gilda if for no other reason than to see the larger than life sized picture of me and tenor, Scott Piper that hangs in the Roanoke airport just over baggage carousel 3. I heard about this banner from several people and was glad to get to see it in person and get my picture taken with it!
Putting together this recording and the gathering of these songs has been extremely rewarding. I was eager to get them into performance mode and Sunday afternoon was sublime. My pianist, Carol Goff, who was my first vocal coach and still teaches at the fabulous Townsend School of Music at Mercer University, flew to Roanoke with me to present these songs. This was my first complete outing of the songs and it felt incredible to sing them as one whole program. I was able to get a good idea of how the entire recording will flow and was also able to get a better sense of what order I should record them in to best suit me vocally. I'll have to pace myself in the recording studio and the beauty of a studio recording is that I don't necessarily have to record them in the order in which they will appear on the CD. I recorded the recital on my iphone and was able to get a good enough recording so that I could listen back and take notes. This week I'll listen a few more times and keep gathering ideas on how best to express and deliver these little gems that I have gathered.
This past week I was in Hattiesburg, MS to do the same recital at The University of Southern Mississippi. I like the idea of being on the road singing songs. It reminds me of when I traveled with the Gospel singing group, Jeff and Sheri Easter. I toured with them the summer before I went to college. I sang back-up, sold CD's, cleaned the bus, and babysat. We had Dolly Parton's old tour bus that still had the stained glass Dollywood butterfly skylight in the top. Yes, I wish classical music would be so popular that we could travel around the U.S. from state to state on large tour buses singing songs. What if? More exciting news from Hattiesburg to come!
I will be blogging a lot more in hopes to give you all a play by play of what is taking place with this truly exciting project. I feel an incredible creative burst happening and can't wait to share every moment with you. Stay tuned!