Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Leah's Loafings

I'm busy getting ready for an audition tour in Europe.  I leave next week and I am coming and going trying to prepare to be gone for a month.  I'll be writing about my adventure but until then, check out these wonderful stories.  Most important, check out the last posting from Plum TV.  More soon!! 

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

It was like that... Recording Take Two..more details of the upcoming recording

The recording I made in July is under the microscope in the editing room, closely being tended to by the producer, editor, and my sharp, merciless ear.   I am very pleased with all aspects of the project and I am eagerly waiting for the day when I have the final copy in my hand. I've been trying to explain to people what the recording is about and what type of music it encompasses. I have a lot of non-opera singer friends and they instantly get the look of worry on their faces when they think I am going to ask them to sit down and listen to an entire CD of opera. No, it isn't like that at all. I mean, it is still classical music and for the most part I still use my classically trained voice, but it certainly isn't a lesson in stylized operatic technique or an overview of lyric coloratura arias. I wanted this recording to be about honesty and authenticity. In order to accomplish that, I thought it would be best for me to present American music, since well, I'm American. I could have leaned towards the traditional and scholarly and recorded songs in German or Italian, but in order to be the most authentic, I knew I had to sing in English. 

The next decision I made was about the theme. For as long as I have been singing, which is as long as I can remember, I have sought and connected to songs that spoke about the mystery of spirituality. At first the songs I sang when I was younger were connected to church and to a specific religion. I still love and cherish my old church hymns, but as I have grown up and encountered more of the world, I have gravitated towards music that has a universal mystical tone and reverence and one that is all inclusive. Basically, it means that you will connect to these songs whether you are Christian or Jew or Muslim or insert own religious belief here _______. You see, I do believe that out of all of the art forms, music has the power to connect us and show us that we are all really longing for the same things. We are all here loving each other and all asking a lot of the same questions. We all respond to the need to define why we are here and we search for meaning. We often find these answers in the same places, through love, beauty of earth and nature, loss and stillness. My desire for the recording project was to collect a group of songs by American composers that dealt with this theme of spiritual reverence without the influence of indoctrination. It was an uplifting process and it was difficult to choose which songs didn't make the cut. I have enough material for another recording! 

My cornerstone for the project were the songs given to me by Jake Heggie. When I decided on my theme (which it really was decided for me, kind of always there as part of what I've always known I would do) I contacted Jake and filled him in on the broad details. He quickly sent a set of songs with text by Gene Scheer and without being too dramatic here, totally blew me away. They were perfect. The set is titled Rise and Fall. It is a set of four songs with texts inspired by Artifacts and Sculptures from the Sackler Collections at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. These artifacts are religious in nature, such as the incantation bowl which is also known as a devil trap bowl. It was believed by certain cultures to have magical capabilities of protection and were commonly used in homes of the deceased and was placed in a corner of a room to rid the space of any demon or negativity. Jake described the set as the story of a woman from her wedding day to her death, and then her role in the afterlife as a shaman, comforting others. Other artifacts include an ancient wedding jar with the image of a Phoenix on it; a modern water sculpture by Noguchi; the ancient incantation bowl; a modern sculpture of an angel’s wing; and an ancient shaman’s mask.
Not all of the songs are as esoteric as these. The songs I chose by Ricky Ian Gordon are more unmistakable in their meaning. Ricky's songs use some of our beloved American poets such as, Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, and Langston Hughes. Ricky was also very forthcoming for this project and presented me with songs from some of his earliest compositions which have never been published.  Both Jake and Ricky play their own songs on this recording.  I am still reeling in delight over having the two of them work with me on this project.  They are the voice of American music for the 21st century and I am proud to present a wealth of their songs on this recording.
The recording project is still being edited and I have many decisions to make. There is an arc to the project as a whole, which takes us from praise of the earth, devotion to heaven, uncertainty of anything, back to praise in simplicity, and ending with responsibility and acknowledgment of gifts. I am diligently working on an order for the songs and am contemplating the title for the album. I toss around titles here and there and I know I'll keep tossing until it feels right.
This entire process has been a gift. It hasn't been without challenges and there is still work to be done, but it has been an enormous labor of love and a vessel for me to express authentically why I do what I do.  It has become my statement of why I believe music is the answer in inching us closer to peace and understanding and the closest answer we have in defining the great mystery.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Leah's Loafings

This week I am back to school, so to speak.  Back to daily practice and forward motion on the art of singing and the passion of living.  Here are a few places I have found inspiration.  Enjoy!!

Make it work:: Be invisible "You can think it. You don't need to perform it." How actors are being trained to blend in. Great article for the over acted opera singer gestures we love and hate.

Art Works:: Finding a Niche "It is not our business to analyze it as it takes shape, because analysis will ruin it." Replace the word 'write' for creative verb of your choice. Thanks Dani.

Back to School:: Here, Now, It is enough Letting go of Striving is one of my favorite blog posts of all time from one of my favorite writers and the only person I've ever stalked on the internet. You should read her, follow her, stalk her. Brava Patti and thank you.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It was like that. Recording Take One.

I took another giant somersault out of my comfort zone and made my first recording this past July. I say, 'out of the comfort zone', because I am used to live performances. I hunger at the energy of an audience and have referred to myself on many occasions as an audience whore. I use the audience, so the entire recording process has left me speechless for some time. Really, for nearly two months now I have sat down to write about the process and have been left without words. I haven't wanted to access those emotions but rather carry them around with me like a talisman for fear of losing those dear feelings or having that surreal moment of super-focused creativity pass me by, oh how I made friends with them! I also would have to be a fairly adept writer to describe with the writing process this journey into recording, but with my layman abilities, here it goes... I would liken it to being stripped of skin and every artery and vein is exposed and every rise and fall of breath is seen and every trickle of every cell is detectable and every morsel of care for humanity is in the throat and every joy for the wonderment of the great mystery is falling off your lips. You are ripped open and shown. It is at once the essence of being yourself, being heard and all at once there is a pulsating madness flowing out of you, full of expression and then, a longing for quiet, simple perfection. Day after day you show up to the microphone surrendering to the muse and shedding the noise of yourself to the greater light you long to shine through in that tiny window of perfect alignment.
Yeah, it was kind of like that.