Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"...one stomach flu away from my goal weight."

Gotta love flu season. On Saturday my stomach was feeling a bit queasy, but I thought it was due to not eating for several hours and being a little stopped up. I felt better in the evening and we had a fantastic light meal at Spacca Napoli, an Italian pizzeria that makes those delicious, paper thin Sicilian pizzas. But Sunday after church it was a rapid decline, and by 3 pm I was curled up on the sofa with a fever of 100.8 and severe nausea. I can't remember the last time I ran a fever, and I am very rarely nauseous. Yesterday was not much better, and since I had no choice but to drag myself to Plainfield to teach for five hours, I was not in the best of spirits. Today I am feeling a bit better, but the tummy is still not quite back to normal. I have to try to focus on the good side: since I've only taken in about a thousand calories since Saturday night, I'm probably down a few pounds! But I'd like my appetite back soon -- life is very dull when you don't look forward to your next delicious meal.

I leave for my first leg of the OFY tour this Sunday, and I just received the briefing email about the week. I google mapped all the destinations, and some of them are really far! One school is very far north, almost to the UP! Looks like I'll be spending some quality time in the tour van. Better get some good books and upload some good tunes to the old iPod. I'm really looking foward to going on the road -- it sounds so rockstar-esque, going on the road! Yep, riding around northern Wisconsin in a white fifteen passenger van, carrying a giant dragon from school to school, Super 8 Motels -- I'm living the rock star life! It's always hilarious to me that people think the life of a performer, any performer, is so glamorous. Maybe Renee Fleming's life is glamorous, but mine certainly isn't. It may be "exciting" in the way that I don't go to an office everyday, don't receive a salary or even a regular paycheck, and don't always know when the next job will come along; but it's not all flowers and applause and curtain calls. But shhhhh don't tell the donors.

So I'll hopefully be reporting from Wisconsin next week, provided the hotel has wireless service. I'll probably end up at a Panera Bread or a coffee house to get Wi-Fi -- if I'm lucky. Something tells me these tiny towns may not even have Paneras. It will be an adventure, that's for sure!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Crap. It's Thursday again already, and I haven't posted in a week. Why does this keep happening? I know how angry I get when Robert hasn't blogged by like, 10:30 am EST; so I can only imagine how pissed you all must be. Truthfully, I feel guilty blogging these days. Whereas blogging used to conveniently fill the many hours of downtime at various boring day jobs, now I feel like I should be doing much more constructive things during my non-working hours. What I've forgotten is that this blog is going to one day make me famous (snort), and all my fans out there deserve at least a bi-weekly update!

So, here goes. First things first, it is f---ing frigid here. And not only is it frigid, it decided to dump loads of snow on us too. I thought if it was negative one billion below, it wasn't possible to have snow? And yet there it is. Yesterday I cleaned off my car four times, because every time I would go inside somewhere, I'd come back out to find a newly accumulated inch. This is about the time of year that Chicagoans curse their existence, swear they are moving to a warmer climate, and are generally really grouchy. Then spring comes, everything is forgotten, and the whole cycle begins again. I do love the changing of seasons, but I could stand to spend January and February in, say, Palm Beach. I'll probably have to wait thirty or forty years for that.

Last night we had the pleasure of seeing Renee Fleming in La Traviata at Lyric. I purchased some very stylish camping binoculars from Target so that we could see her up close and personal. We have pretty decent seats, but I wanted to see her every breath and facial expression. It was a good production, but I can't say I was blown away. The tenor was amazing, as was Thomas Hampson as Germont, but I'm just not sure Violetta is the right role for Renee. The poor woman has to live up to the gargantuan expectations of the audience, I realize, but I felt like her singing was too..."precious", as my voice teacher would call it. There was almost too much nuance, and I just wanted to hear her sing from her gut! The pianissimos were exquisite, but it was nearly all pianissimo. Her character development, on the other hand, was FANTASTIC. The third act was just gut wrenching. But the whole time I was wishing I was hearing her Countess or Strauss heroine, so that I could just hear her glorious voice without all the fuss.

Third Act Aria "Addio del passato"

Otherwise, life is in sleepy winter mode at the moment. Nick is dentisting a lot, I am teaching a lot, trying to learn new arias and stay on top of my game singing-wise. Audition season ("Let's Give It Another Go 2008") will be here again before you know it, and I need to be ready. The real challenge is to look ahead just enough to be on top of things, yet stay in the present so as not to go completely crazy with worry. Luckily I have a lot of good stuff in the present to keep me busy while I wait for whatever is on the horizon...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

playing catch-up

A couple of shots from OFY rehearsal week:

Myself and the lovely Saira, who plays the Queen, at our schmoozing party:

The amazing dragon during the first performance:

Week One cast in the Three Headed Lady costume:

Sorry, readers, I know it's been a slow posting week. Things piled up a bit whilst I was in Madison, so I've been playing catch up this week--trying to get bills in the mail, do laundry, clean the apartment, take down Christmas decorations (I know, I know, it's practically February), get back to the gym, make doctor appointments, order bridesmaid dresses....the list seems to go on and on. And I returned to teaching, of course. Apparently my week of making superb music turned me into Nazi teacher, because I found myself finally getting firm with a couple of my students who never practice. While before I would just watch the clock tick and listen to them make the same mistakes, this week I told them that it was a waste of everyone's time to sit here and do this every week. We'll see how it goes next week, but I think I made an impact on a couple of them.

My return to real life this week wouldn't have been complete without a slap in the face by some audition/opera company/singing related matter. A certain opera company in a certain state where I spent twenty two years of my life, an opera company that almost hired me last year and gave me fantastic feedback from my audition, whom I was REALLY looking forward to singing for again this year, informed me that they would not be hearing me this year -- "because we heard you last year." ????? When I told the woman on the phone how disappointing that was, considering the positive feedback from last year and encouragement to audition again, she told me that the director already knows who he is hiring anyway and is holding the auditions to be "fair." ???? It's almost laughable. I mean, thank goodness I'm not wasting my time and money driving there (or worse yet, flying, as many New York singers will be doing, since the company does not audition in NYC) to sing for people who don't plan on even considering me. I was fuming for a couple of hours after the phone call, and then I shelved it as one of the crazy, arbitrary decisions I can't and won't ever understand about this business. That shelf is getting pretty full. But then I remember that lovely company that I get to go on the road with for four weeks this winter and spring, and I feel better again.

And so life continues to propel forward into 2008. January can be a rather depressing month for everyone, so I'm combatting it with runner's high and doing good things for myself. Like seeing my therapist, as I did this morning. I've been seeing her for two years now and I can definitely say it has been worth every penny. 2008 may have started out rocky, but I have good feelings about this year. I'm in a good place. I'm having fun being me. But enough psychobabble. Time to get out of my head (and out of my bathrobe) and out into the world! Big weekend plans of combatting the below zero temps with good restaurants, friends, and probably some booze. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Don't worry everyone, I am fine. I know my last post was a bit worrisome, but honestly, last week was a dream come true and made my entire existence on this planet worthwhile. Ok, maybe that's an exaggeration. But seriously, it was one of the most fulfilling artistic experiences of my career thus far, and seeing those kids' faces during the first touring week cast's performance on Friday warmed my heart. A lot. To keep children of all ages at rapt attention, to make them laugh and smile, to make them gape in wonder at how you do what you do, all the while holding the highest of artistic standards and singing some of the best music ever written (and getting into a giant dress with two other people and sometimes a puppet head named Gretchen) -- well, I couldn't ask for a better job. I am really, really excited for my first tour week (first week in February), but until then I have to keep on top of my game, singing and thinking through the show at least three or four times a week. It's an insanely busy show, because not only do I play Pamina, I also play the Second Lady, which in this production is a Three Headed Lady. And Papageno plays the Third Lady. And sometimes when he's being Papageno, a hysterical puppet head with crazy hair named Gretchen becomes the Third Lady. The whole production is brilliant and hilarious, and I love performing it. And while the aria is tough, it's not very taxing for me to sing, so I'm not in constant worry about running my voice into the ground (unlike the woman who has to play the Queen of the Night and the First Lady. I don't envy her. High Fs at 9:30 in the morning is nobody's cup of tea).

But I am very happy to be home. The place where we stayed was a Catholic retreat center and it was...bare bones. We all got our own rooms with bathrooms in them, thankfully, but the bed was a far cry from the pillow top queen to which I've become accustomed. All of the other singers were super nice and fun to hang out with. In addition to good singing, I think one of the director's main criteria for casting is a good personality. Driving around the state of Wisconsin in a giant white fifteen passenger van with an entire show in the back would be very difficult if everyone involved didn't have a good sense of humor. I've already heard some very funny/interesting stories from returning cast members, such as the time last year when the tour van hit a deer and a baby bear within fifteen minutes of one another in northern Wisconsin. Although I complained in my last post about people saying I'm a bad driver, I plan to use my accident record to get me out of EVER driving that van. I'll carry extra set pieces, anything.

So it's back to the grind this week. And back behind the wheel of a car. I have to say, I'm terrified of driving now. Since I hitched a ride to Madison, and I convinced Nick to drive me around today to run errands and teach one lesson, I haven't been behind the wheel since the accident. I'm not looking forward to it, but much like death, it is inevitable. I'll live. Hopefully.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

update in 08

"2008 will no doubt present challenges and obstacles...". No sooner than those words were out of my mouth, I got a taste of my first obstacle. Thursday, January 3rd was supposed to be a lovely day of teaching one lesson and celebrating Nick's birthday, but on my way home from teaching said lesson, I got into a car accident. In Nick's 2005 Audi A4. My fourth car accident in two years. And I swear to God IT WAS NOT MY F---ING FAULT. I don't want to go into lots of details, but I'm tired of everyone saying, "Oh Emily, she's the worst driver, she's always getting into accidents." Here are the facts: I'm unlucky, on average I drive many, many more miles a week than most people, and I live in city of idiot drivers. And I have to drive in order to make my living. Friday was supposed to be a day of packing and studying music; instead, it was six hours in the ER having my neck X-rayed after waking up Friday morning unable to move my head. Nothing was broken, just some severe whiplash, and it's feeling much better now, but it was scary. So yeah, I'm loving 2008 so far.

Somehow, I managed to get myself to Madison for OFY rehearsal week. It's been a nice retreat from the norm; the people are amazingly, unusually nice; and we're being treated quite well. The show is funny and fun and not that difficult a sing. Mozart is like medicine for the voice, I tell you. I will be ready to get home to my Nick, my bed, and a home cooked meal (eating out every meal gets WAY old after a couple of days), but it's great to be really working as a singer this week, creating a role and working with lots of talented people. I'm so thankful for this job and to this company for giving me a chance. It has helped me forget "real life" for a few days -- wrecked cars and ER visits and mounting bills. No, for this week, I am in a magical opera land where nobody can harm me (except maybe the Queen of the Night -- she's scary!). I'm getting paid to play with light sabers (yes, I get a light saber in this show!). It's a fantasyland...but I'll stay here for a few days, thanks. See you on the flipside.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

random holiday pics i never got around to posting until now

Soloists from the Northwest Festival Orchestra Holiday Gala Concert:
Charles M, Baritone, Sarah P, Mezzo Soprano, Jay D, Tenor, myself, Soprano

Our holiday party spread (gorgeous, isn't it!-click to enlarge):

Sandra Lee herself!

Mom snaps my picture during our encore in the balcony of one of the Music of the Baroque concerts: