Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page
Being a part of Francesca Zambello’s production of Die Walküre has raised the bar for me yet again on my operatic excursions as a “Super” at the San Francisco Opera. CHECK!…another dream fulfilled. This time Wagner! When I pass over the scratched and worn stage floor, I still pinch myself and marvel at all the legends who have left their mark in this hallowed place. Here’s a photo-narrative glimpse into this exciting production, and my wonderful world of Wagner.
Yes, True Wagnerians Still Walk the Earth
When’s the last time you saw a Wagner opera and weren’t wishing singers of the past were instead onstage? Well, it would be hard to best this nearly peerless cast, particularly in today’s international crop. Eva-Marie Westbroek as Sieglinde is utter perfection, with a refulgent, voluminous voice, and yet, there’s such a naturalness to her delivery, it’s as if she’s speaking. She exudes considerable warmth in her very convincing acting expressions, and as one reviewer said, she couldn’t play the victim better. She also couldn’t look the part more (as evidenced by this glowing photo). She, and all the principals are a joy backstage too. Given the pressure they’re under to perform a VERY difficult piece, that’s quite a testimony.
In her debut as the Walküre Brünnhilde, Nina Stemme delivers the much expected stamina and bravado, but never betrays her beauty of tone, or pushes outside her “column of sound.” She uses her slighter stature and strong connection to her body to paint an authentically youthful and feisty characterization. No, she doesn’t erase memories of Nilsson’s vocal sword throwing in the highest reaches of “Ho-jo-to-ho!,” but she has a far darker, warmer, and more alluring tone, and greater physicality than Nilsson.
Mark Delavan is tireless, and the model of godly alpha-male strength as Wotan. At times he sings with a legato line, but other times chews up and spits out the german consonants to portray anger, or when commanding others. Backstage, he’s the funniest opera personality I’ve ever been around…cracking up the Supers without fail, with his disarming humor. Enjoy his perspective on Wotan, and at times refreshingly irreverent sense of humor in this interview.
Christopher Ventris as Siegmund is in the Heppner/Windgassen vein, having a brighter, not baritonal Heldentenor tone. However, he is easily heard, and has plenty of thrust to cut through the orchestra. He and Eva-Marie make an appealing and very engaged duo. Ray Aceto as Hunding is genuinely scary and imposing, and wields a very satisfying black basso. Janina Baechle as Fricka doesn’t erase vocal memories of Marjana Lipovšek (‘95), but she is quite perfect in this production’s conception of this role, and is fully and excitingly committed.
In this Act I play one of Hunding’s thuggish *insert grunt here* kinsmen, returning from a day of hunting. I carry in a giant plastic-wrapped meat pack, which I immediately throw to Hunding. (Yes, me, the one who couldn’t throw a ball to save his life as a kid…WHY?!) We all threaten Siegmund with our rifles when he hesitates Hunding’s commands. (I’m at bottom left.) Later Sieglinde ladles us up some slop (aka bloodied plastic cubes) from a giant pot, presumably whipped up from the meat I tossed. Mmm-mmm good! Another Super carries a rope with two rather sad, dangling fowl. Not surprisingly, the kinsmen have been likened to the “Michigan Militia,” present-day paramilitary thugs.
Two guest list tickets for an upcoming Pink Martini show, as well as some “other gifts” (possibly P.M. schwag?!). We’re contemplating one of the Hollywood Bowl Pink Martini shows in September. But, it’s tempting to save up for a European concert locale.
What people are saying
Pink Martini’s Business Manager shared this:
“We’ve been consistently amused by your video since its submission. In fact, it was the first video we received that we really loved, and at that time, unsure how the contest would go, we were relieved to know we had at least one gem. By far the best of the “home video” type entries we received.
We’d love to…post it permanently on our YouTube channel and on our website, and use it at other venues too. Thanks again for your video, and thank your fabulous cast for us as well!”
The creation of the video was a joy, but the contest announcements have brought it all to life again!
I now present to you my entry for La Cieca’s (parterre.com) light-hearted lip dub video competition:
Although a winner hasn’t been announced, happily, my entry was featured today on parterre.com: Darkest Before the Dawn
[UPDATE: I won! My video received the winning prize worth $200.00, and cries of “Bravissimo!,” “genius,” “brilliant,” “poignant” and “hilarious.” Woo-hoo!]
The song is opera diva Renée Fleming’s recent crossover single “Endlessly” (originally by Muse). It was GOBS of fun to create…a tragic tranny mess? Visionary? You be the judge, but it’s nothing if not fun. Plus, I didn’t know I was a blonde (the look chosen to APPROXIMATE the album cover)…the results proved me SO wrong.
For non-opera aficionados, the paper dolls are of Peter Gelb (he runs the Metropolitan Opera), Barbara Walters (operagoer), Mary Zimmerman (director), James Levine (music director and conductor at the Met), and La Cieca! (Yes, the inside jokes abound.)
I invite you to share comments directly below the video at vimeo.com link provided above! Praise me, roast me, sex me up, and so on!
Here’s the official collectible album cover:
I recently read a revelatory article in Psychology Today by a Dr. Alex Lickerman (a Buddhist Physician). It is titled “The Good Guy Contract.“ It spoke volumes to me about many of my own interpersonal stumbling blocks. It identified some of my challenges in ways I had never considered or heard verbalized before.
I’m hoping to use it as a spring board to work on finding ways to address some of the issues it pinpoints for me. And, before you think I’m touting myself as a Good Guy…trust me, it’s not an admirable or happiness-inducing habit…as you’ll read.
Perhaps this is all a bit too confessional, but there is some very valuable meat here that could benefit many other Good Guys…perhaps you? Although I encourage you to read the entire article, here are the most relevant highlights:
The Benefit of Tearing Up the Good Guy Contract
1. Stop suffering when people don’t like me. I can’t control how others respond to me, and being freed of the need to write Good Guy Contracts has freed me of the need to try to influence others to like me as well—which has freed up an unbelievable amount of my time.
2. Become an effective leader. If your primary concern is to please everyone, you won’t be able to make good decisions for the right reasons.I could never have taken on the leadership roles I have had I not eliminated my need to be a People Pleaser (another name for a Good Guy).
3. Establish more genuine friendships—friendships based on mutual interest, free of the underlying agenda in which I would use the goodwill of another to support my self-esteem.
4. Be compassionate. Freed of the need to be liked, I can now contemplate compassionate action motivated only by the desire to add to the happiness of another person and not by the imperative to sustain my self-esteem, making it far more likely my actions will be wisely compassionate, the importance of which I discussed in a previous post, “What Compassion Is.”
5. Avoid explosive expressions of pent up resentment. Being unable to say no leads to resentment toward oneself that often gets projected onto others but that’s paradoxically rarely expressed (becoming angry at someone would violate the terms of the Good Guy Contract)—until it builds up to the point where it must be expressed and then often is in explosive and damaging ways.
6. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by too much responsibility. What a relief it’s been to be able to own what’s mine and not what belongs to others.
Back in february, CJ and I performed with our friends in “EMERGENCY Cabaret Relief: Haiti.” It was our cabaret debut together, and our first performance together since we met six years ago, in ROLT’s production of The Wizard of Oz.
We performed a song very near and dear to my heart, Paul William’s “When the River Meets the Sea,” from Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. This Jim Henson movie has been a family favorite since I can remember, and it’s spiritual questioning felt so perfect for the tone of this fundraiser.
I’m pleased to be able to finally share the video of our performance. Unfortunately, the source audio is not ideal, so please turn up your volume for the beginning, and be prepared to turn it down once the source volume increases: