Musings on m
y life as a busy opera singer, voice teacher, photographer and mom - not necessarily in that order! I consider myself immensely fortunate to have carved out a way of doing all of these things which mean so much to me - it may sometimes get a little crazy, but it's always worth it. Welcome to the madhouse!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Your Starter for 10....

Thanks to the miracle of the internet, we've been able to keep up with some of our favorite British television shows, not least of which the cozily old-fashioned, all-for-the-honour-and-glory (ie no monetary prizes) and wonderfully academic University Challenge.

We've been following it avidly, not only enjoying the sometimes absurdly arcane questions, but also enjoying watching the competitive edge sharpen throughout the rounds, culminating in tonight's final between Corpus Christi, Oxford, and Manchester University.

We knew it would be close between these two teams, each of which had consistently been "fast on the buzzer" for that opening question, but our money was on Corpus, led by the rapidly-becoming-a-celebrity Gail Trimble, a Latin doctoral scholar who seems to know well... to know just about everything, and passes on her knowledge with an air of authority and (slightly simpering) charm that has made her the current darling of the series. She would have made Dorothy Sayers proud as the perfect embodiment of the educated female, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if she turns up as a television presenter in a few years; the camera seems to love her, and (judging by her performances), she it.

It was a close run and Manchester very nearly left the favorite in the starting gate by buzzing in correctly on most of the first questions and thus grabbing the bonus rounds, but at half time the Corpus horse finally got out of the gate and bolted. Manchester fought back, however, and it wasn't clear until the final 5 minutes or so that Corpus had indeed lived up to their odds. The excitement was palpable - Even the voice-over announcer was on the edge of his seat, as you he SHOUTED (literally) the name of the contestant who had buzzed in.

While few matches are as excitingly neck-and-neck as this one, the program is great intellectual fun, as much for Jeremy Paxman's asides as anything else (he's kind enough not to treat the students with the same tar-and-feather handling as his political interviewees, but a lifetime of presentational scorn is impossible to eradicate completely, and the occasional withering remark slips in between questions, usually to the amusement of the audience as much as the consternation of the contestants!). And you even learn a thing or two if you pay attention!

And now, if you'll excuse me, it's high time I went and swotted up on Italian painters since, judging by my own performance tonight, I apparently don't know my Botticelli from my Giotto....

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's almost impossible

to blog anything that isn't bad news in the arts at the moment. Another regional opera company bit the dust this week and has publicly announced they are ceasing trading and I think we're all getting worn down by article after article expressing concerns over the future of the arts in general. While this last collapse didn't affect me directly, the demise of the company where I held contracts for the spring means this is now dead time for me, and I have too much time on my hands to think about it all. I have things to look forward to later in the year, but this current period is the first time in many years that I have had this much downtime between gigs and I can't deny that I miss being onstage dreadfully.

As the saying goes, however, I've been "making lemonade". Without being at the mercy of the "daily schedule" (professional companies seldom give you a solid schedule more than 24hrs ahead of time, and the only BINDING schedule is the one that comes out the previous evening, meaning you're pretty much on permanent standby during the rehearsal period), I can actually plan my own activities ahead a little and, as luck would have it, my teaching day at the college meshed perfectly with a studio lighting class in the photography department - serendipity! I'm very pleased to be able to take advantage of this opportunity which, in any "normal" year, would have been impossible for me to squeeze into the schedule. I'm looking forward to the experience immensely, especially since I even get to use the well-equipped studio onsite!

So there are silver linings and new opportunities, but there's still a terrible feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop as the country - arts and otherwise - lurches forward in attempts to move on from the last few months. I have no doubt that opera as an artform will survive, but I also truly believe that it there is different professional landscape on the horizon from the one most of us currently active on the scene have experienced, and we're all just waiting to see what happens next.

To end on a good note, however, one recently emerged bright spot: kudos to a group of enterprising and highly talented colleagues for starting Baltimore Concert Opera - here's to their succesful launch!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Not "good" news, but...

a must read article about the current state of opera.

While the news is grim, I find this post far, far more realistic and hopeful than a lot of other commentary I've been reading. Here's hoping some of the views expressed are possible realities; they certainly suggest a better prognosis than the current state of affairs.