Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bucket of Ice Water for this Wicked Singer

Sometimes we feel like we’re going in circles with this training. Almost always doing very similar exercises every single day and sometimes we just throw our hands to the sky and ask: WHY? Why do I have to study SO much every single day? Well, of course we know the answer, it almost comes out automatically for us opera students. We have to study a lot everyday because of the muscle memory, to strengthen our instrument because it’s not something you can learn overnight.

But one thing is to just know that and always keep in on the back of your mind for that eventual nudge whenever you are feeling blue. Another thing is to actually experience some result of all that work.

Let me start from the beginning, shall we? As you guys remember I made a very special trip all the way to the United States to audition of the Hartt School in Connecticut for a Master program in singing. I went there, I sang and a month later I received the sad news that I hadn’t been accepted. That hit me pretty darn hard. I’m a particularly dramatic person I must confess that I involuntarily I put myself in situations that if I don’t get what I was aiming to get I feel like it's the end of the world. That’s mostly because Hartt was the only school that I auditioned for and not getting in meant having to spend another year in Brazil. And don’t get me wrong I love my country but we do have absolutely rotten politics that make the career of classical musicians very difficult and most of the time nonexistent here.

So in order to continue my education I need to move to another country. And I must confess that I never felt like I belonged here in this country anyway, ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to live elsewhere. So going back to the story, after I found out I had been rejected I was pretty much devastated. For about 2 weeks I didn’t tell a soul (only my sister and my teacher actually) because I didn’t really want to accept that I wasn’t going to school this coming September. But something quite unexpected helped me out of my blueness, a very misunderstood lady named Regina.

Although she’s about 10 years older than me we are very similar, both overly dramatic women in search of something that we really don't know what it is exactly but it's quite difficult and scary to get. I guess one of the things I mostly have in common with her is the fact that I’m scared to DEATH to take a leap of faith, to take a chance because it can bring me immense joy but it can also break my heart.

But ever since March, when she came back, I’m finding her choices and her posture quite inspiring. She had been travelling the path of becoming less self obsessed and more caring of others and that made me pause to look around. I looked around and I saw my mother overloaded with work and stressed, my sister trying to juggle college and her job and my dad having all the house responsibilities to himself. And there I was complaining and doing compulsive shopping. I then decided to change and to help all of them, I took responsibility for all of the food related things in my house and I also started running arrons for my mother and sister (one that involved buying fabric that imitated rabbit fur, sister is a cosplayer, what can I say?). That already made me feel a lot better. And since I run these arrons in my bike I’ve also lost about 7 kgs!

And it is at these moments when you are living one day at a time that extraordinary things happen. One day I was watching the extras of one of my Once Upon a Time DVDs and as they were talking about sets and locations they mentioned a place that made everything click. Canada. And then a huge flash back hit me and I remembered an email a student exchange program lady had sent me about a music program in Canada. I went back to my inbox to check it out, two years fulltime intensive program at the Vancouver Community College. I didn’t think twice, I called the lady (very, very nice lady named Claudia) and started my application. All the deadlines for applying for September had already been reached but she managed to squeeze me in.

Luckily for me I had my entire paper work ready because of the other college applications. But there was one thing they asked that I did not have, a video of me singing. Sure I have some great audios but no videos and the school told me to send them a DVD of me doing everything I could do music wise by this Friday, I mean it had to arrive in Canada this very Friday. That was this last Monday evening, Claudia told me that I had to bring her the DVD by Tuesday at midday so they could send it. After talking to her I called my piano teacher and arranged for her to play for me the next day then called my best friend so he could film it for me. It took me three hours to sleep that day.

Woke up the next day got all pretty and out of the house I went to actually buy DVDs because I didn’t have any. Back to my house I recorded my audios on a DVD just in case I was too late with the videos. I grabbed my bike around 10 and flew to the Student Exchange office to give them the final paper work and the DVD. Then I biked my way to my teacher’s house and me and my friend were punctually there at 11.

I recorded in record time. I vocalized and recorded 5 songs in 35 minutes. How the hell did I do that? Well, I gotta blame it on the work I did all those countless afternoons at college, vocalizing and singing and studying until that insufferable man would kick me out of the classroom. I was very flabbergasted I must confess, I would sing the songs without a trace of a doubt as if I was just speaking. Plus they came out so well even though I hadn’t studied and vocalized properly for a little bit more than a month. The muscles and my body and my breathing just knew what to do in every different situation and it just felt marvelous!

So I guess all that hard work did pay off after all. I recorded the DVD and took it to the agency just in time for them to send it up to Canada. Now all I have to do is wait.

I don’t want to rave too such about this because past experiences have shown me that hoping for something to much can totally crush you if you don’t get it. But at the end of the day all this was a very positive experience. Because I was finally able to do something quite wonderful, which was to love opera and love to sing but it is not who I am and if someday I don’t feel that spark anymore I can just walk away without regret. That is something Joyce said in one of her many wonderful videos but I never understood. For me back then opera was all I needed and all that could make me happy. But once you have it taken away from you you can either crumble or look at the world as a white canvas and think, “I can do anything I want”. And let me tell you something, that sensation I pretty fantastic! Because before all this I was quite focused (to not say obsessed) in opera and my career and training and studying. Which is all so great, but now I look back and see that I made some personal sacrifices because of that that I truly regret. Yes, I’m talking about not taking a romantic chance with someone at college because I thought he would distract me from my studies and ruin my career. So I really do feel I did need that big bucket of ice water that is a college rejection letter to just stop and look around me.

I know that speaking like this I sound as if I’m giving up, but I’m really not. I’m still studying but also doing so many other things! I started taking better care of myself, taking the time to choose clothes that flattered my body, exercising, going out with my friends and actually finding other interests I might have. I quite recently found that I’m pretty good at making headbands and stuff for you to wear in your hair, I’ve been having quite a lot of fun braiding ribbons and chains and whatever I could find together to make the cutest hair wear pieces.  

So never fret, I’ve never been happier! This was just a little something I wanted to get off my chest. I just would like to leave a very big thank you to Lana, without her incredible artistry I would still be down in the dumps. You rock, I'm proud to be one of your Regals! Cheers everyone!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The 2014/2015 Metropolitan Opera Season (part 2)

Hey guys! I really hoped that I had finished this sooner but this week has been crazy! Going to job interviews, doing a billion things for my mum, seeing about Summer Programs (I got into the Opera Live in NYC Program), ending the bedroom makeover, successfully selling unwanted stuff online and also seeing about maybe going to Vancouver to study has totally taken up my whole week! But it’s been a blast really, it was a great week without a dull moment in it.

I’ve also sort of created some living rules for me now because since I’m a lot at home and working from the computer I tend to get very distracted. First rule was cutting all bread, sweets, sodas and fried stuff from my diet. I thought that it would be so awful but it actually wasn’t and I’m feeling a lot better. Then not stuffing myself with food, because what usually happened to me was I would put a lot of stuff in my plate because I was afraid to not have enough food to satiate myself. And then I would push the extra food in because I feel bad about leaving food on the plate. So now I eat in small portions and if I’m still hungry I grab a tad more.  And another thing was not eating under any circumstance carbs at night. I’ve been doing this for the last 3 weeks and have lost about 6 kgs, which is a lot.

Plus I can only read fanfiction at night. That rule helps a lot with my productivity during the days I stay home. Since I’ve decided to sell some stuff I don’t want any more I’ve been at home and in front of the computer a lot. It’s this great deal and I’ve already sold three things in the last couple of days, a belt, a bag and a pair of shoes.

But let's go back to the subject in question here, opera! Here are 6 more operas coming next season at the Met!

That Egyptian love story that never gets old

I don’t even need to say more, right? Aida has got to be one of my favorite operas and this production is probably the best I’ve ever seen. It features the Met’s entire chorus plus a couple hundred extras and dancers and horses and the whole shebang! Apart from the fact that we are talking Verdi here and most importantly we are talking about one of the most beautiful music ever written. It’s amazing how the tunes from Aida just stay with you, I remember when I first saw it that I simply could not stop hearing those tunes in my head!

Even though this is without a trace of a doubt an Italian opera it actually opened in Cairo back in 1871. I believe that the Khedivial Opera House commissioned this from Verdi, don’t remember though. Well the story is as old as time, the typical Verdian love triangle. Aida is an Ethiopian slave serving in Egypt, more specifically serving the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris. Both ladies are head over heels in love with the captain Radames, who technically is hot stuff but normally what you see is over weight on stage (frustrating, much? Yes!). Anywho, Radames has a secret affair with Aida and they are both SO in love. But the thing is, like every good Slytherin (yes, I have HP house sorted opera characters, Radames goes to Gryffindor, Aida Hufflepuff and Amneris Slytherin, the hat never lies!) Amneris senses there’s something going on between Radames and Aida and will do everything she can to humiliate Aida and to get Radames to herself. Amneris is the BEST character in this opera.

So, to take on the difficult role of Aida the Met got 3 amazing and very different sopranos. First up is Liudmyla Monastyrska who you guys might remember as the Aida from the last HD broadcast of this opera. She is young but oh so incredible, her Aida is full of feeling and her voice is a jewel. I also saw her playing Lady Macbeth a couple of years ago for the ROH, fantastic! Next up is Latonia Moore who has played this role many, many times and does a terrific job. Last but certainly not least the Ukrainian Oksana Dyka and let me tell you, this woman’s voice is an absolute DREAM! I was fortunate enough to see her in Prince Igor live in February and she blew that Metropolitan roof up! I would LOVE to see her as Aida!

But the dream casting does not stop there, for Amneris we have two absolute opera jewels! First up my personal favorite Amneris of all time, Olga Borodina who plays this role like no one else. She is absolute poison, absolutely passionate and her voice is like melting dark, dark chocolate. And I was particularly pleased because I had heard statements of hers saying that now that she’d turned 50 she wanted to slow down her career to be with her family. I’m just happy she didn’t drop the Met completely, a trip to Saint Petersburg is quite impossible for me right now. And also the double threat soprano/mezzo soprano Violeta Urmana who plays both the role of Aida AND Amneris, who cool is that, hun?

Sharing our ‘hero’s’ shoes will be Marcello Giordani and Marco Berti who both have a vast experience with Verdi and his difficult and taxing tenor roles. At the pit we have two of my favorite conductor’s, Marco Armiliato and Placido Domingo (the coolest person ever).

Out of so many cast possibilities the one I’d like to see would be Dyka/Borodina/Berti/Domingo but no can do. I can have almost that cast with Urmana instead of Borodina in April of next year.

A Lady Macbeth from Russia

I know what you might think, but Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It’s a Russian opera written by Shostakovich that premiered in the 1930’s based on the novel Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov. Before this season’s announcement I had never heard of this opera, I have only seen one Shostakovich opera in my live, the Nose (which fortunately was live), which I really liked.

As I read the plot of this opera I couldn’t help but think that it was one of the most dynamic and passionate and cool plots of opera I’d ever read. This is what happens, Katerina is unhappily married to this guy Zinovy and his dad is pretty much a pain in the ass because he blames her for not having any heirs (but apparently it’s not really her fault, her husband isn’t really into her so, I have a slight feeling he might be gay). Katerina’s maid tells her about this guy Sergei who is a womanizer. When Katerina goes on to confront him and tell him women are just as good as men they end up getting into an actual physical fight which results in Sergei throwing himself on top of her. He does that only in time for her annoying father in law to see the scene and become suspicious about her loyalty to his son. At night Sergei goes to her room to ‘ask for a book’ but then proceeds to seduce her and they end up having hot sex. Her father in law (thinking that he’s all so smart) locks her in her room not knowing that Sergei is in there and they resume to basically having sex all night long.

And this is just the first act! There are like 4 acts in which the story TRULY unfolds and loads and loads of things happen! As Katerina we have the amazing Eva Maria Westbroek. She is so incredible, she has played cool Wagnerian roles like Sieglinde and majestic roles like Didon in Berlioz’s Les Troyes and also the operatic role of the infamous Anna Nicole Smith. She has this smooth and gorgeous voice I wish I could hear live someday. As her lover Sergei we have a tenor called Brandon Jovanovich of whom I had never heard of but just seeing pictures of him I totally get it why it was easy for Sergei to seduce Katerina. Hot stuff!

I really wish I could see this! Not gonna be on HD though! Bummer, it's probably because it's very dark and heavy stuff.

The barber who sings more than works

This is such a blast of an opera! It’s probably my second favorite Rossini opera (Le Comte Ory is my utmost favorite) and I know that Il Barbieri di Siviglia has touched the hearts of many people I know. It’s a wonderful comedy filled with catchy tunes and smart jokes. The story was taken from the Beaumarchais trilogy, it’s how it all started, part 1!

The story is pretty simple, Rosina (Isabel Leonard) is a beautiful young lady who is kept locked away at home most of the time by her guardian. He is an old, greasy man who plans to marry her only to get his hands on her money. Enters the Count (Lawrence Brownlee) who fell in love with her at first sight when spotting her at her window. So he procures the help of Figaro (Christopher Maltman) so they can fool Rosina’s guardian and get hitched.

The Met’s current production is by Barlet Sheer and it’s all right. No super amazing and grand sets but very efficient and fun in telling the story. One thing I really like in this production is Rosina’s second act dress which is to die for. But I’m a sucker for fashion so…

As the feisty Rosina we have the amazing American mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard who as I’ve said in some other posts is so amazing and such a nice person. For the Count we have another American singer, Lawrence Brownlee who together with Juan Diego Florez is taking the Rossini tenor roles by storm! He’s very, very talented and has a very good comedic timing. For our Figaro we have Christopher Maltman who is another amazing American singer. I had the privilege of seeing him in the very last performance of Die Fledermaus in February and he was so incredible. Amazingly funny and the music just seemed so natural and effortless it was really an amazing performance.

The craziest song contest ever

If have to be honest I have to confess I don’t have much patience when it comes to Wagner. It might be because his operas tend to last 4 hours or it might be because I don’t understand a word they say. Either way I found myself feeling very lazy to read the plot of Die Meitersinger von Nürnberg, but I did anyway. This is the longest Wagner opera which is performed nowadays, it lasts approximately four hours and a half and we are not counting intermission time. This opera I just like Capriccio and L’Orfeo because it revolves around the creation and composing of music.

So the story is pretty crazy. There’s this knight named Walther who has no musical education whatsoever and he falls head over heels in love with Eva. But Eva’s dad is kind of delusional and says that she will marry the Meistersinger who wins the town’s song competition. So Walther tries to pretend that he’s a worthy candidate to be a Meistersinger so he can enter and win the competition and his beloved’s hand in marriage. But since he doesn’t have any musical education he fails miserably and the Meistersingers people don’t even let him finish his flaw filled song. From then on he’s gonna try and enter that competition anyway he can plus having to worry about a pain in the ass actual Meistersinger called Beckmesser who wants to win the competition. But he’s gonna have the help of the ultimate Meistersinger Hans Sachs so hope isn’t all lost.

As the savior of the day playing Hans Sachs we have Johan Reuter, as the hopeless knight (although he can resemble many things but a knight) is Johan Botha. As Eva we have Annette Dash who I had only heard singing Mozart and am quite curious to see how she will do with Wagner.

It’ not just any Verdi tragedy

I think this is the most popular of Verdi’s operas, hence it’s included every other season at the Met. If I’m going to be totally honest this is not my favorite production of La Traviata. Yes, the red dress is fabulous but there’s not much else to it. I think this kind of production is great to have at festivals or in one season of a big repertoire house but not as a reoccurring production. So every time you wanna watch La Traviata at the Met it’s this nude and empty production. This is my opinion, I don’t think the production is bad it’s just that for a house like the Met they should put up something beyond gorgeous for Verdi’s most beloved opera. My first experience with La Traviata was through this production and to be completely honest I didn’t understand half of it because they leave far too much to your imagination. I guess I’m just traditional.

Anyways, La Traviata tells the story of a courtesan named Violetta who was leading her life loveless but filled with luxury and wealth only too well before Alfredo came along. They fall in love and she decides to go and live with him in the countryside like the happy loving couple that they are and gives up her job. But everything is not sunshine and flowers, you see Alfredo does not have much money to afford the life they lead and Violetta is secretly selling her things to make ends meet. To make things worst Violetta receives the visit of Alfredo’s father who asks her to end their relationship because his association with a person like her is tarnishing the whole family name. And if they stay together nobody will want to marry Alfredo’s sister. It’s pretty sad from then on.

To play the dream role of 90% of sopranos the Met has brought two Marinas. The first is Marina Poplavskaya who actually opened this production at the Met some seasons ago. Again, I’m not a fan and her performance in this was actually filmed so you guys can judge for yourselves. Plus, isn’t she a bit old to have waist long hair? That hair is nothing special, don’t know why people make such a fuss about it. (Oh my, is that venom on my lips or what?). Our other Violetta is Marina Rebeka, now she was my first Donna Anna and she is just so good. She played this Donna Anna in the Met’s live in HD broadcast of Don Giovanni back in 2011.

For our love sick tenor we have the amazing Stephen Costello who is all sorts of awesome. I can’t help but feel sad because his wife Ailyn Pérez isn’t playing Violetta, she has played the part a billion times and oh so well plus they have insane chemistry on stage. Sharing the Alfredo duties with Stephen is Francesco Demuro. And last but not least papa Germont will be played by Ludovic Tézier aka the Severus Snape of opera (for that amongst other reasons I have sort of a crush on him). But he’s such a great singer, the very last thing I saw with him in was that Lucia I saw in a live stream back in July, he was playing Arturo, Lucia’s evil brother and he rocked it! (that’s when he got his HP nickname by the way).

Holiday Candy Crush!

For the holiday presentation the Met is getting its huge chefs heads out of storage for an all English production of Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel. So the holiday presentations work something like this; they normally take a comedy or a happy ending opera, translate the whole thing to accessible English and do a rather unnecessary cutting session to the piece. I really like the idea of making something more accessible to a broader public but I find it thoroughly unnecessary to make cuts, if the piece is good it will grab people’s attention. But that’s just my opinion.

The Met has a great, fun and somewhat family friendly (the witch does have a freezer full of children hanging by hooks that you can actually see that’s a bit disturbing) production of Hansel and Gretel’s tale. It always makes me hungry because they get to eat all sorts of sweets at the second act but then again most things make me hungry.

The story pretty much follows the original tale. Hansel and Gretel are brother and sister and their family is extremely poor. They have to do many chores around the house to help out their parents but all they want to do is play. During a bed jumping session they break the only milk jar in the house, their parents are furious and send them to the woods to pick up berries so they’ll have something to eat. They end up losing their way in the woods and as it gets dark start seeing what truly happens when the sun goes down. All sorts of odd and magical creatures appear in their dreams and when they wake up they happen upon a house made entirely of candy, chocolate and cake. The rest we all know, don’t we?

As Gretel the Met has called back Christine Schafer the soprano who actually originated this role in this production a few seasons ago. As she is a very petite woman with a very pretty voice and incredible acting skills she suits Gretel quite perfectly. As Hansel we have the mezzo soprano Christine Rice.    

Wow, that was time consuming but extremely satisfying! And I guess that's it for today guys. Today is Once Upon a Time day and I'm excited! I actually got a way to watch it live so it's pretty cool :) Peace everyone!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Here and Back Again in NYC - Day 8 - Jonas Kaufmann at Carnegie Hall

Hey everyone!

So Day 8 of my New York City journey was pretty cool. As always me and my mum spent our day shopping and eating. We went to Eataly which is this huge Italian food place that works as a market as well as a restaurant. We waited in line for about 40 minutes for a table at the pasta section and when it came to it the prices were high and the portions were little. I was very disappointed although the pasta was really good I left the restaurant hungry.

But no matter because Jamie texted me and before I knew it I was in Washington Square Park meeting her and Mike! We had a lovely 30 minute chat and then she had to leave. I walked with Mike to the subway station and said yet another heartfelt goodbye. Then I rushed back to the Park where my mum was waiting for me. We got a cab and it was dark before we knew it.

We went back to the hotel to get ready for Jonas Kaufmann’s big debut at Carnegie Hall with pianist Helmut Deutsch. Needless to say that we were late and running down the icy streets of NYC in heels and holding extra hot lattes, I do love this life though! I did not, however, love having to go up ALL those stairs in heels and running because the recital was just about to begin. We got to our seats in the balcony and they were really steep and scary and there was barely any leg room which made us extremely uncomfortable. I was pretty pumped about this recital but the people were all so serious, it was very weird and my mum had THE GRUMPIEST man sitting next to her.

view from my seat

I didn’t have much time to complain because in a moment there he was, my prince charming in the flesh, Jonas Kaufmann! Although I have to admit I did not know any of the songs he sang! There I’ve said it, it’s the truth and it’s better than just pretending I know what I’m talking about because I don’t. I’m an opera fan and I know a lot about opera and musicals and a little about Faure chanson for feminine voices, but I do not know these lieder.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a blast of a good time. Because Carnegie Hall does give you the lyrics and the translations so you can follow, so at least I knew what he was singing about. And come on, Jonas is one of the most captivating performers I’ve ever seen, he can steal your heart away with one well placed note. It was impossible for me not to have a wonderful time. Because seriously, hearing him in a recording is already so great but there is nothing that can compare to having that glorious sound waltz its way into your body and soul. His voice is like dark butter melting, I don’t even know if that makes sense, but it’s not like melting chocolate. Ah man, I’m letting my feelings get the best of this post! Bottom line people, GO HEAR JONAS KAUFMANN LIVE! Go, just go!

Well first he did a selection of four songs from a Schumann cycle called Zwölf Gedichte (Twelve Poems, Op. 35). They were Lust der Sturmnacht (The Wild Night’s Joy); Erstes Grün (First Green); Wanderung (Wandering); Stille Tränen (Silent Tears). These are basically about what every good lied is about, nature and love and being in love while outside. But what I liked is all the different colors he brought to the table for each and every song he sang. He had a character for every single one of them. You could feel almost everyone was hooked (I say almost everyone because there’s always that old person who sleeps no matter how fantastic the event is) and that was quite obvious at the end of the cycle.

Then he did an entire Schumann cycle called Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love, Op. 48). They were all so lovely and Jonas has this ability to just transport you to wherever he wants with his voice. It was quite amazing. I say voice because I was quite far away I couldn’t really see him very well but all he needed to do was open his mouth and the walls felt like they were gonna crumble down. He had quite an ovation after that cycle was done and came back two or three times to take a bow together with the pianist to quite a thunderous ovation.

Time for intermission and my mom wasn’t feeling well at all so she left. I didn’t even get out of my seat, I just stayed there in awe of what I had just witnessed. And although I really liked the first part, the second was SO MUCH BETTER!

I don’t know if it was my taste or the fact that the audience just seemed to have warmed up much more for the second half but it was incredible. First he sang a Wagner song cycle called Wesendonck Lieder (Wesendonck Songs, Op. 91). And I don’t know if I’m more accustomed to the Wagner language as opposed to the Schumann one but I felt he sang those Wagner lieder much better. A very special highlight to the second song called Stehe still! (Stand still!) because I folded the end of its page in my program which means I probably really liked it. And now that I come to think of it, it was quite powerful and I remember having my head in the clouds.

But my favorite bit was without a doubt the Franz Liszt songs. He did change the order of the songs for some mysterious reason but I wasn’t complaining. These 3 song were all in Italian and had a much more operatic feel to them. I remember quite clearly as he finished the first one it was SO GOOD that you could feel the people ALMOST clapping and some people were so enticed that they actually started screaming “BRAVO”. To that both Jonas and the entire audience laughed. When he sang his second song it was just as beautiful and operatic and it had one of those high tenor notes at the end that SERIOUSLY had ALL the human beings who feel attracted to man sigh. I know I did, I sighed all through it like my 13 year old self sighing at the sight of Legolas.

The third and final song from the Tre sonetti di Petrarca cycle was just the cherry on top of the most heart racing performances I’d ever seen. People went NUTS when he finished! The clapping just would not stop and it was heaven. It totally felt like finally all those rules and conventions had crumbled down and he was just this great guy singing to a bunch of happy, happy people. I must admit, I screamed my head out! And specially because the lady sitting right in front of me had her hands over her ears and was looking viciously at everybody who would scream (she should get to know the grumpy guy who was sitting next to my mum, they are perfect for each other). And you know me, I don’t like people trying to reprimand me, so I took extra careful and powerful breaths so I could scream as loudly as I could without hurting my voice 1- because Jonas totally deserved it and 2- because she pissed me off. I would also clap really hard with my hands extra close to her head, yeah, I can be mean too!

Jonas was over the moon and smiling and thanking everyone it was wonderful, but after he came back for 3 bows it was time for our encores. I must say that one thing that kinda disappointed me was the fact that he didn’t sing any operatic arias in his encores, but you can never have it all. First he sang R. Strauss’ Breit über mein Haupt dein schwarzes Haar and the moment he finished was overwhelmed by applause and screaming and some WE LOVE YOU JONAS, which you would like proper at Comic Con not Carnegie Hall but I just thought it was insanely cool.

Then he proceeded to sing 3 more Strauss songs Heimliche Aufforderung, Freundliche Vision and Cäcilie. And seriously, that was so much fun, because during the applause Jonas and the pianist would come out numerous times to take a bow and after the third encore we were really just clapping and screaming and freaking out because we appreciated his work. But then every time the pianist would come back holding sheet music I felt like that building was gonna come down. People were hysterical, I am not kidding, it was insane! I was hysterical too, it was just so amazing and he was so comfortable there singing to us and the responses were so powerful, it was really incredible.

Before the last Strauss song, which was the fourth encore, he addressed the audience and thanked everybody for that wonderful warm welcome. During his speech people would start screaming and someone screamed “THANK YOU JONAS” which resulted in more hysteria. I seriously felt like I was in Comic Con when they do actor’s panel of a beloved TV show or movie. Even Jonas was very surprised with this enthusiasm because as I wrote a couple of posts ago the reception for Werther was really amazing and very loud but this one was like twice even 3 times more noisy and warm.

He also said that he was singing so many songs by Strauss in the encores because he really did not want to leave him out of this program and that now we should stop celebrating so much Verdi and Wagner for their centenary and bicentenary birthdays and turn to the birthday boy of the year, Strauss. The audience laughed and then he proceeded to sing one more song this time by Schumann called Mondnacht. This was already too good to be true, 5 encores? The people were going insane and one very cool thing I noticed was that a very small number of people left during the encores. Because normally we know how this works, right? But everyone was so enticed and Jonas was so pumped it felt like he was never gonna stop!

Finally he sang his last encore Lehar’s Gern hab ich die Frau’n geküßt. If you saw me you looking at him sing you would think 1 – this girl is gonna fall from her seat right to her death because she’s leaning forward too much 2 – is she in love? I had my hands holding my chin and sighed all the time feeling like the only person in the room and the luckiest person in the world. Because even though the audience was making a lot of noise as soon as the pianist started to play there would be literally dead silence.

When he was bowing for the last encore he did a “that’s enough” hand sign and everyone laughed and clapped and clapped and clapped! I don’t think I ever clapped and screamed so much in my entire life! While gathering my stuff I got to meet a really cool guy who was sitting right behind me who also happened to be a singer. We talked enthusiastically about the concert until the people from Carnegie Hall kicked us out and then we walked together on the street for a while chatting about music and all sorts of thing. Then we headed our separate ways.

But that’s one of the reasons why I love NYC. The people there are just so COOL, all the people I’ve met at the opera house were absolutely incredible, and they were truly really nice.

I guess that’s it for today guys! Hope you enjoyed this post and please leave a comment telling me what you think! Cheers!

PS; All these beautiful up close pictures were taken by my friend Felipe Cunha, thanks honey!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Here and Back Again in NYC - Day 7 - Wicked and Pippin

Hey world! So you guys might have noticed something different about the blog. Yeap I changed it up. I never had changed the layout or anything like that so I felt it was time for a change, let me know if you guys liked it in the comments! 

Over the past few days I’ve been a busy bee. I don’t know if I mentioned this here but I moved back to my parents place in Santos. It was the logical thing to do since I finished college in São Paulo and didn’t have anything there that tied me up to the city itself.  And even if I got a part-time job there all my salary would go to paying rent. So I’m back in my beach cave. I had to bring all of my stuff from São Paulo to Santos and that’s a work in progress but most of my bedroom and bathroom stuff is already here. So I decided to do a little makeover on my bedroom, I cleaned up a lot of unnecessary stuff and donated a bunch of things I don’t use anymore. Plus I bought some shelves to make my live easier and my room less crowded. I’m planning on making a post about that soon.

But let’s go back in time a month to my fabulous 7th day in NYC. I remember that it rained all day and so we thought that there wouldn’t be a soul who would want to stand in line for musical tickets at TKTS. We were wrong. Regardless of the rain the line went on and on, we could do nothing but join in and hope that when we got to the booth there would still be tickets for Pippin. You see some of my friends told me it was a fantastic show and their performance at the Tonys last year was quite remarkable. And so we stood in line, in the rain for about 45 minutes but were able to get nice seats at half the price for that matinee performance.

As we were starving and wet we just went across the street to Oliver Garden for lunch. We did strike a conversation with a French guy who was like Prince Charming material when it came to his looks and also very, very nice. I did tell him that I had just seen a wonderful French opera the night before called Werther but that didn’t seem to ring a bell to him. No one is perfect, right?

At almost two we said our goodbyes and headed off to the theater for Pippin. I felt like me and my mum were the only people in that theater that were watching this show for the first time, that sensation only grew as the show began. I’m still in awe how the whole dynamic of musical theater audiences and manners are SO different from opera. I think I’ve already said this in my Cinderella post but the overture works as a shut up mechanism and also at the end of the musical after everyone has had their rushed bows they keep on playing and people just leave and always a handful of people stay behind and acknowledge that there are real life people playing. Anyways, this hasn’t started very well hun?

View from our Pippin seats
The musical was fun, but it felt more like a night at the circus than a musical. From what I’ve heard this is an old musical but I seriously found it very difficult to find a tune that lingered. If I’m going to be totally honest here the music wasn’t all that interesting, at least in my opinion. And, come on, I’m a musician, if the music isn’t relevant what am I to do?

Let me tell you guys the story, it’s very weird and I don’t know if I got it right. So there’s this lady who owns a theater company or circus company, I don’t know, and they are performing the life of Pippin. But it’s weird because the performance takes place as he lives, and the boy playing Pippin is actually Pippin, or something. Anyways, she tells him he’s bound for greatness and being son of the king and heir to the throne that’s not really hard to believe. And so Pippin goes on and tries to do many things but he fails miserably. The numbers were really amazing, the performers were so good, they could twist and turn their bodies in ways I did not know were humanly possible.

One great feature of this show was the narrator, circus company owner or whatever who was played by Patina Miller. Now Patina has a beautiful singing voice and I had seen her live before doing Sister Act, the musical which was so fantastic. She got a Tony award for this role in Pippin last year and no wonder since she works the trapeze while singing and it's just amazing!

But the thing was, it felt 70% of the time like a circus act. Like I was in the circus watching contortionists and people balance themselves in unfriendly objects and to be completely honest I am not a fan of the circus. Now before you run away and never come back because you think I have no soul because I don’t like the circus, hear me out. I don’t like it for a very simple reason, it makes me nervous! I feel nervous for the people doing their acts knowing that sometimes they don’t have safety nets and that they could be jumping to their deaths and that’s not an idea of a good time for me. So as much as I was impressed by all they could do I was also freaked out.

One incredible highlight was the grandmother, now, she was INCREDIBLE. Because then you had a 65 year old lady doing trapeze stuff with a hot, hot, hot guy and going like ‘yeah, I sail this ship!’. That was awesome! Kudos for Andrea Martin who originated this role in this production and surprise, surprise, got a Tony for it last year. She is AWESOME. She did some operetta you know. She played the Old Lady in Candide some good old years ago. You might know her from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding (I LOVE THIS MOVIE, one of my favorites), she played aunt Voula. She was the aunt, Toula’s dad’s sister, she wore shoulder pads, she’s fab!

Well, the musical was ok I guess, if you like big spectacles with complicated dance routines and unimaginable moves this is definitely for you. But as for the story, I am still trying to figure it out. And I find that there isn’t a real message, it’s all smoke and mirrors.

My mum didn’t like the musical at all. She was thoroughly disappointed so I decided to take her to see something I knew she loved, Wicked. We went to the Wicked theater and I texted Mike and proceeded to buy 3 hot seats for THE coolest, most awesome show on Broadway! I had some great tomato soup nearby the theater with my mum and then waited outside for Mike. He was late, but I think the funniest thing about us going in was that the usher who was zapping the tickets told me I couldn’t go inside with my coffee. So I did something quite alarming, I seriously drank the whole thing in one go right in front of them and even I was a little impressed that I could process so much caffeine at such short notice. I’m proud of me for that.

We went in and took our seats and before we knew it overture hit us.

View from my wicked seat!
Ok, I really love Wicked so this might extend itself a lot, it’s one of my favorite musicals. Sometimes I feel like such a baby, as soon as it started and that flying monkey appeared I was feeling the tears coming. Since I’m feeling generous about talking about musicals that rock I’m gonna go a lot deeper on this one.

So Wicked is the untold story of the Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba. The first scene is actually just after the bucket of water has been thrown on the Witch and she melted and the people rejoiced. So Glinda, the good, appears to confirm the facts and we have our first song “No one mourns the wicked”. I think the only thing I did not like about this was the fact that the girl playing Glinda was trying to imitate Kristen Chenoweth’s voice. We all know how Kristen sounds and bless her heart for her instrument and yes, she did originate Glinda but trying to sound like her made the girl sound squeaky and awful! When she started to sing me and Mike just looked at each other instantly like “Oh no!” .

Kristen Chenoweth in 2003 as Glinda
One of the people asks Glinda if it’s true that she was the Wicked Witch’s friend. Glinda is a little taken aback by that and we flashback to the time they were in college together. One thing that was pretty awesome about this performance was that when Glinda showed up there was a huge ovation for her and when Elphaba showed also, the house felt like it was coming down. And people proceeded to cheer A LOT after songs, during songs when they would do some nice vocal line. It just felt great to have that freedom, it can feel kind of constricted in the opera house with all the rules and the etiquette.

Well we flash back and Elphaba walks in and huge ovation right there. But her fellow classmates don’t think she’s as awesome as we know she is and nobody really likes her because she’s green and has a little bit of an attitude. Her father actually only sent her there to take care of her handicap sister, Nessa, who is a perfectly normal color. The father is not a real fan of Elphie (what a jerk) and dotes on his other daughter openly.

As for Galinda she’s a very spoiled young woman who always gets what she wants. And now she wants to do a witchcraft seminar with the headmistress of the school, Madam Morrible. Things get tangled and Elphaba gets assigned to share a room with Galinda and as they protest Elphie gets nervous and does some magic. The headmistress is impressed and tells Elphaba she will teach her privately and take other students plus giving a ring to the Wizard of Oz about her.

Shoshana Bean as Elphaba in the left and Megan Hilty as Glinda in the right 

Elphaba then proceeds to sing one of the coolest songs in the whole musical The Wizard and I. The girl who was playing Elphaba wasn’t the principal and not even the first replacement and she rocked! I mean, she was SO good and it amazing! She had very good technique which allowed her to play with the song and really feel it and it was really quite incredible.

Idina Menzel as Elphaba, she originated this role
As life proceeded in school Elphaba wasn’t popular at all but found friendship with her history teacher who also happened to be a goat! In Oz animals were just like people, they talk and are sometimes even more intelligent than humans. But the professor warned her that something odd was happening and that he’d been hearing rumors of animals not being allowed to live out their lives as they always had and who had forgotten how to speak!

A new guy arrives in the university named Fiyero and he’s the perfect personification of a charming bad boy, killer looks and lack of sense of responsibility. He sings about how we should all dance through life and not think of our problems and only have a good time (Dancing through life). Galinda and Fiyero come to the conclusion they were made for each other. When a munchkin named Boq tries to ask her out Galinda tells him how the guy who asked Elphaba’s sister out would be her hero he hurries to do just that. 

So everyone is going to this big party and Galinda being the self-centered person that she is gives Elphaba a pointy black hat telling her it’s the latest fashion.  But just as Elphaba arrives at the party wearing the hat and everyone proceeds to laugh at her, the headmistress goes up to Galinda and tells her she can be in the witchcraft lessons because Elphaba insisted she also took them. Now Galinda is feeling like the worst person in the face of the planet and Elphaba starts doing a crazy dance all by herself while others watch and laugh. Galinda joins her in dancing and before you know it everyone is dancing quite a beautiful choreography and finally accepting Elphaba.

Galinda and Elphaba bond and Galinda tells her that she’s going to give her a makeover and teach her how to popular in a very funny song of that said name. Even though the girl was imitating Kristen it wasn’t all that bad because she sounded real funny in the spoken bits and she did add her own personal touch to the character which made her even funnier.  

After that things start to look up for Elphaba but one day they fire her goat teacher, Dr. Dillamod and bring into the classroom a cage with a lion cub preaching how good these things are for animals because then they will never learn how to speak. Elphaba is enraged by this and uses her powers to make an escape with the lion cub and Fiyero who helps her. There’s an awkward moment between the two as they free the lion cub but Elphaba knows they can never be (I’m not that girl).

The wizard wants to meet Elphaba so he invites her to go to the Emerald City. Galinda isn’t really well because ever since that day with the lion cub Fiyero has been different, as she herself says “He’s been thinking!” which apparently isn’t a good thing. And he indeed seems changed somehow, concerned about their goat professor. Galinda in an attempt to seem worried about the teacher states that since the professor never could pronounce her name correctly she would change her name to Glinda. (What? Yeah!)

Elphaba invites Glinda to go to the Emerald City with her and off they go! But when Elphaba finally gets to meet the Wizard harsh reality punches her in the face. Because you see, she wanted to tell him of all the things people had been doing to animals so he could stop it, but the thing was, he was actually behind all that. Furthermore he possessed no magic whatsoever, that’s why he was so interested in her, she had magic that could help him carry on his plan to separate humans from animals.

After learning all this Elphaba panics, grabs the spell book and runs for the roof. Glinda follows her. Elphaba can’t work for the wizard after all she’s heard and is resolute in running away and telling everyone the truth about the wizard. But as soon as she’s out his door he announces that she stole his spell book and that she’s a liar and wicked.

That leaves Elphie with very little options but to run, she enchants a broom for it to fly and asks Glinda if she would come with her. But Glinda decides to stay behind and hold off the guards so Elphaba can escape and there’s that moment that my eyes fill with tears and my mouth hangs open, when she freaking flies. I know how the whole thing works, where the machine holds her and how the effect is made but still it’s so freaking perfect that it does indeed seem as if she’s flying and quite literally Defying Gravity. End of act one with screams, tears and cheers!

On to act two and it opens with one of my favorite songs, Thank Goodness. Some time has passed and Glinda has been appointed to be Glinda, the good, kind of like a cheerleader to spread joy and hope to the people of OZ, or something. And Fiyero is now the captain of the Wizard’s guard and Elphaba is still in the run. The people from Oz now believe all sorts of weird things about Elphaba, like that she has a third eye, or that she can change her skin and even that her soul in so impure pure water can melt her.

While that happens we are brought to the estate of Elphaba’s family for she goes there to ask aid from her sister. Her sister is not at all happy to see her and confronts her, telling her that she never ever used her powers to help her get out of her wheelchair. Elphaba is taken aback but puts a spell on her sister’s diamond shoes and as they burn up and turn into ruby her sister can finally walk. She calls on Boq and tells him now they can be happy together because she can walk. But Boq is in love with Glinda and now that Nessa can walk he can finally tell Glinda how he feels. Those news are not welcome to Nessa who is so mad and so desperate to have Boq’s heart to herself that she starts chanting something from Elphaba’s spell book and Boq starts tugging his chest. Elphaba tries desperately to fix her sister’s mistake and after she’s taken care of Boq she goes away. We can’t see Boq and as he wakes up and comes out of his hiding place we see he’s become the Tin man, he has no heart. PRETTY COOL!

So Elphaba heads off to the Wizard’s place to try and free the winged monkeys she created by accident. The wizard finds her and tries to convince her to come to his side and he almost succeeds. He calls on the guards and who shows up but Fiyero who is absolutely stunned to see Elphaba and in a heartbeat has his riffle pointed to the Wizard and is telling Elphaba to run. Glinda arrives just to see this exchange and then Fiyero makes the decision to go with Elphaba.

Now it’ Glinda’s turn to sing I’m not that girl. Since she’s very upset she tells the Wizard that to get to Elphaba he should make her believe that something had happened to her sister. But the wizard knows that Elphaba is too smart and a rumor won’t do and that’s why a house was dropped on Nessa, the wicked witch of the East.

But before that happened Fiyero and Elphaba are having a romantic and fiery duet about how much they care for each other. It’s pretty hot. Elphaba though senses there’s something wrong and rushes to where her sister was and BAM, she’s been hit by a house.

Glinda is there paying her respects to Nessa and when Elphaba arrives they have an awesome catfight. The guards seize Elphaba and just as they are about to take her away Fiyero appears and holds Glinda as a hostage so Elphaba can escape. She does but he is seized and condemned to die. As Elphaba gets to his abandoned castle she’s trying to do any kind of magic to save him (No good deed).

When Glinda arrives in her castle Elphaba is pretty much defeated and doesn’t believe that even with all her power she can make a change for the better. So she hands her spell book to Glinda and says “Now it’s up to, for both of us” and they sing one of the most beautiful and tear producing duets in musical theater history, For Good. It’s about friendship and it lasting forever, I sing it with my sister and with my good, good friend Paula, I love them. Anyways, I cried a lot.

And then we see that iconic scene from The Wizard of Oz, the little girl throwing a bucket of water on her and Elphaba melting through a sheet, so we only shadows. When the sheet is drawn the only thing that’s left is Elphaba’s black hat that Glinda gave her all that time ago. I’m crying just writing this,  you can imagine how I was when I was actually seeing this, hot mess. Glinda takes the hat and goes on her bubble and we come back to the first scene of the musical.

Glinda then proceeds to send the wizard away because he wasn’t even from the land of Oz, he’s from our world. He did spend the whole show drinking from a green bottle when in distress and Glinda says she’s only seen another green bottle like that with one other person, Elphaba. The bottle belonged to her mother, and then we find out that Elphaba was actually the Wizard’s daughter and the reason why she had such powers was because she was a child of both worlds.

As the cries of joy from the people diminish a scarecrow enters and hits the floor 3 times and opens it up. He cries “It worked!”. Elphaba comes out from the trap door and we then learn that her spell was able to save Fiyero from execution but it had also transformed him into a scarecrow. And so they head off to another world never turning back to Oz and their friend Glinda never knowing that they were both alive.

Isn’t this like the best fanfiction ever written or what? The story of this musical is based on a book by Gregory Maguire who based her story in the Wizard of Oz movie and book, meaning, fanfiction.

Mike and me after the show
Well after the musical me and Mike went to the stage door because we wanted to congratulate the lady playing Elphaba. But it was so weird. There were a lot of people waiting out in the cold and some of the performers came out and autographed their programs and took pictures. Then suddenly this lady comes up to the line and says “Those are all the performers who will be coming out from this door tonight” and everybody leaves. Neither Elphaba nor Glinda came out to greet all those girls who were standing in the cold, I thought that was preposterous. I mean, seasoned stars from the Met, people who are so much bigger and older than these ladies come out the stage door every time and greet their fans. And don’t start me with “They are tired” “It’s a tough show” because 1- they wear microphones and 2 – Renée Fleming was also tired but she talked to everyone, signed everything she was given and took pictures with everyone that asked.

Anyways, after that me and Mike headed to Greenwich Village to meet our Russian friends of a late dinner or something. Getting there we happened to stumble upon a drunk opera student and it was hilarious, he made us add him on facebook right then. We met our friends in a diner and we just hanged out there, talked, ate, it was really fun! But then Mike had to pack and my mum was already freaking out so we left at about 1, 2 in the morning.

aren't we adorable?
On our way back uptown we met the nicest couple and talked to them for a bit. Mike left and we had this big hug moment and I was so sad he was leaving! The couple was really moved by our exchange and then I found out that, surprise, surprise, they were both opera singers! WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

And that’s basically it, that day was fun! Jut so you guys know the pictures from Wicked are from many different casts throughout the 10 years it's been on Broadway but I did put in more pictures of Shoshana Bean as Elphaba and Megan Hilty as Glinda because they are my favorites! 

And now it' freaking Once Upon a Time time PLUS the comeback of the last season of Drop Dead Diva! Tonight is gonna be awesome! Peace everyone!