Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Opera Tools has arrived!

My friends!

I have a new project underway, and have been focusing my blogging activity in that direction.

Meet: www.OperaTools.com!

I have big dreams for this little site, but right now I am slowly uploading the mountain of opera production information I have amassed over the years. It has always been a major source of frustration for me that, upon getting hired for a new-to-me opera, I could not access simple resource materials... scene breakdowns, standard cut lists, bow lists, a reference list of good books to read. We (production people) all use these things, why do we have to re-invent the wheel every time?!

In addition, I want to make the site singer-friendly as well, and will continually add character studies, and eventually I'd like to add a podcast section, where I interview interesting opera folk about their thoughts on character and performance, etc.

So many things! So much for me to learn!

In the meantime, do visit me there.... www.OperaTools.com.

Today's post.... "Save your Brain Space with a Tickler File!"  Because you know I cannot help but offer tips/hacks in addition to academic info.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Race to the End of May

I have been away from my sweet little home for far too long... and am now on a countdown to my return.... 14 days!   As delighted as I am, I really cannot believe my time in Chicago is coming to an end.   I've survived the Great White Winter, some very trying show situations, and made a heap of lovely friends.  

Here is what I am up to from now until the end of May:

  1. Epic packing (of course). How can one single gal accumulate so much STUFF in one rented room???
  2. Finishing this endless endless show at Lyric.  Saying goodbye to my lovely colleagues. 
  3. Returning to my sweet little home.  Spring cleaning and time in the garden!
  4. Production plans galore!  
    1. This week: meeting in Madison to see the town and the company I am working for in the fall.
    2. Next week: major production meeting for the show I am directing in JANUARY. 
    3. Getting serious about detailed plans for my summer show.... much of the big picture stuff is taken care of, now I just have to figure out how it all happens. hahah
    4. Spending time on slow and steady learning Nozze di Figaro, due next spring. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I've been flirting with an idea, and I think I am about to take plunge:

A Make/Thrift/Mend Challenge.

Basically this: that I purchase no NEW clothing for 6 months.  I'd like to say 1 year but I don't trust myself. hahah.

Lisa Congdon is doing it.
Magpie Girl did it.
Katrina Rodabaugh is doing it
This gal did it.
This gal did it


1.  Money.
It is not like I am some crazy shopaholic, but I do tend to buy a couple of items on a semi-regular basis. Things I don't truly need. It is a waste of money, and I don't even really love many things I am spending my money on.

2. Large-scale commercialism.
It really pains me to walk into a big box store (or really almost any dept store) and see racks and racks of horrible, cheaply-made (but still expensively priced!) factory clothing.  The materials are synthetic, usually ugly, and the conditions under which they are made are highly suspect, from a humanitarian perspective.  I know my tiny spending budget won't make a big difference to the global economy (ha!) but there is no need for me to add my monetary vote to the current system.

3.  Waste. 
Alternately, the thrift shops are full to the rim of gently used clothing just begging for a new home. Why let all that beautiful material and workmanship go to waste?

4.  Creativity. 
I am HOPING this will spur me to break out the ol' sewing machine and get to making some of my own clothes again!

So, here we go... from now until Sept 1, 2014, I shall purchase no new clothing.  I shall rely only on my current closet, and/or anything I can make, thrift or mend.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Artist Crush: Becca Stadtlander

I was browsing around Anthropologie the other day (because browse is really all I can do... ps. hysterical blog post about that HERE) and ran across a gorgeous notebook, featuring the work of new-to-me artist Becca Stadtlander.     She was featured seller on Etsy, so I guess her talent is not really a secret.  

I am entranced.  Love the color, detail, naive style.  This is singing my song!!

Other bloggers love Becca Stadtlander too....
A peek inside her studio HERE.
Another homage to her lovely work (and many many others!) HERE.

See tons of her work at her gorgeous Etsy shop.   Enjoy.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

The In-Between Time; and Rake notes

I'm in that strange time in the life of an opera.... the show has opened, so rehearsals are over, and after a couple of days of rest and recovery, I am suddenly adrift in unaccustomed free time, with my work duties limited mostly to show days.  Don't get me wrong, I have a million things I SHOULD be doing, but somehow I am fairly useless, mostly reading, diving the internet rabbit holes, feeling bereft.   After a day or so, I will get truly sick of this and find some project to dive into, but for now I am just flirting with productivity..... polishing up a cut list here, typing translations there, reading old blog posts.  Like you do.  

This morning I looked at my various posts on "opera" and was pleased to find so many of the program notes I've written over the years.  It was a real walk down memory lane for me, and brought back so vividly my concerns about each of these special shows.   

Ironically, I did not manage to post my notes from what was arguably one of my most satisfying projects to date: The Rake's Progress at Wolf Trap Opera.   Perhaps because I struggled so mightily with them, and the opera itself.  Wrestling that beast was a massive task.  haahaha.     So, without further ado....

In the graveyard: Craig Colclough, Eric Barry
(pic by Kim Witman)

A Hero for Our Time?  Looking at Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress

On the heels of World War II, Stravinsky and Auden offer us a frothy confection concealing a rather grim modern outlook. Listening to the score, one is immediately aware of the dichotomy presented by its creators.  Relying on classical forms and textures, Stravinsky nonetheless has created a musical world all his own, one that sounds vaguely familiar, yet is askew and often unsettling.  Similarly, Auden’s libretto features a flowery language that calls to mind times past, but the content is modern, with a complex psychological viewpoint.   The two paint a hero who, while beautifully constrained in the trappings of a traditional classical opera, struggles to find meaning and purpose in a world that simply does not make sense anymore.  An unlikely hero, but one that may be all too familiar for today’s audience.   
The perhaps ironically named Tom Rakewell actually does not do “rake” very well. To quote the opera itself,  “He’s but a shuttleheaded lad: Not quite a gentleman, nor quite completely vanquished by the bad.”  Tom has everything going for him… looks, charm, a nice inheritance, the love of a good woman… but he cannot seem to find the internal motivation to realize his full potential as a human being.   He thinks he will find meaning in material pursuits and schemes, but it all ends in ruin.  Unlike many of opera’s rakish bad boys, he has a conscience, and that makes Tom a decidedly modern hero, with a decidedly modern resolution…  that is to say, not a clear one at all.  Rather than finding greatness in true love,  heroic deeds or other traditional operatic pursuits, Tom’s only real quest is to save himself…and he cannot.   
Our production seeks to illustrate visually the musical and dramatic complexities found in the score.   The story begins in a dreamlike place. While firmly rooted in the familiar, it is almost too perfect. Tom’s departure from the country means a shift from his classical norms.  His world becomes more surreal as he struggles to appropriate the values of a more modern existence.  The people he encounters on his progress are not quite “real,” but symbols of his experience.   The opera proper ends where it began:  with Tom, alone, gazing into the fathomless sky, full of questions that will not be answered.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Drink this Delicious Drink

from Hungry Again
Let me tell you about the most perfectly satisfying and delicious cocktail in the known world:

 The Michelada.  

I cannot believe more folks do not know about this beverage.... it is salty, spicy, refreshing and inexpensive.  It is easy to make and there are endless variations.    But enough talk...

Begin with a normal pint glass.
Quarter a lime, then rub the rim with lime juice.
Dunk the rim of the glass in some coarse salt (margarita salt, if you have some lying around).
Add a few cubes of ice to the glass, then squeeze the rest of your lime on top.
Add several generous glugs of your favorite chili sauce.  Like Cholula or Tapatio.  I use a tablespoon or two.
Throw in a dash of Worcestershire sauce.  If you forget this, no biggie.
Pour in the mexican beer of your choice.  Tecate, Modelo.... your choice.
Stir.  Enjoy.

Some people add other spices. Some add Maggi, or even chicken broth.  Tomato juice or Clamato is popular.  I am a simple gal and cannot be trusted to have such fancy ingredients on hand. Luckily, the michelada is practically foolproof.   Enjoy one this evening. I will be!

A great article (and recipe) from the New York Times Magazine: "It's Michelada Time"
A nice blog post with some variant recipes: from Hungry Again

Friday, October 11, 2013

Summer/Fall Reading 2013

Book Roundup Time!
So, I was looking through my Kindle history and realized I hadn't shared in a while, but I've certainly done some GOOD reading this summer and fall.  As you can see below, I seem to have a strange affinity for both horror and young adult lit... pure escapism, my friends.   I am quite sure there are other books missing from this list, because.... I discovered my public library has e-books!  Free checkouts on some awesome titles.  You get them for 2 weeks, then they are returned through the magic of Wifi.  Anyway, if you are looking for a good read, here you go... all my favorite reads since June of 2013.