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Tynan Davis
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Holy Opera Crossover! This is amazing! Thank you so much for posting this! I've never heard La Leontyne sing anything like this!
Oh Chuck! I was seriously coveting your loft space! (Yours and Andrew Collins'!) :)
As far as I can tell, opening night was a big hit. It was far from perfect, but I appreciate blips that keep me in check for the next time. The best part though, was that I had one of those out-of-body experiences during the Act 3 "card" trio. You know, the kind that happens in the twinkling of an eye, but is so layered and overflowing with awareness that time must have stopped to allow for all the action and you can't believe how sharp and ready you must be to receive all of it? Yeah, that happened. My character reads in the cards that she will meet a rich old man who wants to marry her, put her up in a fancy chateau, buy her more diamonds and precious stones than she could possibly wear, and then convenienly die. As Mercedes proclaims her happily widowed status, she wails a big, honking high note (it is opera, after all). It was in the lead up to the money note when I felt my breath, noticed my card (5 of swords - totally arbitrary, but I noticed), and felt the audience following me to center stage. On my inhalation I checked in with Maestro, who flashed a grand grin, and I was off, wailing like a cultivated banshee (Happy St. Patrick's Day!) and milking the tone and text for all it was worth. I know the supertitles translated the text, but the audience was with me, laughing with me, and playing with me in that twinkling moment of levity before Carmen portends her death at the hands of Don José. It was my evening's moment of magic, and singing my face off felt damn good! Thanks for letting me share this week with you and thank you for the warmth and encouragement! I'm off to Louisiana the end of next week to sing Handel's Messiah, followed by a month of preparation for my summer gig in VT with the Opera Company of Middlebury. I'll be playing a sexy slave-girl in Massenet's Thais. Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to the gym I go! Hi-ho the glamorous life! Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
I wrote of my shame and fear yesterday, and suddenly I'm seeing this recently posted TED Talk by Brené Brown (a fellow fifth-generation Texan) who researches shame and vulnerability. Who knew?! Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Carmen final dress rehearsal. Act II costume. Yesterday I mentioned a silent promise to do better, and I made good on it! I love making good on promises! Last night's rehearsal was more focused and I did not flub my French. I'm going to be so bold as to say that I think I made a downright sexy gypsy smuggler-lady! (Living the dream, people. Living. The. Dream.) Truth is, when I feel like I've done my best, it's not because the I didn't "mess up", it's because I told my part of the story as authentically as I could, and that I'm not just a body milling about, but a plot motivator. My Mercedes believes that she reinforces Carmen's power over Don Jose, adding to his madness. That's far more interesting than just singing the right notes and rhythms. Intent! My beautiful artist-friend (the one who preaches cross-discipline creativity) also attests that the art isn't as interesting as the story of the artist who created it. So I think about my story; where am I and how did I get here? It was over 7 years ago at a Christmas party when a sub-conscious yearning bubbled up and annouced itself to me. Surrounded by high school classmates who were always more interested in my effortlessly popular brothers, I stood and listened to their stories about exciting post-college lives with loves and high-paying jobs - a leggy blonde moving to London with her English fiance (I swear he was even wearing an ascot), or my middle school crush moving to China with his perfectly polished lady after vacationing in Goa or Bali or wherever it is the beautiful people go. It was suddenly my turn to share and I couldn't bring myself to say that I was just living in my brother's pool house, teaching teenagers how to sing beautiful vowel shapes. I couldn't do it. I was ashamed of my cowardice - ashamed that I was more comfortable encouraging the dreams of others than pursuing my own. I was envious of these peers living beyond the roads and codes of our youth. So I lied. I lied, and proclaimed my intent to move to New York and try my hand at a career. It shocked me when I heard those words fall out of my face. And that it took the paralysis of shame and envy to uncover my true desire is not a point of pride either, but what makes me very proud is that I made good on that not-so-silent promise. I did not want to be a liar, so I packed all my clothes and went alone to a city I did not know. I set my intent, was my own plot motivator, and discovered that however negative the motivating factor may be, when the manifestation of it is a life lived more fully and fearlessly, I'm suddenly very grateful for my fear and my gifts. Birmingham, AL may not be London or Bali, but 3 hours... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
That makes me grin! Thanks, Bill! Now where's that convertible...?? ha!
As Mercedes... Never in my life have I had to contend with so much hair. It's so foreign and distracting that I actually tried to blame it for some of my mistakes in last night's orchestra tech rehearsal. Lame excuse, amazing wig. With each rehearsal comes a new layer of character, new opportunities and responsibilities. We began three weeks ago as ourselves, strangers in street clothes, safely tucked behind music stands and relative anonymity. The percussive accompaniment of the piano a subconscious metronome, keeping ensembles tight and harmonic textures even and easier to hear. Enter costumes, wigs, cigarettes and handkerchiefs, bottles and mugs. The on-stage business becomes more complex. Fluid, but needing attention. Enter the orchestra. Can you hear the basson or french horn that supplies your pitch? Or can you only hear strings? Can you hear the rhythmic pulses of each measure while your only accompaniment is a tremolo? Can you even see the maestro? The ensembles loosen, words are flubbed. Thankfully we're all friends now so we don't judge each other, just ourselves. Silent promises to be better are made and the show goes on. Multi-tasking, anyone?? It's more magic than multi-tasking. Our playground is a stage, and on that stage exists a world of stories that want to be told. Costumes and wigs transport us to a different time, but the psychology of the human experience remains unchanged. Today, like 19th century Spain, we reconcile faith and expectations, we make poor choices and face the consequences, we are turned on by talent and power, and as Pat Benatar revealed: love is a battlefield. Final dress rehearsal tonight! More to come... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
YES!! The pup was on duty and not too thrilled with my being there so long! He/she did not venture from its post, however.
Oh, Laura!! She's the best! Thank you for posting these clips! What I'd give to have her gift of timing...
I'm not a hipster, but my camera is. A strolling pianist, giving his hands a rest. I love a man in a suit. Hello, friend. Bonjour Julie (1971) by Joan Mitchell Square or round? Stood head and shoulders above the rest. Living room as downtown store front. Voyeurism made easy. The show opens in three days... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
We're having fun playing with French vocabulary here in Birmingham. Our maestro is a charming Frenchman from Toulouse whose love of Carmen is contagious. His face is as expressive as any character's should be, and he's not so stereotypically French as to discourage our butchering of his native tongue outside of the score. Some favorites of the week: "Michaela's aria was gorgeuse today", or "je don't know where we are manger-ing", or the ever popular "Maestro, vous voulez the poulet avec the buffalo sauce?" It's not exactly Mérimée but it's a welcome divertissement! Truthfully, I'm not feeling particularly creative or interesting at the moment, despite the hours of fun with uvular "r"s and mixed vowels. I have a beautiful painter-friend who preaches the gospel of cross-discipline creativity, and I desperately need an altered view. The novel on my nightstand has been there for 3 months; can't seem to get through it. There's a bit of flamenco in the opera, but I'm not breaking a good sweat and my arms are awkward. I went to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art, but it was for opera fundraisers, so my time wasn't exactly my own. I'm not bored with my work, I'm bored with myself! I feel so selfish and one-dimensional. On one hand, from a vocal standpoint I'm wonderfully productive and focused, and I trust my voice and my ability to deliver a great product. On the other hand, I need some outside inspiration to invite me in for a bit. I need a playdate! Any suggestions for a wandering minstrel in need of creative fuel? In the movie of my life that plays in my head, this would be the time when my grandmother, played by Maggie Smith of course, would tell me that I must take a lover. And I would gasp a scandalized gasp and my ribs would painfully press against my corset and I might need my smelling salts or a vacation in Italy. Maybe language play is my lover du jour?? Whilst singing all this French, I've been meditating on a concept that collaborative pianist Warren Jones introduced to me this past January, called the "accent d'insistance". As I understand it, originally French music was born out of translating Italian or German songs into French, which led to some awkward syllabic emphases. In order to make the music sound more "French", the singer had to "insist" that the appropriate accent happen, even if it fell on a weak or unaccented musical beat. When I asked our French maestro about it he responded with "You've got me there; does it mean you have to work extra hard to get it right?" Great. Exactly. Good talk, Maestro. Maybe this will help explain: Below is the beginning of the second verse of Carmen's Habanera. There are 2 strong beats per measure, the last note of the second measure is musically weak, but it's the first syllable of the word "surprendre" and therefore needs a little oomph -... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
You guys! Thanks for having me back! I said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not a writer. I sometimes try to parade as one, but really I'm a hack and am much more comfortable breaking out into song (because that's normal). I mean, I still can't adjust to putting only one space after a period! Why did that even need changing?? Propriety be damned! I shall stick to two. And yes, I sang that dramatic statement in my head. I'm writing from Birmingham, Alabama where I am singing in a production of Bizet's Carmen with Opera Birmingham. It's a funny thing, the freelance singer's life. Your home is an extended-stay suite. Your neighbors are other singers, a pianist, a director, a conductor, and various soccer and/or dance teams and their overly competitive parents. You're removed from your every-day "real" life, but this isn't "pretend" life either. We're at work and in our case, going to the office means singing your face off, opening up to criticism and judgement, and hoping to make a lot of musical magic happen in a very short amount of time. It's an amazing (challenging) creative chemistry that is uncovered when reckoning the preconceived visions of the singers, the projected vision of the director, and the conductor who has to hold it all together, bless his heart. It's a freaking miracle that it all comes together. I will articulate more of my musical experience here in Birmingham, but while we're still in rehearsals, I will abstain from sharing details that don't relate to my individual process. (I have a process? What? I mean, of course I have a process!) I would like to share a piece that my castmates and I bonded over during one of our first social gatherings. Or we bonded over the collective schadenfreude, I'm not exactly sure, but this painful video is from a concert version of Carmen. Below is the Act IV finale, the final scene of the show. Carmen and José are having one last dispute, but this Carmen mixed some meds and can't quite get it together. A cautionary tale of pharmaceutical woe!! Hope you cringe and enjoy! Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
It's completely cliché, but the sky is bigger in Texas. It just is. Today's was cloudless and a crisp cornflower blue. The pecan trees are bare, the fruits of which have been gathered from backyards and given as gifts to family and neighbors. I took pecans for granted until I moved to New York. It pains me to pay so much for these nuts that dug into my bare feet anytime I ran outside. The annoyance becomes a commodity. I feel that way about my voice, too. I remember my brothers complaining to my parents, "why does she have to sing ALL the time???!!!" The annoyance becomes a point of pride. I sing all the time because I have to. When I don't sing or if I'm sick and can't sing, I go through a type of withdrawal and I become distracted and irritable. Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me until I remember that a few days have gone by and I haven't really sung or practiced. The withholding of expression obscures my full-functioning, present self. Weird. On this first day of a new year and last day of my guest blogging adventure, I'm so glad to have had the lovliest week of cross-discipline creativity. Thank you, Stacey. Attempting to articulate a few aspects of my musical life has been really fun for me. I remember the agony I felt in school when faced with writing assignments. If I may confess, my fourth grade book project was actually written by my mom. I procrastinated until the night before it was due and had a the kind of meltdown that only a spoiled ten year-old can perform. I never could look Mr. Self in the eyes after that. Mr. Self, if you're out there, I'm really sorry, but ultimately glad to report that my mom didn't have to write any of this for me. The annoyance becomes pleasure. Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
I came as a surprise to my parents. The product of a champagne brunch (must explain my bubbly disposition), I am the youngest of four children and the only girl. Understandably, I was simultaneously spoiled and benignly neglected. I got away with a lot and my parents were never hesitant to pass me on to any willing party. My mom's best friend is the founder and director of the Children's Chorus of San Antonio. When I was finally old enough to join, my mother promptly signed me up and bought herself a couple of hours of peace and quiet in the dimly lit corridors of the rehearsal space. While she caught up on reading and breathing, I was caught up in a collective of small voices learning how to sing. My memory's ability to perfectly recall words and melodies from eight seasons of music-making reflects the positive valence of the experience and is a testament to the thoroughness of the teaching and the malleability of young brains. Oh, what I would give to absorb and retain as I once could... But I think words set to a tune attach themselves to memory more readily. Singing is learning that is auditory, visual, and kinesthetic - reinforcement on multiple levels. Why would we eliminate this type of learning from our schools??? I lament, but I digress. I am not a researched defender of the Arts, only a grateful beneficiary of them. What I want to share is a gem of a poem. A text set to music in 1934 by Benjamin Brittan that I learned my very first season with the Children's Chorus. Thanks to the interwebs, I learned something new about this favorite carol. A New Year Carol Here we bring new water from the well so clear, For to worship God with this happy new year. Sing levy-dew, sing levy-dew, the water and the wine, The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine. Sing reign of fair maid with gold upon her toe. Open you the west door and turn the old year go. Sing levy-dew, sing levy dew, the water and the wine, The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine. Sing reign of fair maid with gold upon her chin. Open you the east door and let the new year in. Sing levy-dew, sing levy-dew, the water and the wine, The seven bright gold wires and the bugles that do shine. Tonight, I will raise a glass (levez a Dieu = levy-dew???) of the beverage that led to my being here and look forward, with hopeful anticipation, to the joy of newness. Happy New Year everyone! Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
I loved Laura Orem's post yesterday. Despite the distractions and worries, we keep trying to make the world a better, kinder place. From the heavy-hitting global initiatives set forth by The Elders to a group of young, impassioned filmmakers desperate to end the use of child soldiers in Northern Uganda, I marvel at people's commitment to live beyond mere survival to the promise of creation and sharing; to be revolutionary in the causes of humanity. Like our speck of a planet in an ever-expanding universe, our smallness is not insignificant, especially when we are called to step out into our communities and connect. I can't begin to compare my artistic contributions to the often dangerous endeavors of those in war-torn and destitute places, but, at this point in my life, it is the best I can do, so I do it as best I can. The great gift of doing what you love is that you are often surrounded by like-minded people who challenge and inspire you. A supremely dear friend of mine, who sings all over the country with various professional choirs (Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Conspirare and Roomful of Teeth to name a few), is one such soul. He is a founder of the nascent ensemble Convergence. They are young, super-cool, fiercely intelligent, and boldly commited to generously sharing their gifts on local, national, and international levels. When I think of excellent examples of sending beauty and positivity into the world, it is this group of artists that I see. Below is a video of a performance of Magnificat by Arvo Pärt. Just try to not be transported. For more information on Arvo Pärt check here or read this great article from the NY Times Magazine. P.S. - Forgive the excessive linkage in today's post, but this stuff should be on your radar if it isn't already! Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
what I sound like: This recording is from February 24, 2010 during my semi-final round of the Joy In Singing competition at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at the Performing Arts Library. I basically threw my flipcam at a friend in the audience and asked her to document. She didn't have much say in the matter. I'm pretty sure the text is familiar, but just in case: Going to heaven! by Emily Dickenson (1830-1886) Going to heaven! I don't know when -- Pray do not ask me how! Indeed I'm too astonished To think of answering you! Going to Heaven! How dim it sounds! And yet it will be done As sure as flocks go home at night Unto the Shepherd's arm! Perhaps you're going too! Who knows? If you should get there first Save just a little space for me Close to the two I lost -- The smallest "Robe" will fit me And just a bit of "Crown" -- For you know we do not mind our dress When we are going home -- I'm glad I don't believe it For it would stop my breath -- And I'd like to look a little more At such a curious Earth! I'm glad they did believe it Whom I have never found Since the might Autumn afternoon I left them in the ground. Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
My undergraduate voice professor, the late David W. Jones, would lean back in his pleather avocado-green swivel chair and say "Darlin'." (This was East Texas) "You have got to stand flat-footed and sing your sounds!" He'd sometimes say other things like, "I've got to get a martini, or I'm gonna get the SHAKES!" He knew how he liked a voice - virile and well-supported, and he knew how he liked his gin - with just a glance of vermouth. January 30 will the be the five-year anniversary of his death. I miss him everyday, but he's always close at hand because I carry him with me just as I do my instrument. Surely those of his vocal progeny who sing or teach still have his words in their minds and on their tongues. Just this afternoon I was teaching a lesson and heard his tenor drawl in my memory as I informed my student that "When singing a diphthong, find the principle vowel sound and stay on it as loooooong as possible. Then, in the twinkling of an eye, sing the unaccented vowel." A solid and easily communicated concept, especially for this diction nerd. I may be so bold as to claim that I think I might have been an all-time favorite of his. At least he was really good at making it seem so. My years of undergraduate work are mostly blurry vignettes of random arias, 50¢ pitchers of beer at the now-burned down Jitterbugs, and the overwhelming sense that I never delivered on the promise of vocal development. That I offered little return on the investment. Blame a poor work ethic or claim late bloomer status, but as I could sense the department's mild, but general disappointment, Dr. Jones would put on a record of Mirella Freni or Anna Moffo, we'd talk about Florence (he wanted his gravestone to read "I'd rather be in Florence"), and he'd say "Darlin', you're going to wake up one mornin' and it's going fall into place. You just have to be patient and grow into it a bit." Are you kidding me? What about standing flat-footed and singing my sounds now? How do I do that now? What are my sounds?? Why can't I find them now? Well, I finally found them, but most of the discovery has happened in the last year, the better part of which I have spent being somewhat withdrawn and at a distance, seeking perspective. It has been very evident to some friends, and others would never know, but in an effort to find answers about my voice, my vocation, and my place in the greater scheme of the world, I have sought to streamline things a bit. Always easier said than done, but it's a process, and an important one. My mind is always busy. Rarely quiet, and often opinionated - extremely sober and encouraging, but unfortunately, also very irrational and negative. It's no surprise that what's happening inside emotionally, can reflect vocally, i.e. erratic vibrato,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Last night my parents and I went on a little cultural excursion here in Alexandria, LA: A family field trip to the drive-thru daquiri shacks! That's right, folks! Drive-thru booze. There are 3 frozen watering holes close to home, so, like Melchoir, Balthazar and Kaspar, we followed yonder neon signage, giggling all the while, and singing verses of Good King Wencelas in honor of St. Stephen's Day. (That's what the Magi did on the way, right??) In honor of the approaching Epiphany, here's a re-write of We Three Kings accompanied by some photographic evidence of our silliness. Please sing as you read! These 3 cups of daquiri are served to us whilst in a car. Frosty Fact'ry, you attract me - your sign like the Eastern Star. Oh! Serve us mudslide. Serve us nog. Serve us needed hair of the dog! In the Bayou, you can drive-thru and maintain your Yuletide fog. If you're driving, follow the law. Keep the wrapper on the straw. Our server Dalton, bears no fault when we drink like it's Mardi Gras. Oh! Serve us mudslide. Serve us nog. Serve us needed hair of the dog! In the Bayou, you can drive-thru and maintain your Yuletide fog. Loooziana, I must profess - You have mastered the art of excess. Parties, gumbo, cracklins, you know... you greet with unmatched noblesse. Oh! Serve us mudslide. Serve us nog. Serve us needed hair of the dog! In the Bayou, you can drive-thru and maintain your Yuletide fog. Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
I'm from Texas, live in New York, and am currently wintering in Louisiana. I haven't the slightest clue what Boxing Day is. I never asked my Canadian former roommate and my English violinist-friend says it has to do with helping the less fortunate and "boxing" up charitable donations the day after Christmas. I choose to picture a voluntary, boozy, postprandial family slugfest celebrating making it through Christmas without incident. I'm pretty sure we're both wrong. Anyways, happy bank holiday to all my friends in the Commonwealth! (And happy first day of Kwanzaa, too!) I just want to get this thought out of the way: I am not a writer. (I feel so much better now!) Therefore, gentle reader, go easy and know how intimidated I am at this moment. I'm in no way issuing an apology for what may spew forth, but I think context is important. Truthfully, I'm not foreign to this community of writers, but my only experience is with dead ones. Lyricists and librettists of decades and centuries past. My image of writers usually includes a quill pen and candlelight. Are there any last holdouts in today's writing community? Old school blotters and ink-stained fingers? More than the drama and costumes and wigs and make-up, what's interesting to me about being a singer of opera is, regardless of technological aides (digital recording devices offering immediate aural and visual feedback, etc), voices are trained today in essentially the same manner as voices a century or two ago. The finer points could be argued, no doubt, but in broad terms, there aren't too many ways for a human voice to be heard over an orchestra without amplification. The musculature hasn't changed, we haven't seen laryngeal evolution of any kind. We are still dependent on our body's acoustical resonant amplifiers and a very complex coordination of neurons and muscles to compete sucessfully with strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. I think it's pretty damn cool actually. Sometimes it's technique that keeps me coming back for more and not the stage theatrics. But back to words. I like them. A lot. I have only a pedestrian mastery of this crazy language so I am an excellent and eager audience for those of you who confidently sling words about with color and abandon. Fundamentally, though, I just like the way words feel inside my mouth. Don't you? I often like words more for their sounds than their meanings. Malfeasance (the "l" to "f" transition is satisfying). Constancy (love the meaning, but how how nice to close to the "n" twice before sending the last syllable off into the ether??). With all the fricatives and sub-glottal stopped plosives and vowels moving all around, how could you not love language??? And if you think all vowels and sounds just sit arbitrarily inside your mouth, you're wrong. Check out this little visual aid from The Dialect Coach. It's impossible to look at without trying to intone the vowels to feel how they move around your mouth...... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Dec 23, 2010