Thursday, October 20, 2011 bella Italia!

It's wonderful to be back. Although I've spent more time in Germany than in Italy in the last few years, I love both of them. The food, the air, the helpful people, the language--oh, and did I mention the food? In Italy, as in France, a quick meal is fresh and delicious. A simple piece of foccaccia becomes a savory delicacy.

I flew from Frankfurt to Milan, which turned out to be an accidental revelation, as I usually take trains for this type of journey. Still, this is a quick trip and this was the second of three legs, going from CA to DE to Milan and then to Brescia (train for the last). And the revelation? Well, we flew over the Alps--which were amazingly gorgeous, snow covered to the north, furry, brown and green to the south. I wish I'd had my camera, but foolishly, I'd stuffed it (well, actually my cell phone, as I don't carry an actual camera) deep into the recesses of my carry on. A wonderful Polaroid moment missed...

Right now, I'm in Brescia, Italy. So what's the first thing to do (after a brief nap)?

Watch a soccer game at the hotel bar, along with a light snack. No smoking: oh, the joy! That's one change I'm grateful for over time.

It was a great match, between Bayern Monaco (Munich!) and Napoli. Munich scored very early on and the game ended in a 1-1 tie. The guys at the hotel bar were cheering for Naples, but--as I'm so often in Munich--I had to cheer (silently, of course) for the team in black. Both sides were great to watch.

The next day, after about 11 hours of sleep--I don't normally sleep on planes--I did what any self-respecting American does whenever possible (except not usually me): I went to the mall, sad to say. In my defense, it's the local shopping center, and I needed to pick up a few supplies.

Next, the Duomo. Brescia has a new and an old, both closed during the long lunch hours (sigh). Guess when I was there? Forgot my camera (phone). Yet another of many Polaroid moments missed. I seem to make a habit of living my life instead of getting pictures of it. I'll have to get a picture before I leave so that I can post it.

It shocks me how blocked my Italian is in my brain at the moment: German pops into my head reliably whenever I try to think of what to say. I don't know if I'll be here long enough for that to shake loose or not. While I learn languages quickly and they do come back for me, they get rusty so quickly that it's very, very humbling.

Oh, and Freia? Well, that role rocks! I hope to sing her many more times in the future. But for now, I've got one more performance of Das Rheingold in this run after I return to sunny CA. Verismo Opera, however, will be performing it again in Vallejo this weekend, Oct. 22/23, with my double-cast role partner.

What I'm reading: I've been plowing through Patricia Briggs' Mercedes Thompson series, a recommendation from my bibliophilic niece--an affliction shared by many in my extended family. I do love her protagonists and can't put the books down, although they have too much horror, vampirism, and gore for my personal taste. I also just finished Erica Verrillo's excellent MG (Middle Grade) Phoenix Rising Trilogy. It takes a few pages to really get rolling, but once it does, wow! Clearly an allegorical "green" tale, the story is both Elissa's quest and the quest to restore the world she lives in, with the four elements (earth, air, fire, water) playing crucial roles. No more details, as that's enough of a spoiler as it is.

What I'm listening to: Das Rheingold (can't turn the soundtrack off in my head), a little Italian pop, and Otello with Freni and Vickers. Great pairing!

What I'm learning: same old, same old (focused audition rep), but I love it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book Review Repost and Das Rheingold (nochmal...)

Wow: two posts in two weeks? I must be losing my occasional touch...or at least am at risk of being a frequent blogger instead of an occasional one.

Shameless plug moment: Verismo Opera's Das Rheingold opens at the Mira Theater in Vallejo, where it will show for the next two weekends (Oct. 15/16, 22/23), after a first performance at the Mildred Owens Concert Hall in Pacifica on Oct. 8.

In Vallejo, I'm singing Freia on Oct. 16 only (due to my tricky singing/travel schedule--starting Oct. 17 I'll be in northern Italy and then briefly Bavaria). But I'll be back in town in time to be Freia again with Verismo at the Hillside in Berkeley on Nov. 6 at 2 p.m....more perhaps on a later post for that.

We have a wonderful group of singers:
Wotan: John Minagro
Donner: Anders Froehlich, Steve Zimmermann
Loge: Tom Clark
Froh: Mark Narins
Alberich: Joe Kinyon
Mime: Rick Bogart
Fasolt: Anders Froehlich, Roger Smith
Fafner: Tristan Robben
Fricka: Leslie Keenan, Vismaya Lhi
Freia: Nanette McGuinness, Jennifer Rogers
Erda: Marsha Sims, MaryAnne Stanislaw
Woglinde: Marissa Lenhardt, Jill Wagoner
Wellgunde: Carol Otsuki Hoover
Flosshilde: Kat Cornelius, Ellen Yeung
Nibelungen: Rick Bogart, Judy Bogart, Rick Hyde, John Rhoads Jr., Robert McIvor

Stage Director, Frederick Winthrop, Assist. Director, Eliza O'Malley
Conductor, Michael Shahani, leading a 12-piece chamber orchestra with brass and winds, plus Skye Atman at the keyboard.

We are (obviously) double cast...

On another note--or perhaps better, page--I occasionally write book reviews (note that adverb, folks), and it's been pointed out to me that I should repost them here. Here's my latest, which I wrote for Lynn Goodwin's Writer Advice , with her permission.


Written by Lish McBride and reviewed by YT (yours truly)

Ever since the Twiilight Saga (by Stephanie Meyer, for those few readers who've had a Rip-van-Winkle kind of decade), creatures of the night have been the latest craze. First it was vampires, next werewolves. Then werewolves became passé, and so now we've moved on to zombies. Had enough? Thinking it's past the time to return to reading about plain Jane human beings who somehow survive without any extraordinary occult powers or transformative skills?

Don't abandon the world of the undead quite yet, at least not until you've read Lish McBride's entry into the YA paranormal scene, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. As the title implies, it's clever, funny-punny, fast-paced, and witty. Yet, despite its horror, blood 'n guts, and the occasional moment of true gruesomeness, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is, at its heart, a wonderful coming of age tale--something that I'm a total sucker for. The story is a great read, with characters, plot, voice, innovation, and pacing that make it very hard to put down. Personally, I zoomed through it in one quick slurp.

The story begins with hapless, dropout Sam who works at a dead-end job at a burger joint. One fateful day, when Sam's enjoying a regular game of potato hockey, his life takes an abrupt turn...for the better? For the worse? You decide...

If you don't know what a necromancer is, I'm going to let you look it up. Or even better, you might go ahead and read the book. Just beware of the gore.

What I'm reading: The Penderwicks at Point Moulette, the third in Jeanne Birdsall's award-winning MG Penderwicks series; To Tell the Story: Poems of the Holocaust (by Yala Korwin); and After Every War: Twentieth Century Women Poets, Eavan Boland trans. and ed.

What I'm listening to/ studying: Handel's Giulio Cesare and Verdi's Otello. That's going to go on for a while. Revisiting some Puccini (Liu and Mimi), and my beloved Rusalka's Song to the Moon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Comic-Con and Das Rheingold

(Pictured: the Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels team: Foschini, McGuinness, Salicrup, Petranek. Not shown: Nantier)

Comic Con? Wasn't that in July?

Yes, but that's why this is called an occasional blog...Because I only occasionally have time and opportunity to post when I'm not on the road and even only occasionally then, too.

So....I went to Comicon this year--just one day, and my first time at the San Diego mega-event. Although I've been to WonderCon in SF before, Comic-Con is huge in comparison. Actually, it's just huge. Period. While there, I met the wonderful team at Papercutz (Terry Nantier, Jim Salicrup, and Michael Petranek)--the Italian writer behind the Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels, Michele Foschini, and his girlfriend Caterina. Overwhelming, but great fun.

Right after Comic-Con, my Baroque chamber group, the Vinaccesi Ensemble, performed a program of eighteenth century solo cantatas by Benedetto Vinaccesi at Old First Concerts in SF with our new harpsichord player, Susie Fong. We now also have a new Baroque cellist, Hallie Pridham. Welcome, Hallie and Susie!

The Vinaccesi Ensemble will be making our first recording this fall, with a grant from the SF Friends of Chamber Music. We'll be joined by bass Kirk Eichelberger for a CD of Northern Italian solo cantatas from around 1700. We'll be on Centaur Recordings, with Michael Demeyer as the engineer. More news soon...

Somewhat shameless plug: next up for me is the role of Freia in Das Rheingold with Verismo Opera. The first performance will be Oct. 8 in Pacifica, and it runs the rest of the month in Vallejo, ending with a final performance on Nov. 6 at the Hillside Club in Berkeley. Freia is a kick: I'd say "ho-jo-to-ho," except that's the wrong Ring opera. This is my first Wagner opera from the other side of the stage lights, and I'm enjoying it immensely. Do come and see it if you're around.

If you're interested, you can read "The Curse and Glory of the Ring! , Jean Bartlett's article in the Pacifica Tribune for the Pacifica performance.
Happy New Year to those for whom this is the time of the New Year!

Music I'm studying and learning: the roles of Desdemona and Cleopatra for upcoming performances in 2012. I'm also watching videos of Otello (the Verdi), Giulio Cesare, and Othello (the Shakespeare)
What I'm reading: Modern Poems on the Bible, ed. David Curzon; Dragon's Bone by Patricia Briggs (a re-read), and more...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Back from Deutschland

This past spring, I did more than my normal share of crossing the Atlantic pond back and forth and then back again, in too short a time span, with meetings and auditions in Germany, Italy, and Austria. I made some great new friends, enjoyed visiting with some old ones, and got some positive results from the whole effort(more on those when contracts are firmly in hand...)

While I was in D-land, I started studying scores by some wonderful Jewish composers who perished in the Holocaust, in preparation for a program I'm putting together for 2012/13. Looking through these pieces evokes such unspeakable sadness. It's horrible when a life is cut short by human action, be it the life of a talented young artist, a mature composer, or "just" a normal person. The Kaleko/ Garner project, Chanson fuer Morgen--which we premiered in April--addresses this, too.

Now that I'm back, though, it's Vinaccesi time. Is that some kind of rare northern Italian vintage micro-brew? Not one bit, not even a sip.

Besides being devilishly difficult to spell, Benedetto Vinaccesi is the name of an obscure seventeenth century Italian composer, most of whose works didn't survive to the present. He's also the namesake for the Baroque chamber group I'm in, the Vinaccesi Ensemble. We are recording all 8 of his extant solo cantatas later this summer and we'll be performing 6 of them at the end of July in SF. They are quirky, expressive pieces, and well worth investigating.

Shameless plug: the Ensemble has some great players and singers: Jonathan Smucker (tenor), Kindra Scharich (mezzo-soprano), Kirk Eichelberger (bass), Amy Brodo (cello), Sarge Gerbode (archlute), and Jonathan Davis (harpsichord). Check us out at Old First Concerts on July 29! If you mention this blog when you say "hi" afterwards, you'll make me smile.

What I'm reading: I just finished Alyson Noel's fabulous Evermore YA series--a coming of age sextet that deals with transformation and spiritual growth. Noel takes the issues, characters, and voices she first began developing in Faking 19 and hones them to a high level.

What I'm listening to: The Ring, Das Rheingold! The SF Ring was all-around fab. Now it's my turn to learn Das Rheingold from the inside out, as I prepare to sing Freia this fall. Plus a fun jazz CD by a new friend from Berlin, Bettina Pohle.

Friday, May 6, 2011

German ERs and Gernonimo Stilton GNs

I'm on the road again, back in Munich--and once more proving myself to be a dreadfully delinquent blogger. (Nothing new there.)

First off, there's the E.R. part of this post, which is mostly a gentle hymn of praise to the German medical system. The day I arrived in Munich I wound up needing to get some stitches. (Nothing major in case you're worried, I'm okay, but it certainly wasn't how I expected my arrival to be. A nice nap after 24+ hours without sleep would have been more my cup of tea.)

Now, I'd never had stitches before--may I never need them again--and ERs are never fun. But after deciding that yes, I had to go in--at 6 p.m., mind you--and finding the right place to get to-somewhat of an adventure in and of itself--I was treated relatively quickly and very well. There was a bit of a line, but perhaps because the wound was still seeping some of the red stuff that gets the latest crop of vampires so excited, they bumped me ahead of others who weren't bleeding ;). To make an excruciating story zoom by, a couple of x-rays, five stitches, 200 euro charged on the spot, and roughly three hours later, I was done...and really ready to sleep at that point. Shall we say, exhausted, hmm?

This was at the University teaching hospital in Munich, and I can't sing my praise highly enough of the ER doctor who I saw. She was thoughtful, careful kind, and very skillful. She had me come back 6 days later to take the stitches out, and, for those who care, it looks like any scarring will be at a minimum, and luckily not particularly visible.

Some enchanted evening...NOT. But had I gone into an ER in the U.S. with foreign insurance that wasn't taken back home.... well, you can a) imagine the bill I'd have incurred and b) the length of time it would have taken me to be seen. Not to wax too politically, but this certainly is enough to make a person think about health care and insurance issues. (I've now experienced dental care, in 2009 and medical care in 2011 in Germany and both have been excellent.)

Moving on to more fun things. You may or may not know that I'm the translator for the Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novel series for middle grade readers for Papercutz. Here's a not-so-subtle plug:

#1: The Discovery of America, 2009 ISBN 9781597071581
#2:The Secret of the Sphinx, 2009 ISBN 9781597071598
#3: The Colseum Con, 2009 ISBN 1597071722
#4: Following the Trail of Marco Polo, 2010 ISBN 1597071889
#5: The Great Ice Age, 2010 ISBN 1597072028
#6: Who Stole the Mona Lisa, 2010 ISBN 1597072028
#7: Dinosaurs in Action, 2011 ISBN 9781597072212
#8: Play it Again Mozart, upcoming, Sept. 2011 ISBN 1597072761

The concept is cute, the art adorable, and the first five are in their fifth pressing already!

The Italian art/ writing team is out in the Bay Area doing their first U.S. signing/ workshop tour, as part of Free Comic Book Day and Children's Book Week. I won't be around, perche sono in Munich (because I'm in Munich), but here's the info.

May 5 – 4:00 to 6:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
119 Colma Boulevard
280 Metro Center
Colma, CA 94014

May 6 – 5:00 to 7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble
Hacienda Crossings
4972 Dublin Boulevard
Dublin, CA 94568

May 7 -

11:30 AM to 2:00 PM
Lee’s Comics
1020 N. Rengstorff Avenue, Suite F
Mountain View, CA

4:00 to 7:00 PM
Atlantis Fantasyworld
1020 Cedar Street
Santa Cruz, CA

Definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chanson für Morgen (premiere): music by Bay Area composers Garner, Getty, Conte, Bilotta, Adams

After an embarassingly long absence from posting on my blog--can blogs whither and die from loneliness? If so, mine should have--I've got a short and shameful plug for my upcoming concert. In all fairness, it's got some pretty cool music, all by Bay Area composers, including a great new piece by David Garner that the amazing Kristin Pankonin and I will be premiering.

So, disclaimer done, here's the plug and the promo blurb--and
I do hope to see you there!
Don't miss the premiere of David Garner's new song cycle, Chanson für Morgen this Saturday, April 2, in Berkeley, at Trinity Chamber Concerts (2320 Dana), 8 p.m.

Soprano Nanette McGuinness and pianist Kristin Pankonin will be performing a program of music by Bay Area composers, including John Adams, John Bilotta, David Conte, Gordon Getty, and--of course-- David Garner.

The concert features the premiere of Garner's new song cycle, Chanson für Morgen, with texts by the witty and evocative German/ Polish Jewish poet, Mascha Kaleko (1907-1975). Written for McGuinness and Pankonin, Chanson für Morgen is supported by the East Bay Community Foundation and also by your very generous donations to the EBFA's challenge commissioning grant last fall. The concert is also produced in association with the 26th Annual Jewish Music Festival.

Concert information:
When: April 2, 2011, 8 p.m.
Where: Trinity Chamber Concerts, 2320 Dana St., Berkeley
Tickets:Trinity Chamber Concerts

About Mascha Kaleko: A member of the so-called "los
t-generation," Kaleko is part the Jewish diaspora whose futures were destroyed during the Holocaust—despite their being fortunate enough to escape with their lives. After her family immigrated to Germany, Kaleko g
rew up to become a member of the pre-war artistic intelligentsia in Berlin. Her first publications of satiric verses were banned by the Nazis in the mid-1930s, and she left Germany for the U.S. shortly before World War II. She remainoed in exile for the rest of her life, first in the U.S. and then in Israel. Her story—as an eternal emigrant and exile, a Jew, a woman, and a mother—and her poetry both still resonate today.