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...