Saturday, August 22, 2015

Elektra rocks in Berkeley!

What an intense opera, Elektra by Richard Strauss... And, yes, it was amazing...a workshop production/house concert of Elektra with a 2-keyboard orchestra on Aug. 15. Thanks to our wonderful hostess (unpictured)!  The opera begins with an orchestral scream--really more of a wail--as a foretelling of the unwinding of the classic Greek tragedy.  I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that death stalks the characters and the gods reap their vengeance by the end.

In the picture, left to right front row: Maestro Kent Nagano, soprano Emma Rosenthal, moi, soprano Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai, soprano Lisa Houston, tenor Ross Halper, and soprano Shawnette Sulker.
Back row, left to right: stage director Jessica Clarkson, baritone Sepp Hammer, mezzo-soprano Heather McFadden, soprano Jamie McDonald Lee, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Boesing, and bass Richard Mix.  Not pictured: mezzo-soprano Meghan Dibble, pianists Monica Chew and Jerry Kuderna.  What a talented bunch, a great show: yes, we rocked! (And no, we're not in costume any more...This is at the post-show party.

And, in case we didn't get enough rocking from Strauss and co., the Bay Area awoke to a 4.0  tremblor on Monday morning (6:49 a.m. on my clock), a long one!  Epicenter a little over 2 1/2 miles from me, on the ever-active Hayward fault, but luckily no damage here or anywhere else.

What I'm reading: The Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen (whom I met in L.A.--wonderful writer!), Clariel (Abhorsen series prequel, by Garth Nix), and Clockwork Dagger (Beth Caton).

What I'm listening to: Renata Tebaldi and Montserrat Caballe (so it should be who, really...)

What I'm working on: Bartok songs, songs by Hans Winterberg, recently released from archives where they had literally been hidden from the world, "L'altra notte" by Boito, "Letzte Rose" by Flotow, "Non ho cor" by Handel, and "Sombre foret" by Rossini.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Farewell, SCBWI LA 2015/ Hello, Elektra!

The 2015 LA SCBWI conference wound down to a fabulous end earlier this week. Filled with inspiring speakers and faculty--including, as Miss Piggy would say, moi!--it was a wonderful event.

Not to be missed. And sold out.

In a moment of random serendipity, I got to sit next to author Michelle Knudsen (Library Lion) at the Golden Kite Luncheon, where she received the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor for her novel Evil Librarian. (Can't wait to read it.)  Lucky me!

That's her in the photo up there, with her award, along with SCBWI Prez, Stephen Mooser.

I met so many talented, kind, inclusive folks! If you're the twitterlicious type, you can check out my Twitter feed (@NanetteMcG).

What a high-powered, high-energy weekend.

Coming back to earth, aka, the SF Bay Area, I'm gearing up for tomorrow's rehearsal of Elektra.  Many years and a number of books ago, Joseph Kerman described Tosca as a "shabby, little shocker...," one of those phrases that sticks and ignites debates. But if you take out "shabby" and "little" you've described Elektra in just one word. The opera's short--one intense act--but it doesn't feel little at all. Starting with a huge orchestral scream, the opera is steeped throughout in a brooding cauldron of fin de siecle angst.  A number of my colleagues are singing in it--Ross Halper, Lisa Houston, Jennifer Boesing, Raeeka Shehabi-Yaghmai, Heather MacFadden, Shawnette Sulker, and Richard Mix. This Elektra will be performed at a private house concert in Berkeley (invite only), conducted by the California native Maestro Kent Nagano and directed by Jessica Clarkson, with Jerry Kuderna at the orchestral piano.

What I'm reading: an ARC of The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis  (courtesy of Rotem Moscovich at the conference, thank you!); Drama by Raina Telgemeir; Minnie by Annie Schmidt; The Family Romanov, by Candace Fleming; Hook's Revenge, by Heidi Schulz

What I'm listening to: West Edge Opera's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria--tonight!--in Alan Curtis' edition, with Gilbert Martinez conducting, Kindra Scharich, Jonathan Smucker, and others singing. Can't wait! Mozart Piano Concerto #24 in c minor.

What I'm working on: Well, there's that Fifth Maid in Elektra ;). And I was requested to sing "Both Sides Now" for a church service recently. Who'd a thunk?  Starting in on some Handel--Elisa from Tolomeo for January, and brushing off some of Agrippina.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mem Fox and Yvonne Printemps

Just a quick note, from LA, where the annual SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators) conference got underway Friday July 31.  The conference kicked off with SCBWI Exec Dir. Lin Oliver's annual exercise,asking all the faculty to choose one word to introduce ourselves with. Mine?  Lyrical...of course!  After that, an excellent opening keynote speech by the ever droll, marvelous Australian writer, Mem Fox (shown on the left. Yvonne Printemps is to the right).

I've been asked to present the first-ever SCBWI session on translation--an immense honor!--and I'm thrilled to be here with the many talented faculty members and attendees from all over the world. The only thing they have in common?  They're all involved with children's literature in some way or another.

If you're at the Hyatt, do come to Directors I and II at 11:15 for "The Art and Business of Translation" on Saturday morning.

Couldn't get to LA this year for the conference?  Tried to sign up too late? (It's sold out.)  Do the next best thing: follow the official blog, put together by Lee Wind, official blogger for SCBWI and the conference.

One of the big topics this year: diversity of all kinds, including translated works (yes!).  Did you know that only 3 percent of all works in the U.S. are translations, and of those, only 0.7% are literature (both prose and poetry combined)? Check out (and tweet) #WeNeedDiverseBooks.

What I'm reading: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier; Shadow Scale (the sequel to Rachel Hartman's wonderful Serafina)--and more of my Comic Con swag. Of course, I now have a reading list a mile deep from all the great books I heard about today.

What I'm listening to: Yvonne Printemps singing "Les chemins de l'amour" and Elektra by Richard Strauss.

What I'm working on: same as last post... Die Funfte Magd, from Strauss' Elektra, for a concert in mid-August; Flotow's Die letzte Rose, Poulenc's Les chemins de l'amour; new-to-me Hungarian folk settings by Bartok.

ADDENDUM:  After a workshop to a small but dedicated and enthusiastic group in the morning, moderated by talented poet and translator Mariko Nagai, followed by an inspiring keynote speech by Varian Johnson, the Sparkle and Shine party really...sparkled. Here's a picture of me with Lee Wind at the SCBWI Sparkle and Shine party.

And also from the party, Lin Oliver with fabulous writer, SCBWI Member of the year Ellen Hopkins.