Thursday, March 29, 2012

Film Review: Mozart's Sister

This 2010 film just recently became available via Netflix. It is a fantastic exploration of the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's older sister. While the film has many historical inaccuracies regarding the family Mozart, they accurately explore the confines of life as a woman in the 18th century. The young Nannerl (Maria-Anne Mozart) faces the criticism and scrupulous attitude of their father, Leopold Mozart. The young but determined young woman begins composing and teaching music despite her father's belief that women are not capable of achieving musical success. The costumes and sets are extraordinary. The film has special permissions to film within the real Palace of Versailles. For those interested in the complicated web of the affairs of French Aristocracy, there are plenty of highlights of that, as well. Only warning? Be prepared for 3 hours of subtitles.

Friday, March 23, 2012

East Coast Audition Tour

Saturday, March 3rd at 6:20am I flew out to Boston, Massachusetts for my audition at the Boston Conservatory. This was my first real experience going on a long trip and flying completely by myself. It was a great learning experience for me just to figure out how to get around these bigger cities on a student budget. :)

Boston is one of my favorite cities. It's very quaint and old-fashioned. My first stop after landing was this trendy Asian-fusion restaurant called Red Lantern. They make a martini with rose water that is absolutely phenomenal! (I had to unwind after the long flight, didn't I?) It was a ton of fun just running off and having a little adventure in the below freezing weather (after nightfall the temperatures were dropping to about 19 degrees). For Sunday, I scheduled a relaxing massage around the corner from my hotel so that I was de-stressed before my audition. After I rode the T-train out to the harbor to try and visit the aquarium, but it was so crowded I gave up and had a bowl of lobster bisque at Legal Seafoods (Yummy!). I wandered over to Fanheuil Hall Marketplace for a little shopping (where I found a TARDIS coffee mug at Newbury Comics - It lives on my studio bookshelf). While the area is a bit touristy, there are some great shops to check out. After taking myself on a date to the movies (The Vow) I went back to my hotel and had some fish & chips at an Irish pub and curled up in bed to avoid the cold.

My audition (that's what I'm supposed to talk about, right?) was at 1pm at the Boston Conservatory, a brisk 20 minute from my hotel. The Conservatory is quite close to Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. I sang "Glitter and be Gay" to open, which they were pleased with, and they asked to hear "Zueignung". I stumbled a bit on my words in the second verse (I hadn't done that in any auditions so far, but I guess I was more nervous than I thought). They were completely understanding, I would imagine everyone's a bit nervous at these things. I would say I could have made smarter choices in my acting, but I didn't have all my usual props for "Glitter" so I felt a bit naked.

After my audition, I was able to sit in on lessons with Victor Jannett. He worked with a young tenor (21 years old) that afternoon, and was offering constructive feedback in his German diction for a Schumann art song. Later they worked on some technical aspects within a student composition to be performed that evening (A recital I should have gone back to watch but chickened out because of the cold weather). I sat in on the performance class for the opera studio, which was mostly second-year graduate students. They had some wonderfully talented students who sang a variety of lesser-known arias (even a Russian aria, which isn't a language widely performed in the States). The professor offered feedback not only on language and interpretation, but audition feedback like what to wear and accessory choices for the opera season audition (I guess feather earrings are not a suitable choice for opera? I thought they were cool...).

I think he offered great feedback, but I wished that there were more opportunities for student feedback within that course. I always appreciate knowing what my peers think. All in all I think this is a great school for those who can afford it. It's a smaller campus and pretty selective. I was accepted into their M.M. Vocal Performance. I was hoping to be accepted into the Opera Studio, but being accepted to the school is an accomplishment either way.

Tuesday, I got to ride Amtrak to the Big Apple. The four hour train ride was easy and super convenient. I met a new friend who is just moving to New York from Israel. The time passed a lot faster with someone to talk to. Arrived at Penn Station at 3:00 and headed up to 35th to my hotel, a posh new place called TRYP.

Wednesday, I got a bit daring and wore my floaty red dress to my Manhattan School of Music audition. I wanted to make myself memorable. I started with "Der Hölle Rache", which I think they were pleased with. After asking me some questions about my undergraduate experience they had me sing Satie's "La Statue de Bronze". I think it went pretty well.

After the audition I had to take a brief test on language and IPA (no dictionary!)... I think I did alright on that. After the audition, I met up with my girlfriend, Alison, to get student rush tickets to see Porgy and Bess. After getting our tickets we took the metro to her apartment in the East Village. We chugged a beer and grabbed some $1 slices of pizza (definitely the NY experience). We went into Sardi's for cosmos before the show. We ended up with great orchestra seats and had a perfect view of the show for $37. The show was absolutely amazing! Audra McDonald is such a great singer and actress, she made an awesome Bess.

Thursday, I took the NJ Transit ride out to Princeton and Westminster Choir College. Wow! Princeton has a ridiculously immaculate campus. I felt like I was at Disneyland or something... Passing through the campus was pretty fun, if just for the spectacle of it. Westminster's campus on the other hand is smaller, and mostly brownstone buildings. I LOVED their library. It's ALL music books, music periodicals, records, scores, it was about the size of the Sutter County Library, but JUST music stuff, and mostly on voice & opera. I felt very at home there. :) I observed Sharon Sweet working with a second year grad student preparing her final recital. She is not a lenient teacher, but she's very good and only expects the best from her students. After observing the lesson I met with a different grad student to tour the campus and discuss the program.

I was called into the admissions office while I was visiting to be informed that I had been accepted and my admission packet was in the mail, along with an offer for a merit scholarship. I was incredibly pleased to hear about the results of the audition. They had phoned me earlier that week to inform me I had also been accepted into CoOPERAtive (In my previous entry I explained why I won't be attending this year). Later in the afternoon I went back to Sharon Sweet's studio to have a brief lesson with her. She had me vocalizing up to a G6 (and I was PMS... she's definitely doing something right). I sang "Rejoice" for her, after which she told me she thought I had a lovely voice (!) and that I should sing more in the light opera repertoire and aim for learning roles that I would sing in the larger houses, rather than heavier roles that I could sing in smaller houses. She was also adamant that I study more art song and suggested more Richard Strauss selections (specifically Op. 68). I think she would have a lot to offer me as a teacher, if her studio is not too full.

Thursday night I got together with my dear, dear friend, Dante. We went out to a restaurant/bar type place so I could grab something to eat. We ended up running into one of his coworkers at the bar. It was great fun. It's so exciting to think I'll only be an hour away from him if I move back there.

Friday was my last day in NYC. My hotel stored my luggage while I went to Gregory's Coffee to say goodbye to Alison, then walked over a block to visit Grand Central Station. I went from there over to see Central Park, though I could only stay a little while, and only got to see the south end. It was conveniently next to the Times Warner building, which is full of some AMAZING designer shops. I fell in love with a dress at the Bebe there, but can't seem to find it online or in any of the nearby stores. :( Headed back towards my hotel and Times Square for lunch before I had to trek out to Newark Airport. Alison and I went to the Chevy's in Times Square (I know, so cheesy), but we had some margaritas for old times' sake. I practically ran back to my hotel to grab my luggage and drag it to Penn Station. The train into the airport is SUPER easy, I have no idea why anyone would spend $75 to take a cab there. I checked my bags and got in the plane and came back to Sacramento. The best part about flying home? A wonderfully sweet boyfriend who drives two hours just to pick you up from the airport.

I'm still waiting to hear from Manhattan School of Music, but since all the other schools were positive, I don't really want to worry about that school. I think Westminster is going to have the most to offer me and Princeton/Plainsboro will be a great town to move to. It will be a big change, but it seems like the natural next step in my career. It's all getting very exciting!!

The Graduate Audition Experience...

Finally my goals for this blog being accomplished! I had intended to use this blog to discuss my audition experiences as I applied for graduate programs. Now I finally have time to write about it, thanks to a nasty sinus infection keeping me couch-bound all day.

I have had incredible luck (and mind you, I don't think it's all luck... there WAS hard work involved) with my grad school auditions! I applied to San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, the Boston Conservatory, Westminster Choir College, and Notre Dame de Namur Univerity. The only school I have yet to hear from is Manhattan.

My first audition was in January for Westminster Choir College. I went to San Francisco and auditioned at a professional recording studio over Skype. It was a very different experience, seeing my panel on a computer screen, but it worked very well! I sang "Chi il bel sogno" from La Rondine and "Der Hölle Rache" from Die Zauberflöte. They were so enthralled by my Queen of the Night that they asked me to stay and audition for their summer CoOPERAtive program. I did audition and get in, however, I passed on the opportunity, as I will need to save money for tuition, moving costs, and other expenses as I begin my graduate studies. (There will be more opportunities with them). After visiting Westminster in New Jersey and having a lesson with Sharon Sweet, I felt like this school would be incredibly helpful for my singing career and offer plenty of opportunities to perform outside of school in either New York or Philadelphia. The school offered me a large merit scholarship to attend. :)

My second audition was at the Notre Dame de Namur campus, for their MFA program in Musical Performance. It was a hybrid degree program incorporating both Musical Theatre and Operatic elements for singers. I think the program would be great for those inclined to do both, however I don't necessarily feel suited to the Musical Theatre genre (Though I love it very much, there is not a lot of repertoire for us light sopranos). I was accepted into this program within a couple of days. Later that week I was able to sit in on their performance practicum class, run by the head of the department, Debra Lambert. They have a wonderfully supportive and friendly group of students on this quaint little campus. They were preparing to open their musical, Light in the Piazza the following month (and seeing it was delightful, though they worked on a meager budget, it was a lovely production with excellent singing). For those students interested in pursuing a performance degree or certificate, but still seeking a friendly community, I highly recommend this program. The students are offered plenty of opportunity to perform and there is none of the vicious competition you see at some other music and theater schools.

My third audition was at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. This facility is lovely and one I have had the privilege of singing in several times with the Chamber Singers at San Francisco State. The program is quite vigorous and they claim to perform up to 8 operas per year (though many are workshop style or abridged, I understand). There are 90 students allowed into the program and they were only accepting 20 females and 10 males this year. I was accepted into Daniel Mobbs' studio - a Bass-Baritone currently based in Philadelphia & NYC. I began my audition with "Chi il bel sogno" and they asked to hear "Zueignung". I felt that the selections they chose didn't give me much advantage, as they were both extremely lyric in their quality. Because I can't have a lesson with the teacher they assigned me to (while I'm sure he is great, and based on his emails seems wonderfully pleasant), I don't feel comfortable accepting this offer. I have not received any scholarship information from the school as of yet.

I will continue with my audition tour experience in another entry.

Broken Heart and Raspy Voice: The California Fires

I am so so heartbroken for all the people who have lost their homes this month in the California fires. The flames were visible from my pare...

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