Saturday, August 16, 2014

Level up!

I'm going to start this post with something I haven't really talked about in a while - language.  Last night I was working at the hotel (my "rent" job) when a gentleman walked in looking for a room.  I explained to him that we did not have any vacancies and he asked if I knew of any other places that did.  As I was talking with him he asked me to speak slowly because he did not speak English very well.  Being the naturally inquisitive person that I am, I asked him where he was from.  Then it happened; he said he was from France.  I immediately proceed without hesitation to speak to him in French while calling around to other hotels in the area looking for a room.  Our conversation ran the gamut from talking about why he was in Rochester of all places, to me giving him directions, to finally talking about my career as an opera singer and me giving him my website.  All in all we probably spent 20 minutes conversing solely in French!  Those of you familiar with Moses McCormick would call this a "level up!"  Towards the end of our conversation he gave me his card so that I could reserve a room for him at another hotel.  I noticed he had an Italian last name and he told me that he is actually Italian, but lives in France.  I proceeded to tell him that I speak Italian as well and we went on for another few minutes talking in both Italian and French.  This is the reason why we learn languages:  to communicate with people!  As a singer, I obviously learn these languages so that I know what I am singing (which is another form of communicating), but in a larger sense it events like last night to happen.  I have set aside working on my language studies for a while due to financial and personal obligations that force my hobbies to take a back burner, but things like last night really make me want to get back into my studies.  Perhaps in the next few months I can get back to it.

In other news, now that my time with Finger Lakes Opera has ended I have begun my focus on Cosi fan tutte, which I will be performing in Detroit this September.  I have learned all of the music and am in the throes of attempting to memorize an entire role for the first time.  I took some advice from my friend and colleague, Gregory Kunde, and have made cue cards of my part.  Already, this has been very helpful in getting some of the text down.  I also have an upcoming audition in Pittsburgh and some other big pending news that I will have to wait until next month to unload on everyone.    

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Love It!

Remember the old McDonald's jingle "I'm loving it?"  That is how I feel about being on stage performing.  I am currently in rehearsals for a production of Carmen with a local opera company, Finger Lakes Opera.  I am not singing a lead, or even a comprimario role; I am in the ensemble.  While that may not sound compelling, the amazing thing about it for me is how I feel during and after rehearsals, even when talking to people about how rehearsals are going.  I am so full of energy, life, and excitement, that I can barely contain myself.  This is how I know what I am supposed to be doing with my life.

We are reading and discussing The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by Rev. James Martin, S.J. in a young adult group that I facilitate at my church.  This is my second time through the book and the primary thing that has struck me both times through is that God plants your deepest desires in your heart and they are God's way of showing you what you should be doing in life.  There has rarely been much question about the desires on my heart, but it seems to have magnified in intensity over the last couple of years.  I now not only desire to be performing, but I long for it.  When I am not in production I often feel like something is missing in my life.

Part of this new excitement when performing comes from my experience last year.  Since my time with the New York Opera Studio I have continually become more comfortable in my body on stage.  This ability to open up on stage has allowed me to really explore things and let me fall into the characters I am portraying, even in an ensemble situation.  While rehearsing for Carmen, I am also preparing for my debut as Ferrando in Detroit next month in Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte.  These months of being able to immerse myself in the world of opera have shown me how I need my life to be if I am to be truly content with my occupation.  My goal for the coming "year" is to find more ways to envelop myself in this world and make this desire a reality.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An Upcoming Performance and The Need for Acting

I'll start with the big news first.  In September I will be singing my first leading tenor role, Ferrando, in Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte" with the Metro Opera Workshop of Detroit.  This has been a long time in coming for me and I see it as the fruition of the work I have put in to make this transformation from a baritone to a tenor.  I also have a couple of additional auditions upcoming which will hopefully bring more happy results.  I will also be singing as a part of Finger Lakes Opera's inaugural production of Carmen this summer, which will star J'nai Bridges as Carmen and Gregory Kunde as Don Jose.  

While I am not singing a role in this production, this has proven to be a great opportunity for me in two ways.  First, I will be able to watch Mr. Kunde go through his process and pick his brain a little about my own career.  Mr. Kunde, or Greg, and I have known each other for a number of years and the first half of his career was spent singing the roles that I am hoping to sing as my career gets going.  He is therefore an invaluable source of information and advice.  Secondly, I was able to get feedback from an audition for the first time as a tenor.  Beginning with the good, I was told that my voice is developing nicely and that I am on the right track in regards to vocal technique.  Kudos to my teacher, Jean-Ronald LaFond, for his expert guidance in this regard!  I was also told that I need to work on being more aware of my body.  For those of you who don't know me, I am little over six feet tall and am not slight of frame.  I was told that I can be imposing, but the auditor was not sure that I knew how to be.  This has been a persistent problem for me and something I need to figure out how to address.  It was suggested that I take a physical acting class to try to get more in touch with my body and enable myself to use my body to interpret the words of the pieces that I am singing.

I was reading a set posts on a group page on Facebook that my teacher had added me too and they were discussing performance.  One of the singers mentioned that once she is on stage, it is all about the words and that she just has to trust that all of the preparation she has done vocally will suffice.  I have heard this many times, but in light of what I had recently been told in my audition this really hit home for me.  I have never trusted that my preparation and technique were going to be there in auditions or performances.  Therefore I also was focusing on my technique and not on the character.  I can point to a clear reason for this speed bump in my career.  My years in undergrad and immediately following were only spent focusing on vocal technique, and not the technique of performance.  I had teachers, whom I love very much and am forever grateful for the assistance they gave me to get to where I am today, who believed that the voice was all that was needed.  In a way this is an old philosophy, but even in the age that this was prevalent, it was still an incomplete one.  Singers must be complete performers.  The auditor of my audition summed it up the best saying that there are a lot of singers out there who are singing really well, what sets them apart is their ability to portray a character.

One small post-script:  If you are a singer and are looking for a summer program to do, please consider the Summer Opera Academy at Härnösands Folkhogskola in cooperation with Kashu-do Studios.  It looks to be a wonderful program and is run by my teacher, Jean-Ronald LaFond.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Waiting

The waiting is the hardest part.  I have done all of my auditions for the year (although I am trying to do one more in May), and now there is nothing left to do but wait for the last of them to get back to me.  It has been another year of progress, but another year of frustration as well.  It feels as though I have gone nowhere.  The next step has not yet been made.  In some respects I don't know if I know what the next step truly is.  I continue to work on my technique, characterization, languages, etc., but I am still not making that next level.  I read something today that sparked a thought in me.  It was a Lenten reflection from Fr. Robert Barron and he said this:  

"I suppose we human beings have always been in a hurry, but modern people especially seem to want what they want, when they want it.  We are driven, determined, goal-oriented, fast-moving.  I, for one, can't stand waiting.

But is it possible that we are made to wait because the track we are on is not the one God wants for us?  Maybe we're forced to wait because God wants us to seriously reconsider the course we've charted, to stop hurtling down a dangerous road."

This struck me hard today.  

I have been on this course for about a decade now, and am content to continue on this path if it is what I am truly called to do.  The waiting, though, is unbearable.  

I don't often talk about my faith on this blog, but in the last few years, months, and especially weeks, I have become more and more deeply ingrained in my faith.  I pray for my vocation as a singer daily, and I see affirmations of it often.  There are other times, like currently, where I feel as though I am in a void.  It is interesting that this Lent, my prayer life has been flashing bright neon signs at me that say "DETACHMENT;" perhaps this is what I need to do in order for my true vocation in singing to shine forth.  Detach myself from the desire.  Detach myself from the pride associated with pursuing this career.  Detach myself from the thinking that I am solely responsible for my success in this field.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Busy Month and Russian Begins

I just returned from a performance in Toronto on Saturday which, to me, was one of my most complete performances to date.  I didn't do everything technically perfectly, but I was able to get my voice to do what I wanted it to to portray the character I was playing.  I was doing a "New Opera" workshop with Tapestry Opera and met a lot of talented and was impressed with how relevant contemporary opera has made the art form.  The topics ranged from drug use to family relations through divorce and just about everything in between.  One of the wonderful things about doing contemporary opera in your native tongue is the immediacy of the music and text.  The entire audience seemed to relate literally to every scene.  This workshop gave me a new appreciation for contemporary opera and I look forward to delving into this repertoire more in the future.

Immediately following my time in Toronto, I went to Indianapolis for an audition and am now preparing to go back down to NYC for another audition.  I also have to make a video recording for another audition and am continuing to work on new repertoire for next season.  Upcoming, I will be performing at a benefit concert and also performing my annual recital at my church in Rochester.  This year's theme for my recital is Spirituals and Contemporary American Song, somewhat keeping in the theme from my time at Toronto.

After a month of debate and thinking I have decided to continue forward with my language learning, instead of cycling back around.  This past weekend I began my Russian studies.  I am starting with Michel Thomas, which is a great introduction into the language.  I also have started listening to some Russian talk radio using my TuneIn radio app on my phone when I am in areas that have wi-fi (work).  In March I plan to start using LingQ to get some more input and begin learning words and familiarizing myself with structure.

I decided to continue forward because I have started looking at Russian repertoire in my singing and I have found that I sing better when I understand the language I am singing in, even if it is at a basic level.  I do need to go back and bring my other languages up to their next respective level, but I feel that getting a basic working knowledge of Russian is more important than bringing my other languages to higher levels of fluency at this point.  I will keep you all updated as I move forward.