Posts Tagged ‘opera’

Since writing that last gloomy and negative blog post I have been thinking and talking about it a lot. And I’ve come to a not-all-that surprising conclusion:

I have to stop trying to Nice Guy* my way into a career. Because that is what I’ve been doing. I have been hanging around post-rejection saying “No, it’s totally OK! Let’s just be friends!” when I don’t want to be friends at all.

And while this analogy is not perfect, as opera does not have feelings to be hurt or boundaries to be respected, I do; so I am going to follow the advice given to Nice Guys. Which is: respect the “No” and go find someone else. Or in my case, an art form that I can actually participate in.

So hey! Welcome me back, Indie Opera! I am working on more Fallen Voices – working on them slowly because my time is pretty limited, but I am giving myself lots of time and will get there!

And just like that Nice Guy, I won’t say no if the Canadian Opera Company offers me a role, but I’m not going to audition and network and follow opera around with sheep’s eyes. Because as crazy-making as producing can be, at least you’re getting something done.

Anyway. TL/DR, I am back to doing what I was theoretically doing before, only without also doing a zillion auditions and hoping against hope for Someone Important to take an interest in me and give me a career. And I feel much, much better about it, to the point that I actually want to go out and see stuff and am not consumed with jealousy at the thought of someone else doing cool stuff I wish I could do.

*A Nice Guy: a man who befriends women he wants to sleep with because for whatever reason he lacks the confidence to ask them out. When the women hook up with someone else they feel betrayed and incensed, because he’s a Nice Guy! Why do girls only want to date assholes?

NB: Thanks to Marc G for the encouragement 🙂


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Back in 2008 when I won the Eckhardt-Grammate competition, I went from having zero hope of a conventional music career to…a bit of hope. Getting any encouragement whatsoever from an “official” channel was such a novel experience that I thought “Hey, maybe I CAN do this!”

So I tried. I mean, I didn’t go back to school, though maybe I should have done, and I didn’t do a bunch of pay-to-sing training programmes, which I don’t regret (don’t fucking get me started about pay-to-sing). But I tried. I took lessons. I had coachings. I learned common, standard, REALLY HARD repertoire. And I did auditions. A million auditions. For a couple of months I probably had one audition per week, some for specific things, some where I just called an Opera Person and said “Hey, can I sing for you?”

And I got nothing. NOTHING. Nothing. Some encouraging feedback. Some compliments. Some maybe-we’ll-be-interested-in-the-future-but-not-for-this. But no roles, no concerts, bupkis.

So I started to get really, really discouraged. I told myself intellectually that it wasn’t my fault; I was doing my best and doing everything right. The economy was in the shitter and there wasn’t anywhere near enough work to go around. I just had to keep trying and eventually I’d get a break.

I did, sort of. I got two roles in the spring of 2010. I had fun, I did well, but…nothing came of either. In fall 2010 I produced Fallen Voices, had fun, did well, and…was back to square one when it was over.

And of course once I got pregnant I stopped auditioning, reasoning that if no one would hire me non-pregnant they certainly wouldn’t hire me pregnant and I might as well stop banging my head against the door and save my time, energy, and money. I tried to get some self-productions going but I couldn’t muster the energy or resources to do it.

So the past year or so I’ve been focused on gestating, having, and looking after the baby. And it’s great, and I love it. But he isn’t a tiny little newborn anymore. He doesn’t absorb every waking minute of my life, and as Ben and I start sharing our parenting more equally I am faced with the problem: what do I do about this?

Back when I was auditioning all over town I said my philosophy was “just ask”. Just ask if you can sing for them. They can say no, but they could also say yes.

Well, I’ve asked. I have collectively asked the opera world if I could be part of it, and the answer is NO.

So I have to decide: do I keep asking? Do I keep working on my own and ask again? Do I keep trying to produce stuff on my own and struggle against entropy, apathy, and the very real financial drain of production? Do I just give up?

I don’t know. First of all I have to deal with my own anger about this. Not that I think that the world owes me a fantastic career and an exclusive contract with the Met. Life is unfair. This business particularly so. But I’m sick of pretending I’m OK with this. I am not OK with this. I am angry that all the work I’ve done, all the beauty I’ve created has gotten me more or less nowhere. I am angry that I can’t even get a small part with a penny-ante local company. I am angry that realistically, the only way I have a shot at any kind of career is going back to school then spending ~ $20,000 on various pay-to-sing programmes over 3 or 4 years. I am angry that there is no way in hell I can afford to do this. I am angry at the profession for being insular and rife with favouritism and nepotism. And I’m angry at myself for failing. Big time. Really, really angry with myself.

So I don’t know what I’m going to do about this. Now that I have time to practice pretty much every day I’m just going to focus on finding my enjoyment in singing again. My feelings of shame and anger have made it difficult for me to listen to music and enjoy watching performances, so I’m going to try to get over that and just listen again. And then, whatever. I have asked. I’ve gotten my answer. Now I have to figure out when it’s time to let go.

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Because I am completely insane, I decided to apply to the Montreal International Music Competition of 2012. Even though it takes place at the end of May/beginning of June, when not only will Ben be away on tour but I will have about a 3-month-old baby to look after.

But hey, it’s my last chance (I’ll be too old next time), so why not?

Anyway, the first round of the competition is – as always – a recording. Which I made in mid-November, being unsure as to how being massively pregnant would affect my singing (not too much as it turns out, but how would I know?). And yesterday I got the final mixes of the raw tracks.

The rules of the competition state that you cannot edit your tracks (as in, no splicing, no partial retakes, etc) – that each track should be a faithful representation of your live performance. I don’t know how they would tell if you hadn’t complied, but as I am trying to be a more moral person in preparation for parenthood I followed the rules.

And you know, the tracks actually sound really good!

So here is (what I think is) the best: the big aria from Lulu. Right-click to download.

Lied der Lulu

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Remember the show I did at the Alliance Francaise in January? Well, I’ll be performing there tomorrow night as well:

As part of its “Classique de poche”, Alliance Française of Toronto presents an outstanding classical concert:

Friday, March 4, 7:30 PM
Pour les enfants, par les enfants
by the Wanton Fawns
$12/free for Alliance Francaise members
24 Spadina Rd.

With Kristin Mueller-Heaslip (soprano),
Douglas Perry (alto)
Elizabeth McLellan (cello)
And Alexander Sevastian (accordion)

Pour les enfants, par les enfants will be a concert of chamber music depicting the world through the eyes of children. Presented by Alliance Francaise de Toronto on March 4, 2011 as part of their Classiques de poche cycle, the concert will feature viola, cello, accordion, and soprano.

Half of the concert will be a presentation of the Suite pour l’ange Gabriel, music by Christopher Dedrick and text by Gabriel Chalogany, a French boy who wrote the poems between the ages of 9 and 10.

The other half will be comprised of original songs composed by Rebecca Pellett and Caitlin Smith, based on poetry to be commissioned from students in various Toronto French elementary schools (Monseigneur Jamot , Monseigneur-de- Charbonnel, Lycée Français de Toronto and North York centre of Alliance Française of Toronto).

(BTW “alto” is French for “viola”. No, there will not be a counter-tenor singing on this show. There will be a violist. Make of that what you will.)

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Do you have anything to do on the 20th of this month at 6:30 PM?  Do you speak French?  Do you like French opera?

Yes?  Then come hear a lecture on French opera, in French, featuring me and Edward Franko singing a duet from La Belle Hélène!

During the lecture I will be nodding politely in the background, understanding about every third word, and wishing I had exercised my French more since high school, when I spoke French rather well.


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So now that I’ve turned 30 I’m “ageing out” of a number of competitions and programs that I wasn’t either good enough or on the ball enough to enter in my 20s.  It’s not a big deal – it’s not like I could have done anything worthwhile until I was, what, 27, and I’ve been kind of busy auditioning for one thing after another, producing my own operas, and doing the windfall-out-of-nowhere roles that I did get.

Anyway, this is my last year to enter the Met Auditions.  Yes, THAT Met.  They run a competition that occasionally launches its winner into stardom.  I meant to do it last year, but it happened shortly after my disastrous COC audition and I felt too soured on the whole “real opera” thing to go.

But this year I’m feeling good about my career, so I thought, why not? I’ll pop down to Buffalo and it’ll be fine.  The Buffalo auditions are on January 15, so…


I have a gig that night and the next day.

Singing King Harald’s Saga: Grand Opera in Three Acts for One Person at a concert in Simcoe.

This is as straight-up a conflict between love and money (well, potential money) that you can get. Do I stick with the low-paying gig doing a ten-minute long opera in which I portray eight characters and the Norweigan Army? Or do I cancel, go to Buffalo, and try to convince a panel that my Bellini is good enough for them to advance me to the regional, then national competition?

I wavered for about two minutes, asked Ben for his advice, then decided: I’m sticking with King Harald’s Saga.  Not just because I’ve committed to the gig already and it would be a dick move to back out (though it would), not just because I find auditions and competitions daunting and my failures depressing (though I do), but because I do what I do because I love doing it, and I’d much rather spend the weekend in Simcoe introducing the locals to a bizarre masterwork of contemporary vocal music than putting myself up for capricious and arbitrary judgement for about the millionth time.

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Seriously, Richard Nixon’s corpse would make a better mayor than this buffoon.

– Someone stole my credit card number! And bought gas!  The bank just called to ask, “Hey, did you buy gas this morning and yesterday?” I didn’t, because I don’t have a car.  Bastards.

– Sadly, Paul the Psychic Octopus is no more. May he predict more football winners in the great aquarium in the sky.

– I can’t get over this. ROB FORD IS MAYOR.

I keep telling myself that the damage he can do is limited, because the mayor is just one vote on council and everyone on council hates him, but it’s disheartening to know that at least a plurality of my fellow Torontonians think that I (a bike-riding vegetarian artist) am a parasite and a blot on the landscape.

Anyway. To cheer myself up I made a collage video of the Daily Basset pictures.

And Ben is home!  Yay!

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