Wednesday
Apr062011

Vacation (just kidding)

It's funny - I had started writing a blog post earlier this week called "Vacation" about what it was like to know you had a long vacation coming up after a very busy time of work. But then I got a call, and I was asked if I could go fill in for a Messiah in Chicago next week. So, vacation no more. But I have no problem with that. It's funny how there really is no such thing as vacation for the self employed. It's like owning your own store - if you aren't working, you're thinking about working, and are always ready to go to work at a moment's notice. Of course, some people who own stores complain about the weight of always having that responsibility, whereas most singers are usually pretty happy to be asked to sing. I thought I was relieved to be on vacation. After my concert last week, I went out with my boyfriend immediately and celebrated my newly found lack of responsibilities. Do not pass go, do not change out of gown, go directly to bar:

Excuse my fillings - I've gotta get those replaced with white ones one of these days (Various dentists have been bugging me about it for some time - "With your mouth open and singing all those high notes, you can't be flashing silver!!")

But duty calls (thankfully) so I'm off to Chicago next week to sing all those lovely low solos in the Messiah with the Music of the Baroque Orchestra conducted by Jane Glover. And THEN I'll be on vacation. Probably. Unless something comes up. Whatevs. I'm open. 

 

Saturday
Mar262011

Nerves

I've spent the last two weeks in California - Berkeley mostly - on a gig. I knew about 90% of the cast before I arrived, and having grown up in Northern California, I even knew the area pretty well. The only thing a little different was that it wasn't actually my gig. I went with my boyfriend Michael, who was singing Collatinus in the Rape of Lucretia with the Castleton Festival, featured at Cal Performances, UC Berkeley. Michael pretty much stopped singing before I even met him, but he had this one contract that he had agreed to do awhile ago, so he decided to go ahead and do it. 

For me, it really did feel like I was going on a gig - I packed up my stuff, took a taxi to the airport, arrived at a hotel, and the first night there had dinner with a couple of singers that I knew well from previous gigs. Except I had none of the stress of actually singing. And the funny thing was that even though Michael hasn't done a singing gig in awhile, and even though he WAS singing, he was probably less stressed than I was. I kept comparing what it was like when he visited me in Berlin for two weeks (and what a basket case I was) compared to how normal and non bothered he seemed by being the one having to remember words and music and staging. Even on the two performance days (because there were only two shows, which was a pity because it was a great production) he seemed like his normal self - not nervous or jittery or anxiety ridden like I become. 

I made a joke at one point that he should probably be the one who keeps singing and I should try to get a job in technology, not the other way around - because he was obviously not all full of nerves and anxiety the way I can be. I also visited with a friend, Nick Phan, who was singing with the San Francisco Symphony while I was in Berkeley. I came with him to his dress rehearsal, which happened to be the morning of his first concert. After his rehearsal, we had a leisurely lunch, where he too seemed relatively unphased by the fact that he was about to stand in front of a lot of people and sing later that night. And the fantastic tenor in Michael's opera was busy taking his wife to see Alcatraz during the day before one of his performances. I couldn't help but wonder why I couldn't just be more cavalier like all these guys? 

One reason I get nervous is that I obviously put way too much pressure on myself. Okay, I know I do that, and I try to get better about reminding myself that nobody but me cares whether I sing every note perfectly or not. But also, I seem to have developed a real nervousness about being nervous. I never used to get nervous before performances. Then I started getting really nervous. Then I sort of talked myself out of being nervous WHILE I sang, but I still got terribly nervous before. And now, I kid you not - I have anxiety about the anxiety I'm going to feel before I perform. How can I be so crazy???

Performance anxiety is normal, of course. Even people who are able to go about their days casually and visit prison museums and have lunch dates sometimes feel nervous. But the brain is fascinating, and it can certainly hold us hostage to our fears. Which sucks because performing can actually be quite fun - wouldn't it be more enjoyable to actually look forward to it instead of dreading it? 

I don't know the answer to this one, honestly. I think that there are definitely a lot of people who hate that feeling of performance anxiety, and as a result, find something else to do for a living. And I do hate being nervous, but there are a lot of things I love about being a singer. So I am constantly searching for a way to become calmer, more like the guys I mentioned above. I'm sure the answer lies in re-programming my brain somehow. I'm just not sure quite how yet. 

Oh - and in case you were wondering - the opera went very well, Michael sang beautifully (even got a good review) and I was very proud to just be an audience member and a supportive partner. It turns out gigs can be very relaxing  - especially when you're only job is to applaud at the end. 

Sunday
Feb272011

Back to the beginning

It seems like I've basically stopped blogging altogether. I'll talk about the reasons for that later on in this post. For now, I have to write a little bit about being back in Torino, the place where my blog was born. I started writing this thing in the first place because I was coming to sing in Italy - Europe, for that matter - for the first time, and I knew I wanted to record my successes and failures. Now almost three years have passed and I'm back in the city where it all began,  I can't help but think about all that has changed since then. Hence: blog post.

I'm in Torino to sing a concert version of L'Olimpiade, the opera by Pergolesi that I sang this past summer in Innsbruck. The entire cast has been reassembled, and we first met in Vienna a couple of days ago for one rehearsal, followed by a concert at the Theater an der Wien. Then, while most of the rest of the cast went home for a couple of days before coming to Torino to perform the second and final concert, I came directly here. I have spent the last couple of days eating my weight in carbohydrates, and discovering that thankfully, I still seem to remember how to speak italian, despite my little sojourn into trying to learn to speak german. 

A couple of funny things happened in Vienna that I wanted to blog about. First of all, I was at the mercy of a lot of jet lag and schedule craziness, because I left Berlin for New York only 10 days before returning to Vienna, so I had some sort of reverse jet lag coming back. I left on Monday night, arrived Tuesday afternoon, rehearsed wednesday, and sang the concert on Thursday. My voice was surprisingly okay despite all that running around, although my body was so confused by the time changes that I only managed to sleep for about one hour the night before the concert. I get particularly nervous for concert performances because I feel very naked without the staging. But in spite of these obstacles the concert went fine, with a few things that I wished I could have done better. 

One interesting thing that happened is that when I arrived at the theater for the first rehearsal, I was having trouble finding the stage door until a few seemingly random people standing outside somehow knew what I was looking for and pointed me towards the correct door. When I went in and they followed me, I realized that the reason they knew to tell me where to go was that they had been waiting for me (as well as the other singers) with photos of us that they wanted to have autographed. This is a tradition that seems to only occur in the german speaking countries, where there are more avid "fans" than in other places. I was so utterly shocked by these people a) knowing who I was and b) having photos of me (that had been printed from the internet on glossy card stock), and c) wanting my autograph, that I almost couldn't speak. But even more shocking (and flattering) was that after the concert, there was a gentleman waiting for me who had about 20 photographs of me from the Barber of Seville at the Staatsoper that I didn't even know existed! He handed me the stack to start signing, and I had to stop and look at all the photos because I didn't even know they took photos of me doing that show and had never seen them! I asked him where he got them, and he explained to me how to find them on the Staatsoper website, which I did as soon as I got home. I found this one, which I thought was pretty funny:

And then the next day flew here, to Torino, to have a couple of free days before performing the second of the two concerts. 

I love Italy, I really do. I mean, there is so much to love (you can read pretty much any of my posts from the two months I was here in 2008 and they all sound like love letters), and in addition I get to see how I've changed and grown from when I was here three years earlier. Of course, re-reading some of my posts, I still have a lot of the same fears and anxieties about singing that plagued me back then, and some of the anxieties have probably intensified a little bit (I have this unusually big fear of forgetting words which seems to have increased over the past couple of years even though I've never ever forgotten the words in a performance - go figure!). 

But something has really changed for the better, and it is actually illustrated by the fact that I haven't been blogging much lately. See, I started the blog in order to share my experiences because, to put it bluntly, I was really lonely. I was thrilled to be able to travel all over the place and sing, but it was a very lonely existence at that point in some ways. I have always been someone who needed to feel like I was sharing things in order to gain the most from experiencing them - from my spaghetti bolognese to my feelings on performance anxiety and constant travel. And something that has changed enormously in my life is that instead of spreading out that sharing among friends, family, and blog readers, I now have one person that gets it all - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the extra bolognese. Not to say that those other people I mentioned aren't just as important to me (including you, dear readers!!) but I don't have the same feelings and emotions floating around in my head all the time, because I'm lucky enough to find someone who listens to all of them, every day, several times a day. And that type of sharing has made me feel fulfilled in a way that I think I was searching for during the whole time I was blogging regularly. 

It doesn't mean I'm going to stop blogging - it just means that I might need a period of adjustment where I recalibrate a bit and figure out what kinds of things are now important for me to share, and with whom, and how much. I just need to get my thoughts back in order now that they are flowing out of me at such a rapid rate to one person, and see what that means in terms of getting them on paper (or computer screen to be precise). 

Oh - and the reason for the re-design is that I've been obsessed lately with many design blogs, and I just needed my blog to look different before I could even bear to look at it again. I may be in a period of re-definition, just in general. Bear with me, and maybe I'll even have some kind of fantastic epiphany or something. I mean, I'm not promising anything, but I do think that eating gelato definitely turns me into a genius for the 30 seconds it takes me to inhale it, so, you know, anything's possible. 

Friday
Feb042011

Backstage

Wednesday
Feb022011

Momentum

I've always been fascinated by the energy and momentum leading up to the premiere in opera performances. There are some singers with whom I have worked, who seem like they are absolutely dreadful at the first musical rehearsal, prompting the question (inside my head) of how on earth this person is working. However, by the premiere, they pull out a fabulous performance and blow everybody away. (Not everyone of course - some people just always suck). I am one of those people that basically gives 110% from the first day of rehearsal, and I find that it sometimes this backfires, in that I have lost my momentum and concentration by the premiere, and the performance was better at one of the dress rehearsals or something. 

With Antigone, we had a rather odd schedule, because our conductor had to go away for a bit to conduct elsewhere, so we had a pre dress rehearsal, then 4 days off, then a dress rehearsal, then 2 days off, then the premiere. And for whatever reason, this schedule seemed to do wonderful things for everyone, because the premiere went extremely well. Everyone sang wonderfully, and had a huge amount of concentration and the premiere was actually better than the dress rehearsal - the best performance we'd had so far. I saw Rene Jacobs at the intermission and he said "it's going so well, it scares me a little!" but the second half continued in this way, and in the end, it could really only be considered a success. 

For me, personally, I was glad that I was able to pull out my best performance for the actual performance, because this is not always the case for me. I have weird issues with momentum and probably need to be better about not giving too much in the dress rehearsal even though there is almost always a full audience. It's about the singer learning to trust herself, knowing that she can pull out all the stops in the performance without having to demonstrate that beforehand. 

Thank you for all your comments about my cold - other than a few sniffles and some dry mouth, it had pretty much vanished by the premiere, and having sung the dress rehearsal sick probably added to my ability to have good momentum to do better in the premiere. 2 down, three to go, and then home at long last. 

Wednesday
Jan262011

What's the german word for sudafed?

Well, I said I wasn't writing because nothing "new" was happening, and then something "old" happened - I got sick.

There was a time where I used to get miserably sick for every single opening night, it seemed. I remember hacking my way through my first Cenerentola at Juiliard (and the following NYTimes headline: "Cinderella with a cold makes it to the ball") and lying in bed the night before the dress rehearsal for my first big City Opera role in L'Etoile and feeling my throat turn into sand-paper, with this sinking feeling in my stomach knowing I would be in for a world of trouble. 

However, I've never ever cancelled. No matter how laryngitical I was when I woke up the morning of a performance, I have always found a way to make my vocal cords come together, somehow, by drugs or prayer or just plain bull-headedness. Then as my career went on, I would get sick for performances occasionally, but not every single time. Then something happened - I started hardly ever getting sick. The last time I was sick - at all - was in November of 2009. I remember because I got sick before the opening of Romeo and Juliette in New Orleans, and I blamed the fact that I was in such a party city, and must have eaten too many beignets and drunk too many kamakazi cocktails. But then I started getting flu shots, and drinking a glass of grapefruit juice with 1000 mg of vitamin C dropped inside every day, and I managed to stave off all the bugs. Even when I was a crazy person, flying from the U.S. to Europe and back every ten minutes, and even when I visited Michael and he had a cold, I still somehow didn't get one. Until now.

Somehow this week, the mean little buggers got the better of me, and now I have that awful congestion that seems to be spreading into my ears and chest, and my dress rehearsal tomorrow night is looming, with my premiere on Sunday only a few days away. But the difference between my reaction now and 10 years ago is that I'm not freaking out. I know I've sung sick countless times, and that I've never had to cancel. And it is far from pleasant because you can't help but feel scared that your voice won't work. But somehow you push through it, and it doesn't have to be the end of the world. And I find that the less I freak out, the more likely I am to recover quickly. 

So, here I am, facing singing a premiere at the Berlin Staatsoper sick as a dog. But I'm just going to keep my chin up, and try to find some awesome german pseudophedrine. It probably won't rival the fantastic cold medicine I found in Bogota, Colombia, but who knows - maybe the german stuff will cure me immediately. A girl can dream. 

Saturday
Jan012011

2010 wrap up

I guess I should just stop apologizing for the fact that I haven't been posting as much lately. By now, you know the drill. The thing is, I really feel like you guys know everything I'm doing, so I don't have anything to write unless something out of the ordinary occurs. And since I was in the exact same place at the exact same time last year, doing a new production with the same conductor and a few of the same people involved, I almost feel redundant telling you what's going on. Instead I want to reminisce a little about the past year. 

2010 was definitely the best year I've had professionally to date. The year started with my performances here in Berlin of Agrippina, which was not only a very successful production, but a very fulfilling artistic experience on every level. Also, that project led to my entering the recording studio for the very first time in my career and actually making a CD, which happened in the summer. Even though it won't be released until next year, this felt like a huge accomplishment and a real stepping stone in achieving something I had only dreamed about. 

After I finished up in Berlin and had some time off, I embarked on the longest period of gigs (without any breaks in between) - a total of over 4 months without ever returning to my apartment. First in Portland, where I got to remember how incredibly fun this job can be when you are surrounded by colleagues that you enjoy both on and off the stage. It also got me started with video blogging, a new and interesting hobby I picked up, which I hope to continue. Then I got to create a role for a world premiere; Veruca Salt in "The Golden Ticket" in St Louis, which was pretty much just as fun as you'd imagine being in the Willy Wonka opera would be. It also marked the period during which I met Michael, which as I've discussed on the blog, changed my life in a huge and wonderful way. The end of this long series of gigs was in Innsbruck, Austria, where I somehow managed to memorize a huge role in an opera that lasted 5 hours by Pergolesi called "L'Olimpiade". The opera was recorded for Sony (to be released I have no idea when) and was a huge challenge to me personally (such an enormous role with mountains of secco italian recitative to memorize, and four huge dacapo arias to sing) as well as a personal challenge, since I got to experience being away in Europe for a very long time just as I was starting a new relationship. 

Then the year ended with me back in Berlin, first performing some Rosinas, with a brief trip to Chicago for only my second foray into Bach, and then back here for yet another Christmas and New Years celebration very far from my loved ones, but luckily surrounded by some of the dear friends I've managed to make in Berlin after having spent so much time here. That's actually quite a lot to have happened in just one year, dontcha think?

Being in the same place for the second year in a row causes you to reflect on just how much has happened since what seems to have passed by in just a few minutes is suddenly an entire year. I can't believe how much has changed in my personal life since one year ago, and how much happier I am as a result of these changes. I also can't believe, honestly, how little has changed in my professional life. I thought that with all the things I was doing and accomplishing and succeeding at last year, I would be in a new position by the beginning of this year, and maybe more doors would be opening and things would be a little easier. Alas, it seems that the lot of a singer is to be constantly wondering, hoping, and slogging through the same set of difficulties, regardless of the level your career has reached. For those of you who are looking at careers in singing, I have to warn you that it doesn't really get easier as you go along in your career. Either you keeping making it to higher levels and therefore having more pressure placed upon you to live up to what you have accomplished so far, or you have trouble ascending to new levels, and fight the frustration of the invisible roadblocks that seem to be placed before you. 

But then - just look at some of the videos I made, especially when I was in Portland, and you'll see how lucky I am to get to not only work with such wonderful, funny, warm, intelligent people, but also to get to spend time with them, and know them, and have them warm your soul with their kindness and support (I mean you, Nick and Danny). Look at the beauriful videos from Agrippina that you can find on youtube and see how lucky I was to be involved in a piece of art that had such amazing vision and talent creating it and taking part in it, that it actually became somewhat transcendent. People were literally getting into fist fights at the box office over tickets - not for a Justin Bieber concert, mind you, but for a Handel opera! I got to scream and throw tantrums nightly onstage as Veruca Salt, and make people laugh and be transported to a dream world that we all have nostalgia for from our childhoods. And even though the Pergolesi opera was really a challenge, there were two arias in particular (one crazy vengeance aria where I was slowly moving in the opposite direction as the turntable that covered the whole stage in order to illuminate the madness I was experiencing as I walked through my own life, and an incredibly beautiful lullaby aria) both of which made me feel like I myself was being transported to another place and time, out of this world, and into an ethereal, special place that I think one can only experience in the moment of creating art that moves you to your full, extraordinary potential. 

So those are my thoughts about 2010. It was a very, very full year, and I'm actually sad to see it go. But I'm very excited by the new possibilities that 2011 holds for me. Life ain't bad. 

Sunday
Dec192010

Back in the swing

Our first week of rehearsal is now finished, and I feel very satisfied with how things are going so far. We're going pretty quickly (considering how long the rehearsal process is) and we've already staged all of the first Act! That's like U.S.A. staging speed! But I'm still always amazed at what we have available to us in Europe staging conditions - for example, we've already been on the actual stage, in the theater, twice. We don't open until January 30th, but we've been on the stage twice. And in the room where we're rehearsing, the actual set is installed for all of our rehearsals, except when they move the whole thing to the stage occasionally.  I've talked about this phenomenon before (which is not a phenomenon to Europeans, but to Americans - unless you've done a new production at maybe the Met - but I don't even think there they have these options), where we have so much luxurious time to get used to the stage. In the U.S. we work in a room that has tape on the floor to demonstrate where the set will be, and then the week of the performances (usually only two weeks after we've started the whole shebang) we have a few days to get used to the set and the acoustics of the theater and BAM we open. 

I know I was mentioning before that I don't have any WOWIE WOW music like I did last year in Agrippina, for example, but I have to say that putting the opera on its feet has made me appreciate the fuller scope of what I get to do in this opera. First of all, excuse the broken record here, but the musical values of every show that Rene Jacobs does are just astonishing. The recits become like shakespeare plays in their declamation, even before we are wandering around "acting". And even though I don't sing any music that necessarily shows all my skills as a singer, I really get to act up a storm, which for me is huge. I was thinking that my character was sort of careful and measured, but it turns out she's really freaked out and distressed (duh - who wouldn't be - father/mother =son/mother = killed themselves, brothers killed each other, sister about to = yikes!) and the physicalization of anything slightly crazed is always really fun. I don't know what it says about me that my preferred characters have at least a bit of the crazy in them. I don't really want to think about that, frankly.

The only thing I possibly have to complain about now is the weather in Berlin. Can someone please explain to me why when it snows here it seems so much more difficult to get around than in say, New York? I think it has something to do with the fact that since Germany is not a litigious society the way America is, they aren't overly careful about mopping up wet messes that snowy feet make, so everything stays wet and slippery all the time. Also, they throw down a lot of gravel (not sure why - I guess that's like our salt) and the cobblestone streets are very difficult to shovel. Once it has snowed once in Berlin, the rest of the winter is like walking on a sandy beach in your snow boots. And the one time I tried to wear a pair of boots without those rubber sole grippers, I slipped and fell on my ass with literally the first step I took out the door. I am not even exaggerating, sadly. It's probably not fair to place all the blame on Berlin, however-  I am a very klutzy individual. 

But on the gratitude side of things, getting to know some of my colleagues this week and hearing their stories, and discovering what kind of obstacles they have faced in their personal lives and chosen to continue as artists nonetheless, has made me remember how lucky I am to be doing this, for as long as I am able to or choose to. For that, I will gladly slip and fall on my ass a few times, both literally and figuratively. 

Tuesday
Dec142010

Show Off

I'm back in Berlin for the opera Antigone by Traetta at the Staatsoper, and I have severe jet-lag induced insomnia, so I figured I would make the most of it by writing down some of the thoughts percolating in my mind. Might as well be productive at 2:00 in the morning if you're not asleep, right?

We've begun musical rehearsals for this rarely performed opera, and since this is another Rene Jacobs project, I'm learning a great deal as we go. He's passionate about every single syllable that we sing, and his attention to detail makes the end product incredibly interesting, even riveting, where in another's hands it might be boring- as I've spoken about in past posts. 

The thing is, as opposed to last year, when we did Agrippina and I played the psychotic Nerone who runs around like a crazy person and sings lots of coloratura, this year I'm playing Ismene, Antigone's more rational and rather un-dramatic sister. And I'm the only character in the entire show who sings zero coloratura. Rene was explaining today that as Traetta was a composer in the enlightenment movement, he only used coloratura when it was necessary to express anger or madness, and since I'm relatively rational, I don't get any. 

And after singing the low and quite coloratura-less Bach last week and then beginning this project, I notice myself getting a little antsy. I'm not complaining about what I have to sing - the music is beautiful and meaningful, and there are many opportunities for me to work at creating something very special. However, I'm a singer, and I have an ego. And when I don't get to "show off" what I can do best, I start to feel a little ill at ease.

So how do we separate the ego from the artist? How do we find artistic fulfillment even when we aren't flexing our strongest muscles? Obviously I don't need to be singing high notes and fast runs to be artistically fulfilled. But I will admit that not getting any music that allows me to shine in the ways I'm used to is hard on my ego. But it's an excellent lesson in both humility and artistry. First of all, when you are stripped of your shiny parts, all that is left is what you have to contribute artistically, and you may even find yourself taking more emotional and musical risks, leading to a deeper connection with what you are singing about. It is also a great reminder that what we are doing as artists is much greater than us as individuals, and when we get too caught up in showing off what we are good at, it's very easy to lose sight of why we are making art in the first place. The famous phrase is true; there are no small parts, only small actors. 

So instead of being my small self, and letting my ego reign, I plan to use this opportunity to remind myself of why I'm doing this whole artist thing. It's because I have something to say, and I have a voice to say it with. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what words you use, as long as you say them with conviction and make them your own. That's what being an artist is all about. 

Or maybe being an artist is all about screaming loud high notes. I don't know - I'm delirious with fatigue  - ask me again after I've gotten a full night's sleep. 

Wednesday
Dec082010

Baby's got Bach

This past weekend, I sang the Alto solos in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Music of the Baroque Orchestra in Chicago. This was only my second foray into Bach, my first being the second soprano solos in the B Minor Mass several years ago. Can I tell you something? Bach scares the crap out of me. Because his music is so weird and wonderful, and so frequently goes in directions that you aren’t expecting, becoming derailed, even while you’re staring directly at the music, is a distinct possibility. I came home from the first rehearsal complaining to my boyfriend, “I think I might be too stupid to sing Bach.”

 The feeling that I was the dumbest person in the room was only exacerbated by the fact that the conductor and the rest of the soloists all happened to be seasoned experts in this particular repertoire. The conductor was Jane Glover, renowned for her interpretations of Baroque music and Mozart, as well as for her book on Mozart’s Women. The other three soloists; Paul Agnew, Sanford Silvan, and Lisa Saffer, have all had extensive experience singing Bach all over the world. And then here was me, with my one little Mass under my belt, reaching for the stars. Baby's got Bach indeed.

 On a side note, I was particularly tickled to be working with Sanford Silvan – or Sandy, as many people call him – because I happen to be a big fan of his. I became aware of him while I was a student in Boston thanks to his many collaborations with Boston based Peter Sellars, and I used to play his recording of Die schöne Müllerin on repeat whenever I was in a bad mood to cheer myself up. He has this expressiveness that really spoke to me right through the speakers of my CD player (remember those?), and I have always really admired his outstanding artistry. I had never met him until this weekend, and I’m happy to say that his artistry is matched perfectly by his kind and genuine warmth as a person, and it was such a pleasure to get to spend the week with him. I even geeked out and told him I was a big “fan,” explaining my obsession with his CD, and he handled my effusiveness with extreme humility and grace.

 But back to me and Bach. The concerts went fine, although I couldn’t bring myself to look up and away from my score nearly as much as I would have liked to, and I found that my left arm and shoulder were horrendously sore after each performance from the death vice grip I was keeping on my music while I was singing. Bach’s music is really astonishing – as I was learning my arias, I was often like “WHOA – how did he get there from here??” Instead of remaining confined by the strict parameters of Baroque harmonics, he wove his way through the music by taking crazy turns and shifts of harmony that almost sound like they come out of the 20th century at times. It’s one thing to write crazy music where you have no rules about tonality –but to write crazy music when you are completely constrained by tonality at all times the way Bach did it, explains why all these years later we’re still performing his Christmas Oratorio every year.  And it also explains why I was keeping that deathly vice grip on my score and was petrified of getting lost. But it’s obviously also thrilling and exhilarating if you make it through to the end in once piece – it’s like making it through an obstacle course in a sports car. Wheeeeeeee!

Now I have three days to repack my suitcases, ready my apartment for sublettors, and study yet another buttload of baroque Italian recitative, before I’m off to Berlin for two long wintery months.  

Here you can hear Sandy Sylvan singing The Monk and his Cat by Samuel Barber, with some cute cat photos thrown in for good measure: