Monday, March 21, 2011

Elmo's Life Threatened by Real Housewife of St. Louis

I never really get the urge to sucker punch someone in the face (mostly because I am a lazy pacifist) but Dana Loesch has just moved herself to the top of my bitch-slap bucket list.  I was fortunate enough to be in France during the initial onslaught of the Teabag-partiers; it made it much easier to ignore them, however this representative from crazytown (to quote Joan Walsh) finally hit a personal nerve with me, by stating that government should NEVER be responsible for funding the arts.  She may be the most preposterous nincompoop I have ever had the displeasure of watching on television - and I say that even in a time where we are blessed every week with morsels of spray-tanned-wisdom from the whiny mouth of Snooki of Jersey Shore. Dana tried to qualify that she "likes the arts" and how she had studied dance (mostly ballet) for 15 years, six days a I wonder who paid for those lessons?  How nice for her to have a family that was able to budget such a thing (too bad her parents couldn't put a price on her education) but Dana, there and millions of children in the world with natural talents, who are unable to nurture them, and the thought of even having a parent is not part of their reality.

Those who believe arts education is something that should be privately funded, are those who would carelessly widen the divisive gap between the wealthy and poor in our country.  How would one expect a child of no means be exposed to ballet, opera, the symphony or ground-breaking visual art, without an introduction through their public education?  To cut budgets in this area tells us that the education of our children in general is not a priority in this country, and that we are satisfied with producing a mass population of mediocre minds.

To justify budget cuts for mediums such as PBS and NPR under the argument that they promote Liberalism, seems an extreme point of view, to me, but perhaps it is just a simple demonization of the word "liberal" when one hears the term Liberal Arts.  It wouldn't be the first time there was confusion over vocabulary, it happens in 1st grade classrooms everyday....but, let me not digress to utter bitchiness, instead I will clarify that the term Liberal Arts refers to the education of a person who enjoys the freedom of existence, instead of slavery.  It means we are afforded the right to read great literature, study the sciences and find new solutions in mathematics. If these are things that members of our government do not feel are important enough to fund for the children who will one day be the leaders of the world, then I say the future looks bleak and colorless indeed.  While I am a promoter of Fine Art in my own field, I believe that well rounded exposure of all subject matter through education, creates the highest level of human being; a person who can think for themselves by using rational thought.  If Maya Angelou, Itzhak Perlman and Barbara Walters had not been able to get to Sesame Street, most children might never bother to find out who they are, or how they each overcame great adversity to become pioneers in their respective fields.  Perhaps this group of people who feel Sesame Street promotes Liberalism would prefer someone like Newt Gingrich to appear in a segment with Elmo; then we could all learn the reasons why hypocrisy is better than forgiveness...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Homeless Numbers Rise in Congress and Opera

You either have to be passionate beyond all reasonable doubt, a Trustfunderkind, or out of your goddamn mind to try and pursue a career in something like opera.  I know that actors, musicians, dancers, painters, and many other artists alike are in the same boat, but I cannot speak for them.  This art that depreciates in value amongst the general public each year is an uphill battle, with five feet of snow in all directions.

I don't pretend to be a politically minded person, but I do pay attention, and when something resonates with me, I investigate to make sure I am well informed (sometimes that just means watching Real Time With Bill Maher because like a good man, he does most of the work when I don't feel the urge).

This morning I watched a report on MSNBC about several of our Congressmen sleeping in their offices when away from their home state.  I immediately felt a kinship to these men (in this case it is all men) who are a bit gypsy-like when in D.C. and simply want to stay focused on work while putting their $174,000 salaries toward things like their children's education.  Most performing artists, unless they find a residency somewhere, depend upon the kindness of strangers, the companies they work for, or cheap motels to lodge their wandering minstrel ways.  Sometimes it can feel a bit demoralizing to not have a place you call your own, especially when the average office Joe cannot comprehend why anyone would live that way.  I for one, am completely on board with our Congressmen.   I may make a small percentage of their wages, but at least they are humble enough to get creative with their lodging to save a buck and not demand that we, the American people, pay for them to have a place in Washington.  Sure, the members of CREW (not to be confused with J. CREW...they really should get a different font) are up in arms about these 30 or 40 men not paying taxes to sleep in a Federal building.  I am sure they would gladly do so to avoid the added expenses of the rent, gas and extra doctor's visits due to exhaustion.  Go ahead Melanie Sloan, lobby a tax law for those guys and while you're at it, Robin-Hood the hell out of that money and give it to the poor (starving artists)!!

It's a Fantasyland wish to think that the government might subsidize the living expenses of the creative minds of its country, especially when next to half of the members on Capitol Hill are ready to cut the budgets of PBS and NPR.  I won't make the audacious statement that they should find a way to help us lowly performers just yet, because god knows I'd rather have free health care first.  Baby steps.  I will say however, that France has BOTH of these issues worked out hurry up USA, if you really want to think you are better than the French, figure out ways to pay for my hospital stay and part of my rent while you're at it!  Until then Vivre la socialisme!, Vivre la France!, and let the Congress sleep wherever they like if it will problem solve a little faster (again...wishful thinking). 
Now, while I admit I cannot support nor refute Jason Chaffetz's politics (he's a Republican from Utah, so I'm sure we know how he feels...) I can't fault the guy for utilizing his after-office-before-bedtime hours to speak to his constituents...especially with his "cot" as part of the set decor:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

If Mozart Were a Guido

Last night I attended a party where I was surrounded by opera folk; singers, patrons, a director and all kinds of staff members whose great passion in life is opera.  It reminded me that most of the extra-curricular socializing in my life has been with a non opera loving crowd.  It makes very little difference to me, one way or the other, but last night I was reminded why I am so passionate about bringing opera out of its protected circle and into a place where it can be appreciated by those who are not exposed to it on a regular basis.  I was inspired listening to the director dig deeply into the character analyzation of Mozart's comedic opera Cosi fan tutte; which translates to:  "Women...are like that" - meaning us ladies may have a Mr. Right in our life, but when he's not around will happily entertain Mr. Right-Now.  I can't say as I particularly subscribe to that opinion, but perhaps I have grown wise in my old age. I appreciated the passion of the director's insights, and because I am a geek for this sort of thing, learned so much from him in just a few minutes.
Usually if you are in a conversation with me, I will intently listen to what it is you have to say, until I hear something that sparks an idea which gets the little hamster wheel going inside my head.  Then I will probably stare at your eyebrows while wandering off on the path my brain is taking me down.  Feel complimented, because you were obviously interesting enough to inspire me to head in this particular direction in the first place.  Ha.  This is exactly what happened once I began to process the information I had just been given.  I started to wonder about this story and how it would be portrayed in today's forms of entertainment.  Mozart was not only a genius because of his ability to write the perfect music for expressing text or his flawless compositional skill, but because he chose to portray characters that were commonly seen in society and expose their dirty underbellies in a public forum.  As we see in our celebrity-gossip obsessed society, the masses love to soak up the real life drama of other people's lives.  We have made celebrities out of the most audacious half-wits ever to walk the planet, simply by following them around with a camera crew.
All of this was going through my mind while and I piped back into the conversation with "it's really just an episode of the Jersey Shore".   I don't know if anyone thought I was funny except for me, but it didn't matter because what I said was true.  If you look at the 40 car pile up that is The Jersey Shore, even this week's episode shows sociological evidence which backs up Mozart's theme:  1.  Sammi "Sweetheart" and Ronnie broke up for the 30th time, so Sammi went out to prove that if one man does not give you the attention you want, there is always another one who will.  2.  While JWoww's man was far away, she found several other males from the "juice-head" breed to lavish her with affection.  While these folks may not be the brightest bulbs in the chandelier of life, it does not mean they cannot be motivated by their own subconscious behaviors, just like Mozart's characters.  It's possible that I offended this group of my peers, but this is where they and I differ.  While I don't always like (and am sometimes appalled by) pop versions of operatic interpretation, this rigidity to hold opera up on an untouchable pedestal is what keeps the general public away, in my opinion.   While I am constantly blown away by what incredible artists are out there performing opera with a passion for acting and interpretation, it's getting the people to the performance who would not think of attending it in the first place.  Once we have them there, much of the time opera's greatness speaks for itself, but in other instances there is a missing communication link that excludes them from becoming part of our world.  This is where I believe it is our responsibility to build a bridge of understanding.
I don't know if I would take the direction that The Royal Opera House in London has....but you can decide for yourself:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thundersnow Circumnavigation

I often have a difficult time simply sitting down and focusing in one particular area when it comes to writing this blog, which is probably why I haven't updated it regularly.  I want it to be informative about what I am up to professionally, but find that I express myself in the best way when using personal experience as a base.  
Taking an idea from its inception in my own head and vocalizing it to the ears of the world, always stirs up a combination of fear and excitement that gets my blood pumping au quotidien. Most days I am able to forge ahead and make progress on my passion projects, but other times life comes along with its trials that can tempt me to get in my own way.  The worst part is when I let it.  I am a sensitive creature that is often ruled by emotion, and sometimes worry that that emanates a lack of inner strength and self-assurance, but then I see the contrary in some of my outlandishly ballsy behavior.  In moments when my emotions have gotten the better of me, I tended to forget what I am made of, reach out, act out or lash out to keep from having to deal with vulnerability.  What I had forgotten along the way is that being vulnerable takes ultimate courage.  Creating a hard coating around a soft, sensitive center may feel like protection, but in turn comes off as false strength which undermines any kind of honest communication that might have been intended.  In the end nothing feels as good as being true to who you are in every moment, even if that moment is overwhelmed by emotion. 

After spending at least the last six months in geographic transition, I had been craving a physical place to call my own.  I arrived in Santa Barbara, California a short time ago out of desperation, and had absolutely no intention of sticking around for very long.  What I have discovered in my brief time here is nothing short of spectacular.  This city has a sense of interwoven support for its artists and musicians that I have never quite experienced.  There is an openness to create, collaborate and exalt all types of artistry, while involving the rest of the community by educating as many people as possible along the way.  Perhaps I had spent too much time in cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Paris to feel optimistic that there was a better way to success as an artist than individually clawing and scratching your way to the top at the expense of anyone who appeared to impede your path.  I never particularly warmed to that style of doing things, because it fought against everything I stood for as a human being.  My optimism has been renewed in simply being here in this place where the sun shines, the ocean meets the shore, and you don't have to be a bitchy hardass to get things accomplished, in fact that seems a sure fire way to exile yourself around these parts.  
If you had asked me two months ago where I thought I would end up living, Santa Barbara would probably not have been anywhere near that list.  Life has a funny way of giving you everything you ask for, but experience is teaching me that it rarely arrives in the package one expects.  I am now happily settled in a great house with a garden that grows vegetables, a vintage O'Keefe & Merritt gas stove, with a kitchen that begs to be cooked in, and am a very walkable distance to downtown and the beach.  While most of the northern hemisphere is covered in snow, I wake up everyday to blue skies, sunshine, and a temperate 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius for my friends across the globe) that beckons me to keep going on a journey that is rarely easy, but amongst all the strife brings unparalleled moments of joy and beauty.         

Sunday, January 9, 2011

That's Right. I Said it!

I have to get something off my chest at this point:  I LOVE the sound of my own voice ( this really news to anyone?). Working on the podcast has brought new meaning to that expression for me.  Even though I am still working out the kinks, finding a good rhythm, and torturing my poor web designer with questions like, "can we make it seem like you have just stepped onto a page with never ending sunlight?", I have never had more fun with something than I am with this.  I waited until the last possible moment to do the recording this week due to the typhoid nature of my cough, and was up most of the night making sure I had the best expression for the points I wanted to make.  For someone who loves to experience life via her senses, being sick this way has tried its best to strip them from me.  I couldn't even enjoy the chili soaked marinade of the carne al pastor I bought from the Mexican carniceria down the street, and could scarcely hear the butcher's question, when he asked if I was a Spanish teacher.  Being back in a southern California beach town that is coated with Mexico's culture from days before it belonged to my country, I always feel nostalgia for this blend of Native and Spanish influences.  I smile as I hear the ranchera songs being played on the radio, and feel a sense of home in the local markets, even though my appearance hardly resembles the people whose paths I cross each day.  Needless to say, I have been enjoying myself while becoming reacquainted with the daily sunshine and Pacific Ocean. 

This morning after I posted the podcast I gave a listen to it with fresh ears to make sure I was happy with the result, and soon found myself listening to all the others in succession.  It's such a funny feeling, because it is completely free from ego, and yet I am so proud of it.  I am also amazed that when I put out even a small amount of focused effort toward my new found project, that the response is overwhelming and doors just seem to magically open.  That does not mean I will back down from all of the hard work I have put forth thus far, and will have to continue doing for the foreseeable future, it just creates a voracity for the bigger picture of which I feel privileged to be a part.  

The best compliment I received recently was from a 22 year old computer programmer who had never met me - "I don't even like opera, but for some strange reason I can't help listening to you discuss it."  That is all I can ask.  I don't expect everyone will agree with my way of presenting this perspective, that would be as silly as expecting every person I meet to like me.  You either will or you won't!  I do admit that I have had moments where I nearly second guessed putting this out there, for fear of those who prefer to follow the rules of opera or have found success in doing things according to the set standard.  The idealists of the world are few and far between, and usually met by an onslaught of naysayers causing some of them to give up along the way.  However, for the brave souls who have lifted their heads out of the crowd, stared adversity in the face and trudged onward without compromising themselves, I thank you.   They have reminded us to see beyond ourselves, believing that change is not only possible, it is inevitable. 

We (myself included) get so caught up in following ideas of "supposed to" that we lay down the notion of it being acceptable to make your own rules for living. I don't believe there is one person throughout time who has existed that had it all figured out, nor do I believe one way is the right way for everyone.  The best part about my beliefs is that you don't have to agree with them.  The only rule of life we all share is that one day we will die.  As for the rest, the fun is in getting to make it up as you go along! 

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”  - Dr. Seuss

Monday, December 13, 2010

Filling in the Blanks

It's Monday, the website is up, I'm completely exhausted, but here I sit watching another gorgeous California sunset and feeling better than I have in quite some time.  I've always told myself that I don't like to work hard, but the truth is, I just don't like hard work without direction.  This week has left me sleep deprived, skipping showers, forgetting to eat, scribbling in a notebook that's become a new appendage, spending more time glued to my computer for the sake of productivity than ever before, AND I HAVE LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT!

Several months ago, I was walking home from a friend's place through the streets of Paris after deciding to forego a night time metro ride.  No matter what happened to me during my time there, I never ceased to enjoy a proper stroll through the City of Light.  Paris is not without its charm and beauty, and in my opinion, best appreciated while the city sleeps and the streets are your own. This particular walk was the first time I had ventured that far on foot since being out of a cast and I was feeling good.  As my feet found a calm rhythm against the cobblestoned streets, I began to think about all of the music I loved, how it has influenced me and why exposure to opera seemed a losing battle in the world.  I was blessed with a wonderfully eclectic circle of people in my life, and aside from those I knew in the opera business, most of my friends and family hardly had an ounce of understanding for this art form I had dedicated myself to most of my life.  I would rarely get to have a discussion with anyone about it, and felt that if they really wanted to know more they would ask.  However, that night I thought:  perhaps it is up to me to share this beautiful music in a way that no one has ventured before?  I had become so stuck in "the way things are done" approach that there seemed to be no other option but to give up, until now.  I sat with the thoughts that had come to me on my walk for about a week before I shared them with anyone.  I wanted to be sure this wasn't just another idea I would lose interest in after a while, but once I started talking about it and putting things down on paper, it seemed to flow as naturally as water.  I was excited in a way I had never been before, so I bought a domain name for the website and started to pool my resources, but as it turned out, life still had some lessons to teach me before I would find myself moving any further with this project.

Months later, after arriving in California, I had left behind most of my belongings, a man I thought I was in love with, and several difficult situations that had tested the very fiber of my being.  Feeling like the biggest loser in the world, I had no idea how to begin picking up the pieces of the shattered picture my life had become.  I was still clinging to a relationship that had been dysfunctional for some time, but kept my focus there so as to avoid my own lack of direction.  It's funny how when you find yourself in a situation you don't want to be in, life will decide to change it for you, if you lack the gumption to change it yourself.  Three weeks after leaving France, my then boyfriend broke up with me in an email.  Yes, an email.  As devastated as I felt on the surface, I felt a huge relief of anxiety within.  I really had a clean slate.  For the first time I felt a desire for real change, not just a new city, haircut or philanthropic gesture to a gym I would never use, but the kind that required internal dedication and discipline.  While I've only been at it a few weeks, I feel a tremendous shift and know this is only the beginning.

Opera Revolution is the name of my vision.  I will fight tooth and nail to drag opera kicking and screaming out of the dark ages and into a light that can be seen by anyone.  It is my passion to do whatever it takes to bridge the gaps between the musical genres that have been created in the world.  The website will host all of the building blocks to reach my goal along the way, and for now that first step is a weekly podcast; researched, writtten, recorded and produced by yours truly.  I am beginning the series with an in depth look at Verdi's La Traviata, and promise to do my best to bring modern, accessible examples that will make it an entertaining experience.  There will be a new podcast every Sunday which will be much shorter than the introductory one I posted yesterday.  I look forward to settling into a rhythm with them as time goes on, and adding new layers to the site, which might eventually include a little singing of my own!  I will post links of resources for operatic entertainment and information that won't cost you an arm and a leg or too much time to get into.  Follow me along on the blog as I document Opera Revolution's progress.  I look forward to sharing the difficulties and triumphs, as I am sure there will be plenty of stories to tell.  Looking this challenge in the eye is one of the most exciting things I can imagine.

I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to visit the site and given me their feedback.  It is absolutely a work in progress and will continue to be updated and tweaked until it is exactly where I want it to be.

....more soon....


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Let the Lightning Strike!

Since it's been a while, and I DID promise to follow through, not only to you, but more importantly to myself, I feel it imperative to mention life's activities have taken precedence as "talking" gave way to "doing".
The day I sat down to map out my story board of goals, I was faced with a very important truth, which up until this point I had done a very good job of ignoring. I had NO idea what I wanted to do with my life. Most people who know me are aware that I have always pursued some manner of a career in opera. However, when I stop to look back over the last 14 years, I see it full of other odd jobs to pay the rent and not as much time singing. This started me thinking that perhaps this direction I had been heading in for so long wasn't really my heart's deepest desire. I love opera and I do have the talent to sing it, but also know I never had a thick enough skin to put up with all of the rejection and cruel criticism that came along with it. One trait I do not lack is perseverance in going after something that I want (just ask any customer service representative or guy I have dated) so maybe an operatic performance career wasn't what I wanted after all. When I know what I want, nothing gets in my way. I have no idea why it has taken me so long to figure this out, but now that I have finally admitted it, there is a peace I've never experienced before. This thought brought such a smile to my face as I realised I really could do anything! Of course, it has taken me a few weeks, thousands of miles, more personal traumas, hours of brainstorming, investigating and digging deeper into my soul than ever before to find out, but I ultimately stumbled upon something that has gotten me out of bed like a shot every morning. There don't seem to be enough hours in the day to get all of the work done that I need to do. It's even hard to pull myself away for a meal, and THAT is truly saying something! For the first time in a long time I am able to release that passion which has been locked inside, making me miserable because I couldn't see clearly enough to let it out.

If you've read my personal blogs for the past year, you will know that it has not been an easy one.  Moving to Paris brought one catastrophe (on my personal scale) after another and with it a multitude of lessons that I had to face.  Essentially ending up penniless, homeless, loveless and broken I returned to California.  This was the most humbling experience I could imagine, because it is where I grew up and where I swore I would never go back unless I had made something of myself.  However, after mild November temperatures, countless days of sunshine, the Pacific Ocean and breathtaking sunsets, I can only laugh at my previous notion.  Is there really some place better I could have picked to sit in the rubble of my life and rebuild from a brand new foundation?  There is something utterly peaceful about starting from a blank canvas.  I get to make the rules, forget the past and discard any preconceived notions I had about my life thus far.  Furthermore, I can return to my childlike instinct of defying anyone who tells me I can't do something that way.  Wanna bet?  ;-)

Screw the story board to the sticking place and join me on this endeavor as I reveal my new pet project and big vision within the next few days.  I will document its process, hardships and triumphs all here in this blog, but for now, add yourself to my "followers" on the right hand column next to this posting and you will be among the first to hear about the launch of my brand new website!  It will go live on Sunday morning so stay plugged, tweeted, or facebook'd in for your personal invitation.

Until then!