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.