Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reflecting on 2010

It's clearly been a while since I've been able to write, but now that I am on Christmas break, I have a little more time than I would normally have during the school year. With only 2 days until Christmas, I've decided to reflect on the incredibly wonderful year I've had.

This is my final year at Laurier, and it has been the best year yet. I feel that I have accomplished more in four months than I did the last two years of my undergrad. This has to do with some vocal set backs that kept me from singing to my fullest potential. Not only have I made wonderful advances in singing, but I have made incredible advances in my lifestyle. It took me about 3 years to make those changes, but I see that perserverance and hard work have paid off. I've learned that I have been my own obstacle.

After my first year I had gained a lot of weight. Since then, over the last three to four years, I have lost 25 pounds. I understand what I need to eat for my body (and my voice) to remain healthy. I also understand how important excersize is. I am thankful that I don't have the best metabolism in the world. I know exactly when I'm not eating right because my body tells me. 

At the end of this term, I earned an A/A+ in my studio, an A+ in Opera and I just was notified that I will be receiving the Alumni Choir Voice Performance Scholarship this year. Even though I've been working hard, I feel that this is a reward for the last two years of struggle. I am no longer broken (as I've shouted from the mountain tops dozens of times...sorry if you've already heard this).

About a month ago, I found out that I was accepted into Opera NUOVA's six week program in Edmonton, Alberta.  I have been offered the role of the Second Wood Nymph in Rusalka and I couldn't be more delighted. This program is, in my opinion, Canada's best, and I can't wait to be challenged and busy!

On top of all this, a little while ago I was offered an opportunity to sing with the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony in the Pops Concerts Series. I will be part of a comedy act lead by Rainer Hersch, a British comedian, pianist and conductor. I am proud to say that this is my first professional gig in the classical world.

This year would not have been such a success without help from my talented and dedicated teacher, Kimberly Barber. Not only is she a wonderful teacher, but she has such a way with words, she is beautiful and so unbelievably talented as an artist and she is, above all, a compassionate and caring person. She has gotten me through some very rough times and it is such a pleasure to complete my fifth year of study at Laurier with her. I look forward to my next year of private study with her, after leaving Laurier.

I also need to comment on how proud I am to be a Laurier graduate. After receiving my undergrad, I knew I had to come back to do my Opera Diploma. Laurier has made me a great musician, artist and person. When I leave these walls, I understand how different other universities are. Nowhere else would a third or fourth year be singing a lead role in an opera. Nowhere else would such a collegial and supportive atmosphere exist. This year, our opera class has been the best yet, with no room for gossip, jealousy or toxicity and I am SO thankful for that. There is no need for it in this business, and those who indulge are not helping themselves or others. I am not perfect, and I find myself getting sucked into "toxic talk", but I strive to stay away.

After reading the above text, I realize it could be seen as me bragging. This is not my intention. I have taken the time to write this all out for myself: to reflect on my year, to share with others the things that I am proud of, and to write down all the things that I am incredibly thankful for.

I am so proud to be a soprano and artist and I can't wait to see where 2011 leads. If I don't write again until the new year, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!


P.S. Another highlight of this month was seeing Renee Fleming at Roy Thompson Hall. You know you're a die-hard fan when you start sobbing profusely while she makes her first entrance onto the stage. She was stunning.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sickness knows no bounds...


It is approximately 3 days until our Opera Excerpts here at Laurier, and Miss Opera Diploma is sick. I am not writing for sympathy, just to share what I am learning about myself during this period of illness.

I got sick on Saturday night with full fever, body aches and swollen glands. I was feverish all day Sunday. I was dreading Monday because not only did I have opera rehearsal, but I also had my Opera Nuova audition. So I decided that I would miss my morning classes to save my energy and then get to school for rehearsal and my audition. It wasn't feeling %100 in the morning, but I felt ok. I got to the school and I seemed fine.

 I had my Opera NUOVA audition at 5:15 and it was the best audition I've ever had to date. Not only did I sing well, but I felt an electricity in the room that was very exciting. After that high, things started to go downhill. I went to opera rehearsal that evening, but I shouldn't have.

After a terrible night's sleep, I woke up this morning to discover that my cold had moved into my chest and I had a lovely cough. I was able to see a homeopath today and get some remedies and I am well on the mend.

What I learned from this experience was how amazing our mental capacity is. I was bed ridden on Sunday, but Monday was magic. I've learned that we can do anything if we put our minds to it. Tomorrow are the dress rehearsals. I plan to mark, but I still feel surprisingly great. I'm looking forward to Friday. I can honestly be thankful that this didn't start on Thursday, in time for me to be sick on Friday.

I'm still not feeling the best, but I wont let it stop me. Don't get me wrong, I will take care of myself, but I will remind my body that there is work to be done. Singing is my life and sickness wont stop me.

Looking forward to Friday. Hope to see you all there and healthy!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Presenting Opera Laurier's 2010 Excerpts

Hello everyone,

It's been quite a while since I've written. Life is busy. This entry is to let everyone know about Opera Laurier's upcoming performance of Excerpts. The information is as follows:

Opera Laurier Presents Excerpts 2010
Friday, November 19th and Saturday, November 20th
Director: Andrea Wingelaar
Musical Directors: Leslie De'ath and Elvera Froese
Wilfrid Laurier University
Theatre Auditorium
8 pm

Tickets: $10 general, $5 students and seniors, FREE for Laurier students

Presenting excerpts from:

Verdi's La Traviata
Massenet's Manon
Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos
Coghlan's Frankie and Johnnie

This is going to be a great show! Not only is there beautiful singing, but rockstars and dancing too! I won't say anymore. This is a unique and fun year for Opera Laurier. Hope to see you all there!


P.S. I promise I will write more when I have time!!!! :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Why I Sing

I was recently reading Classical Singer magazine, and there is a section for singers to write in and let the world know why they sing. These are two responses that I had to share, because the way I feel about singing is identical to what I read.

Why I Sing
By Gretchen Retka

I sing because I breathe. Breathing and singing go hand in hand. I inhale and I sing, inhale and sing. I'm always singing wherever I go. It's my passion. It's a gift that I choose to share with as many people as I can. I endure the challenges because I love it--and not in the sense of romanticized love, but in the form of pure and spiritual love.

I once heard about love described in terms of a relationship: When two lovers first meet they are wild, attracted to one another, passionate, all full of kissing and lust--"in love" and crazy! But once (to put it plainly) the period of insanity wears off, the two people are forced to look at what is left and decide whether or not its worth it to continue. After it all, if you couldn't even imagine going through the rest of your life without that person, then you know: it's true love.

I feel this way about singing. At first it was crazy childhood fascination, singing everywhere I went, entertaining the family and friends but without any formal training--just crazy about music. Later, after having some letdowns, reality set in and then I had to ask myself: Do I love singing this much? I know I can't go the rest of my life without singing, having found a love like this.

So I stay, I endure whatever comes--happiness and heartbreak--and I grow. My life is forever changed because I love so deeply. I didn't ask for this voice, but I've chosen to cultivate it because I can't imagine another way.


Why I Sing
By Daniel McGrew

I sing because I must. I sing because I have a song within me that I cannot silence. It's part of who I am. Like someone blinks or breathes--that's how I sing. It's involuntary. And if one stops the eye from blinking or the breath from cycling in and out, the urge will build and build--and despite one's most earnest attempts against it, the eye will blink, the breath will assume its familiar rhythm. I will sing again!

And so here I stand, 17 years old, dreaming of a career that is, very apparently, full of obstacles, brutal disappointments, hurdles, and difficulties galore. Why? Why not something else? Something that is far more stable and secure? Because I am determined to live the life that I feel I am being called to live.

As singers, part of what we do is based upon our own enjoyment. I am never happier than when beautiful music surrounds me and fills me up--the joy of song is a thrill that never fades or dulls. This personal enjoyment is an important motivation within me--but even bigger, I feel, is the need to share what I've been blessed with. What is a song if nobody but the singer gets to experience it? I love to make people feel things through my music, make them think, make them laugh, and make them cry. It's all about the music--getting inside the heart of the listener and stretching it, making them bigger inside. And suddenly, if only for a fleeting moment, they see themselves and the world in a new way. They remember something. They discover something. They are changed.

I cannot miss out on the opportunity to really affect people through the power of music in the name of fear or sloth. I'll face the fear. I'll conquer the seemingly impossibly tasks. Because if I can touch lives with the talents I've been blessed with, then I have not lived in vain.

I must sing. And because I must, I will!


I don't really think I need to say anything else.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

September is almost over...

So apparently I've dropped off the face of the earth since school started. So sorry! It's been a busy September, what can I say?!

So last time I left off, Krysta had arrived but now Tyler is here too! Welcome to the "east coast". Apparently I have an east coast accent. Never noticed until I was made aware of it. Thanks Tyler. The poor guy got here to an empty, un-furnished apartment so the first week was all running around.

Opera rehearsals are going pretty well. The Traviata is always a great joy to sing and I feel very confident in its delivery. Still needs lots of work, and that's where Kim comes in! The Ariadne on the other hand is not so easy. The role is actually a dramatic soprano role, but the scene we are singing is totally do-able. I get to chest a low G which is so much fun. The learning of it is not all that easy. I had a frustrating rehearsal where I made mistakes and I HATE nothing more than being unprepared. Les understands because A. we were just assigned this role a week ago and B. its Strauss. We are all still scrambling a bit to learn it accurately and quickly.

On another note, Tyler and I are currently learning the final duet in Eugene Onegin, to be performed at the final Opera Diploma recital. It is honestly one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard. It is so full of passion and intensity. The scene itself is so intense. Basically, after having rejected Tatiana when she confessed her love to him, Onegin decides (six years later) that he actually loves her and wants to be with her. This is of course after she has become a woman and is now graceful and mature. I won't give away the ending, but its not really happy one. It's a great "inner-struggle" scene. Can't wait to get that on its feet.

The other night we had a surprise party for Krysta because she mentioned NOTHING on the day of her actual birthday. I had no idea it was her actual birthday. I felt terrible. SO....I decided we needed to have an impromptu surprise party. She had no idea it was coming and it was an amazing night. I feel so lucky because this year has been filled with so many wonderful people. My roommates are amazing, Tyler and Krysta are my two new fantastic friends. These people have honestly lit up my life (cue the song) for these first two weeks and made it so positive. I feel that positivity was something I was lacking in previous years. This year is going to be filled with memories.

Speaking of amazing times and great memories, last night we all went to Toronto to see Kim in Tapestry Opera's Opera Briefs in the Distillery District. What a show.

The concept: 4 composers, 4 librettists and 4 singers. And what do they do? The create opera. They created about 10 different operas from which they each did a scene. It was amazing to watch. The theatre was very black box and intimate so everything was up close and personal. Theatre like that is SO exciting. Now, I could be biased, but I don't think I'm wrong in saying that Kim stole the show. Her amazing attention to detail and great dramatic presence was just there. She is a force.

I also really enjoyed how much this sort of opera relied on good acting ability. Every scene was a small piece of theatre and if you took the singing away, it would be just as glorious.

Backtracking now. Before the show, we walked through the distillery district and went into some art galleries. WOW. I saw beautifully stunning art. Taking time to appreciate beauty like that cannot be compared with anything else. My favourite gallery housed this set of photographs printed onto stainless steel. The show was called "Carnaval" by Nicolas Ruel. All the works were carnival/masquerade scenes all in a Venetian setting. They were dramatic, operatic and full of life. Three things that I like very much ;) Here are a few of my favourites below:

To look at the rest of the collection you can go to and view the photographs.

After wandering for a bit we went to the Mill St. Brewery for dinner. I tried the Raspberry Beer. Mmmm. Delicious but dangerous because it is like juice. It was honestly such a wonderful night. Here is a photo of this beautiful group of people at the restaurant:

Well, I think that's about enough for now. If you haven't already, check out the rest of the Carnaval collection. It's beautiful.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Op. Dips. Unite!

Today was a busy and great day. We had a meeting with the Dean, and it turns out he is fantastic. He has a sense of humour, he's kind and he cares about us students. Couldn't be happier :) After the meeting, I met Krysta, my fellow Op. Dip. at Kim's studio! I am SO HAPPY you are here Krysta!

I gave her the tour, we photocopied music together, we researched our Opera Excerpts together, and then we went to Zellers. It was a great day.

On the downside. I hate OSAP. They wouldn't give me my money because I'm not enrolled in my full course load yet. Great. I'm still poor. Ahhhhh, the life of a student.

Looking forward to tomorrow because we have our general meeting and Opera Auditions! Looking forward to seeing the whole Opera class and hearing everyone's voices :) Of course, Krysta and I happen to be singing the same aria for our audition. We are like two peas in a pod.

I also practiced again today and worked on Violetta...I think I can sing "Sempre Libera". Oh god its hard...but I'm going to do it. I'm a soprano on a mission ;)

This is going to be a challenging year. I can't wait.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Hello everyone,

SO! I'm all moved into my new place. It's SO great. I have the most amazing roommates and the most amazing house. I feel like I've lived here for years. The move itself was so quick and painless and I was settled the first night we were here.

Yesterday, I went to the school to practice and I half forgot that all of the first years were moving in to their residences. The campus was crazy and full of parents and first years. My practice was great, especially because I was working on Violetta. She is a demanding sing, and I think I got a little too carried away because my voice was exhausted after practicing. I can't help it, when things start going well, I can't stop.

That night, us girls watched "Man in the Iron Mask" starring the one and only: Leo. It was made in 1998. I think post Romeo and Juliet, pre Titanic. God, I remember being so in love with him when I was a 10 year old. Thank God my tastes have changed, though, watching it was so nostalgic. Between Giancarlo and I, we have SO many movies...and I mean DVD and VHS. We are a little obsessive.

Today, I went to the school to do a couple of things and I discovered that the Second Cup in our concourse is now replaced by...drumroll please...A STARBUCKS! It's a little sad, but I was extremely excited. After my elation passed, I went to my chiro appointment. God I needed it. I also got measured for my orthotics. I'm old. I need to wear orthotics. Goodness.

The best part of the day came when Piera, Maradyn and I went to Thrive, the new vegan restaurant in Uptown Waterloo. It is honestly one of the best places I've ever eaten, and I can eat everything on the menu! YES!

I'm now currently drinking a vodka water, listening to The Doors and waiting for all of the roomies to come home. It is Sam (our friend and neighbour) and Adam's birthday (one of my 5 roomies). We are going to Sam's house a little later for party time!!!!! Looking forward to a little bit of light partying during O-Week before starting into my full schedule.

Well, I think that's enough mundane details for today.

Cheers *raising my glass*,


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Fall Opera Excerpts

The waiting has ended.

For those away from Laurier who still want to know this, and because I'm excited to tell you, we are doing the following scenes for Opera Excerpts:

The "Cours la reine" scene from Manon Act III, scene i. with Krysta (my fellow Op. Dip.) playing Manon! I am understudying this role.

Act I, scene i from La Traviata including the Brindisi or drinking song (I bet you'd all know it if you heard it...even if you don't know classical music well) and I'll be playing Violetta Valery!! Very exciting! My roomie GC (short for Giancarlo) is playing Alfredo, my lover.

Trio Act II from Ariadne auf Naxos and the Quintet Act II with Krysta and I double cast as Ariadne.

And Frankie and Johnnie, a one act opera. This one is new to me...I don't know much about it!

VERY EXCITING! These excerpts are going to be pretty fierce! I'll keep you posted on dates.

Even though I have to start packing my clothes (moving tomorrow), I'm still going to start learning and watch the DVD. Man, I love opera.

Well, hopefully the move goes smoothly. I'm so excited to be back in Waterloo!

Until then,


Thursday, September 2, 2010

The High C


So...yesterday was not a magic day. I sang those B naturals again today...AND A HIGH C. I held a door open for an elderly lady earlier in the day. Do you think that's why? Every time I am a good samaritan I get a high C? Haha. I'm clearly kidding (not about the holding the door open part for the elderly lady...the part where it earns me high Cs). I think I've honestly found the spot.

A beautiful mezzo who was in her Op. Dip. when I was in my first year told me that she found her high notes at 23. Is this the magic age? If so...I like being 23 right now :). Again, these are small victories, but they are so huge for me. Sorry if this high note business is getting monotonous....BUT...when the C# and D are there, I will inform you. Just saying.

In other news, I am anxiously awaiting our initial Opera Excerpts cast list. I know what operas we are doing excerpts from (La Traviata, Manon and Ariadne auf Naxos) but I have NO idea who I'll be cast as. I can make educated guesses, but I don't want to be hasty. I got my scores in the mail today so I am asking our Opera Mom (Kim) to please send out the list. I am way too excited and want to start learning.

Ciao for now,



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Holy crap


So this might sound strange, especially because I'm a soprano, but today I did something I've never done.

I sang a GOOD B natural. It was slim and focused and in tune. Holy crap.

I've been struggling with my high notes for years now and I've been so frustrated and a down on myself because they just weren't happening. when I was practicing...I took action. I've always noticed that my support system (muscles that help my little vocal chords do their job) was not good. I decided to play around today while I was practicing and I found the solution!

I was singing through "Quando m'en vo'" from Puccini's La Boheme and there are about 3 B naturals. So, after experimenting with support, I sang ALL of the B naturals and they sounded beautiful. At the end of the aria, I burst out into tears because I couldn't believe I had done it. I found the sweet spot.

I've not been properly supporting my sound, and for some reason, today was the day I discovered how. I don't know why. I've understood the concept for years, but it finally clicked and I was popping off B naturals in a bunch of different arias.

ALSO, the rest of my singing dramatically changed. Phrases weren't hard and I actually had VOLUME CONTROL, which is something that a lot of singers struggle with. I sang quietly. This makes me feel like this year is going to be a pretty fantastic one.

I really hope I didn't just jinx myself and this was a just a one time thing. I'll have to check in tomorrow to find out. I feel like I may have a chance at NEC, Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music. We shall see.

I guess everyone figures things out in their own time.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Crunch Time

Good morning to all,

So I woke up this morning and I had had the WEIRDEST dream. I had gone back to my old high school (after having received my degree) to do another year. It was so vivid. My best friend was there, the group that we used to hang out with was there and even teachers were there that I had learned from. I was even talking to people in the dream about how I had just graduated from university and was coming back. Then, a good friend that I was always double cast with in the opera productions at LAURIER walked in, saying she wanted to try another year of highschool. What does that mean? All I have to say is that when I woke up, I was SO thankful I was going back to do another year of University. Weird.

After thinking of all this, I also realized that I am moving back to Waterloo in 6 days! There is a lot to be done before I get back there, especially housekeeping things. I have to pack, continue to learn music, create a course for myself (an independent study...more on that later), go to the gym, AND see friends that are leaving already for school. It seems that no matter how prepared you are, it always comes down to the last few days.

So...this independent study. This year, my voice teacher, the illustrious Kimberly Barber, has suggested that I and my fellow Op. Dip. Krysta, do an independent study as part of our course work for our Opera Diploma. Basically, we are to design our own course based around a role study. Some of the assignments that we can assign ourselves (kinda cool) are things like a character analysis of said role (probably Pamina from The Magic Flute), a comparative essay on different CD recordings and DVD recordings of the Opera, an interview with artists currently working on said opera, and a presentation at the end of the year on all our findings. I couldn't think of a better way to get a full credit. Could you?

So, basically counting down the days until Waterloo and my first lesson with Kim. I promise I'll tell you all about her soon enough. She's amazing and warrants a large paragraph...but this post is already long enough. I'll post a pic below so you can see her.

6 days!


P.S. Mom, if you're reading this...I'm sad that 6 days means I'll also be leaving you in the Hammer. :(

From left to right: Christiane Riel (my amazing teacher during 4th year), Me, Kimberly Barber, and Elvera (coach and accompanist). This is directly after my grad recital in April 2010.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wow. I've Started a Blog!

Hello everyone!

Welcome to my new blog called Come Scoglio: A Soprano On A Mission. I've always wanted to start one of these, but never really had a reason to. Now, after graduating from Wilfrid Laurier and receiving my degree (woo!), I'm entering into a new chapter of my life. Although I am returning to Laurier to do so, I feel something different and exciting is about to begin.

Before I say anything else, I will describe what the title of my blog means. For those of you who don't know this, "Come scoglio" is an aria written by W.A. Mozart and comes from his opera Cosi fan tutte. It is a soprano role, the character being named Fiordiligi. In plain english, "Come scoglio" means "like a rock". To be a young, budding soprano in this business calls for strength and determination. Not only are there a large quantity of sopranos trying to get into this business (by business I mean the Operatic singing world), but a large number of GOOD sopranos. We have to work that much harder because we are not in demand. This blog, I'm hoping, will be an outlet for me to reflect on this journey. For readers, I hope it will inspire and answer some questions about what I and many other people do as singers, artists...and most specifically, as sopranos.

I've always known that my life would lead to a job in the performing arts, but never did I believe I would end up here. To be a singing artist is to live a life full of culture and to be immersed in the classics. In September, in about a week, I will be returning to Waterloo, ON to complete my Opera Diploma at Wilfrid Laurier University. This is probably the first year where I have been itching to return to school and start working! Not that I was never excited before, but this is finally when I am able to start focusing on my love: Opera.  It will be a challenging year, especially because I will be applying to schools in the states to continue studying.

So, to conclude, I hope this entry gives readers enough incentive to continue reading and commenting on what will be a very challenging and amazing journey.

Hasta luego (until later),