New Year, New Directions, and Keep Using Moisturizer

Of course, the term New Directions reminds me of Glee, and also of what I can only imagine was an intentional double-entendre. But I feel as though I’m taking some steps to do things differently.

First of all, I’ve decided that, for now, I’m not going to focus on developing my private studio. I’ll take on students if they call and I can make it work. I’ll build up my studio at Howard Community College and teach primarily during the day. But I don’t want to be in the place I was in Milwaukee, where I had so many students that I didn’t make time to practice, seek performing opportunities, and put myself out there to perform.

(The cynical part of me says, “It’s not like anyone was coming to hear you sing anyway, even when you did.” And that’s true. But that is bitter, and I’m trying to put that behind me. So this is the last time I complain about that.)

So I recharged myself personally and professionally this past few weeks. I went to Jamaica a week, which was my personal recharge. And before that, I recharged myself professionally by going to NYC for the NATS/NOA Joint Workshop at the Roosevelt Hotel. I sang in a master class on belt (which I’ll write about later), attended fantastic master classes by Andrew Lippa and John Bucchino, both of whom I spoke to (and I have Bucchino’s card and might go up and coach his songs with him), and went to terrific sessions on finding the truth in your interpretations in auditions and performances.

I’d like to write a bit about the last part, in particular regarding two sessions on the final day.

One was taught by Stephen Wadsworth, who is a well-respected opera director and teaches advanced acting techniques at Juilliard. He was also the Skylight’s co-artistic director in the late 80s/early 90s – right after I left Milwaukee the first time, but we’d met numerous times and I’d sung for him. In fact, he remembered my face (which means my moisturizer must be working, because it had been 25 years since I saw him last!) when I spoke to him after his session.

His focus was on boiling down your material – musical theater song, aria or monologue – to a single sentence that had a universal message.

When I returned from NYC, I had an audition for Washington National Opera. I prepared two arias, one of which was “Seguidilla” from Carmen. So this was how I approached the aria, by creating this sentence:

“This is a person who wants freedom from an authority figure, and will use charm to manipulate that figure into giving it to her.”

Then I translated that to:

“I am a person who wants freedom from an authority figure (Don Jose), and I will use my charm to manipulate him into giving it to me.”

Later that day, I saw Nicholas Muni, another well-respected director at the head of the opera department at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He spoke of the 5 magic questions that needed to be asked when preparing an aria. So I applied these to Seguidilla as well:

FIVE MAGIC QUESTIONS
1. What do I need/want at this moment (Goal)? My way and freedom. Maybe some fun.

2. What course of action would give me the best chance of obtaining it at this moment (Action)? Being sexy and teasing, making my jailer think it’d be worth his while to let me go.

3. What is the obstacle (Obstacle)? Don José, my jailer

4. What must I do to transform the obstacle (Tactic)?  Seduce him. Let him know how much fun we could have together if he not only let me go, but came with me.

5. What are the positives/negatives of success/failure (Stakes)?
Positives/success: Get my freedom, have sex
Negatives/failure: Stay in jail, be bored, no sex

I also applied this to “Voce di donna” from La Gioconda, my other audition aria. I worked on the Seguidilla more because that’s what I intended to offer them.

And of course, they didn’t ask for that one. But I still felt like I was more prepared and comfortable than I’d been in a long time. And rather than thinking of it as an experience where I’d be judged, I thought of it as a performance opportunity (another thing that Muni encouraged the participants to consider).

And Stephen Gathman of the WNO remembered me, even though I hadn’t sung for him since 1996, when he was an assistant chorusmaster.

Yay for recharging my energies and yay for moisturizer!