Sunday, December 20, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Note: Sorry for the delay. Here are the last couple entries while in Italy. I'll recap afterward.
I always regret that I don’t make enough time to explore my surroundings when I visit a new city or town for work. But then again, your first priority has to be the job. Leisure comes second. Of course. But this is Firenze we’re talking about. It’s not everyday that you get to come to a city in Europe with so much history behind it. Santa Croce. The Uffizzi. Il Duomo di Firenze. Il Ponte Vecchio. I mean c’mon!
The tourist areas can be really packed with people. You’re constantly weaving through the crowds to get where you wanna go. So having said that, Lauren and I decided to try a different route today. This was our second day off in a row. Final rehearsals and dresses will be upon us starting tomorrow. We open in six days.
We walked up to the Duomo and then kept on walking. I guess it was sort of North. Towards the train station. We gazed into shop windows as we passed them. We happened past what seemed to be an exhibit for Leonardo Da Vinci. Perhaps we’ll find that one again and check it out. Then we saw advertisements for convicted killers in one window. The sign over the door said “Museo Criminale.” A dummy of Hannibal Lecter restrained in his stand-up rolling dolly from the Silence of the Lambs movie sat posed about eight feet back from the doorway. We were in search of lunch. At one point, as we approached an intersection, Lauren turned around and said, “Don’t even THINK about it. No!” She’d seen it before I had. McDonald’s. I said, “Let’s go, let’s go!!” She replied, “I won’t trust McDonald’s in every country.” Fair enough. She said she’d had Burger King in Switzerland, I think, and that the cheese tasted funny. I chuckled at that comment.
We ended up at a Self Service café where you pick out your own food and take it to your table, instead of being waited on. The language barrier still gives me grief, but I make due. We sat and had our lunch. I picked out bow tie pasta in a pesto sauce. Lauren had tortellini in tomato sauce. The pesto was a bit much. I ended up finishing Lauren’s leftovers and leaving mine. Wasn’t totally into the pesto how I thought I’d be.
The rehearsal process was a bit more demanding than I thought it’d be. That’s the reason for the gap in postings. Most nights, coming home was for showering and sleep. Or sometimes just sleep as fatigue would require that a shower wait til morning. The remounting of this show took a lot out of me. Rehearsals proved a little on the tedious side at times. Then the maestro had the schedule re-worked so that the singers could have a bunch more time in music rehearsals with the orchestra. It was nice to have all that extra time with the instrumentalists, but I’m SURE that easily attributed to the extra loss of energy at the end of the day.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
October 21, 2009
First night in Firenze. Ugh…the traveling. Don’t think I’ll EVER enjoy that. Unless Marjorie were with me. I wonder what next spring, 2010, will be like. That will be a HAUL!! Six months straight, on the road. Albeit, the first and third gigs that will make up that stretch will include a higher level of familiarity than they would have otherwise. New York from mid February thru mid April. Then to London until the end of June. And from there, we go back to Bregenz, Austria for more Aida with the festival. And NOW, Mgmt is talking about more after THAT!! I wish United and American flew to all these different destinations so that I could cash in on all the accumulated miles!!
More coughing morons on planes. Goofy British woman spraying some sort of smelly aerosol around the cabin as we all emptied out onto the “ramp” to board buses to international terminal 5 at London Heathrow. Listening to her, she claimed she’d had whatever this aerosol was for the entire US trip and never got to use it. So she decides the coach cabin of our British Airways flight is the perfect place to release some random fragranced CFCs into the air. Morons. And everybody…EVERYBODY acts as though they’ll all die of some unknown virus that attacks people who DON’T charge off down the aisles once the plane pulls up to the gate. They flood the aisles as though there’s some instant millionaire drawing going on in the terminal, and they’ll miss it if they don’t haul ass off the plane that instant!!
Speaking of Terminal 5, why do we need to go through security…again?! I don’t get that. We’ve all gone through security in order to board our flights that brought us to Terminal 5. And then, they decide to run us through more hoops, like channeled cattle through the narrow gated alleyways at the stockyards. And I love the security personnel who wear their distaste for their jobs right out on their faces. Well SURE. Of COURSE I wanna be there NOW!! Pug-faced, squat little blonde woman with spikey hair and black gloves on. So demanding. No patience. I understand that they constantly encounter folks who have no clue about taking their shoes off, digging all their liquids out of their bags, and placing everything in the hard plastic bins to be run through the metal detectors, but for God’s sake, how about a smile, huh? Or at least SOME semblance of a positive attitude. Good GRIEF!!
First rehearsal, late this morn. The language barrier isn’t proving to be TOO much of a burden on things. Made my way through a staging of the 2nd bar scene in the show, with Dennis Petersen, one of the familiar faces I was so happy to see last night on my arrival to Firenze. And then, after a pausa in rehearsal that would have made ANY other American opera company cringe, I continued staging. This time, the final scene of the opera. I was fed a bunch of Italian which I loosely followed. Rehearsal staff seems to be headed by Elisabetta, the cute little brunette who visited the production in Japan last year, I’m guessing, to observe and prepare herself for when she would have to be directly involved. We quickly walked through blocking just to help it resurface in the memory before adding music. Apparently there is a prompter as well. He chirped out cues for both rehearsals blocks this morning. The entire staging took maybe 15 minutes after which more instructions were given for the next day’s schedule and then I was released. That’s another thing that would cause American companies to swoon. None of us have as yet been supplied with schedules. Not even general overview-type things. I found out from Lauren last night over dinner what the schedule for today would be. And Dennis and Kevin filled in the afternoon part about the music rehearsal.
I don’t see this taking very long to put together. As long as the local singers and the children are all ready to go, I feel like this show could go up quite fast. We’ll see what happens. After this week, there are exactly three more before we’re done and gone!
Need to make arrangements for a hotel in Milano for a night. I’ll catch a train around the middle of the day or early afternoon out of Firenze the day after Vixen closes, and then relax that evening. The next day, I’ll check out of the hotel and make my way to La Scala for my scheduled coaching. I hope there’s no problem putting the schedule for the coaching together with my flight out of Milano. S’posed to bug out around 7pm-ish from Linate airport in Milano back to London. That’ll be nice. 2 hour flight back to the U.K. Then I’m actually in London for three nights before flying back to the East Coast. So at least no need to stomach all that traveling in one fell swoop as I did on the way over here!
That’s the main problem. Lots of traveling in one day is what kills. But from Firenze back to the US will be MUCH easier. 2 hour train ride and then about 24 hours to breathe. Then a 2 hour flight to the U.K. and then 3 days to breathe. The flight back to the East Coast could easily be 8 hours, but I’d’ve had a full night’s sleep before I needed to fly, so who knows; maybe I’d stay up for most of that flight, watching movies or something. Once on the East Coast, I’d have 2 hours to get through Customs and check in again at my Continental flight (assuming everything’d be on-time). From there, it’d be maybe an hour n change from Newark to Norfolk. By late afternoon, I’d be safe and sound in Virginia.
It’ll be good, too, in the spring, now that I think about it. Six months straight through won’t be so bad, partly because the traveling will be all spread out as well. The return, not so much. New York for two months time. Then six hours to London, and then London for another two months. And when that’s over, the flight to Bregenz (most likely back into Zürich again) will take an hour n change. The hour drive from there to Bregenz will go by quicker now that I’m slightly familiar. It’s the long travel days that really run me ragged. That and the international terminal at London Heathrow (but you’ve already heard me whine about that).
Now then…packing. I’ll admit, I didn’t pack the best for this trip. Chose the wrong shoes. Both pairs. Packed too many tops and not enough bottoms. Packing for next spring/summer will be fun. When I first go to New York, I need cold weather gear. But as the months pass, I won’t need all the warm clothes. Question is, what do I do? One option is to load the cold weather stuff in a box and mail it home. But then that could pose a whole new set of hassles in the packing scheme. Guess it doesn’t really matter. I’d’ve had to plan for all the cold weather stuff in my packing anyway. Grrrrrrrr. And if more work comes following Bregenz, that’ll just make for MORE fun. Ugh.
Had most of the day off today. So I slept in. Got back at the jetlag for coming back to bite me on the ass like jetlag always does. It was nice to be able to sleep past noon. Lauren and I both woke up around 1pm apparently. She had rehearsal at 3pm, so she left earlier. Still need to meet with the lady from the housing mgmt company to get the other set of keys, sign the contract, and pay her. As long as she isn’t harping after me or Lauren, I’m not gonna worry. Too much. Soon as Lauren and I put together the balance of what we owe, I’ll make sure to meet with Kit and get everything finished.
Figured out my shoes issue. Just need to keep those damned boots tied tightly. It’s when they sit loosely on my feet that blisters begin to plague me. Funny how the laces undo themselves. Lil suckers. Loose shoes and the unruly streets and sidewalks of Firenze, not so good. At least for MY feet.
Halloween is a week away. Wow. Halloween’s a Saturday. And of COURSE I’m in no capacity to enjoy it how I want. Too many obligations while on a job to think of face-painting or costumes or trick-or-treaters. How festive the feeling must be back home in Chicago. I can see the trees’ leaves along the neighborhood streets turning colors. The street cleaners’ favorite time of year!! Lots of Halloween decorations in front yards and office and school windows.
Not so much here in Italy. Well…Firenze, anyway. I dunno. Maybe I just haven’t noticed.
And then just two weeks more after that. Amazing how quickly time can fly, and on the other hand, how amazing that time can slow down as well. Now then, if only time would be more cooperative; slow down when you needed and whiz by all the other times. Funny how it’s the other way around.
No work today, Sunday. No work tomorrow either! Slept til about 9ish, which should’ve been 10ish but Daylight Saving has ended, so we gain back that hour. Interesting how Europe gets the hour back BEFORE the Americas do. I never knew that. The Americas get their hour back in a week, I’m told. So anyway. Woke up around 9 am. Lauren had gotten in the shower. She had to work today. Not very long, tho, judging by the time she returned. It was about 12:30ish. And then we ventured back out to look for some lunch.
Didn’t realize how close we were to the Palazzo Republiko, I think it’s called. It’s the one with the carousel. There’s a plaque up on the arch overlooking the palazzo that’s states that the area was the old center of town. We wandered in there and were immediately heckled by servers of the nearby open air restaurants. I dunno; I felt funny about being treated like a tourist. Because of the traveling I do for work, I don’t ever have TIME to be a tourist of sorts. Growing up in Hawaii, I sorta grew a distaste for tourism, partly because of how Hawaii relies so heavily on it as the main export of the state, and partly because of the generally insensitive reputation that tourists adopt. As we finally decided on a restaurant that still had the sun shining on its dining area on the palazzo, Lauren thought she picked up on a feeling that the servers didn’t care for our speaking Italian to them, what little it was.
Wandered around a bit of the tourist part of town – our ‘hood – and then Lauren opted to go back to the flat. I stayed out a bit longer, making my way to the Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo di Firenze before returning home. The Palazzo Vecchio has the tall bell tower with the steeple-like roof on it. And of course the Duomo was just magnificent. SO huge!! And it’s bell tower rang loud and strong just as I entered the square on that end of the Duomo.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Hey gang. Sorry I've been slacking a bit here. Things have progressed pretty quick since the end of the summer in Bregenz and my arrival to San Francisco. I had about a day and a half between getting back to Chicago and turning around to fly out to the West Coast.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Been sorta on holiday this whole week. Finally called to rehearsal Friday and today. Both rehearsals were quite short; not longer than an hour half. Maybe it’s because the rehearsal staff know that we know what we’re doing. Maybe it’s just timing or coincidence. It’s been a bit of a chore to find ways to keep myself occupied.
Anywhere else in the US, I feel like I’d have so many more options. So many more things to pique my interest. Bregenz is a cute little town. The wide paths that parallel the lakefront offer lots of peaceful strolling along the water’s edge. The cafés give you that European charm along the cobblestone streets that we don’t really have in the US. But some of the other customs and daily mundane things I really have to work to get used to. One must strike out in the morning or early in the afternoon at the latest to get the day’s shopping done. Most retailers close at 6pm. I love the idea of being able to rush out to the grocery store in Chicago or Honolulu after 10pm. God forbid you have a grocery store that keeps its doors open 24 hours! Or knowing you can count on 7-11 or Walgreens to be open all day, so that you can still get home after work and then head out to do your shopping from there.
I’m just terribly spoiled by these and other simple luxuries. Luxuries like owning a vehicle with which to get yourself to the store and back with all of your purchased items. Or the restaurants that deliver straight to your door. You enjoy the…um…luxury…of walking around in the house all day in pajamas and messy hair, and then you clean up JUST a bit (not too much) when the delivery guy shows up so as not to scare him out of his socks.
I want to drive my car. When colleagues say, “Let go shoot some pool,” I would GLADLY offer to drive. With the car, the pool hall would be a brisk five minute scoot down the main road in Bregenz that follows the train tracks. Instead, it’s a 30 minute walk…one I usually don’t TOTALLY look forward to after hours of standing up in the pool hall/bar. Or…it could just be that I’m THAT much of a lazy slob.
I could have spent another couple hours at the festspielhaus on the computer, surfing the web, watching a movie or show, or corresponding with friends, but then I leave when it’s dark out, and that can be a drag as well.
I’ve made a friend in one of the other baritones also singing Amonasro here at the festival. Iain Paterson is a tall chap with great barrel of a voice that is MORE than built for Verdi’s Ethiopian king. We hit it off rather quickly and have gotten along quite well. Iain lives outside of London, about 40 minutes I think he said. He packed up his motorcycle and rode all the way over to Bregenz. On his days off, Iain will often times hop on the bike, set the route on his GPS, or Sat Nav as it’s called in the U.K., and toddle off on a sightseeing tour of one of the region’s many scenic roads and highways. Now THIS is something I would LOVE to do, being that I enjoy driving so much. Alas; no wheels.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
This particular posting will be one of many as the summer progresses.
Lots of traffic on I-94 coming back to Chicago from Milwaukee. I had a funny feeling in my gut that the traffic would be there when my manager and I had originally begun planning the whole day. I’d been misled the first few times I traveled to and from Milwaukee. The traffic was very minimal. I arrived on Monday morning in Milwaukee for the start of rehearsals merely an hour & fifteen minutes from the start of my journey in Chicago. And when I hopped in the car to drive back on Friday night and take advantage of the day off between shows to do some packing and run last minute errands at home, the traffic again proved not a problem at all.
Sunday was a different story altogether. What had taken not even an hour and a half took almost TWO hours. Marjorie joined me that morning to see the show. She’d made plans to have a friend of ours check up on our two Dachshunds for the day as she would be back home by the early evening after dropping me at the airport.
We hit traffic a FEW times. BOTH ways. I knew we were in for unfortunate driving. We started out smoothly, all the way out of Chicago on I-94. All the way up through Skokie and Highland Park, traffic flowed evenly. It was after we’d passed thru the first toll booth that things began to look discouraging. Brake lights. That was Marjorie, seeing cars’ brake lights far up ahead. “Uh oh, honey. Brake lights.” And then, “Don’t you do it. STOP BRAKING!!” The trusty look-out.
What it came down to, I guess, was that there were just too many people on the road that day. It WAS Sunday, after all. I feel like I’ve lived in Illinois long enough to know that folks DO tend to drive outta town on the weekends, and return on Sunday afternoon/evening. Too many people. Not enough of them paying attention to traffic. Speeding up too fast. Then there are those who sit on the inside lane going too slowly. Or those who drive too slowly in ANY lane for that matter. Too many who act like they’re all alone on the road. No one but them, so they’ll just drive as fast or as slow or as badly as they want.
And it was the same coming back to Chicago. Too many people. Not enough of them paying attention. A bunch who didn’t care. I had a lady in a Jeep Cherokee, riding my rear bumper for a while. Why do you have to drive so close? If I have to brake suddenly, you’ll eat my rear bumper for dinner! And I WAS rushing back, straight to the airport to make my flight to London. As if I didn’t have ENOUGH stress on me already!
The hardest part was having to jump outta the car, leaving Marjorie behind, a quick kiss and a hug, and rushing to the British Airways counter at O’Hare’s international terminal to see if I was going to be able to make my flight. I’d had Marjorie find the 800 number for the airline to call ahead and see if I’d be able to get on the plane depending upon when I made it to the airport. The nice girl on the phone told Marjorie something to the effect that they’d accept passenger check-in at the counter up until 40 minutes before the flight. There was a part of me that didn’t want to make it in time. A part of me that wanted to get there, have the counter tell me I was too late, book me on a flight a few hours later, I’d’ve checked my bags, and then we’d’ve driven back home to relax for a couple hours. The other thing was, they couldn’t totally guarantee my bags making it thru to Zurich with me. THAT would have been a mess. I wasn’t ending my travel in Zurich. I was going to be driven from Zurich, over the border to Austria. Who KNOWS what would have happened had my bags not made it. I doubt the airline would have sent my bags all the way out to Bregenz; over the border into another country.
But the hardest part was having to leave Marjorie behind so hastily. No time to sit and talk. No time to lean in and share each other’s touch. No time to do all those mushy little affectations that couples do. No goofy little baby voices, or meowing and purring as we like to do. Our Dachshunds make some of the BEST gestures and facial expressions. We incorporate those bits of communication as well. It’s just what we do. But there was no time for ANY of that. I rushed into the building with my luggage. She drove away and pulled off somewhere to wait for me to let her know whether or not I’d made it on the flight. I had. I called her to let her know, and that was it. That was goodbye for the summer. Yeah…not a good way to leave.
Milwaukee Symphony Mahler 8 proved to be quite an enjoyable experience. This production marked Maestro Andreas Delfs’ finale with the Milwaukee Symphony after which he would be stepping down as Music Director. One could feel the familiar tugging of heart strings to see and hear the ardent response from those on and off the stage as Delfs took the podium. It was all too apparent that he had made a lasting impression on the music community of Milwaukee as well as those who enjoyed the fruits of its labors. And as the maestro brought the finale to a triumphant close at the end of both performances, all in the audience almost immediately rose to their feet, applauding fiercely. I, for one, enjoyed the tickling sensation of victory washing over me in a calming wash of energy.
I enjoyed sharing the soloist duties with my fellow colleagues. Each solo voice possessed a character and line that they inhabited fully. When one reaches a specific level of professionalism, one cannot deny the feeling of accomplishment and excellence that comes with it. To listen to each voice was to hear a technician work their craft as only one of sufficient stage experience could produce.
The adult and youth choirs offered a comfortable cushion for which both the soloists and the orchestra were able to build on to round out the wonderful, full sound that is required of this of Mahler’s great works. When all the elements of the entire ensemble are engaged, the result is staggering. I always wonder how individuals could conceive all that sound…all those different voices and instrumental parts all working as a unit. Such gifted individuals as Mahler could NOT have possibly been human, for the works they have bestowed on the world surpass mortal abilities, in my humble opinion.