Monday, March 28, 2011

Seasons at War & an Elephant

Morning. Staring blindly at the ceiling fan above the bed. "It's 9:30 already?" Roll over.


Ugh, it's 10:30! "What an unforgiving sleep."

Shower. Get dressed.  "I know I have some clean clothes somewhere." Struggle down the stairs.  Make coffee.  Sit.  Answer emails.  The coffee is ready.  Pour a cup.  Waddle down the hall.  Turn a cold door knob.  Drink a sip.  Press a frozen screen door handle.  And...

Whoosh! "Ha, ha", belted the froren, brumal tongue of the air.  My zombie state was lifting with every sip of my coffee.  My mind's eye awakening, a mental cataract curing to see a new day of ashen sky.  Now looking about from my back patio, the world is sunken, all life drooped in mourning from snow melt.  The grass, the drab apartments, the asphalt parking lot below seem to cry from defeat.  No bird calls, no kids playing soccer. Slam! "Here I am - my fury, my teeth - biting!", cried Winter. I hurry back inside, closing the doors behind me.

My coffee brings the only solace to a new reality.  The zealous hellion, Winter, invades.  A last stand perhaps, but a fight I cannot conquer and one that the weakest of the seasons cannot overcome.  And the saddest truth pervades - a frigid Spring Break has begun.

* * *

It seems like I have very little luck with Spring.  I finish a production, feeling like I have a phantom limb.  I want to be outside, have fun, golf, see the sun for once!!  Music keeps me inside all too often.  Thank you Winter for helping me appreciate the good days by giving me depressing ones.  And when that sunny day comes, I will likely be depressed knowing that I could never take full advantage of a perfect day.  Kansas is the rudest of places for Spring.  Summer arrives shortly after Winter.  I hope Spring doesn't pass me by.

* * *

As for the time being, it appears like I will be plenty busy.  I have added many new performance opportunities to my schedule.  I will be performing the role of "The Believer" in a production of Handel's Passion of the Christ.  I am particularly happy to be part of this because there are several incredibly talented singers in the group performing this.  And I will be performing the National Anthem and the UMKC Alma Mater at eight commencement ceremonies at UMKC!  I don't remember singing the National Anthem at so many events.  I am also singing it at a Kansas City Royals game, Sporting KC game, and at the US Department of Energy's Small Business Conference.  I feel very patriotic - but not so much that I would go crazy like Christina Aguilera.

In other news, I still haven't heard from the Lyric Opera of Kansas City regarding my audition.  I hope to hear at least something, sometime.  Waiting is by far the hardest part of my life...perhaps I drink too much coffee, but I am very pragmatic and like a small town boy who doesn't know any better, I think that my hard work will get me somewhere.  I am very proud of my work ethic, but I know the world is a very complicated place.    There is much more to gain than just a good work ethic.  One of the biggest compliments that I have ever received was, "you sang very intelligently".  As odd as that sounds, that means much more to me than most anything.  The person who said it is very, very intelligent as well, which was most meaningful to me.  I hope as listeners of music, we all can value intelligence just as much as most value hard work, talent, and having fun.

I saw the movie "Limitless" last night.  It is not very good, but it's about a guy who takes a pill that lets him access his whole mind.  This makes him virtually limitless.  He becomes very successful, but when he runs out of pills, the hangover begins to kill him - and he becomes incapable of doing anything.  Reminds me a lot about coffee...

I thought the movie would be good, but I was dead wrong.  I may also be wrong about this next new opera review, but I doubt it.  The opera is called Light and Power by Isaac Schankler and is premiering in Boston on May 17.  It is about Thomas Edison and Nicolas Tesla and the discovery and inventions involving electricity in their time.   The only saving grace is that at one point they fail to electrocute a prisoner in an electric chair and they somehow incorporated the experiment with Topsy the Elephant - you can watch below:  (please don't watch this if you are squeamish or love elephants.  You should also know that Topsy was a deranged elephant that killed three people and was deemed a threat to people at the time - 1903.)

Ok, perhaps they could stage that pretty creatively.  Maybe the elephant sings?  But in all seriousness, even I don't want to hear arias about AC and DC currents, a chorus number about transformers, or any opera where the climax of the libretto happens to be about mercury arc valve rectifier stations.  As for the rating, there is probably a great chance that I would laugh through the whole opera, but really, there is no hope for Light and Power.  This one receives the lowest score possible:

1 Susan Boyle
(Sometimes judging a book by its cover is commendable)

Finally, I would just like to admit to a new low in tenorism.  If you remember back on President's Day, I forgot that I didn't have school.  I sank to a new low.  I thought my spring break was last week - only to find out that I have spring break this week.  I did find out soon enough and went to class last week, but it was pretty embarrassing.  And so goes Bryan's adventures in tenordom.

  • The Believer in The Passion of the Christ by Handel - 10:45am St. John's United Methodist Church, Kansas City, MO - 4/10
  • World Premiere - "Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day" by Betty Liang - 5pm, Grant Recital Hall, Kansas City, MO - 4/17
  • National Anthem - Kansas City Royals vs. Cleveland Indians - 4/18
  • Conservatory Finale  - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23
  • National Anthem - UMKC School of Nursing Commencement - 5pm 5/5
  • National Anthem - UMKC School of Computer & Engineering - 10am 5/6
  • National Anthem - UMKC School of Arts & Sciences - 1pm & 4pm 5/6
  • National Anthem - Bloch School of Business and Public Administration - 7pm 5/6
  • National Anthem - UMKC School of Education - 10am 5/7
  • National Anthem - UMKC School of Pharmacy - 1pm 5/7
  • National Anthem - Kansas City School of Dentistry - 7pm 5/7
  • National Anthem - DOE Small Business Conference & Expo - Kansas City Convention Center - 5/10
  • Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
  • National Anthem - Sporting KC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - 6/25
  • Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: chorus/cover, opera: Daughter of the Regiment - 7/20-8/7
  • Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba

Monday, March 21, 2011

Don Giovanni and Helicopters

I want to thank all of my friends and family who came to watch the opera this weekend.  It really means a lot to me that you made the trip to see my performance in Don Giovanni at the Conservatory.  I thought it went well, and I am excited to now have the time to begin work on other things.

For the most part, this week I will be trying to recoup from being in performance mode for so long.  Every day that I had to sing, I went through a specific routine of allergy medicine, coffee, bananas, sleeping at the same times, all to keep my voice in some kind of healthy shape.  It becomes a little neurotic at times, but it is all for the love of the art.

Thank you for all the comments about the "Lazy Person's Guide to Opera" posts last week.  I hope that you find some entertainment out of those, and hopefully I will be able to add to those in the future.  If you missed them, here are the links to the posts:

This week made me think a lot, not only about Don Giovanni, but opera in general and what the future of opera looks like.  I love to go to the movies and I caught myself searching for upcoming releases to see what I could be looking forward to: war movies, sequels to other movies that I like, movies from directors that I like, etc.  That lead me to think that this was probably how opera was received in Mozart's time.  I know we will never see that kind of reception for opera again, but perhaps there are some things to get excited about.

So, I did some searching online about some upcoming operas, just to see if I could feel the same excitement towards them as I do movies.  Keep in mind, that I am an opera freak, fully aware of the differences between movies and opera.  None of these have had their world premiere, but I tried to study them a little bit - this takes the place of a teaser trailer.  And in the movie critic (Roman Emporer) culture of thumbs up and down, I will set a rating system using Pavarotti Hankies and Susan Boyle - 2 Pav Hankies mean I am the most excited, 1 Pav Hankie means I am looking forward to it even though it may be weird, and a Susan Boyle means that it looks and sounds pretty strange to me.

So, here is my first review (keep in mind, this is just measuring my personal excitement - so there's nothing scientific about any of this)

Sonntag aus Licht by Stockhausen

This opera is premiering April 9 at Oper Köln (Cologne, Germany).  Out of a long list of premieres, it caught my eye because it was written by Stockhausen.  Stockhausen is one of the most important composers of the last 100 years, however he died in 2007.  So, to produce an opera after death - it is pretty intriguing.  AND, this is the last opera in a cycle of operas.  Each opera is a different day of the week - this one means "Sunday".  Stockhausen began writing the first opera (Thursday) in 1978, so this is a long work coming.  The operas are about the mythology that brought about the days of the week - gods, battles, love, and all.  Yet another exciting thing is the instrumentation and composition in the first six operas including: trumpets on rooftops (Thursday), eyebrow and nostril dances (Saturday), the first "modern orchestra" of synthesizers (Monday), the battle between Lucifer and Michael using eight loudspeakers (Tuesday), an opera for children's orchestra and children's choir (Friday), and the most odd of them all, a helicopter and string quartet - using four string instruments and four actual helicopters (Wednesday).  By the way, the whole opera cycle is about 29 hours long!

"Sunday" is the last opera of the cycle by Stockhausen.  It was finished in 2003 but this is the first time that it will be performed.  The story is about Eve and Michael, but what intrigues me are his inventive programming and orchestration choices. Scene two is called "Angel-Processions" and is written for seven choirs!  Scene four is called "Scents-Signs" and involves the release of fragrances as sort of a smell symphony.  And scene five (which I'm sure will be tortuously long) consist of a Hochzeit (a traditional Germanic musical form for the wedding celebration) for five choirs and one for five orchestras.  They perform them simultaneously in two separate auditoriums, and at various points, windows are opened to hear the other performance going on.  AND THEN, the performers switch halls and they do the whole thing again, so the audience has two different perspectives of the piece.

I am very sorry for the English speakers out there, but here is a German video about the music from the first scene that has many musical excerpts.  (I dare you to listen for longer than 15 seconds)

Ok, so for the rating.  I am not too excited about Stockhausen's music since it is pretty mathematical and not even close to tonal - the movie equivalent to a film being an hour of random color blotches instead of being a Disney animated feature.  But his ideas seem to be really neat, and I like mythology in art - it usually brings about some pretty awesome and imaginative things.  So, I will give it:
1 Pav Hankie
(It might put me to sleep, but I've never smelt music before)

Also, I have one more schedule update.  I will be performing the world premiere of "Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day" by Betty Liang, an art song for marimba and tenor on April 17 at Grant Recital Hall at the Conservatory.

  • World Premiere - "Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day" by Betty Liang - 5pm, Grant Recital Hall, Kansas City, MO 4/17
  • National Anthem - Kansas City Royals vs. Cleveland Indians - 4/18
  • Conservatory Finale  - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23
  • National Anthem - DOE Small Business Conference & Expo - Kansas City Convention Center - 5/10
  • Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
  • National Anthem - Sporting KC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - 6/25
  • Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: chorus/cover, opera: Daughter of the Regiment - 7/20-8/7
  • Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Lazy Person's Guide to Opera: Don Giovanni - Part 4

It's opening night.  You're surrounded by over-perfumed women, their male dates following along as some kind of prized door-opener.  "Something's wrong here," you think to yourself.  "Men acting chivalrous, women aloof.  What madness has brought indignation and petty pompousness over us?"  Don't worry my friend; they are not speaking in tongues nor is this a renaissance fair.  You are at an opera.

Perhaps some aristocrats go a little too far with the snobbery, but more likely than not, you are standing too close to the wine bar.  If you turn around, you will see the other 1500 people who are attending the opera tonight in their jeans, with their iphones, sneaking in a boxes of Raisinettes and Junior Mints.  But, there is still something separating you from experiencing the opera as these people will.  Of course you know to try not to read the supertitles the whole time, and you will remember that operas are NOT movies, and you will be a snob, but how will you socialize with these people?

Tip #4:  Speak the Best Opera BS - Lingo of the Opera Elite

So here are several situations, and I will try to help you through them.  After all, it takes a lot of work to be a lazy opera-goer, so let's go through the basics.

First of all, you must know how to correctly pronounce the opera that you are seeing.  In this case, it is Don Giovanni.  You won't fool anyone if you pronounce it (dahn jee-oh-VAH-nee).  Do not pronounce the first "i" in Giovanni.  That "i" makes the "g" soft like "j" in English.  You should pronounce the opera (dohn joh-VAH-nee).  And if you want to be really proper, put a little space between the "VAH" and "nee".  Here's an example of an Italian person saying it.

Ok, you are about to go to your seat when the star of the show (possibly your friend?) sees you.  There's a crowd queuing to have their tickets torn so they can sit down.  How can you impress them? Say "Toi, toi, toi" to the opera star (sounds like "toy, toy, toy").  All of the opera geeks around will instantly know that you are a true opera expert. But what does it mean? Well, it is like saying "Break a leg!".  There are several ideas about how it originated, but it is traditionally seen as a way to imitate an ancient Germanic superstitious ritual where someone grabs you and spits three times over your shoulder to scare away demons.  I don't know if this has anything to do with it, but "toi" sounds like the beginning of the German word for the devil - "Teufel".  Another thing you can say is "Merde" which is a French cuss word (the 'S' word) but they use it like "Break a leg".  It's really a bad thing, but it means a good thing.  Or, you can say "In bocca al lupo" (een BOH-kah ahl LOO-poh), which means "in the mouth of the wolf" in Italian.  The opera singer would respond with "crepi il lupo" or "may the wolf die".  Any of these will definitely impress the opera elite.

So, the opera begins and you want to sound intelligent to the person next to you.  After all, you are spending a few hours together, and hopefully neither of you ate onions for dinner.  You probably shouldn't talk too much, but let's say a soprano has just screamed a high note for too long and is just showing off.  You are upset, because they're making the opera even longer than it has to be.  You lean over to your neighbor and say "What a Diva" (DEE-vah) - this literally means "goddess" and many times used negatively. But, if it's the tenor or any other guy you should call him a "Divo" (DEE-voh).

If  you loved a particular Aria (Ah-ree-uh), or solo, you should applaud first by clapping.  The next level of appreciation higher is yelling "Bravo" (BRAH-voh), and if you want to sound Italian, flip the "r".  Most people don't get this right, but you should only yell "bravo" for men.  If you are cheering a woman, yell Brava (BRAH-vah), a group of female singers "Brave" (BRAH-vay), or if you are cheering either a group of men or group of men and women yell "Bravi" (BRAH-vee).  If you want to give even more applause, throw some flowers on stage at the curtain call.  But that means that you have to plan this beforehand, so it may not be very genuine unless you, for some reason, carry around flowers to throw at people you love all the time.

The orchestra is playing in the pit and that guy waving his arms under a spotlight is the Maestro (MAHY-stroh). The people on stage who don't sing in the chorus and are just there for looks are called Supernumeraries.  And don't forget from the first tip, that all of the little segments that are played by the harpsichord and where the singer is speak-singing, that is called recitative (reh-see-tuh-TEEV).  Other than that, make sure you know the main characters, and you've got yourself a pretty successful chance of being one of the best lazy opera-goers around.

I hope you all go out and enjoy an opera near you.  Tonight is opening night for UMKC's production of Don Giovanni.  I hope to see you all there - maybe you can plan to bring some throwing flowers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Lazy Person's Guide to Opera: Don Giovanni - Part 3

I have figured out that people who don't like opera seem to have one thing in common - they don't know anything about it.  So, I've provided a few tips on enjoying opera: (1) Try not to read the supertitles the whole time! and (2) Remember, operas are NOT movies.  With today's tip, I hope to give you the secret to why opera is fun.

Tip #3: Be a Snob! - Appreciating and Expecting the Impossible

The funnest part about opera is that it is so difficult.  Composers know this, singers know this, and now you do.  Composers wrote difficult music on purpose, singers spend months preparing and training for the most difficult moments, which are usually no more than a few seconds long.  For the audience, this is GOLD!  No matter what, it's worth getting excited about.  If the singer performs the hard parts well, it's really exciting.  And if they completely fall apart in a difficult section, we won't admit to cheering for this but it is equally exciting nonetheless.

So, why be a snob?  Well, you're not really a snob - you're a fan.  And to be a good fan, you have to know what to look and listen for.  It's just like a basketball fan in a lot of ways.  You have to know strategy and technique and you certainly have to appreciate the half court shots and big dunks.

The most important part is knowing the music.  In this case, (Don Giovanni) Mozart wrote in a very clean and perfect style that's called the Classical style, which was the style during the Classical period (1750-1830).  So, not all pretentious, artsy-fartsy music is Classical, just the music in this period.  There's nothing too confusing about Classical music, so you will have no problem understanding what can be problematic for singers: high notes, holding a note for a long time, singing a bunch of notes really fast, jumping from low notes to high notes, etc.

So, let's try it out with a few moments from Don Giovanni.

Ok, now listen for all of the high notes that she has to hold out.  Each of those takes a lot of air, and as soon as she gets a breath she has to sing another high note.  And even when you think it's over, Mozart keeps it going - how cruel.  But this is very exciting - she sings this immaculately!  What an athlete!  Trust me, her abs are getting a huge workout.

I love Bryn Terfel, but this is not one of his shining moments.  This aria keeps me on the edge of my seat to see if (1) he can get all the words out and (2) to see at what point he passes out from not breathing.  Mozart was really mean when he wrote this.  It's only a minute and a half, but he gives no chances to rest or breathe.  It gets really exciting about halfway through when it sounds like it could end soon, but instead Mozart puts in a held high note, then teases us again, and keeps giving him all kinds of leaps and a bunch of words.  So, he barely stayed alive, but I sure was excited to see if he would make it.

I have to sing this aria in our production, and I have to say it is one of the most difficult arias I've ever had to sing.  I get so nervous watching him between 1:00 and 2:00, he looks like he's about to give up or lay an egg on the high note, then he has to sing all of those pesky runs.  Once again, Mozart pushes the physical limits of the human body, but Stuart makes it through.  Not everyone makes it with this aria.

Now you should be able to go back and listen to these again and have your own opinions, but a live performance is like nothing else.  Sometimes the most glorious and virtuosic music is made and it is so exciting.  Other times, it keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering if the singer is going to make it - honestly, I prefer the former but sometimes the tough stuff is just as exciting.

I only have one more tip to give before you can be a great lazy opera-goer, and since tomorrow is opening night (even though I'm not in it), I'll try to help you through one of the most important parts of going to an opera with Tip #4: Speak the Best Opera BS - Lingo of the Opera Elite.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Lazy Person's Guide to Opera: Don Giovanni - Part 2

Welcome back!  Yesterday's tip, Try not to read the supertitles the whole time!, was just one attempt to help the laziest of us appreciate opera without falling asleep.  Today, I'd like to help those who are so lazy that they do not want to think at all when they are entertained.  Lazy, couch potato opera-goers are bound to have a tortured evening of grumpy attitudes and numb butt cheeks, daydreams will turn into day-nightmares (daymares?) all because they didn't do a little bit of homework beforehand.

Tip #2 - Remember, operas are NOT movies!

Don't wait to be surprised! There are few car chases, explosions, computer generated dinosaurs, or talking sponges in opera. You have to know what is going to happen.

Now for those who suddenly became upset because they can't be lazy anymore and actually have to try to enjoy something - keep in mind, you do it all the time.  Unless all you need is a kaleidoscope or baby mobile to be entertained, you use your mind all the time even when you are watching TV or a movie; art just requires you to use a little more than normal.

But since we are being lazy, and we have run into the dilemma of wanting to see an opera (in this week's case Don Giovanni) here's some help - a very very very brief synopsis of the opera (there are longer ones out there, but let's not get carried away and run the risk of becoming bored).  Here are just a few background things before we begin - it is set in Seville, Spain in the 17th century, the opera is the story of Don Juan (Don Giovanni is the Italian name for Don Juan) who has slept with thousands of women, the music was written by Mozart, and there are many main characters, but to help all the lazy people, I have cut them out to help with the confusion of it all.  (And for the opera lovers out there - please forgive me, but the opera is several hours long and I can't give EVERY detail)

Don Giovanni loves sex.  He tries to rape a woman, but kills her father in a sword fight (the Commendatore) who was trying to save her.  Later, Giovanni runs into a crazy girl.  He's hooked-up with her before, and doesn't care for her anymore.  Giovanni then finds a couple on their wedding day and goes after the bride.  When he gets caught trying to rape her, all the main characters attack him, but he escapes when Mozart makes everyone stand and yell for five minutes.

Giovanni now has the hots for the crazy girl's servant.  To get to the servant, he switches clothes with his friend who lures the crazy girl away.  Giovanni and his friend deceive an angry mob and all the main characters, because they switched clothes. Afterwards, Giovanni is in a graveyard when a statue of the Commendatore comes to life and says that his death will be avenged.  Giovanni thinks it's a joke, and invites the talking statue to dinner.  At the dinner (and in our production, an orgy), the statue arrives and tells Giovanni to repent.  Giovanni doesn't, and the statue drags him to hell.

(There is actually a little "moral of the story" ending after that, but we're not doing it, and it's kind of corny anyway, so we'll just skip that part.)

There you go.  Now you have a very brief idea of what to expect.  Since I spoiled the story for you, you don't need to read all the supertitles and you can spend time enjoying the music and watching the sex scenes and deaths. I know it is difficult and painful to learn new things, and that is no different for an opera lover, but tomorrow I will let you in on a little secret that us opera folk have figured out: Tip #3 - Be a Snob! - Appreciating and Expecting the Impossible.

And for some extra practice in opera-going, I hope you will attend our production of Don Giovanni at the UMKC Conservatory, Thursday March 17-20, 2011!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sex and Death - A Lazy Person's Guide to Don Giovanni

It's performance week for Don Giovanni!  I am very excited to perform my first opera with the Conservatory this week.  Tickets are only $13, and it will be full of sex, violence, Italian words, really old music, Tim Burton-esque designs, supertitles, and hopefully a few laughs. So, if you are interested and are in the Kansas City area, please visit us.  Like I mentioned last week, the opera is double cast, so I will only be performing on Friday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2:30 at White Recital Hall on the campus of UMKC.

Because it is a special week for me, it will be a little different for my World of Opera blog.  Every day this week, I will have a special something about Don Giovanni.  So please check back every evening for a little entertainment and some insight into what this opera is all about.

Today's post:

Ok, so I understand.  You don't know Italian, you don't like to read, and you think three hours of classical music can get a little too boring.  I get it, you're lazy.  I'm here to help you out though.

Tip #1 - Try not to read the supertitles the whole time! (supertitles are like subtitles in movies, but appear above the stage in operas)

I know the opera is in Italian and you want to know what is happening.  Go ahead and glance up there a few times, but for goodness sake, if you find yourself reading the whole time, you are on a dark and torturous path towards the worst kinds of sleep - the kind often experienced in high school statistics class and ends with an embarrassing snore or drool.  Reading the libretto, line by line, slowly over three hours is something you can avoid simply by understanding the plot and knowing when to look up at the supertitles.  First, you have to understand how the opera is set up.  Mozart's music is REALLY old and it follows a pretty strict form.  There are recitatives and arias or choruses.  The recitatives (or recits) are where most of the action occurs.  You should probably read the recit supertitles so you know the little details in the story.  Recits kind of sound like spoken dialogue, and it has very little accompaniment.  Pretty much any time that there isn't an aria or chorus (any time that there isn't a lot of music going on) that's a good time to read the supertitles.  As for the arias and choruses - don't feel like you have to read the supertitles all the time.  Most of the time, not much is going to happen: a singer sings "I love you" in about twelve different ways, and the other person sings "It's not you, it's me" twelve different ways.  For these moments, go ahead and watch and enjoy the beautiful music, sword fights, sex scenes, descents into hell, etc.  That's the fun part of the opera.  Let's have some practice:

Come back tomorrow evening for tip #2: Remember, Operas are NOT Movies, which will include a two paragraph lazy person's synopsis of Don Giovanni.

As for the arts crisis in Kansas, the state Senate is voting on Wednesday at 2:30 to repeal the executive order by Governor Brownback, which eliminated public funding for the arts in Kansas.  Please visit the Kansas Arts Council website to see what you can do to help in a last minute push to help overturn the order.

Also, Happy Birthday to the late Albert Einstein - one of the greatest minds in human history, and whose birthday happens to fall on Pi day (3/14 - Pi is about 3.14).  And a small unrelated note to those wanting a recording of the Monteverdi Vespers, you should hear from me later this week.  I had more people interested than I expected - sorry for the delay.

Like every week, I have some schedule additions again.  I will be performing the Star Spangled Banner at the Kansas City Royals baseball game on April 18 at 7:10 PM versus the Cleveland Indians and I will be performing the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada for Sporting KC's soccer game on June 25 at 7:30 PM versus the Vancouver Whitecaps in the beautiful and brand new soccer stadium in Kansas City.  I am a HUGE Major League Soccer fan, and I am really excited and honored to perform in only the 3rd game in their new stadium and being the first to sing Canada's National Anthem in the stadium, which will be broadcast nation-wide in Canada.

New Sporting KC Stadium

  • Don Giovanni (Don Ottavio)- Conservatory Opera - 3/18 & 20
  • Wichita Symphony Orchestra Naftzger Young Artist Auditions - 4/2-3
  • National Anthem - Kansas City Royals vs. Cleveland Indians - 4/18
  • Conservatory Finale  - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23
  • National Anthem - DOE Small Business Conference & Expo - Kansas City Convention Center - 5/10
  • Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
  • National Anthem - Sporting KC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - 6/25
  • Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: tba, opera: Daughter of the Regiment, maybe Little Women as well - 7/20-8/7
  • Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba

Monday, March 7, 2011

March Madness

What an exciting time.  Don Giovanni is opening next week at the Conservatory and I should be hearing back about my audition with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City soon - it seems like I am constantly looking forward to something. Even if there is bad news, there seems to always be something to get excited about.

The Conservatory opera, Don Giovanni, will open next Thursday and I am very excited for it.  Our preparation has been stellar - I am still trying to get used to the level of proficiency that is expected.  I am very excited that there is always someone trying to push me further.  On the other hand, it can get mentally draining at times.  I have learned so much about dealing with these situations, and if anything, it has made me take time to appreciate when I can relax, because they mean business here.  Hopefully, I haven't had too many "tenor" moments to make anyone frustrated.  I feel bad for my wife who will one day have to deal with both my "tenor" moments and "senior" moments (she probably already does deal with that).

The opera is double cast, which means that there are two complete casts.  I will be performing on Friday, March 18 and Sunday, March 20.  As part of the role of Don Ottavio, I am singing two arias (in addition to many recitatives and ensembles) that will hopefully be amazing - one of them is legitimately one of the most difficult things that I have ever had to sing.  I will give lots of information next week on that.

Also, I had my costume fitting.  We have been having a difficult time with costuming and other aspects of the production for various reasons and I won't go in to those details, but it was the location of the costume fittings that was a surprise.  The costume department is in the Kansas City Underground.  Literally right underneath downtown Kansas City there is a giant abandoned salt mine with hundreds of businesses.  You can drive right down into it from 31st street and it is HUGE.  It is a very daunting drive though - definitely not for the claustrophobic


Last Saturday, I was the tenor soloist for a production of Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, with a 200 person choir and orchestra.  But what really blew me away was the venue.  It is one of the largest churches that I have been to in this part of the country.  It was in Independence, MO at the world denominational headquarters for the Community of Christ.  There are two venues there, the auditorium - which on the outside looks like a mix between New York's Grand Central Station and Basketball Arena (enormous to say the least).  And the temple, which I posted a picture of last week.  It was probably one of the very best performing venues I know of or have ever performed in.  It was spectacular with a giant spiral-cone roof (I later found out that you can walk an enormous spiral staircase to the top!).  To put it another way, it was like there were two capital buildings across the street from each other.

I have a secret passion for architecture, but I will spare you the nerdy-ness of that for now.  As far as the concert was concerned, it went very very well.  The orchestra was incredible and the choir was so vibrant and energetic.  It really is an exciting piece with war marches and large choral blocks of sound that can't help but send goose bumps down your body.  I had a brief "freak-out" moment however.  In a small quartet section, I breathed in and the back of my throat dried up very fast.  I needed to cough really loud, but forced myself to fake a couple of words until it subsided.  I have never had something like that happen before.  Luckily it wasn't a solo line and it happened at a point that other voices and the orchestra were doubling what I was singing.  Nevertheless, it was scary - and it kept my blood pumping at a nice rate for the rest of the piece.

Also, this week I received the recording of the Monteverdi Vesper's Concert from last December with a chamber group made up of members from several ensembles including the St. Louis and Kansas City Symphonies.  I practically had solos in every moment (except the two all female movements).  I have put together some highlights of my solos from the piece (these are just some of the things that I did, there are many more awesome choral movements that aren't featured here - if that's what you're in to).  If you are interested in getting a complete recording, please shoot me an email at  Remember this is REALLY old music - 400 years old - and the style and ornaments are weird at times, with weird instruments.  Hopefully you will find it interesting.  We spent a lot of time trying to figure out some of these performance techniques.  Another interesting part was that the singers move during the piece to different parts of the church and sing from different areas giving echo effects and other exciting elements.  You should be able to tell in the recording what a difference it makes.  I find it really interesting and exciting!  Enjoy!

Another schedule addition (sort of).  I will have a short solo in the Poulenc Gloria concert in April.  This is one of my favorite pieces of all time.  And I have just learned that the Royals wanted me to perform the US and Canadian National Anthem for the Toronto series.  Unfortunately, it already conflicts with SCI in June.  Hopefully, I will be able to sing another time.

  • Don Giovanni (Don Ottavio)- Conservatory Opera - 3/18 & 20
  • Wichita Symphony Orchestra Naftzger Young Artist Auditions - 4/2-3
  • Conservatory Finale  - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23
  • National Anthem - DOE Small Business Conference & Expo - Kansas City Convention Center - 5/10
  • Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
  • Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: tba, opera: Daughter of the Regiment, maybe Little Women as well - 7/20-8/7
  • Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba

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