Sunday, October 24, 2010


People have things happen which render life a little more difficult. Perhaps an incorrect glasses prescription, being stuck on an elevator, or being a Detroit Lions fan. Nothing worth making a large fuss, just something that makes one sigh.
Mine occurred the day the luggage limits on airplanes were changed from number of checked pieces to weight.
I have several talents of which I am especially proud. Number one is the fact that I can literally stand/sit in deep water without moving a muscle or touching anything. Number two, I can whistle without moving my mouth (as long as I'm not smiling). Thirdly, I can pack more into a piece of baggage than their most strenuous tests ever imagined.
Some people advocate the rolling-of-the-clothes method, others the socks-within-shoes-within-shoes. I'm a reckless jammer. I MAKE it fit. My wardrobe is heavy on ironing-not-required articles, and my performance gowns are miracles of efficiency. No billowing ballgown of shimmering red satin with cascading raised roses of delicate silk drawing the eye toward my plunging neckline. When I finish a performance with orchestra, I often take off my impossible-to-wrinkle gown and throw it into my shoulder bag and head off for dinner. The next day I remove it upon arrival for the next performance and slip it on again. The secret is in interesting wraps and jewelry. One of my favorites is a lovely shawl of special silk from France that is actually a tablecloth. Yes, a tablecloth. So handy. I can sing a recital and then host a dinner party with the cutlery elegantly displayed against a stunning purple background. Best of all is the fact that it is a special permanently wrinkled silk. Price quickly became no object (and how expensive could a tablecloth be....oops). The snooty, slightly stunned French woman running the boutique was nonplussed when I began unwrapping her tres chic cloths and wrapping them around myself and trying out different lengths and arm positions.
Packing in general is a very difficult thing in my chosen profession. Often, I fly to Europe for months at a time. I try to limit myself to one large and one small suitcase. In addition to normal day-to-day clothes for rehearsal and general life, I must include workout clothes and shoes, a performance gown and heels, dressy clothes for parties and dinners, and piles of electronics and serious poundage of music to learn for future engagements. Additional problems arise when the time is longer and stretches across more than one season.
It is often that I peer into my suitcase and find myself staring into a black hole. Black doesn't show wrinkles, spills, and works in every situation. I often find myself on a gig buying a new article of clothing that is a shade I would never choose in the real world, but after two months of black-on-above-and-under-black, a tunic that looks like a bag of Skittles exploded all over it seems a welcome change.
Weight limits are 50 pounds before an exorbitant surcharge is applied. I am that person on my knees at the checkin counter moving things from one suitcase to another, moving things to my carryon, donning yet another layer and sweating all the way to my destination to avoid paying this extra fee. Often, my bags are 50.0 and 49.5 pounds.
I wish to take this moment to thank Mike at the Delta counter in Frankfurt, Germany. I heaved my massive bags onto the counter scales and resigned myself to charges around $300, for I had no defense and even I couldn't handle wearing 4 pairs of socks, 3 sweaters, and an extra coat to help cut the weight which had ballooned far beyond the limit. Mike looked at the bags, looked at me, and with a jaunty wink just moved them to the conveyor belt without a word. Mike...oh, Mike. How I love thee.
Therefore, you will understand my deep sigh when unpacking here in Houston. Hidden among the carefully chosen contents of my suitcase was a bag containing the bones from the chicken wings I ate in Milwaukee. I shudder to think what they weighed....

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Take money, tuck it away."

I'm home from rehearsal, and this evening we staged the section of "Grimes" when I have the most to sing/do. First of all, I'm in heels the entire time. I am of the belief that if a guy isn't interested in me at 5'7, making myself 5'9 isn't going to help my cause. Except when necessary, I am the person who enters her first costume fitting begging for flats or the lowest, chunkiest, most masculine heel they will allow.
These heels are not even 2 inches and compared to the Jimmy Choos and Blahniks of the world, they are the width of a linebacker. However, when I am raised above floor level, all balance bets are off.
As the head of the pub "The Boar" in our little fishing village, I carry pitchers up and down stairs, wipe off tables, and in this production, actually clean up "vomit" which today was the most disturbing deep pink color. Management assures us the color will eventually be a pea yellow. I don't see how this is any better for me as the tottering, unsteady mopper. The mop and bucket are old fashioned in the extreme, and we had a lovely time in rehearsal trying to teach me where to step on one side while pushing down the lever on the other side, while drawing the mop head through the wringer. This would be difficult for me at floor level. Add 2 inches, and I was tipping left.....right....forward..... The perpetrator of the puke is my friend Beau, and I've already told him that he needs to be prepared for me literally crashing into him. It's a sad, sad thing when the village drunk is my only chance of staying upright in my own bar.
Beau's character also hands me fake paper money as he advances on my whores. "Take money, tuck it away" is a common direction for characters in my career. I got home from rehearsal late this evening, and suddenly felt something and discovered my payment was still wedged quite securely.
I would like to think that the professional ease I have achieved with the money-in-boobage moments I come by genetically. Grandma Koop to this day likes to keep cash "safe and close at hand", and despite a bevy of lovely handbags of various materials/sizes/colors/functions, I can often be found with nothing in my hands and a subtle bulge where no gentleman would feel welcome to search. My $20 is just as widely accepted for being on the warm side.
Onstage, I have had paper money, coins, keys, letters, pictures, and even in one memorable scene, a flask, all down in the most convenient and easily accessible space available to women. It's when the direction calls for someone else to place the payment there him/herself that I feel like a personal loan officer.
I once had a famous tenor told to deposit his coins "deep in there." After chivalrously asking me if I was fine with this arrangement, he declared "I love my job!" and dove in.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grimes!!! Peter Grimes!!!

I hope everyone has been well. Against advice, I have decided to keep this a blog for when I'm working. That could change at any point. :)
Today finds me in Houston singing Auntie in "Peter Grimes" with the Houston Grand Opera. I have never done this role, nor have I even seen the opera performed live. It is a wonderful, though intimidating, place from which to jump. On the one hand I have no one else in my mind as I sing and rehearse my role. What a wonderful freedom to be surprised by and react to tempos I didn't expect, and to hear some of this music for indeed the first time. Our second day of rehearsal was today, and we were treated to 3 hours of musical rehearsal this evening with the full chorus. They are wonderful, and in this show they are intertwined with the plot and are constantly commenting on the scene at hand, passing judgment, or doing everything in their power to throw poor me off by having 64 voices singing different rhythms against mine. It's a brilliant piece, and it's magical to hear.
I had my first costume fitting today, and as I write this I sit comfortably in my chair, not having to think about the deep, luxurious breaths in which I casually luxuriate.
That's right.....corset. Not just any corset. The same corset they built for me when I was here in Houston 2 years ago for the Previn opera "Brief Encounter". In that piece, I was the "tea wench", and luckily my role required absolutely no sitting, as my corset rendered that next to impossible.
Corsets do not work magic. They give me a waist which nature did not deign to do. However, by cinching in the middle, that's not the end of the story. What is decreased in one section must be increased in another. It has to go somewhere. In this particular pink, lace-trimmed instrument of torture, that somewhere happened to be the boob region. Or, as Grandpa Koop called it, my Mt. Vesuvius. During "Brief Encounter", I had people setting trays on them, swiping Visa cards between them, and making assumptions about the person to whom they were attached. Guilt by association.
The role of Auntie in "Peter Grimes" is the head of the whores, my "nieces". However, I thought perhaps because this was set in a working fishing village, it was a casual place, I had the nieces to do the "dirty" work, and it was sweater weather, I might escape looking like me. Wrong, and wrong.
I arrived for my fitting, and there it was sitting on the chair looking benign and rather feminine. However, I knew of what it was capable.
It's never a good sign when your dresser instructs you to "kick me if it's too tight." That's not a woman into pain, that's her recognizing the fact that too tight implies no breath, rendering crying out in pain impossible.
Wide stance, arms against the wall, and organs doing a shifty little dance that would make Scarlett O'Hara proud. It's a strange feeling when the dresser takes a moment to shift her hands up the laces, and you can feel your body literally adjusting and finding ways of accommodating parts of you that until recently had space to spare.
When the flurry of pulling, cinching, and organ relocation had settled, I found my figure once again a faux hourglass. A foot above my own personal "Waistland", my cup once again ranneth over. The two dressers clapped, cheered, and declared "You may be in tons of pain, but you look HOT!!!"
Unfortunately, this role does not allow me to stand at all times. How do you explain to the very nice director during rehearsals that you can't be seated when you sing this line, as chin-resting-on-boob-shelf does not lend itself to a full breath and legato line?
That's the news from Houston. The other day, I received an email touting a celebrated author giving a reading at my "Local Borders". I clicked on the link just out of curiosity as to where they considered to be my hometown. A sad commentary on my nomadic life.
However, here in Houston I have several friends in this opera and also in town. It's one of the most wonderful things about this business. The opera world is very small, and as time goes on you get to know a large majority of the professional set. Rarely do I have a gig where I don't have at least one friend in the cast.
I hope everyone has been well.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Finland, Finland, Finland

Last week was a wonderful vacation in Helsinki, Finland. My brother-in-law was there to present at a computer conference, so I joined him and we played tourist and enjoyed the perfect weather. After the cold, rainy weeks in Frankfurt, Helsinki was about 68 degrees daily and sunny sunny sunny. The sun didn't set in the evening until almost 11 p.m., and was back up at 4:30 a.m. It was great having to wear sunglasses to dinner at 9 p.m.
Speaking of dinner, I was very happy to have the opportunity to eat reindeer, moose, and special local berries (in addition to escargot, shrimp, and other dishes that benefitted from Helsinki being right on the water).
One of the days, I took a boat 90 minutes across the water to the country of Estonia. In addition to being able to check off another country on my list, I had the greater desire to see one of the world's tallest toilets. Yes, a toilet. I had read about it in my internet research before my visit. Apparently, it is 77 meters tall (thanks to America not embracing the metric system, that to me translates as "REALLY TALL"). It is in a watch tower, and was built that tall so that guards on watch at the top of the tower didn't have to descend all those stairs to relieve themselves. Genius.
My research had stated that the tower was directly next to the town hall. So, there I stood in front of the town hall, which was in the center of a circle of many MANY buildings, some tower-ish and nothing seeming like the perfect candidate. As I stood there puzzling, I befriended a couple from Virginia, who had a detailed map and had been on the official tour, but hadn't heard a word on a famous toilet. The woman turned out to be an opera fan and we agreed that when I sing at the Washington National Opera at some point in the future, she would come backstage and ask whether I had found the toilet.
I went from building to building, and the best prospect turned out to be a church. I received strange looks from the little lady on duty as I looked behind very closed doors and asked if this was where the special toilet lived. Her blank looks and indication where their normal-sized WC resided was repeated as I circled town hall cursing the lack of specificity as to location. Eventually, I realized that the tower was the tower that was actually attached to town hall, which I had sat in front of and circled for the past hour. Yay! Tall toilet!!! However, this is a sad story. Town Hall is CLOSED in the off-season and doesn't open until July except by appointment. So, if I ever find myself once again in Helsinki, I will not travel to Estonia unless I'm there in July or August (or with a confirmed reservation and promised toilet viewing clearance).
I was strangely happy to get back to Frankfurt after my week in Finland. I had spent the week automatically answering everyone and making requests and excusing myself in German. Virtually all of Finland speaks English, and try as I might, my tongue automatically replied in German.
Another amazing thing is that once one is admitted to the EU, passports are no longer checked. Flying from Germany to Finland, boat to and from Estonia, and flight back to Germany, my passport was neither requested nor (regretfully) stamped. Everything is very easy and accommodating. In Estonia, I paid for a pair of mittens with local Estonian money and American dollars, and my change was in Euros.
After Saturday's show, we have 12 days between shows. I am spending the time here in Germany, as the final long break in June I am spending in Sweden and perhaps Latvia as well. I'm being a good little singer who is trying to remember that when I'm on the road for a job it is not really a long vacation but a chance to get a jump on learning music for the future.
This week is dedicated to "Peter Grimes" by Benjamin Britten which I'm performing this fall in Houston. My role is Auntie, who is the head of the whorehouse. I see another costume with my breasts playing a central role in the near future...
Tomorrow is my birthday, and I am looking forward to another day of sunshine, Britten, and having dinner and attending a vocal recital with some friends.
Hope everyone finds the "tall toilet" in their life. :)

Friday, May 7, 2010


I have fulfilled a life-long dream. I have met someone actually named Helga. She is a super for "Rheingold" and not at all how I imagined a Helga would look. When I give people massages, I often say "My name is Helga, and I am here to crack your back!". The real Helga is a diminutive lady who appears to need help opening a jar of pickles. A real Helga. What joy is mine. :)
We had our second show this evening, and when I rise up in the middle of the stage, there is a lot of fog and a very hurried few seconds as a stagehand pushes my chair into the center of the ring, gets out of the way, and the three girls hurry to their places with me right behind. I stood in front of the chair and the girls gathered around me. However, as we rose and the fog cleared, it became clear that the stagehand in his rush had not set the chair at the proper angle, and we were facing a good 25-degrees west of the audience. I quickly turned my body to the right while subtly kicking the chair around behind me, and the girls kind of crawled while holding onto my hairy costume. All while trying to appear supernatural, ethereal, mysterious, and as if our shuffle was part of the plan. And while singing in German.... sigh.
I have been continuing with my German lessons, and it's a great motivating factor to my learning that every new thing can immediately be applied to my day-to-day life. I am having trouble remembering to say "I'm hot" temperature-wise as opposed to "I'm hot" sexy sexy-wise. It's all in the order of the words.
"I'm hot" in either sense hasn't been necessary as of late as the weather has been low 40s and raining these past few days, and now that my boobs have been downgraded, so has the backstage male attention. :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Open for business

We opened "Rheingold" on Sunday, and it was greeted as I'm told most new productions and certainly most Wagner productions are in Germany.... cheers for the singers and orchestra, and LOUD boos mixed in with applause for the production team (director, costumes, set, etc). I had been warned before, but it was still jarring as rarely in America is such displeasure displayed so vocally. It was explained to me that Wagner is something quite sacred and personal to the people of Germany, and they take how they react very seriously and to the extreme. There is no middle groud. However, apart from several enthusiastic dissenters, it seemed well received and no one threw frankfurters at the stage in displeasure. :)
The greatest source of disappointment was that my ludicrously large, lusciously lovely fake boobs will never have their day in the sun. There was much scurrying several days before opening as the director saw the costume on Tuesday for the first time and declared them "distracting". Um...yes. So, I was brought to an emergency costume fitting where they figured out how to make them smaller. I volunteered to lead a "Save The Boobies!" rally out front. In the end, Erda's boobs are now my boobs, covered in two bras, with fake nipples sewn on the outside. Everyone backstage was disappointed (particularly several men). They asked what I was doing with mini boobs (thanks a lot), and that it looked like something was off with them (again, thanks). I was also downgraded from Chewbacca's hot twin to his second cousin.
My favorite thing was that on his opening night card, my Wotan wrote that he missed my boobs. The feeling is mutual.
However, my brother-in-law has suggested I wear them in Helsinki in a few weeks when he is there presenting his research at a conference. Between planting me with a brilliantly insightful question to ask and the spectacle my silicone puppies would be sure to create, it would give them all something to talk about.
Now that we have opened, I find myself with much free time. I spent yesterday trying all sorts of German dishes at a restaurant with friends, and then with a friend visiting churches, government buildings, eating ice cream, and even taking a 50-min. boat ride up and down the river. Frankfurt is knows for its museums, and I'm going to give them each their due. Tonight I'm going to see the play "The Fox" at the English Theatre, and then tomorrow take in a Seurat exhibit.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Splish Splash!

11 a.m. is early for a singer.
Opera is a profession where virtually nothing starts before 10 in the morning, and nothing is thought amiss of a rehearsal ending at 10 p.m. Luckily, I have always been a night owl, and these late hours appeal to me. Last night I went to hear my friend sing in "Simone Boccanegra" and then hung out with him and another friend until almost 3 a.m. It was a lovely evening, however I had to sing at 11 a.m. this morning for what was described to me as an outreach pre-Rheingold thing for donors. The director and the drammaturg (very nice person at this opera house who writes the program notes and prepares this gathering) would explain the story, the concept of the production, and I would be one of 4 singers to sing parts of the opera. No problem.
On arrival, suddenly there was the conductor of the piece who would also be speaking, and the head of the opera company himself, who would be observing. There were hundreds of people. This morning had suddenly been given a violent shove into serious.
We sang in the order of where our pieces fall in the opera, and as my character, Erda, doesn't rise from the depths until 86% of the opera has passed, I sat in the lobby area for an hour trying to keep my voice warmed up. I also now recalled that there would be a camera crew taping and that the drammaturg has asked me if I would be comfortable with him asking me a few questions when I finished singing. I had said that would fine, as long as I would be allowed to give my answers in English.
So, the door opened and smiling, I walked into a packed room with rows on three sides of me and a table with the drammaturg, the director, and the conductor beside me. As the pianist played the ominous, spooky, "Here's Erda!" chords, I couldn't resist bending my knees and pretending to rise up from the ground. I was gifted with some smiles and laughter. Then I had to look serious, foreboding, and concerned for the future the gods would suffer if Wotan didn't relinquish the ring. My voice showed up, for which I'm quite grateful indeed, and I decided I wasn't happy staying back by my piano, and wandered the room, scaring some patrons, and spitting on those in the front rows. When I sing in the German language, there is much phlegm involved, and the front row should be designated a Shamu-like "Splash Zone."
After my aria I went to go sit with the other soloists on the side of the room, but Malte the drammaturg called me front and center and handed me a huge microphone. I had thought this would be a panel-type question session, but it seems I was the only one being put on the spot today. Malte asked me in German and then translated into English that I was very young to be singing Wagner, and how did I come to this role so quickly in my career? I thought of you, dear readers, when I replied in carefully pronounced English that I sing loud, low, and slow, and I would never be a Mozart singer. This did not require any translation into German, and the audience laughed and laughed. He then asked me how this experience was different than my last time singing in Frankfurt as Ulrica in "Un Ballo in Maschera" a year ago as this Wagner was a premiere and the Ballo had been a re-mount. I said that it was great having more time to spend in this beautiful city, the opportunity to sing in German in Germany was exciting, and that it was very special to be singing my first Ring Cycle in Frankfurt.
I was finally allowed to go sit with the other soloists, and after the program finished, I was free to escape home for a nap. I may not have been the most demure diva, but I'm sure I was memorable.

Friday, April 23, 2010


We have had a long long week of technical rehearsals, where as a singer you almost feel like a prop. You're on the stage for the first time, with piano accompaniment and they are stopping and starting, working the lights, movements of the stage, etc. Our set for "Das Rheingold" is very cool. It is a circular, huge, blue Saturn-type set with a circle in the center, and the floor separates into rings that move up and down and rotate (often while singers are standing, walking, running, or lying on it).
I rise up from the very center, and don't move more than a step in any direction. Yesterday I was given smoke as an experiment, and I felt like Madonna. When they stopped rehearsal at the end of my scene and I was lowered back down, I couldn't resist striking a rocker pose with my fist in the air, my face raised to the heavens in tortured bliss, and smoke swirling around me, as I descended to the depths.
My costume will be viewed by the masses during rehearsal on Tuesday. However, I have taken some pictures, and people who have seen them are rendered speechless. I look like Chewbacca after a sex change operation, and the size of these fake boobs would make Dolly Parton look like she was smuggling mini muffins under her sweater. Several people who have seen the pictures have asked if they are my real boobs. Come on, people! There is no minimizing bra in the world that could ease those puppies into the realm of everyday respectability. We have guessed that I will be asked out by men who have seen me in my costume from a distance, and that they would feel on the date that they had been lured there under false pretenses. :)
Speaking of bras, my friend Richard at lunch yesterday pointed out that it's a shame my fake boobs couldn't be more perky. I responded that as the Mother of the Earth, I shun bras and encourage my breasts to return to the earth from which they were sprung.
I am sorry to report that the streets of Frankfurt are not flowing with lava. There's not even a hint of visible Icelandic volcanic ash in the air. Our airport was closed for days, and there were many concerns as to whether casts would make it back in time for performances. One friend I know drove 18 hours from Stockholm to arrive in Frankfurt 2 hours before his opera.
The Frankfurt public transportation system is run on the honor system. I have a month card, as does my friend Martina. We hadn't been checked once since our arrival, and Martina was not happy about spending all that money for naught. To amuse her, we were on the subway and I (in my extremely limited German) demanded her ticket, her ID, and asked her to hurry up in producing both. Just as we were laughing, an official ticket checker lady actually showed up! We both gave her huge, eager smiles and Martina felt the need to tell the lady how extremely happy she was to see her. She looked at us strangely, checked our tickets, and moved on.
Finally, last week I was on the main shopping/gathering plaza, and suddenly found myself in the middle of a massive, organized pillow fight. Hundreds and hundreds of people beating anyone without reach, and down feathers filling the air with a impotent softness. Truly amazing experience. I also thought it was very German that at the end, as happy children rolled around in the snowy banks of the sudden winter wonderland, many people took their empty pillowcases and refilled them from the piles at their feet.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Rehearsing, at last

So, 12 days after arriving in Frankfurt, I was finally called to a rehearsal. It quickly became obvious that Meredith was not so easy for some people to say, and Mimi became my name. It was quite intimidating to show up to a group that had been rehearsing together for weeks and was jabbering away in German. We immediately spoke through my whole scene (my character, Erda, only appears in one scene in "Das Rheingold" and only interacts with one other character, Wotan) in rapid German. I had to get up close to the Wotan, basically mold my body to his, and whisper the German lines in his ear. I wished I had met him first, and that I hadn't eaten that Greek salad for lunch.
The assistant director then proceeded to make the whole room sit there while she went on for seriously 12 agonizing minutes speaking directly to me in German explaining the whole set, costumes, setting, plot twists, etc. I think there was something in there about a gold ring. heehee. It was terrible, yet I just sat there smiling, nodding, and trying to look clued in.
As I expected, I rise out the ground, stay in a small little circle, and then sink back down. Not so difficult staging. However, I have a chair on which to sit, and have to deliver 90% of my aria seated, which is not easy for me as a singer. And then Wotan crawls up to me when I beckon him, plops himself between my legs and I have to cradle his head, stroke his hair, sing looking down at him, etc. However, many roles I sing in opera have me comforting another singer (usually a soprano) and petting their heads. I do, however, fear it's going to look like I'm giving birth to him onstage. We'll see. Unfortunately, I have to be looking straight down into Wotan's eyes at a difficult rhythmic part, and I still haven't quite figured out how I'm going to be looking down and see the conductor at the same time. It will all work out.
The next day of rehearsal, the kinder arrived. They are playing up the Earth Mother aspect of my role, and literally giving me 3 children to have around me for my scene. There were 6 adorable kids between I'd say 5 and 8. I had to lift them one by one to find the lightest and then we tried out different combinations of kids to see which ones were the better actors. Now, that 10% of the aria I get to stand for, I have to hold a not-small, not-light child in my arms. Her name is Marie, and she is adorable, but I fear for her ears when I'm singing inches away and I fear for my breath control to sing long phrases while holding 45 pounds or so. It's just nice to have Marie, Lilly, and Elizabeth there, so I have something to make our small little circle more enjoyable. They laugh at my attempts to speak German to them, and I am teaching them some quiet clapping games.
I have made a friend in Martina, the woman singing Fricka. We walk, eat, talk, play frisbee and ping pong, and she lives on my street. That's one lovely thing about this cast, which is universally friendly. These people will be singing in the other parts of this Ring Cycle here over the next few years as well. I am involved in 3 of the 4 operas, and knowing the people I'll be singing with and liking them very much makes me so much more optimistic for the next few years of my career. My many many months in Frankfurt through 2013 will now be something I look forward to. Such continuity and repeat colleagues is rarely found in this business. It's a treat.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Waiting for the boobies!

I am pleased to announce that I have seen my actual costume, and I don't look so much naked as frightfully similar to Chewbacca in Star Wars. There is a clear plastic body-length sleeveless "dress" which is COVERED in thick, red, (I fear real) hair. It's enough to turn your stomach. I spun around the room, and looked something akin to a sea anemone. The hair moves and shakes and waves and ripples. I'm a living perm.
My favorite costume lady, Anna, told me they had wanted me naked underneath, but that she had fought for a slip-like nude shift. She thought I would be more comfortable. Ich leibe Anna! and am bringing her flowers.
So, this human hair coat starts just below the breast area, and I will have 2 large silicone fake boobs that will be there for the world to see, only covered a bit by the additional red wig on my head. However, they were not here. We all sat down while someone went to find them. In my terrible German, I managed to explain that this was like a young girl eager for womanhood "waiting for the boobies." Well, they just thought that was hilarious, and I had several German ladies trying out the phrase "waiting for the boobies!" loudly in English and giggling.
The boobies were not yet ready to be tried today. So, there I stood in my bra and had no fewer than 8! German ladies surrounding me and discussing my breasts. One came up, literally grabbed my chest without saying a word first, and I said "uh, hallo?!" They had another good laugh about that, but the grip was not lessened, and was subsequently repeated by several others. "This one is larger... If we lift them this high... The nipples should be placed here..." All these things were shown to me physically, and did not require translating.
Hope everyone had a great Easter!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Greetings and welcome from Germany!

So, my sister Allison and various friends have convinced me that my life is blog-worthy. If no one reads this, it shall then serve as a useful tool for reminding me where I was on a certain day when I'm attempting to reconstruct my year for tax purposes. The title of the blog refers to the ways I prefer to sing. I try to avoid singing softly, high, or too quickly. :)
I am currently in Frankfurt, Germany. I arrived here several days ago, and as of yet, have not been called to a single rehearsal for my role of Erda in "Das Rheingold" by Richard Wagner. This is one opera of 4 in the "Ring Cyle", and I will be returning to Frankfurt for 2 of the others, reprising my role of Erda in "Siegfried" and singing First Norn in "Gotterdammerung".
The reason for my light rehearsal schedule at the moment is that Erda is the Mother of the Earth. The entire role consists of me rising from the depths (often accompanied by fog and strange smells), singing an aria lasting about 6 min, singing one more line, and sinking back into the earth. I usually emerge a little sleepy, a little cranky, a little confused, and a little dirty. I am the Mother of the Earth, after all. Often a sackcloth, messy hair, and brown smudged makeup are what an Erda wears. However...
I had been called into the opera house for a costume and wig fitting. I should have been suspicious when all they did was take measurements of me, and then fit me in a bra, taking very detailed chest-area specifications. I was then taken down to the wig department, where they tried on a wonderful red wig that was shoulder length. As I sat down, in my limited English I said "Entschuldigung, mein kopf ist sehr gross!" Which, roughly, means "Sorry, my head is very large." I always feel the need to apologize for the size of my head, as wig departments rarely have wigs in stock that fit my monstrous melon, and usually have to build mine from scratch. I hadn't realized what a reputation I had until I was in the cafeteria at the Metropolitan Opera for "Dr. Atomic" and the head of the wig department, Tom Watson, came over to me, (never having met me), placed his hands on my hair and said "I've heard about this head."
But I digress.... After the wig fitting, the woman asked if I would like to see the designer's sketch for my character's costume. I said "ja." What she showed me was a completely naked women, with bare feet and a red wig that stretched from my scalp to my toes, covering my nakedness. The only thing visible were two gigantic silicone breasts complete with nipples protruding from this hairy curtain. It looked like a cross between Pamela Anderson and Cousin It.
I needed a moment.
Now, mind you, I will not be naked (I assume). I will have a body stocking or some such thing on under that wig. I have another fitting Tues, and will attempt to find the German words in my limited vocabulary to implore thick garments of coverage from the costume department.
What this means is that my staging (what actions and movements the director asks of me) will consist of standing ABSOLUTELY still and avoiding drafts, so that my hair of modesty will not be ruffled. My biggest concern lies in me having to take a bow at the end. I'm sorry, but there will be no walking, bending over, or anything else that encourages wind.
What other news....
When I first arrived, my apartment was not yet cleaned, so I wandered in a jetlagged and sleep deprived state around the area for a few hours. I found myself at a Palm Sunday service which was lovely, and full of kids and even two live donkeys. It was a very very crowded room, and I was lucky to find a seat. However, the man that sat next to me started to be just a little too close and friendly with his hands. There was nowhere to move, and I lacked the German words to tell him what I thought of him. I resorted to a whispered "nein!" and a swift, gentle, and altogether holy kick in the shin. When it came time to circle the block with our palms, donkeys, multitude of children, choir, and parishioners, I kept going down the block instead of re-entering the church. I'm not sure where I will be Easter Sunday, but I know which church I will not be attending.
I went to the outdoor market 2 days ago. and by pointing, smiling, shrugging, apologizing, and using the numbers 1-10, emerged with a bevy of fruits and veggies, meats, and cheeses. However, my cucumber on closer inspection turned out to be a zucchini. Such is life.
That's the news from Frankfurt. I wish you all well. Auf Wiedersehen!