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Airplanes, recitals and sleep, oh my!

There is a very practical reason why it behooves me to write more often, simply so that I can avoid long, dragged out posts as the one that is sure to follow, however, I’m not a writer – I’m a singer, and singing has been calling.  Boy, has it been calling.  So I’ve kept the writing on hold, and it has patiently waited for me to click back over.  I won’t pretend this will be cohesive, so buckle your seat belts and let’s go!

"Like Mezzos to a Heggie", photo by Patrick Summers

Jake Heggie has a long-standing reputation for favoring mezzo-sopranos in his writing, and it’s quite true – he has perfected the soaring, lyrical voicing for which we mezzos clamor.  He also happens to be one of the most genuinely generous and loving people I’ve ever met, so it’s not surprising he had the 3 of us flocking to him like, well, like Mezzos to a Heggie.  But let’s just take a look at those other 2 faces: the first day of rehearsal I found myself sandwiched between Susanne Mentzer and Frederica von Stade on a bench speaking through the text, and let me tell you, I couldn’t stop giggling, nor gushing.  These two served as my mentors, idols and heroines in the opera business, not only for their unparalleled artistry, but for serving as examples of remaining true to yourself, having a vibrant life off the stage, and for genuine, caring dispositions.  This run of “Dead Man Walking” in Houston was beyond a dream come true to share the stage with such beautiful artists, and to have the opportunity to learn from them in such a direct fashion was a gift I will never forget.

With the gorgeous Leonard Foglia ~ photo by Jake Heggie

This run of Dead Man held so many elements of emotion and joy, words fail me miserably to try and capture them adequately.  Not only was it an emotional journey of epic proportions with a very special and close cast, but it was an endless source of learning and discovery for me.  One of the reasons for that was working with our stage director Lenny, who brought out the very best in all of us. He created a very safe environment for us to take risks in the rehearsal process, he prompted us to continually find the simplicity and the truth in the scene, and he always knew when to bring humor to the intense table!  He MOST graciously agreed to do a little “interview” with me, and I’ve got it all in the can – I just need time to assemble it. So do stay tuned for unbelievably valuable insight from this dream of a man!

Frederica von Stade as "Joe's Mother", in her final operatic performances

I recognize that I’ve written quite a lot about Flicka’s influence on me (and I honestly don’t expect to stop any time soon) but her final show was something indescribable.  She was brilliant.  She was fine. She was composed.  I suspect she was quite ready for this and embraced it with a dignity and a beauty that will serve as an inspiration for many people for a long time to come.  It was the REST of us that were a mess!  Tears were flowing and emotions were raw and high, including the majority of the audience.  I can’t quite describe (again, words failing me!) what it was like to share her final phrases with her in our brief duet, and then to watch as she rose beside me and took her final exit into the dark but famliar wings.  My throat swelled and the notes definitely did not flow as I would have liked, but a moment like that takes hold and you simply have to go with it.  She stood in the wings and watched us close out the show, and yet I think all of us were consumed with thoughts that it simply seemed impossible that this was it for her, she who still sings like an angel.  However, it was a moment, a glorious unforgettable moment, where a star taught us mere mortals what it means to let go and head straight into the next chapter, with enthusiasm, generosity and joy.  It is something I shall never forget, and I know I am not alone.

David Zobel in Houston at the start of our tour

Speaking of the next chapter, the day after we closed DMW, David Zobel, my astonishing partner on this recital tour, and I drove North – how I love a road trip! – and before we knew it, on Tuesday in the chill of Fort Worth, we were standing on the stage of the beautiful Bass Hall kicking off our recital tour! It’s been quite a few weeks, and exhaustion has certainly been a close companion, but we have had the most wonderful time criss-crossing the country with our new program.  (Without question, the best weapon against getting run down lies in a good night’s sleep, and so my plan of attack has been loads of shut-eye where possible.)  The mystery of performing the same concert for various venues on different evenings never ceases to astound me, for there is no predicting how a particular audience will respond, or what colors we may stumble upon during the course of the night. Each of our 4 concerts so far has been very different, and therein lies the joy!

As I’ve mentioned on some of these concerts, the idea of the song recital was borne out of small gatherings in salons of composers, or singers – a chance for friends to gather and share in the intimacy of music making.  I’ve enjoyed so much visiting different venues and sharing in the musical journey of different genres, languages, emotions and colors, and thank all the audience for taking the journey along with us!  It’s hard to identify any concert that stands out, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how amazing it was to be home for my birthday singing for my family and friends. I won’t soon forget that!

The other excitement is that Diva~Divo is officially released around the world! It feels amazing to have a project that I worked very hard for and believed in come to fruition. (I’ll never quite get used to the excitement of seeing a project completed months ago suddenly appear in my mailbox!) In honor of the international release, I put together a sort of underground video taken from some of the fabulous people I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the past few months.  It’s fun and I think you may have a laugh or two.  You can see it HERE! ENJOY!

13 Comments

  1. Richard Whittington said…

    Diva and skirts are my vote. Thanks again for letting me get a picture with you in KC.

  2. A. Wells said…

    I’m seeing your recital in Atlanta on Sunday and I am SO EXCITED! I just graduated with a opera performance degree, and have been a long-time fan! If you need a tour guide, let me know ;D

  3. alocksley said…

    Love the video…great choice of background music!!

  4. Jon said…

    Thanks so much for this exciting and inspiring update!

    I plan to bring a group of undergraduate vocal students to your Philadelphia recital. We’re all eager to see and hear it!

  5. Squillo said…

    I can tell you that the folks in the audience of the last DMW were a mess, too. Hankies and sniffles all around. It was a big, fat emo-fest, what with the natural drama of the piece and Flicka’s last performance. She epitomizes the idea that one should go out when they still want you.

    I was so pleasantly surprised to find that Suzanne Mentzer was in the cast as well. I’ve long admired her, and have missed her in the past few years, as she hasn’t been in my neck of the woods.

    Enjoy the recital tour. (And how’s about coming back to San Francisco soon?)

  6. Gi said…

    Diva/Divo is in stores everywhere in Portugal… and I, of course, have my copy. Brilliant singing and brilliant concept, congratulations!

  7. Fiona Whitehead said…

    I’m sorry to say I’ve only just heard you sing, sorry cause I’ve missed so much but relieved that I’ve found you – I youtubed ah guarda sorella as am singing it soon and found your version – fabulous – your expression and love of what you do is so contagious – I’ve hoping to come and see you in Covent Garden in Cendrillon. As an amater opera singer its wonderful to find new singers – just bought your CD too. Enjoy your singing x

  8. Sibyl said…

    Very fun film: seriously, is there nothing you cannot do?

  9. Jon said…

    Joyce, your Philadelphia recital was an inspiration to our students (from U of Delaware) more than I can describe. It provided lively conversation during our hour’s drive home afterward, and I’m sure will do so again in class this afternoon. Thank you so much for your artistry, your generosity (to those “sitting behind”!), and your unfailing inspiration.

  10. Chris said…

    I am not sure that this is the latest entry in your blog but it is the only one I can find. I saw an excerpt on the Net from Le Comte Ory. The singing was superb from all three of you, but I have to admit I am not a fan of rambunctious activity at the same time. I suppose this is now the fashion and to be able to sing marvelously while frantically jumping about is impressive, but I have to say that I prefer a somewhat more sedate presentation.

    • Anna O said…

      I don’t think a Rossini commedy is supposed to be sedate! I think the rambunctious activity suits this opera very well indeed!

      • Chris said…

        Perhaps it is not rambunctious enough. More hysteria is always better, right? Comic operas are all about hyperactivity and calisthenics of course and I am such an old fuddy duddy to object, right?

  11. alocksley said…

    I for one thought that clip which was.from a dress.rehea was very different from what I saw live on Thursday night. All 3 of you were fantastic and the show was so much fun!!
    Bravo to you all…and it was go great to hear real cheering at the curtain calls not for who we are “supposed ” to like but fir three brilliant artists at the top of their game. A memorable night to be sure.

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