“You will never make it … “It” doesn’t exist for an artist. The work will never end… It will always be there for you — even if in some moments you lack the will to be there for it. All it asks is that you show up, fully present. It’s not about you … You may not yet realize it, but you haven’t signed up for a life of glory and adulation. The world needs you … We need you to help us understand that which is bigger than ourselves, so that we can stop feeling so small, so isolated, so helpless.”
So, that was 2016 … ! I’ve always loved looking back at a recently closed chapter in my life, analyzing it to learn what worked well (and what didn’t), appreciating it for what it was, and setting up my game plan for the next adventure. While this past year has been an astonishing one for me in many ways, I have to ask: is anyone else out there happy to usher this particular 365-day cycle out the door? I thought so. So, that means THIS is the moment for us to decide HOW we want to open the door to the next cycle. More
This past week, Cal Performances featured Grammy-winning Joyce DiDonato at UC Berkeley. The mezzo-soprano vocalist, who has been called, “the most potent female singer of her generation,” by The New Yorker, collaborated with the Italian instrumental ensemble Il D’Oro. However, this wasn’t an ordinary performance.
It’s 16 November, 2015: I am seated at my father’s old piano in tranquil, uneventful Kansas City, Missouri, with a pile of 60 obscure Neapolitan arias. I’m researching music for my new album, music by composers such as Niccolò Jomelli and Leonardo Leo, who wrote in a post-classical, pre-bel canto world that is sorely underrepresented today on recordings and concert platforms. My task is to select 10 of these obscure arias to feature on my album and perform on a world tour.
Just the day before I had been in glossy Dallas, Texas singing the final emotion-filled performance of a new opera written for me by Jake Heggie titled Great Scott, which asks the pressing question,
Tonight is the opening of “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” here in Zurich. It is a role that I feel and love very deeply, and the opportunity to bring him to life, set to Bellini’s exquisitely well crafted vocal lines, fills me with tremendous gratitude. (I’ve written about my passion for him before.)
It tells the familiar story of Romeo and Juliet: the story we know well, masterfully told by Shakespeare, read aloud in countless sophomore literature classes, endlessly danced to (by yours truly, at least) in Bernstein’s version, retold and remade in numerous cultures and epochs – always breaking our hearts in the end.
Bellini’s version hails from later Italian sources, and as the title indicates, throws the emphasis squarely on the shoulders of these two warring families. This is undeniably an opera about war. Here there is no love duet between the two: they fight in every scene, even in death, never finding peace – even as harmonious thirds in the music ache for them to find each other. After the deaths, the warring families rush the stage and we see how the cycle will inevitably continue.
During the flurry of my insanely bizarre and wonderful fall schedule, I received a request from the Mu Phi Chapter at Radford University in Virginia, asking for some words of encouragement. As a proud Mu Phi Alum, it took me a few weeks to respond, but I managed to get a few thoughts down onto “paper” while speeding across Europe on a high speed train. It’s not my most eloquent writing, but it captured that particular moment in time where my brain was buzzing with the desire to impart some, eh hem, wisdom, words of encouragement, and perhaps even so much as empowering them to get fierce about their paths! More
Chairman Kovner, President Polisi, most distinguished honorees, dedicated family, friends, faculty, and to EACH of the talented, ambitious, courageous, adventurous Juilliard graduates of the class of 2014 before us here today, thank you! More
I’m not a fan of silence. Wait. Allow me, please, to clarify: I’ll take contemplative silence whenever I can, or the silence that comes from crisp mountain air or the hush that befalls your heart when gazing up at the galaxy of stars on a moonless night. Oh, I love that kind of silence. But silence in the face of oppression? Nope. Not a fan. Never have been. Can’t imagine I ever will be. That doesn’t mean that I always know how to speak up, that I always do speak up, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I always know the most effective way to speak up in order to actually invite people to listen, and then – under the best of circumstances – perhaps to actually feel the call to action. No. I’m not an expert in any of those areas. More
There’s a wonderful opera fan out there who corralled several other ardent fans into starting their very own on-line magazine about opera, called Opera21. It’s a brilliant venture, where they find a theme each month, solicit articles by their own readers, and put it out into the cybersphere for discussion, growth and discovery. Absolutely my cup of tea! The following is a letter I wrote to their editor for the February 2013 edition, and just wanted to share it with you here, as well.
From Mary’s last letter to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England:
“Accuse me not of presumption if, leaving this world and preparing myself for a better, I remind you will one day to give account of your charge, in like manner as those who preceded you in it, and that my blood and the misery of my country will be remembered, wherefor from the earliest dawn of your comprehension we ought to dispose our minds to make things temporal yield to those of eternity.
Please join the Brentano String Quartet and me for this live-streamed event, and discover this haunting, evocative cycle by Jake Heggie, "Into the Fire”.
@wqxr_classical @medici.tv @warner_classics @greenespacenyc
The joy and privilege of bringing this program with this orchestra and this maestro to @carnegiehall is immeasurable! Hope you can be there!! @philorch @nezetseguin #Chausson #DeadLeaves #Roses #Lilacs #Love #Loss #PainfulBeauty #SublimePartnership @nkodamusic
Thanks to all who came out to catch the @sonyclassics film #MariaByCallas! It was thrilling to experience her story with you all in this city that she so loved - and which loved her so!
It is so special to be back in #Philly and to be making music with the #INCREDIBLE @philorch and the divine @nezetseguin. The splendid fall leaves and colors are the perfect inspiration and backdrop for our concerts this weekend of Chausson’s “Poemes de l’amour et de la mer”, exploring the loss of love and life, dead leaves, general despair. I hope you’ll be able to join if you’re in the neighborhood this weekend, or at @carnegiehall on Tuesday!! #deadleavesarestillravishing
It shouldn’t take #Einstein to convince you to get out and #vote...but in case it does....voilà!
For the record . . .
It has been a wonderful experience giving voice to the letters of Maria Callas for this highly acclaimed film. Hope to see you in NY for these special viewings! @mariabycallas #mariacallas @tomvolf @angelikafilmcenterny
Heartfelt thanks to all of you for joining in for the experience of Les Troyens tonight, and throughout the run. It has been a pivotal experience of my artistic life to arrive here with this beautiful role and extraordinary opera. I shall never forget it. Thank you to the lovely @catecool for the photo.
Coming to you, LIVE, from the @wienerstaatsoper today with Berlioz’s epic telling of “Les Troyens”. Singing the Queen Didon has been an enormous gift, and I hope to be able to share it with you today on the livestream (available for an additional 72 hours). Where will YOU be watching from?
Link: https://bit.ly/2qpSdza *Qui connut la souffrance ne pourrait voir en vain souffrir ... *