This is perhaps the perfect photo to post about my first concert here in Brussels last night at La Monnaie: not quite in full bloom, perhaps a few rough edges here or there, and while perhaps something unexpected is close to emerging, it is something quite unique just as it is. Ah – blech...I’m trying desperately to make an analogy here, and not finding much success – in the end, I just liked this flawed but beautiful young rose, and perhaps it does share a tiny bit in common to my concert, but I will stop searching for any parallel poetic justification – that’s for others to do or not to do…

I had an amazing time last night. So much so, I was still wide awake at 5:30 am. This concert pulses with racing adrenalin from start to finish for me. There is no warming up, no easing into it, no gauging the hall or audience, no coasting – it’s 100% impact from the get-go. I don’t know that I was quite ready for the intensity – although I certainly should have known better from the theme – no one gets off easy in these pieces! Again, here I am taking a program out for the very first time, which is an enormous learning experience in itself, no matter how well prepared you are: the pacing, energy, voice, the arc of the evening – all of this can only be acquired through performance, and it’s really only possible once the wonderful public arrives – for that throws the entire equation off from our impeccably settled rehearsals! It’s the energy/public/adrenalin factor! Ah ha – it’s the EPA!

What is wonderful about the mysterious, mystical “EPA” factor, is that it charges all of us up on the stage: last night the orchestra was on fire, Christophe and I seemed to be dancing this music together, and everyone felt 100% committed – this is all I can ever ask! It’s a thrilling feeling to be swept away like that: it doesn’t mean it’s a note-perfect performance, but again, that’s not why any of us are up there. It can also mean that you get a bit *too* carried away in tempo or temperament, but that is where the lesson of pacing comes in…you learn how far you can go, and if, in fact, you dare afford to go farther. I just love that this is a constant learning process.

I had a few interviews to do today (working way ahead here, as I meet with press people now in order for them to write up feature articles to coincide with the arrival of the disc this winter…which gives me a bit of seasonal whiplash – NOT WINTER AGAIN!), but we were in a cafe having a lovely, interesting interview (which thankfully felt more like a conversation than a rehashing of “where I was born”), and a lady approached the table. I’ll be honest, I thought “Wow – this is good timing, maybe the journalist will be impressed that a fan is doling out compliments to me this morning.” Well, the compliment was backhanded at best, once she saw fit to inform me that I was terribly tense during the first half – you see, she was in the front row, so she could take note of everything, and she was asking if I thought that would improve as the performances went on. Well, naturally, I hope I improve with every single phrase that I sing – any artist that I know who is serious about their craft feels the same way, and I politely mentioned this to her, mustering a big smile. And while it took a bit of lip biting, I opted not to explain that there is a slight difference between INTENSITY and BEING tense – and I don’t know that I’ve ever sung a more INTENSE program ever before. So perhaps she didn’t get my dramatic inflections. But I had to chuckle, for in nearly every moment of my career when things seem to be going well, there is just a LITTLE asterisk included somewhere nearby – people ask me how I stay grounded? It’s lovely ladies like today that make me smile and make me realize it’s ALL a matter of opinion! I will always do my best, and leave it there for the paying folks to decide if they got their money’s worth or not. At the end of the evening, if I gave it my all, leaving nothing behind, I am happy. The rest of the audience greeted me with a standing ovation, and it was the warmest welcome I could have hoped for here in Brussels! Dank u well ~ et~ Merçi beaucoup!

So what happens now? I get a DAY OFF tomorrow! I will be working a lot on the notes I took from listening this morning (where I need more text, more legato, more drama, more rhythm, less emphasis) as well as looking more at Romeo – lest I forget my next job looming on the horizon – and stay relatively quiet. I actually feel quite relaxed going into the second concert knowing that the orchestra and I are starting to really play with each other – and YES, even laughing together! I also know that there is a lot of wonderful material from the first concert, giving us a great foundation to start building something really wonderful. It’s such a different way for me to record, being in front of a live audience, and I can feel immediately that it will bring a very special energy and power to the disc – it’s that mystical EPA! I won’t even attempt to close out my bad poetic attempt here by posting a rose in full bloom – just enjoy the bliss it invites!