Often curious minds pose the question to me: “how on earth do you manage the endless, exhausting travel and the insane, demanding schedule?” The first thought that pounces to mind is, “Well, I’m not a working mom, so I don’t have it THAT rough!” But there are definite challenges, and one of the big ones is the inevitable denoument after a big production and intensive period. It’s not easy to say goodbye to friends, to pack YET AGAIN the dreaded, ragged luggage, and sadly leave behind the half-full bottle of olive oil that, despite your Herclean efforts, you simply couldn’t finish – but that’s not exactly a big newsflash, is it?

But let me point out one big positive thing: I am constantly given the opportunity to evaluate myself. Remember the good/bad ol’ school days? (Yes, those distant memories?) The cycle of working through a full school year was fabulous because in the end, you received your grades to tell you where you succeeded (or failed), you wrote in your friends’ yearbooks to thank them for their eternal, never-ending, “nothing will ever change” friendship, while even your sworn enemies could muster a bit of “well, you’re not that bad” sentiment, and the now ill-fitting shoes showed that your body was (hallelujah!) doing it’s job to graduate you into adulthood, which NEVER could get here quickly enough! (The stupidity of youth!) After the never-long-enough summer, believe it or not, I was always eager to get back and purchase the new books, meet the new teachers, and, let’s be honest here, see if my ex-boyfriend was STILL going steady with PEGGY, that trollup, for whom he dumped me, the unmitigated nerve! What I loved about those cycles was the chance to evaluate the past – and then start OVER! You got a clean slate! Anything was possible come that last week of August!

Well, the work cycles of my life now are generally a bit shorter, but it affords me the chance to sort through what went well, what didn’t, what I learned, what I enjoyed, the friendships that ignited, the others that suffered, and I am offered the opportunity to constantly learn. That’s a gift for this curious mind. I’m not sure I’d be at all diligent enough on my own to make personal tune-ups if my schedule was a “9-5, 15th-year-on-the-job” situation, which is why in many ways, I embrace the difficulties of my life. Growth is never a bad thing … unless all those fish and chips do it to your waist line … but that’s another story.

As you likely know, I’ve just completed one of the most intensive periods of my career so far – although this “period” seems to have lasted the past 18 months, I’m speaking primarily of the WHIRLWIND month that was my London term. It was hectic, filled to the rafters, and as stimulating, exciting time as I could ask for: I learned so much with each and every single performance (and phrase…and note…and syllable…) of Don Giovanni – the last show was nothing like the first, for me; the Wigmore recital was as special an evening as I could ever hope to have; momentum for (gulp!) my Handel disc is in full-swing (thank you fabulous Virgin/EMI team!); and I SURVIVED IT ALL! Saying goodbye to the wonderful cast and ROH team was bittersweet, but I was ready for a rest.

Enter: Ireland. Beautiful, astonishing, relaxing, greeeeeeeen, heavenly Ireland.

Even if my name may hint at Mediterranean blood, I’m green through-and-through. My Father’s family came from Gallway and my Mother’s from County Claire. In all my world travels, I had never before step foot on the Emerald Isle. What was I thinking??? Where has it been all my life??? I was in Wexford for 4 days of R&R (and visiting my husband who is set to open the GORGEOUS new theater conducting “Tutti in Maschera”!!) and it was HEAVEN. The sun shone as brightly as could be (don’t anyone DARE tell me that it is ever different – let me just reside in my happy place, thinking that this paradise is the norm!!!), the people exuded gallons – or let’s say KEGS – of charm and generosity, the air was fresh and cleansing, and the brown bread a work of simple perfection. Hiking, laughing, eating, drinking … and SLEEPING … that, my friends, is my recipe for recovery.

But, yes – this is my life, so it wasn’t exactly all rest. (Please don’t scold me!) I needed to also work up a new orchestral piece, which will serve as the vehicle for my KANSAS CITY SYMPHONY DEBUT! I haven’t been this excited about a debut in a long time – it means a lot to finally be singing with the orchestra of my home town, the one my Dad used to drag me to against my will, and the one that is skyrocketing to new heights under the direction of Michael Stern and a wildly enthusiastic board. Trust me – Kansas City is about to be put on the map as our new performing arts center rises out of the ground and people start to see what a vibrant arts community we have! The piece is Chausson’s exquisitely gossamer “Poème de l’amour et de la mer”. Um…it rocks. Um…I REALLY love it. Um…may I please just sing this for the rest of my life, over and over again? The beautiful thing about my preparation for this was that the brand new theater in Wexford houses a rehearsal room that overlooks the sea. I’m not making that up. You see the sea from the piano. It’s gorgeous – because remember, it’s ALWAYS sunny and PERFECT in Ireland, right? Right! So as I sat at the keyboard and worked on the Chausson, the sea was calling me and serving as the perfect backdrop. Yes, I was “working”, but it was also inspiring and invigorating – which could count as R&R, right?

The other reason I loved my trip to Ireland? They seem to have the whole American election thing sorted out:

Couldn’t it just be this simple? (Again, just humor me here….)

One final note that may be of particular interest: on Sunday, Sept 28, Virgin Records is launching the, and I say this with all modesty, AMAZING new disc, Lamenti via a mini-film (or something along those lines – I haven’t seen it, so I have no idea what it will actually be!) I invite you to a rendez-vous at 18:00 Paris time (noon in NY, 11:00 am in the midwest) to watch the debut of this disc. A few months ago I wrote about a recording session that was some of the most inspiring musical hours of my life. Well, it’s finally here: I recorded Ottavia’s lament, “Addio Roma” with Emmanuelle Haïm and I could not be more proud to be a part of her project. It’s an abundance of riches: the disc boasts contributions from Rolando Villazon, Natalie Dessay, Philippe Jaroussky, Véronique Gens, Patrizia Ciofi, Topi Lehtipuu, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Laurent Naouri, and Christopher Purves all singing laments of Monteverdi, Cavalli and others. It is one of those special discs – listen with a nice glass of red wine, and keep a tissue near-by.

Before leaving you, I wish to share with you a most special video. Having experienced the joy of Ireland, I must balance it with the melancholy that also abides in their hearts. This is one of my most favorite songs ever, and there simply is not a better rendition anywhere. Enjoy!