With an increasingly busy schedule which includes engagements and competitions in Pittsburgh, New York, Norway and Germany, Soprano Suzanne Vinnik is finding herself living out of a suitcase more often than her own apartment. The young diva shares some of her money saving tips for looking like a star without purging your clutch.
I feel like I am always on the go! I’ve converted several of my fellow opera singer friends to the joys of LUSH! I LOATHE paying money to check my suitcases at the airport!!! I know that I can save money by packing up my cute little Betsey Johnson duffle bag and put it in the overhead! On the road these are the products I bring to avoid costly luggage!!!! If you travel as much as I do, save your money and bring solids!!!! ☺
Godiva Shampoo Bar- (VEGAN) it is a great two-in-one shampoo and conditioner! It is made with cocoa and shea butters, which moisturize the hair follicles and make them feel soft! It has a sexy jasmine scent that will last all day long!!! It makes the entire bathroom smell incredible after I use it! I put it in my shampoo bar tin for safe storage! When they say it’s good for at least 50 washes… they are NOT kidding!!!! For $10.95 you can’t go wrong!!!!!
Coal face cleanser- this is a great cleansing bar made of ground up charcoal that absorb excess sebum and acts as a mild exfoliator. After wearing stage makeup this really gets my skin feeling CLEAN! $11.95 for 3.5 oz.
Full of Grace- this bar is great on the road because it makes my skin very moisturized after washing my face! I normally would use a moisturizer but this works great when I can’t bring liquids with me! When I am home, I put this on before using a face mask! $13.95
Alkmaar Soap- (VEGAN) Normally, I love to use my favorite soap THE FLYING FOX but on the road like I said I cannot bring my liquids! I bring this amazing bar of soap that looks like cheese!!!! It has a creamy sexy jasmine and honeysuckle scent with smokey vetivert undertones! $7.95 for 3.5 oz.
Karma Bubble Bar- sometimes I’m lucky enough to have a bathtub on the road. When I know that I’ll have one I bring this bubble bar along! I just break it into four sections and crumble it up underneath the faucet (I get 3-4 uses out of each bar)! It is one of my favorite scents from Lush and it just makes me feel relaxed! $8.45
Tuca Tuca Massage Bar- Instead of bringing a lotion with me I can bring this little massage bar with me!!! Again, I store it in a little tin which I get for free when I buy both my massage bar and solid shampoo bar!!! I love the way this stuff smells!!! $7.95
Tuca Tuca Solid Perfume- I will not leave the house without perfume! It’s part of being a diva! I want people to know when I am about to make my grand entrance! $8.95
About two months ago, I was walking down Amsterdam Avenue when I ran into up and coming soprano Emily Duncan-Brown. Emily enthusiastically described my blog to the person she was with as a “fashion/ opera blog.” I was amused at the term since my recent interviews and fashion posts all sort developed out of nowhere. Though I’d like to think myself as somewhat knowledgeable on the topic of opera and am continuously learning more about the wonderful people in fashion with each new post and event… I thought I might direct your attention to some of my favorite blogs featuring the two topics.
Fashion- Sweet Tea and Champagne! sweetteaandchampagne.com is a wonderful fashion blog by southern belle and Diana Warner intern Kathryn Cunningham. Read her blog for the hottest trends and enjoy her wonderfully random adventures!
Opera- It is no secret that I have been madly in love with Joyce Didonato since seeing the wonderful mezzo-soprano in Massenet’s Cendrillon in 2006. Read Yankee Diva for a wonderfully in-depth view on life, love and opera. This diva has more full circle stories than you can believe, and leads you to trust that fairy tales really can come true.
Opera and all things Bill? William Madison is a native Texan with an affinity for anything classy. Mr. Madison has been a featured writer in the New York Times, Opera News, and is currently writing the authorized biography of legendary singing actress, Madeline Kahn. Read his blog HERE for a truly enlightened look at, well… everything!
“Do you ever burp when you’re nervous?” This was the first thing Christine Brewer said to me upon my meeting her following her final summer performance as Lady Billows at The Atomic Grill in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“Um, no… I don’t” I replied, “but I do burp inwards.” I immediately regretted my reply to the famed soprano.
“What!? Can you show me?”
“I’m afraid I’m not ‘gassy” I replied.
“Oh, well let me know if its coming” replied Miss Brewer “but please tell me- WHAT should I eat?”
“The chicken nachos are really good here” I answered. I was in a strange state of disbelief that, here I was, at a diner in the middle of New Mexico sitting next to one of the most famous opera singers in the world talking about bodily functions and nachos. I had met up with a friend at The Atomic for a short visit following the season’s final performance of Albert Herring without realizing the Grammy Award winning singer would be joining us.
“These nachos are wonderful!” said Miss Brewer as I nursed my fourth cup of coffee (The coffee at the Atomic Grill in Santa Fe is famous for having the potency of Texas oil). She went on to explain that the entire evening, she had been burping none stop, both on and offstage ( several of her costars agreed with vivid memories of the evening’s eruptions).
I was heartedly amused that I had brought one of my best friends, Kim Garley to Santa Fe that evening to experience her first opera, Benjamin Britten‘s Albert Herring. I also couldn’t decide if I was getting a bigger kick out of the fact that Kim’s first opera was Albert Herring, her randomly dining with a world famous opera singer, or the fact that Christine Brewer was so funny and provided such a humorous experience for Kim both on and offstage. Regardless, I was thankful that Kim actually really enjoyed the performance AND that we both got to meet one of the stars of the evening… even if it was over nachos discussing gas.
- Castleton troupe bungles Britten’s comic opera (sfgate.com)
- Rossini Festival celebrates 10 years of food, fun and opera (knoxnews.com)
- Are there mountains in Santa Fe (wiki.answers.com)
- Castleton Festival Opera at Cal Performances (sfgate.com)
- Rossini Festival draws a crowd to downtown Knoxville (knoxnews.com)
Soprano Suzanne Vinnik has an affinity for high notes and high fashion. I met up with the opera singer to discuss life, love and opera after leaving Las Vegas.
Jacob Paul: It seems to me that you really identify with Violetta, both onstage and off.
Suzanne Vinnik: I think she’s one of the best characters in opera because she’s so different in every part of the story. At first she seems to be heartless, but its only because she doesn’t think she deserves love. Alfredo convinces her and she gives up everything, breaking your heart with hers. I think anyone with a soul can identify with her.
JP: You get the chance to cover the role this season at Pittsburgh Opera. Are you excited?
SV: Oh yeah, I’m really excited about it. I never thought I would be 24 years old singing Violetta! I never really thought I had the talent to sing her. I mean…Violetta has always been one of my dream roles and it’s an honor that I get to try it out something that seems to be getting me a lot of attention.
JP: And audiences seem to agree that you really portray the character well, at least in the bits we’ve been able to see through competitions…
SV: Yeah, I mean I didn’t really bring Violetta into the mix until this past winter when I entered the Liederkranz Competition. I called my coach Ben Malensek an hour before I was supposed to be there for an emergency coaching. I never coached it or even brought it to a lesson before I sang it that day! I just would sing through it with my friend for fun! I was lucky to get that last minute coaching and sort everything out. I won a prize the first time I ever sang the “E strano….Sempre Libera” in public… with Catherine Malfitano sitting across from me judging!!!! My risk paid off…
SV: Haha Literally!
JP: Well that’s something you don’t hear every day. You brought the piece to the Palm Beach Opera Competition and you obviously won over the audience with your performance, but I’d like to add that you did so wearing a wonderful gown by Betsey Johnson, and I just wanted to applaud you on that choice.
SV: Thank you. We’ll thank Betsey.
JP: It’s obvious that while you love opera, you also have a passion for fashion.
JP: Besides Betsey Johnson, what do you look for when it comes to unique style options?
SV: Well, I wish my little wallet and Betsey Johnson could always agree, but that isn’t the case! I just like anything that’s bright, kind of loud and announces “Hello, I’m here!” It has to be flattering in the right spots! A little cleavage, but not too much… You know, I’m risk taker. (Suzanne is currently sitting next to me on a park bench wearing bright pink shorts, a black t-shirt and pink animal print sunglasses).
JP: You’re heading to Castleton this summer to sing Musetta under the baton of Lorin Maazel. How did it come to be that Musetta became such a standard part of your repertoire?
SV: Well, I started working on the role when I was in Rome with Renata Scotto in the Opera Studio at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. The day before the concert she told me I’d be performing most of the second act! I thought to myself: “I’m just some moron from Las Vegas with some of the best young singers in the world… WHAT AM I DOING HERE!?”
JP: What was that experience like for you- working with Renata Scotto?
SV: It was… great! It was definitely the best thing that had ever happened to me. I mean, she heard me sing and pretty much told me that I was terrible “tu sei orribile” after I sang the aria from Lucia. I worked very hard while I was there. Her husband Lorenzo really took a strong liking to me. We worked seven days a week for twenty minutes just on technique. Renata really challenged me and made me try so many new things!
JP: Where did she hear you sing?
SV: Well, I heard about her program through a coach who I don’t actually work with. She suggested that I work with her so, although this person didn’t provide a formal introduction or anything, I thought about what she said and realized hey, Renata Scotto was the first opera singer that I started listening to when I was younger. I mean when I was eight years old I would watch this silly old VHS of La Boheme all the time and fast forward to and rewind all the parts with her in it because, as an eight year old girl, all I wanted was to be that crazy girl in the red dress! I wanted to be Renata! So, after the seed was planted in my mind to work with her, I asked everyone I knew about how to get in touch with her. I had this strange… grand notion that I was just going to call her up and say “Hello, I want to work with you” and that would be it. In New York, generally all you have to do is send an e-mail or make a phone call and people will work with you.
JP: Is that how this came to be?
SV: Oh, I sent her one of the craziest e-mails depicting my fan history of her since I was a child. I even referenced a scene of her singing “Sola perduta abbandonata.” She finally responded to me about a month later and I eventually got to sing for her!
JP: That’s amazing! I guess all roads, and phone calls lead to Rome?
JP: You did Renata’s program in Rome twice.
SV: Yes I did.
JP: It must be expensive as a young singer just to afford the training you need to get yourself to the next point in your career.
SV: Yes, nothing in life is free. Whoever said, “The best things in life are free” lied!
JP: You’ll be representing the USA at the end of the summer at the Queen Sonja International Music Competition in Oslo, Norway. Are you looking forward to the competition?
SV: I’m really looking forward to the experience because I’ve always had this fascination with Norway and the songs of Edvard Grieg. I wrote this crazy paper on him in my undergrad for which I did a lecture/ recital on, so I’m really excited to sing in Norway.
JP: Do you have any idea of what you’ll be offering once you get to Oslo?
SV: Well, I have to offer eight arias and four art songs so, it’s definitely a lot of preparation. I am adding to my list the Bolero from I Vespri Siciliani and like “Sempre Libera”, I figured… why not?
JP: So you’d say that you’re a risk taker in your repertoire selections in addition to your fashion choices?
SV: I’m from Vegas!
JP: So life is a risk for you?
SV: I look at it this way. You have to go big or go home.
JP: Good point, well you are definitely going big.
SV: I hope so.
JP: You were an Encouragement Winner this year at the 40th Annual George London Foundation Awards, walking away with the Leonie Rysanek Award. What those in attendance did not know, was that your dress actually ripped in the back while you were singing Manon’s aria “Adieu notre petite table”. How did you handle that situation so well?
SV: I was just hoping that it wasn’t going to fall off because I didn’t want to be known as the singer who exposed her tatas to an audience that included Patrick Summers, Marcello Giordani and pretty much every important person that could be in the same room. It would have been humiliating!
JP: Do you have any tips for anyone else out there who might have something similar happen during a performance?
SV: Well, you can’t just stop and say “Hang on, I gotta zip my dress up!” With me I just had to focus and manage. I realized that I couldn’t take big breathes, so I had focus on taking dramatic breathes that would get me through, even if it meant that I couldn’t sing with the dynamics I wanted. I didn’t want to expose myself in that way. So, I just did what I always try to do and sing my best, focus on the character and not let me dress fall off!
JP: So every performance is unique…
SV: They all have their variables!
JP: You’ll be leaving New York City in late September to join Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artist Program. Are you sad about leaving The City?
SV: I have mixed feelings about it. I mean, I love New York and I love the life I’ve established here. I have my close group of friends, and I’ll definitely miss seeing my coach because I feel, in a way, that he’s the little mastermind of everything that I’ve done thus far. But I am looking forward to paying such a small amount for rent, and actually working!
JP: What are your favorite things about New York?
SV: I just love that I can really do anything here! I mean I can go to the opera, random performances, shop, and go on silly websites to have food delivered to me at all hours of the night. The thing about New York is, while it’s a rough life, it really is rewarding. I love that I can just walk down the street, sit in Riverside Park and study my opera scores, and for what I want to do, New York really is the center of the universe.
JP: We’ve already talked quite a bit about Violetta and Musetta; can you tell me what other roles you’re looking forward to or perhaps would like to sing in the future?
SV: Well I would really like to sing Mimi. I feel like I can identify with her character more, even though the outside world looks at me and is like “Musetta!” I would actually like to die for once in that opera. I’d also like to sing both Massenet and Puccini’s Manon! Like Violetta, she’s another girl who loses it all for love. I guess I’m just a sappy romantic. I’d definitely like to try to sing some of the Donizetti heroines; Lucia, Anna Bolena, Elisabetta from Roberto Devereux, Maria Stuarda; all the three queens really. Someday.
JP: You call yourself a sappy romantic. Is that just within your musical life?
SV: No. Its everything. With singing, we always have to be in control of our emotions, making different colors to make the audience feel something, so I feel like my opera side definitely comes out in my real life. Everything has to be great! It can’t be boring. With me, my boyfriend is in Germany… there’s always something difficult about it.
JP: How does a sappy romantic like you who portrays larger than life people on stage who fall in and out of love, who die and live for love, deal with love in the real world along with the distance and the realities that come along with a career that is now in your case taking shape?
SV: It’s definitely hard no matter where you live. With singing, I’m always living out of my suitcase, getting ready for this, doing that. When it comes down to it: sometimes you have to be selfish! It’s up to you to find people who make you feel grounded, who make you feel good and that you want to keep surrounding yourself with because it is such a difficult life.
JP: It seems sometimes that there is always someone ready to pounce when a vulnerable moment is spotted.
SV: Definitely. Everybody always wants something from an artist! You can’t just sing! After a while you have to tune it all out and concentrate on what makes you happy. Hopefully it’s the music and the people you surround yourself with.
JP: The 2010/2011 season has provided a lot of new opportunities for you. It definitely seems to be a year of growth for you. Can you tell me what inspired all this?
SV: You picture your life one way, and something happens where it doesn’t quite go as you planned. With me, I got back to New York and thought, “Ok, what am I going to do with my life?” Everything that I had known literally blew up in my face, so I really focused on learning how to sing. I had a great voice teacher, a great coach, I worked with Renata Scotto and her husband who both just helped me so much. When I came back, I started entering competitions, and really decided to do this. I began to really apply myself and believe that it was “MY YEAR” and something great was going to happen. I knew that it was going to erase any and all of the bad that occurred before. Luckily, the first competition I entered (Opera Index Inc.), I won a prize and after that everything started falling into place!
JP: I have to point out that you’re definitely a studious person. You don’t just sit around doing nothing. If you have free time, you’re studying.
SV: Oh always!
JP: You attribute that desire, that need to learn to what?
SV:Well, I figure that there is just all this opera out there being performed that isn’t great, with people who sadly don’t have a lot to say! I feel that I have a unique opportunity because I’m at an age that hopefully I can bring something different to this art form. I just want to bring it back to the old school. There aren’t divas anymore!!! Just pretty people with music videos and there is just so much more than that. Opera is the greatest art form in the world and when you have people like Renata Scotto, Magda Olivero, Virginia Zeani who have come before you, it’s like “That’s what I want to be like!” I want people, long after I’m gone to say “Look what she did”, like Maria Callas. I mean, you pick up a fuzzy recording that you can barely hear the singing in of her, and, its wonderful! I want to touch people with my art, and the only way to do that is to study: to study the languages, the style, to listen to as many different recordings as possible to just try and understand the different styles from different eras. With La Traviata, I started working on the role and then read the book (referencing Alexadre Dumas fils’ La dame aux camelias) and when I finished, for over two hours I couldn’t stop crying. I thought it was even better than the opera! Then I watched the movie and even the silent film. There are so many adaptations of this story I mean, its incredible.
JP: I mention your studious nature not even to shed light on how you deal with the work you’re given, but it seems that you take upon yourself the opportunity to learn roles just because. It may not be a role or an aria that you have to learn for a company or a competition, it’s just because you want to learn.
SV: I feel like there are roles that I picked up that I definitely couldn’t sing, they were either too high or something just didn’t fit. I will say that by singing and practicing Bellini, I learned how to sing legato, by singing Donizetti, I learned what Verdi learned from him to put in his music. It goes all the way to Puccini. You realize that everything is a stepping stone to the next. With La Traviata, hopefully that’s something I’ll be singing for the rest of my life…so it might as well be perfect.
This season Ms. Vinnik won 1st prize in the Verismo Opera Competition, 2nd Prize from Gerda Lisser Foundation, 3rd Prize at the Opera Index Competition, Audience Favorite and 4th Prize in the Palm Beach Opera Competition, an Encouragement Award from the George London Foundation and grants from The Liederkranz Foundation, The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation and The Giulio Gari Foundation. She was a Semi-Finalist in the 2011 Zachary Awards, Dallas Opera Guild Awards and the upcoming San Antonio Opera Competition. She has been selected to represent the USA in the 2011 Queen Sonja Competition in Oslo, Norway. Ms. Vinnik is also a 2011 Deimar Award Winner through The New York Foundation for the Arts. During the summer of 2009 she was a finalist in the Giulio Gari Foundation Competition and semi-finalist representing the USA at the Competizione dell’Opera International Singing Competition in Germany. She is a recipient of a Walsh Performing Arts Grant, the Nevada Arts Council Professional Development Grant, The Tove Allen Opera Legacy Scholarship through the NV Community Foudation/NV Opera Theatre and was awarded a Mannes Merit Scholarship.
Read my Urban Palate interview with photographer Julie DeMarre to discover how the above photograph of Suzanne Vinnik literally launched her own career!
- Grace Note: Suzanne Vinnik (jacoboheme.wordpress.com)
- Urban Palate: Julie DeMarre (jacoboheme.wordpress.com)
- Classical music review: Madison Opera’s outstanding “La Traviata” took you back to many first loves (welltempered.wordpress.com)
- Grace Note: Rachel Jeanne Hall (jacoboheme.wordpress.com)
- Classical music: Madison Opera names new general director. Which is Verdi’s best opera? His most popular opera? The hardest or most difficult opera to stage? What is your favorite Verdi opera? The Ear wants to hear. (welltempered.wordpress.com)
Last Spring, I was out and about in Manhattan with my best friend Rachel, when, as usual, we decided that we were hungry. It was a Saturday evening, and we had a few hours to kill until Star Trek began at the AMC Loews Theatre. There was a cute little place on Columbus called Empire Szechuan that seemed fairly appealing, and with all my recent sushi intake, I had forgotten a childhood favorite… the Pu Pu Platter.
As we sat on the patio, Rachel indicated that a familiar looking woman was walking our way from the direction of Lincoln Center. I turned around briefly to spot a sharp featured blond woman wearing a disgustingly flamboyant pant suit that seemed to resemble burning leapord print.
“Who is she?” asked Rachel.
“Not sure… maybe you can get a closer look.”
When the woman finally came closer Rachel sported a brief aha look when the mystery woman pointed at Rachel and sharply spit out “DON’T” to my now disappointed friend.
“Wow” I said.
“That fucking real house hoe just scolded me!” exclaimed Rachel.
As it turned out, our mystery woman was Alex McCord van Kempen from The Real Housewives of New York City. Not only was her ensemble devastatingly ugly, but she was also with out her favorite accessory- mangina husband Simon.
Now, I understand completely when “celebrities” or whoever want to walk around in peace and enjoy a night out like everyone else, but seriously, when you’re a demi-celebrity like Alex, don’t expect anonymity when you’re out and about on a beautiful spring weekend in a place as heavily populated like Manhattan. If you’re that concerned… stay in Brooklyn.
“That was rude” I said.
“I wasn’t THAT obvious, I just couldn’t figure out who the hell she was” replied Rachel “I mean, we’re in Lincoln Center… she could have been an opera singer or whoever.”
“Maybe that’s where she was coming from.”
“Maybe… but that pisses me off” said Rachel.
“Because, you know on the show how they got ready for the Opening Night Gala at the Met, and they brag about how great it is to own a hotel in Manhattan so they don’t have to go to Brooklyn to get ready…”
“I mean they spend so much time talking about the fucking clothes they want to wear and how important it is to be seen, and to be viewed as cultured, but neither of them in all their grand little show of ‘the importance of being well-educated’ ever fucking mention the music!”
“NO! They can’t actually love it the way people like you and me do” replied Rachel “it pisses me off… almost more than it does that they want to write a parenting book when they can’t even get their kids into private school in Manhattan.”
“What’s the book going to be called?”
“Who knows” replied Rachel “Probably something like ‘How to teach your children useless phrases in Latin, French and Portuguese all while avoiding to teach your child in English what day of the week it is.”
“No… not harsh. You know, if that were Jill Zarin, she would have probably smiled or something.”
“God I love her” I replied “I love her and Bethenny Frankel…”
“Me too! At least they’re sort of experts at what they do- fabric, healthy cooking…” said Rachel “I doubt Alex even knows what the hell she’s listening to when she goes to the opera.”
“Umm… probably not, they just go so they can take a photograph, show the world they have some taste, and then disappear from the rest of the season whereas you and me were scrounging for seats like idiots outside at Fordham University to try to get to watch… again OUTSIDE.”
Rachel had a point. Renee Fleming had opened the 125th anniversary season at the Metropolitan, not with an opera, but with fully staged, fully orchestrated scenes from three different operas and was costumed by three different designers and was even given her own spread in Vogue for the event. It was indeed an unprecedented historical event, but one has to wonder whether or not Kanye, the Olson twins or even Alex McCord van Kempen were truly moved at all by Renee Fleming’s voice and prowess while singing some of the most heartfelt music by Verdi, Massenet and Strauss.
While we were eating, my mind went back to the night of the Metropolitan Opera‘s 125th anniversary gala. After act 1, my friends and I had decided to cross the street to buy a blanket at Bed, Bath and Beyond so that we could keep warm while watching the rest of the event. In the hustle and bustle that is Manhattan, I accidently collided with a woman in a gown who was leaving the event… she also looked familiar. I turned to my friend Megan, and before I could open my mouth, she said “that was Jane Fonda… photo op is over, she’s leaving.”
Growing up, I was faced with image upon image of New York City. There were movies, television shows and magazines that all told the various highs and woes of the people that inhabited the famous boroughs. These various mediums all showcased an array of fabulous and not so fabulous lives, and the people who meandered there way in and out of them. More often than not, an oddball would come into the lives of our beloved Jerry Seinfeld, Felicity Porter and Carrie Bradshaw that made us wonder “Do people like this really exist?” and then we’d reassure ourselves with a “no… it’s only for shock value and entertainment purposes.” So after years and years of warnings from my favorite New Yorkers, I was still unprepared for the oddballs that would meander into my life.
The day before the Manhattan School of Music’s official orientation, I went to the school for a financial aid meeting, and decided I would take the opportunity to converse with a few of the people I met on the incoming students Facebook group. Anders Georg was a Norwegian baritone who had spent the summer in New York City learning English and was anxious for the school to start. I decided that after my meeting would be a perfect chance for us to meet up and go to a nearby shop for coffee and croissants. I had spent the prior couple of days commuting from a friend’s place in Queens and was excited to spend a little more time in Manhattan.
We went to a little place near the school that sold only vegetarian food and fair trade coffee, so naturally it was the café du jour of Broadway. As we sat at the quaint café, Anders went on about how he came to study with a world renowned teacher at a world renowned school and how it would make him a world renowned singer “but it must take 10 years” he continued “for voice, for everything, then I sing at Met”. If only it was that easy; there is so much more than studying that goes into making a world renowned opera singer. There is also no guarantee that any amount of world renowned anything with make you a world renowned something. Many people can go to Juilliard on full scholarship and never realize a satisfying career on stage. You must go to a conservatory with the attitude that you are in competition with yourself, and to be the best you can be, otherwise, you’ll never survive. Those that do this, realize that they are capable of much more beyond the Mozart concerti and Bellini art songs they have lived on for years. They are invited to a challenging world of Rachmaninov and Strauss, they climb the highest echelons of their art with vigorous energy to achieve something miraculous and unattainable. It was once said that opera singers are natural born aristocrats, through determination one can overcome previous short comings and endure the riches of the world without much thought from “old money”. Its true, what we do as artists is preserve an art form through music that was written for kings, and through serving the composer, we bring to life his characters, his dreams, and his soul. It is through this, that we ourselves become worthy of those so-called aristocrats who thrive off trust funds and hedge funds; by serving the art.
Anders, I quickly realized, was probably one of the most self-indulgent people I had ever met. He continued for a great deal about how he knew everything about opera, and that being European helped him greatly when it came to language study and music. After all, we have to frequently learn pieces in Italian, German, French and English, all which have requisites of there own in curriculums across the country. I learned in this conversation that he was a champion of languages and women. How women loved him, and how he was very eager to have sex with any and all incoming females who would allow. I asked him “Why don’t you try to have a relationship with one of the girls from your language course?” “Because they’re Asian! I can’t, I won’t, I’ll never!” .
It was at this point when I began to try and decide exactly what Anders reminded me of. He wasn’t particularly attractive, in fact, he was quite possibly one of the ugliest people I had ever met, but I couldn’t figure out why. He had pretty symmetric features, but they were incredibly exaggerated. His eyes bulged out of his head like a bug’s, and he never seemed to be able to look directly at who he was speaking to “but yes of course… world renowned” he would say, verbally directing himself almost violently toward you without ever looking you in the eye. It was almost hypnotically disgusting. He also had the posture of Quasimodo. When he began rambling about his distaste for Asian women, I decided that he looked like a cockroach… yes, perfect!
When you attend a conservatory, chances are, when you go to parties, you’ll be with other conservatory students. You never ask “What’s your major?” You can tell immediately whether or not someone is a singer, it’s not necessarily a gift, it’s more like an ability to spot the obvious clichés. Singers have a tendency to be the best dressed of the school; appearance is everything, and audition clothing tends to work its way into everyday clothing. They also tend to be the loudest and most boisterous people in a room. When you spot a non-singer, you simply ask “So what do you play?” As Anders continued with his discontent for Asian women, I noticed that other patrons of the café were looking at us with disgust… not him, us! Without trying to be rude, (after all, I was going to be spending a lot of time with Anders in a very small school), I moved the conversation to another topic. I decided to embrace both my inner and outer singer and pull out the necessary and inevitable questions.
“Have you had a lesson yet” I asked.
“No, but I just had a meeting with my teacher’s husband, he is also world renowned” stated Anders proudly.
“Oh, so what did you discuss” I asked rather interested.
“Technique, and school” stated Anders again “he is much nicer than my teacher, but I need her technique to make me famous.”
“Sounds intense” I said “When exactly did you meet him?”
“Right before I met you” said Anders smugly “We met near Met.”
“Oh Lincoln Center, how lovely” I said “did you go to Fiorello’s?”
“Yes” said Anders blankly “it was too expensive.”
I took a sip of my coffee “So what did you wear?”
“I wore this” said Anders with confidence.
I nearly spit out my coffee. Anders was wearing incredibly unattractive running shorts that looked like they were used for the whole of the 80’s in every city marathon the decade had offered. He also sported grass stained tennis shoes and an ill-fitting gray t-shirt that exposed the disgusting body hair that sprouted in patches all the way up his chest and back. I thought how unfortunate it would be to have pubic hair growing out of one’s chest and back.
“It’s so comfortable; I think I wear to lesson” he said “I learn better when comfortable.”
“So what are you working on” I interrupted.
“Oh! Umm…I learn new aria, very obscure, from very obscure opera, I already memorize, I so good at Italian, best language for me, yes.”
“Well what’s it called” I asked “I’m fond of nearly anything.” This was true; I spent the prior couple of summers working at the Santa Fe Opera, and was exposed to the newest of the new and the oldest of the baroque. My job encouraged me to research a lot on my own, and picked up some new favorites along the way.
“It’s by Handel” he said “from Julius Cesar.”
“I love Giulio Cesare” I exclaimed, and partially correcting him while encouraging he use the Italian title “It isn’t obscure at all Anders! In fact Glyndebourne just did a fantastic production of the opera a couple seasons ago, and now the entire opera world seems to be borrowing that exact production” I started listed off companies that I knew were putting on the opera when I interrupted myself and asked “So what aria are you singing?”
“Its Va Taquito” said Anders proudly.
“Oh… um, do you mean Va tacito e nascosto” I asked mildly confused. Here was a person who had just spent so much energy proclaiming how great he was at not only singing, but languages as well, and not only that, but he had supposedly memorized the aria in question and he was so good at it too. Had he really just mistaken the aria for Mexican food?
“Oh, umm, how do you say it?” asked Anders.
“Va ta-chee-toh!” I said “taquito is a tightly wrapped corn tortilla with beef or chicken inside.”