Congrats, Richard!

May 21, 2010

I have to devote a post to Richard Russell, former Director of Marketing for Sarasota Opera. I met Richard while I worked down there and spent a good deal of time talking with him at different functions. I must say, that he is one of the nicest people I have ever worked with in the business (I notice that I say that about a lot of the folks at Sarasota. I think they are on to something:)). He recently took a new position as General Director of Opera New Jersey, a company I worked with a few summers ago. I truly enjoy seeing people’s careers progress, and I’m very happy for him. So, if you happen to be in the New Jersey area, check out their productions this season.


Don Carlos has opened

March 11, 2009

And we are all excited down here.  You know it’s gotta be good when a bunch of opera singers who do this stuff all the time are excited.

The cast is incredible.  The orchestra is beautiful. It’s all quite fantastic. I wish all of you could get down here and see it. Even those of you who’ve never seen opera.  If this show didn’t convert you, you’d be a lost cause and thus dead to me.  If you have a beating heart you’d be blown away by this tour de force. I mean, where else do you get an Italian writing in French a show that takes place in Spain? Only on the operatic stage, baby.

Sarasota Opera is a very “special” place to sing. Every company has it’s quirks, but not every company is run by Maestro Victor DeRenzi and there’s really no one else on the planet like Maestro DeRenzi (think an extremely sarcastic Godfather, only the voice is about 2 octaves higher). Maestro, if you happened upon the internet and are reading this post, please know that I LOVE singing for your company. If I could sing in Sarasota the rest of my life, I would be a very happy singer (what is that on my nose?) But just as there are a litany of things that you find quirky about singers, there are definitely some quirks about you and your company.

1) No water bottles allowed. Maestro thinks that singers rely too much on water to sing, therefore, no water or any other liquid in rehearsals, or heck, in the building for that matter. Only trips to the drinking fountain are allowed during breaks.

2) All music staff are called “maestro”. It is not uncommon for someone to walk into a room and ask, “Maestro?” and you see 3 heads turn in that direction.

3) Obsession with chest voice. For you non-opera people, chest voice refers to the low part of a woman’s voice. You feel it rumble in your chest, hence the name. One must be careful in using chest voice because you can do some real damage to the voice if you don’t use it right. Maestro’s best quote to me, “Unless you want to sing Gilda (a high soprano role), I need more chest voice”. Thank you, sir. Point taken.

4) Don’t touch your throat. Or heck, any other part of the body that may come anywhere close to contact with your throat include face, neck, shoulders… I have knots in my neck because anytime I go to work them out, DeRenzi yells, “Quit touching yourself! Your voice is fine!”

5) No cell phones or electronic device of any kind in the building. I’ve managed to miss almost every phone call.

6) Voice teachers are evil. Just breathe and sing. “You young singers rely on your teachers too much!” Again, I get your point, but…really?

7) Don’t try and be witty with the Maestro…unless you got something good. That is his job. (Though I have managed to get a couple laughs out of him. Woohoo!)

8 ) The internet is bad. Apparently we spend too much time online, especially on Facebook and these stupid blogs.

In all seriousness, I love the man and I love this company. Yes, it is very quirky, but I love it. There really is nothing more inspiring than sitting in a chorus rehearsal or a master class with Maestro DeRenzi. He is so invested in making us sound great and be successful – he just has a very passive aggressive, odd, offensive way of doing it that drives you nuts – but it is very endearing.:) I love watching him conduct. I get so wrapped up in the music and his passion. Even though he is not a singer and doesn’t have a clue on how to teach a singer to sing, I sing better when I sing for him. I used to always get nervous singing for Artistic Directors, but I’m not the least bit nervous in front of him. On the contrary, I feel most free singing for him because he wants you to take risks and if you screw up he’ll make a rude, offensive comment, we’ll all laugh and I’ll try it again.

This is a good place.

Update: Sarsota

January 20, 2009

Well folks. I have arrived in Sarasota, Florida. It’s been a cold few days here – been all the way down into the 60’s. Whew. I’m not sure if I can handle it…

My access to internet has been sketchy, however, I have found a remedy, so you will be getting more regular updates (if I have a brain left after my horrendously long days).

The big news is that the opera company had yet to cast the cover (understudy) for Beppe in L’amico Fritz. I’ve been using one of his arias (songs) as an opener in my auditions as of late, so I sang it at Death by Aria (an evening where everyone in the program gets up and sings a little tune for each other) and in a master class with Maestro DeRenzi. And they gave it to me! I was floored. Literally speechless. So I am very excited about it. I’m working on it feverishly as rehearsals begin next Tuesday for it. It’s an incredible opportunity and I am very thankful for it…and no, my dear friends, you may not pull a Tonya Harding on the girl singing the role…geez…the fact I would even have to tell you…tsk, tsk.

I’m still 3 months out from going to Sarasota, but I’ve already compiled a list of things that they have done well – things that I will note if I ever start an opera company some day.

1) Within a week of verbally accepting a position, I received a contract with every detail broken down. I had no questions.

2) With my contract, I received the bulk of my music already bound for me.

3) With my contract and music, I also received a copy of the synopsis and libretto.  So instead of trying to find time out of an already busy schedule to find the scores, buy them, have them shipped then go to the library to find the librettos and translation, it showed up in my mailbox, ready to learn – easily saving me, not only money, but at least 3 weeks of precious learning time.

4) My travel to and from Sarasota will be covered. People in other fields may find this a given but at the level I’m at right now in this career, it is not always a given that such a luxury will be afforded you.

5) To this point, I have been treated with an incredible level of professionalism.

6) I found out that we are only 3 miles from the beach and beginning in February it’s warm enough to swim! Woot!

So far, Sarasota has impressed me.  I’ll keep you updated. And all you folks who are thinking about starting an opera company (of which I know there are hoards), take note.  Making your singer feel like they are valued is the best way to ensure quality work from them.