Saturday, July 13, 2013

Video: "The Flying Dutchman"

Here's a short video with clips from "The Flying Dutchman" at the Glimmerglass Festival.  Click here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Jo – Ho – Hoe!

I’ve been at Glimmerglass Summer Festival for just over two weeks now and we have hit the ground running!
I am here performing the role of Senta in Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman.) We have twelve – TWELVE!!!!!-  performances starting July 6th and going through August 24th. Luckily, we have many days off between performances (most of the time) and I’ll be able to enjoy this beautiful countryside. 

I had heard from other colleagues of mine just how stunning mid-state New York was, but these views are remarkable. Just three minutes from my apartment is a farm with free roaming horses that graze all day and hide in a little hut for shelter from the sun if they need it. A few minutes north of the horses is a duck farm where you can buy a dozen duck eggs for $2. There are babbling brooks EVERYWHERE. Both Cooperstown, where the actual opera house is located and surrounding areas like Cherry Valley, where I live, have large Amish and Mennonite communities and there are wonderful farmer’s markets where one may buy fresh pies, breads, cheeses and dairy along with free range eggs and meats. As someone who cooks for myself a lot, I’m in HEAVEN!

Beautiful Upstate New York
Now…Herr Wagner’s score is NOT to be eclipsed by all this natural beauty. The orchestration, themes and scope alone are so powerful; not to mention the vocals.  Senta’s Ballade (her opening scene with aria) is absolutely riveting. When I first looked at the score, I really focused on the Ballade in order to assess whether or not I thought I could sing the part. It turns out that the most difficult singing is actually the duet with the Dutchman. In retrospect, I think my ignorance to the difficulty of the entire score became a benefit as I was learning the role. It reminded me of training at the gym – you have no idea how many repetitions your trainer will make you do – you just have to keep going. 

I am in love with the music – every note. I had not previously heard this opera or seen it  on- stage and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the opera in such a relaxed and healthy setting with lots of fresh air for the lungs!

The story is both compelling and frightening and our director, Francesca Zambello, has done a powerful job setting the atmosphere of a ghost ship cursed to roam the seas. Our Maestro, John Keenan, does a masterful job of balancing the breadth and spectrum of power coming from the pit. The orchestra is singing with him. The Met does a much better job of describing the plot of The Flying Dutchmanthan I do; so, here is a nifty link.

I’ll also include a photo blog of some of the beginning stage preparations of Dutchman – amazing shots of our lights and set! Click here.

This year has been a whirlwind of travel, music and learning and there is still half a year to go! 

So, lift the sails and pull in the anchors! Let’s go on a ride!


Monday, April 8, 2013

Houston, Denver and Beyond!

The last five months have just been packed with work and I am so glad for that, but I’ve hardly had a moment to just update…anything. 

Sasha Cook, Melody, and Marietta Simpson in Showboat.
Houston’s production of SHOWBOAT, was beyond fun and was probably the most enjoyable contract I’ve ever done. I loved my cast and, since my mother and sister live in Houston, I had time to actually visit and enjoy part of Christmas and New Year’s Eve with them. Patrick Summers provided such a steady hand and vibrant spirit. He was completely immersed in our telling of the stories of the Showboat Family. Francesca Zambello directed and was equally inspiring and inspired by the “Cotton Blossom” and its cargo. There were more laughs than directions and THAT is a rarity in our business.  I mean, I shared the stage with Sasha Cooke, Morris Robinson, Lara Teeter, Marietta Simpson and Joe Kaiser. There you have it!

I was lucky enough to have some time off between SHOWBOAT and DON GIOVANNI in Denver, Colorado and I used that time in San Francisco to prepare myself for the upcoming months. Did all my check- ups with docs, got massages, etc… 

Denver is NO JOKE when it comes to altitude and dryness. This is my first contract at altitude. I know a lot of other singers have done work in Santa Fe or Utah and experienced this first hand. I was warned…drink twice the water you think you need. That was an understatement. I have never felt so dehydrated and shrunken in my life. Alternately, if you get “accustomed” to these conditions and acclimate to them, apparently you go back to sea level some sort of Wagnerian singer. I’ll take it! I’m excited to see what sort of stamina I’ve developed here over this month. 

Our director, Kevin Newbury, was inspired by the “Mad Men”, “Pleasantville” theme of repressed sexuality and overtone and our “Don Giovanni” was set in the 50s/60s. Elvira, my character, was a carnivorous cougar, hell-bent on getting Giovanni back into her lair. Anna, played by Ellie Dehn, was somewhat swayed by his magnetism and even Zerlina (Maria Lindsey)had a battle when it came to resisting the “Don.” Chris Magiera was our amazingly talented Giovanni and we got lucky to secure the winning smile, voice and presence of Matthew Trevino as our Leporello. Our Commendatore, Richard Wiegold,  made his U.S. Debut to great success and our sweet Masetto was played by Christian Bowers. Ari Pelto conducted and, when I say conducted, I really mean it. This man is a genius and is so passionate and positive. His love of Mozart is infectious and his standard raises the bar for all of us. I would be so honored so sing under his baton again in the future.
Melody with the Opera Colorado "Don Giovanni" Chorus.

Melody as Donna Elvira
We closed our Don Giovanni last evening. I must say that the family I found here in Denver are the salt of the earth.  Ellie Caulkins, the woman for whom the entire opera theater is named, is a HOOT and so vibrant and encouraging. I witnessed her “conducting” and dancing to our music at almost every rehearsal.  The board members and donors treated us to a “closing night dinner” at the University Club and we had a wonderful time meeting and greeting. I’d be happy to return to Denver. Next time, I’ll come a week early and get used to the mile high city! 

Today, I fly home to San Francisco for one week. After this small respite, I am off to Philadelphia to sing portions of Rufus Wainwright’s opera “Prima Donna” at the Kimmel Center (Verizon Hall) with full orchestra. In the second half of Rufus’ concert, we will perform a duet together of the time-honored Judy Garland/Barbra Streisand “Come on, Get Happy/Happy Days.” 

Immediately following that concert, I fly to Bordeaux, France to sing Pamina in Mozart’s “Magic Flute” (in German). I’ll be ensconced in wine country for 2 months…poor me…..and will follow this contract with a trip to upstate New York to sing my first Wagner (Senta in “The Flying Dutchman”) with Glimmerglass Opera under the direction of Francesca Zambello again. Reunited!

I am intensely excited and a bit nervous about all of this back to back travel, but I am not one to shun work; especially work that helps me grow as an artist. 

I hope to be blogging from France and including pictures, if the schedule is not too harrowing.
Bon voyage!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Melody as Tosca 

I have promised, for almost a full month, a blog entry pertaining to the unbelievable opportunity  that I had to sing Tosca with the San Francisco Opera last month.

The opera Tosca is one of those benchmark roles for sopranos. Everyone loves it. The music is soaring and dramatic. The leading lady gets to scheme, bargain, demand, murder and sling herself off the roof of the famous Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome, Italy (featured in the movies Angels and Demons and Roman Holiday. Originally built as a mausoleum and used in the papacy as a fortress and castle – now a museum).  Maria Callas was most famous for her interpretation of the diva Floria Tosca; so, everyone in the opera world has a VERY steep opinion of how Ms. Tosca should be played and sung.  The role itself is vocally demanding, long and includes multiple high and low c’s in quick succession of one another.  In short, if you get the role…you get a good deal of pressure with it.

My part of this story begins humbly.  I happened to be looking online at the SF Opera’s upcoming season and saw that Tosca would be performed with Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette as the leading ladies. There were twelve shows scheduled within 17 days and NO ONE PERSON can sing Tosca that many times in a row. So, both ladies were sharing the heft.  I had watched Patricia at some public rehearsals when she sang Marguerite in Faust the year previous and thought to myself, “I would love to study her interpretation of Tosca!”  I contacted the company and asked the Artistic Administrator, Gregory Henkel, if I might have the opportunity to watch Patricia when the show went on stage for dress rehearsals.  

Greg asked, “Are you singing Tosca anytime soon?” I informed him that inquiries about my ability to sing the role had come from two separate opera companies and that I was strongly considering the study of the score.  He suggested that I learn some snippets from various acts and sing an audition in front of him. We set a general audition time two weeks into the future and I began cramming all I could. After singing the audition, Gregory sat me down and said, “I have no doubt that you CAN sing this role….I just wonder if you SHOULD sing this role. It has killed many a soprano and this company loves you and your voice. We wouldn’t want to hurt you.” I said, “Let’s not forget that I am not a spring chicken. I am 40 years old and I have sung quite a bit of bigger Puccini. Although this will be the biggest thing I’ve sung to date, I think I can do it.”  We agreed that I could understudy Patricia and Angela and, if the role became too much of a challenge, I would gracefully bow out of the project. 

I began my personal study by coaching locally with Bob Mollicone at SF Opera. I then took a trip back to my Alma Mater, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and coached  the role daily with my tried and true “team Melody” (Sylvia Plyler and Allen Perriello).  Finally, I drove to Akron to see my voice teacher, James Mismas. I sang this huge piece of music every single day for over a month and, then, I rested.  Hey, even the good Lord had to take a nap.

About three weeks before rehearsals began for Tosca, I began practicing my stamina by getting into practice rooms and just running acts - both in order and out of sequence - to “trick” myself and not get stuck in a pattern. I had also begun rigorous training and muscle building in order to handle the length and physicality of this demanding stage experience.

Finally, the first day of official rehearsals came and I was too excited to sleep the night before. I showed up well-dressed and having eaten a full breakfast – raring to go! Then, the wall of reality hit. Oh…..I’m the understudy. My job is actually to just sit here and be available. Shoot.  All that work – to sit. 

As the weeks went on, it became apparent that I was to do just that – sit. I became a bit melancholy, but then I began to think, “You know what? Use this time wisely and REALLY learn the role. Keep practicing it vocally and mentally. Go through your blocking in your mind and make sure you know what you’re doing. That way, when you finally do the role, you’ll know so much more about it.” I read “Tosca’s Rome” to get an idea about the great city during the 1800’s – a period of great political unrest. I read the play, “La Tosca” by Sardou and began to get a really good sense of character. I walked my blocking when nobody was looking.

Fast forward to opening night of the opera, November 15th, 2012.  It was a day like any day. My partner, Stacey, and I had gone to the gym. We tooled around town on foot and made our way leisurely to the Opera House.  I had received a “wellness” call from the Opera to let me know that Ms. Gheorghiu was, indeed, well and going on for the evening’s performance. I wore a nice pair of jeans and a cashmere sweater in case I was seen by anyone in the company on my way to the 4th floor conference room.  In the Opera, the understudies are allowed to watch the opera via closed circuit television so that we don’t have to sit in the patron’s seating area.  We are to be at every performance even if the leads are well.  

Act One began and I remember thinking, “Angela seems…” Now, anyone who knows the name Angela Gheorghiu knows that this woman is a bonafide star and Prima Donna. She has a GLORIOUS instrument and is sought after all over the world for that voice of hers.  I have “covered” her twice and always had a pleasant time doing so. She was kind to me and generous of spirit. Because of my previous work experience with her, I could see that something was wrong and that she was not well. She was shaking and her eyes seemed distant. I told my fellow understudies and Stacey, “You know what???? I’m going to go warm up. I don’t like what I’m seeing.” I got a few wary looks, but decided to just follow my gut. 

While I was warming up, I received a system page asking me to report to the office. I went nervously upstairs, my breath getting shorter and shorter with each step, and….waited.  We were already 10 minutes into the intermission between Acts One and Two and I knew that, if I were to be called to go on, I would have precious little time to get ready.  I watched nervously as the head of scheduling, Marin Venturi, sat with a walkee-talkee in hand and a phone nearby. About five minutes after arriving, the phone rang and, after a short series of “Mmmm Hmmmms” and “Okaaaaaays”,  Marin turned slowly in her swivel chair and said, “We’re gonna need you to go get into costume.” 

My heart.

Even as I was whisked away upstairs and greeted by no less than 8 people dressing, powdering, tugging at me and running musical cues with me, I still had no official word that I was going on for Act Two.  I learned this fact by listening to the announcement AS IT WAS MADE by our General Director over the sound system. I heard him say, “I am so regretful to inform you that Angela Gheorghiu has become ill with a stomach virus and cannot finish tonight’s performance.” (General murmur of the audience) “She will be replaced by her cover, Melody Moore.” PANDEMONIUM. Claps and cheers! I could not believe what I was hearing. I was “raised” in the San Francisco Opera House, but I will NEVER forget the generosity that was shown to me on that night by the dedicated and loyal opera goers of the FINEST CITY in the U.S.  Thank you, San Francisco. 

The team of dressers, make-up artists and musical staff kept buzzing ‘round for another 10 minutes and I asked for just 10 minutes to collect myselfprivately. I kept being asked by staff if I wanted to practice anything. The murderous stab? The suicidal jump? The Act Two staging that we went over only ONCE? To all of these questions and more, I continually said, “No.” “The best thing for me to do is NOT think and just get out there and do it.” It was so clear to me that no human being had the power to make these events transpire the way that they did. Nothing of this night was occurring because of something I “did.” Therefore, it would not be bettered by something I could “do”, but rather – all would be well if I would just “be.” 

I have never felt so in-tune in my life. Every hair on my head knew its name that night. I could feel the grain of the canvas floor covering. I could hear my dress swooshing as I turned. I could feel the clammy sweat of my colleague as I pushed him away from me in our scene.  My brain was a fine instrument of multi-tasking as I thought both ahead toward the next move and presently about the music. I remember looking at my colleague (who played the treacherous chief of police, Scarpia) and loathing his very movement. I knew that I was no longer operating as …. Melody.  Each moment that passed was even more revelatory as I came closer and closer to the ….no, THE famous Act Two soprano aria, “Vissi d’Arte” – meaning “I lived for art.” This aria is so simple and bare and has the power to destroy. One simply must be fully grounded to even attempt it. I remember thinking, “It is already done – just breathe.” Apparently, it was a successful. I wouldn’t know. I was breathing.  The night continued on past the aria so fast that I was jumping off the church before I could say “Puccini.”  I’ll never forget my curtain bow as the house, again, showed ultimate love and support for their “hometown gal.” 

The reviews….well, I couldn’t have paid for better ones. 

I, subsequently, got the chance to sing another full performance for Angela when the same bout of stomach flu resurfaced. The second time, while less….dramatic…., was no less special and I drank every moment of it. 

The hardest part about singing Tosca has been NOT singing Tosca. Indeed, the weeks that have followed have been very low in comparison to such an extreme state of functionality and artistry.
I am now happily ensconced in Houston, Texas beginning rehearsals for Francesca Zambello’s Showboat, playing the part of Julie LaVerne. It is my intense honor to “come back home” where I got a huge portion of my early musical training and have such a fun time on this huge show. I have already been able to teach a Master Class for high school kids who are preparing to enter college and audition for scholarships.  I plan to contact my High School and ask if they may like to have me come speak to the kids. I would never have made it this far if an army of professors and teachers had not nudged me in the right direction. I would love to do the same. 

Two offers of Tosca for other opera companies have come to my attention.  We shall see what offers come of this fairy tale experience in the future.

I can say that I will always be so very excited to perform the role again and to learn even more about our heroine, this fine piece of music and….not least of all... myself.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Continuing Mozart

Here we are, almost in June, and I realize I have not kept up to date with my blog. Bad soprano.

In April, I was called to Atlanta last minute to fill in for someone who was unable to sing Donna Elvira in their production of Don Giovanni. The contract was absolutely incredible – wonderful company and singers, but we hit the ground RUNNING and I barely had time to eat, much less blog.

This month has been all about our brand new production of Mozart’s Magic Flute at San Francisco Opera. I am playing the First Lady and the show is really going to be very fun and lively. David Gockley, General Director of San Francisco Opera, actually did a lot of the English translation that we will be singing and speaking and there are many moments of hilarity to be had. The entire production has been designed by Jun Kaneko, Japanese-born ceramic artist and sculptor. Jun also did the costume design and the general aesthetic is primary colors and geometric/line patterns. We have been able to preview some of the stage scenery and some of the projection ideas and it is truly a feast for the eyes. 

The Three Ladies of The Magic Flute. L to R: Renee Tatum, Me, Lauren McNeese
We open our show June 13th and it runs through July 8th. It seems that this summer is shaping up to be a lively and tantalizing season with Nixon in China and Attila running simultaneously at San Francisco Opera. I’ve been able to view a few rehearsals and stage runs of these other two amazing shows and this summer is going to kick start our upcoming seasons in a fierce way!

 More to come, I promise!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Walk Through My Day: Prima Donna's Opening Night

With Rufus Opening Night
I woke up this morning - the morning of our opening of Rufus Wainwright's opera, Prima Donna, with NYC Opera - and I just knew something was "right." I had rested enough. I had enough water. My sinuses were not stuffy and irritated. My small vocal trills sounded and felt good. I ate a good breakfast and packed good snacks. All my cast gifts for opening were bought and all cards were signed. I just had an "on" feeling.

Upon reaching the theatre, I felt calm and relaxed and I did little 10 minute warm-ups here and there to just make sure all was well. I drank some hot tea, got my hair and make-up done and practiced my piano bit ( I have to play piano and sing on stage in this opera). As we got our "5 minutes to places" call, I got a very slight excited jump in my tummy, but I did not feel nervous.

When the orchestra begins the Overture, I am seated on a chaise lounge alone in my "house" on the stage. Nobody from the audience can see me during most of the Overture because I am in total darkness. Today, when the work lights went off and I heard the orchestra begin their playing, I could not stop myself from smiling from ear to ear.

Previously, I have not had the singing experience where I am totally engaged in each moment of character and not in my own way or thinking about what could have been better or different. I guess I'm just too "Type A" to let it go and move on. was that day. I did not worry or second guess or become an obstacle to this amazing piece of story-telling. I found myself even being tickled at times with how smoothly things were going. I did not know that there was freedom in complete ownership. There was suddenly a lack of doubt. I was able to see not just my own best choices but I was able to react more clearly to others.

I have thought throughout this process that there was room for me to grow - I just had no idea how much growth could happen in one show. I have vocally found different places of my voice that I did not know were there - strength that I did not know existed and vulnerability that has lent itself to true expression on stage.

Meeting the legendary Yoko Ono

Meeting one of my heroes, Susan Sarandon

At the end of the performance, we all toasted Rufus and the entire team that made this opera happen.  I went home to rest for a bit before going out from Brooklyn to Manhattan for Rufus' after party. The gathering was at German restaurant later in the evening and I originally thought that I'd be too tired to attend at all. I decided to go for just an hour or so.

As I walked in, I found Rufus and went up to him to say hello and let him know that I made it. I saw a woman in a pill-box hat decorated with a feather seated next to him and, suddenly, this face turns around to smile at me and I realize that it's Yoko Ono! As I start to look around the table, there's Sean Lennon, Chloe Sevigny and Parker Posey. I tried not to just let my jaw drop. Next, Rufus said, "Come meet Susan." I'm looking at the back of a wavy-red head and Susan Sarandon turns around and begins going on and on about the opera and how much she loved it. We ended up having a very good conversation about my character in the opera, Rufus' first attempt at opera, the state of affairs in opera finances and ... well, just opera in general. Similarly, I found that many of these people we might consider untouchable were ultimately approachable and interested in the art form of opera. Sean Lennon, outside the restaurant as I was leaving, talked to me for at least 10 minutes on how refreshing it was to see our opera, with its small cast and sparse set design, focusing on the characters as one would do in live theatre.
With our Conductor Jayce Ogren and Charlotte Dobbs

What a wonderful day and night and what a wonderful example that, when one least expects it, there is confidence and support and interest from every direction. I think I may try this "getting out of my own way" thing more often.