Concurso Caballé

I had an absolutely wonderful time in my first international voice competition in Spain, and I have to thank the Caballés and everyone there for that. When I arrived on the day of the competition, Isabel Caballé came up to me with kisses on both cheeks, and said to me "Welcome to Zaragoza!"  She also said my name correctly(!), even though it's an unusual name.  She truly went above and beyond in making me feel welcome there, as did the whole staff. Then, when I walked in for my rehearsal with the pianist, Ricardo Estrada, I was greeted with a big smile and "good morning!"  We chatted a little bit about how that particular day, September 11, was a particularly charged one, both for Americans and Catalans.  We then proceeded to rehearse Caro nome, and although I was nervous for the competition, I also knew that Ricardo would be there with me, which helped put my mind at ease.

I'm happy with how I did in the competition--I did exactly what I set out to do when I left for Spain, which was to fully show up and be seen.  Any performance can be improved, but I also recognize that it was a huge achievement to have sung my first international singing competition.  I didn't make the semis or finals, but I learned a lot by watching them (so much so, I'm only processing and writing down everything now!)  Everything that I learned and that happened has set me up to put my best foot forward in the next competition I sing.  I also got wonderful feedback while I was there, with both new and longtime colleagues praising my performance in the first round.  The first round was also open to the audience, and the audience in Zaragoza is very warm and welcoming.  I will always treasure the woman who stopped me on the tram on the way back to my hotel, who told me that my Caro nome was wonderful, kissing her fingers in appreciation.  I will also treasure the colleague who, though she was taking several photos throughout the whole competition, told me she didn't want to take photos during my aria because the pianissimi were so quiet and controlled she didn't want to break the moment.  

In a competition with 304 competitors from 58 countries, I think it is incredibly special that 2 of the 48 semifinalists were from Israel.  Bravas to Tali Ketzef and Shahar Lavi!  Also, a huge bravo to my friend César Torruella for making it to the semifinals as well!

At the final of the competition, Caballé herself came to watch.  As soon as she entered the auditorium, the Sala Mozart at the Auditorio Palacio de Congresos, she received a standing ovation from the audience.  She had an entrance the way I imagine the Queen of England to have--dignified and grand, and deservedly so.  She then went on to sit in a special part of the hall, to listen to the finalists sing.

I had the privilege of seeing one of her public master classes as well, once the competition was over.  I enjoyed the whole masterclass, and there are two moments in particular which stand out in my mind, which solidify for me how great Caballé is.  The first was that she had all the students there do breathing exercises, holding their breath as long as they could while having weights on their abdomens.  Most of them got to around 40 seconds.  She then said that 40 seconds was nothing(!), and they should be able to hold it for two minutes.  (She then cited Verdi's Simon Boccanegra as an example of an opera for which you need that kind of breath control.)

Wow.  *Consider me humbled.*

Another moment which stood out to me was when she helped one of the singers there, the soprano Ioana Mitu.  She asked Caballé about something--I couldn't hear what it was, and I suspect the rest of the audience couldn't either, but it was something she wanted her advice with.  She went on to sing a glorious Jewel Song (from Gounod's Faust), and afterwards Caballé gave her reassurance, and embraced her in a motherly way.  I was touched by her caring.

I not only found the competition and masterclass to be illuminating, but my trip to Spain, in general, as well!  Next blog post coming up! :)

Daring greatly

I'm absolutely excited and thrilled to bits (and a tad nervous, I admit!) about flying to Spain this weekend for the Concurso Caballé(!)  Besides the fact it's the competition of the iconic-and-amazing Montserrat Caballé herself, it's also making me think more about my upcoming audition and competition season in general.

I've been intensely preparing my audition repertoire, and I gained experience performing these arias in public several times, as we singers typically do.  I'm realizing, though, that my biggest goal for the upcoming audition season is far less about checking off a to-do list of things to prepare, than it is about a simpler, but in-my-opinion more difficult goal:  that of simply showing up fully and being seen.  As simple as this may sound, it takes a lot to fully expose yourself in front of an audience, even in the best of circumstances.  I think that if I can go out and do that, then there is no bigger success than that.  I know there's a 100% likelihood that I will think about the things that could have gone better in a performance I gave, and will surely be working on them continuously (eg "That note was a bit flat," "the high note wasn't as good today as it usually is," "I closed that 'e' vowel too much," etc etc etc.).  However, going out and daring greatly is a victory that I want to make sure I never lose sight of.  (Brené Brown moment, anyone?!)**  I think if one does that, then you put your best foot forward in an audition.  I don't mean all of this as treacly-sweet-"you-get-a-pat-on-the-head-and-a-gold-star" talk.  I mean, I want to make it a point to remind myself of why I think opera singing is so special---it's a chance to vulnerably and transparently share a lot of who you are with people, and by doing so dare greatly.  This is my main value, and no matter what happens in this audition season, I know I'll be able to find my way home (so to speak) by reminding myself of that.

Now, ¡Vámonos!  :)

 

**P.S. I realize that Brene Brown is talking about romantic love in this video, but I think her point about daring greatly is very pertinent to this blog post.  :)

Arts and war

I wrote a few words I wanted to share with my audience at my concert tomorrow, to include in my program, and I realized I wanted to share them here as well:

I planned this program for a concert scheduled to take place at the beginning of this month in Tel Aviv, Israel. When I was planning it, there was no way I could know that I would perform it in the midst of a war.

During the nearly two-and-a-half-month period I was in Israel, sirens frequently sounded, warning all of us to seek shelter from the rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip. In fact, one of the missiles we took shelter from was intercepted by the Iron Dome rocket defense system right above the apartment building I was staying in, creating a loud explosion overhead.

There wasn't (and still isn't) anyone in Israel who isn't personally affected by the war. My cousin was drafted to active military service, as were the brother of one of my friends and the husband of another. Despite all this, many arts events of all kinds went on as scheduled in Israel, including my concert.

This raises the question: Why do we care about something so seemingly frivolous as the performing arts during a time in which our safety is threatened?

The answer is that we still care because the arts are not frivolous at all. Opera, the art form I have chosen to devote myself to as a profession, is unique in that it is the only one in which you get to experience the emotional and physical power of the unamplified human voice—whether you are singing yourself or whether you are sitting in the audience. Without anything to alter the voice—such as microphones and amplifiers—the singer is uniquely exposed and the audience deeply engaged.

During the war, we all were constantly exposed to the ways in which people could be at their most inhumane, both through hearing the booms of intercepted missiles and from watching the news on TV. During a time such that, it seemed more crucial than ever to experience the humanity we all share—in this instance, through the combination of the power and vulnerability of the human voice.

With all this in mind, we present tonight's concert to you in the hope that these masterpieces touch your heart and renew your spirit.

Welcome to my website!

The more I've been finding my voice as a singer, the more I've been finding it as a person as well.

I'm most inspired by people who use their authentic voices (singing or not) to bring positive change to the world, just as I felt Leontyne Price did when I heard her recording of "D'amor sull'ali rosee" for the first time in my flourescent-lit dorm room in college and was reduced to tears, or when I heard Joyce DiDonato sing "Una voce poco fa" in the first Met HD I ever saw, Il Barbiere di Siviglia.  (I have so many other role models who are inspirational to me, from singers, to dancers, to entrepreneurs, and people in all walks of life.  But I digress...)  I aspire to bring this kind of difference to other people's lives, and the best way I know how is by being involved in an art form that requires me to use my unamplified, natural voice--being an opera singer.

Although I've had the opportunity to travel to and study in Italy, France, and Germany, I've learned that there is no adventure more thrilling or important than that of finding out exactly WHAT your authentic voice is, and how to bring it out and live wholeheartedly, onstage and off. The journey can be scary at times, but it has always been worthwhile.

Several years ago, I needed to start rebuilding my voice technique from scratch. That was a turning point, because I learned that deep down I not only want to sing (though I do), but that I HAVE to sing--not in order to get approval, but for myself. I then asked myself: What do I need to say, and need it so badly that I need to study voice technique, drama, languages, literature, and history, in order to say it?

This is what brings me here.

 

I've had an unusual path as a singer. I'm an American-Israeli who comes from a family of professors and teachers, and among the things I studied growing up were piano, guitar, and dance. I couldn't have predicted then that I would eventually pursue a career as an opera singer, and although it has been incredibly rewarding, it involved difficult decisions.

I started my college education at conservatory, and then realized that as a singer, I would feel much more prepared for a singing career and more fulfilled, if I spent my undergrad years in a liberal arts school, while studying voice and coaching privately. I went on to finish my degree at Hunter College, designing my degree there in languages, literature, and history. It was scary to break away from what looked like a "sure" path to an operatic career (that is, going seamlessly from bachelors and masters degrees from conservatories, to Young Artist Programs, and then to a professional career.) However, it ended up being, for me, one of the best decisions I ever made. By customizing my education in this way, I have had the opportunity to learn about the world around me in a way that heavily informed the repertoire I now sing. I studied Italian, French, German, Russian, literature, and history. (I can officially cross reading Goethe's Faust in German off my life list! Oy vey!) :)

However, the most important thing I gained from going this path was learning that there are as many paths to being an opera singer as there are singers, and not to be afraid to go my own way in building an opera career.  There is something about learning how to sing with no amplification whatsoever that forces you to dig deeper as a person than you ever could have thought imaginable. I think opera is an art form with an amazing legacy of singers, composers, and artists who had the courage to share their authentic voices with the world, and I am honored to be exploring and discovering through this art form.  This is why I'm here, and this is what I want to be a part of.