¡Viva España!

I didn't see much of Barcelona or Zaragoza at first because I was getting ready for the Concurso Caballe, but once the competition was over, I got to see and enjoy more of both cities.  Not only were the people incredibly kind, but I was also deeply inspired by the cities.  I am often captivated by art, and being in the beautiful country that brought Goya, Gaudí, Dalí, Picasso, Miró, and so many other great artists was wonderful. 


Of course, Spain is also the country of the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona!  I managed to get a ticket at the last minute to their production of Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia.  The ticket I got happened to be for a balcony seat from which I could see the orchestra very well, as well as the stage.  Watching this opera again reminded me just how exuberant it is--I believe I saw a few of the orchestra members slightly shaking their heads along with the beat of the overture!  :). I must also add that I've been hearing for a while now about the great Carlos Chausson's performances as Bartolo (this is a role he has sung over 200 times!), and I finally got to hear him for the first time. It was an absolute joy, and I can't wait to hear him again!


One of the high points of my visit to Spain was visiting the Museo Picasso in Barcelona.  His body of work is incredible, and inspiring.  Two things in particular impressed me.  The first was seeing his vast, and yet wildly varied, body of work over the course of his career.  There were several times in which I couldn't believe that all the artworks came from the same artist, who created dramatic portraits, works inspired by Toulouse Lautrec, and cubist masterpieces (such as his Portrait of Aunt Pepa, L'Attente, and Guernica, respectively), not to mention many others.  Sometimes, as a singer, it can be easy to feel that you have to fit into a certain niche and not diverge from it.  However, seeing the variety in Picasso's work relieved a lot of the pressure to do that; it reminded me simply to focus on knowing my strengths and weaknesses, and to keep doing the best work I can.

(  Portrait of Aunt Pepa  , Pablo Picasso)

(Portrait of Aunt Pepa, Pablo Picasso)

(  L'Attente  , Pablo Picasso)

(L'Attente, Pablo Picasso)

(  Guernica  , Pablo Picasso)

(Guernica, Pablo Picasso)

The second thing that struck me was one of the stories of Picasso's life.  He felt he found his artistic voice after leaving the school he attended in Madrid, the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts.  He then moved to Horta d'Ebre on the invitation of his friend, Manuel Pallarès.  He would eventually go on to credit his time there as being the one which would help him form his voice, saying that "Everything I know I learnt it in the town of Pallarès."


I certainly cannot relate to being an artist of Picasso's caliber!  What did strike a chord with me, however, was the fulfillment he gained when he found his artistic voice.  I believe that one of the most important parts in the life of anyone wanting to work professionally in the arts is the journey to figure out what one's artistic voice is.  I believe this is a process that lasts through one's entire career.  Still, simply beginning that process is an important milestone in our lives.  In order to even start that journey, we have to have had serious training from our teachers, coaches, and mentors along the way--for many artists, this training takes years.  And then, crucially, we figure out how to express ourselves authentically.

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! :)