Behind the Story
Adam I Orenstein
Catherine & Ava Bergmann
Clara A. Yarian
Enkyrosaum Maida Santa Cruz
Esther Talledo Snook
Fawzi M Bayyat
George Ann Bissett
Jane Russell Geddings
Ken & Kris Hannon
Luis E. Ramos
Mom & Dad - Milagros and Michael Coulmas
Patrick Davidson (Nitesol)
Stephen Joel Jensen
The Harton Family
Tony Peacock and Family
Wayne S. Williams
2. Sunday, October 3, 2010
Grass Roots and the Moment of Change
Let me start by telling you a little about myself. I began taking voice lessons at the age of 15 in Florida with my voice teacher Mario Laurenti when I fell in love with the history and beauty of opera. At age 22 I performed my first opera and learned all about building scenery by doing it myself. The scenery was terribly ugly but being a part of building it was a great experience. Mimi in La Boheme was my first lead role and the Sunstate Opera was my home opera company for many years after. In my early 20's Youth Opera Appreciation was founded which was incorporated to educate primarily youth but really anyone about opera.When my father had a stroke, it was dissolved and I became a full time caregiver for about 8 years. It was important to maintain my voice but it was very challenging during that time. My friends and family constantly berated me about not moving to Europe or New York, but my response was always that the right time would reveal itself . Around my 30th birthday, my father became weaker and wasn't able to use the stairs anymore. I was growing tired both emotionally and physically from caregiving and found that my health was being compromised and so was his. This was the right moment. I placed my father in a care facility near family, quit my job at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, accepted a job in Germany, sold everything I owned and decided to create a one woman play based on the life of Brazilian opera singer Bidu Sayao.
Now, in East Germany as an English teacher with time to research and focus on myself and my dreams, a new journey and life has begun. Retracing Bidu's steps from her birth in Rio to her death in Maine as I journal, photograph and interview people who knew this incredible opera singer, I hope to discover more than just Bidu, I hope to learn more about myself. I know this story will mean something to many and I look forward to the day I perform this creation of homage to an artist and person who should never be forgotten and tell the story of my own self discovery and fulfillment.
September 30, 2010
My First Singing Experiences in Germany
It's another sleepless night. The past few weeks have been horrible for sleeping. There are so many changes in the air and I can't seem to quiet the whirlwind of possibilities and mysteries of the future. I had my first official concert in Leipzig last night which was well received. The audience was a group of mostly Americans who share a love for Porsches and driving fast on the autobahn. They were a delightful bunch on a fantastic holiday so the energy was high and enthusiastic. I met some interesting people who seemed to appreciate my dreams of developing and creating this play. I felt good about the evening overall and accepted the invitation by Peter Sontag, the creator and founder of the Porsche tours, to return next year for another performance.
Helga Assing, my accompanist, was fantastic. She is such a brave woman. She seemed nervous about speaking English to the people in the group but she did wonderfully, and her talent did the most of the talking for her. I could appreciate how she felt since my feelings were similar when I was asked to perform a solo for the first time in Germany. I couldn't understand any of the direction and had difficulty communicating.
I remember trying to figure out when the mass was and when the rehearsals were. I was so nervous about being late, showing up on the wrong day or worse, not showing up at all! The director told me what time to come on a Thursday for a rehearsal in the practice room. I waited anxiously for the right moment to leave my apartment in order to get there at least five minutes early. When I found the practice room, I was sick to my stomach when everyone was already in the room rehearsing. How could I have misunderstood the time? I verbally confirmed it five times! Later someone told me that time in German can be very tricky and is easily misinterpreted. I slunk to a seat next to a woman who gestured the seat next to her was free. She shared her music and I began to settle in and get comfortable. Twenty minutes into the rehearsal, everyone closed their folders and started putting on their coats. I was so upset about missing the entire rehearsal! I tried to blend in by following everyone out and doing exactly what everyone else did. I walked down the stairs and noticed that the group was heading to the church. I thought maybe they were going to finish the rehearsal at the church! Maybe the rehearsal wasn't entirely missed after all. As the choir pushed through the church door an entire congregation was waiting in silence for the service to start. I was panicked! I thought for sure Easter was on the same day as Easter in the U.S.! Not being Catholic was probably another part of my insecurity. Maybe German Catholics did Easter services differently than U.S. Catholics or other denominations. I know, it sounds silly, but when you are in another country and can't speak the language, it makes you think you may not have a grasp on other things either. As I suffered with the many possibilities that could be, the crowd continued to push me up the staircase to the choir loft overlooking the congregation from the back of the church. The church was old, simple and beautiful. It was the first time I had actually been in the church for anything. I continued to be shoved into the corner of the loft where I was given a book. I felt like the situation was completely out of my hands at this point and my body was on autopilot. The service began and we were up and down, as the Catholics do and all I could do was pray I wouldn't be called up to sing my solo. Up and down, open the book; sing the hymn, up and down, pray. I was trying so hard to pay close attention to what was happening that before I knew it, the next movement I followed was the woman's in front of me who turned around and started walking out. I was shoved to the back of the loft, down the stairs and back out the door from where we came. As soon as I felt the cold night air hit me, I looked around and I was alone. I began to smile and then laugh to myself about how incredibly absurd the last hour had been. I was relieved no one called me to the front to sing my solo because I misunderstood the performance date and wondered how many similar stories I would have by the end of this adventure. I can't wait to find out.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Gearing up for the First Trip of the Project (New York City)
I'm getting over a cold but I think the worst is over. At the moment I am getting my thoughts together for the first trip of the project which is New York City. I booked my flight for October 7th and the time will be here before I know it. I have a lot of work to do before I go. I've decided to work the project in such a way that I focus on one part at a time instead of the entire thing at once. With every trip I make, I will focus on the stories, music, costumes, photos, people, interviews and homes surrounding Bidu's life at that time and place. The New York section of Bidu's life will be written and documented first. Here are some things I know about Bidu's life in New York so far:
When Bidu decided to come to New York for the first time, it was 1935. She had already been singing quite a bit in Europe and she had previously worked with the famed conductor, Arturo Toscanini, in a production of Massenet's opera Manon at the Opera Comique in France. Knowing Toscanini lived in New York, she told her husband and manager Giuseppe Danise, that she wanted to visit Toscanini and say hello when she arrived in New York. Bidu had no intention of singing in America at this point. She had been working very hard touring around Europe and hoped for a bit of relaxation and sight seeing. When she arrived in New York and visited Toscanini, he asked her if she would be interested in auditioning for La Damoiselle elue, a piece written by Debussy which he was preparing for a concert at the town hall. She agreed and found an accompanist right away to start coaching the piece. When she came back to audition for the Maestro, he decided, after auditioning many other sopranos for this piece, that she was the one with the ethereal voice he was looking for. Excited to make her debut in America, Bidu accepted and debuted her first concert in America at the Town Hall in New York City.
PLACES TO DOCUMENT
Place # 1 - NYC Town Hall
Place # 2 - Residence of Toscanini in 1935
La Damoiselle elue - Debussy
Stephen Joel Jensen
Teaching English at a company in Germany
Church where I sang my first solo in Europe.
Bidu Sayao and Aurturo Toscanini
An Empty House
Saying Goodbye to Dad