I’m thrilled to announce that I will be singing the soprano solo in Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5, with the Philharmonic Society of Orange County on February 12, as part of the Laguna Beach Music Festival.
This exquisite piece of music was written by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, for cello choir and soprano. The 2 movements, Ária (Cantilena)and Dança (Martelo), are set to Portuguese lyrics. One of the most remarkable characteristics of this work, is the setting of the soprano voice HUMMING during parts for the Cantilena, over the choir of cellos.
Last night, I made my Hollywood Bowl AND Los Angeles Philharmonic debut!
I gotta say, this place was shnazzy. Super fancy soloist dressing rooms, and they also had a snack/tea spread to die for. Add to that 5 of the best young singers I know (3 of us who were in the LA Opera YAP program at some point), and then also add the chauffeur who drove us everywhere… this was truly STAR treatment!
Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy was conducted by Mirga, a lively and delightful young female conductor. She made the rehearsals so easy and fun! The music was fairly easy too (in my part), so this was honestly one of the most relaxed and enjoyable gigs I’ve ever done.
I recorded and produced these two lovely piano pieces. They are among my favorite songs I played as a child.
The part I’m most proud of, is that this isn’t a simple recording of a live performance. I didn’t mic my piano. Rather, I performed the pieces on my midi keyboard, then edited the files and spread them across 3 different sample piano tracks. Then I put a different eq and reverb on each track, to make various frequencies shine. Then I mixed them all together, and slipped-in a couple of finishing plug-ins. I know that’s a lot of jargon, but you get the drift.
It’s incredible what musical training and software capabilities can now create together. I’ve been playing the piano for 26 years, of which 15 were dedicated to intense lessons and competitions. And I can’t tell the difference between a live recording and the mp3s below.
This past weekend I was invited to Florida, to sing in the Deborah Voigt International Voice Competition. From a pool of hundreds of applicants, only 33 were invited to participate in the live rounds.
Singers from around the globe gathered at Vero Beach Opera, where we went through a challenging performance schedule, eventually cutting it down to the final 8 contestants. It’s my huge honor to say that I made it until the very end, and was rewarded with the Louis Lawson Award.
During the competition, I sang through a selection of repertoire in French, Italian, and Russian, including arias from La Traviata (Verdi), Roméo et Juliette (Gounod), and Don Giovanni (Mozart).
Sending out a huge thanks to Vero Beach Opera for hosting the competition, and to my wonderful hosts- who not only were supportive, but celebrated with me the next day by paddle boarding on wild rivers nearby.
I am now in the MOST enviable position for all young singers in the world.
At LA Opera, Placido Domingo himself selects a small number of young singers, and he and the staff mentor and coach them for a period of 1-3 years. To have been selected for this program is not only a huge honor, but also the greatest opportunity yet of my operatic career.
Over the next years, I’ll be learning from the living legends of opera, and occasionally (eek!) even performing with them. In addition to regular repertoire, I’ll also be focusing on the Russian repertoire and language (a particular passion of mine).
Also- this means I get to LIVE in Los Angeles, the capitol of the entertainment industry. I look forward to understanding what makes LA Opera a thriving company, focused on both classical and modern opera today.
Growing up in WA state, there is no higher musical goal than singing with Seattle Opera… … And I made my debut last Sunday.
Over the next weeks, my extended family and childhood mentors will all be coming to see my perform Léïla in The Pearl Fishers by Bizart (sung in French).
You can see from above, that the rehearsal process was an absolute joy. Seattle Opera treats their artists so well! Plus, we have a fantastic artistic team preparing the music with utmost attention to detail- but still being nice when they say “don’t sing flat here.” :-)
We also can’t help but look great in the production with costumes by fashion guru, Zandra Rhodes. (Mostly) She and I talk about the costumes in this sneak-peak below.
The past month, I’ve worked with programmer Keith Kaisershot and artist Samuel Hum to develop an awe-inspiring VR experience. I combined both composition and vocals into 360° surround sound. I really believe this is one of the most incredible ways to experience being inside a voice.
InnovoxVR is an interactive music/art experience inside virtual reality.
It was created during the 2015 mobile VR jam by opera singer/composer Elizabeth Zharoff, programmer Keith Kaisershot, and artist Samuel Hum.
The user appears inside of a dark sphere, which has 12 surrounding vertices. Each vertex corresponds to a unique vocal track. When all tracks play simultaneously, the user hears one voice weaving into a song. The audio projects from each vertex, so that the user is encompassed, and can experiment with auditory perception.
There is no directional movement inside the experience other than turning the head. To trigger a track on, the user taps once on the Gear VR headset. To trigger the track off, the user taps once more. Thus, the user can select different layers of the track, choosing which to hear. We used Unity 4 to develop the experience.
The art perfectly complements the audio, also flowing once a track is triggered. When a vertex is activated, an image resembling a galaxy spirals outwards. As the music intensity increases, the spiral speed also increases, making the entire sphere seem to pulse faster and brighter. Floating creatures also emerge and float around the user. At the end, the creatures and galaxies all explode with light, as the screen fades to white and the music ends.
Reviews=Dread. You wouldn’t believe how much criticism a singer takes in every day, and then returns one hour or day later and presents their heart and soul again, knowing it will once more be picked apart. Of course- when we’re in rehearsals, we know this is meant to just be helpful. At ENO especially, the staff gives everything they can to help the singers be at their best. And we love them for it, and try to take the comments with a smile that shows we really do appreciate their work and careful listening.
But reviews. This kind of criticism- often from people who don’t know what is actually happening behind the scenes- this it the most difficult to take. Sometimes, the critical comments are completely baseless, revealing a deep miscomprehension of a production or singer’s qualities. But, sometimes they are spot-on. Sometimes singers have an off-night, off-moment, or perhaps an off-role, and I have to say: We are more critical of ourselves than any reviewer will ever be. Dreading the bad review coming makes it even more difficult to make it through those tough nights.
I don’t normally read reviews during a performance run, because the negative comments have too much weight on my sensibility. The musical staff that has prepared me knows the production and my voice better than any reviewer. I rely on their comments and my own technique to make each night better.
However- after what I consider a great opening night at the ENO Traviata, one of my friends posted the headline below on my Facebook.
Reviews: wonderful relief, when they acknowledge our hearts’ profound revealings.
Thank you, Kent, for posting this headline. I actually didn’t read past it, for fear of messing up my performance Zen. But the headline made my heart fly. :-)
2 days ago, I had the delight of being a guest performer on BBC Radio 3’s program, In Tune. Suzy Klein interviewed me (she is so easy to talk with!), and I also performed live 3 pieces, accompanied by the marvelous Andy Smith. You can listen to the whole things or just snippets on their website:
Note: this clip will be taken down in 27 days, so listen soon!
First thing I noticed about London: it’s super well-connected!
Wifi everywhere. SIM cards easily obtainable. Lots of public transportation (some of it even provides free wifi).
Second thing I noticed: it feels disturbingly cold. It’s not cold enough to be snowing, but the cold gets down underneath my jacket and scarf, and makes me shiver.
I’m here to sing my very first UK performance: Traviata, with English National Opera. I’ve performed Violetta before, but always in Italian. Many singers don’t like changing languages, but I find it particularly refreshing. I like having an instant, visceral connection to the text in my mother tongue. And while some singers dislike that the new translation changes musical inflection, I respond that this is a good thing- a new way to understand a masterpiece that was written 150 years ago.
While in the area, I intend to do some more networking for video game sound too. I’m really excited by all of the development meet-ups I’ve been finding online, and also for the global game jam coming up. And hopefully some of this will be combined with opera in a couple of projects that I can’t officially announce just yet…