Monthly Archives: February 2015

the Reality of Reviews

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. :-)

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/reviews/la-traviata-english-national-opera-review-elizabeth-zharoff-is-a-delight-from-start-to-finish-10036148.html

 

In Tune, BBC Radio 3

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:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b050xp4x

Note: this clip will be taken down in 27 days, so listen soon!

Global Game Jam 2015

Me, Luke, Rob, and Joe (Mark's taking the picture!)
Me, Luke, Rob, and Joe (Mark’s taking the picture!)

This is a little overdue, but I’ve been super busy with ENO Traviata rehearsals!

Global Game Jam is the biggest game hackathon in the world, as you might have guessed from the name. I’d originally intended to do it remotely with a team from Silicon Valley, but found out that the rules required participants to be onsite. Luckily, I’ve met some awesome and smart and ridiculous Indie Devs in London, so I asked a couple if they’d like to team up.

The theme was announced Friday at 6:00PM: “What do we do now?”

For the next few hours, our team brainstormed, and finally decided to approach the “we” part from an unusual angle: dissociative identity disorder, or multiple personality disorder.

The game is set inside of a long corridor, symbolizing a hypnotherapy session. Like actual treatment for this mental condition, the goal is to put the pieces of the personality back together. Each room has a part of the personality, which we based on trends and research in DID. The personality piece needs an item or series of motions to help it move past a particularly critical moment in time, at which point it is then “solved.”

We decided to make each room completely black, save for the occasional significant object (like a teddy bear). This, combined with exact audio positioning from Visisonics, increased the impression that everything was really happening inside the player’s mind. Players use sound to locate objects they can’t otherwise see, or approach invisible characters.

The biggest chunk of audio work was actually the voice overs. We made all of the rooms/personalities the same female character, but at different periods of life. So- I recorded 8 different characters. Some I edited to be lower/higher, but most were just me and a mic, and a rather surprised escort. My favorite to record was probably the angry woman, because she yells and curses so much… I just don’t normally do that! It felt strangely liberating. You can listen to some of the voices below.

I used the same musical theme throughout the game. It appears in the music box (see below), radio, and end scene. I’d like to also have it be hummed somewhere in the future.

Overall, I think we accomplished tons during 48 hours. That said- there’s lot I would change. I think that I went too sappy on the end scene, and also perhaps too dark in the rooms. But it IS a heavy subject, and I was hoping for some sort of balance. Also- I had to complete the script in one night… not an easy task. You can listen to the over-sappy end scene below. ;-)

Sending out a huge thanks to Joe Bain, Robert Ramsay, Luke Thompson, and Mark Backler for working on this with me. Guys- I really hope we make a more finished version. I think this could go somewhere good.