Saturday, July 24, 2010

First day in Sweden

As I look back over the hundreds of trips I have taken over the course of my life: short and long; alone or with friends or family; by car, bus, bicycle, train, boat, plane and more, this one really does rank among the top 3 crappiest of all time trips!

I was supposed to take a the airport bus from Marble Arch in London (which was close to where I was staying) to Stansted Airport. I got to exactly where I was supposed to be with 10 minutes to spare but the bus stop was out of service. I moved up the street thinking it must stop at the next bus stop but decided to double check with the concierge at a nearby hotel. Well, I have to tell you that this was the beginning of my loss of all faith in the ability of the English to be orderly, straightforward, or in any way coherent. Every person gave me a different answer, everyone was sure their answer was right, and yet, you guessed it, not one of the answers was correct!

Fast forward about 30 minutes when I have now run around and around in circles trying to find the (expletive) bus, asking strangers and street-cleaners, bus drivers and tour bus operators if they have any (expletive) idea where the bus stops, when I finally land up discovering that it doesn't stop at Marble Arch at all. Haha, the joke's on me: it only goes from Victoria Coach Station where I should have just gone in the first place. I grab a taxi (and anyone who knows me knows that I do NOT believe in taxis), wind my way to Victoria coach station, trip out of the taxi narrowly missing a fall flat on my face and race inside. I wait 15 nervous minutes but finally one does show up. Once we pile on, American, French, Polish, you name it, of course we then hit Friday afternoon traffic, then we hit M25 traffic, and so on. Well, with literally seconds to spare, we arrive at the airport, I locate my check-in area, as politely as I can ask if I can cut the line (only the German couple was resentful and nasty), manage to hurl my bag at the lady at the ticket counter and book it to my gate. Having bad-mouthed Ryan Air to no end, I must say they did manage to handle this relatively well. Shaking and disheveled I got on the plane... but I did make it!

Today was better. A lovely student of my teacher's has generously put me up in his sweet little flat in Gothenburg and is taking excellent care of me in a city where I feel more like a stranger than I did even recently in Botswana. This morning he made us breakfast and then we took the dog for a walk in a lovely park by a lake. After that he took me on a walking tour of the city, passing through Haga and the downtown area, and of course by the opera house as well. Because he works there we were able to go in and practice for about an hour, then we walked back through town and home and are now relaxing before dinner.

It's frustrating not being able to speak the language at all (although now I know a few choice words thanks to an excellent Swedish film we watched last night - probably not the best idea to repeat them here). I'm not very used to being somewhere where I really cannot communicate at all, but at least everyone speaks English, which I don't like but is indeed very helpful. The place is beautiful, very, very clean, orderly and everything functions well. Of special note was the (one and only) state-run liquor store... yep, you heard right. No privately run wine shops or liquor stores in the entire country. Funny place. But I'm so excited to be here and tomorrow we leave for Tjorn which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful parts of Sweden. I will take lots of pictures although without my camera chord I sadly won't be able to share any of them with you until I get back to New York.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

From across the pond

Well I've got just a few minutes before I head out to meet an old friend for dinner. We met two and a half years ago when I was working in London with Diva Opera and he was working as a lawyer.

Here's a picture of me as Hansel with Rebecca Hodgetts as Gretel (photo courtesy of Christian Steinhausen)

After going through our various personal histories we realized that we had actually graduated Columbia University the very same day, had stood on the quad together during the ceremony and then met seven years later. What a funny world. He has been in Iraq working as a JAG for the last year, so I am so eager to hear what his experiences were like.

My trip here so far has been very unoperatic (save for a failed attempt to go and see The Duchess of Malfi at English National Opera because it's completely sold out! Off to Sweden tomorrow for six days of intense singing, then back for another weekend in London, one of my very favorite cities in the whole world!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Heading to Europe

Tomorrow I leave for Europe, London first for a few days, then a week in Sweden, then two days back in London before heading back home. As many of you already know thanks to Gale Martin's lovely write-up, I'm also a singer and have recently gone through a change from mezzo to soprano. The change has been relatively easy (no huge identity crises, very little weeping, a feeling that not only does the new rep really does sit well in my voice but that the characters are also individuals I'm very interested in getting to know, etc), but there is still so much growth and development left to be done. My wonderful and soulful teacher, Jean-Ronald (Ron) LaFond, who is the author of an incredibly thoughtful and brilliant blog on vocal technique called "Kashudo: The Way of the Singer" is giving a three day masterclass for just five of his students on the lovely island of Tjorn, and then will teach a few more days in Gothenburg City. Sadly I won't get to see beautiful Stockholm this time around, but it's still early in life and of course I will just have to wait until another time to visit there.

I hope to have internet access and keep you up to date on the goings on over there, but in the meantime please do excuse me if I'm slightly less active here and on Twitter, as I spend a week devoted to the passion I spent years trying to push aside and am now delighting in discovering.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lamar's Third - and final - Diary Entry

Hello Kala & The Opera Insider community!

This was my last week with the Washington National Opera Institute for young singers and I must say it was just fabulous! The last week with the Opera Institute began on Sunday, for me and three other students. On Friday July 2nd Cindy Oxberry and Christiane DeVries Boles pulled three students and myself into a room to ask us to perform at a VIP 4th of July celebration at the U.S Government Printing Office building in Washington DC. We were told to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” and “America The Beautiful”. Lamar and Cindy Oxberry are pictured below.

Our performance on Sunday was wonderful! Our feedback from the audience there was all positive and it was a chance for me to network even more. I met a couple of very important people including GPO’s very own Bob Tapella. We were invited to view the fireworks on the rooftop, which overlooked the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. It was most definitely a rewarding experience for me and the other Opera Institute students.

From the left: Jonah Hopton-tenor, Morgan Middleton-mezzo/soprano, Lamar Gaskins-baritone, Hannah Hagerty-soprano

On Monday Washington National Operas very own Aundi Marie Moore visited the opera institute to give a masterclass. I found her to be one of my favorites along with Angela Mannino. We started off week 3 with a period movement class which included yoga, and we also learned various breathing techniques. On Tuesday we had an opportunity to travel to Wolf Trap to watch Wolf Trap Operas production of “Il Turco in Italia/ The Turk in Italy”, where my previous masterclass instructor, Angela Mannino played the role of Fiorilla. The opera was fabulous! During intermission we stumbled upon Evelyn Lear who is a very famous mezzo-soprano in the opera world! It was an honor having the chance to meet such an inspirational and successful artist. On Wednesday, we had another busy schedule, which included another masterclass which was given by Sarah Hoover. That Friday we had a workshop which was directed by Washington National Operas very own Christina Scheppelman, Director of Artistic Operations. The workshop was titled “The Professional World Workshop” and at the end we had an hour-long Q&A session which was amazing! Later that evening we had our Opera Scenes Recital which was held at American University, Katzen Arts Center in Washington DC. My opera scene was the duet between Guglielmo and Dorabella, “Il core vi dono,” from Mozart's, Cosi fan tutte. It was an overall successful recital and everyone was pleased!

This picture shows a few of Washington National Opera Institute students with Evelyn Lear.

We ended our last day at the Opera Institute with a grand finale recital which was held at the John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts in Washington DC on July 11th. Our ending selection was the 'drinking song' or "Libiamo" from Verdi’s La Traviata. It was a perfect way to end the day!

The Washington National Opera Institute for young singers has truly changed my mindset as a young singer. I have been trained by the finest instructors at the Institute and I am better prepared for what college has to offer me. I have learned that I can accomplish so much within three weeks! But most importantly I have had so much fun doing it all! It has been a rough ride but its all been worth it! I highly recommend this program to any fellow young singers who are interested in pursuing a career in Opera.

From left to right: Hannah Hagerty-soprano, Lamar Gaskins-baritone, Kanysha Williams-soprano

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Classical Revolution and OperaMission teamed up for salon evening in NYC

I had the pleasure of attending an amazing evening of music last night in Manhattan. After a red-eye flight back from a paradise far, far away called home (Honolulu, Hawaii) and my body still six hours behind the rest of the gang at the comfy Gershwin Hotel, I was up for pretty much anything. What I found behind the red velvet curtain was even better. About 30 musicians (predominantly pianists and violinists of course, though the odd bassoon did make an appearance, occasionally moonlighting as a viola or cello) lounged on couches and propped themselves up on (very decent) folding chairs in a cozy, dark-orange room at the back of the lobby while munching on salads and sipping Merlot. A joint effort by Classical Revolution and Operamission produced an evening of firsts for many. Already building a following in several large cities around the world (New York, Berlin, Sydney, San Francisco), Classical Revolution may be setting the stage for a completely new way to enjoy classical music.

According to its mission statement, Classical Revolution exists "to present concerts involving both traditional and modern approaches while engaging the community by offering chamber music performances in highly accessible venues, such as bars and cafes, and collaborating with local musicians and artists from various styles and backgrounds." This is not a terribly new concept, of course, and we see opera and classical music enthusiasts seeking out their fix in the oddest of places with increasing ease and comfort (Opera on Tap, steadily building more and more chapters around the country is but one example). What they don't mention, however, is that there's no rehearsal... not at all. Most of the players have never met each other let alone performed together.

Though a few of us present last night agreed that actually the evening would have made more sense and flowed more smoothly had there been an order of performance and someone actually playing a more official role as emcee, the impromptu nature of the performances was charming in its own way. I did wonder why the excellent Operamission was involved, however, given that the evening was solely instrumental save for one brief interlude for two Turina songs by yours truly about halfway through the evening. I had a couple people in the audience mention to me afterwards that they wished there had been more singing. I assume that the organizers (possibly rightly) assume that if they opened it up to vocal-piano duos that many would simply come with their audition rep. However, if they set parameters such as asking only for art songs or set a time limit for each performing duo, it could only add to the overall evening, certainly.

Raisa interviews up-and-coming baritone, Liam Bonner

One of our Local Correspondents from Maryland, Raisa Massuda, has loved opera ever since she was a little kid. When she had a chance to interview a young up and coming baritone who recently made his debut with the Washington National Opera, she jumped at the chance. Here is what Liam Bonner had to say to her:

R: What was the first opera that you saw live?

L.B: Actually, I was in an opera before I saw one.

R: Oh, my goodness!

L.B: Isn’t that crazy?

R: Yes!

L.B: I sang in the Pittsburgh Opera Chorus in my sophomore year. Actually, I should take that back, I guess technically then the very first opera that I saw was Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites in my freshman year in college. It has a very small baritone role in it, [but] I was blown away by this piece and it’s absolutely one of my favorites to this day, even though there is not really a role for me.

R: I have a funny question: if you could only keep one opera for the humanity, which one would it be?

L.B: The Marriage of Figaro - hands down. I think it’s the most perfect opera, it’s got everything and when it’s done right and well, it’s a very real and honest story. I think Mozart is a god, he just exhibits genius there. There are days I could be having the worst day ever, and if I just listen to a little bit of Mozart, I am completely out of my mood. He is good for the soul.

R: For aspiring artists, what should an opera singer never be afraid of?

L.B: Being themselves. Whatever you have to offer, you have to trust that not everyone is going to like you. It’s art, so it’s subjective, and somebody is going to love you, and somebody is going to hate you. And if you get wrapped up in that, you end up not being confident enough or secure enough in what you have to offer and what you have to say.

I think some of the most successful singers, even if they are not technically perfect and all this sort of thing, it’s real and honest and that’s why they become successful. You know, you look at somebody outside of opera, like Frank Sinatra. He did not have the most beautiful voice in the world, in my opinion. Some people may think he did. But there is something about him as a performer that I love and I love listening to him. It’s him, and nobody else sounds like him. I think those opera singers who are world famous throughout the years are famous because they sing with their own voice, they have a very distinct sound that nobody else has and they don’t sound like anybody else or try to be like anybody else.

Mr. Bonner shares his operatic plans for this season, which include Donizetti’s Don Pascuale with Opera New Jersey, Weill’s Royal Palace at the Bard Music Festival, Britten’s Peter Grimes with Houston Grand Opera and he'll also be covering a couple of principal roles at the Metropolitan Opera.

“I guess, in the long term in this business I have no desire to be famous” he adds. “I just would like to work consistently and be able eventually to get married and have a family, support them and do what I love doing. You know, at this point, I have been very fortunate that a lot of things have happened in a very short amount of time. If I woke up tomorrow and the wave I am riding came crashing down, I would know that I’ve gone as far as I could go and done everything that I possibly could to be successful in this business and I would not regret a thing.”

I truly hope that this interview will be some kind of revelation for those readers who mostly go to the opera “for the big names”. Please do not let yourselves be led or rather, misled, by prestige. Let your passion for music lead you instead. Marvel on your way to new horizons, enjoy each and every one of your discoveries and do not deprive yourselves of the miracles that they bring into your lives. You might be up for quite a few surprises. Seriously.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Prelude to Performance - still time to catch it!

Another one of our fantastically supportive members, Meche Kroop, is always on the ball and reminds us that in New York City we don't have to be starved of opera during the sweltering heat of July.


The generosity of Martina Arroyo's Foundation and her "Prelude to Performance" has made it possible for opera-starved New Yorkers to have some significant pleasure in the dry month of July. The young people she fosters did an excellent job with both programs at Hunter College this weekend; if you hurry you can still catch a performance or two.

A charming double-bill of a rarely performed Donizetti opera "Rita" and the well-know "Gianni Schicchi" of Puccini yielded abundant laughter as these young artists in the early stages of their careers gave their all to get across the comic style, perfect for summer listening. I will not give credit to any one singer since the cast changes at every performance. Still, let it be said that all these young stars-in-the-making shone brightly. Props to Matthew Lata for his clever stage direction and to Charles Caine for the dazzling costumes. Scenery was simple but effective.

And what about the delightful "Die Zauberflote"? Scenery was confined to some drapes and a bench but the fine costumes, again by Charles Caine, lent a major degree of authenticity, as did the lighting by Brian Barnett. The ensemble worked well together and the magic came across. The three ladies harmonized beautifully and the Papageno (well, I will have to credit one singer) of Scott Lindroth brought down the house with his creamy baritone and comic presence.

So, if you are hungry or thirsty for opera, get yourself to Hunter College. You will leave sated, laughing and happy!

"Opera Grows in Brooklyn" take 5

One of the most amazing things I have discovered in this whole process to bring The Opera Insider to life is the inherent willingness of people to give of themselves and their time. From people who support us simply by spreading the word about TOI to those who spend hours upon hours helping us put together Excel spreadsheets and Press Releases (thank you, Paulo and Rachel!), we know we would be nowhere without you. Here's just one more example. Going out of his way, I'm quite sure, a good friend, Tim Ribchester, agreed to trek all the way from Philly to Dumbo, Brooklyn in the pouring rain to review a performance for us last weekend. Here are his thoughts on "Opera Grows in Brooklyn." I for one do not intend to miss another installment of this remarkable series!!!


My assignment to visit the inauspiciously named DUMBO area in Brooklyn began less than auspiciously itself; at least a month’s worth of built-up Philly deluge soaked me and my fellow Megabus passengers as we waited in vain for the bus. Not the ideal state in which to be attending an opera, let alone reviewing one, and certainly not in the trendy environs of the Galapagos Art Space, round the corner from Fulton Landing where patrons of Grimaldi’s legendary pizzeria and the Bargemusic chamber concerts enjoy soaring views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. DUMBO is clearly a neighborhood where anything goes, not so much an alternative lifestyle district as a cultural blank slate. The Galapagos Art Space auditorium, in a warehouse-like building near the riverbank, evokes its island namesake with reflecting pools that wind their way snugly around the tables where, jazz-club style, audiences can order food and drinks while enjoying the show. I quickly ordered a glass of Malbec, which tends to transport me far beyond worldly annoyances like drenched socks, and listened with curiosity to the emcee double act of Matthew Gray (American Opera Projects) and Anne Ricci (Opera on Tap) as they introduced the show with the kind of dry wit that Philadelphians like me tend to be starved of, whether we know it or not.

The idea of enjoying booze with your bel canto, and thus promoting the free flow of opera in venues where one would not expect to find it, is central to Opera on Tap’s mission; American Opera Projects, meanwhile, has the more sober function of finding and funding cutting-edge material by operatic composers, performers and producers. Tonight they were partnering to present the fifth installment of “Opera Grows in Brooklyn,” a series begun in March 2009 to promote the borough and Galapagos in particular as an operatic “breeding ground.” It looks on paper like a very fruitful partnership and that is exactly what came across in practice, with the eclectic and sometimes challenging musical offerings being beautifully framed by the contemporary space and the relaxed, social atmosphere.

There were three parts to the evening, roughly 30 minutes each. First up was the theme of “Brooklyn Poets – Past and Present,” juxtaposing two settings of Walt Whitman for soprano and cello with three poems by current Brooklyn grade schoolboys Keanu Stowe, Tristan Regist and Tyler Forsythe. The Whitman settings were sung with fierce theatrical intelligence and flawless voice by Adrienne Danrich, whose astonishing range of expression was well paired with the warm, deft cello playing of Hamilton Berry. The first setting by Daniel Felsenfeld was hypnotic, honey-like; the second, by Andrew Staniland, much more percussive, with Danrich offering a sometimes frightening portrayal of madness while still remaining fully in control of her technique. In contrast to these gritty, fragrant sounds, the settings of the children’s poetry by Gilda Lyons had a sing-song quality, with minimalist and neo-baroque ostinati in the intricate piano parts giving the poems’ inevitable humor room to hit home. Kelly Horstead’s playing was spirited and stylish, though hampered by a buzz coming from either the instrument itself or the amp setup. Mezzo-soprano Nicole Mitchell sang with plenty of humor and verve, if not quite the interpretive resources commanded by Danrich.

The second “act” was a song cycle, Removable Parts, concerning – oh, yes – voluntary amputation, which composer Corey Dargel explained as inspired by his desire to portray unconventional lifestyles in a sympathetic light (as well, in a surreal aside, as the mystery of the recipe for Campari). He also gave credit for the cycle’s existence to the inspiration of his collaborator Kathleen SupovĂ©, whose well-drilled piano technique was as much an oblique match for her softcore dominatrix outfit as it was at odds with Dargel’s hipster couture and lazy indie-rock vocals. At one point SupovĂ© paused to don a set of shiny blue metal finger-covers, giving the piano a timbre something between a harpsichord and a castanet, only to fling them at Dargel during a song in which he insults her playing. Around this point, a work that had first struck me as quirky, almost cute in its way, began to sound tired, as though the kinky eroticism of each text became increasingly hamstrung by the repetitive, downcast musical style. The sixth song, with a sensitive piano part reminiscent of Satie or Bill Evans, helped to alleviate this, but the final number was an unfortunate instance of an audience participation stunt gone wrong. An amputee named John had evidently written a letter of complaint on hearing about the project, which Dargel promptly set to music. Dargel then invited the author (bizarrely present!) to stand for the audience. “John” declined, creating a suddenly awkward atmosphere, which the song itself, with the most emphatic piano gestures of the evening drowning the text, did nothing to alleviate. The cycle was an arresting, original experience for the most part, but for me fell well short of its goal of being “sympathetic” art.

To follow this with Daniel Felsenfeld’s opera scenes from The Bloody Chamber was clever programming. In another context the subject matter -- Angela Carter’s “feminist” retelling of the Duke Bluebeard story with its generous helping of lusty misogyny -- might have been distasteful enough to distract from the musical design. Here it emerged more than anything as a return to the kind of conceptual unity and coherence that Dargel’s song cycle seemed to be trying to undo. The diligent conducting of Jennifer Peterson highlighted the diamond clarity of the score, which, given the setting of Paris in the 1900s, was aptly haunted by echoes of Ravel, Stravinsky and Brahms. Felsenfeld’s approach was otherwise typical of much contemporary American chamber opera, with tonal, polytonal and atonal harmonies; wandering, naturalistic vocal phrases usually governing the dramatic structure; and the occasional dominance of an instrumental ostinato in passages of suspense. Baritone Ross Benoliel exhibited textual clarity and a creepily understated approach to his character’s sleaze, nevertheless involving himself fearlessly in the more explicit erotic moments, while mezzo-soprano Amanda Villegas lent solid support in the tiniest of roles. The musical highlight of the evening, however, fell to soprano Indre Viskontas (playing an opera singer-turned-trophy wife), whose bell-like timbre could have used more variation, and whose winsome stage presence was almost too consistently luminous for a work this dark; but, the fictional “aria” she sings at the work’s center, while her husband lasciviously worships and disrobes her body, was an episode of stunning theater (credit to stage director Sarah Stern) and stunning musical beauty, evoking ethereal textures from the French music and art of the period.

Perhaps we no longer look for real closure in art, and yet, for all the great virtues of accessibility and informality exemplified by projects such as Opera Grows in Brooklyn, perhaps art still needs to be “art,” worshipped and slowly disrobed, as fiction within fiction if necessary, to unleash its full potential. These questions buzzed in my mind as I finished my second malbec and joined an energized crowd of young opera-lovers (and, no doubt, converts) spilling out into the iridescent Brooklyn night.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Musaic Concert Series - Mixing Genres to Promote Opera

When a good friend of mine told me she was going to be singing in an electronic opera, I felt lucky that the news was not disseminated face-to-face where she most certainly would have seen me raise my eyebrows in suspicion. I’m all for trying new things in opera, really I am, but this one I thought could end up being a bit nouveau-experimental. But being the very supportive friend I am, I decided I would smilingly go along anyway… I mean who doesn’t love the Lower East Side on a sweltering Monday night (think oppressive subway air, Chinatown crowds, and weekend garbage)? But hey, anything that supports a charity is pretty likely to make me give it a go. In this case, the event was part of a four-act evening in support of “To write love on her arms” (TWLOHA), an organization that exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.

When you walk into Crash Mansion on Bowery, honestly the last thing you think about is opera. Not that it’s a particularly dingy or questionable joint in the least, but it just isn’t the place you’d expect to hear, well, that kind of music. But as part of an evening showcasing four eclectic types of music, it made total sense. The whole event was the brainchild of soprano Caroline Selia, Founder of the Musaic Concert Series, an organization that smears the lines between genres to see what exciting new music can be created. Here you see Caroline in one of her fabulous moments on stage.

This was only the second event she had ever put together (the first was in December 2009 which received rave reviews), but what a resounding success it was! The evening was divided into four “acts.” The first two were presentations by singer-songwriter Josie Diels and a three-person funk band Razi-El (who were amazing!) while the last highlighted the mesmerizing voices of Isaac and Thorry Koren, otherwise known as The Kin, an Australian brother-band. The third act, however, was most certainly the highlight of the evening… and I’m not just saying that, promise!

The mini-electronica opera, Wednesday Before Last, composed by Kristen Hever with lyrics by Royce Vavrek, follows the lives of six people as they variously discover their own weaknesses and those of their life partners, betray one another, fall in love, decide they’d rather “swing the other way,” or otherwise generally realize that what they thought they knew their reality to be actually changed on the … Wednesday before last. Bass-baritone David Crawford and mezzo Kara Cornell, for my money, were the most accomplished and electrifying singers on stage. It wasn’t just their voices that captivated but their stage presence, their openness, their complete conviction in every movement they made and note they sang. Rounding out the cast were Dan Radzikowski, Maurice Parent, and Katherine Cardin, who each gave powerful performances as well. Caroline Selia herself also sang and wowed with her glittering, pitch-perfect soprano. None of it could have come off as perfectly as it did, however, without the expert guidance of producer and sound engineer Daniel Wyatt, who we never actually saw but whose mix beats provided a rock solid foundation for the piece.

Though the piece was composed as an opera and is sung by opera singers, it more closely approximates a cross-over piece, vacillating between moments when a rich operatic sound is completely right and other moments when the stronger, more strident sounds of a musical theater voice seem more appropriate. That didn’t bother me at all, though at first I thought it might. The two genres blended together seamlessly, hovering over the continuous stream of calmly – and sometimes even hauntingly - harmonic electronic sounds with reassuring clarity.

I commend Caroline on a brilliant idea and flawless execution. Combining genres and encouraging people to experience the differences in music all in one night and in one place, together, is a genius idea and one that bears further exploration. I commend her further on finding a resoundingly impressive cast, and look forward to hearing what’s in store at her next event on September 23rd, 2010. I’m sure she will continue to put together remarkable evenings such as this one and in support of many more important causes.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lamar's Second Diary Entry

Hello again, I just finished week 2 at Placido Domingo's, Washington National Opera Institute for young singers. Things have really been busy this week. We started off this week with a wonderful masterclass with Elysabeth Muscat from Peabody Conservatory, She had some tips on breathing techniques and what the audition processes will be like for college. Tuesday, we had a workshop on Resume Writing, learning all of the pro's and con's of resumes. Thursday, We had another workshop with Washington National Opera, Education Director, Bruce Taylor on further developing your character. For that workshop we had to pick a character from an opera and answer a series of questions such as "What is important to your character, or what does your character need, or what is a significant event in your character's past?, What motivates your character to sing the aria? Why?, and What can you show the audience what your character is thinking or one of his/her personality characteristics?". The workshop with Bruce Taylor was amazing and I definitely benefited his workshop! We had our Italian Art Song Recital Friday (July 2nd), which was another rewarding experience. Washington National Opera Institute had 30 fabulous performers "wow" the audience!

Last week June 24th, I had a chance to meet and speak with First Lady of The United States, Michelle Obama and First Lady Of Russia, Svetlana Medvedeva. Michelle Obama requested for a performance at the Duke Ellington School of The Arts.

The opera workshop class presented, Act 1, Scene 1 and 2 of George Gershwin's opera "Porgy and Bess". There were other performances from the Dance Department, Instrumental and Vocal Music Department. She is such an amazing person and so kind! I really hope to meet her again!

Next week at the Opera Institute there will be many exciting things! We have two very important recitals coming up! But you will hear about that next week!

Enjoy & Best Wishes!