June 25th, 2006


(no subject)

I may not have sung my best today, but the lesson was filled with goodness.

I think circumstance contributed to my subpar singing. Although it feels much better today, I've had an ear infection for the past two or three days which has affected my sleep. I sang at church this morning, and I think singing in the morning tired me more than it would at some other time of day. I fast before Mass, so I finished my first meal of the day only an hour before the lesson. And we worked on a difficult piece that was only partly learned. All these factors contributed.

I didn't really sing poorly. I set a high standard last week, though, to which I didn't live up. The first thing Pollard said, before we started working, was that he was very pleased with last week's lesson. "You rose to a completely different level of singing last week." I can't help but be pleased to hear that.

As we worked on exercises, he raised his eyebrows a couple of times, indicating he liked what he heard. He commented that my support seems much better, much freer, than when I started. He asked if I felt that. Of course I do! Not only am I much more aware of what I'm doing with my breath and placement, it comes much more naturally without having to think about it all the time. On one exercise, Pollard took me further down the scale than he had to date—it felt like F below the bass-clef staff—and seemed quite surprised that I sang the note as freely and resonantly as I did.

After exercises we worked on "Aprite un po' quegli occhi" (Figaro's last aria from Le nozze di Figaro). I told Pollard I hadn't finished working it out yet, but he thought it would be good to work on it anyway. This is a bitch of an aria to learn, both because it feels as though half the opera's words appear on triplets in one fast passage and because it's got a high tessitura. It's been really hard to learn with only a pitch pipe. I tried to listen to my recording off my hard drive, to get a better feel for the aria, but wouldn't you know it's the one track that wouldn't play! I've mostly worked on getting the words in my mouth, since once the words come fluently the rest should fall into place. This paid dividends today. Pollard was (again) very impressed with my preparation. The piece is obviously unlearned, but it was just as obvious that I've done a lot of work on the recitative and am starting to get a grasp of the shape of the aria.

Working on Schubert's "Gute Nacht" next felt anticlimactic. It's hard to come down from the big, forward vocalism of a Figaro aria to the subtlety of a Schubert lied. I was not happy with my inability to produce a gentle, warm, intimate sound. Pollard was pleased with the colors I'm producing, but he confirmed that I was overarticulating the German, lacking a good legato, and sounding tired.

As the lesson came to a close, we started talking about where my voice was heading. We were talking about John Tomlinson, a famous English bass I'd never heard of who specialized in Wagner. I commented that that's probably where I was headed, to singing Wagner and Verdi. Pollard said Verdi yes, but not likely Wagner. My voice is far too lyric for Wagner. I have a big voice, he said, but with a different quality than the cavernous Wagnerian voices. I told him this suits me just fine, since I've never been a huge fan of Wagner's; I'd be perfectly happy making a career out of Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini!

Curiosity got the better of me, and I asked Pollard if he still thought I was destined for tenordom. He was very quick to say, "Not at all!" He added that it's too soon to say with any certainty, that the voice could still head that way, but that he feels I am very much a lyric baritone. This pleases me immensely. I recognize that my career prospects are fewer as a baritone and that my earning potential is much less. I don't mind. I'm obviously not in this for the money. Tenors, especially Wagnerian tenors, are in far higher demand. But I don't particularly like that repertoire, whereas I love the baritone repertoire, and I've always identified with baritones (and mocked tenors).

I asked Pollard if there was anyway to get access during the summer to the Guildhall library, citing the problem I encountered with my recording of Le nozze. I can always ask Tania to help me out, but I would hate to have to ask her (or one of the other 4-5 Guildhall students I know, if I happen to run into them) to come let me in. He said absolutely not, unless…. He's going to inquire about the possibility of my becoming a part-time Guildhall student. This usually requires an audition, but he thinks he could get that waived. This would not only give me access to the library, it would allow me to book practice rooms as well.

He's leaving for Tel Aviv on Thursday to hear a student in his Israeli premiere. Pollard's willing to see me that morning before he leaves, though. He asked if I minded a 9:30 lesson. I told him that, not only did I not mind, it would allow me to queue up early enough for same day tickets at the Coliseum that I might score tickets to Nixon in China. Pollard says that he knows the fellow who runs the ENO and will try to get me a free ticket. If he can't get a free ticket, he's fairly confident he'll be able to get me a £12 ticket in the orchestra stalls, which is a sweet deal.

As I left, I saw a cat curled up by the doorway. "I didn't know you were cat owners." "We weren't until this past week. She's adopted us." He's posted signs throughout the neighborhood (I happened to see one of them on my way to his house today), but in the meantime she has made herself perfectly at home. Pollard says the cat might be pregnant, but the vet thinks it might be best to have her spayed: she's hardly a year old, and giving birth at that age isn't such a good idea. But they haven't decided. I resisted the very strong urge to say that if she did give birth, I'd be happy to adopt one of the kittens. I would be, maybe even two of them, but I don't think I'm in any position to become a cat owner right now. Seeing the cat, though, added one final touch of goodness to a happy lesson.
You can't guard me!

(no subject)

There have been, in my opinion, three marquee match-ups in the World Cup so far.

The first was the Argentina-Netherlands match to determine the winner of Group C. Alas, both teams played überconservatively, and the match ended in a lacklustre nil-nil draw.

The second was yesterday's second-round showdown between Mexico and Argentina. It lived up to its billing. Argentina, by all rights, should have won it at the very end of regulation. The line judge incorrectly ruled the Argentine scorer was offsides. Fortunately, another Argentine placed one of the most perfect kicks I've ever seen in the far upper corner of the goal during the extra period, sending the obnoxious but skilled Mexicans home.

The third is going on right now, Portugal versus the Netherlands. I'm torn. I've picked Portugal to win the Cup in all my pools, but the Netherlands have always been one of my favorite teams. I guess as long as it's an exciting game, I'll be happy with whoever advances. Right now Portugal have a 1-0 lead two-thirds of the way through the first half, but the Netherlands have an explosive offense and one of the best defenses I have ever seen. (I believe this is the first goal they've given up in competitive play in a couple of years.) This game is far from over.

There are no other marquee match-ups in this round. That's not to say the games won't be exciting to watch. This is the World Cup, and at this level everyone brings their A game.
Falstaff--Eww!  The reek of a lime-kiln!

(no subject)

What a(n ugly) match! It was exciting, but mostly for the wrong reasons.

The first half was quality: two of the best teams battling it out for the chance to play England. The second half resembled more what you'd expect to see from soccer fans than soccer players: head butts, forearms to the face, kicks to the chest, tackles from behind in retribution for poor sportsmanship, two-handed shoves, and a body slam. Tied the record for yellow cards (16) and set a new record for red cards (4). The players on (and off) the pitch lost their tempers, but the referee lost control of the game early on.

The quality of play at this World Cup has been high, but the officiating has been the worst I have ever seen. I've complained about the officiating in USA-Italy and USA-Ghana, but it was even worse tonight and in Australia-Croatia (where one player actually received a third yellow card before he was sent off). FIFA really needs to make some changes to improve its refereeing.

One of the memorable images from this match was two red-carded players, one Dutch and the other Portuguese, sitting together on the sidelines commiserating about the poor officiating.

Now Portugal advance to play England. Normally, I would pick Portugal—I think they are a better team than England, who additionally are not playing up to their potential and are without a couple of key players. However, Portugal will be without two of their top players, disqualified because of red cards. And England will be keyed up to beat Scolari's team, as Scolari knocked them out of the last World Cup and, a few weeks ago, turned down the opportunity to coach them. It should be an interesting game.