Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I turned these in for my finals:

Hope I don't get crucified again...

March 15th: A serious operetta?

Sunday’s performance of Lehár’s Das Land des Lächlens attempted to give depth to one of the lightest musical genres. Unfortunately, a serious, bittersweet operetta is like anyone who has ever been in a Seth Rogen comedy attempting drama: despite the talent of the cast, something is left desired.
The operetta opens with an introduction to our heroine Lisa. There’s a party, and the scene is light and happy. But, as soon as it began, drama comes in: she is in love with a Chinese prince, Sou-Chong. There is no background, only lovers singing to each other. Soon, she decides to marry Prince Sou-Chong and return with him to China in time for the second act, leaving her suitor Count Gustav von Pottenstein behind in Vienna. I might be too much of a literalist, but this seemed quick, even for opera. Of course, once Lisa is in China, she is unhappy, and jealous that her husband has to marry other women, even if it is only for show. Lisa’s suitor comes to China, only to fall in love with the prince’s sister, Princess Mi, sing a duet while she removes an article of clothing per verse, and leave her to return to Vienna with Lisa. Isn’t that how it always goes? But wait, this is an operetta? Where are the Shakespearean twists and turns, or the Gilbert and Sullivan tounge-in-cheek attitude? In the end, Prince Sou-Chong and Princess Mi are heartbroken, yet the prince sings a song about how he must always smile, for it is the Chinese custom.
The ending is not one of marriages, foiled plots, and happiness: no one is happy. And yet, because everything seems so rushed despite a nearly three hour run time, and there is little development on how the characters feel, everything seems superficial. The drama has no time to develop. This is typical of operettas, but so is a generally happy ending, which Das Land des Lächlens lacks. Which leaves this viewer in a confused state. Perhaps the Viennese enjoy bittersweet endings, but this American had not been this puzzled since Jim Carrey started taking on dramatic roles: not bad, but unexpected within the genre.

Concert Report: Die Tote Stadt

When asked if I wanted to see Erich Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt, I accepted, not knowing anything about the opera. My opera knowledge still is embarrassingly limited: I had seen my first opera outside of college productions only a month and a half earlier. However, I had been told at home to take advantage of being able to see a different opera every night of the week, and I would be foolish to not branch out and see something new and unheard of, at least to me.
After a quick Wikipedia consult and an iTunes purchase, I was ready to prepare myself. I consulted RCA’s 1974 recording, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf, with Carol Neblett, Rene Kollo, and Hermann Prey. I was taken aback by the music. I had always felt that with other operas, the music (specifically, music of anyone besides the singer) usually was second-place in the production. Korngold had a much fuller orchestra, more typical of Wagner and Strauss. Unlike Wagner, however, I found myself actually liking the music.
I went to the Staatsoper on March 28th to hear Angela Denoke and Klaus Florian Vogt perform the opera I eagerly anticipated seeing for the first time. The opening in the Temple of Memories was what I expected: a dead room, with pictures haunting the place. It wasn’t until Paul started hallucinating that I was surprised. Things were done on that stage that I had no idea could even happen. Singers were climbing and dancing behind the stage. There was what appeared to be a mirror reflecting the stage, only to turn out to be a double stage behind the first where Paul’s hallucination with his dead wife took place. Frank climbs on top of a 2-dimensional house and taunts his friend in the dream. It was like watching staging meets figure skating: everything was smooth, effortless, and made me want to try it at home wearing socks on a hardwood floor. My perceptions on what could physically happen on a stage (and, because of this, time and space entirely) were totally changed. This is obviously something that an audio recording lacks. While one can tell what’s happening just by listening to the music, this staging made so much of a difference.
While the recording I consulted was fantastic, and indeed the one recommended to me, I thought the performers surpassed my expectations. While some of that was definitely related to the excitement of seeing a live performance, the two leads are incredibly demanding. I heard many high As and Bbs from Paul, who is onstage and singing for nearly the entire opera. The size of the orchestra also plays a part in the demand of the roles: the orchestra that so attracted me to the music is much larger than other opera orchestras. To sing a wide range over a much fuller orchestra for over two hours is incredibly impressive.
In researching the opera, I learned that audiences so anticipated Korngold’s latest opera that a double premiere had to be arranged, with opening performances in Hamburg and Cologne on December 4th, 1920. The opera became extremely popular and was performed worldwide, until a Nazi ban pushed Die tote Stadt out of view until recently. The opera must have found the perfect audience during the time of the premiere: Die tote Stadt is about a man’s reluctance to stop grieving for his dead wife and holding her image sacred in his “Temple of Memories,” his realization that this hold on the past will only lead to unhappiness and madness, and his acceptance and moving on and out of Bruges. For an audience that remembered all too well the horrors of WWI, this must have resonated deep inside everyone. I hope that this opera doesn’t fall into further obscurity, and that recent revivals bring it into a place that it deserves.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I think I've posted this before:

But I keep on stumbling across it.

Old assignment from high school:

Vignette: Fuzz

My family’s hair is all different. My mum started going grey when I was born. Scotty has greasy boy hair. My hair was stick-straight brown until one day, bam, it curled up away from me. Eli had the prettiest hair, especially for a boy, browns and reds and golds, and a funny patch of white on the top of his head. We used to joke about it, about how he was dropped on his head, there, when he was a baby. Then he came home, mom in tow, with his hair dyed, a uniform shade of brown we forget easily.

My dad has duck fluff. An undefined color, grey and black and white and blue, and his scalp shines through the fluff, like the downy pale of the chicks you hatch in kindergarten. Down that barely keeps his head warm and always makes him feel like he needs a haircut, running his hands over his head and expecting something to get tangled in.

I suppose that if someone were to cut off all my hair, and it would never grow back again, that I would remember what it felt like to brush it out of my face, long after everyone else forgot what color it was. Was it red? Black? they would ask as I’d walk by, head round and shiny, feeling tenfold what the weather was, having the rain drip right down the back of my shirt, with no hair to stop it from curving down my head. I barely remember my dad with his thick hair. It would disappear each round, and grow back each time, until one time it didn’t. It just stayed fluffy.

There is a picture on our fridge, of my dad when he had hair, right about the ice-maker. It is small, about the size of a postage stamp. His face is caught, surprised by the glare of the flash. I wonder if the man in the picture knows the man outside, with the fuzz. I imagine the photo’s face changing for my dad, in instant recognition, breaking into a smile when my dad goes to get a drinking, and ask him who does his hair.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sitting in the dark.

Won't turn on the lights. Heart is racing too much to stand up again.

Ten minutes ago. It feels like it just happened. Mary Kate and Lorena sit on her bed. I'm across.

I mean, they must not have shot someone.
Yea, I mean. Even if there were no fatalities.
Yea, I heard the caps on the floor. Thats how I knew it wasn't a firecracker. I was like, holy shit, there's shells.

Helmut calls. It's going to be fine. He tells us to stay in. That our landlord will come.

Twenty minutes ago. We sit on the bed. I'm listening to "Die Tote Stadt." Lorena and MK are laughing. Loudly. We can hear everything outside.

Aufstanden! Aufstanden!
We're down. Knees sliding across the floor. I slam our laptops shut. "Gluck, das mir verlieb."

It echoed. It's not fireworks.
I heard shells.
Fireworks cackle. Fireworks push the air.

There's a hush across the room.

Can we take a shot or something?
Oh, absolutely.
Maybe a mimosa?

We debate opening a bottle of champagne, and decide against it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

[from a few nights ago]

Last night:
Got dressed, tucked a bottle of vodka and a bottle of wine in my purse. Waved goodbye, went and waited for my train. Ran into Upstairs American Neighbor, missing my tram, got on the U4, the U6, the 46 tram, walked a few blocks.

Come on, we're going to be late. The show started an hour ago.
Ok, let's just take a shot. Where's J?
I don't know.
Are we waiting for him?
So what's the hurry?

Steve calls me in, strumming "You and I." It's too high. I teach a three part round in Hebrew. I sing the Passover Song. We sing "Green Eyes," "Blower's Daughter" (Z: "MY FAVORITE SONG!! DID YOU KNOW THAT?") and "I'm Yours" (Z: "MY SECOND FAVORITE SONG! I HAVE THIS ON MY IPOD!"). We take a shot of vodka. I chase with wine. Z drinks some schnapps. J comes in, and we all sing to him.

Come on come on come on! We're going to be late!
We're already late. It started two hours ago.
Ok, just let me get dressed.
Wear you sexy jeans.
They're dirty. They smell like smoke and sweat.
I don't think so, do you?
No. Wear them.
But they smell!

I grab his ass and tell him it's the jeans. We both take another shot, leave our jackets at home, and start walking.

Roman Cafe. I pronounce cafe with one syllable.
Yea, but this isn't it.
How many Roman cafes can there be?
It's on Neufecherlandersl-something-strasse.
Oh. I'll race you.
Erin, I don't want to race.

But I'm already sprinting downhill. T takes my offer, and beats me, but just barely.

We go to the club. Turns out there are two Roman Cafes within a few blocks. We decide to walk to a night bus, get to the boat. I leave my stuff at Z's. I have my keys.

I have to pee.
Ok, we'll be right there.
That's a lie.
Ok, there's a McDonalds.

Z goes into the bathroom. J asks me if he can borrow money to get food. I buy a soda. I come back and Z's crying. Head on the table. Grace is asking her if she wants some food, that some greasy food will be good to sopp up the alcohol. They run to the bathroom and sit down. The lights go out, they're closing.

We walk her outside, carrying a cup of water.

Get a cab.
We will. You be safe too.

Hey, can I stay at your house? Is that ok?

It's late, almost 1. I can't find a bus home, and don't want to wait.

Of course you can.
Erin, stay with me. You can sleep on our floor, we have mattresses. She's crying.
Dude, of course I will.
28 Liebhartsgasse, bitte.
J me Z. T in the front seat. It's only a few blocks away. I open Z's window, and take her water. I look at Z. Her hand is over her mouth.

Move, open your window.
Dump out the water, I need the cup.

I lean over him, roll down the window, toss out the water, give Z the cup just in time. She alternates in the three minutes home between the cup and the window. We tip the driver.

Z, it's ok. You're a champ. When I did this, I was alone and I threw up in the cab.
Ok, hold on to us.

We get her upstairs. Ooook.... Ssshshhh.... Let's get you some water. Sweatpants, I lay out some clothing. She drags off her extra mattress and J's. It's better when there's two. Stay with me? Yea, no, I'm here. She leaves.

We could make out right now.
Yea. But that might be awkward.
Let's just make love instead.
Oh my.

We spend the next two hours rubbing backs. Remembering substitutes for ipeacac. Coffee and a tablespoon or so of salt. Other people come in, other legs form teepees around hers. Call the doctor, who tells me that vomiting is a normal reaction to alcohol, and do I know that it is two in the morning? I know. Call the student advisor, who tells us to call the hospital. The three of us get into the ambulance.

J is lying in my lap. Every fifteen minutes he gets up abruptly and asks if this is ok. Each time I rub his shoulders and tell him its fine, I don't care, I don't plan on sleeping, that the obese mentally challenged woman's vagina peeking from under her robe has scarred me so that sleep will only become a distant memory. Z is across the room recieving fluids. We're trying to get her to sleep through it, so J can sleep and I can take from that the slightest bit of intimacy. I miss shared slumber (because I can't say that I miss sleeping with people on this blog), and being one of the few people I can touch, this is comforting.

They send us home. It is morning. We walk around the hospital. I need to brush my teeth. Catch a tram, crash on the mattresses I laid on the floor hours earlier. Ancient history.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another day, another piece I can sightread easily.

Although sight-reading is one of my strengths, I'm just not being challenged in the piano program. And yea, there's more to playing piano than just reading the notes. But my experience in this specific music program makes me madder and madder the more I think about it, and since I'm reflecting on my time here, I think about it a lot. UPS pianists: don't waste your time.

A lot of good things have happened here, and I've certainly experienced things that are worth my stay. I've made some incredible friends, I've gotten to see so many operas, I've had some freedom from everything at home. And really, if the option is between going to Vienna for a semester and killing yourself, this is definately the better choice. But if you want to go to Vienna for an awesome chamber music program, this is not it. At least for me. Other pianists have gotten way more opportunities than me. EVERY other pianist (4/5) has gotten more opportunities than I have.

I don't understand, really. I mean, my audition wasn't my strongest, but it wasn't awful. And it was good enough that I didn't get recalled or cut, so what's the deal?

Ok, fine, I know this is going to prepare me for the disappointment of the real music world. But it still really hurts.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Practiced for a good 3.5 hours yesterday morning, followed by a 90 minute lesson. I was exhausted, for the first time physically from piano since I left Tacoma. It felt great.

Much shittier was having my ass handed to me on a platter in voice workshop. Never have I been told off like that from a professor, and while I probably deserved it for being unprepared I certainly wasn't expecting it. Another reason why I miss spending my time with pianists/instrumentalists vs singers.

I don't know. Maybe I do depend too much on my piano background. But I do consider myself a well-rounded musician-I hope this isn't cocky, but I do a lot, and I branch out into many areas. Sometimes it's hard, though, coming from the piano bench to center stage, especially since there is so much I don't know. I only know German and English; my Italian and French are hopeless. I think I know my voice, but it surprises me in ways both good and bad (unfortunately, the good is always in lessons, and the bad always in front of others). And yea, ok, I make the same mistake that I've witnessed in lessons millions of times by not looking up my direct translations, and I should know better, I wasn't expecting to be crucified for it. I was so embarassed, and in front of my peers. My face was flushed for the good five minutes I spent near tears.

Although I do love my voice teacher here, and I love singing in lessons. I'm just looking forward to the satisfaction I'll get from my practice routine at home.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Get yer ass over to my Passover!

First full Passover away from home. I started keeping kosher once I got back, and I'll break on Sunday. Hectic getting everything. Easter Monday=all the stores were shut down. I may have thrown in a few jars of spaghetti sauce and mozerella cheese ("Zombie Jesus shuts everything down and makes it impossible to cook anything. I'm making matzah pizzas. I'm making fucking matzah pizzas," matzah pizzas being exactly what they sound like) and a few bottles of vodka (considering that if I couldn't get food for tonight, we would all L'chaim that shit down) in a moment of panic.

Long story short, I am a lucky girl because each year I convince myself that I cannot possibly laugh more at this year's seder than I did the year before, only to prove myself wrong each year.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Heading home

This had better be the best 300 dollars I've ever spent.

I mean, I could spend another day here. But then it would be the day of my seder, and I need to cook. And we both want to be home for Easter-true, my celebration of Easter is nowhere near as special/sacred as what Zoe and most of the world consider it, but nevertheless wanting some time of relaxation, reflection, and probably margaritas, let's not kid ourselves.

Went swimming yesterday. Didn't care about being in a swimsuit, or the length of time it has been since I shaved my thighs, or my thighs in general, or anything. My only concern was the sharp rocks beneath my toes, the fish swimming between my legs, and the cold water. Which are far better things to concern myself with.

I also found dresses-two that I can wear for the weddings for twenty euro apiece, and another that I WILL play housewive in, as soon as I am in Washington with my apron.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pre-shower shorties

Am sad that I'm missing Passover this year. I've missed part of it once before, and it was hard to keep kosher then-a choir tour with every meal prearranged, and breakfast at the hotel of croissants and rolls being the only thing we had to eat until mid-afternoon break. But I didn't feel so bad about it. I know I could try harder, but we've been going from hostel to hostel, and most food I see on the menu is not kosher for Passover.

I have no idea how I'm going to get home. Flights are expensive, and buses are long and lie about how long it will take to get from point A to point B, and if I have to sit on a twelve hour bus ride behind a kid making weird sucking noises and in front of a man with incredible BO, I will throw myself under the front wheels of the bus and pray for the back wheels to pass over me too.

Bits and pieces

Long day of busing.

Formula for Croatian Travel
Take amount of time promised by travel agent/hostel front desk/Croatian to get from point A to point B. Multiply that by anywhere between 25% and 150% and add to original number. Sum is amount of time it will take for you to lose your mind on a crowded bus with a kid making weird sucking noises in front of you and another kid throwing up to the side and the air conditioning not being anywhere within your reach.

First day in Zagreb. I guess our only day in Zagreb. Absorbed the Kaffeekultur, and were approached by two female ministry students from Redding/Canada, who told us we were beautiful and had auras of strength, safety, and purity. It was actually a nice conversation, although a little weird. They asked Zoe if she knew a Charles, or a Charlie, or a Charlotte. She doesn't. But I'm gonna laugh when she marries a guy named Chuck.

In Dubrovnik. About to freshen up and wander around town.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We couldn't make it to Greece, part 1

Friday, April 3rd.
Beautiful day in Vienna. I leave class, practice for an hour. Beethoven's Op 31 goes through my head, and the concert Nathan is planning. I would be in the middle. I'm only halfway memorized. I had the weirdest dream, that I was giving my senior recital in my high school auditorium, my sonata being at the same stage it is now, unperformable. I panicked, told my prof, and had to get in front of the stage to tell everyone to come back next week, that I wasn't ready. They clapped and were surprisingly fine with it. I then drove Maddy home, who lived in Maine, and she told me to not worry about him.

I met up with Zoe as I left classes, took a tram to Waehringerstrasse, before the market, and went into every shop. Bought a bathing suit, two scarves each, one for ourselves, one for our mothers. Zoe bought shades of seafoams and lavendars, I bought one the color of pansies (dark brown maroon with some hot pink and vibrant yellow) and one the color of baroque cathedrals (dusty baby blue and rose). I go home, open all the windows, make some chicken, turn on my music, start to pack, tape up my broken bag, eat lunch, dance, look outside, say goodbye, go down the stairs, on the tram, on the UBahn, past the buses, to the one going to Zagreb. We grab seats, spill our dinner, peel grapes, eat Girl Scout cookies, play "Infinate Questions," which is Zoe's version of "Twenty Questions" without the pesky number of questions allowed interfering with our obscurity. Mesh. Cow Spots. Zen Buddhism. Yogurt. Pepperoni Pizza. Language. Circus. Rose Quartz. Black Holes. Sonic Booms.

We arrive in Zagreb, withdraw what seems like a ton of money (700 kuna) but is less than 100 euro, take a cab and check into our hostel. Our room was blue with yellow stars, and we fell asleep watching "The Brothers Grimm." I vaguely remember seeing that movie with Kyle.

April 4th
Wake up, book our flights to Zadar that evening, pack our stuff, and walk to the trams. We walk through what seems to be a market, but is full of clothing. There are no malls here, as we discover throughout the week, only stands of polyester shirts, of Croatian soccer jerseys, of underwear, boxers, socks, tights, of mens button-up shirts and slacks stacked on tables. What happens when it rains? Maybe it doesn't here. Everyone else is dressed in jackets and pants, but we have on skirts and t-shirts-much warmer than in Vienna. Get to the center of town, and realize that it is the day before Palm Sunday. Explains why everyone is walking around with greenery, branches of laurels, whole palm fronds. We walk through a flower market full of alterpieces and daffodils and irises and buy miniture palm fronds, woven into a shape like an ear of corn and topped with a small cross.

At the Kaptol at the top of the hill, we go into the second, more ornate church surrounded by the archbishop's palace. A man who insists he's a history professor asks where we're from. When he asks Zoe a question and I try to answer when she struggles, he "Sshus" me, and I immediately wish the beam to fall on his head, followed by guilt for thinking that in a cathedral, and ending in apathy, instead focusing on the stained glass.

We get to the airport, eventually, and our plane takes off. But what is supposed to be an hour flight turns into longer, and we land in Split, 1.5 hours away from bus. By the time we get to Zadar, it is three hours after we said we could check in, and is past one in the morning. We give the address to the taxi driver, and are surprised when he drops us off in front of a dark house. When we called the hostel owner, we found out that
a) we were in the right spot, but
b) he did not live there, and
c) he was angry that our flight was canceled/switched/made three hours longer, situations out of our control, and
d) was furious that we woke him up and made him drive 45 minutes to let us in.

As much as I hate being the bitchy American (and it's something I've managed to keep inside most of the time), this made me furious. It was two in the morning. We were in a country where we didn't speak the language. We weren't purposefully late, and did everything we can to get there on time. There was nothing on the website saying check in had to be completed by a certain time, or to suggest that there was not 24 hour management as in every other hostel I've stayed in (as of then, seven). And while we're sorry we woke him up, what were we to do? Sit on his front porch until he felt like coming? When you run something like a hostel/hotel/bed and breakfast, that is your job. We didn't have any outlandish requests, no picking out the colored M&Ms, we just wanted the room that we reserved and paid for and were told no other details/rules about check in.

Needless to say, that night was awkward. Later, we all apologized, and I would recommend this hostel to anyone staying in Zadar (near bus stops, about 30 meters away from a GORGEOUS beach that was full of shells, cooking facilities, balcony, etc, etc, etc), as long as they had ueber-reliable transportation (we thought we had) and came during non-disputable hours.

More to come later.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I had the worst dream last night

Last night, I dreamed that I was at the Humane Society with Ashley, and I'm sure one other person. We were going to get a kitten, and I was so excited. But as we waited in line, we noticed we were the only ones there without an animal carrier with a pet to drop off. I kept on making mental notes as to which one of those I would save, but the list just got too long, and I ended up crying.


I'm pretty excited for SAI! I am VP membership again, and I'm so glad I have the chance to work with the MITs-I really regretted not being able to be at UPS for spring semester, where more of the VPM's duties fall.

I'm also pretty excited to be working with our new president... From what I hear, she's a pretty awesome lady.