The Not So Fresh Feeling

This is it! The picture that inspired me to make my edible nativity scene. Actually, maxi pad bedroom slippers made me think about what else I could fashion out of feminine hygiene products, and naturally, I thought of the birthplace of our Lord and Saviour, created out of a variety of tampons and maxi pads, (see Thanksgiving Tampon Turkey here.)

My Mother refused to take me to the store to buy the necessary items for my “blasphemous” creation, thus an edible nativity scene was born…..

However, I discovered today that the maxi slipper pic is from a Flickr collection entitled the Not So Fresh Feeling. Take a gander if you dare……

Confessions of a lapsed soprano, to ornament or not to ornament…. and who gives a shit anymore

There comes a time in every musicians life when you sit down and ask yourself, “Self, do you really enjoy doing this?”

To say I’ve asked this question of myself one time would be an outright lie. I ask it daily, sometimes twice a day, sometimes five to ten times in the span of a rehearsal….

So I’m singing this gig this week at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie. I’m peforming Sesto’s aria from Graun’s Guilio Cesare… It’s kind of German influenced French Baroque music….but in Italian. In layman’s terms, it sounds like Handel’s French period, but not NEARLY as harmonically interesting. It’s a lot of high singing with wiggles and squiggles in the right place.

My aria is pretty, it’s slow and not to range-y. It’s about pity and your Mom,(not kidding) and it’s kinda sad. So I go in to the orchestral run through last night with a good understanding of the text, and enough subtle ornaments to pass off the B section with a -hey-just-you-wait- sense of forboding for the return to the A. Nice, pretty, claps all around, Melly goes home.

Today we run the three opera choruses and arias in between. Right before my aria is a flashy little number for Cleopatra, sung by a wonderful soprano in the ensemble. I love this girl, and she is a PHENOMENAL singer, more control than anyone I know. She works her ass off, has a great teacher, never parties, wraps her head in scarves as she exits bars so the smoke doesn’t damage her chords, etc. She’s always inspiring to watch, but to say she’s intense is an understatement. Today right before her aria, she was drinking soup out of one of those take-out containers.

I thought I would make casual conversation and so asked her what kind of soup it was. It wasn’t soup, it was Chinese Herbs, and it kinda smelled like shit. She then proceeded to stand up and sing her face off in this aria…it was amazing. Not one, not two, but THREE cadenzas. Cadenzas for everyone!! The more the merrier, I always say.

I admit, the thought of getting a review for this concert did come across my mind…. However, with Suzie-Q singing high Q-flats every two seconds, my lack-luster pathetique lament was not going to bring anything home….. So I totally caved, and improvised a different cadenza on the spot and worked a high A into a lament….let me say that again, a high A into a LAMENT… I mean, that’s just trashy. And of course, everyone oooh’d and aaaaah’d, and violin bows were tapped on stands, etc. Score one for Sesto, and still like, a zillion points for Cleopatra.

It made me laugh, because what I had done was so HIP, as in the delivery of a Historically Informed Practice, that of being a bitch. See, back in Graun’s day it was totally acceptable to take a cadenza that you liked and stick it in wherever you wanted it, even if it was from a different aria, or written by someone else, and let me tell you, that didn’t always go over so well.

In my Yale studies in Performance Practice I came across this 18th Century set of instructions for singers on How to be a Diva. It entailed that during performances it was highly encouraged to take breaks for snuff, or brandy, to primp and preen with a mirror decorated with exotic ostrich feathers, and there was something about a dancing bear. A singer always wore scarves and drank tea, and carried their own set of cadenzas in a special locked wooden box that was carried with their other fine costumes.

So, when Handel was in his operatic heya-day, he wrote for two sopranos.
Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni. They hated each other, and fought, literally clawing at each other on one occasion, pulling off wigs and calling each other Bitch and Whore on stage. It was this cat fight that closed Handel’s theater early, in mid-season, and contributed to the final curtain falling in 1728. Cuzzoni and Bordoni’s voices were quite different, but Handel knew their strengths and wrote specifically for them. You’ll notice in his operatic writings that there are usually two soprano roles, one higher with lighter more agile coloratura, (I call it chirpy-shit, that’s Cuzzoni) and one in lower tessatura with the more pathetic airs, and the occassional rage aria…..that’s more my fac, I’m a Bordoni soprano.

When Handel’s opera house folded Cuzzoni went back to England, Bordoni went to find more operatic work in Venice, and married and had children. Cuzzoni died penny-less making buttons in prison. Waa-Waa.

My long-winded point is coming, I promise. I’m not writing this because I’m totally Bordoni, and the other soprano today is Cuzzoni. My point is that we both fell victim to the Early Music Chop show-off. If you follow Handel’s Oratorio writing, you’ll know that his Messiah was his first time writing for English singers. The tenor vocal writing in the opening aria, Comfort Ye, which segues into Every Valley sings like an ornamented aria…. ummmmm, that’s because it IS an ornamented aria. All the wiggles and squiggles are already in there because he was working with singers who were not trained in improvising cadenzas on the spot.

The point! Here’s my big beef with the early music scene lately: it’s a total ME-mi-mi show. Early Music geeks take so many classes in what is appropriate that when one gets up to sing, it’s like vocal diarrhea, everything’s just gotta come out.

You have five minutes to convey an emotional idea through the musical vehicle provided for you….well, usually two emotional ideas and one revisited in Da Capo form, as in:
A. I hate him
B. God damn he’s good in the sack
A. Alas, sigh, I hate him

The emotional idea is what is supposed to prevail, that’s why it’s an ARIA and not a violin solo. We have an articulator, aka, the tongue, that allows for the expression of text. Everything else, wiggles and squiggles is in addition to, not excluding, THE TEXT. Five minutes to get an idea across, not arrpegiate a triad from your lowest possible note to your high Q flat, stop on it, rearticulate it ten times, trill on it, gliss down from it, and land (hopefully) back on tonic. In most cases, you don’t need to do anything to the aria to make it beautiful, the composer already did it for you.

The secret’s in the sauce, if you will.

That is all.

Melly Mushy Monday

Do you ever have a moment where you look at someone, and you suddenly get them? Like what they are doing in that precise moment is exactly what they have been put on this earth to do… and the qwirks and ticks make sense all of a sudden, and all you want to do is enable them in every way you can to continue doing the things that they do, because you can see what a beautiful person they are, and it blinds you like a fucking white light??????

perhaps not.

In other news, I ate a fried twinkie yesterday. It was amAAAAAAAing.

Oh yeah, and I’m singing a big ass solo in Weill Hall this Thursday night, 8pm. If you aren’t there, I’ll assume it’s because the fourth season of LOST begins at 9pm.

More on Wordless Music… the Broadcast

WNYC radio broadcast of the Wordless Cocnert from Wednesday night, also known as, the concert without the feedback issue, is available here.

Sounds really good….. my friend told me he wanted to take morphine, sink into a hot bath and listen to it on repeat….. that means he likes it.

And, you can click on the track you want to listen to, without wading through the entire concert, so all you Greenwood fans out there can get your fill.

Previously on Mellysblog:
Wordless Music Review from Last Night

Enjoy, TimberBrit calls.

Beautiful Evil – Part the Second

In Marina Warner’s book Alone of all her Sex, each chapter is dedicated to one of the numerous roles that Mary assumes in Christian theology, including her symbolic function as the Second Eve. Mary, a virgin, was sanctified through her motherhood. There was no such glorification of woman’s creative power for women in the Old Testament. For them, as for Eve, childbirth, menstruation, and nursing were a duty, not a privilege. Motherhood was identified with nature, with the imperfect world of the flesh that keeps the human soul from attaining spiritual perfection. The feces and urine of childbirth epitomized the closeness of woman to all that is vile, lowly, corruptible and material; in the “curse” of her menstruation, she was likened to the beasts. Even the lure of her beauty was nothing but an aspect of death brought about by her seduction of Adam in the garden. St. John Chrysostom warned: “the whole of her bodily beauty is nothing less than phlegm, blood, bile, rheum, and the fluid of digested food… If you consider what is stored up behind those lovely eyes, the angle of the nose, the mouth and cheeks you will agree that the well-proportioned body is merely a whitened sepulcher.” Chrysostom’s writings, which of all the works of the Ascetics had a particularly sallow view of women, were later used as support for priestly celibacy, but his condemnation extended to the universal human body.
The voice of God is the voice of man, a potent tool for social control. Religion does not only embody human belief, it reflects the attitudes, the moral and social codes of its adherents, and of the priests and scribes who interpret it. Those in power can reshape religious stories and societal myths in a way that preserves the existing social order. The early Catholic Church carefully cultivated a dual image of Eve as both mother and temptress. The evidence of this association is quite apparent in early iconography, in which the serpent is often depicted as a woman. This connection extends even to later artistic works: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling portrays Eve receiving fruit from a very muscular but feminine serpent.

An anonymous painting of the Immaculate Conception for the Burgundian Emperor Maximilien highlights Mary’s role as the Second Eve. In this painting both the serpent and Mary are given Eve’s likeness, reinforcing Mary’s ability to “reverse the curse” of Eve. The stigma of the evil that has been attributed to the female sexual organs is most striking in Paul Klee’s 1926 drawing Die Busche der Pandora als Stilleben. There is no doubt to the eye that the “jar” holding the flowers resembles a vagina, and the menacing vapors pouring from its mouth only reinforce the element of shameful darkness that has been used to justify the repression of women for millennia.
In comparing Eve to Pandora, it seems logical to begin with the motivation behind their respective creations. Pandora, the first human woman of Greek mythology, was created as a punishment for the wise and cunning Prometheus, who skillfully stole fire from Zeus with his phallic fennel stalk. In Hesiod’s Works and Days Zeus says: “Son of Japetos, there is none craftier than you, and you rejoice at tricking my wits and stealing the fire which will be a curse to you and to the generations that follow. The price for the stolen fire will be a gift of evil to charm the hearts of all men as they hug their own doom.” Pandora is thus an instrument of divine retribution, yet possesses the beguiling charm of a youthful virgin. Each god bequeaths to her a small gift; among the first are the voice , the power to move, and the face of an immortal goddess. Athena gives her the belt of a bride, and dresses her with robes of silver and a crown that rivals the shield of Achilles. Aphrodite gives her grace, desire and passion, but Hermes bestows the mind of a bitch and a thievish nature. The gods call her Pandora, which literally means “bitter gift of the gods”, or as Hesiod defines her, ‘a scourge for toiling men.’ This paradoxical combination of godlike and bestial traits is described in Greek with a playful turn of words, kalon kakon, or beautiful-evil.
Unlike Pandora, Eve was not created as a punishment for Adam, but was made to be a helper, a wife. Pandora is made from elemental Earth and Water, in obvious reference to Gaia and Uranus, but Eve is derived from Adam’s rib, an image of inferiority that feminists ironically embraced through the magazine entitled Spare Rib. This almost comical creation story echoed in the heads of ancient rabbis who sniggering equated women’s ‘foul smell’ with their origin in ‘putrefying bone’. Another interesting commentary on Eve’s creation is the 1106 Duomo carving of Wiligelmo’s Creation of Adam and Eve , in which Adam is depicted with a bulging pregnant stomach, genitals conveniently tucked out of sight.

Another Week, Another Blog

Not so much posting these days, as I struggle on with my journey to be better at my job, better at life, better at being a Mom, what have you….. and failing at all of them….

I had such a strange dream this morning. A woman told me that it was absolutely necessary for me to come in early this morning to take care of car arrangements for my boss. My boss (who I refer to as my dude), travels constantly, so my main job is booking and keeping up with his travels, and then making sense out of the piles of receipts that he hands me after and converting yen into USD and all that crap…..and booking appointments, and ordering bagels and cheesesteaks, etc. It’s kind of like being a Mom all over again….

Anyway, he changed his mind about his flight home and stayed an extra day for personal reasons. I changed his flight with no problems, but was unable to extend the rental car for an extra day because I didn’t have the contract code, which is located on the key. I e-mailed him immediately and told him that he would have to take care of that as I didn’t have the code. He called back and said he needed me to take care of it, and that he would call me back. He never did. I waited all day for that phone call, and sent e-mail reminders.

So, back to the dream in which the mythical woman told me I needed to come in to work early to take care of this car thing….. I sighed and agreed to leave Brooklyn at 5 AM, and then thought for a second…. and then I said, “Hey lady, no way. I’m happy to take care of work stuff during work hours, but I’m not coming in early to arrange something that would have easily taken maybe a minute, tops, to type into his blackberry and e-mail me. Oh yeah, and tomorrow’s MLK day, so, yeah, no!”

See, the lady was my subconscious telling me something wasn’t right. I then sat straight up in bed and realized that I had not changed his car service HOME from the airport. In a sense I had taken care of what he had asked me to take care of… airport and car rental. But the poor guy was most likely standing outside JFK for God knows how long waiting for a limo that NEVER came. Well, that’s not true actually, it came the day before and waited.

So stay tuned tomorrow when I get fired. Awesome.