I have to look in my planner in order to remember what I did on certain days. After a while, you just know that something happened at some point in the recent past. Wednesday, July 9 -- oder, auf Deutsch, Mittwoch, 9. Juli. It makes so much sense to me that the German "Wednesday" literally means "middle-week." Wie logisch. On Wednesday we had a class called Period Movement. The Opera Studio has Stage Artistry as a regular class, but since I'm in the Concert/Lieder Studio, I don't have it that often, so this was a fun and SUPER informative crash course. I learned about three different ways to curtsy and how to walk in big dresses and hoop skirts. Also, fans. I need to get myself a fan, folks. Apparently there are over 150 ways to communicate with that thing. At one point, Michael, one of the acting instructors here, made this point: Opera is the hardest art form -- and he's so right. The demands on opera singers are enormous. We are expected to sing well, at the professional level. We are expected to be technically sound. That's just the base line. We also have to have a working knowledge of languages, with impeccable diction. We have to act -- in a foreign language. We have to be able to dance and move, while wearing a costume, and more often than not, a wig. And a lot of this is done while wearing heels of some sort. Plus props that we carry around. There's so much that we have to do and keep track of. But I know I speak for all of my colleagues when I say that it is so utterly worth it in the end, for all the joy it brings us.
Immediately after, we had a second orientation, in which many housekeeping questions were answered. This was followed by introduction of all the esteemed faculty. After this, we set up lesson times with our voice teachers and coaches. Guys. I'm so excited. My voice teacher is the wonderful and lovely Evangelina Colón, who taught three of my people from Texas Tech two years ago (Wreck 'em). She was my first choice, and I was so excited to be placed in her studio! My coach, as I mentioned before, is also my first choice; his name is Andreas Teufel.
Thursday, o. Donnerstag, was the first day of all our regular classes! I had my first lesson that day. I adore Dr. Colón. She is so warm and gentle and kind. I have had one diagnostic kind of lesson, and I have already learned so much from her. She has a way of prompting you in such a way that you do not feel harped upon. Compared to the other AIMSers, I'm a baby -- I won't turn twenty for a month. When Dr. Colón heard this, she assured me that I was in no hurry. Don't rush it, she told me. Whatever needs to come will come, and it will settle into your voice in good time. I'm a rusher and a hurrier, and I feel like I need to drive myself hard in order to achieve success. It is so, so good to hear that I have time.
On Friday, I had my first Audition Training Seminar. I. Love. This. Class. The first day was also diagnostic, in which my colleagues and I got to know each other. Our teacher, Andrea, asked us each why we sang. Why is it that when you are asked the most elementary, basic questions, they become the most profound and difficult to answer? My answer was the only one I could think of: Singing brings me joy. I don't know why or wherefore or any logical reason. It brings me joy, and I want so much to share that joy with others. My friends and colleagues all had similar answers, each resounding with the profundity of singing in our lives. I cried. With something so beautiful, how can you not?
I had a diction coaching on Friday, as well. At Tech (Wreck 'em) this fall, we're doing Puccini's Suor Angelica, and I wanted to work on my Italian diction. Carolyna Cochett, the resident Italian and French coach, is the sweetest woman. She's fluent in both of the languages she instructs, and she's so knowledgable and precious. Her little dog goes everywhere with her. When I told her my age, she, too, assured me that I had nothing but time in my development as a singer. How refreshing to hear that you don't have to be in a hurry! I hear this often from my own professor at Tech (Wreck 'em), but it's different coming from someone new. Friday evening, Werner Haas, one of the German teachers and a native Grazer, gave a talk on growing up and living in Graz. He described the city during World War II, which I found fascinating. He's such a sweet man, and a walking history book. I want to get close to Graz, to know it, and he knows it. He's seen this city grow and change and be destroyed and grow again. I love that kind of history: of the resiliency of a people.
I can't remember what days, but at some point this week, Emily and I frequented some great restaurants. The place to go is the Hauptplatz (main square) and the surrounding alleys, which are full of open-air cafés. Either Tuesday or Wednesday, we went to an Italian place called Don Camillo. I had a salad that consisted of greens and grilled calimari, which was divine. On Thursday, she and I and our friend Lauren went to a little restaurant underneath the Glockenspiel. The Glockenspiel is a clock featuring figures that come out and dance at regular intervals during the day: 11 am, 3 pm, and 6 pm. We just so happened to be there when the Glockenspiel played, so that was sweet to see. Friday night, Emily and I found a café in a little nook of restaurants. The vegetable plate is wonderful there; they got all their veggies from the Farmers' Market in Kaiser-Josef-Platz behind das Opernhaus.
This weekend is full of AIMS opening festivities. This morning we had AIMS is' do! -- alternately, AIMS is here! The AIMS Chorale sang America the Beautiful, the Austrian national anthem (gorgeous), and the US national anthem. It's our way of announcing our presence to Graz: "Here we are!" In case they didn't already know from the noise on the Straßenbahn. Afterward, Emily, Lauren, and I went to Il Centro, another Italian place, where the food was also delicious (chicken and veggies. You simply cannot go wrong).
Today I had my first coaching with Andreas (and I finally remembered to record a coaching/lesson). We worked on my favorite piece ever, a Strauss Lied. I have learned so much from this one coaching about singing in German. I've discovered that the consonants are tools to launch my voice into the correct resonant spot. Andreas is German, and knows so much about the language, not to mention the repertoire. He understands Strauss and his music and the way that he writes: speech-like. I'm learning more and more that the musicality is there. The composer wrote it in the music. You have only to do what he wrote, and the music and the text will speak. In Lieder, the text takes primacy over the music. German poetry is beautiful, and the composers wrote this music to elevate the text. If I, as a singer, can communicate the poetry and the beauty of the words, I will have done my job. Of course, coachings and lessons make me want to endlessly practice, so after I got back to the Heim, that's how I spent my evening, along with making dinner in the hall kitchen. Since the World Cup finals are taking place this evening, Emily and I think it's wise not to go out at night in order to avoid the crazy.
I'm so happy and thrilled that the work has truly begun. There is so much to learn and to do: diction practice, "practice" practice of my technique and integrating the things that I go over in my coachings, listening to recordings, doing song research (Singing more Strauss, much to my joy), memorization, German vocabulary. By the way, you may be interested to know that I'm not making a fool of myself in German recently, but that streak could be broken at any moment.
Thank you to all of you who read this and pray for me. Your prayers are felt and truly appreciated. All this time, Jesus is teaching me more about Himself. I love Him and His Word so much. I want to be a little light here, simply showing His love and grace to others. I hope that I can do that by the time I leave.
Tomorrow (Sunday) we have the AIMS Opening Ceremonies, which I think are more extensive than AIMS is' do! this morning. On Monday, AIMS is headed out to Schloß Eggenberg for a reception with the governor of der Steiermark (Styria, the region in which Graz is located). This means I get to wear my long gown and curl my hair and look all pretty, which is reason enough to do anything, in my opinion. I wasn't going to write this blog post until after the reception, but I figured that might be biting off more than I could chew. So stay tuned! Still to come: the aforementioned, more lessons, coachings, Meisterklassen, weekend excursions, and later, die Liederabende!