Sunday, January 1, 2012

Website for a new year

Well, the Calendar page is finally revamped.  It was stuck late in November for quite a while.  The Google Calendar portion isn't yet updated, but the shape of my upcoming season (thus far) is at last on the web. 

As you can see, it's a Mikado-laden Spring.  Which is wonderful, actually.  Katisha is really a pretty extroardinary character, and she's got pretty extroardinary music.  One of the things I love about opera is the way in which the music will tell you who the character is, in an incredibly subtle, overwhelming sort of way.  And "Alone, and yet alive?" does that for me.  It gives an exact description of who Katisha is--and though there's a lot of fun to be gotten out of her opinion of herself and the way she interacts with others, when it comes down to it she is a real person, one with something very large to say.  So it's going to be awesome to get to be her for a while!

Also on the docket (?) are a gala with North Bay Opera, and the Magnificat/Gloria concert with the San Francisco Bach Choir.  I'm really excited about everything (I love the Magnificat.  Just love.  Everything about it.  It's Magnifi-cent!).

Finally, if you're looking far far far into your future and would like to know how it intersects with mine (because why wouldn't you?), I will be attending the Music Academy of the West in the Summer, singing the role of Mother Goose in their production of The Rake's Progress.  (That's not on the calendar yet.)

Thanks, as always, for your time!

Friday, November 4, 2011

in search of a Messiah

Hello world!

There are these great moments in Jeeves and Wooster stories when Bertie starts describing people as being like lions or tigers (often tigers protecting cubs or lions being bearded in dens) in defense of some principle, person, or piece of property.  I begin here because I feel I'm sort of entering Wodehouse-ish territory in my search for a Messiah this holiday season.

And I don't mean a baby in a straw bed.  I mean the piece by Handel, one of my all-time favorites ever ever.  To participate in the chorus of, to listen to, just to be near--but mostly to sing the alto solos of.  "But Who May Abide" and "O Thou that Tellest" were the first real pieces of classical music I learned to sing...which would actually be an argument for me hating them as much as I'd hate ever to sing "Star vicino"* again, except that they're so wonderful.

Anyway, I've been going on the offensive.  And possibly the very offensive.  Like a lion with cubs to protect, I have been fiercely propositioning people regarding me singing any Messiah they happen to have heard of.  I have bothered a man coming out of major surgery; I have emailed someone I've never met.  My next plan is to email someone I have met but I think will know of ones only already equipped with alto soloists.  But I'm not leaving stones unturned here.

So, Universe, and anyone happening to read this blog, if you know of any Messiahs without alto soloists, think of me!  I have a fancy red dress and everything!

"Bumbling towards Bethlehem" Couden

*perfectly pleasant song; even cars could not draw it from my vocal apparatus ever again.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Couden's Culture Corner

It's not really anything to do with anything, but I realized recently that, although I often really enjoy bad movies and books--or movies and books that I'd consider "light" or "easy" (this isn't quite as snobby as it sounds, though it's close [the way I read them (which isn't necessarily the right way), Fathers and Sons was kind of light, while Fruits Basket is actually pretty heavy])--I don't enjoy listening to bad music.

I really can't figure this out.  Because I am very much a proponent of crappy movies.  I love anything with robots, for instance.  I like superheroes.  And I can only rarely be persuaded to see something with Helen Mirren in it--much as I admire her as an actress, she's always in things that just sound way too highbrow for me.  And I often like crappy fiction (I have a well-stocked shelf of '70's through '80's Harlequin Presents novelettes), but can only rarely be prevailed upon to read anything that looks modern and thoughtful, like Angela's Ashes.

So why am I not willing to give myself a chance to enjoy crappy music?  The immediate response is that life's too short, but then by extension life would be too short for the novel Death Takes Up a Collection, one of a series of mysteries in which a San Francisco nun solves church-related murders--and life clearly wasn't.  I want to say that it's because my commitment to music is one of the most serious things in my life, and I can't tolerate the idea of hearing the bad stuff...

But I actually think it's a matter of price point.  The lowest you can get a used CD for is around $5.50.  If you don't like the CD, that's $5.50 you could have spent toward books--and $5.50 plus about $2 can get you a cool used copy of Fleurs du mal, a wall calendar (between the months of May and September), an August Wilson play and a cup of coffee, or about sixteen Harlequins at your local library booksale.

So I try to make real sure that I purchase music I'm going to like, because it's all going to be $5.50 or more. 

I think there's a lesson in here somewhere, but danged if I can figure out what it is.

Ariadne auf Naxos

...has been going great!  The production got a really nice review in San Francisco Classical Voice, which it wholly deserves.  There is freaking gorgeous singing going on from all the principles in their nuttily demanding roles, and the staging is super fun and completely lovely.  I don't want to give too much stuff away; however, I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that Marie, Buffy, and Emma all sound like a million bucks.  Which together totals three million bucks.  So the price of your ticket is getting you a whole lot of value.

There's this Brief History of Opera thing (not exactly sure of the name of it) that we used to watch in Opera Workshop in undergrad, in which a Canadian* woman's voice gave a point-by-point tally of the number of murders, affairs, suicides, walking talking statues from Hell, and other prurient and/or scandalous points of interest which take place in major operatic works.  The Brief History of Opera-style synopsis of this production of Ariadne goes thusly:

Fireworks!  Projection!  Sapphism!  Slapstick!  Dejection!  Delusion!  People from Milpitas!

Walking talking statue from Hell not included.  This time.

There are two more performances: November 4 at 8 pm, and November 6 at 3 pm.  Purchase tickets and find out information at:

*Well, she sounded a little like the lead singer from Heart anyway.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Cole Grissom and Patricia Urbano are the minds behind San Francisco Parlor Opera, and Susannah, their latest production, is going to be special.  I have to say for the sake of honesty that, although I've loved the music of Susannah from the beginning of the rehearsal process, I haven't always been 100% on the libretto.  In what I feel is the often-usual (and to me so very annoying) American way, it seemed that the metaphor stuff, the stuff that its author wanted to have the character of Susannah mean, overwhelmed the characterization itself.  It always drives me crazy when I percieve that to be happening (not that I always percieve it, or that it's always happening when I do percieve it), and I think I overreact.  I was kind of ready to write the role off as a man's version of a woman*.

But Patricia's changed all that.  Her Susannah is really well-acted.  I'm just sitting back and watching and empathizing all over the place.  And everyone else is great as well (they just had less far to bring me in terms of approving of their characterizations).  The production seems to me to be getting at all the immediate, intimate human interactions of the score. 

Information is on my calendar page:

Performances are on November 5, 10, and 12 at 7 pm, in San Francisco at the Zellerbach mansion.  To purchase tickets, email, or visit the website:

*We call this Memoirs of a Geisha-ing.  No, nobody actually calls it that.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beatrice et Benedict!

Beatrice et Benedict: so much more fun than this portrait of Berlioz...

...would lead one to believe. 

In all seriousness (see above image), my friends are putting on this show as an independent project, in order to gain experience points and help out Boxcar Theatre, and they're doing it with no resources but their own impressive skills.  It'll really be worth seeing.  There will be beautiful singing (wonderful voices in this cast!), and just as an example of the type of home-grown talent that's going into making this happen, my friend Ted Zoldan has cobbled together a script of dialogue from Much Ado to be said in place of the French script that Berlioz originally wrote.  We'll all be on book (read: using music), and I don't think there will be much staging, but...

okay, Personal Opinion Moment happening here: sometimes the energy of a production is really good when everyone is involved not just in performing their best, but in actually making the performance happen.  I think it should be a really convivial atmosphere.  And I know the singing will be just beautiful.  So if you're not busy, come by and check it out!

Friday, October 7, 2011

occasionally, my brain can bite me in the butt

...though not literally (if it were a literal ability, I'd be a candidate for "Stupid Human Tricks" for sure...and possibly government study).

I'm no more dyslexic than the average person whose brain is a little bad with concrete facts, but today I did something that falls under the category of "unequivocally dumb."  The idea was to contact Marin Symphony about the possibility of auditioning for them.  So far, so good.  I'd done my research the previous night, finding things like phone numbers and emails--I go to check the email, and type what I am thinking is the correct symphony into my browser, come up with a page that is a symphony page, and email the "info@" person (I'm not sure if this is the right person to email, but as Buffy says in her Season 4 dream, "Fortune favors the brave," so I think I will give it a shot).  Write a note attempting to be somewhere in the perfect (or Bermuda-esque) triangle of professional, friendly, and non-demanding, starting with the formality of "To Whom it May Concern" (capitalize the "it" or no?  I'm not sure) and moving on to a friendlier-sounding "Hi!"  "...interested in auditioning for the Marin Symphony..." keep it non-demanding, friendly, and professional, Sara... Okay, all written, all sent...

THEN a moment of, "Wait, isn't Alasdair Neale the conductor here?  This guy looks different.  He's not in color, for one thing.  Did I do something wrong--"

Well, yes, Sara, you did do something wrong.  You accidentally switched two "M" cities in your mind.  Having typed "Monterey Symphony" into your browser, you came up with the Monterey Symphony webpage, and its attendant "info@" email address, which you then emailed.

This might be okay, I think.  If I didn't type Marin Symphony in the body of the email maybe nobody will ever...

Yes, yes I did type Marin Symphony.

Monterey Symphony, I deeply apologize.  I would love to audition for you.  And if I had realized what I was doing, I would certainly have put the name of YOUR organization into the body of the email.  Oh boy.

This whole story is coming off vaguely like one of Bisco Hatori's sidebars in Ouran High School Host Club.  I embrace my reading habits with pride-ish.