September 30, 2010

turn, turn, turn

tuesday night, we had our first studio artist recital of the season, for our mezzo, who is in her second year of the program. as usual, rob, our associate music director/pianist/resident fabulous person, asked me to turn pages for him. and by "asked" I mean he knows exactly how to use flattery to his advantage. I've been doing this task for him for several years now, so it's a given that I will, but nevertheless he really heaps on the praise. "I mean, who else could I possibly get?" he will say. "there is no one better."

insert eye roll.

page turning is a funny business. in one special way, it's just like being a music librarian: if you're very good at it, no one will notice you at all. it's also incredibly terrifying. I've met very few people who've ever turned pages who aren't petrified at the task, and I've only met one person who likes doing it. why is it so awful? observe:

1. you're likely sight-reading
1a. you're likely sight-reading very difficult music, and/or music whose vocal line is in another language
1b. on rare unlucky occasions these two things collide to produce something like mussorgsky. it's next to impossible to follow the piano part at sight and when you take a panicked look at the voice line you realize it's in cyrillic. then you speak in page-turner code: you look directly down at the piano player with a veiled but stricken look on your face. this look says "IF YOU DON'T NOD VIGOROUSLY AT THE PAGE TURN WE ARE BOTH GONERS."

2. you have to constantly get up and down and you hope that nobody notices you.
2b. you have to do this without touching the piano or getting in the way of the pianist.
2c. you have to time your getting-up so that you're not poised over the music for an excruciating length of time, hovering over the pianist for the next five minutes.

3. you have to turn the pages.
3a. just one page at a time (most of the time).
3b. at the right time.
3c. quietly.
3d. without the music then folding back to the previous page.

anatomy of a page turn
you glance at the tempo marking. hopefully it's in a language you read. and by that I mean hopefully it just says "allegro non troppo" or "lentement" and not something ridiculously long-winded and absurdly poetic. the french are terrible about this. the tempo marking is a sentence. by the time I've read the whole thing, I've probably missed the turn. and I speak french.

the pianist begins playing, and you corroborate what you thought the tempo would be with what it actually is. hopefully you have some semblance of an idea where the beat is. you don't always know. otherwise you wait for the singer, hope s/he comes in at the appropriate time, and figure it out from there. if that fails (or there's no voice on the first page) you stand up and prepare your turn and then just hope for a clear head nod.

important: you look to see if the music goes past one page. sometimes you don't even need to turn! those pages are great. but few and far between.

the moment arrives. if you're me, unless the music is very slow, you stand up a staff above the last staff of the page, so that you can make sure you get the music in your hand and have time to turn. this also reassures the pianist that you're ready, you know where you are in the music, and you are GONNA turn that page, damnit.

you turn the page. but wait! I have a little secret. rob taught it to me years ago, as the differentiating factor between passable page turners and truly great page turners. at the beginning of the last staff, you carefully fold over the top corner of the page you're about to turn, so that the pianist can peek ahead and remind himself what's there. I try to do this without casting a shadow on the music, which is hard.

now you turn the page. just one page. you sit down, hopefully with a modicum of grace. then you sit very, very still. you clasp your hands in your lap, both to keep yourself from fidgeting and also because you're terribly nervous and they're probably shaking. you continue to follow the music, and as you do you begin to wonder, is my head cocked at a funny angle? you're no longer convinced you understand the mechanisms of your body. do I usually sit like this? is my neck jutting out? is everyone looking at me and saying, why is her face turned unnaturally to the right like that? you have absolutely no idea what's right anymore.

you get up and turn another page. maybe this time you turn a little earlier than you think you should have and then once you've sat down, you quietly berate yourself for not getting it exactly right, although you're not actually sure it was too early, and after all rob probably has it all memorized anyway, even if he thinks he doesn't. and you have a terrible itch on your nose but you can't touch it until the end of the piece, or at least until the next turn.

god help you if you have to sneeze.

September 26, 2010

moving forward

why I have not bought an opening night dress

Picture 3

because what the hell is this. seriously. they all look like this.


j.crew is actually trying to NOT sell me this dress.


or this one. WHAT IS GOING ON. every single j.crew model is slouching, or wearing like, hiking boots, or hasn't brushed her hair in four days. I don't understand.

because what I want is this:

Picture 4

is that so difficult?

trying to bend the space/time continuum
item a: Scott gets home in one week
item b: Hansel & Gretel orchestra music is due in one week

I don't know how it's possible to want to warp time simultaneously in both directions, but that's what's going on here. sadly, the orchestra music is technically due before Scott touches down, so even if I did have the power to manipulate time it really wouldn't help any.

weird love affairs
I pulled the second of six radicchio heads from my garden the other day. as I was washing it/cutting it up/putting it through the salad spinner, I kept exclaiming, "this is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!" I might be easy to please, but in my defense, one of the community garden managers complimented it when we ran into each other last week. "mine didn't even grow," he said. that thing could have won the state fair.

the opera people are awesome
our marketing department has, in previous seasons, invited local bloggers to come to a performance and live blog about the show. (they don't blog during the act but they do take notes and then post their thoughts during the intermissions). twice now, we've had comic artist mike russell come to blogger night; he made amazing comic versions of both Rigoletto and Barber of Seville. inspired by that, and by the fact that Portland is a true hot spot for comic artists (we are second in the nation only to NYC), we had comic artist night last week at one of the rehearsals. The comics, which you can see here, are beautiful.

my very favorite, by erika moen, who was totally new to opera:


(at the end of Carmina Burana, in a reversal of the norm, the lead female dancer lifts the lead male completely over her shoulders)

the rest of erika's drawings can be seen here.

11 days
I'm streaking. today was day eleven. because I'm weird when it comes to things like this, I refuse to talk about the streak ever again, until I reach day one hundred.

continued epic failure
I still haven't ridden my bike. I don't even want to talk about it.

September 20, 2010

A surprising thing: the return of evening rehearsals has given me, unexpectedly, the time I was hoping to have all summer. In the mornings I often putter around the kitchen, making food for the week and listening to the radio. I can opt to work a long day -- a normal 9-5 plus rehearsal, and then have a second whole day to myself (in addition to the one day I get off a week during production times). I can go for a run and then drive out to the garden, to sigh sadly over my eternally green tomatoes. I had been in many ways dreading the return of opera season; summer felt too short and too cold, and I already didn't have enough time for everything, without the inclusion of rehearsals. It turns out I've gotten so used to this schedule that I've grown to prefer it.

This time of year -- you know, it pains me to say it, but I love it. Memory plays a large part: I moved here at the beginning of October, five years ago. Every year these last few weeks of September and first few of October enchant me. It's cooler, and raining, but the world hasn't quite shaken off the last fine filaments of summer. The air smells like leaves. Mid-morning runs through the woods are damp and earthy, and afterwards there's mud up and down your legs.

Pagliacci/Carmina Burana opens on Friday. Contrary to tradition, I have not yet bought myself a new opening night dress. (I buy one new one at the start of every opera season). Partially this is because I have at least 15 suitable dresses in my closet; but mostly it's because I'd like to save my prettiest dress-wearing moments for when a certain someone comes back from the other side of the planet, which he'll do in two weeks exactly. Not that I'm counting.

September 16, 2010

"Song," Frank O'Hara

Did you see me walking by the Buick Repairs?
I was thinking of you
having a Coke in the heat it was your face
I saw on the movie magazine, no it was Fabian's
I was thinking of you
and down at the railroad tracks where the station
has mysteriously disappeared
I was thinking of you
as the bus pulled away in twilight
I was thinking of you
and right now

September 13, 2010

harvest season

these days, things in the garden are very tall.

(not my garden)

(also not my garden)

(my garden. so short!)

my tomatoes are way out of hand. it's like a jungle thicket of tomatoes. have I ever told you that tomato vine is one of my favorite smells? like, top 5. it's so green and spicy. it reminds of being a child, spending summers out in the country at my cousins' house. my aunt had a vegetable garden down by the pond, with a whole long row of tomatoes.

tomato jungle

the one red tomato

tomato season's been hard on portland this year. if everything on my four little tomato plants ripens, I'll have an enormous bounty. but for right now, it's just green. every tomato in portland, it seems, is stuborrnly green. come on, sun!

seriously, come on sun. we're not ready for fall.

not bolted

things in my garden are pretty confused. I planted a lot of it too early or too late. I'm harvesting things at odd times. these brussels sprouts? I was SURE they had bolted. but not sure enough that I was ready to pull them (I didn't have anything to plant there anyway). so I left them. and now look what's happening. will they make it before the rains come?

the most confused plant in my garden:

confused watermelon

the watermelon. I know. it's crazy. I planted all my first plants late and it just sat there forlornly, not dying, but not growing. it wasn't dead so I left it alone and determinedly watered it. now, in mid-september, it's got NINE tiny melons on it, and about 50 blossoms. the cucumber is the same way. I don't have the heart to tell it that it's fall right now, not spring. maybe there's hope?


my peppers look great. except I supposedly planted one green, one red, one yellow, and one spicy pepper. two of them are regular green bell peppers, one of them is some sort of small, potentially spicy pepper, and the other one is something in between. all of them ended up green. cross-pollination, or bad labeling?

really tall fennel

the fennel is nearly as tall as I am. (behind it, the cilantro is too) I guess it's time. it turns out my number one problem as a gardener is letting go of these lovely plants long enough to pull them and eat them. the bees like the flowers on the fennel and cilantro so much that I just let them grow.

baby kale

baby chard

the kale and chard didn't grow very well, which is probably a godsend in the end, since I am overwhelmed by greens. I have one chard plant and four kales. those that are growing are great, but I planted a lot more (from seed) than that.

greens explosion

red lettuce

the greens (and reds) are out of control. that frisee -- I just can't eat it fast enough. it grows and grows. I pluck leaves off of it every time I'm there.

radicchio nest


the radicchio remind me of happy babies for some reason. all swaddled up. I've had the hardest time finding the heart to harvest them. look how lovely they are! but it's time. I pulled my first one yesterday.





you guys. I will never be able to eat it all. look at it. it's like Audrey II. it's twice the size of my head. I have like 12 pictures that all look just like this because my arm wasn't long enough to get the whole thing in the photo. it took me over an hour to wash it and prep it for salads. and I have FOUR MORE. anyone want some radicchio?

by the way, the rest of the harvest looked like this. don't laugh.
tiny harvest

the current count in the garden:
sage (x2)
chives (x2)
lavender (looking sickly but hanging in)
fennel (x2)
red & green lettuce
walla walla onions
one lone broccoli plant (actually growing, also confused)
parsnips (hopefully, they're so slow)
peppers (x4)
raspberry (needs tending)

I've learned so much this year. next year: more flowers! plant early despite the terrifying, unending rain! plan ahead! plant waaay more seeds than you think you need, because half of them won't grow! plant tall things so you have a big tall garden like everyone else!

now excuse me while I go eat 2 pounds of radicchio.

September 8, 2010


friday morning, we will put down one of the mares at the barn, a horse who belongs to my instructor's sister. syd (the horse) has seen many of us through lessons, adults and children alike. many of us are grateful to her for getting us through rocky places in our riding, myself included. she's a fixture at the barn, and it will be hard to say goodbye. but she's suffering from some untreatable health issues, the worst of which is a tumor very close to her esophagus, which because of its location (it's also pressing against the carotid artery) is inoperable. it's made it difficult for her to swallow, and therefore to eat, and she's dropped a ton of weight. everything that can be done for her has officially been done, so the decision has been made to let her go. she is 26 years old. we'll miss her. she's getting as many pets and hugs and treats as we can give her before she goes.

syd & the chicken

a certain someone left in the wee hours of this morning for a month-long trip to italy. he's spending a week with his family in tuscany (I'd like my family to take a page out of this book, please) and then another few weeks bike touring. we've been talking about it since we first started dating but it still didn't feel real until last night. at 4 AM we stood outside to wait for the shuttle (I couldn't drive him to the airport because I couldn't fit the bike box in my car), but when it came, the sudden farewell still felt like a surprise. he's going to have a great time, but it'll be awfully lonely here without him.

September 2, 2010


the vaux's swifts at chapman elementary school, number #19. they are a little bit impossible to capture, being so tiny, flying at dusk.




they gather in number for awhile, swooping in great arcs and spirals before descending in a whirl down into the chimney. occasionally a bird of prey waits in hopes of dinner.

pretty night for it, huh?

(what happens if I complete my list with half a year to spare? I worry about these things.)

September 1, 2010





very zen

almost forgot: we conquered #15 while we were at the coast a couple of weeks ago. now if only I could have remembered to stop at the natural spring (#4) on my way home.