All posts by Laura Wilde

Great Roommates Make Life Better

This week’s post is brought to you by my epically wonderful, hilarious, crazy, and lovable roommates Gretchen and Renee.


Before we moved in together, I had decided that I would never have roommates again. I’ve had some wonderful ones, but between grad school, summer sublets, and summer opera programs, I had 11 different roommates in 4 years. I needed a break from having to learn how to communicate with people of varied relational closeness about dishes, bills, overnight guests, noise, etc. Similar to my sister, I am also generally an introvert, although I do stratal the two types depending on my level of emotional health. Since so much of my work is interactive, especially when you are in a program with the Ryan Opera Center, I need a chance to hide away and decompress after long days of rehearsals.

My first year in Chicago was spent in a cute little one bedroom apartment a bit south of where I live now. I LOVED living alone. IIMG_4108 also became “Hotel Wilde” that first year as basically EVERYONE special in my life stopped by to stay with me for a night or two. After living in Arizona for 2 years, it was nice to be back in the midwest, near so many high school, college, and grad school friends. But when I didn’t have guests, I reveled in the quiet and have never really been one to struggle with loneliness. I also have some seriously awesome friends from all stages of life who stay in touch via Skype. Pretty awesome. Pictured is just a couple of the visitors I had that year.

When I had issues with my landlady who wouldn’t fix a safety issue in the building, I was suddenly put in the position of having to find a new apartment. This all hit at the busiest time of my season and I was stressed already. Out of desperation and a moment of not wanting to do yet another big move by myself, I reached out to two girls from my bible study. I had heard that they were wanting to move from their tiny two bedroom apartment and asked if they would be willing to get a three bedroom place instead. I had only started to get to know the two of them, but because of the craziness with my old landlady and apartment and the stress that resulted, I made a SUDDEN shift to being excited to live with people again.

IMG_2774Thanks to Gretchen’s best friend Becca, who insisted on finding us an apartment near her, we ended up finding a PERFECT three bedroom apartment, near all of our friends, with the best landlords in the world. Amazingly, this exact apartment was lived in by two former Ryan Opera Center singers eight or nine years ago! Crazy!

It turns out, moving in with these ladies has been the BIGGEST blessing in so many ways. We are very different from each other, but we are also a perfect combo. Gretchen is artistic, fiery, emotional, relatively introverted, wise, and intensely loyal. Renee is fun-loving, caring, very social, driven, and sweet. Both invest deeply in their careers and the people in their lives, constantly strive to grow in their Faith, and are always up for theological/intellectual debates and discussions. I’ve discovered when adults like this live together, the conversations about living logistics are not complicated. If the dishes need to be done, we say it. If cleaning needs to happen, we clean one area and ask the others to pick and clean another part of the house. I pay the bills and tell them what they owe me. We take turns buying TP and paper towels. Nothing is dramatic and communication is always happening. It has made life simpler, because I’m not doing it ALL alone.

Beyond that, we have spent the past year and a half taking turns dealing with some pretty intense life issues. One after the other would go through work frustrations, questions of faith, the joy and confusion in dating, the heartache of breakups, family issues, a household unification in the delight of being single women, and the inevitable struggle with singleness. We’ve walked through life with openness and vulnerability, (even though Gretchen will roll her eyes at the idea that I am EVER vulnerable…) allowing the others to speak truth, dispel lies, and to, what I call, “process with adult supervision.” We pray together when someone is walking through something particularly challenging or just had a really terrible day. It’s been wonderful to come home every night and enjoy the people around me. I still have to hide away to decompress, but it is understood, never taken as a slight, and I find myself having to do it less and less, which has always been a sign that I’m in a healthy emotional place.IMG_2725

We also laugh. A lot. We laugh at each other quirks, like Gretchen’s quiet, but INTENSE frustrated yell, Renee’s purse that is dropped wherever she first stops when she walks in the apartment (I cant even describe the number of strange places I have almost tripped over it), or my sudden and aggressive strip-off challenges that are yet to go matched (don’t ask). We watch great and terrible TV together. We make pancakes after church every Sunday. We made delicious drinks and unashamedly indulge in pajama-wearing binge watching. We send each other sermons and podcasts to listen to and them discuss them. And we dance.

I’ve also discovered the joys of not having to do everything yourself. I will blog on that topic soon. I’m still learning how to ask for help, but this experience has been a MASSIVE step in that direction.

IMG_1133To conclude, living with roommates who love, accept, challenge, and support you is life-changing. The city becomes a completely different place and everything in life is do-able. As Renee prepares to move from the apartment to start a new life adventure, I find myself feeling like the past year and a half has been a pure gift.

Thank you, Renee and Gretchen, for being YOU, allowing your beautiful hearts and lives to be shared, and for loving and accepting me.

Fabulous Friday: Humans of New York

This Fabulous Friday post is brought to you by my favorite time-wasting website/Instagram page. I LOVE the idea of getting tiny glimpses into people’s lives. I often find myself looking around at the people on the Metra or in cars next to me wondering what their stories are. There is not ONE truly uninteresting person on the planet. I love that.


Inside the Opera World: Patrons 

Time for another fun peek into the opera world!

The word “Patron” has become a regular part of my vocabulary. It’s not till I throw this word into a sentence while talking to non-singer friends that I remember its a fairly foreign concept to the outside world. I’m SO excited to be writing on this topic, because its one of the most important parts of the Opera career.
Patrons of the arts are the reason we have the great music masterpieces today. Nearly every great composer had rich and powerful people commissioning and supporting their work. The relationship between artist and patron is what has made the music world what it is today. The opera world is no exception.

Today, opera patrons are what make it possible to have any opera at all. Donations are the primary way companies are able to stay in business and put on such large productions. Main stage opera productions at the Lyric take a massive amount of people to make them happen: they need a full orchestra, 20-90 chorus members, a large backstage crew, multiple stage managers, a conductor, a full cast (sometimes double cast, depending of the frequency of performances), a full cast of understudies, supers, dancers, a choreographer, a fight choreographer, a stage director, an assistant director, a large group of wig and makeup artists, seamstresses, dressers, set designers, costume designers, lighting designers, a prompter, rehearsal pianists, diction coaches, and someone to run the supertitles. That isn’t even including all of the administrators, finance people, development, HR, tickets sales, etc. Factoring in all of those salaries and the cost of the materials to build the giant sets and IMG_2721elaborate costumes and wigs, opera is EXPENSIVE! Even selling out every performance wouldn’t pay for it all.

Opera patrons are some of my favorite people in the world! They love and believe in the art form in a tangibly deep way. Most of them have seen more opera than I ever will and know more about it than I could hope to learn. They are passionate about carrying on the traditions, are excited by new works, and are the most generous people I know. They are the epitome of the phrase “putting money where their mouth is”. They also work tirelessly to introduce others to this art form they cherish so much, always working behind the scenes to get more funding and, as most of them are incredibly successful in their careers, offer insight and wisdom from many other aspects of the business world, which gives aid to opera administrators. They are amazing.

Beyond the big, main stage productions, patrons are THE REASON I have a job and have had the opportunity to train, vocally incubate, and have a steady paycheck for my formative singer years. Young Artist Programs are such a special part of the opera world. Going back in time, in the great eras of opera, singers apprenticed, by studying daily and often living with their teachers or great conductors. They trained constantly and had wisdom passed on to them from the previous generation. Even though my career is only about to launch, I have had the blessing of being a “working singer” since leaving grad school 5 years ago. Classical voices don’t fully mature (depending on the voice type) until our mid to late 30s and some even after that. This means, we wouldn’t have been ready to take on the big roles fresh out of college, making young artist programs a necessity. It’s a win/win situation. Young singers get time and experience by being hired by a company to do small roles and understudy bigger ones, and companies get cheap, but quality labor.

These young artist programs have very special patrons. These folks not only love the art form, but also love helping young singers and watching them grow. They follow our careers and, often, travel to see us perform at other companies as well. They help us get adjusted and show us around when we are new to the city, often house us for periods of time, take us to fabulous concerts, help us out with the expensive aspects of our training, and are our CONSTANT supports and encouragement. They IMG_1240come to all of our performances during our time in the program, always a smiling face in the crowd and a warm hug after the performance. It honestly becomes like having family at every performance and in every city in which we work.

In short, patrons are just plain wonderful. Every one of them has lived fascinating lives and have riveting stories to tell about the great opera singers of the past. Between my time in St. Louis, Arizona, Santa Fe, and Chicago, I have met some of the most wonderful people. They have taken me out to dinner, invited me to shows (including an EPIC Bette Midler concert), helped me find housing in foreign cities, made me an afghan, given me a beautiful hand-me-down mink coat, bought me gowns, hand-carved me a wooden box, and opened their homes to me. I honestly can’t express how grateful I am that they have allowed this art form to continue to thrive, enabled me to pursue this career path, and invited me into their lives. They have a very special place in my heart.

Below is me with my Afghan. Be Jealous. It’s awesome.