Category Archives: Laura

Inside the Opera World: Patrons 

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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.

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Technology: Blessing or Curse?

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. On top of normal work/life craziness, I’ve been hit with the one-two-punch of phone and car troubles.

IMG_3770Last weekend, I had the JOY of spending an evening with my good friend, Teagen, who was in town for work and the Chicago Marathon. We had a wonderful and rare opportunity to catch up face to face, without the help of Skype. It was relaxing and life giving. We were only briefly interrupted by the regular Chicago moment of a stranger coming up to ask for money/donations to an ambiguous sports team. The young man hovered at our table, presenting a pamphlet of some kind asking for cash. After eventually convincing him that neither of us had any cash on us, he slumped away and out of the restaurant. We continued to chat for another half an hour before deciding to call it an early night. We hugged and I went to grab for my phone in my purse, only to discover it was gone. It wasn’t in the restaurant. it wasn’t in her hotel room. That desperate “Athlete” had swiped my phone off the table, as he was showing us his pamphlet. AAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!

The joyful meeting had suddenly turn fully annoying. I called the cops, who called apple, who sent me an email (after about an hour on hold). We ran back to Teagen’s hotel room to use her computer, which was a secure work computer, which made google think someone was breaking into my account, which made it lock me out and only offered me the option of sending a new password via TEXT! I then had to call Google to get into gmail (put on hold again), to get my apple email, to get the phone erased, to get the police report filed. I got home about 4 1/2 hours later exhausted, with adrenaline coursing through my veins. What a hassle! The next day, I went to At&t, who connected me with my insurance company, who sent me out a new phone, which I received yesterday.

And the car (there IS a point to this post beyond complaining, I promise). I drove to my Figaro performance at my normal call time for the show, 9:15pm (yep.. when I want to be in bed) and had a great show! When starting my car afterwards to drive my colleague and myself home, I noticed a whining noise, which culminated in the thing dying outside of my colleagues apartment building around 11:15pm. Already exhausted, I called AAA and waited. The technician showed up within about 30 minutes, and quickly figured out that it was the alternator and the battery. It would have to be towed. He called it in and assured me that the tow truck would be there within the hour. I got a call from AAA, telling me their ETA was 2:15am. Ugh… not great, but whatever. 2:20am roles around and I call to check on the tow truck. New ETA 3:15am. The truck gets there at 3:30am and very quickly loads my poor, dead car (while I, shivering, run to the CVS across the street to go to the bathroom… it had been a LONG wait), and drives it to the Sears auto right by my house. He unloads it and drops me off at 4:00am. Woof.

I am happy to say, a week after the phone and a day after the car, I have a new phone and a fixed car. I could now start a long diatribe about the evils of technology and how they only complicate out lives… but I’m not going to do that.

As I sit here on my day off, thinking through the past events, the frustrations really had very little to do with technology. In fact, technology is what made it all better. My phone was stolen by a person. I actually was ok right after it happened, it’s only a phone, until I had to sit on hold and call all these numbers and WAIT. But I worked myself up over waiting. Over being impatient. My phone, with all my important information, was stolen and within 24 hours, technology allowed me to wipe my phone clean, lock them out, find their location (if they ever turn it on), order me a replacement, load ALL the information from my previous phone on the new one, and made the phone basically worthless to the thieves. I find myself honestly looking at the situation, which was annoying, but frankly, it’s only a thing. It can be and was quickly replaced. A person stole it and I freaked out because I had to wait. All the while, technology was fixing it. Crazy.

IMG_7306While last night, waiting for the tow truck, was a LONG night, one phone call got my car looked at and towed to a Sears, which had it fixed by this afternoon. Again, the only real problems were lack of sleep, waiting, and money. Relatively small in the scope of life and whats important.

I know is popular today to berate our generation’s dependance on technology in every area of our lives, especially relationships. While I whole-heartedly agree with many of the criticisms, I don’t fully subscribe to the doomed perspective. Yes, I am concerned for kids who grow up with cyber-bullying, never having to see the faces of those they pick on, taking away the chance to develop empathy and am constantly frustrated with the texting games that go on in the dating world. And I, obviously, fully champion having face to face dialogues and debates and hate to see how easily social media creates a world of “Us vs. Them”.IMG_3561

However, I think, when we are our parents ages, we will see that technology allowed us to stay in touch with those we love in a special and unique way. My dinner with Teagen was, in large part, thanks to Skype and phones, which have allowed us to stay close friends years after we left St. Olaf, even though she lives in Portland and I in Chicago. In fact, I have so many close and special friends in my life because we can sit and have coffee over Skype, while living thousands of miles away from each other. Skype has allowed me to see my nieces and nephews grow up and they have gotten to know me, even when I wasn’t able to visit often. I think its rare for my parent’s generation to still be in close touch with high school or even college friends. While our generation may struggle to find depth in the new relationships they start because of the dangers of text communicating, we are allowed the joy of keeping and cultivating relationships with people we have met at every stage of our life. We know what their kids look like and instantly hear of life milestones, thanks to things like Facebook and Instagram, which reminds us to call and keep in touch.

IMG_2678-1Of course, technology complicates our lives more than they use to be, but it truly is what you make it. If you use Facebook and texting as a way to avoid having real friendships, then YOU are choosing to not engage in relationships. I’m just grateful I have friends and family who use it as a vehicle to be in my life.

And I’m just grateful for AAA.

(Oh, and the top picture of two of my nieces staring at a computer, was the first time they got to see Auntie Laura sing. They sat and watched ALL of the video of my Cendrillon (Cinderella) opera. And I was able to watch them enjoy it. Yep. Technology made for a pretty special moment there.)