Botswana on My Mind

botswanaI’ve started to dream about Africa.

In April, I’ll be launching an opera festival in the heart of Botswana. That’s my new year’s resolution for 2013! But organizing a festival takes a lot of mental energy. I think about it constantly. I talk about it. I even dream about it. I have Botswana on the brain, and I haven’t even been there yet.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival was inspired by a talented group of opera singers in Gaborone, Botswana. These dynamic singers are doing exciting work and producing some very original opera. But it’s hard to sustain an opera company in Southern Africa, and due to financial problems, they have just lost their opera house.

Our festival will put these singers back in the spotlight, performing opera scenes on the biggest stages of Gaborone! Along with my team (the award-winning pianist, Bogdan Dulu, and the star mezzo-soprano Nandani Maria Sinha), I will be performing concerts and teaching workshops for the singers. The goal of the festival is to equip and inspire emerging artists in Southern Africa while bringing attention to women’s issues through musical performance. We are also hoping to make a movie about the project, to help these singers get more international attention. If you would like to click here and make a small donation, we would be so grateful. (Please write ‘No 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival’ in the designation field.)

We will also have the privilege of working with some AIDS orphans in Gaborone, and giving them a music workshop. This was an unexpected opportunity that suddenly presented itself a few weeks ago. One of the most important things that I learned in 2012 is that it’s impossible to predict how things are going to happen! Things just don’t go according to plan. It’s hard for overachievers to accept, but there are circumstances beyond our control. And that’s not such a bad thing.

For example, one of my biggest struggles… READ MORE

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Benefit Concert for Botswana

I am delighted to announce that Nandani Maria Sinha and Douglas Sumi are joining me on the concert stage in Altadena, California on February 10th! This is a benefit concert for the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival! And this is going to be a wildly fun concert, my friends. It’s actually a preview of another concert we’ll be giving in Gaborone, Botswana on April 10th, so if you’re closer to Altadena than Gaborone, come to this one! 😉

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Bicentennial Bliss (why 2013 is going to be awesome)

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Happy New Year, my globetrotting operatic friends!

This year, the music world will celebrate the 200th birthdays of both Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi.

What a year for opera!

(Image courtesy of The Wagnerian, a fantastic site for Wagner fans.)

If you’d like to see Wagner’s Ring Cycle in 2013, there is a production for every month of year, so you can decide whether you’d like to see it in Darmstadt, Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Karlsruhe, New York, Vienna, Hamburg, Sofia, Paris, Seattle or Melbourne!

If you’re in New York, you can catch five sumptuous Verdi operas at the Met this season: Don Carlo, Otello, Rigoletto, La Traviata and Il Trovatore!

And if you’re here in Los Angeles, you’ve probably already seen Verdi’s I Due Foscari, and now it’s time to book your tickets for Wagner’s Flying Dutchman at LA Opera.  If you like big-opera-on-a-small-budget, check out San Pedro Opera; the season begins with Cavalleria Rusticana (it’s Pietro Mascagni’s 150th birthday, too) but the word on the street is that SPO will have some Wagner and Verdi galas later this year.

Of course, there is one MORE reason why 2013 is going to be awesome, and that’s because it’s the first year of the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival in Botswana! If you’re planning to be in Southern Africa in April, stop by Gaborone to hear us. We’ll sing some scenes from Wagner and Verdi operas, among others.

Wherever you find yourself this year, be sure to stroll past the local opera house to see what’s going on.  You might just catch Aida in St Petersburg, Un Ballo in Maschera in Buenos Aires, or Tannhäuser in Tokyo! It’s going to be a great year.

African Christmas: Free Gift!

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Need a last minute Christmas present?

How about making a donation to the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival on behalf of a friend?

Your friend will receive a holiday email saying, “A donation has been made in your name to the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival, helping young African musicians to make their dreams come true.”

You even get to choose how we spend the money! Here are a few gift options:

Opera Workshop for Young Professionals – the singers of No. 1 Ladies’ Opera House have extraordinary talent, but they need help getting to the next level. Our team of artists will be offering workshops and master classes, sharing everything we know about vocal technique, stagecraft and opera repertoire. And then we’ll perform opera together all over the capital of Botswana! Please help us fund this program and rent the best stages in Gaborone.

Documentary – these young African opera singers are doing something incredible, but no one knows about it. We want to broadcast their music across the world. Will you help us tell their story in film? Any amount helps!

Music Therapy for AIDS Orphans – we will be offering a 5-day music workshop for kids in Gaborone, Botswana, in collaboration with Churches United Against HIV & AIDS. Most of these kids have lost their parents to AIDS. Will you help us give these precious children a week of musical fun? We’re teaching the program for free but we need money for space rental, supplies and musical instruments.

Plane Tickets – the musicians already have tickets, but we need YOUR help to get our film crew to Africa!  Could you contribute $100? Or donate frequent flyer miles? This is my Christmas wish. 🙂

Lodging – once we’re there, we’ll need a place to stay. $40/day buys us each a bed at the lodge!

Namibia Concert – we have been invited to give a special concert in Windhoek, Namibia but we need some money for travel if we want to make it happen.

So how does it work? Just use this Network for Good Badge (be sure to write “No 1 Ladies Opera Festival” in the designation field.) OR donate through the festival website . Then email me at lindsay@lindsayfeldmeth.com with your friend’s name and email address.

FREE CHRISTMAS GIFT with any donation of at least $25: If you donate at least $25, and email me before 8 PM (PST) on December 26 2012, I will make an original recording of myself singing your favorite Christmas carol in mP3 form and send it to you!!! Just send the song title to lindsay@lindsayfeldmeth.com

If you prefer to pay with a personal check, it can be made out to Claremont Graduate University. Please mention No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival in the memo line, and mail to: David Carpenter, Senior Director of Development, Claremont Graduate University, 165 E. 10th St., Claremont, CA 91711

Help some talented artists on the other side of the world… make this Christmas an African Christmas!

This project is generously sponsored by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and endorsed by Claremont Graduate School, the Global Women’s Research Institute, the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera House, Maitisong Festival, David Slater Music, Cadenza Artists, and San Pedro Opera.

the Nearsighted Soprano

“Don’t move a muscle,” said the stage director. “Don’t even blink.”

I was standing on a rehearsal stage in Salzburg, staring lifelessly into the auditorium. Mechanically, I lifted one arm, jerking my fan away from face in a single robotic movement. Then I began to sing, “Les oiseux dans la charmille…” I was singing the role of Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, an opera by Jacques Offenbach, and my character was a life-sized doll.  It was my very first role at the Mozarteum and I wanted to prove myself. So I worked hard to control my muscle movements.  By the end of the rehearsal period, I could pop off high E’s without moving … or blinking.

But on the day of the Hauptprobe, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake.  I had never practiced my aria while standing in the spotlight. (I usually love to be in the spotlight. But that’s because I’m usually allowed to blink.) This time, as I gazed out into the auditorium, my vision suddenly went fuzzy.  The spotlight was drying out my contact lenses! But I said nothing and stoically sang my aria… until my right contact lens popped out and landed on my cheek. Now I was singing half-blind and with a piece of plastic stuck to my face.

Fortunately, the role of my ‘father’ and creator, Spalanzani, was sung by my talented colleague, Thorsten Büttner. Without dropping character for a second, Thorsten leaned towards me with all the gentleness of a genuine dollmaker and delicately removed the contact lens from my cheek. He then passed it on his fingertip to another amazing singer, Mathieu Abelli, who dunked the poor shriveled lens into a chalice of water. It was not until we were all safely off-stage that we dissolved into laughter.

After that, I resolved to blink just once, but at the dress rehearsal, the same thing happened again. It became a routine: Lindsay loses contact lens; Thorsten rescues lens from Lindsay’s face; Mathieu rehydrates lens in the nearest stage prop. It was now part of our blocking! But the stage director didn’t like it. So on the night of my first performance… READ MORE

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Irish Dance Revolution

These are not my feet.

The stepdancer pictured here is far more advanced than I am! But I began taking lessons at the Lyons Academy of Irish Dance back in February, and I love it.

Best. Hobby. Ever.

The popularity of Irish Dance has exploded over the past fifteen years. Of course, the Irish have been dancing jigs for centuries. But in the mid-1990s, Michael Flatley brought global attention to the art form with his mesmerizing sell-out performances of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. American kids flocked to stepdancing classes, finding a fun alternative to gymnastics or ballet.  And Irish Dance has its own vibrant subculture, with young students dancing at Celtic fairs all over Europe and North America.

So when my sister suggested that we sign up for an adult beginners class, I thought it sounded like a good idea.  I knew that I wouldn’t have enough time to train for another triathlon this year, so I needed a new physical goal.  And what could be more fun than dancing jigs with my sister while listening to fiddles, accordions and bagpipes? (Contrary to common belief, I don’t only listen to opera… well, ok, I do listen to a lot of opera. But not exclusively.)

Still, it was just a fun thing to do on Wednesday nights. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would actually compete at a feis (Irish dance competition) this year. But that’s what happened.  I blame it on our teacher, dance champion Meredith Lyons, because she is an amazing teacher.  She encouraged us to go for the gold… and in fact, I came home from the Long Beach Halloween Feis with three gold medals and two silvers! (Full disclosure: there were only a dozen people in the adult beginners category.)  I had so much fun.

Irish dancers use two kinds of shoes: soft shoes (or ghillies) and hard shoes. There are four traditional soft shoe dances: the reel, light jig, slip jig, and single jig. The difference between the dances has to do with the time signature of the music. Reels are in 4/4 time, but light and single jigs are in 6/8, and slip jigs are in 9/8. There are also a variety of hard shoe dances: the hornpipe (syncopated 2/4 or 4/4), as well as the treble jig, the treble reel and traditional set dances.

So if you need a lift, I recommend Irish Dance. It’s great exercise and it’s guaranteed to improve your mood. After all, it’s hard not to grin when you’re dancing a jig.  Just stepdance your cares away! But I warn you: it’s addictive.

Meet the Artist

I had the chance to sing on “Meet the Artist” yesterday!

What a pleasure to meet Dina Kuznetsova, and to perform alongside Danielle Marcelle Bond and Armen Guzelimian. We talked about some exciting events coming up for the New West Symphony.  The show was broadcast on Thousand Oaks TV on November 1, 2012, but you can see it right here:

If you’d like to vote for my SymphoNet submission, just click THIS LINK and press “like” on YouTube.  Thanks so much!

The No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival

I have never been to Africa. But that’s about to change.

In April, I’ll be heading to Botswana to launch the No. 1 Ladies Opera Festival!

If that title sounds familiar, then you have probably read the best-selling mystery series about the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.  Or maybe you caught the brilliant HBO series by the same name, with superstar Jill Scott in the role of Precious Ramotswe, the best detective in Botswana.

But you may not be aware that Alexander McCall Smith also founded an opera house in Botswana’s capital city, Gaborone, called the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera House.  He established the opera house together with his friend David Slater, a marvelous musician who has been at the center of Gaborone’s classical music scene for more than thirty years. They assembled some talented singers and began to sell tickets.

My connection to Botswana is through my friend Karen Torjesen, professor of Women’s Studies at Claremont Graduate School, who is also a frequent guest professor at the University of Botswana.  One day last year,  Karen was filling out paperwork at the university when she suddenly heard a beautiful soprano voice singing classical music! It turned out that the young woman handling Karen’s work permit was an opera singer, a student of David Slater’s. Karen told her about the workshops I teach for young professional singers and my recent festival in Nepal. The young soprano was delighted, and several e-mails later, I was asking David Slater if his singers would like to have their own opera festival. He said yes.
And that’s how the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival was born.

Over the next few months, this captivating little idea began to gain momentum with breathtaking speed. I was delighted when the award-winning pianist Bogdan Dulu accepted my invitation to perform with me in Gaborone. And then the fabulous mezzo-soprano Nandani Maria Sinha told me she was available to go to Africa, as well! In fact, we are planning to give concerts on the theme of “Powerful Women in Opera” in Namibia and South Africa as well as Botswana! We will also teach workshops for the singers in Gaborone, and organize some exciting concerts for them.

So the festival will feature performances by both local and international artists, as well as workshops in vocal technique and operatic repertoire.  It will culminate in an energetic closing ceremony including both classical and traditional music. By a happy coincidence, we will be there at the time of the Maitisong Festival, Botswana’s largest arts festival, so we’ll get to experience Southern African music like never before!

And we’ll get it all on film. I’ve asked the filmmaker Heidi Burkey to create a special documentary about this festival.  These young singers are already following their dream of being professional opera singers, but they face enormous odds.  It is hard to sustain an opera career in any part of the world, but it’s even harder in Botswana, and it would be so easy for these talented artists to feel isolated and discouraged. So we want to help them use media channels to gain real traction for their careers. We’ll be spreading their music across the world.

The goal of the festival is to equip and inspire emerging artists in Southern Africa while bringing attention to women’s issues through musical performance. We also hope to cultivate sustainable funding sources for local arts programs in Botswana. We are thrilled to collaborate with Claremont Graduate School, David Slater Music, the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera House and the Maitisong Festival to create an exciting new cultural event in Gaborone.

To raise money for this exciting event, I’ll be organizing a series of benefit concerts and one complete opera production in Los Angeles, so stay tuned for more details! In future blog posts, I’ll tell you even more about this wonderful group of singers in Botswana.

We do need help to fund this festival, so if you are able to make a donation, please donate here.  Every little bit helps!  Let’s make this happen.

Cruising with Mickey Mouse

What could be better than sailing the high seas on a luxurious cruise with… your favorite cartoon mouse?

Last week, I enjoyed a dream  vacation aboard the Disney Wonder, cruising from Vancouver to San Francisco to Los Angeles.

This fantastic trip was completely unexpected. It all began a few weeks ago, when I got a phone call from my talented friend, Tiffany Sparks-Keeney. Tiffany and I are friends from way back, and her expert knowledge of kinesiology (and its impact on singing opera) will be the subject of many blog posts to come. But she wasn’t calling about work; she was asking me if I wanted to join her (and her adorable 9-month-old baby) on a 7-day cruise.  It took me about 3 seconds to say, “YES, PLEASE!”

This was my first cruise and I have to say that it was nothing short of amazing. There were three (yes, three!) swimming pools on the top deck. Because this was a Disney cruise, the entertainment was top notch. The cast and crew were fantastic, and we were treated like royalty the entire time. In seven short days, I got used to having delicious food and relaxing spa treatments. When it was finally time to disembark, I didn’t want to leave!

Sadly, there were no scheduled opera performances.  But on our final night, I got up on stage and sang “Vissi d’arte” to a very appreciative audience — I guess nobody expected Tosca to show up on a Disney cruise! 😉

I especially enjoyed the international flair of the cruise.  More than 50% of the guests were Canadian, but the crew came from all over the world. I had a chance to chat with new friends in German, Italian, French and Nepali. (I only remember a few phrases in Nepali, but I was able to use them all!)

Since I do a lot of my “globetrotting” for work, it was especially nice to have a relaxing vacation with a good friend.  Thank you, Tiffany! It was magical.

Outdoor Opera

Opera doesn’t only happen in opera houses.

Don’t get me wrong — I love opera houses.  When I lived in Italy, I embarked upon my own personal “Opera House Tour,” visiting famous opera houses from Milan to Palermo. I have nothing against sweeping staircases, painted ceilings, gilded ornamentation, glittering chandeliers and plush velvet seats. The acoustics in many opera houses are wonderful. And there is a special joy in singing to a house full of opera lovers!

But opera is a thriving and dynamic art form; it cannot be contained! People are singing opera everywhere these days: on lakes, in parking garages, and in Swedish living rooms. Travis Pratt even sings Rossini in elevators.

Personally, I love to sing outdoors. Some of my favorite concerts have been outside: on a Hawaiian beach, in a friend’s backyard, in the middle of the Sequoia National Forest, and in the courtyard of an ancient museum in Nepal.  I occasionally sing while kayaking and parasailing.

For me, there is something thrilling about singing to the ocean.  Last week, I went beach camping with my family near Santa Barbara.  It was a wonderful vacation, but I didn’t really have anywhere to sing.  So one afternoon, I hiked up on a a little cliff and sang Gershwin to the sea: “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…” It felt great to sing in the open air.  And at the end of my aria, I was rewarded with applause from the beach below! My audience consisted of 1 snorkeler, 2 kayakers,  a few hikers, and several seagulls.  Spontaneous concerts can be fun.

Opera is everywhere. 🙂