Happy Birthday, Maestro Verdi!

gjO0okHow would you like to spend your 200th birthday?

Have you made any plans? Because time passes quickly, and your bicentennial might just sneak up on you.

Giuseppe Verdi is 200 years old TODAY! (Or maybe tomorrow.)

His baptismal certificate is not completely clear. He was either born on October 9, 1813 or on October 10, 1813.  Just to be safe, I think we should celebrate all week long.

After all, Verdi was one of the greatest opera composers of all time.  He deserves a really fabulous birthday party.

So I have developed my own live show called VERDI HEROINES.  It’s quick romp through Verdi’s own dramatic life, punctuated by soprano arias from his best-loved operas. Just yesterday, I got to celebrate Verdi’s 200th birthday by singing “Verdi Heroines” for the South Bay branch of the Music Teacher’s Association of California, where I had the luxury of a very fine accompanist, Tomoko Ariyuki. If you’re in Southern California, please contact me (lindsay@lindsayfeldmeth.com) for more information about how to book my VERDI HEROINES concert for your private event. 9RJhKr

So how well do you know your Verdi? Operavore has provided this VERDI QUIZ to find out. If you were at my show yesterday, I really hope you get a good score.

Of course, there are many ways to celebrate Verdi this week. Gala events are cropping up all over the globe.  Here are some ways you can join the party, wherever you are in the world:

NORTH AMERICA:

New York, NY ~ you can pre-buy tickets for the Met’s new production of Falstaff in December, but if you’re looking for a Verdi party in October, visit The New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble as they join with the Arcadian Chorale of Matawan to present Verdi’s Requiem on October 19.

Sarasota, FL ~ Sarasota Opera has a genuine commitment to Verdi.  They want to become the first opera house in the world to perform the complete works of Verdi! And they are on track to finish their Verdi Cycle by 2016. The company that calls itself “Verdi’s American Home” will be hosting a big birthday party on 10/10/13.

EUROPE:

Copenhagen, Denmark ~ live stream Verdi’s Requiem from the Danish Radio Concert Hall on 10/13

Milan, Italy ~ Teatro alla Scala: get your tickets here for Don Carlo or Aida

Vienna, Austria ~ Staatsoper: click here for the Verdi Gala conducted by Daniele Gatti

AFRICA

Pretoria, South Africa ~ Come to a Verdi Gala on 10/11 or 10/13 at Linder Auditorium

ASIA:

Singapore ~ Enjoy a Verdi Gala on the waterfront at Theatres on the Bay, October 24

SOUTH AMERICA:

Buenos Aires, Argentina ~ Order your tix now for Teatro Colón’s December production of Un Ballo in Maschera

AUSTRALIA:

Melbourne ~ Attend La Traviata at Monash Uni on Friday night

Buon compleanno, maestro! Viva Verdi!

Our Little Tswana Singers

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When I close my eyes, I can still see their little faces.

It was hard to tear myself away from St. Peter’s Anglican Day Care Centre this morning, after three days of leading music workshops for AIDS affected pre-schoolers.

They waved good-bye as we pulled out of the lot, still clutching the stickers and candy we had given them.

Thanks to some generous donors, we were also able to give the children dozens of new music toys (claves, jingles, triangles, tiny cymbals, rhythm sticks, resonator bells, and colorful streamers for dancing).  The kids were thrilled with their new instruments. When we have a faster internet connection, I’ll upload a video of the St. Peter’s Pre-School Band!  (YES, Carolyn got it all on film!) These kids really know how to make a joyful noise!

Earlier in the week, we also got to visit a very special pre-school in the village of Kanye.  We sang praise songs with them, and played Vivaldi for them, and taught them to dance the hokey-pokey.  They loved it.sing

So we taught master classes (for adults) in the evening, but we spent our mornings singing and dancing with children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old!

Both pre-schools are specifically for children who are affected by AIDS. Botswana has the second highest HIV infection rate in the world (behind Swaziland), and more than one-third of the adult population is HIV positive. There are sixty-four kids at the school in Kanye and seventy-six kids at the centre Gaborone, so we played with 140 pre-schoolers this week!

Some of these little ones are HIV+, and others have parents who are sick (or have already passed away).  And some of the children are not directly involved with AIDS, but they have been victims of abuse or neglect. They are all hungry for love and attention.  And they all love to sing and dance!

Once again, I was so proud of my team.  Nani and I kept the kids busy with all kinds of (highly active!) music games.  Nani is an inspired teacher, and Bogdan was very creative with his spontaneous accompaniment to all of our songs! (There was no keyboard in Kanye, but he got to play an upright piano at St Peters, and he also hammered out a mean boogie-woogie on the resonator bells.)

I also had a lot of support from my family! My sister and brother-in-law and their two daughters drove up to Botswana on Tuesday, after completing a service project in Swaziland.  They came to help with the music workshops at the pre-school, and I was so excited to have them with us!

You should have seen the Tswana kids’ faces when they saw my two nieces (ages 6 and 11) come into their classroom.  It’s an amazing thing to watch kids from vastly different cultures trading their favorite songs and dances.  Such fun!

My mom helped coordinate the entire effort at both pre-schools. She located both facilities, and she interviewed several local experts on AIDS, because she is currently researching the response of the African Church to the orphan crisis. We met several people who inspired us – they are passionate about caring for at-risk kids, and they have dedicated their lives to serving these precious little ones.

By the end of the week, the kids were clinging to us like Velcro! We were getting innendated with hugs.  But it was wonderful, because they are adorable and huggable kids.  We’ll miss them.

Meanwhile, we have had many other adventures here in Botswana, and I just haven’t had time to tell you all of the wonderful (and crazy) things that have happened to us. So once again, I will direct you to Nani’s blog and Bogdan’s blog because they’re both touching and hilarious.

Please stay tuned for more news about our final concerts!  I just can’t believe the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera festival is almost over.  It’s been unforgettable.

the Voices of Botswana

botsicons_bots2_tshenolobatshogileThere are some sounds that knock you sideways.

The vocal talent in Botswana is simply phenomenal. For someone who craves the sound of rich and resonant voices, Gaborone is like a candy shop.

As you can imagine, the master classes that we are teaching are just as much fun for us as they are for our students!  Our young singers are very modest and unassuming; sometimes, they are so shy that it is hard to coax them to sing.  But when they open their mouths, the music just pours out of them!  More than a few times, Nani and Bogdan and I have been left a little breathless by the quality of the sounds we hear.

We have even met a few voices that (if they get the proper training) might someday sing in the great opera houses of the world. But like all young opera singers, they need rigorous training in order to make that dream a reality. And it is hard to get the necessary education in a country without a single music conservatory. Despite the enthusiasm of the singers themselves, Botswana’s audience for classical singing is still fairly small.

On Wednesday evening, we opened the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera Festival with a 5JmTMIconcert on the theme of “powerful women in opera.” Four dozen classical music lovers filed into Baobab School Hall, curious to hear an opera concert in Gaborone.  There has been no opera here since December, when the No. 1 Ladies’ Opera House was forced to close because they lost their lease.

With Bogdan at the piano, Nani and I sang some of the great operatic showstoppers by Mozart, Bellini, Rossini, Bizet, Verdi and Wagner. And it was a success! At the reception that followed the concert, the audience showered us with compliments, calling the show “spectacular” and “immensely enjoyable.” We heard so many kind words from local music teachers, music enthusiasts, tourists, and even from a representative of the United States Embassy! We felt honored to be able to perform for such an appreciative public.

DSCN0885But that was just the beginning.  After the reception, we invited the young opera singers back into the theater, where I taught a master class in vocal technique.   The students were brimming with energy: they studied my powerpoint slides about the lungs and the vocal cords, and they listened carefully to my sound clips of great singers, and they immediately integrated my vocal exercises for breathing and support.

Then, one by one, they came up to the front and sang for us.  Many of them actually seemed quite nervous about this, but with the DSCN0889support of their friends, they gathered enough courage to come forward.  They tentatively handed Bogdan their music and introduced themselves.  Some of them were so shy that they actually hid their faces behind their hands. But then they blew us away with soulful renditions of “Un bel di vedremo” and “Nessun dorma!”  It was the most amazing experience.

The very next night, they all returned to hear Nani’s master class on acting DSCN0914and audition skills (and vocal technique, too!). For me, it was such a joy to sit back and watch Nani teach – it is just so gratifying to watch her give these singers the tools they need to improve. And I can’t wait to see Bogdan’s master class on Tuesday! These students are so hungry to know more about singing.

Then last night, I gave a short presentation on the history of opera, and challenged them to think about Botswana’s place in the FUTURE of opera. They smiled thoughtfully, and then they went right back to work, singing their hearts out.

Our evening workshops will continue all next week, hosted by David Slater at his studio.  Mr. Slater is both a conductor and a masterful voice teacher, but like his students, he is incredibly humble. It is quite evident that he has already taught his singers a great deal about technique, phrasing, languages, librettos, and the architecture of sound. But if you ask him, he will tell you that his students’ impressive sound is primarily due to their own “lovely voices” and “raw talent.”

We are hoping that our festival will bring some national and international attention to these marvelous singers.  We will be featuring these voices in YouTube clips.  There are some Tswana voices that you will want to hear.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out Bogdan’s blog and Nani’s blog for more about our exciting adventures in Botswana!

Running Home

Do you like to run? How would you feel about running from Canada to Mexico?

Meet Norma Bastidas, ultra-marathoner and mother of two, who is running 2600 miles to raise awareness about violence and domestic abuse.

Norma left Vancouver on April 21st, and she ran past my house in Los Angeles two weeks ago. Today, she’s running through the Sonora Desert and she plans to arrive in her hometown of Mazatlan, Mexico on the 8th of July! You can follow her journey at: Running Home, A Journey to End Violence.

I am always inspired by people who do “impossible” things, so I felt very privileged to meet Norma. Her athletic career is nothing short of amazing: she has run ultra-marathons on all 7 continents and she’s also an accomplished mountaineer. She has run on all kinds of terrain, from the sands of Namibia to the ice of Antarctica. (How do you top that?)

But this journey is special.  “I wanted to do something really hard,” she told me. “And I believe in what I’m doing.”  She wants to put an end to violence.  Does that seem impossible?  Remember that this woman is running all the way from Canada to Mexico. There isn’t much that seems impossible to Norma.

When I heard she was coming to my house, I made sure to get her some fuel: multi-vitamins, L-glutamines, and lots of pasta! She was grateful for the dinner, but she was almost too excited to eat. Instead of focusing on her own amazing story, Norma kept asking me about my projects. She wanted to hear about my festival in Nepal, and my dreams of singing in Africa. She asked how I was using my music to inspire people.

Sitting on my couch on the 9th of June, Norma was absolutely glowing with happiness. (No one should look that beautiful after running every day for two months!) She couldn’t wait to tell me about her mission.

“Every time you decide to push the limits of what you think is possible, they get a little further,” she said. “But you have to be smart about it.   You don’t want to put yourself in danger for no reason. So I always ask myself: am I afraid because it’s really dangerous, or am I just afraid to fail? If it’s just my ego talking, that’s not a good enough reason not to try.”

I think she’s right.  It’s important to take risks sometimes. It’s not about winning a trophy or “being the best.”  It’s about pouring your life into something that matters.

You might not be able to run sixty miles in a day like Norma Bastidas.  But isn’t there something you’ve been wanting to do? Some dream you have given up because it feels impossible?

Michelangelo wrote, “the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

So where is your next “finish line?” Maybe you could go just a little bit farther? Re-think your own boundaries. Push the limits of possible.