Mission: Possible

It started when I was 19 years old. I was a college student, studying medieval literature, but I had a secret habit. Late at night, I would sneak into the basement of my dormitory to sing opera.

Singing gave me energy. Whenever I had to pull an all-nighter to study for a test or write a paper, I would go and practice first. If I sang for just one hour, I would have enough energy to stay up all night.

If I went for too many days without singing, I would get restless. Singing had become a physical need! I was literally hungry for music. And when I did sing, I felt a sensation of wild joy. It was a feeling that I couldn’t ignore.

So I ran off to Europe to become an opera singer. I left school and flew to Austria, where I sang my heart out on the stage of the Mozarteum in Salzburg. I was immediately accepted into a seven-year degree program in opera. That was the beginning of my adventure.

When I followed my bliss all the way to Salzburg, I had a very clear sense of mission. I dared to entertain the idea that God… Read More

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Chocolate Snails & Skating with Mozart

Well, it’s time to leave Salzburg and head home to California for Christmas…

It’s been a wonderful autumn in Austria! And I finished my last performances yesterday, so I was free to wander through the Christmas Market today.

I also indulged myself by eating a chocolate snail.  No, not a real snail. Die Shokoschnecke is a favorite pastry of mine.

I need to board my plane in just a few short hours, so let me leave you with a quick video clip of kids having fun on the ice skating rink in Mozartplatz. Skating under the shadow of Amadeus!

that autumn feeling

Autumn has arrived in Salzburg. You cannot walk through Mirabell Garden without hearing the crunch of red and gold leaves underfoot!

I keep thinking about my favorite fall poems, the ones in English by Donne and Dickinson, and the ones in German by Rilke and Trakl.

And then there are the ageless songs of autumn, like September and Im Herbst … and Autumn in New York.  😉

Since I was once a college student here in Salzburg, that music always reminds me of past autumns in Austria. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to separate the memories from the music. In her wonderful book, The Inner Voice, Renée Fleming describes this phenomenon: “I have lived a life with a soundtrack. So many of my memories have music attached to them.”

And I know just what she means. I would take it even one step further.  Not only do my memories contain a soundtrack, but certain playlists seem to contain my memories!  When I hear a song that I love, I often remember where I was when I first heard it, and what was happening in my life at the time. It feels like my own story is written into the harmony.

The most vivid memories come from arias that I have studied or performed.  After all, learning a piece of music is a very personal experience, and hearing the music again reminds me of that experience – I can usually remember singing the piece for the very first time. I remember the people who were there, and what was happening, and what was said. When you live so closely with music, listening to a song can be like re-reading your own diary.

It’s a little dangerous to live this way, with some of your most personal feelings tied up in standard repertoire.  It means that you can walk into any concert hall and get knocked off your feet by a couple of measures of music. A well-placed chord is a powerful thing, and a single arpeggio can reduce me to tears. The pianist finishes some rich, luxuriant passage and I want to say: “You had me at the G minor sixth chord.”

Oh, the nostalgia. Of course, autumn isn’t just about memories.  There is always fresh new music to sing! And there is much to be excited about this fall. May audition season begin!

Salzburg’s Brand of Magic

Salzburg is a magical place.

I could feel it even before my plane landed at Mozart Airport on Tuesday night. As soon as we entered Austrian airspace, my pulse got faster.  Like a little girl, I pressed my nose to the window to gaze at the twinkling lights of the Old City. I can’t help myself: I love this town.

When we landed, I grabbed my bags and ran outside to take a breath of cold Alpine air, which felt refreshing after last week’s heat wave in Los Angeles. I got in a cab and joked with the taxi driver in Austrian German. I couldn’t wait to get to the flat that I share with a friend here.

I had been away from Salzburg for four months but it felt like I had never left. When I finally arrived, I pulled my suitcases up the old marble stairs and saw my friends’ smiling faces framed in the doorway. It was a beautiful feeling. This is truly my second home.

This week, I have enjoyed readjusting to my bohemian Salzburg lifestyle.  My circle of friends here includes an extraordinary number of amazing musicians. As one might expect, we spend a lot of our time singing and dancing.  I stay up late into the night — singing and talking and laughing with my friends — and then I sleep until noon.  It’s really a perfect schedule for an artist with jet lag.

Living in Salzburg is a bit like living on the set of The Sound of Music. However, contrary to popular belief, the hills are not alive. They are freezing, like the rest of us, in the frosty autumn weather. But even so, this city is absolutely saturated with MUSIC! And I have some exciting musical plans for this fall.  So let the magic begin.