Opera, Paleo, Travel

NOMADiva.com Launch

My new health and wellness website for travelers is now LIVE! I hope you will explore www.NOMADiva a bit!

nomadiva Launch

Our sign-up now has a new feature!

You can choose what topics are of interest to you. So if you wish to continue receiving posts about my experiences around the world on the opera stage, just enter your email in the signup form and choose “Kathryn and Tom’s travel and stage experiences.”

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Opera, Paleo, Travel

Holiday Healthy Bonus Post: A Few of My Favorite Things

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but…. Baby, it’s cold outside!

…And inside, it doesn’t get much better. Heat blasting, super dry air, germs being passed around like mom’s holiday fudge. Crowded streets and shops, and traffic… all the time traffic. Truthfully, Christmas is my favorite time of year, despite sounding a bit Grinch-like about my December annoyances.

In my adult life, the holiday season has become much about performances, rehearsals, being far away from home, and planes, trains, and automobiles. This is a accurate description for my whole life, actually, as I’m living out of a suitcase about 95% of the time… but somehow around the holidays I crave more comfort, and because it’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere, my body does too. I am constantly on the lookout for ways of enhancing my well-being during stressful times, and while it’s a priority that I remain kind to my body, it’s equally important to me that I remain kind to our beloved planet. Here are some wonderful products and companies that fall beautifully within those guidelines*, which I couldn’t live without on the road, or off it, for that matter!

(Did you know? It’s estimated that the average American woman absorbs over 5 lbs of toxic chemicals per year from conventional beauty products? Read more about that here. YUCK.)

Alima Pure – I spend a lot of time in heavy chemical-laden stage make-up, so it’s a priority for me to make sure that the makeup I wear ‘everyday’ is free from all toxins. Kate O’Brien created this gorgeous line of make-up that is completely free of toxic AlimaPure_Bronzerchemicals, irritants, and preservatives. That makes me happy and closer to the healthiest version of me, and I love her commitment to the earth as well has here stance on non-cruelty to animals.

Primal Life Organics – I think Trina Felber was a magical tree-dwelling fairy in a past life, because she knows her way around the amazing world of botanical oils like no one else.  She’s got something for everyone.DSC_0281_1024x1024 This season I couldn’t have lived without her Fallen Body Butter in my little carry-on liquids bag. Perfect for a mid-flight pick-me-up – the scent is seasonably comforting, and the moisturizing capabilities are intense and long-lasting if you, like me, can’t stand that hot-dry chapped feeling of your skin at about hour #5 on a long-haul flight across some ocean. I also love her facial serums – her Beyond Serum is perfect for everyday, and her Banished Serum is awesome when I get a horrendous breakout from lots of time in stage make-up. Trina has formulated these fantastic natural products using nothing but what the earth provides in their natural form, so therefore I’m a dedicated fan.

FAT FACE – Warning: Vegans and Vegetarians avert your eyes… Cassy sources her beef tallow from happy, well-treated, pastured grass-fed cows, mixes it with nourishing and essential oils and convinces you with little effort, to smear it all over your fat face creamface. And I do, every night. And my face loves it. Humans have been moisturizing their skin with the fat from animals for thousands of years with great effects – and it’s SO much better than smearing chemicals all over your face. Not only that, but her packaging is 100% recyclable. Cassy also encourages OCM, or the oil cleansing method, which I am a huge fan of.  My face hasn’t seen soap for a very long time… I know that sounds scary.

thievesoilMountain Rose Herbs – This is the company where I purchase all of my essential oils. They are all organic and sustainably harvested, and compared to the other companiesIMG_3637 that boast that description, they are very affordable. They also carry a host of other essentials for your own home-made beauty formulas – nourishing oils, BPA-free and glass containers, clay for detox-masks after you’ve spent 6 hours in glorified clown make-up. You know…

ACV – I would perish without a good supply of Apple Cider Vinegar on hand.  This is how I get all my super-powers. I use it on my face as a toner, I rinse my hair with it, I braggs_acv_1soak grass-fed marrow bones in it to get the best out of them for my broth, and I put it in my “Singer’s Cocktail” (A water bottle with a hefty dash of ACV and perhaps a squirt of fresh lemon or lime… they say and apple a day keeps the doctor away… well, the Singer’s Cocktail keeps the ENT away… Bwahaha – bad singer joke…) On a more serious note – make sure it’s unfiltered with the “mother” – the raw stuff is the best and wards off sickness and demons! 😉 Bragg’s is the most widely available brand.

NUT-10357-7Coconut Oil – Put it all over yourself and eat a lot of it – that’s my motto. When I’m in a country that will allow me to do so, I like to order mine from Nutiva, who donates 1% of all their sales to sustainable farming.

Dave Brubeck Christmas – No, this isn’t something you smear on your body (necessarily)- it’s for your soul. If you haven’t discovered this beloved Christmas dave_brubeck-a_dave_brubeck_christmas-frontalbum, do so now, and pretend it was your idea- I won’t be offended. To me, this is the sound of Christmas. It will make you happier, and therefore, healthier! (Dancing to Jingle Bells will also help with the healthy.)

*I could go on for DAYS about the “natural” skincare industry and what a hoax that is…. but rest assured, these companies and products that I recommend are truly natural in every way, or else I wouldn’t use them myself. I’m very picky. Someday I’ll write a post dedicated to fraud in the beauty industry, including the so called “organic/natural beauty industry“… maybe in February, when everyone is angry already anyway, because winter isn’t over yet.

But for now…. HAPPY HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!

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Opera

The Met

On December 28th, 2013, I made my debut at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center in New York City singing the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Magic Flute.

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Christmas morning 2013 looked very similar to many from the past. Christmas breakfast casserole was in the oven, hot coffee in our mugs, my family gathered in front of a crackling fire by the Balsam Fir tree we had each had a say in picking out at the tree farm a few weeks before. As Dave Brubeck’s Christmas album played softly in the background, we all tried to pretend that this was the relaxing beautiful holiday that it was supposed to be.

Except… 3 days.

And I had ALL of the emotions.

1521586_10201008537767242_1697691892_nSince I was a little girl, my most wild and fantastical goal was to sing on the Met stage. Everyone needs to have a dream, and the Metropolitan Opera was mine. Maybe that’s why for months I’d felt a tingling sensation all over my body when I thought about the Met, and I had several heart stopping moments per day when I envisioned singing my first note on that stage. I’ve dedicated my entire life to this art form, with the words “Met debut” tattooed on my conscious as the ultimate moment I was designed for. Now I had a specific date and time — I could practically predict to the minute, WHEN I would sing that first note — and all my energy was focused on that moment, like I was peering at it through a microscope, but at the same time it felt gigantic and I could only see it through a telescope, and I felt very small.

See? ALL of the emotions…

The evening went by in anything but a blur – more like a calculated inventory of feelings and moments. I was present and enjoying every second, but at the same time it was as if I was watching it all happen from outside of my body. Now, a year later, I still feel like I can replay every moment of that entire day as if it I could see it on a heart monitor screen- and the tallest spikes are my strongest memories. Here are some of them:

1) My family.

I told them all weeks beforehand that I could not and would not see them before I left for the theater on the evening of. I didn’t want to be distracted and emotional. But minutes before I left, I changed my mind. They were killing time a few blocks away, waiting for me to leave so they could come up to my short-term rental to change their clothes for the big night. I had Tom call them to tell them to come early. Almost all the lights in the apartment were off, except the Christmas tree (yes, we got a second tree for our NYC apartment because I love Christmas.)

There was a soft knock on the door, almost like they were trying not to wake a sleeping dragon (not far off…) My mom (and best girlfriend in the world whom I have shared everything with since the moment I was separated from her body at my birth) was unsure if she should make eye contact and desperately tried to show no emotion whatsoever on her face, and instead plastered a sort of horrifying pleasant wide-eyed close-mouthed half-smile on her face that hid a mountain of IMG_5215vicarious excitement and nerves.  My dad couldn’t stop grinning, and the twinkle in his eyes rivaled Santa Claus. If no one else was going to enjoy the moment, by golly, he was GONNA. And my big brother, who had flown overnight from Honolulu, having found out only a week or so before that he would be able to make the trip to see my debut performance (he’s an officer in the military… it’s complicated… and when he called me and asked “if someone were to be trying to buy a last minute ticket to a sold out performance at the Met, how would one do so?”… I burst into tears…) He had that big brother look on his face that made me feel the same sort of awesome that Kevin felt in Home Alone when his big brother says “Hey Kev, it’s pretty cool that you didn’t burn the place down.” All is right with the world.

And my partner of life, Tom. He has been here and there and everywhere since the day we met. Quietly, yet boldly supporting me at all times. He knew just what to do. Hug my mom. Shake hands with my brother and father, take their suitcases, and act normal.

I’m so grateful they were all there together to distract me and remind me that it all means more with an amazing family surrounding you with love and support.

2) I found my nail.

The sets that amaze audiences night after night are elaborate pieces of a whole and take a lot of backstage man-power to construct and deconstruct.  There are always many operas in circulation during any season at the Met, and so therefore there are always a lot of sets being sewn together with large nails and then quickly being torn apart to prepare for the next set to take the stage.  Because of this, backstage at the Met is almost always littered with bent nails that have been yanked violently out of the set pieces before they go into temporary storage on the left and right stage wagons (deep side stages) or into the storage underneath the stage via giganta-elevator. It’s the debut tradition to go backstage on your night and pick out a nail that speaks to you.  Mine looks like a beach chair.

3) Smelling the roses.IMG_1967

I have never received so many beautiful bouquets of flowers in my life. I think there were literally more flowers in my dressing room on the night of my Met Opera debut than at my wedding. Everyone who entered was bombarded with the scent of fresh flowers and I even was accused of trying to open a sideline IMG_1960day-job floral business out of my dressing room (just in case my night job of opera-IMG_1966singing didn’t pan out…) It was wonderful. Seriously, seriously, wonderful.

4) O Zittre Nicht… Yeah, right.

I remember very clearly walking from my dressing room to the stage and being preset up on set to sing my first aria. I thought I was going to pass out up on that platform in the dark as Tamino sang the last lines of the portrait aria. I concentrated on breathing and trying to calm myself but my heart was pounding and I was sweating, and also very cold. I’ve always found ways of dealing with my stage nerves, but this was like nothing I had ever felt before. I knew I had to pull myself together, but how?  I was getting even more nervous thinking about how nervous I was!

And then Mozart rescued me. The mellow and powerful sounds of the infamous Met orchestra playing the intro to my aria surrounded me in the blue-tinged darkness backstage as the platform began to rotate outward to the audience’s view. Just before exposure I realized that a gigantic grin had covered my face – this was happening and I was ready for it and I was about to have the time of my life. But the smile had to go… not in character!

5) Oops!

Just before going onstage to sing the famous “Der Hölle Rache”, I put my giant fingernail right through the delicate mesh fabric IMG_1977of my blood red sleeve! I panicked – but luckily Annie, my dresser, did not. I’m pretty sure she flew to the costume room and before I even had the time to whisper some sort of obscenity, she had snapped a reserve sleeve on my left arm.  Ah, the amazing world of live theater.

6) The aftermath.

Curtain call was a thrill! Then my friends and family poured into my dressing room in a steady stream with huge hugs and special heartfelt messages whispered into my ear. I scrubbed the stage makeup off my face until I resembled a human again, donned a sparkly cocktail dress and floated across the street to Bar Boulud where close to a hundred family, friends and colleagues gathered to celebrate with a big glass of wine (but not too big… I still had three performances to sing in the coming week!)

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A picture paints a thousand words, and this one- shot right before I entered the room of my debut party, is no exception!

Now, a year later, it is completely odd to say that not only is my debut season at the Metropolitan Opera completed – but I have just a few short weeks ago, finished my second season there! This season was less like a dream and more like the most amazing reality that I could imagine into happening.  Another year of singing Queen under my belt and I felt more confident and ready to enjoy the experience fully (and with a little more oxygen in my veins!)

A few more photos to peruse!

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The wig!

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Annie took this funny photo of me backstage in my dressing room on Halloween Night 2014 (second season)

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I’ll let you decide which is the before and which is the after.

And a little family history to sum it all up…

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This is my grandmother and me outside the Met at Lincoln Center Plaza when I was about 6 years old. I called my grandmother “Mimi” and it is from her that I received the singing and performing gene.

Mimi’s name was Joyce Sparrow, and she was blessed with a gorgeous rich true contralto voice and studied first with the legendary Louise Homer at Lake George (with a little Samual Barber running around, Louise’s nephew!) and then with Paul Althouse in NYC. She and the (also legendary) Richard Tucker had back-to-back lessons with Mr. Althouse and were great friends before and during WWII, and my Mimi used to sub for him at his synagogue gig all the time! She herself was the alto soloist at the Riverside Cathedral on the upper west side for many years and sang many oratorio and opera roles with the abundant regional opera companies in the New York and New Jersey areas.

She made her New York City Hall debut when she was just about my age and even auditioned at the Met (the old Met!)- but shortly after, my grandfather came home from the war, they started a family, and her professional ambitions we put on hold (permanently). Such were the times…

I always told my mother that I would one day take up the reigns of Mimi’s dream to sing on the Metropolitan Opera stage. Her dream became my dream. She remains my most treasured and powerful inspiration and is never far from my thoughts and my heart… Especially when that curtain goes up!

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Opera, Travel, Uncategorized

Queen of the Lake

Two summers of singing Queen of the Night on the famed floating stage on the lake in Bregenz, Austria have come to an end!  Hard to believe. This was actually only the second freelance contract I secured while still singing on scholarship at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Germany, 2 seasons ago, and now that I’m on the other side of an experience I could hardly fathom when it was offered to me in all it’s glory, it’s truly crazy to me that it’s over now and the memories are all I will take with me. The lake stage is an incredible venue where so many impressive aspects of the productions mounted upon it are impossible anywhere else.

People from all over Europe flock to see these productions.  Over the last two summers,  399,000 people have seen this production alone… not even joking about that number. 28 performances the first summer, and 29 the second.  Stadium outdoor seating for no less than 7000 people and it was literally SOLD OUT every night.  And I don’t mean ‘literally’ like how we all use that word these days… I mean LITERALLY. My parents came to Austria and couldn’t even get tickets for all the shows they wanted to go to.

This is a stage of stunts.  Stunt people flying through the air, hanging from every inch of the set from wires like spiders, stunt people walking on bridges hundreds of feet above the lake literally (again, I use that word literally) engulfed in flames, some diving or “falling” into the lake, and (most impressively) simply walking slowly into the lake and disappearing step by step (this actually drew gasps from the audience on a nightly basis…)

Here are a few production photos:

Act I – Queen of the Night’s aria “O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn…”

BREGENZER FESTSPIELE 2014: FOTOPROBE "DIE ZAUBERFL…TE"

Look carefully at the photo above and you can see that I am tethered to the set. I wore a harness under my costume and at all times that I appear on the stage, I am attached to it in some way or another.

BREGENZER FESTSPIELE 2014: FOTOPROBE "DIE ZAUBERFL…TE"

Here’s a rehearsal photo, so you can get an idea of the harness around my waist (and also I think this brings into sharp reality how much of “me” in the other photos is actually all costume…) That costume was epic, from the headpiece that was as heavy as lead, to the full sequin skirt and hard plastic shining breast plate… (and below you’ll see my LED light extension skirt!)

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Act II Queen of the Night’s aria “Der Hölle Rache”…

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Yup… crazy times….

I also did a couple other operas in Bregenz this summer….  Stravinky’s Rossignol (in which I sang the title role) where all the other roles were performed by puppets (the singers were on the sides of the stage).  Very interesting experience interacting with puppets on stage- and the Blind Summit Puppeteers were simply amazing to work with. They are of “one mind” on the stage and it was just incredible to see them work together- and to be a part of it.  The pictures don’t do this production justice, but nevertheless, here are a few…. The production was in the “cubist” style- which meant also that the lighting was very edgy… made for an AMAZING look on stage and really brought the puppets into focus- but also meant not a whole lot of great lighting for picture taking. Alright!

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A little back-stage selfie action!

 

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And the other opera (that was the second half of a double bill which started with the Stravinsky) was the stage premiere of funny little opera called “L’Hirondelle Inattendue” by Simon Laks, about a bird that is not actually a bird, but a girl, and is not really a girl but actually turns out to be a love song. A pilot and a journalist crash land their rocket on a strange far away place where they are greeted by Noah’s Dove (that’s me) and I explain to them that they have arrived at a magical paradise where all the famous animals of history and fable reside. The bird/girl/song of which I describe arrives shortly after the pilot and the journalist, and we are all greatly perplexed and there is a lot of commotion.  After 40 minutes of complete chaos and a whole lot of high notes, the bird/girl/song disappears and we all figure out, with the help of the wise journalist, that she is actually a “love song” who belongs neither to the paradise of humans or of animals, but to all of us.

Here we are in all our green and golden glory:

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The radiant Denise Beck with her music box, as the bird/girl/song!

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And of course, a couple backstage shots:

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And now… these big puppies are being dismantled! Making room for the new set in Bregenz on the floating stage!

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Opera, Travel

Last minute in Southern France!

AixIt’s been a wild and crazy month or so! Shortly after my last blog post, as I was just settling in and enjoying a few well-deserved weeks at home in CT, I got called last minute to replace the Queen of the Night at the Aix-en-Provence festival, a world-renowned summer opera locale in the south of France!  We hopped on a plane a week later (after a quick job in Rochester, NY which I’ll write about sometime) and before I had time to blink, I was throwing myself into the last few rehearsals of an amazing new production of Mozart’s Magic Flute by Simon McBurney.

This was my 11th production of Magic Flute, and I thought I had explored this opera and the role of Queen of the Night very thoroughly, but I was wrong! Drenched in darkness and stark modernity, this production took a very deep and human look at these well known characters, and the Queen of the Night was almost unrecognizable from how she is usually portrayed.  Here she was no magical glittering fairy-princess, nor was she the black and silver goddess-witch of night that resembles the sharp dagger she vows will kill her enemy… This Queen of the Night is an angry, frustrated, decaying old woman.  Crippled by her own hatred and revenge, she is forced to use a cane to hold herself upright, and by the second act aria, she is confined to a wheelchair.  In the finale of the opera, she is abandoned and collapses alone, powerless and dying before the audience’s eyes. And then true enlightenment is witnessed, as Sarastro helps her to her feet and she is healed by his forgiveness.

The fourth performance was filmed by Arte TV and was broadcasted live all over Europe.  Here is the YouTube clip of my second aria (this is arguably one of the most famous opera arias of all time, and even you non-opera-goers will recognize it after a minute or so!) (And yes, that old women is REALLY me… I promise!)

Embodying this character was both an amazing gift as well as an exhausting challenge to me as a singer and as an actress. Now that several weeks have gone by, I can be honest and say that there were moments that I completely lost myself on that dark stage and literally struggled with the frustrating emotions of being hated, ugly, old and decaying, and unable to use my legs. The overwhelming unhappiness of this character found ways of penetrating my everyday life, and my dreams at night.  I had to remind myself daily that in fact I was still at the beginning of my life, with much to look forward to, and that I have chosen to surround myself with people I love and who love me, and that bitterness, rage and vengeance are not in my daily vocabulary of emotions.

 

A couple backstage shots to amuse you:  BEFORE AND AFTER!

Before

 AFTER

 

 

 

 

And a close-up of my aging make-up complete with prosthetic facial pieces!

I also had to wear a bodysuit under my costume – the first time my youthful curves were NOT appreciated!

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Working on this production was an immense challenge for me both mentally and physically, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience it, surrounded by such talented colleagues on and off the stage.

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I’ll end on a more cheery note, and share a bit of great news!! Remember that beautiful production of Handel’s Orlando I did in Tasmania, Australia at the Hobart Baroque Festival a few months ago?  I have been nominated for “Best Female Performer in an Opera” at The Helpmann Awards! These are Australia’s version of the Tony Awards, for those who are unfamiliar!  What a fabulous honor to be nominated for my first award for a role I so dearly loved singing, with colleagues I will treasure forever, in a place that will forever enchant me!

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Opera, Paleo, Travel

Born and Grass-fed in Connecticut!

MOOI love to support local farmers wherever I am on Earth, and I always make an effort to do so, but it’s extra fun to support local farms that are actually close to the only place I truly call “home” – the beautiful and diverse state of Connecticut.

Tom and I own a cutie little 1937 “Cape Cod” with a little bit of grass one block from the beach in the very densely populated Rt. 95 corridor shoreline area of Fairfield County, about an hour from New York City by car (without traffic) or by train. Neither of us have any desire to live any closer to NYC, but this location makes for a pretty easy commute when I’m working in the city, or going in for coachings with various experts in the field or voice lessons with my beloved guru teacher, Diana Soviero. It’s also been a great area for Tom to base his own graphic design business, as there are many thrumming communities and smaller cities besides NYC around us where he has found most of his clients.

We cherish every scarce moment we get to spend inside this cosy little oasis which we completely gutted and made our own about 5 years ago. There is nothing more beautiful in the world to me than my husband’s loving face, but a kitchenVERY close second is my perfect kitchen, clad with roomy white cabinets, oodles of stainless steel, black honed granite countertops and white and gray marble tile backsplash. (This isn’t the MOST flattering picture, nor does it show the huge double window over the giant sink on the wall you can’t see, and we’ve since put in a pretty french door leading out to a little deck where you can see that open wall space, but it gives you at least a bitty idea) Below is a picture (same angle) of the kitchen mid-reno as it was being converted from a first floor bedroom.

We were on a tight budget back then, and did most of the work with our own hands, which wouldn’t have been possible without the genius help and hard labor of my father, and we came up with a lot of ways of cutting costs, includingReno salvaging ALL of our original hardwoods, and even reusing much of the old lumber as we tore down walls and built new ones in a totally reoriented floor plan. We bought the house (our first house) for it’s exceptional bones, and even though we basically broke all of it’s bones inside and put it back together, it still holds up to it’s original core strength.

Case in point, a microburst (mini tornado) blew through here at lighting speed a few years ago and brought our huge maple tree right down on the roof. There Tree on housewas an article about it in the local paper, as we needed a giant crane to have it carefully heaved off of our house several days later, where we expected to see the worst, but thankfully, found NO STRUCTURAL DAMAGE.  Amazing… but then we were reminded of the fact that our house had survived the 1938 hurricane in it’s infancy, and since that microburst I mentioned, it has also sustained no major damage in the last few years during either hurricane Irene or Sandy. Which is more than I can say for many of the newer homes in the area. (Fun fact:  You opera fans out there might find it interesting and amusing to know that I gave my Metropolitan Opera audition on THE day that hurricane Sandy hit the Northeastern coastline. Remember when they shut down ALL of the mass-transportation in and out of NYC? I barely made it on one of the last trains out of the city after my audition, hurried back to our little baby house and hunkered down for the storm. I don’t know if I was more nervous that our house (and we) would be blown away, or if I wouldn’t get the job…)

I digress. I’ll get back to the point, which is that we did our very best to revamp our modest beauty in every cost efficient way while upholding the quality it deserved, but when it came to the kitchen, we did it RIGHT, yes sir!! They always say spend money on the things you touch everyday. Well, I wish I could touch my kitchen everyday, it’s the thing I miss most about our house when we are up, up and away. It still takes my breath away when we walk in after weeks or months of being on the road. Indeed, I am quite the happy homeowner.

Back to farms. One our favorite pastimes is to take little field trips to area farms. Flower farms, vegetable farms, herb farms, livestock farms, wine farms (ahem… vineyards) you name it, we dig it. Tom and I have enjoyed taking day trips together to farms since we met the summer before my sophomore year of college, and that was sort of a while ago, so this is no new thing. But since going paleo, it’s become a passion. AND If you drive just about 45 img_0943minutes to an hour north on some smallish roads, you can leave behind the congestion and find areas of CT that look more like they come out of a country story book setting than one of the most densely populated states in the continental US. Rolling hills, pastures, gorgeous historical New England homes (that come with a price tag you wouldn’t believe) with beautifully established grounds that are worthy of any “real estate porn” addict’s fantasies. Certainly mine.

We took my parents on an especially rewarding drive up to the edge of Litchfield county to the Bridgewater area last weekend, and the duet between me and my mother of “ooohs” and “aaahs” dotted with screams of glee and songs of adoration (no joke, we sang…) as we drove by country estate after country estate, and historical manor after historical manor, was enough to send Tom and my dad into fits of laughter. But for the record, even Tom emitted a small cry of unabashed delight when he spotted his admitted “dream house”. (A gorgeously well-kept colonial gem, complete with trickling stream and ancient stone wall, looking proudly updated but diligently kept in historical character and accuracy. “Since when do you like old houses?” said my mom, to which he replied “Since I saw this house” while his head practically twisted off the rest of his body so he could catch another glimpse of it through the back window as we drove by…)

So, back to farms. This particular trip was very exciting because of a recent discovery I had made while doing some research online when I was still working in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. Family owned and run in Bridgewater, CT, Stuart Family Farm has been in operation by the same family since Henry Stuart purchased the land in 1926 and opened for business three years later. These people don’t kid around. Their beef is 100% GRASS-FED GOODNESS. Happily romping in the pastures in the warmer months, and fed hay from their very own fields in the wintertime. Not even one grain of nasty gets into these pretty Moos. And that’s the way we like it in the Lewek household. Their farm stand is open on the weekends and their goods, which also include free-roaming pasture raised chickens and their eggs, and at certain times of the year, pastured pork, are for sale in bulk, or by the small cut, at a very fair price. Grass-fed beef will always be pricier than the beef you get at your average grocery store (and if you don’t know where THEY get THAT beef, you should do a google search of the words “feed lot”) so when you come across a well-priced, grass-fed, local, (those are all such lovely words, eh?) you stock up. And we STOCKED UP REAL NICE. We bought a few whole chickens, too. In other words, we won’t be going to Whole Foods for anything but GT’s raw organic Kombucha for the next month, or as my family calls it, “Paleo Soda Pop”. One of these days we will get around to making our own Kombucha, which has turned into a bucket list item of Tom’s. He’s just itching to try his hand at homemade Kombucha, but it’s brewing and fermenting process is time consuming, and when you travel all but a few weeks out of the year, it’s difficult to find the time and the means. In any case, stay tuned, because it will happen one of these days, and maybe I’ll make him write a guest post on The Nomad Singer about his experiences. (If we can find a way of getting ahold of a starter scoby (WTH is THAT??? Click here!) in Austria this summer, we may try it there, since we’ll have 7 weeks at our disposal).

Um, back to farms. We are super excited about finding Stuart Family Farm and are eager to make our next trip up there in August when we return from our summer adventures in Bregenz, Austria. We will be inhabiting our CT home again for a few months in the fall when I return to the Metropolitan Opera to sing Queen of the Night in their October/November production of Mozart’s Magic Flute, and we are SUPER looking forward to enjoying the autumn harvest time that New England is SO good at.  Seriously, there isn’t any other area of the world I would rather be in during the bountiful picking time of August-October, and the last several years we haven’t been home for it.

It is now time for me to preen my little postage stamp garden, so I will leave you with a couple pictures of the adorable little piggies growing up on the farm… It was amazing to see them already relishing in natural healthy pig behaviors, basking in the mud, trotting around their pen and sneaking through the gate toPiggies greet us then darting back over to their (GIGANTIC) mother pig, rooting with their little snouts in the dirt, being bossy and pushy with one another around the water bucket. After playing and petting these darling little personalities, I have to admit that I am not so disappointed that we’ll be out of town during the December pork sale at the farm. I will never consider being a vegetarian for several reasons, but my love of animals does complicate my enjoyment of farm One Piggievisits at times. However, it is so wonderful to see first-hand how happy, healthy, and well-treated all the animals were on this farm, and I’m much happier being part of a “circle of life” that includes passionate sustainability and animal welfare.

 

Here are a few of my favorite resource websites dedicated to helping people eat locally and sustainably:

Eat Wild – Find farms in your area that raise grass-fed beef, pastured pork and poultry, eggs, dairy, lamb and more!

Local Harvest – Just pop in your zip or city to find awesome businesses (farms, restaurants, CSA’s) in your area that sell and serve locally grown, raised or made products!

And specifically for my CT buddies:

Buy CT Grown – A nice Connecticut resource for farms and related local businesses of all kinds.

CT NOFA – This is the website for Connecticut’s chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.  Here you will find an exhaustive listing of CT’s farm markets by county, as well as local NOFA events.

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Opera, Travel

Cherry Blossoms, Monuments, and Opera – OH MY!

Magic Flute at Washington National Opera has it’s final performance tomorrow afternoon, and then we will head home to our little Connecticut seaside gem on Monday for the first time in over 4 months.  It’s hard to believe that we’ve literally been AROUND the world and back since January, with so many new adventures to remember and cherish.  I am very ready for a few hermit-like weeks at home, and despite lots of work to do on new roles I am learning for this summer in Austria and next season, it will undoubtedly feel a bit like a vacation. What’s the saying? “Home is where ‘my bed’ is”, right?

But before we leave our great nation’s capitol, here are some images of our explorations here!

We arrived at the beginning of April just in time to see the famous cherry blossoms! We were lucky they were a little late this year because of the terribly horrendous life-crushing winter. (We were also lucky to have MISSED the terribly horrendous life-crushing winter… instead, enjoying locales like New Orleans, Hawaii and Australia!) It was odd, bidding farewell to the waning summer days of Tasmania and being greeted with the bursting beauty of fresh springtime (and pollen) here in DC! Every tree was heavy with these gorgeous blossoms!  The cherries really run the roost around here, but an honorable mention goes to the magnolias – and the apples too!

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Tom and Noir and I took several long walks around the famous monuments at the National Mall, and since dogs aren’t allowed inside the boundaries of many of the monuments, he spent most of his time snuggling inside my purse, where he seems happier than when he’s using his own four legs to walk.

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The White House!

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I had my very first TV interview to promote WNO’s Magic Flute on the funky Arch Campbell Show on ABC7! Here we are in front of the green screen!

Katie reads a letter

Katie bids Arch adieu

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And then there was the opera!  Here I am singing The Queen of the Night in Washington National’s The Magic Flute!

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And the after-party of opening night! Isn’t my date a handsome dude?

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And the cherry on top was a little one-on-one time with this incredible lady: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg!

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It’s been an amazing 6 weeks here in Washington D.C!

Next stop… THE BEACH!

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Opera, Travel

Opera in the Outfield

For the past few weeks I’ve been getting over my Australian jet-lag and working at Washington National Opera in Washington, D.C – getting ready to open another production of The Magic Flute by Mozart!

Queen of the Night

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of QOTN in the last couple years, (this is my 10th production in 2.5 years) and singing this role in particular has introduced me to amazing opportunities, people, countries, and companies. Last December I realized my life-long dream and made my Metropolitan Opera debut singing Queen, and next December I’ll make my debut at the Vienna Staatsoper in Austria singing the same role as well.  Two major bucket list items of my career ‘in the bag’ within one year thanks to this role!  This particular production is really interesting because it was designed by renowned ceramics artist, Jun Kaneko, so there is a real playful yet edgy and artistic vibe to it.  Plus, my two costumes are ridiculously amazing (so I forgive the fact that they are heavy as lead).

Someday I’ll do a post with a Queen theme, that a friend has lovingly started calling “The Queenie Look-Book”.

Washington National Opera

WNO has a fantastic new tradition called “Opera in the Outfield” where they simulcast the opening night performance on the big screen at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium for families to watch in a relaxed picnic-like atmosphere, with lots of other fun activities like face-painting and games, mainly made possible by M&M’s – the Mars Company!  This year, a whopping record-breaking 10,000 people of ALL AGES came out to the ballpark to enjoy an evening of opera!  Truly an awesome number, especially in light of some recent grim reportings from major opera companies about current attendance! It was amazing to be a part of this, with a great group of colleagues and cast-mates, and a truly memorable way to make my debut at this legendary company at the amazing Kennedy Center, and also in this historic city!

Here are a few pictures that some friends and colleagues took of me on the big screen at the ballpark during the performance – the first two are from Act I, and the last fun and scary one is from later on in the opera when I sing the famous “Vengeance” aria from Act II, which everyone, even non-opera-goers, has heard in their lifetime.  There is literally no one I have come across that hasn’t heard it after I hum a few bars (several octaves lower than it’s written…)

 

Opera in the Outfield
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I realize this last photo is me…. but it still gives me nightmares.

 

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Here are a few of the press photos, taken at the final dress rehearsal last week!

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In the Washington D.C. area and interested in seeing a performance?  Visit Washington National Opera’s webspace on the Kennedy Center’s website for more info!  There are two casts.  My remaining performance dates (including tonight because I’m filling in for an ill colleague) are May 8th, 11th, 16th and 18th.

 

 

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Opera, Paleo

Opera Style Synopsis of the Paleo Lifestyle: For Fun!

I am an opera singer.

I make no claims to be a nutrition expert or a Paleo Guru, so here’s a little operatic synopsis of the Primal/Paleo diet and lifestyle for your entertainment.

Act I

10,000+ years ago, a svelte cave girl whose inner health radiates with luminosity, thrives on gathering plants and hunting wild game. Everything she consumes plays an important nourishing role in her physical and mental well-being. She lives in harmony with nature and she sings a lot, obviously.  She spends time in the sunshine, and she sleeps a lot. She relaxes in front of a roaring fire every night with her family and friends, and she worries once in a while that her boyfriend might get eaten by a giant cat, and sometimes she has to run really fast to get away from a giant cat.  Other than that, she’s doing really well, and through the generations “she” is evolving rapidly because she and her friends are so healthy and happy. Act I ends with a joyful ensemble number about their success as a species.

Act II

Approximately 10,000 years ago, the people have settled and start making lots of bread. It seems like a cheap and easy way to feed a growing population. Later on, they begin getting sick all the time because the majority of their diets are made up of processed grain-based foods with added refined sugar. Someone sings a lament about the population being plagued with disease. The people lose track of what is truly nourishing to their bodies.  They begin spending most of their time indoors during the daylight hours. They don’t get enough sleep. Someone else sings a rage aria because the society’s mental health has declined. The mis-led doctor sings a boldly convincing and richly sung demise of the egg yoke and at the end of the act, a soprano delivers a chilling mad-scene about her struggles to lead a happy and healthy life on a low-fat diet.

Act III

A few people begin to analyze the relationship between the population’s eating habits and their plague of illness.  They discover that the human body develops insulin resistance when it’s overloaded with gluten and refined sugar, and that our digestive tracts are not designed to easily and smoothly process abrasive foods like legumes and whole grains, and that many people cannot cope with the type of sugars found in dairy.  Some people continue to blindly consume SAD foods (Standard American Diet), blaming their maladies on genetics or bad luck. The few people who have returned to eating as our paleolithic ancestors did find freedom from being a slave to our health and wellbeing. They enjoy the challenge of seeking the best nourishment that our amazing planet can offer, and strive to live in balance and harmony with nature and the modern world. And there is a lot of singing. A. LOT.

This post will become a permanent part of my blog under “Lifestyle”!

For a more scientific or in depth look at this lifestyle, I invite you to peruse the blogs and websites that I’ve shared on my links page.

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Opera

Hobart Baroque

Hobart BaroqueFrom beginning to end, my experience working at the new Australian summer festival “Hobart Baroque” has been marvelous! This is only the second season for HB, but they sure know how to do things right, already!  Our four performances of Handel’s Orlando all went beautifully thanks to the amazing cast, crew, orchestra players, and staff. This was my first role in a full-scale Handel production, and I know it will be a memorable time for years to come!  Here are a few pictures from the production, in which I sang the role of Angelica.  Farewell, amazing Tasmania!

 

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