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, 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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