‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life

As a follow-up to my last post – I’m definitely loving life more often than I used to, there’s no question about that.  Some days are still much more difficult than others, but that’s true for everyone.  Fortunately, last Wednesday was another day for loving life.  Here’s an explanation of my last epic Facebook status.

Wednesday was Lukas’s birthday, so a group of us went to Henry House for some food and drinks.  As our table was being cleared, Ashley decided she wanted to walk to the waterfront. It was a beautiful night, so I opted to go, too, and we ended up with a little group: Ashley, Allison, Pat, Max, Jeremy, and myself.  With a few drinks in us, Allison decided she had a specific destination in mind.  There is a giant blue statue of a wave on the waterfront with a “do not climb” sign in front of it.  But when it’s conveniently surrounded by squishy rubber flooring and situated in front of a playground, what do they expect?

It was coming up on midnight at this point, but after a few trials and errors, we all successfully ended up on top of the giant wave.  After a few more trials and errors, we not-so-successfully tried to set the timer on my camera to take pictures of us from below.  As we struggled with this, a group of tourists wandering by stopped to watch our antics.  They were significantly older than us, but I looked down and shouted to them that they should be jealous that we were all huddled on top of the wave.

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Jeremy was keen on becoming friends with these strangers, and invited one of the women to come up and take pictures with us.  After further wave-climbing and picturing-taking mayhem, we found out that one of our new tourist friends was celebrating his 40th birthday.  What are a bunch of opera singers to do but sing?  We sang happy birthday to Jeff, milking the opportunity for all it was worth, and our new friends were awestruck.  After finding out that these rambunctious “teenagers” were in fact a group of young professional opera singers, out came the video camera and the song requests.  By 1 in the morning, we had spent a lot of time trying to come up with something classical that we all knew, and ended up being posed all over the boat-shaped playground singing snippets of our various unrelated arias.  Allison and I also did some Flower Duet, Allison and Ashley did some Phantom of the Opera, and Max and Jeremy did their Pyramus and Thisbe scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Pyramus (Jeremy’s character, Bottom) falls in love with Thisbe (Max’s character, Flute, dressed up as a woman).  By the time we decided we should head home, we’d attracted much attention along the waterfront: a little crowd, lots of applause, and an invitation to party on a random yacht.  We opted to call it a night, but our tourist friends told us they were at the end of their trip and we were the highlight.  We even beat out whale-watching! 😉

It took me a little longer than I would have liked to finish this post.  I started it last week in a fantastic mood, of course, as I had so much fun that night.  A few days later, though, before I was able to finish this, I got some very tragic news late Saturday night.  Hence the Verve lyrics in my title.  One of my closest friends texted me to say that her cousin (another of my closest friends) lost her little brother.  He drowned on Saturday. He was 14 years old.  I only met him once or twice, so I feel a little selfish that this has hit me harder than I would have expected, but it hurts me to see my friends hurting.  Not to mention that the opera I’m working on here is a devastating tragedy in which my character’s last brother is drowned.  I look on in horror as his washed-up body is laid on my kitchen table.  The music was prevalent enough in my head day and night before, but now there are certain lines that won’t leave me… “he’s gone now, God spare us…” “and the almighty God won’t leave her destitute, with no son living…” we haven’t done a run-through since I got this news, so now my challenge will be to use this experience to inform my character without becoming overwhelmed.  Here’s to hoping for more sweet than bitter in the upcoming days, and that Kenton’s family has lots of support in this difficult time.


in which things get kinda personal

So much has happened since I last posted, I don’t even know where to start.  I had lots of time on my hands to write on Friday, but I was a bit of a grouch, so I opted against posting.  This was a good idea, as I’ve been in a much lighter mood since 🙂

One of the things that was getting me down last week was the fact that I was not feeling well physically.  I had stomach surgery last month, and while the days I feel unwell are getting fewer and farther between, I’ve had a few of them in a row recently, which is really frustrating.  One of those days also happened to be the day I was supposed to sing in masterclass for Nina, but there was no way I was going to give up that opportunity.  After napping for a few hours, I at least felt well enough to sing, and really enjoyed the masterclass experience.  I felt like my performance obviously would have been better if I’d been feeling 100%, but such is life.  I received lots of positive feedback from my colleagues, so I think we all have to remember that at this point in our careers, even the not-so-great performances are still pretty darn good.

The other thing that was getting me down was my living situation, which is unfortunately not going to be changing.  The residences at St. Mary’s took a little while to get back to me, and when they did, they said it would be a few days before I could move in, but that I would still have to pay a full month’s rent.  I can’t afford to pay my first week’s rent twice, so I’m staying in a sublet where I live in total squalor and look after the cat.  Note to future HSOW participants: stay in one of the university residences.  While some of my colleagues have been very fortunate in their sublet situations, living in res takes away the chance that you could be in my situation!  Oh well.  It’s only three more weeks, and I’m trying to spend my time elsewhere, in other wonderful places with other wonderful people!

Speaking of wonderful places and wonderful people… on to the more wonderful things I’ve been up to!  On Sunday, a group of 15-20 of us went to Crystal Crescent beach.  Unlike the Point Pleasant beach which I visited last weekend, this was a real beach, not a little strip of dirt filled with rocks, seaweed, and creepy crawlies.  The beach was beautiful, and it was such a fantastic way to spend the day.  Andrew drove Meghan and I in his truck, and we sang at the top of our lungs to music from Meghan’s iPod while enjoying sunshine and breathtaking scenery.  Meghan kept grinning and sighing and saying how much she loves life.  And you know what? I responded saying I felt the same way.

Here’s where things get kinda personal.  2012 has been really, really difficult for me.  It wasn’t that long ago that I would spend whole days in bed thinking, “how the hell am I going to function in an opera workshop?”  Needless to say, it had been a long time since I’d said that I love life.  Needless to say, though, I’m here, and I’m functioning.  And loving life.  I’m happy to say that many things changed in the weeks leading up to HSOW, and just like Meghan, I must have said a million times on Sunday how much I love it here.  While working in the “real world” will always come with it’s share of adversity, the safe space that HSOW creates here is a fantastic way to prepare us.

And this safe space definitely extends beyond rehearsals.  For the past few years, I’ve had mixed feelings about going to the beach.  The sand, the sun, the water… but… I have to put my bathing suit on? and be seen by other people? and I have to see them in their bathing suits too?  Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the beach on Saturday.  Jeremy posted the other day about the collective release of embarrassment he felt during the acting classes we participated in, and I definitely felt this on the beach.  I hope I don’t embarrass anyone else by saying so, but there were so many different bodies at the beach, both inside and outside of our group, and nobody batted an eye.  Scars, tan lines, moles, the places we wish a few pounds would appear or disappear – I’m hypersensitive about these things, but with this group of people, I suddenly felt I didn’t have to be.

I love life.

…I apologize that this post had little to do with the Workshop itself, but as we all know too well, our well-being as performers is all about our well-being as humans, right?


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Day One in the Opera World!

Dear World Wide Web!

Wow, I haven’t had a blog since the days of LiveJournal… remember those days? So here we go, brace yourself for post numero uno! My name is Melody Thomas and I’m happy to be here in Nova Scotia for the first time to participate in the Halifax Opera Workshop. I am from Peterborough, Ontario, and just graduated from studying voice at the University of Toronto. In the fall, I will be pursuing an Opera Diploma at Wilfrid Laurier University.  In the meantime, I am here singing my first opera role, Nora in Riders to the Sea by Vaughan Williams!

I flew out of the Toronto City Centre airport on Saturday afternoon. I’d never flown out of the island airport before, but I would strongly recommend it! There is a ferry from the mainland to the airport, which is convenient but hilarious, as the distance between is about two boat lengths long. The airport is very small, so it’s easy to navigate and much less crowded than other airports I’ve been in. I took a teeny tiny turbulent plane (yay alliteration!) to Montreal, where I was to connect to Halifax. My connecting flight was delayed by an hour, but I’ve heard much worse horror stories, and my luggage was at least safely delivered to me when I landed in Halifax.

I was lucky enough to get picked up at the airport by a friend of a friend (thanks Debra and Pam!) and delivered to the apartment I am subletting a room in. The place is… less than desirable… and I won’t say more than that. My housemates are very friendly, but I left a message at St. Mary’s this morning about the possibility of moving into one of the residences with many of the other singers.

Saturday night, I received an email from another one of the singers, Milena, who was asking for company to the Point Pleasant beach Sunday morning. The park was about a half hour walk from my apartment, and I wandered around in it while I waited for Milena. She arrived with another singer, Scott, and we went down to the beach. I hadn’t bothered to bring my bathing suit, but I didn’t need it – the water was quite cold, not to mention filled with seaweed, rocks… and many critters! While Milena keenly documented our scavenging, Scott and I found many clams, mussels, snails, and a few crabs. The first few crabs were smaller than a loonie, but we ended up finding one that was easily the size of my outstretched hand. I boldly (or perhaps stupidly?) insisted on picking him up so Milena could get a picture before he pinched me! When we tired of creature-hunting, we met up with Allison, who had a car to drive. After a great adventure trying to find a parking spot, the four of us had delicious organic lunch at the Wooden Monkey. On returning back to my apartment last night, I found out I am already fitting right in here in Nova Scotia – I look like a lobster 🙁

I was hoping to find someone to go for a run with me this morning, as I’m usually pretty active, but I’m trying to avoid spending my time in this beautiful new city inside a gym. Having only met a few people as of early this morning, I didn’t have any luck finding a running buddy for today, but I did go for a long power walk through Point Pleasant Park.

11:00 this morning was the moment we’d all been waiting for – the beginning of the workshop! We went around the room and did names – all 80 of them – drew names for who would be singing in which masterclass, and then split up so the team for each show could meet. I met with all the other One Act opera folks, and we discussed concepts, characters, and costumes (more alliteration, ha). I don’t have most of the stuff I need for my costume, so I’ll have to figure that out… hmm… and now, here I am in the practice room, taking a break to write this blog. At 4:00, I’m called for a music rehearsal, where the Riders cast will do a read though. And then… more places to go and people to see!