That’s all, folks!

I am writing this on my layover in the Trudeau airport in Montreal- surreal to think we closed the show yesterday and now I won’t be singing Helga or Iris again for the foreseeable future.

Favourite things from this experience: MAIDEN BRAIDS. Seriously, I loved my Helga hair sooo muchhhhh that I might just start wearing it around York in the fall. I think I’ve got the necessary swagger.

In all seriousness, this was a wonderful month which challenged me and brought me a lot of joy- meeting 60+ awesome people will do that to a person.

Thank you to to my family and friends for sending me here and all their support. (and pre-emptive thank you to my parentals for understanding the amount of luggage I am returning with…eek.)  Thank you to Nina, Marja, Jennifer, Steven, Bonnie, Tessa, all my wonderful colleagues, and everyone who helped make HSOW 2012 what it was- amazing!

Anndd I leave you with this link to a very appropriate song at the moment- thank you Andrew Pickett for reminding me of it!

Three Things I Learned From The American Arias Concert

One thing you can usually depend on as a classical singer is that the composer is really not invested in how you sing your music. Mozart is not going to come back from the dead if I sing an eighth instead of a quarter somewhere in an aria. HOWEVER all that changes once you are lucky enough to work on a piece with the composer. Singing and coaching with the person who wrote the song or the opera? That’s not intimidating, right? RIGHT?

Hah. It was intimidating, but Leonard Lehrman was lovely to work with and I think everyone who coaching his or her repertoire with him felt the same way.  I’ve never experienced working with the composer of my repertoire before, and I’m so glad I got to work with Dr. Lehrman and participate in the American Arias Concert- I’ve included some little lessons below.

 One- There is a wealth of repertoire waiting to be found and performed!

This concert was full of music that I’d never heard before, and loved. Jeremy Hirsch, one of my fellow bloggers, gave one of my favourite performances of the night-  “The Cradle Will Rock”, the title song from the 1937 opera. Another favourite piece from the program was “The Nickel Under the Foot”, sung by Nicole Smith, again from The Cradle Will Rock. Those two pieces are repertoire that will never be sung by me, sadly (again with the #sopranoproblems) BUT there was also a wealth of wonderful soprano repertoire that I’d never heard before- especially “I Wish It So” sung by Laura Noack and “Dublin Song” sung by Allison Mills. These pieces would be wonderful choices for any sopranos, especially those looking to step away from typical repertoire choices. You can bet any audition panel has heard every interpretation of “Vedrai, carino” umpteen times, but it’s a far greater chance that they’ve never or seldom heard “Dublin Song”.   I know in my program at York we are strongly encouraged to seek out modern repertoire, and the jury panels and teachers welcome hearing new music. This recital program was all American music, and I’d be interested to see a similar idea next year at HSOW, but maybe with Canadian repertoire? DEAR CANADIAN COMPOSERS: email Nina and you too can be in residency in HSOW for a week and have ALL THE FUN.

Two- Solos are great, but ENSEMBLES ARE THE MOST FUN

I love ensemble work. I think singers by nature are gregarious and cooperative and whatnot, but so much of the work we do is solitary- arias and auditions and practice sessions are not team sports. Getting to work with my colleagues on duets and trios is always a lot of fun for me, so I’m glad in the recital program to have had two trios and a duet. (Thank you Laura and Allison, Alex and Pedro, and Will!)  Singing in ensemble challenges you in different ways than in solo repertoire- you have to know when to balance and blend, and when to grab your moment within the piece, and to communicate with each other in rehearsal and in performance. Laura, Allison, and I had the closer to the program- a rollicking trio from Lehrman’s “E.G: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman” The trio was called “If I Can’t Dance” and involved a dance break at one point where we had to grab members from the audience to dance with us (Thank you Phil!)  It was challenging but we pulled it off with at least a little pizzazz. Also verve. Perhaps moxie as well. Helene Williams, Dr. Lehrman’s wife, and a great soprano in her own right, could taught a course on pizzazz and moxie and verve- she was a dynamo, and her solos as well as duets with Max Zander and Nina Scott-Stoddart, and especially with Dr. Lehrman, were a treat to watch. So even when you’re not in the ensembles, or solos, you can learn a great deal from watching your colleagues (something that was evident in the masterclass series at HSOW, which just wrapped up this week).

 Three- it’s all in the delivery.

Dr. Lehrman refers to himself as a “non-singer”, but he performed admirably in duets and solos throughout the program. My favourite was “Penny Candy” from No For An Answer check this. You can sing the pitches correctly and be the most rhythmic musician there ever was, but if you don’t believe in what you’re singing, you won’t convince anyone. Dr. Lehrman put so much energy and conviction into his music that it didn’t matter whether he was singing with beautiful tone and perfect intonation- we believed him and loved his performance for that reason. You gotta sell it. “If I Can’t Dance” worried me before the concert because it was a low, fast patter song about a woman who was full of anger and hated by thousands of people- I don’t really “do” angry- I’m not a particularly fire-y person. However, if I wanted to close the program and sing “If I Can’t Dance” with Laura and Allison, I had to find some way to believe in myself as Emma Goldman and really sell the trio. I don’t think I did it perfectly, but I think I pushed myself more than I have before to inhabit this character who is so different from myself.

The American Aria Concert was great fun, thank you to Nina, Marja, Dr. Lehrman, and Helene, and my fellow performers for their mentoring, organization, and collaboration!

american arias



Haliwood? Haligonia?

I’ve been toying with this idea for a post and hope you enjoy it! I went through my tweets from this week and picked the ones I think that illustrate best the various adventures of the week, and now I can provide a little more than context then I usually fit into 140 characters. Hurray!

16 Jul Rachel Wood@racheldubs

Can’t tell if hungry or nervous. It’s probably both butttt it’s still confusing. #HSOW day one!

I touched on day one in my first post (here, but I think this illustrates a common state for me throughout week one! Our first rehearsals had rough patches, as any are bound to, but we’ve now settled into the music and are getting up to exciting things with stagings- I get a dagger! And to be omnipotent! And a literal deus ex machina!

16 Jul Rachel Wood@racheldubs

Halifax things: poutine for dinner, saw lots of cute dogs and handsome runners ( @S__Evans would like it here) so nice to smell the ocean

I HAVE SEEN SO MANY CUTE DOGS IN THIS CITY. And runners. Halifax is a very friendly town, cars stop for pedestrians all over the place, and baristas seem happier. Maybe it’s all that ocean air? Or the much more pleasant temperature? The GTA, my home, is currently experiencing a grosssss heat wave and I’m in Halifax wishing I had a sweater to wear at night! It’s a nice change.

16 Jul Sarah Evans@S__Evans

There is no better feeling in the world then checking your phone at the end of a 12 hour shift to learn that you’re officially a RN

I have to throw this in, getting home late after the first day of program, I heard some awesome news- my best friend had gotten her nursing license, and a full time job at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto! YAY SARAH!

17 Jul Rachel Wood@racheldubs

The practice room hallway is like musical guess who…or peek a boo? #hsow

The practice room hallway is endless fun for me to try and identify my friends through the doors- it’s endlessly entertaining. And it’s a great way to pick up new repertoire: P The practice room hallway is a very familiar place to me now, at the end of week one, and I’m sure we’ll get even closer throughout the program- my roles are solid but the learning process never stops and all of us singers are continually fine tuning and learning other music at the same time!

17 Jul Rachel Wood@racheldubs

Gave my best ‘Raunchy Susanna’ in masterclass this evening #hsow

I got drawn to be in the very first masterclass of the program (no pressure, right?), given by Lenard Whiting. It’s silly, but I never thought I’d actually end up being drawn for the first one. Oh well! It was a great experience- I sang “Deh vieni” (so obscure, right? #sopranoproblems) and got through about…two phrases before Mr. Whiting had stopped me with new ideas! My job as the singer is to try out the new ideas and keep an open mind- masterclasses mean you think on your feet the whole time! This was probably the largest audience I’ve ever had in a masterclass setting (70 + people) and ALL OF THEM singers or musical people. It was a little intimidating. But overall a good experience, and I’m kind of glad I ended up in the first session to get me out of my comfort zone. We have masterclasses almost everyday and they have all been compelling and illuminating in different ways- I love hearing my colleagues, especially those in other shows who I don’t get to hear often, and I love to hear new repertoire! And the faculty always have significant knowledge to share. Yay for masterclass.

20 Jul Rachel Wood@racheldubs

This morning in acting, I was a beautiful bonsai tree #hsow

We had acting session with Stephen Bourque this week, concentrating a lot on physical theatre, which is a new practice for me. This tweet just amuses me. Our culminating activity for the physical theatre sessions was to be a tree- free form, any way you feel being a tree is. I chose a bonsai. Because they are little.

20 Jul Rachel Wood@racheldubs

Utterly charmed by the kids who set up a lemonade stand at Cobourg and henry. They are presh. Gotta love that entrepreneurial spirit

Even lemonade stands are cuter in Halifax. Lemonade wasn’t bad either. Also, Cobourg Coffee is wonderful AND THEY HAVE FREE WIFI, thank you Cobourg Coffee. You can usually always find a couple HSOW people in and around this establishment.

22 Jul Rachel Wood@racheldubs

Dunked in the Atlantic ocean! #baptized

The first week of HSOW culminated with a social gathering (Thank you Nick, Victoria, and Shilpa!) and then a trip to Crystal Crescent beach on Sunday! It was freezing. But I had to get dunked for Wood family honour (I have Maritime roots! Florenceville, New Brunswick! I’m not just another transplant from Ontario!)

Week two started today, and we’re almost done blocking and moving into run throughs. Exciting! I have a my first costuming call tomorrow (REALLY HOPING I get a Viking helmet to wear as Helga- her name is Helga! The helmet seems mandatory!) And later this week we get to rehearse in our performance space! Casting announcements and show dates also went up, so check those out!  Thanks for reading my blog, and if there’s anything specific you’d like to know more about, please leave a comment! I leave you with this picture of Milena and I at the harbourfront festivities for the Tall Ships festival- best rehearsal break ever!

best break ever


Hi everyone! I’m Rachel Wood, and I’m one of your guest bloggers for HSOW 2012 (pro tip: search #HSOW on twitter to get live updates on operatic shenanigans) I’m going into my fourth year in music program at York University. This summer has been really musical and travelicious for me- I attended the Opera NUOVA one week intensive in Edmonton, and then toured Austria and France with the York University Chamber Choir, before taking a little break (to learn all my HSOW music) before coming out to beautiful Halifax. I’ve never been to Nova Scotia before and am eagerly anticipating crossing things off my list of “Halifax Activities” (one of these things got completed within 24 hours of being in Halifax- eating donair! Thanks to my lovely doppelganger, Meghan Jamieson!)

Speaking of doppelgangers and learning music, this year at HSOW I’ll be singing Helga in “Gisela in her Bathtub”, and Iris in “The Harpies”, as well as chorus in “Riders to the Sea” and singing in the American Aria Recital (July 28th!). I’m so excited to be a part of this program. Today was day one and all 70+ singers gathered to hear from Nina, meet the production team, and each other, and draw lots for masterclasses- mine’s tomorrow night, eek.

I hope you all enjoy the blog this year, all the other bloggers and I have tons of great ideas for content, and if there’s anything specific you want to read about (or…tweet about, make videos about, take pictures of), let us know and we’ll try to make it happen!



Just living the dream in Halifax, I’m on the right! So beautiful after three hours of sleep and then walking all over the city looking for Sobeys. AW YEAH #HSOW.

Living the dream