Focused and Free

Today I did yoga in a garden. Unlike the fairy tale wilderness that characterises my mother’s garden, this one is rather a big green open space with numerous types of flora–both with and without blossoms–configured around it.  After a long successful day of rehearsing at the Halifax Summer Opera Festival, I was in need of some fresh air, tranquility, and a good stretch.

photo 3 (2)Although I have done yoga outside before, it was always on a hard man-made surface. To be doing the same relaxing and yet invigorating movements on the grass made me feel not only more connected to the earth under my hands and feet, but more like my limbs were an extension of the earth. Each molecule of my being is drawn from the same primordial ooze as the grass, the flowers, the trees, the dogs barking in the distance. I sensed for the first time while in the yoga state that I was truly relaxed and focused. Not only that, but the poses actually felt easier.

Context can make all the difference. Doing a summer program in a place like Halifax is really a joy because when you step out of the rehearsal space, you know that so much natural beauty is waiting to receive you. Numerous trees and patches of inviting grass surround our rehearsal venue.  Meanwhile, the water that carried our ancestors here sits directly in front of it. Who wouldn’t want to make art in a place like that?

Halifax is a city engulfed in nature. Yes there are cars and houses and businesses but there are also parks and hills and WATER. This program, although, at its core, is scholastic venture, was founded and is maintained with lots of love. As much as the program inspires me to work harder, nothing feels too rigid or uncomfortable. I feel focused, but I also feel free.

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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!

Last Day… :(

This past week has really been intense! I have to start with my story about the Potluck at Andrew’s on Natal Day. That day, I decided I’d make what Rachel ingeniously called a “Marshmallow Salad”, so I had to go to the grocery store to get the ingredients. I had planned out to go with Milena, and then we would take the bus from Quinnpool Road to Andrew’s house. As we were waiting for the bus to come, a woman came up to us and informed us that the buses weren’t working on Natal Day. It kind of made sense, I guess. So we started walking, to find another bus stop, and hopefully, there was a bus working. We walked… and walked… and walked… and stopped for a few pictures at Chocolate Lake… And walked… And kept on walking till we got to Andrew’s house. I was soooo tired!!! As soon as we got there, I started working on my marshmallow salad, and then went outside to rest for a while. It had been almost an hour walking, which is pretty fine, except for all the hills… Then, at night, Milena and I had decided we would leave together as well. Melody had informed us that some buses WERE working, as she took one over to Andrew’s house. So we checked out the itinerary, and there would be a bus passing close to Andrew’s at 9:10. It was 9:00, so we basically ran to the bus stop, and got there at 9:08. A bus passed, but it wasn’t the one we were looking for. Another one passed, and it was the same one that had passed earlier, but in the other directions. 2 taxis passed. Then they passed again, full of people from the potluck. 9:45, and we decided to walk back to Andrew’s and call a taxi. What an eventful day, huh?


So Tuesday was opening night for the Starboard Cast, and all I had to do was change sets and carry Phil on stage with Collin, Mike and Nick. The show went really well. As I said before, I’m just so proud to be surrounded by so much talent, yet being supported by others as well. On Wednesday night, it was my last time performing. I was really sad, because, although there were obvious difficulties in learning these two roles (Zetes, Olaf), I’ve feel I’ve grown in them and they’ve grown in me. So I told myself I’d be the best Zetes and the best Olaf there ever was that night. And I must say, I’m pretty proud of myself. I even managed the awkward moment when my headpiece was tangled up in Meghan’s hairpin with grace. Then after the show, it was Cabaret Night at Menz Bar. Again, so much talent! I hadn’t heard a few singers, because I was absent at a few masterclasses, and I was really amazed at so much talent. And Bunny as a host… Funny and fabulous! The show ended at around 11:30 I think, and I decided to stay a little bit, but the truth is I was tired. I’m the kind of person that gets really tired after a show. So I headed out, and as I was walking outside, Melody asked if I was going to call for a cab, and we ended up cabbing together.


Thursday was an off day. Brunch at Smitty’s with Rachel, Phil, Meghan, Alyssa, Andrew Hernández and Max as a guest, then a walk around the city (Black Market, Comic Store, etc) then Mean Girls at Meghan’s apartment, dinner at Coburg and Dream. I hadn’t yet seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and let me tell you… Costumes and Make-up? Awesome! Voices? Awesome! Acting? Awesome! Hilariously funny! It was really a great show.


Friday and Saturday was a really relax day for me. I decided I’d start washing clothes and packing. I guess I kind of need some alone time to think a few things out, besides coordinating my enrollment with the administration of the Conservatory via email.


And now, the last day of HSOW. A month has gone by so fast, it’s ridiculous! On Tuesday, I’ll be heading back to PR, and as soon as I get there, I’ll be heading to the Conservatory to wrap up my matriculation and taking my first class. Yes, classes start tomorrow. At least I don’t have classes on Mondays. Anyway, I was saying that this past month has gone by really fast. Too fast, I’d say. I’ve learned so many things, not only musically, but personally as well. I’ve met really fabulous people here, especially the stage managers, directors, music directors, and especially, my colleagues. Everybody here has been so nice to me. Even though I may seem a little quiet and shy, I’m not. All this time, I’ve been analyzing myself, and comparing backgrounds, and it has been really nice to see so many different backgrounds to mine. Everybody has such different experiences, and I just wanted to listen to everybody’s opinion. Also, there is the fact that, since I’m the “new guy” from Puerto Rico, I’ve been speaking Spanish for the past 18 years of my life, which means that sometimes, or should I say most times, I find myself organizing my thoughts in Spanish, then translating them into English, just because I don’t want to make mistakes when I’m speaking English. It’d be kind of awkward if an English teacher made mistakes. Anyway, I’ve really learned a lot this past month. A few things I’ve learned:


  1. In Halifax, always carry an umbrella.
  2. In Halifax, you can cross the road, and people will actually stop.
  3. Music directors here are actually nice and VERY helpful.
  4. The difference between a stage manager and a stage director.
  5. Bridesmaids is a really funny movie!
  6. Egyptian rat screw (I think that’s the name…) with the boys at the dressing room.
  7. I’ve practically memorized the girls’ chorus parts from Riders to the sea.
  8. I love coffee! And I don’t love tea.
  9. I don’t like Sushi. This one I already knew, but I just confirmed it. J


I think that pretty much sums up what I’ve learned here. I know, most things actually don’t have to do with singing or acting, but then again, I think we all learned a lot about that, and don’t want to bore you.


So, if you have not guessed so by now, this is officially my last post. This is the post where I say goodbye to you, the readers, and goodbye to the wonderful people I’ve met here. It has truly been a great experience for me being here. Hopefully, I’ll come back one day, and I’ll see the people once again. Thank you all for letting me part of such a wonderful workshop, and believe me, I appreciate and will miss all of you.


Truly yours,

Pedro Arroyo

The Puerto-Rican Tenor

End of 3rd week… Last week! :(

So many things to say about such an important week!

This past week was the hectic week of dress rehearsals, costume fittings, fight calls, you name it… It was a pretty busy week, but I always managed to do things outside of the schedule. On Monday, I went to get sushi with Phil, Rachel and Melody. Since I’m not much of a fish eater, I’ve never been a fan of sushi. They tried to convince me of trying it, but I was very hesitant. I ordered the beef teriyaki and chicken teriyaki rolls. They were pretty nice, though not as good as I expected. Then, after I was full, Rachel told me to try one of her sushi rolls. I decided to do so. Big mistake… I will not go into details, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. Afterwards, we went strolling down Spring Garden Road, and stopped at Il Mercato Trattoria (I think that’s the name!) for some delicious gelato. That was awesome!

On Tuesday, I can’t seem to remember what happened. All I know is there were many rehearsals. On Wednesday, most of the rehearsals were canceled, so I had nothing to do during the day. So I went back to my room and slept a while. Then, I went to facebook and saw that Allison Mills had posted a status, saying that it would be nice to have dinner out, so we immediately started planning, but had no idea where to go. Then, a few minutes later, I received a message that Nicholas, Tessa, Collin, Jennifer and her would go out for… wait for it… Sushi. I said to myself “Not again!!”, but just to spend time with the new people in my life, I went. There were non-sushi items on the menu, and that’s exactly what I got. Nicholas tried to convince me in trying other sushi rolls, but I just couldn’t. Now, I have to say… I’m awesome with chopsticks! It was my 2nd time eating with chopsticks, and never dropped anything! Then, we went to the waterfront for a little while, and we each headed to our homes.

Thursday and Friday were dress rehearsal days. Although there were still some difficulties, at least, in The Harpies, everything went pretty good, in my opinion. I mean, that’s what dress rehearsals are for. After the first dress rehearsal, we were all pretty hungry, so we headed to The Fickle Frog to have some dinner, and there was the cast of Carmen as well. So you can imagine a very long table full of opera singers. Lovely experience!

Friday’s rehearsal went pretty well also. Then, that night was opening night for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by Benjamin Britten. I couldn’t go because I really had to do laundry, but I’ve heard many wonderful things about the show. On Saturday, I’m guessing that I did the same as many people did… Sleep late! I woke up exactly at noon! So I dressed up quickly, had a quick “breakfast” and went to see the opening of Carmen, by Georges Bizet. It was a beautiful show! Everyone did a great job! After the show, I quickly went for food, ‘cause I was green (I’m not sure if the same expression is used in English, but in Spanish, when we say “Estoy verde”, which literally means I’m green, it means we’re really hungry). Then I went home, to rest for my own big day.

Now is a good time to mention that this week, I’ve had a few problems with English! For the first time since I got here, I’ve accidentally started speaking Spanish, or at least mumbled a word or two, just to realize that most people won’t understand, and I have to stop and think about what I want to say. That’s why, at most times, I’m pretty quiet, because I’m listening to what I hear, and trying to think more in English. Because it’s really weird when somebody comes up to you while your eating and says “Buen provecho”, which is “Enjoy your meal.” Or somebody that hits you accidentally, and says “Ay, perdón. Mala mía”, which means “Oh, sorry. My bad.”

So… Opening day, huh? Yeah. I woke up early, took a shower, and left to have some breakfast at Coburg Coffee. However, when I woke up, I noticed that I felt the whole world twirling around me. I was really dizzy! I decided to ignore it and keep on moving, but as I walked, it was getting worse. I even feared falling down! When I got to Dalhousie Arts Centre, I sat in the dressing room, and all of a sudden, I had to rush to the bathroom to regurgitate. I don’t understand why, but I just did. But after I did, I felt so much better! I wasn’t dizzy anymore. I felt energized, and ready to start the show! We had our fight call, our curtain call rehearsal, and then, costume change. Then, I heard Tessa’s sweet voice… “Places, everyone!” It was time. I wasn’t really nervous, but more anxious to get out to the stage and show everybody what I’m capable of doing. I really wanted to do a good job. Everything went great! The audience was lovely, and laughed a lot during The Harpies and Gisela in her Bathtub. Then, they cried with Riders to the sea. It was a magical two hours in Studio One. I just can’t wait for my next performance… I’m thirsty for more!!!

I just want to end this blog post by thanking the administrative team of HSOW for giving me the opportunity of being part of this wonderful workshop. Tessa, Jennifer, Bonnie and Steven, thank you so much for your time, effort and patience. And last but not least, all my fellow singers on stage and in other productions. This has truly been a wonderful experience for me, and I hope to come back soon!

Just in case, this isn’t my last post. I know those last few sentences make it seem so, but it isn’t.

See y’all!

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