Today is my dear friend Bethany’s birthday. Bethany and I met many years ago and although life and distance has us communicating much less often than I’d like, I always appreciate her tweets because they are full of poetry.
I love poetry so much. it is so evocative and wonderful and part of the reason I love singing so much is getting to engage with poetry. Poetry is most often read, but I really like reciting poetry. So what better way to celebrate Bethany’s birthday than start this side project I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ve started with a few of my favourites. Let me know what you think!
Between Your Sheets by Lady Mary Wortley Montague
who knows if the Moon’s by e.e. cummings
F277 (Going to Him! Happy Letter!) by Emily Dickinson
I have been spending all my free time playing Dungeons and Dragons lately and I’ve been building a lot of characters based on operas and opera singers. I thought I’d spend the next couple weeks showing you guys some of my character concepts.
For Siegfried, I used the Celestial-Blooded Aasimar race from Volo’s Guide to Monsters and the Barbarian Class from the Player’s Hand Book. He’s strong, charismatic, and dumb as bricks. I gave him the Folk Hero background for obvious reasons, and proficiency in Smith’s Tools because he was the only one strong enough to forge Nothung, the dragon slayer great sword he uses to slay Fafner. He’s Totem of the bear because not only is he super tough, Siegfried’s pet bear is my favourite part of the story!
This is something I wrote on my personal tumblr a few years ago, and I wanted to share it again in light of the tragedy in Manchester.
Dear Teenage Girls
I’m writing this because it feels like everyday I read something new about a young woman being victimized. I am not that much older then you, but it already feels like being a teenage girl is about 100 times harder. I can’t begin to imagine what many of you have gone through.
People are Hurting You Emotionally, Physically, Spiritually and Sexually
People are blaming you for things that are not your fault
People are calling you liars, and telling you that what you have to say isn’t important
People are still using your bodies, your gender identity, your sexual orientation, and your race to determine your worth.
Of course this kind of thing happened to us when I was a teenager, but everything feels more intense, more instant. It makes me sick. Whenever I read about another girl who was attacked, or killed or ignored or threatened, it makes me want to scream. I wondered why people targeted and trivialized you for so long, but I’ve just realized why.
It’s because you are amazing.
You are smart, talented, beautiful and powerful and that is terrifying to the people who want to keep you down because they know that if you are allowed to come into your own, to fully realize all that potential, you are an unstoppable force of nature.
So please, keeping being wonderful. Keep being brave, speaking out, acting out, creating, loving, thinking and most of all keep dreaming.
It’s not going to be easy. I know. There will be days when you can’t get out of bed, when you think that nothing’s worth it, when you decide it would be easier to keep your head down or lash out at others. But try to overcome that.
I love you
I believe you
I know you can do it.
And there are more people like me, who feel the same way and who will be there to help and support you every step of the way.
But in the end its up to you. You need to love and respect yourselves, love and respect each other and DEMAND love and respect from the rest of the world. It will be scary and hard but it will be worth it because when you succeed you won’t be sitting around in your twenties, with a broken heart for every girl who goes through everything you went through and more. You will be the reason that the next generation has it better, and it will be wonderful.
You’re already starting to do this, and I’m so proud of you. Keep going. You’ve been kept down long enough. It’s your time.
Hi everyone, I’m back! I have a Master’s Degree! It’s a new chapter in this Soubrette’s life.
A while back Schmopera wrote an article discussing the idea that many professional musicians do not like to listen to music in their downtime. I am totally one of those people, there is nothing I love more than coming home to a silent house after a long day. No TV or music, just silence and maybe a little conversation. However when I want something to distract me while I’m doing a mindless activity, or on a long trip, I usually turn to Podcasts.
Since it’s summer festival season, and lots of us are going to be doing a ton of travelling, I thought I would share a few of the Podcasts that rely on when I need to fill the silence.
Pop Culture Happy Hour
Pop Culture Happy Hour is a round table podcast by NPR about pretty much everything entertainment. Every week they pick one or two topics and get a whole bunch of smart people to talk about it. Since I am a pop culture hermit, I love how this podcast keeps me up to date on what is new and interesting. Every so often they will publish mini episodes called “small batches” where just a few of the panel members will discuss something important that has just come up (like Beyonce’s Lemonade), share interesting moments, or post extended interviews that appeared on other NPR podcasts (Like this interview with John Mulaney). The discussions themselves are great, but my favourite part of the podcast is at the end, when they go around the table and talk about the things that made them happy that week. What a lovely exercise, and a great way to get recommendations on cool things to try out.
This is another great NPR podcast based on the New York Times column where readers submit essays about love in all of its forms. Each episode features a story chosen and narrated by a celebrity guest, and then an interview with the writer and the column’s editor Daniel Jones. This podcast is one of my absolute favourites, and I get so excited every time there is a new episode.
Dear Hank and John
This is a delightful “comedy podcast about death” produced by John and Hank Green of Vlogbrothers fame. Every week they answer listener questions (and offer dubious advice) as well as give the latest news about Mars and AFC Wimbledon (passions of Hank and John respectively). This podcast is a delight because it is just two funny, smart people who genuinely enjoy each other’s company. They don’t try to be funny on purpose, but I’m often in stitches listening to it.
This is a new one on my list, but I love it already. This podcast has the writers and producers of popular songs explain how they created the song. At the end of each episode, you get to hear the song in its entirety. It is so fascinating to hear the process and the story of each song, it’s also a great way to learn about new bands and artists.
I didn’t put Serial or Welcome to Night Vale on this list even though I love them both because they are very well known. Limetown is like these two podcasts had a baby and it is gripping and beautiful. They’ve finished their first season and haven’t announced when the second season will be coming yet. There are only 6 episodes, and you must listen to them in order. I’m actually avoiding the last episode because I don’t want it to end. It’s so good
(There is some disturbing material in the podcast, mostly violence, just so you’re aware)
This isn’t all of the podcasts that I listen to (I’ll finish that 20 hour backlog someday) but these are the ones that I drop everything to make sure I’m caught up on. Am I missing anything essential? What do you do during your downtime? Let me know in comments.
Today, I am (appropriately) going to talk about failure.
February is a good time to think about failure, because this is a time when so many people who “failed” to keep their new years resolutions January decide to just give up on them entirely. For all the think pieces and blog posts there are about making effective new years resolutions, there is relatively little written about what to do when you let your resolutions fall to the wayside. Recently, I discovered two great pieces of advice on this front. The brilliant John Oliver recommends lowering your expectations, and Apartment Therapy offers similar (more serious) advice. I think that is idea of revaluating and scaling down your new years resolutions has merit, but it also feels more than a little bit disappointing. I’m all for small victories but it’s still important to have huge goals too.
Rather than focus on tiny successes all the time, I like to embrace the fact that I am a failure.
“But Lauren, you shouldn’t say such negative things about yourself!” I hear you say. But it’s only negative if you think failure is a bad thing. In Worstward Ho, Samuel Beckett wrote what is probably my favourite quote ever:
I honestly haven’t read or heard anything more inspiring than this. All of a sudden failure is acceptable because failure is not the end, it’s a checkpoint.
I think that a lot of our attitude about goals and goal-setting comes from our attitude about failure. We’re scared of it. It sounds big and scary and final, so when we think about making goals we make little ones that are almost impossible to fail. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, in fact tons of experts say that it is the best way to build positive habits, but if you don’t grow your goals over time, then you’ll never grow. There is nothing wrong with big, ambitious resolutions, even if you fail them at first
I failed a LOT in 2015. I failed as a blogger, I failed to progress as an artist as much I wanted, I failed get the parts that I wanted, I failed to stay healthy, I even almost failed some classes (a new experience for me). I spent a lot of time being upset about all of that, but I’m done with all of that now. Now, I am going to focus on working harder, and failing better.
I think that a big part of making and keeping resolutions is to constantly review and re-evaluate them. Now that we’re two months in, I thought that I would re-evaluate how I’m doing.
Rededicate Myself to the Blog Ok, so this one did not go well. I think that since going self-hosted, I put so much pressure on myself to have incredible, viral posts every single time that I just end up getting overwhelmed and paralyzed. I’m new to blogging and I need to remember that I’m still learning. I am still going to try and write the best posts that I can, but I am going to be a little easier on myself. Putting all of that pressure on myself meant that blogging wasn’t fun anymore, and why would I do something that wasn’t fun.
Spend More Time at the Library I’ve been spending more time at the library at school, but I’ve yet to get to the public library yet, although that is going to change tonight! I’m volunteering at an event this weekend and there’s an orientation session tonight at the library. I’m going to use it as an excuse to get to know the library better, and maybe take out some new books.
Develop Good Morning and Night Routines I think that I’ve been making some pretty good progress with this. Right now, the nighttime routine is a little more ingrained (thanks to some phone alarms that remind me it’s time to go to bed) but hopefully getting more sleep will make the morning routines a little easier
Get Serious about My Finances This did not go well for me in September, and I ended up paying for it (literally) in October. The worst is past (I hope) and I should be back on track in November. I think that is what I like the most about how I deal with my finances. Since I pay myself every month from my student loan money, I can always start fresh and try again.
Bike to School In retrospect, this resolution was a little bit too ambitious for me. I’ve biked to school all of once, and I was so exhausted that I ended up being late for class and I could hardly pay attention. I think the distance from my house to school was just a little too far for me to deal with after being relatively inactive for so long, and now it’s getting too cold to comfortably bike in the mornings. I’m going to have to find a new way to get more activity in my life in the winter.
Be a Better Student This is maybe the only resolution that I can 100% say I’ve been doing well on. I’ve been missing less class, doing more readings, and practicing more. After a musically disappointing September, I’ve turned a corner and I’ve been having a lot more success with singing and that translated itself into a really encouraging audition experience in October. I have a bunch more auditions in November, so I’m going to try and continue progressing forward.
Make My House a Home This has been a slow and stressful process for me, but Jeff and I spent this past weekend putting up mirrors and pictures, and having things on the walls has made me feel much butter about my living situation. I think by the end of the month, I should be ready to show you guys my handiwork!
It’s that time of year again, Fall Audition Season! For the next few months, singers everywhere will be vying for contracts, roles, residencies, and spots in young artist programs. Depending on how many auditions you do, it can be a pretty stressful time; there are the financial concerns of paying for flights, gas, accompanists, headshots, and recordings, the question of putting together the best audition package and which aria to start with, and of course, what are you going to wear?
The question of whether or not an outfit is “performance appropriate” is fraught with conflicting opinions and I don’t think it would do any good to add my own. Instead, I’m going to talk about strategies for when you’re out of the audition room. We don’t always have the time or space to bring a whole extra outfit to change into later, but you don’t want to look your fanciest the whole time. Here are a few of my tips for how to dress down a performance outfit before or after you’ve sung.
The beauty of a good little black dress is that you can dress it up or down easily with a few accessories. Throwing on a plaid shirt or jean jacket can make even the fanciest dress look more relaxed, and balance out the comfy sneakers or flats that you’re probably going to change into.
Suits are so easy that I probably don’t even need to talk about them. Just take off your tie, change your pants into jeans or chinos and you’re set. The jacket can stay on or off depending on whether you have a place to hang it.
Changing your pants works even when you aren’t wearing a suit. Jeans instantly make a dress shirt or top more casual, and if you’re wearing low, comfortable heels, you might not even need to change those.
If you like your bottoms, why not change the top instead? The nice thing about the basic black pieces that everybody tells us to wear at auditions is that they can be made to look appropriate for any occasion with the right accessories.
This last piece of advice I heard from a much more stylish acquaintance of mine, she told me that cowboy boots were the ultimate pair of leather boots to own, because they’re so durable and they are great at dressing down a nice skirt or dress.
And of course scarves. Casual, Fashionable, and practical. Pashminas and other big, square scarves have the added benefit of turning into a shawl when you need to stay fancy and warm at the same time.
What are your strategies for dressing down after a performance or audition? Or do you like to stay fancy the whole time? Let me know in the Comments!
A bunch of my friends just did a production of The Magic Flute in Italy and so I have it on the brain. I decided to revisit some of my older Opera outfits that have been hiding in the archives of my old tumblr. This is still one of my favourite collections.
The Three Ladies
I love these three women. They have such a great dynamic and generally steal the scene every time. Each woman has a distinct personality and I wanted to reflect that in each of the outfits. When I first made these up, I assigned the outfits in numerical order from left to right, but I’ve actually changed my mind. The outfit on the left screams Third Lady to me, who I think is the youngest, or at least the most playful of the three. The middle one is demure and practical, like I imagine the First Lady to be and the right outfit is for the second lady, who seems to be the dramatic type to me.
This is hands-down my favourite outfit that I’ve ever made for this series. I love everything about it. The cagey heels, the feather hair pin, and that skirt! We don’t see much of Papagena in the opera but this outfit is quirky and sexy, just like she is.
I went with blue and gold for Pamina because she is trapped between night and day. The dress is fancy and princess-like but the yellow cardigan dresses it down. The accessories here are super symbolic, the silver star earrings, the gold chain bracelet and of course the dagger broach all represent the forces that she is caught between. Poor Pamina, being used as a pawn in a cosmic power struggle when all she wants is a boyfriend.
Queen of the Night
Ok, maybe giving the queen a gown and a ton of jewellery is a cop-out, but what else can you do? She is dark, dramatic and blindingly sparkly. The heels are impractical, but who needs practical shoes when you’re the queen of everything? There are a few different pairs of earrings because she would definitely have more than one piercing, maybe if I was to do this again, I would give her a sparkly ear cuff. Most of the jewellery in the set are actually rings, because I can totally imagine her making Tamino and Papageno kiss her rings in deference
Tomorrow is my last first day of school, which is SO CRAZY, but I am determined to blog through it all. Are there any other operas that you’d like to see outfits for? Let me know in the comments!
Hello everybody! I’ve missed you. I had to take an involuntary hiatus from the blog, because of computer issues at the worst possible time to have computer issues (that is, when you are in two operas at the same time and then moving hallway across the country immediately after) but I am back and so excited about it.
Gretchen Rubin recently posted something on her blog about the idea of September Resolutions. As the traditional start of the school year, September is a great time to start fresh and work on forming new habits. It’s also a great time look at your January Resolutions and re-evaluate them.
Since I’m going back to school next week, I thought it would be good to share my resolutions with you. Since accountability is important when it comes to achieving your goals.
Rededicate Myself to the Blog
I had to take a break from blogging last month but if I am being honest with myself, there were things that I could have done to prevent such a long radio silence. This coming term is going to be busy for me, but I am determined to keep on schedule. I also have my DSLR with me again, so I can finally stop taking pictures with my less than stellar cellphone camera and have some nicer photos to share with you!
Spend More Time at the Library
Living in Halifax this summer meant that I got to spend time at one of the most beautiful libraries that I have ever been to, and it reminded me how much I love the library. I haven’t been to the library in London yet, but even if it isn’t as pretty it will still have everything that I love about libraries.
Develop Good Morning and Night Routines
I’ve read everywhere that having good routines helps you get to sleep faster and makes your mornings easier. Plus, living in a new a climate means that I need to get serious about my skin care, because I am tired of feeling like a teenager with these breakouts
Get Serious About My Finances
As I’ve mentioned in my personal finance posts, taking control of your budget is a process that requires constant re-evaluation. Sometimes I feel a little bit like a fraud, writing about effective budgeting when my budgets are often less than balanced. Also, this is my last year of school, so I am going to have to start thinking about how I’m going to pay back all of my student loans and to be honest I’m a little worried about it. Getting my finances under control this year will make the next few years so much easier.
Bike to School (weather permitting)
One of the things that London has going for it over Halifax is that the city is full of beautiful bike trails. Our new apartment is fairly close to a bike trail that runs along the river and deposits us right outside the music building at school. I plan to take advantage of this.
Be a Better Student
Isn’t this everyone’s goal at the beginning of a new school year? Originally I wanted this resolution to be more about my professional success, but I’m not so sure if “get a role in the opera” or “get into this young artist program” are reasonable goals because so much of that is out of my control. Instead, I can resolve to be a better artist and a good student. I can work hard in my classes, practice more often and more effectively, and prepare my auditions more fully so that I give myself the best chance to impress the people that have more control over whether or not I get those roles and or a place in those programs.
Make My House a Home
Moving to a new city is always hard, but it was especially hard for me this time because I love Halifax so much. I’ve spent the past week wavering between loving my new place and wishing desperately that I could go back home to Halifax. Since I can’t do that, I’m going to work hard to make this place cozy and welcoming, so that I can love living here too.
So that’s what I’ll be working towards this year. Do you have September Resolutions? What are they? Let me know in the comments!
So the reading challenge has been going really well. I touched base with some of the other participants and so far we have read 8,385 pages and 24 books! That’s a ton! I bet that we can get over 10,000 by the end of the summer! The current winner is Jasmine at 2856 pages and 9 books!
I read one and a half books this week: Lorna Crozier’s The Garden Going on Without Us and Geek Girls Unite by Leslie Simon. I’m going to briefly talk about both.
Lorna Crozier is my favourite Canadian Poet. Her poetry is smart and funny and tragic and gorgeous. The Garden Going on Without Us is a collection of poems, some of which had already been published in other volumes and some newly published that focus on life in the prairies. She writes about the people around her, people she loves, and the natural world, both wild and cultivated. My two favourite sections were “The Morning of the Sad Women” and “The Garden Going on Without Us” the section from which the collection gets its name. The second section includes selections from my favourite collection of poems “The Sex Lives of Vegetables” which is exactly what it sounds like. The poems are cheeky, sensual, and clever. They also sometimes make you hungry. If you need some more Canadian poetry in your life, I definitely recommend The Garden Going On Without Us
The second book I read this week was Geek Girls Unite. At least I tried to read it. When I don’t like a book, I try my best to stick out to the end so I can create a fully formed opinion. I couldn’t do it with this one. I picked up the book on sale and had high hopes for it. Anyone who’s spent any time on the internet knows that it can be hard to be a geek and a girl at the same time. Because geek culture is so male dominated, many women who participate in geek culture are viewed as frauds who crave male attention and prey on helpless nerd boys by pretending to be genuinely interested things that are generally considered “nerdy.” I hoped that Geek Girls Unite would be a feminist call to action that tore down or satirized the “Fake Geek Girl” trope, but it wasn’t that at all.
The concept of the book didn’t seem that bad at first; it outlines several different categories of geek girl (the fangirl, the literary geek, the film geek, etc) and offers a short history of notable women in the genre as well as a list of resources and recommendations of popular media made by women in each category. However, there is a considerable amount of girl-hate and gatekeeping (the idea that you have to meet a certain number of high standards before you can qualify as a member of a group) written into the book. Each section starts off with a quiz so you can see if you qualify as that particular kind of geek. This seems like classic gatekeeping at first, but you quickly realize that the right answer is always C, always obvious, and the other answers are generally pretty funny. The “quiz” is meant to educate and entertain rather than categorize, but my problem with it is the way that the results are delivered. Of the three possible results, “mostly C’s” indicates a full-fledged geek girl, “mostly A’s” is an enthusiastic newcomer and “mostly B’s” is a vapid, clueless girl. The beginning of the “mostly B’s” description in each chapter always starts with “Sorry Lauren Conrad” (or Megan Fox, or Heidi Spencer or any other popular celebrity with a reputation for being valued for their looks rather than talent) and goes on to insult them and their intelligence for a paragraph. It’s blatant girl-on-girl hate that is destructive and divisive. Even worse than that, each chapter has a section called “Frenemies” that explains how to identify a “fake geek” that will harm the cause rather than help it. This includes people who love twilight (which is considered an “acceptable” fandom) but think that it is well written, girls who are declare they are “really into film” after seeing a Wes Anderson movie for the first time, people who like Channing Tatum and watch his movies, People who listen to Miley Cyrus or PHISH, girls who wear leggings as pants and people who wear eccentric or “Cosby” sweaters unironically. It seems that Leslie Simon wants geek girls to unite, but only if you fit her narrow definition of what a geek girl is. (I apparently don’t count, I am a proud member of the leggings as pants club and I love patterned sweaters)
Geek Girls Unite is a great concept for a book, but is full of gatekeeping and misogynistic rhetoric that only reinforces the “fake geek girl” trope and make it harder for women of all kinds to be accepted into geek spaces. I got 81 pages in before I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m going to count those 81 pages in my reading challenge because I can’t get that 30 minutes of my life back. Hopefully my next book will be better.
Books: 2 ½
Currently Reading: Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
There is always still time to join the summer reading challenge. Tell me in the comments, or tweet me with #SoubretteReads2015 and tell me what you’re reading right now!