Happy weekend!

What do you all have going on this weekend, friends? Mine is stuffed to the gills with work-related adventures, but I'm making a little time for a The Wall viewing party this evening and brunch with T Squared from H-town on Sunday. We open a week from Saturday, and at the moment it seems like we're hurtling toward the finish line.

In case you're bored...

You know I'm a sucker for the Modern Love column. I loved this one.

I've been eating my body weight in quinoa lately, so I'm excited to try this recipe.

Our whole field is mourning the loss of a great man this week. I loved reading about his life.

This is completely fascinating, and worth the time commitment. Also, I heart Jason Robert Brown.

And finally, a favor. Obviously I have too much time on my hands, and far too many neuroses, but can you help me out? I have had visits to this blog from EVERY state in the U.S. of A except one: South Dakota. Can you please write to all your South Dakotan friends and tell them about this here weblog? Pretty please?

Hope your weekend is full of margaritas, movies, and air conditioning! xoxo LMB

Modal shifts

It's so easy for me, on these stints away from home, to hibernate in Antisocial Hermit Mode, reading dozens of books and burning through my Netflix queue like there's no tomorrow. It's not always by choice; sometimes it's really the only option. What Joyce said is so true: "If you're not good at being on your own, it will be a very, very difficult road." As an only child, I've got a head start on figuring out how to be alone, but it's something I continually have to work on. It's still hard for me to eat out by myself unless I've got my iPod or Kindle as armor, and it wasn't very long ago that I discovered I actually love going to the movies alone.

I've been resisting the urge to retreat into my shell while I'm here in the 'Fe, instead making a conscious effort to accept invitations when they're extended and to spend as much time as possible with my amazing colleagues here. After all, I'm here for only 5 weeks, in this gorgeous place, at this incredible company, doing work I love with people I admire. So I'm in Social Butterfly Mode, and apparently I'm adding Live for Danger Mode to the mix as well. At a 4th of July party, I lit fireworks, ACTUAL FIREWORKS, in a display that would have made the Washington Mall proud. What did I use to light them? Sparklers. Pretty bad-ass, am I right? I've been coasting on that one ever since.

Until today, when I totally topped it. Not so much in the I Could Have Burned My Hand Off kind of danger, but in the I Could Have Fallen Many Feet to My Death kind.

This may or may not be a picture of me on top of the Opera House, depending on how much trouble I would be in if it was.

Live for Danger Mode pretty much rocks my world.

Home on the Road: Joyce DiDonato

For my second installment of Home on the Road, I'm so excited to host mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. Joyce's passion for life is evident in everything she does: in her blog, in her photography, and most especially in her incredible singing. It is no exaggeration to say that she is one of the most important artists of our time, and exactly the kind of singer that is changing our field for the better, but none of that expresses just what a lovely, sunny person she is. Quite simply, to know her is to love her, and I'm so happy for you to get to know her a bit here.

Joyce has been on the road for the past 13 years, ever since she graduated from the Houston Opera Studio in 1998. During 2009, she spent a total of 33 days at home (in Kansas City), with never more than 6 consecutive days at home. She did, however, get to be with her husband (conductor Leo Vordoni) for about 2/3 of the year, which she counts as a very good year.

LMB: Do you have any stuff that you always bring with you when you travel to make your temporary home feel more like a real one?

JD: It sounds stupid, but every time Leo and I enter a new apartment, we say "Welcome home." It's a mind set—a total mind set. In the beginning I used to travel with picture frames and candles and all these things to try and make me feel more "at home," but that just got—well, heavy! I prefer to travel lightly when possible, or keep more space for dresses and books! But essentially if I have a working high-speed internet, this is what keeps me in touch with my loved ones and friends, and so I do feel that I can set up "home" just about anywhere. (And I'm writing this from Milan which is probably the MOST challenging city to set up a "homey feel"!!!) I do travel with my yoga mat which I try to use on a regular basis, but essentially that's it. I've learned that I'd rather spend a bit of money to stay in a nice place, because if I'm 11 months on the road, the road is truly my home, and it's important to feel safe and comfortable and be able to REST wherever I am. So a few years back I stopped trying to save $500 on housing and bumped myself up into nicer accommodations—and I have never once regretted it!

LMB: You sing a lot in Europe. How much do you try to immerse yourself in the culture of wherever you are? Are there any American things, or foods, or traditions that you can't live without, no matter where you are?

JD: I will often arrive in Europe with some peanut butter and Thomas's Whole Grain Bagels! But I do think it's very important to take advantage of learning the culture where you are and to make the best of the opportunities to try the different foods, take up the afternoon siesta routine (which is pretty fabulous!), and just get inside how a different culture functions. It was NOT easy at all for me at the beginning—I REALLY missed my creature comforts. But with time and a few repeat visits, I've learned how the markets function and that ultimately I can find anything I REALLY need. So I sort of jump into it full steam. I WILL say, however, that the thing I crave most if I've been in Europe for an extended period? MEXICAN FOOD! So the first thing I'll do in the States is get a REAL Margarita (sorry, Europe—you do many things well, but mixing a REAL margarita is NOT one of them!), and a big burrito!!!

LMB: I have not yet figured out how to pack light for a trip of several months, and I'm getting tired of shipping boxes back and forth all the time. Any advice from a seasoned traveler?

JD: Well, I know now the different cities where I'll be going, and if I can find the toiletries I like to use, or ones I can try in the different countries, I will shop for my toiletries when I get there, as those weigh a lot. I've learned that as long as I have my music, the under-garments I need (because those can be nearly impossible for me to find on the road, especially in Europe!), and the shoes I need, anything else I can find on the road, so I don't stress the little things. Any medications you may need are imperative to bring along—for us singer types, it's important that you bring all the preventative things, and a good stash of Emergen-C. I think I've over-packed for every single trip I've ever made. There is ALWAYS the shirt or dress that I never ever wear on the road, but I still pack it thinking, "you never know...." I always end up wearing the same clothes and leaving 4 or 5 pieces completely untouched, but then I'll STILL pack those unworn numbers the next time. I guess I'll never learn!

LMB: You and Leo spend so much time apart. I'll take any tips you've got on how to do that whole long-distance thing!

JD: Well, the one advantage we have is that when we met, our relationship started with us being apart, so that was how our relationship dynamic was established from the beginning. To us, it's normality. But that doesn't mean it's easy. Communication is absolutely, completely and utterly the key. Skype is a God-send. Period. It is an unbelievable gift. We make sure that when we are on the road we are in touch at LEAST once a day via Skype/telephone, but there are also the constant text messages, emails, little "thinking of you" notes that just keep us connected over the miles.

We try very hard not to be apart more than 3 weeks. Longer than 3 weeks, you've each gotten into a very independent routine, and then to come back together and have to share your space again can sometimes lead to stress or conflict. We had that a bit in the beginning, and just being able to identify that this is what is happening makes the transition back together much easier.

But I think the other immensely important factor is that you have to feel that you can thrive on your own. If you spend so much time apart, it's vital that you still grow and learn and thrive and feed your interests, so that the time apart doesn't feel like dead time while you're waiting for your partner to come home. I think both Leo and I have an ability to use the time apart productively and fruitfully so that when we reunite we have lots to share and learn from each other. So feeding yourself while you're on your own, instead of only seeing how lonely you are, I think is a big key.

LMB: In order to have the career that you have, you have to be willing to be away from home most of the time. How have you made peace with that? What makes it worthwhile for you?

JD: For me, it is something I have had to learn. I was rather miserable in the first years of my career. Not only was I in places where I didn't know anyone, or certainly didn't speak the language of the country, but the more poisonous thing was that I was only focusing on the things I was MISSING. All I saw was that I was away from my family, missing birthdays, missing Mexican food, craving my own bed, missing my friends—and so because my vision was full of everything I WASN'T doing, I was missing out on all the things in front of me: new friends, new cities, new languages, new cuisines, new opportunities. I started trying to switch my focus to what was in front of me, and this world began to open up. I still missed my family, yes, but I didn't spend all my waking hours thinking about that—I went about the business of living my life where I was with what was around me. This was a huge change for me—and it happened strictly in the confines of my attitude! I still struggle with missing my husband, yes—but I acknowledge it and then get my butt off the couch and go take my camera out to photograph an astonishing sculpture or monument, and then I feel productive for the day!

LMB: Any other advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out? Or advice that you did get that has been helpful to you?

JD: I think something people need to think about in this business is how good you have to be at being alone. It's a funny paradox, because we have to know how to function among a HUGE team of people putting together a show—and it's an extremely social, hectic, vibrant atmosphere. For singers, we have to stand on the stage and "speak" with 3,000+ people a night, and at the end of the night take all of their applause and bathe in it, but then we go home and we are alone. Mightily alone. This was, for me, the most challenging aspect of handling the career. It is the alone time that is the most difficult—and if you're not good at being on your own, it will be a very, very difficult road. So somehow you have to find a balance between the HIGH of the applause and social buzz, to the seemingly LOW of the isolation of your hotel room. I try to march a middle line—realizing that the reality of my life lies somewhere between the high and the low—because neither of those extremes is exactly real. I think if we can learn to handle those two extremes, it can be a very rewarding life!

Thanks again to Joyce for all her insights! You can find out more about Joyce at www.joycedidonato.com. And if you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check out my first Home on the Road feature with Kelly Kaduce.

*Photo by Sheila Rock, courtesy of Virgin Classics

Pants on fire

I am not a frequent liar, not because I am morally opposed to lying per se, but because I don't like to spend a lot of time doing things I'm not good at. And I am not at all good at lying. I get caught up in the details and end up tying myself in knots over minutiae. Also, I have a very expressive face.

I lie so rarely, in fact, that I have almost total recall of lies I've told in the past. Like in high school when I told my parents I was going with my boyfriend to see Jurassic Park: The Lost World and instead went to his dad's law office to make out on the couch. I thought I was safe because it was a movie my parents wouldn't dream of seeing, but for some reason it came up in conversation for weeks afterward, and of course I had nothing to say about it except something vague about how it was just like the first Jurassic Park, except, you know, set in Manhattan. I ended up confessing the lie to my parents years later—they, needless to say, had completely forgotten the whole incident.

The inability to lie is generally seen as a virtue, I know, but every once in a while it would be convenient to be able to do it convincingly, if only to maintain the element of surprise. All last week I was so busy lying and thinking up more lies that I couldn't even blog. Not once. I was so full of secrets that I wouldn't have known how to write without them all spilling out.

See, CameraMan is conducting this show, and I wasn't going to be able to see it (because I am on the other side of the country), and I was just sick about it. So, I secretly begged for a release and GOT one, secretly offered up our hypothetical first-born child to United Airlines for a last-minute plane ticket, and secretly planned a trip to see his Sunday matinee and spend two whole nights with him (and the Bossy Cat, obvs). All week long I played the sad long-distance girlfriend, throwing in little extras for verisimilitude (Do you think anyone will video it so I can watch it later?). I even invented a whole rehearsal schedule and cocktail party for Saturday to cover the time I would be traveling, all the while plotting with a friend at the Trap to meet CM at Clyde's that night.

I think I did pretty well. I lied my face off all week, and he had no idea. Until about an hour before I arrived, when he called my phone 3 times and all 3 times it went straight to voicemail. He's pretty smart, that CameraMan, and he figured out the only reason my phone would do that is if I was on a plane. And he was right. So when I walked into Clyde's he wasn't as surprised as I might have hoped, but it was still a pretty great moment. I'd say the surprise was a success.

99. Fly across the country (or the world) to surprise someone.

What's so bad about lying, anyway?

Happy 4th of July weekend!

I'm having a hard time believing it's already 4th of July weekend—how is it possible that 2010 is halfway over?!? The next-door neighbors have already helped me to get in a patriotic mood by celebrating last night at midnight with a private fireworks display. It sounded like we were being bombed. Happy holidays. How are you all spending your weekend? It's opening weekend here in Santa Fe, so I'll be seeing tomorrow night's performance of Magic Flute and going to the after-party. Sunday I'm getting together with friends for a low-key barbecue.

For you weekend enjoyment:

I'm intrigued by Hulu Plus, mainly because you can get all the content on your iPhone! I think it would help me log more hours at the gym.

Here's a cool feature on our opera! You even get to see costume renderings and a photo of the model. Check it out.

I'm mildly obsessed with making schmancy simple syrups for cocktails. This one is my next project.

This interview with Peter Gelb is fascinating. (via Nico Muhly)

Everyone in Santa Fe goes here for a little splurge. Doesn't it look amazing? I'm planning my trip.

Hope your weekend is filled with burgers, and strawberry shortcake, and sparklers! xoxo LMB

Nature vs. nurture

In Santa Fe there's a city ordinance from all the way back in 1958 that all new buildings have to look like the rest of Santa Fe, with flat roofs and adobe walls (or "faux-dobe," as most of the newer buildings are). I'm wondering if there's an ordinance I don't know about, requiring the use of batik wall hangings, dream catchers, and Navajo blankets in all interior design. I'm guessing not.

Which brings to my philosophical question of the day: Do people who move here naturally have an affinity for combining silver and turquoise, and hanging drums as wall art, and handcrafted pottery? Or is it not until they are already here and have been wooed by the siren song of green chiles that they find themselves drawn to wrought iron door handles, and wall paint the color of egg yolks, and terracotta tiles? Is it nature, or is it nurture?

A friend of mine who has worked here for many years gave me only one piece of advice about summering in Santa Fe. "Resist the urge to buy home furnishings here," he told me, "because they ONLY look good in Santa Fe. I guarantee, whatever it is, it will not look good in your house."

I've only been here a week, but I seem to be resisting the urge quite easily. It all looks right here, like it's supposed to be here, but Santa Fe style is just not my thing.

I think I'm leaning toward nature.


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