The first weekend of the La Traviata run at Livermore Valley Opera is finished! What a weekend. There really is nothing more exhilarating than performing on stage, at least for me.
I haven’t expressed my musical passion on this blog very much, but as more of my musician friends read the blog, they are urging me to write more about it. For me, learning new music and performing isn’t an interest or hobby. It is a need; it is essential to my survival, like water. I love cheese, but music . . . . without music, I wouldn’t have the motivation to pursue anything else.
Music entered my life very young. I began piano lessons when I was five years old, and continued them through high school. Along the way, I played the recorder and clarinet. I discovered singing at age 10, when I saw Les Misérables on Broadway. That evening changed my life. When I heard how these people could sing, at that moment, I knew I would, too. However, for some reason, my mind didn’t actually want to commit to learning the art. I did sing in chorus all throughout middle school and high school, but my extreme shyness kept me from solos and school musicals. Oh, the shyness! I couldn’t stand to be heard at all. I could, however, dance, and dance I did. It’s been 16 years and counting since I started dancing (Irish step dancing, so dear to my heart!).
One month before college began, my father passed away from cancer. Thus began the period of great confusion, emotion, and sadness. I stopped all formal musical training then. I think I felt that college was the time I was going to emulate my father. I wanted to work in finance like he did, and so I studied economics. My French studies provided my closest link to music—studying the works of Corneille, Molière and Racine allowed me to discover baroque composers. Attending a concert of French composer Marin Marais’s works was a great eye-opening moment. I continued to casually explore baroque music, and discovered Giulio Cesare in Egitto by Handel. It has remained my favorite opera, and so I was overjoyed to see it performed in Germany last December. I had waited 10 years for that evening. When I discovered Cesare, I was particularly drawn to the adolescent boy character of Sesto, probably because he had lost his father, and I related to his confusion and desire for vengeance. I’ve changed since then, but whenever I see Sesto, I see myself back then.
When I studied abroad in France during 2004, while at an Irish set dance workshop, the attendees introduced me to French folk music and dancing from Brittany and other parts of the country. This was how, in random fields in the French countryside, I really learned the ability of music to bring people together. I see many parallels between the folk music and artisanal cheese communities, which is probably why I love both so much. Both cultures are injecting wonderfully new ideas into beautiful, traditional methods. The folk musicians I met in France are among the most talented and inventive people I know, not to mention kind and generous. I can say the same thing for many of the cheese folks. That’s when I knew I must learn to play the hurdy gurdy (I kind of do, but it’s so loud, it’s hard to find practice space.)! It was around this time I discovered that George Sand, my favorite writer of all time, was also a champion for French folk music and culture. Many hurdy gurdies are even adorned with her likeness to pay her tribute. With that knowledge, my love of folk music only grew.
I didn’t resume training until law school. Pushed to all sorts of intellectual and emotional extremes by the rigors of school, I decided to charge of my own happiness, and again made music a priority. This time, I was mentally mature enough to tackle classical voice lessons. It wasn’t really a choice. It felt so much like necessity. I took up dance classes again. Without singing and dance to support me, I don’t know if I would have finished my studies.
When I was working at the cheese shop in Southern California, I sang with a local church as a cantor and member of the choir. Such a rewarding experience. The community was welcoming, and I was glad to be a part of it. Singing in SoCal also led to my brief stint as a stunt fighter, which was also a great experience!
Now, in San Francisco, I seem to have a handle on my shyness (I credit business networking for that), and I feel ready to take on real opera, which, to me, is the highest art form we have created as a civilization. I have a LONG way to go with technique, but I am learning, thanks to my wonderful teachers! All of the people I have met along this path have taught me something, and I am so grateful for their presence.
There you have it, the leading role music has played in Miss Cheesemonger’s life. I would not be the lawyer, cheese enthusiast, wife, daughter, sister, or friend I am without it. That brings me to this current La Traviata production. Here’s hoping there are many more, filled with unforgettable moments of beauty, compassion, and creativity!