I know, my postings for a long stretch now have been few and far between. Some of it is just due to a full life. Anyway, I ran across this “Gramilano Questionairre” that Joyce DiDonato responded to, and I thought it would be fun to answer the same questions. Now Joyce (who, by the way, I adore) and I have something in common, haha! You can see if we have more in common by reading my responses below, a rather long post to make up for not posting for a while.
So here it goes:
When Did You Start Singing?
Have I told this story? My first memory is of singing the refrain of “Angels We Have Heard on High” not long after I had an emergency tracheotomy when I was about 2 and a half. It happened right before Christmas, hence the carol I suppose! I was alone in the room so there is no way it can be anything other than my memory: singing the “gloooooooooooooooo-ri-a” and feeling the air whistle through the still-healing hole in my throat. I assume I actually started singing earlier than that of course, but I really love that this is my first memory.
Why Did You Start Singing?
Well as the story above suggests, I don’t recall. I suppose I started singing because I was sung to by my very musical parents. I know they sung to me and made up words to lullabies and other songs for me (and my brothers later).
Which Singer Most Inspired You When You Were Young?
Beverly Sills. I remember seeing her on TV in “Daughter of the Regiment” when I was no older than 8. For my 9th Birthday my mom took me to see the Met on tour in Dallas; we wanted to see her in “Don Pasquale” but the tickets were sold out; I cried. Still, we got to see “Tosca” (which I fell in love with…and which starred Pavarotti which meant little to me at the time) and “Tannhauser” (which I mostly slept through). A few year later, I discovered Leontyne Price on my parents’ recording of “Tosca,” and Kiri Te Kanawa.
Which Singer Do You Most Admire?
Well if you pay attention here you know I love Renee Fleming. In the operatic world also Leontyne Price and Joyce DiDonato. All because of how they talk about their art and really seem to committed to being real human beings.
In other musical worlds I love the Indigo Girls not only because their music saves me (repeatedly) but also their commitment to justice.
What’s Your Favorite Role?
So since I’m not an opera singer I’ll answer with the characters I find most interesting and keep wanting to explore, like The Marschallin, or Tosca, or Maria Stuarda (thanks to JDD’s brilliant interpretation). I also cannot stop thinking about Jonas Kauffman’s Parsifal at the Met this year, though I am not sure if that is just the character or the whole work itself (including the production) that continues to haunt me.
What role have you never played but would have liked to?
(I love Joyce’s answer to this!) Well obviously I have not ever played any, so I guess the choice is wide open. Off the top of my head, I’d say Tosca, and Octavian.
What’s Your Favorite Opera to Watch?
I will always go see Tosca, Rosenkavalier, the Ring, and Parsifal if I can (I can’t always, but that’s a different question). Or anything with Fleming, DiDonato, Susan Graham, or Kauffman.
Who Is Your Favorite Composer?
I can only choose one? Surely not. It kind of depends on my mood anyway. These days, I have been listening to Beethoven symphonies, Wagner’s “Wintersturmme” to the end of Die Walkure Act 1 (Kaufmann and Westbroek from the Met…I know, totally random, it puzzles even me) and Vaughn Williams’ “The Lark Ascending.” (Interspersed with Indigo Girls, Pink, and Patti Griffin).
Who Is Your Favorite Writer?
Well I have all of Barbara Kingsolver’s books on my shelves, so that is a good guess. Dorothy Sayers, Mary Oliver, Toni Morrison…
Who Is Your Favorite Theater or Film Director?
Well, Francois Girard was the director of the Met’s Parsifal this year, and I can’t stop thinking about it, so maybe that would be one. Otherwise, Alfred Hitchcock.
Who Is Your Favorite Actor?
Who Is Your Favorite Dancer?
I don’t really follow dance so I can’t say.
What Is Your Favorite Book?
This is like the “favorite composer” question! One would be Dorothy Sayers’ “Gaudy Night.”
What Is Your Favorite Film?
“Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Rear Window.”
Though currently this is making me very giggly:
I do have quite the silly side, really.
Which Is Your Favorite City?
Antigua, Guatemala. Also getting pretty fond of Denver.
What Do You Like Most About Yourself?
I put my wicked smarts in service of making the world a better place.
What Do You Dislike About Yourself?
When I don’t tend to my fears which leads to overworking to compensate which leads to um let’s just call it grumpiness.
What Was Your Proudest Moment?
This is not a moment per se, but all the hard work I have done on myself, both in terms of personal healing and growth as well as what my commitment to justice looks like in the world, in the aftermath of this moment, which broke me apart in just about every way possible and so much of it (almost all of it really) unforeseen that day.
When and Where Were You Happiest?
I am pretty darned happy right now, and full of gratitude for that.
What or Who Is The Greatest Love of Your Life?
My cielo, above all else but the baffling romance with the Divine.
What Is Your Greatest Fear?
Disappearing or having no signifance.
If You Could Change One Thing About Yourself, What Would It Be?
Actually I am pretty happy with me. Not that I don’t have stuff to tend to but I am tending to it, and growing as a result, so you know, I’m happy actually.
Here’s a poem by Anne Sexton:
There is joy
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
What Do You Consider Your Greatest Achievement?
Hmm. That I live a life that feels authentic to me.
What Is Your Most Treasured Possession?
My Raggedy Ann, and my worn copy of T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets.”
I should also add my car, the faithful Towanda, nearly 21 years old and just having past 200,000 miles. She has gotten me everywhere I have needed to go.
What Is Your Greatest Extravagance?
Taking myself to the opera. And books. And music.
What Do You Consider the Most Overrated Virtue?
Success as defined in capitalistic terms.
On What Occasion Do You Lie?
Joyce says, “I have lied when I mistakenly think it will make the other person feel better.” I have done that and it never works, so I am working on honesty instead; even though it’s lots harder, it’s better in the long run.
I will, however, protect the truth when necessary in situations of injustice.
If You Hadn’t Been A Singer, What Would You Have Liked To Be?
Well I am NOT a singer, but what is funny that if I weren’t what I am *now* (the Fierce Good Reverend of the Revolution), I think I would want to be a singer (the 3rd Indigo Girl, I always say). So there!
What Is Your Most Marked Characteristic?
What Quality Do You Most Value in a Friend?
Honesty, tenderness, forgiveness, humor (a way of saying, I value a friend who is ok with me being fully human…and is ok with being fully human with me).
What Quality Do You Most Value in a Colleague?
Commitment. And honesty.
Which Historical Figure Do You Most Admire?
Pretty much anyone who has stepped out of their place in order to do the good blessed work of justice, whether well known like Ella Baker, MLK, or Anne Braden, or on the daily practical level like many of the folks I work with.
Which Living Person Do You Most Admire?
See previous answer.
What Do You Most Dislike?
What Talent Would You Most Like To Have?
Hitting a fastball a long way.
What’s Your Idea of Perfect Happiness?
When I am present enough that I can recognize the in-breaking of “perfect happiness.” For me it is not just one thing (though chocolate comes close).
How Would You Like to Die?
After a good, long life, surrounded by people I love and music.
What Is Your Motto?
“My only occupation: Love.” St. John of the Cross