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SERVUS!

I believe the last time I wrote a newsletter I was waiting at Sydney Airport. Considering I haven't been back to Australia for 12 months and I've since moved to Germany (only 4 days ago!), I am well overdue for a catch-up. Let's go back to the very beginning...


THIS TIME LAST YEAR I arrived only four days before school started. This was because of the timing of our lease agreement. I found a decent-sized apartment with three other Juilliard musicians on West 157th St that was within our budget, and we jumped at the chance to secure a place to stay. None of us were in New York at that point, so signing leases, inspections, viewings, and meetings with the broker were all done online. Fortunately, the process was incredibly quick, and everything was finalized within two days. But it had to be so - I was to arrive in New York only 4 days after we signed the contract! When I landed, I hit the ground running.

After a 48-hour insane leg to New York and a boiling hot cab ride, my next hurdle was sorting out a bed. A few days earlier in Australia, I had been looking for places to buy beds, even just a plain mattress. The timing was already tight with the lease and my flight, and to make things worse I had not considered “student season” when IKEA and mattress shops rapidly sold out their stock as the NY colleges started the semester. It seemed the wait time for restocking and delivery would be over three weeks…!

I lowered my standards and then turned to Craigslist.

My 7th ad inquiry and several opportunistic messages during my two layovers turned out to be my lucky break - the seller would let me pick up her bed the same day I arrived. So, after a shower and without a working mobile phone or help, I headed downtown on the subway to her East Village apartment. The bed comprised several posts, a grey headboard, beams, and a mattress - there were over a hundred streets to get home, and my only option was a generous cab driver. I had to gamble that I would be lucky to find someone up for the task! Amazingly, the first cab I hailed stopped, and then agreed. We packed in the frame, posts, and beams easily, but as soon as he saw the mattress being carried out of the building, he gruffed: “Absolutely not – I’m sorry, I can’t, please take it all out of my car” Fortunately, the girl’s boyfriend was defiant and motivated, and he calmly (and with muscle!), folded the mattress in half, upright in the boot. I was back in business. I squeezed under the headboard in the backseat. Like a dream as we drove away, the girl waved to me laughing - “Welcome to America!” Slowly and surely, bit by bit, the apartment came together. It wasn’t easy - I can’t describe the kind of carpet burn you can get from carrying a long rug with bare arms on the subway from Brooklyn to Harlem… But it’s all been worth it. These little pieces came together transforming a small part of New York into a home. My home.

BACK TO "SCHOOL" As you can imagine, being in person at school was completely different from my online experience. The Juilliard was especially careful in their COVID regulations - masking was mandatory, as well as bi-weekly PCR testing. And yet all necessary for the desired and ‘newfound’ in-person interaction. Our drama class could finally interact, hold hands, and touch. Singing was heard in the same room as the coach and pianist, and the unmasked subtleties of breath and expression were finally up for exploration again. It was simply electric to be in this environment. One of the best parts of it all was finally being a part of the school’s performances. Following a year of constraints and limitations, the school ramped up its performance offerings for its stage-hungry students. On the first week and only second day in we had our casting auditions, and by the following week, I had already received my music score for the fall opera - Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo.


NEW IN OLD This project was an exciting new venture for me. I had never authentically delved into early music before. Unaware and naive about the instruments of the time, the sound world, and the time-bound performance practices, each page turn of the score was a revelation. Rossi’s opera was written in Rome in 1647 - unfamiliar territory and it felt like exploring ancient history. But strangely, I felt totally at home in the repertoire of the latter part of the next century, a time when Mozart’s operas were dashing across the European scene. My preconceived notions (and motions) of music-making and study went out the window. ‘Orfeo’ relied on drama, color, and text more than ever to make ideas and tradition come alive again. Our performance was the first ever fully-staged performance of this opera in America and boy was I proud of it. Here's a little glimpse of the action:


EXCERPT FROM ORFEO - LUIGI ROSSI

My role, “Aristeo”, goes mad from grief following the death of "Euridice", culminating in a triumphant suicide observed by old friends, “Momo” and “Satiro”. Our director, Mary Birnbaum, was so inspired in her directing, along with the great satisfaction of being guided in this repertoire by conductor Avi Stein and the Juilliard historical performance department.




THE SHOW GOES ON Other historical music ventures included my first ever big Bach performance. I sang the Second Soprano part in Bach's B minor Mass, which somehow still continued despite COVID cancellations and a fierce and city-stopping snowstorm.

Only a week later I was working on music a couple of hundreds of years from Bach’s time: one of John Adam’s arias from his 2005 opera “Doctor Atomic”. This opportunity was a unique and creative addition to the International Organ Festival. Jeremy Jelinek arranged a version of this aria for the organ, which we performed and filmed at Juilliard. Here is another little link if you’d like to hear it:



FEEDING THE SOUL Two personal artistic highlights of this year were performance projects with repertoire that felt close to me. The first was performing Shéhérazade by Ravel with Liza Armistead in one of the Juilliard Liederabends (Song evenings). I first heard this piece when I was only 16. Margaret Baker Genovesi had given me Régine Crespin's famed CD to study and I fell in love with the music. Based on the 1001 Arabian Nights, this incredibly sexy, daring song cycle of a women’s dreams and adventures has always been a dream of mine to perform, and a piece I hope I can perform again with the orchestra one day. I've spammed this newsletter with enough videos, but if you'd like to listen, it's up on my Youtube!

The Vocal Arts Honors Recital was the other deeply rewarding project. This project was a rare chance at complete artistic freedom in programming - an opportunity that doesn’t come by often. My close friend, and collaborator Gracie Francis and I joined forces, deciding to explore niche French and Polish repertoire not often enough performed. I had wanted to learn more Polish songs and came across this incredible song cycle called Trzy Fragmenty by Szymanowski. There were very few recordings, and yet the song cycle was deeply touching. The poetry follows a pilgrim struggling with faith and mortality, following the devastation of an epidemic. The obvious parallels to today in its subject matter, along with its melodic beauty and aching dramatic arch seemed like an undiscovered jewel. The Szymanowski cycle became the center focus of the program, preceded by incredible Poulenc, Viardot, and Chopin songs. After lots of language and translation help from my mum and dad, many hours of coaching, and fun explorative sessions together - Gracie and I made our Alice Tully Hall debut. Every inch of the program was examined and loved in detail. It was so rewarding.



WHAT LIES AHEAD... Amongst these projects, I was importantly looking ahead. I was due to graduate in May, and curious as to the next steps in my development. From this emerged the age-old musician's fear: how on earth to get work? It seemed a Young Artist program would be the most nurturing environment, an opportunity to get a foot in the door and prove yourself capable in a professional environment. After scouring the internet and audition boards, making several audition tapes, writing long applications and emails, and then more final auditions; the cumbersome work paid off. I found myself with the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket email: I had been accepted into the Bayerische Staatsoper Studio for September. HERE WE GO AGAIN!


August, '21--------- September '22 There you have it! With 4 boxy suitcases and in the same comfy, comfy teal velour pantsuit I left Australia, I just traveled to my new home in Munich. We start our program today. I am very excited for this year - I'll get the opportunity to perform 6 opera roles, in addition to recitals and concerts. We have a concert this Friday, and there are other projects that I definitely need to start cramming music for. Perhaps the beginning of my time in Munich will mirror the first part of this letter. I do know that like before, I hit the ground running - there was a hot cab ride from the airport with four suitcases and a new house to make into a home, and now, a new country and culture to explore. However, not unlike before, a vast, exciting, and terrifying 'unknown' lies ahead to embrace. My time in New York has given me more than a degree, an occasional American "r- twang", and a hardened attitude to public transport - it has raised even more questions about the world, myself, music-making, and where I belong. I'm committed to being curious and open, and hopefully Munich, just like New York, will challenge and inspire even more.

I would like to dedicate this newsletter to the mentor of all mentors: MARGARET BAKER GENOVESI My dearest MBG deserves the dedication of all my performances and all my endeavors. For, without her, I would not be the person, musician, or artist I am today. I miss you and always think of you.



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