Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Rock-bottom covered in
Wood floors cut
From trees
Years and years grown
Under rain
And baking sun
There is
No going
This Foundation rides
On fiery molten rock
Of whose power I have felt
Tired of being burned I respect
Its presence and
Its strength and usefulness:
Hot Rock cools to the Hardest Stone
Walls thank God I know you now
After years of asking
Why you were there
Trying to see through you and
Traveling your perimeter
To reach a horizon
That was
In my head
I have found Home
In the limitations
Of Me
And see
That Home
Is just the Beginning
And perhaps in all our seeking
Of liberty
The boundaries of We
Are forgotten
Looking for space we forget
The place
We belong not
And in all of this
Stone burns
When it shifts
And change causes fault-line
Fractures where
Home becomes
No more
A place to know
But rather a place
To Be
And then
We become
One with eternity
And All
Roofs fall in
Which separate us from Heaven
Protection gone
Illusion of safety finally
How can a frame
Hold me in
And make me grateful for guidance?
Make this Home a mobile one
And with time:
and Hard Work
It becomes a thing of strength
And beauty
For its builder has lived
Through its incineration
She ever
Built it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Horse, the Woman, and the Girl

Sometimes it seems, when trying to make sense of this experience, this path, this life, that I am chasing the wind, trying to love things that keep changing, trying to rest in constant movement, trying to understand the incomprehensible.

Over time, through the process of finding my self, my true voice, and who I am, I have struggled with understanding who I am. In this struggle, the different sides of me as a singer have developed separate identities. I can call them, now, the Horse, the Woman, and the Girl. And no, I am not developing a beginning-of-the-fourth-decade-of-life sort of schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. I have simply learned that an artist sometimes needs artistic analogies to grasp the simplest things in life as well as the most complex, like Where does my inspiration come from? What IS this Art I do? Who am I and why?

One of my great teachers, the kind you meet one afternoon and one afternoon only, and yet you know you will remember that afternoon the rest of your life, helped me to identify these 'characters'. He led me through my life, through what at that time, was a mass confusion of feelings, a grey space of desires, and showed me a story, a painting, that, through his questioning, became clear to me through the fog of my emotions. This point of discovery was pivotal in bringing me to where I am at now: close to fully reaching my potential and understanding my identity as an opera singer.

I am so grateful to The Creator for this story, for this picture, for this healing analogy, and with this blog post I would like to give it back to the Universe, for it is my goal as a person and an artist to be as honest and open about who I am as possible.

Part of what we know about a singer we can hear through their voice. I have always been attracted to what I call 'heart singers'. They are the opera singers who, when you stand very near to them whilst listening to them sing, emanate a voice which comes not from the mouth, but literally from the heart. And if your own heart is open to the music they are singing, their voice, perhaps even their own heart, will create a connection, a bridge of sound between them and you. To experience this is to experience heaven: the place where we are all holy and beautiful vessels of light overflowing with love.

But what we do not often hear are the stories of how these singers became such vessels of light.

Perhaps it is egotistical to admit that I would like to be a pioneer. I would like to be a 'heart singer' and I would like to share with the world the way I become one. It requires much introspection, and as I am learning my own heart's language I can interpret much better now to you what my heart has been through in seeking this expression.

But I digress. In some ways I would like to try to interpret the last fifteen years of my life in one fell swoop but I fear that my skills are not yet good enough so I will stick with this one story:

There once was a beautiful black Horse with a white mane and tail who ran with the freedom and joy and wild heart of his ancestors through the fields. No one could tame the stallion. In fact, he was so fast and cunning that many did not even know of his existence. He only showed himself to those people whom he trusted, and who saw him for his true beauty. If anyone came to see him in his wild habitat to comment on his imperfection or came to hunt him for dog food he simply vanished. It was as if he never existed.

One day a young Girl with sad brown eyes who saw many things in the people around her which she did not understand, came to the edge of the field where the beautiful Horse was grazing. He did not disappear. Instead he watched the Girl with one eye as he would watch a brown rabbit hopping along the side of the forest. Indeed she had very similar eyes to the hares that shared his home: wide open, watching, always watching. The Horse understood the Girl. He understood why she watched and watched, why her eyes looked at things so deeply. He understood her silence, and the Horse could tell, when he saw the Girl, that she was thinking about him. She was thinking about how she would love to have the courage to play with the black Horse, and though he was much bigger than she, the Girl was never afraid.

The Horse and the Girl got to know each other slowly. She brought handfuls of rich alfalfa hay to him to leave at the edge of the meadow. He also loved carrots, and when she brought them to him, the Horse would whinny and come to say hello. One day he let the Girl touch him, and soon thereafter, as she turned from one of their 'play dates' to go home, the Horse followed her. Proudly, the Girl brought the Horse home and put the Horse, as she had been taught by her teachers, in a stall for safe keeping. The Horse was happy for a while just to be the Girl's friend. She brought him plenty of alfalfa and carrots and things she thought were good for him, and people came to see him and exclaimed at his beauty.

But soon, as could be predicted, the Horse grew restless and out of control. The rich food the Girl fed him just made him more powerful and want to run faster and further. The stall felt like a prison, and the Horse soon grew so impatient that it kicked and reared and lashed out at the barriers that held it until the stall was a shambles and he was once again free.

The Girl was very sad. She thought that the Horse was angry with her. She thought she had lost her best friend, the one who understood what she was looking for, who could look into her eyes and mirror her own thoughts. Who would nuzzle against her and be still while she cried? Who would listen to her questions and not try to answer them except with a warm snort of air or a crunch of alfalfa in his teeth? Who would be her friend? Who would ever care to know the Girl except the Horse, ever again?

Then one day, a beautiful Woman came to visit the Girl. She had heard from a friend that this Girl had tamed the famous wild and beautiful Horse, the one she had heard about for years, and lost him again. She walked up the dirt road to the Girl's house, strong and beautiful and full of confidence, carrying only a lightweight saddle and some things that looked like ropes. She was dressed like the famous Horse trainer she was known to be. The Girl ran to meet her like she always knew the Woman was going to come, at this time, on this day, to her home. The Girl helped the Woman with her things and invited her in. The Girl was little, and still very sad about losing the Horse, but she was very responsible.

The Girl and the Woman talked and talked for hours, almost as if they were the same person (which they are). The Girl laughed and cried as she told the Woman all of the stories of her trips to the Horse's field. She told the Woman how magical it was to watch him jump and play and run, like he was partying at every moment. The Girl told the Woman how the Horse made her feel free, how watching him was like believing that she could grow up and be a very good and beautiful person, just like the Woman.

Over the hours and hours that the Girl told these stories to the Woman, the Woman grew curious. She asked the Girl to show her where the Horse lived. So they took alfalfa and carrots to the meadow and, because the Woman also had eyes which the Horse knew, he showed himself to them. The Woman caught her breath. This was the Horse she had been looking for her whole life! She had seen and ridden and trained thousands, but no Horse ever felt like her own. She knew that she belonged with the Horse as much as she belonged with the Girl, and so she set out trying to understand him.

It was a disaster at first. The Horse had been severely damaged by the Girl's attempt to tame him. He was very distrusting of closed places, and when he came out to play, the Girl and the Woman could see scars on his legs from his escape from the stall which still hurt him. It pained and shamed the Girl to see that she had done this to the Horse. But the Woman, even though it was harder now to train the Horse after the mistakes the Girl made, never blamed the Girl. She let her cry, she let her get angry, but most of all she let her learn. Even still there were moments when the Woman was getting to know the Horse and things looked very good, that the Girl wanted to invite her friends over to show the Horse off. But the Woman refused, saying 'no, Girl, now is not the time. The Horse is still too afraid, to injured, and if many people come to see him who do not understand him they will judge him unfairly and, because he his still wild at heart, he will disappear again, perhaps this time forever. Horse will have his time to shine. We must be patient.'

So the years went by and the Woman come to visit the Girl and the Horse often. They all got very close and started to trust one another completely. They started to feel that they wanted to always be together. So they went out in search of people to help show them how to speak each other's language. The Girl and the Woman learned Horse so that he would always feel free and not want to disappear. The Woman learned patience and how to listen to the Girl. The Girl learned discipline and how to respect the Woman.

And one day, all three found themselves on a racetrack, ready to test the Horse's true speed and ability. They had trained hard and knew that, with each other's help, they could run a beautiful race. The Girl had helped, as she always did with her calm presence, get the Horse in the starting chute. Because the Horse was still afraid of small dark places, he needed the Girl's soft guiding hands to lead him in. The Woman sat astride the Horse, ready to run the race as they agreed, but the Horse got more and more excited in the small space, and in their panic, the Horse and the Woman forgot about the Girl. It seemed they would never run free, would never run the track with all their hearts, would never show the world what they could do and how beautiful they could be. In the mad protest of the Horse, while the Woman was trying to steady him, she caught a glimpse of the Girl cowering in the back of the chute. It took all of the Woman's courage to reach down an arm, grab the Girls hand, and swing her on to the Horse's back.

The changed weight on his back and the sharp ring of the starting bell happen simultaneously, and the Horse, finally free to be complete and unafraid with his two best friends: the beautiful, strong Woman, and the feeling, observant, quiet Girl, ran his heart out in front of the grandstands. And the crowd roared.

You know everybody thinks we found this broken down horse and fixed him.
But we didn't. He fixed us. Every one of us.
And I guess, in a way, we kind of fixed each other too.

"When a bubble's gone, you don't see it anymore with your eyes. And when an opera is over, you don't hear it anymore with your ears. But you can remember it. You can remember what bubbles look like and what operas sound like and what friends feel like. And you'll always have them with you in your memory."--Mr. Rogers


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Grateful I Am

Source of All Life

thank You for Music.

Thank You for ears to hear

and a heart to feel

life’s layers flow through

as melody in colored lines

which paint my days

in the ecstatic realization

of the ultimate Peace of You.

RJF, 08/09

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Transformation, Belief and Trust Part 3: 'The Irresistible Nature of Truth'

...such is the irresistible nature of truth: that all it asks, that all it wants,

is the liberty of appearing.”

--Thomas Payne

The truth is something that gets me thinking. It gets me worrying, wondering, sometimes makes me break out in a sweat. The truth gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me up late at night. The truth is a powerful thing. So powerful that it will take you, sweep you from slumber and rip you away into awesome journeys of its own choosing to which you never would have chosen to buy a ticket. Sorry, the truth has planned this itinerary and you don’t have any say in it. So there! At least, that’s how it sometimes seems…

The ‘still small voice’ can sometimes be a roar…a get off your scaredy cat ass and follow me sort of voice hidden in a song that just…won’t…go…away. It can be a physical voice, a sort of nagging insistence, a vibration that moves up and down the body like Star Trek’s scanners, checking you out for any sort of resistance and laughing at your futility. The truth is as überpowerful as the Borg and yet not evil because it already owns everything and everyone anyway. ‘Resistance is futile’ only because we are too blind to see that we are enveloped and engulfed, swallowed by love and all of its consequences every moment of every day.

The truth exists in music with the same sense of humor that plays with love and death in our daily existence. Ask a note to stay and it will fade away. Shy away from too much intensity and the next phrase will soar to higher peaks. Think that you’ve experienced the greatest heights of authenticity and the next piece will leave you in awesome prayer to the God that made life so beautiful. We cannot hold any of it. The truth holds us, cradles us in its strong, artist arms and comforts us in out efforts to understand…”How could it all be so beautiful…?”…

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Taking A Break From Transformation/The Drunken Musings of a Recent Performer/ To Sing is to Love

Once more on the deck of the Stena Germanica, on the way in the other direstion (south through the islands of Sweden and Denmark to Kiel, Germany), I am drunk on Love. Or Rosee. Or through ROSEE colored glasses—HA! I never thought of that before....! Ohiveeeeeee.... I witnessed one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my entire life: my best friend Herta and her very wonderful husband Patrik were married before God and all of their families and friends in Gothenburg Free Church. What an event! What a party! What a reminder of what is important and precious in life! ...and what a PRIVILEDGE it was to be a part of the celebration!
Herta and I met nine years ago (it’s hard to believe) while I was working as secretary in the German and French Department at Calvin College in Michigan in order to support my voice lessons with baritone Mark Moliterno. This was a beautiful time in my life! Calvin is a very special, spiritual place, and I got to witness many other young people (not unlike me) on their paths to success, working toward finding meaning in life. Herta was one of the ones I intantly loved! She saw me as a person, as a friend even before I was her friend...and when she moved to Vienna a couple of years after I did, I felt that a long-lost sister had somehow appeared in my life out of Africa. She brought with her the huge heart of her homeland Africa, and my life was changed by knowing her!
What I recognized in Herta from the very beginning was love. And light. Jesus has filled her with these blessings over and over. To have her in your life is to have a flood light of love. And I think, in retrospect, and in the knowledge that I have now of vocal technique, being bestowed on my by JR,...she saw love in my singing all those years ago at Calvin, and in every time I sang in Vienna when she was there. Herta is one of the special people on Earth who can sincerely see love in most everything, regardless of how society or academia or who/whatever wants to define it and pull it apart into something understandable to reduce love to a few sentences. Herta says 'I always knew you were good.' And with her proclamation I sit back and stare in awe at a gift I have been given and know better than to ask 'why'.
The ceremony was 'simple'. The people there were 'ordinary'. You could have been in that church witnessing Patrik and Herta's love with me. But what happened there in that church today went beyond anything I have witnessed on Earth. Suddenly, it didn't matter what I sang or what I wore or who I was...Love ruled the day and if you could see that suddenly you understood---there are things that are communicated between us that take no words. They go beyond music and beyond fashion and beyond all that we strive to become. The essence of who we are has to do with who we have always been. In this context singing becomes incredible important and yet strangely unremarkable. All I did today was express my heart like every person clapping their hands or reading the verses or offering their prayers during the service.
Herta and Patrik, thank you for being you. Thank you for being beautiful expressions of the greatest kind of love. You are both my heroes and I wish you years and years of fun and intimacy and deep, deep love. I will visit you soon, and look forward to the future...I love you!!!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

On Being Positively ME: Transformation, Belief and Trust Part 2...A very important post

This is a very important post.

I am writing literally as the sun is slipping over the horizon, over Denmark, and into the ocean on the other side of some forest far away from our ship--there--after a few little peeks back, it's gone.

This is a very important post because I've decided it is time to come clean. 'What?' You ask. 'What has Rebecca had to hide, and why would she choose this moment, this blog post, on the Baltic Sea (or at least I think the Baltic Sea it is...among the islands of Denmark) to write it?'

Well, I would like to say that it is something hugely philosophical or psychological, or even twisted and quite dramatic, Freudian or Pavlovian. Anything would be more interesting than this proclamation of the painfully obvious. And yet, it must be done.

'Why?' You ask. 'Why is Rebecca proclaiming online that which we must already know?'...('has Rebecca eaten some Swedish fish that was off of ice a bit too long...?')

Actually, thanks to a wonderful Chinese chef onboard I had a scrumptious hunk of salmon with tomato compott and potato salad with greens. When I looked up from my meal at least ten people were staring at me, licking my chops. I think I was a good advertisement for the treasured grill stand I found. Possibly these Swedes and Germans have never seen an American Girl tuck in so well!

So, it isn't the fish.

It is, however, a million tiny and huge other things!

It is how I feel my body speaking to me in a language I never knew how to interpret in the context of LIFE until now.
It is me looking in the mirror and saying 'I love you' instead of any other alternative.
It is acknowledging, deep inside, what I am made to do.
It is understanding Love a little bit better Moment by Moment.
It is knowing that Forgiveness is Key and Compassion is too.

I could go on...but the individual things themselves are not really important. It's who, how I am NOW that matters.

I was planning on writing about singing...

...and yet I am writing about singing!

During my yoga class yesterday, where many of my self-judgmental thoughts seem to pop up (just give me a hot room, sweat running off each and every of my beautiful muscles, breathing steadily and concentrating, all the while staying relaxed--this is the PERFECT opportunity for my mind to jump up and try to poke a roaring lioness in her cage!), the thought came to me: that I 'should' have been blogging my voice lessons with Jean-Ronald LaFond, the teacher who has shown me the way to my true voice. It is along this way that I have come to the many tiny and huge realizations that I mentioned above. It is really 'a shame' that every little step was not chronicled in this grand experiment, this burning through all the impurities the past piled on my voice and heart, to the truth of my voice and the truth of who I am.

Shortly after class, when the energy was surging through my should-be exhausted body, I knew I was wrong to have expected this chronicling from myself. I equate it to a child trying to write about growing up. Trust me, I have re-read my old journals several times. No one wants to read something like that! (unless you are a fan of trashy novels...!)

No, it was too much to expect, and yet, as children often create, I find some striking art came out of the process. I wrote a few times about abstract things I was contemplating and about the Cosmos and about Life...and yet never about MY voice. Maybe I had to go through the minute and the obtuse, in a way proclaiming my Presence in the tiniest flower and the hugest star system, before I could feel safe in the 'normal' and 'common place'. Maybe, in my child-like enthusiasm I still wanted to see the most important 'Stuff' of life outside of me. Maybe I was scared to share the quiet stillness of me, that place where laughter and grief meet and leave me speechless and in awe of what it means to be alive.

Maybe I was not yet convinced that THAT is what the world needs and no substitute: Love which needs no action, no thought, no affirmation, confirmation, or definition...which belongs to everyone and which is everyone, all at once. Maybe I was not yet convinced, just teetering along that 'tipping point' I mentioned in Part 1 of this series of posts. Maybe I needed a feather-light shove over the edge so I could open my arms wide and fall headlong in to Love.

This feather-light shove came, not surprisingly to me now, in a voice lesson. It came quietly. It came, I recall, between a point in time when I wanted to make an obnoxious face at JR, and feeling my eyes were crossing because I was concentrating so hard. Suddenly I 'felt' (I think only singers know this kind of feeling that isn't really feeling at all...or maybe it isn't merely is awareness, and completely living, and ecstasy, and yes, when you've experienced it once you want to experience it over and over and over!) a fiery sparkling right between my eyes that had the color of molten silver or some ethereal metal I do not yet know of...and then it was gone...but I have found it since, don't worry! Indeed, I plan on staying in this place, curling up there with all that is beautiful and good in life and thriving there for eternity.........wait, I was telling you about my lesson!....

Unbeknownst to JR (I think...he has this funny way of knowing everything about me even if I think maybe he doesn't), after this experience, inside of me I stood still. That moment is frozen in my mind and in my heart: when I first experienced MY voice. It needed no affirmation or confirmation...its only definition from JR came as a resounding 'YES'. I was in love...with me. With who I am and who I always have been. This is 100% Rebecca. The strongest stuff you can buy. The best German Bier. The finest Italian red wine. No comparison. Take it or leave it, it's still here. It's still great. It's still real. It's still me.

So there. I've come clean!! You all know what you've known for years and years: that I am a singer, through and through! That that little sparkle of Love which I am learning to grow and grow with JR's guidance and expertise had enough power and inspired enough desire and curiosity in me to take me from continent to continent and country to country in search of it...and all the while it was RIGHT HERE!

And yet...the search is not yet over, even now! And yes, in some ways, it is just beginning. Ah, life!

In the context of this transformation, I am tempted to bring everything to a very practical, analytical dicussion: Where does life leave me NOW, practically speaking? After this what? I still have no steady job singing opera on stage (is this even more coming clean? Probably!). Though I have had fantastic performance opportunities all over the world, I've known for a long time that I would not be singing regularly in the 4-5 performances a week on the operatic stage sort of way until I knew how to sing as absolutely beautifully as I could. Now I feel I am very, very close and the dream job is just around the corner (stay tuned!).

The recording I recently released, 'Expressions of Love', is just one of the many forms of expression which my true voice is taking presently (as in within the last month). I am also preparing three concerts for the Smith Fine Arts Series at Western Oregon University which promise wonderful fun and pictures of Vienna for the audience. There are some opera roles at various places in Europe in discussion (more on them as they become concrete), and of course auditions, competitions, and more auditions!

As I sit here, feeling the slight rumble of the ship's engine and knowing that the depths of the sea are beneath me, I know that I could be happy just knowing this sparkle of love. I feel more complete now than I ever have in my life. And yet, a small secret like this needs to be shared. For it was, in retrospect, the great artists who found their own sparkles: Leontyne Price, Eleanor Steber, Jane Eaglen, Cecilia Bartoli, Frederica von Stade, Blanche Thebom, Christa Ludwig, Domingo, Pavarotti--like every singer, I could go on and on!...who showed me that I wanted to find mine. Without their willingness to share I would not now feel this happiness, this peace, and this assurance that who I am is all I need to be.

It is still, it is silent, it is sometimes just beyond the sunset...but love is always here, and this is the most important Secret-which-is-not-a-Secret on the face of our beautiful Earth.

Signing (and singing) out about half way to Gottenburg...


Saturday, June 27, 2009

On Being Positively ME: Transformation, Belief and Trust Part 1...How I want to be like the Berliners

What does it mean to change the world? I am asking myself this, sitting in a cafe in Berlin, one of the greatest focal points of change in the 20th Century.

Berlin, in contrast with the richly historical and tradition-steeped Vienna I am leaving, readily accepts change. There are funky neighborhoods to explore with cafes full of antiques and modern art, and entire streets where store signs are written in Arabic, Persian or Turkish. Faces of countless colors smile and speak German and other beautiful languages. Berlin is open and free. People are happy, even when the sky is cloudy and grey, like today.

Why is that?

There is something about accepting and embracing the darkest parts of our human nature with all of our brokenness and shame which allows for freedom and joy. There is something beautiful about a heart that has been through a sieve of hatred, horror, shame, and disbelief-turned-to-acknowledgment. That something is the glue that holds the pieces of our hearts together after they were forced to break in a million tiny pieces. This glue is Love and it shines with all the brightness of a brilliant, toothy smile.

While in High School in Oregon, I learned about World War II. I learned about Hitler and the concentration camps and the Nazis. It was America against evil, and America saved the world.
An interesting shadow hung over all of this learning as I knew by this point that Fromherz was a German name, and that my great grandfather came over to America from Konstanz, Germany as recently as 1917. It became very real that I am very close to the German people and tied to this country right down to the blood that runs in my veins.

It is not by chance that the greatest process of change in my life, what I like to think of as my final 'birthing from the heart of the Universe' as a singer and as a person, is happening to a great extent HERE.

All of the road signs on this path, I find, have to do with reaching what I could call a 'tipping point' ...a transition from being trapped in guilt and shame to a place of love, energy, and positive thinking. It is a transition to realizing that life is created in the present moment, free from all past (no matter how grisly), and surrendered to the future.

The Berliners have been through evil and lived it in many forms (whether, in the case of my generation, through their parents and grandparents, or directly). Perhaps the curse of the atrocities that were committed against Jews, the disabled, and the 'different' survived for a while in the generations which followed the war. But despite the pain and the temptation to hold on to guilt generation after generation, the Berliners live and love NOW, creating beauty all around this city.

The point of rebirth in Europe is Berlin. I am convinced. And if this rebirth can happen in the face of the history of evil, it can happen for anyone, anywhere.

So, what does Berlin have to do with my process of being a singer? As I've stated in other words in other posts, the path to my voice is the same as the path to completion as a human being. It is an honor and a great Healing to be able to live in a place of such art.

Vienna showed me what it is I am seeking. Berlin, I have a feeling, will continue to show me where to find it. Stay tuned for more news on the Search... in particular I am excited to share some of my many realizations from my voice lessons with Master Jean-Ronald. They are revolutionary!

Mit Vollem Herz und einen Lächeln, (With a full heart and a smile,)


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On Being One's Own Master

Inexplicably alone
the Artist stands
with open hands
on the precipice 
of a new beginning:

the start of an And

not an Or or a But
or a Because...or a Tear

...or a Fear.

She sees her And
as a way to stand
on the solid air
that waits for her there


hopes and dreams seen

to hopes and dreams believed.


Perhaps that's fair.

And rare.

To be happy together and apart.

This Artist 
is getting

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Expressions of Love, My First Solo Album: Coming out June 1!

Dear Friends,

My first solo CD will come out June 1!  

With Timothy Heavner at the piano and a great sound crew, the recording was a super success.

For those who have pre-ordered, the mailing will go out as soon as the CDs are back from the press.  If you would like to order copies please email me at

Thanks and Enjoy,


Monday, March 30, 2009

Love, Trust, Honesty, Faith, Truth and the Universe

Love sees through layers of lies
With light: penetrating, lilting beams.
It caresses carefully created existences
And replaces replicas with reality.

Trust tells tales of torment:
To trust is to tear away
From fickle fantasy to face
The actuality of all embracing Love.

Honesty hopes for heartfelt humility
And hears only that which it honors highly,
That which we in wonderment want:
The ever-bright-light of Eternity on Earth.

Faith fears not for finally it finds
In a fellow follower of fearlessness, friendship
And confidence in clarity and creative
Impulse.  (Indeed it induces immaculate imaginings.)

Truth takes all things and turns them 
To teardrops of light tightly tuned to
God's vibrating visions of verity for
Us in ultimate understanding and wisdom.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tosca's Revelations: What Women can learn from the opera and why Men should listen, too

When I first moved to Vienna several years ago I was heavily involved in the Church.  I went to Bible Studies and participated in activities with my Church family.  I was searching for something, for my Self or for God, or both of these at once.  Along this journey I met a missionary named Erwin who helped me refine my faith in singing and in life.

At one of our weekly coffee teaching sessions where we read the Bible and discussed God's will and desires for humanity, Edwin told me it was good that God gave me the gift of a voice but that I would only be serving Him if I used my voice to sing sacred music.  Any music that is not in direct praise of God is inherently harmful to the world, he said. What is opera all about?  Rape, murder, hatred, revenge.  Why proliferate these things into the world?               

His questions forced me to contemplate what I was doing with my life, the nature of good and bad, and the nature individual responsibility.  My response to Edwin's comment has taken a few years and is partly taking the form of my new CD Expressions of Love©2009.  The CD website has more information and commentary about my vision for the project.

Today I realized that I can go a step further in affirming the worth, goodness, and beauty of opera while I was studying the score of Tosca.  The character, the person of Floria Tosca has been on my mind since Maestro pronounced in public that I am 'the Tosca of his dreams'.  The spinto soprano in me was ecstatic.   Tosca is a beautiful, challenging, demanding and rewarding part.  It is a dream role.  But the woman in me held back from claiming Floria as my own. One of Erwin's fears for me those years ago was that if I embodied characters such as Tosca: jealous, a bit vain, tragic and sadly weak in the ways that matter to her survival in the story, that I might go beyond becoming them on stage.  I might BE them in real life.  

In a way, admitting as a woman that I AM Floria Tosca in all of her imperfections as I sing her asks for more faith and trust than Erwin was asking me to exercise in his version of my life by renouncing all but sacred music.  In a way seeing myself AS Floria  or any other strange, imperfect, or tragic woman in opera shows true compassion and curiosity, and requires true humility. 

Stories and fairy tales, I am told, evolved as a means of teaching.  Before people could read they told stories to pass on knowledge from generation to generation.  Indeed the Bible itself in all of its spiritual revelations survived as an oral tradition long before it was proliferated in written form.  

Could it be that opera, even with all its entertaining qualities, is a hidden means of teaching the ones who perform it and listen to it? When I consider closely Erwin's warning, I know that indeed every part I learn has something to teach me as a singer as I become them.  I have to widen my experience and open my heart to the possibilities inherent in their circumstances.  I have to reflect upon what it means to be them, on many levels.  I become them, but not without completely searching for and making room for them in my heart, mind, and soul.  Only with this knowledge of the character can I safely sing their experiences in the context of my own life.

With this Blog Entry I would like to put down two revelations about Giacomo Puccini's opera (and of course Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa's libretto).  I am certain that with time and experience I will learn much much more from Floria, but these two lessons seem to be the most glaringly important to learn from the opera to me right now.

(If you don't know the story of Tosca now would be a good time to learn of it.  I found a good summary at The Metropolitan Opera's website.)

Revelation 1: Jealousy doesn't do any good

It is easy to think that Floria Tosca's story as one of mere jealousy and its consequences. From the beginning of the opera Floria's suspicions color the story green.  For a while I was very annoyed at her because I thought that she was stupid to allow her emotions to rule and to lead her and her lover Cavaradossi into such dire danger.  I vowed to never be that way in real life. But then I saw her reaction as simply an expression of her understanding of love.  She, in all of her apparent intelligence, power and passion, wants to own and control love.  She wants to own the very thing that makes her a fiery and expressive opera singer herself.  Cavaradossi's painting of the Madonna is an expression of love and art, but Floria must, in her insecurity, see herself as the sole source of inspiration in the painter's life.  Because of this she forces him to change his expression of love in compliance with her will.  Tosca, very arrogantly, wants to define love only with her thoughts and imagination.  She cannot let love simply be what it is.

We women can learn from Tosca's mistake by treating each relationship (romantic or otherwise) we have in life as a coming together of life-artists in search of individual ways of expressing love.  We cannot own what another does any more than they can own and dictate what we do in the name of goodness and love.  We can only observe another's actions and sense and appreciate who they are as their very, good, selves.

Cavaradossi was trying to save a life as Tosca heard the rustling of clothes that started her jealous spiral downward.  She lacked the basic trust in life and love to know that the man she loved was a hero.

Revelation 2:  It's not all Tosca's fault

Here's where men can learn a thing or two by observing how Cavaradossi (wrongly, in my opinion) treated Tosca in an attempt to protect her.

If Cavaradossi had out and out told Floria how he was helping Angelotti hide he would have taken the risk that she would tell authorities.  But from what I know of the strengths of Tosca, she would have gladly agreed to help lodge him and bring him to safety.  It was this 'chivalrous' hiding of information from his other self, this arrogant attitude, that Tosca could not help or contribute to the situation, that brought on his demise and hers in the end.  Men must work together with women and vice versa.  No problem is simply a female or male problem.  We can only close the gender gaps in the world by admitting that what we are living is humanity in whole, and that no sex is left alone in the fight for love.

Oh...and by the way, if he couldn't trust Tosca with the desires of his heart and the important goings-on of his life's work, why was he with her in the first place?!

As we, the human race grow stronger, more aware of our responsibilities on this Earth, it is good to see where others went wrong so that we can do the right thing.  

Perhaps I have adopted a soapbox with this entry and if so I think it is okay.  We will only be free of Tosca-and-Cavaradossi-like faults when we see each of them in us.  In all joy and wonder I claim both of these characters as parts of me, and will sing their music with a full and respectful heart, confident that what I am doing is good and beautiful.

Oprah Winfrey said "I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear."  Opera is full of these events and choices, and in the end the music tells us that it all ends up as love anyway.  The story-land world of opera shows me that day by day I must be convinced, like I am when I sing or listen to great music, that love is always the right choice, with trust and faith and honesty right behind.

Thank you Tosca, thank you Cavaradossi, for your beautiful lives, and the music and words that wrote your experience, and that teach us how to be the best we can be.


Thursday, March 26, 2009



Safe, War?m, Full
Soft, A Live

(Unspoken yet Heard
Important yet Not)

In One Little Spot
SensA(c)tions cl Aim
Every Mo Me(a)nt,
Every Thought.

Paul Klee:  Hat Kopf, Hand, Fuß
rEnd me 
to the Core

so that I exi(s)t 
this Li(f)e
no more

but rather








Make me

aP Art

of your Whole.


the f All ing a Way

of what Is (not).

MEet me there?


No shame

is the name

and the aim

of Love.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Love the Voice

Kindness is a fleeting whisper
To the ears of the weary heart
And joyful laughter in the soul
Of One who knows the Truth

Sometimes I struggle with a sense of a lack of purpose in the world.  Like most people I wonder 'What am I doing here?'.  More particularly I ask myself 'Why am I studying singing?'  'Why should I sing?'  'What is so special about me, about my voice, that it should be heard?'.

Yesterday I sang the best I ever sang in a competition for opera in a small town in southern Italy.  I sang Tosca's aria, 'Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore' ('I lived for art, I lived for love').  With Maestro by my side I warmed up to sing with the knowledge that my voice is working in an organic, easy way that I have been searching for since I started singing lessons many years ago.  The voice was flowing, complete.  I did not have to imagine that I was singing well.  More than a fleeting feeling, my awareness of beauty--that I am an expression of beauty and love--ran so deep it seemed to be a wisdom that I knew before I was born.

And yet, even after singing with the awareness of ancient wisdom, I did not make it past the first round of the competition.  Strangely when I got the news it did not change my triumphant mood.  The fact that I 'lost' could not take away the knowledge that I sang incredibly well. Having Maestro's uncompromising ears by my side only confirmed the belief I have that I am, finally and with eternal gratefulness, approaching the place I have been searching for all my life: the place of awareness that I am who I am, and where who I am is more than enough.  In fact, it is the source of all goodness and love, all light and happiness, trust and belief--the place where everything that is not true is burned in the fire and gentle, insistent violence of Love, and where I stand and sing only as my Self.

Although my sense of achievement is not tarnished by my loss, the way the world reacts to my voice never fails to spark questions in my mind about what I am doing.  'Why not take the easy way?' I'm tempted to ask.  'Why not believe what so many others believe: that success is something that can be purchased rather than earned, and that singing and living truthfully is not the ultimate goal, but getting ahead at any cost IS?'

When these questions come up I like to turn to what I have learned on this Journey to finding my voice.  I like to turn to the things I've learned to be true, and I like to think of ways I might share these things with the world as a way of giving my struggles and my search for answers worth.  

I've chosen to write today about kindness.  

Fred Rogers is my great Vorbild, or role model, when I think of someone who really understands the value of true kindness and gentleness.  When I met him in person at my brother's graduation from Dartmouth College where he gave the keynote speech I felt an all-embracing love which radiated from him in a way that made me know that everything is okay, all is fine and well with me, with who I am.  He radiated the Truth that we are all loved unconditionally and unquestionably.  In his presence, all darkness and unclarity was more than burned away.  It was proven unimportant, practically non-existent in the light of his awareness.

This is the way that I have always hoped to approach singing, and the world: with such a faith in the Light that darkness disappears; with such a knowledge of Love that hatred has no power.

Where does kindness then come in?  Why be kind at all to our selves and to others, especially when the path to singing truthfully seems full of such roadblocks and bends in the road?  Why, on the search to our Selves, is the Other so important?

Mr. Rogers said

"There is something of yourself that you leave with every meeting with another person."

If we examine ourselves truthfully as singers we will find that we have many valuable opportunities to leave parts of the essence of who we are with other people.  The nature of who we are is visible and vocal, and audible at high decibels.  Are we always thinking about the nature of our sounds, the basic foundation and impetus of our performing?  If we were, not only would we experience more joy and security in performance but we would also be educating audiences to expect and crave not just perfection but real life on stage.  

My first teacher in Europe, the great Kammersängerin Christa Ludwig, once told me the story of how she cracked a high note on the stage of the Vienna State Opera during a performance of a new role.  It was a chance occurrence, and covered over by her excellence the rest of the evening.  In all her beauty and sincerity, the audience forgave and applauded her.  Madame Ludwig told me at the end of this story that she was sorry that audiences today would probably not be so forgiving of a young singer.

But why is that?  I can think of no singer that sang with more heart than the great Christa Ludwig.  What she gave on stage is the same thing that I experienced from her singing in her home in France: a love so refined in the form of sound that it makes you forget everything which is unimportant and surrender to its infinite power.  Is it only the listener's job to seek this power out?  How can an audience be choosy and demand this kind of living, organic beauty if it never presents itself?  How can we singers blame an unforgiving or ignorant audience when all they are hearing is 'perfection' in the form of lifeless, heartless performing?  It is our job to bring the heart, soul, and life back to the singing world.  It is our duty to seek out ways to love our voices and our selves so that others can also understand and take part in this unconditional love.

It is this unconditional love which inspires kindness.  The road to learning the truth of what a voice really is, how closely it is related to heart and soul and the very being of who we are, must be accompanied by kindness.  Where there is kindness to ourselves and others, we know that we are on the right path.

Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese writer who lived over the turn of the 20th century who my brother introduced me to around the same time he graduated from Dartmouth, said that

"Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness but manifestations of strength and resolution."

For reasons that I will hopefully be able to articulate soon on this blog, I am committed and resolved to express the very fundamental truth of what it means to be a singer.  I will continue to do this in the face of rejection and failure.  I will continue with it because I know that Love wins in a subversive, silent war that embraces all of who we are, beyond death, beyond darkness and lies, beyond even who we think that we are.  I am committed to the manifest nature of Love that is inherent in every piece of great music and expressed by every great singer.  

It is a great honor to be on this path, and as always I express my deepest gratitude to Maestro, to Madame Ludwig, and to the many other people who have shown me the kindness that it takes to reveal the Love and the Truth that exists in me and in every one of us.

Now, on with the Journey!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What Makes a Singer? Meditations on a Quote from Rumi

Love is our Mother and
The way of our Prophet.
Yet it is in our nature
To fight with Love.
We can't see you, mother,
Hidden behind dark veils
Woven by ourselves.

What are we doing when we attempt to learn an art form, to dissect and reproduce an ideal?  We are weaving a web in our minds, building a structure of thought and a system of instructions to hold what we experience as pure love, beauty, and truth.  We try to get as close as we can to this truth by understanding how other people experience it.  But in the end, all of the understanding of technique in the world cannot make us see the truth, cannot allow us to experience it.   

Sometimes I feel that owning a singing technique is a little bit like having faith that we can harness the power of a raging river.  We build up dams and and dig deep for space, and make sure that the pressure of water flow is just right so we can mine the gold that is sifted through the river bottom at just the right velocity to make it all pay out in the end.  But it is easy to forget that the source of our gold (our truest sound) is this raging river of love, energy, and light.  It is easy to get intimidated by the power of love, of music, of the rapids, and to think that we must need some additional strength from somewhere other than our true selves to harness it.  

We must continually reinforce whatever parts of our 'web' of technique to handle the changing character of the river of love.  Sometimes the river is weak and placid and we don't have to work hard to keep things together.  Other times the rapids of love are so strong and the path of the river so deviant that we might feel we have to start building all over again.

What I am learning is that the most important thing to remember is that the river, whether placid or rapid, is Love itself, and nothing to be intimidated by.  Only when we try to change the nature of this love do we run in to resistance.  Only when we wake up to the river and see that it's a 'difficult flow' do we create problems for ourselves in mining the gold of our voices.  All we can do as singers is take stock every day of the Love that flows through us and step up or down our operations in answer to Love.

To be a singer is to be moved by the flow of the truth of who we are in our entirety.  Mostly we are sensitive because the source of our voices is one and the same with the source of who we are: ever-changing and ever-flowing.  

'Hidden by dark webs Woven by ourselves'  we can attempt to weave a structure that will accommodate every shift in our lives.  We can become stiff and build our 'technique' up to the point that we forget there is a river at all under concrete certainty.  Or we can see the strength and unique beauty of allowed fragility, in the way that a spider builds intricate, transluscent designs that sparkle with the light and clarity of love itself but may be destroyed by the heavy dew of evening.  The spider wakes the next day, and like the vulnerable singer awake to the true nature of life and love, rebuilds her web in accordance with the conditions of the morning.

Let us see you Love, Let us see you, Mother.  Indeed, let us be you by building our lives in ways where the webs we weave, rather than hiding us from you, reflect your beauty, ever-true.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What Is Beautiful Singing?

Today in my voice lesson, I received an explicit instruction that should have been easy to fulfill: 'Rebecca, sing this piece beautifully'.

On any other day until today I would have nodded self-assuredly at Maestro, and confident in the qualities of my voice, I would have produced a sound that had been called beautiful by someone in the past. I would have reached back in my memory files and tried to remember what must have caused the complimentary listener to call my voice beautiful: a particular emotional involvement, a physical sensation, a facial expression or posture or vocal color.

What I learned today is that there is no simple equation, no A+B=C when it comes to beautiful singing. There is no formula to make me feel safe as a performer and as a person, and there is no way to step back and watch myself sing, detached and technical, separate from the inevitably powerful, insistent flow of music through me, the instrument. This is a most frightening and awe-inspiring realization: I have found that I am not just a person singing but rather I am the music that I sing, at its beck and call as its vehicle. This leaves no room at all for wondering how my voice might sound from the outside. It leaves no room for judgment and only room for wonder. Singing now seems to be like building a roller-coaster while I ride it. Learning technique is about digesting the laws of physics thoroughly enough so that I don't end up flying off the very track I'm building as quickly as I can!

This is not what I thought I was signing up for when I decided to study music! It wasn't what I had in mind while investing so much life into my voice! I did not reckon that the time would come when I would be flying through the air, building my safety net below me while on a projection course to the end of an opera! I thought one day I would come to the point where the entire roller-coaster of this journey called 'Being an Opera Singer' would be built, steady and safe, and all I would have to do is climb on, strap on my seat belt, and go for the ride. Little did I know that it would all be much, much more thrilling and exciting than I ever imagined.

The only way I think I can describe this sensation, this realization to you more clearly might be with a metaphor: letting go and trusting in the moment has happened to me in Love. It's the feeling I get when I am with a particular person and the connection between us is so strong that when we look in each others eyes the rest of the world disappears. Suddenly there are no appointments, no alarm clocks, no train schedules and no directions. There is only US: that which makes us up and that which brought us together. In these moments time stands still. In these moments I understand perfect rest, perfect peace in being who I am. In the arms of Love I am completely present and time stands still.

Only, Love must get up and move around once in a while! Love cannot sit hour after hour staring into its own eyes. It must read maps and organize hours. It must decide what to eat and when to go to sleep. It must take care that it doesn't fall down when crossing the street. Each of these little functional details, the makings of a life, are to me like the different notes and phrases in an aria. Love is the music itself in its entirety. Letting Love function it what I do as a singer. The music demands action and flexibility in the same ways that our busy lives demand these things: we must be ready for any variable and any change and we must be able to adapt at any moment. And most importantly we must know what we are living for so that we can organize our priorities as we adapt to the things that life brings us.

What I am learning more and more is how to remember the reason why I sing in every moment. As in a relationship where Love is the driving force to keep it alive, music is the power that gives me reason to keep singing. Trusting in the sacredness and divinity, in the perfection of every little note in the score and sticking to it is like trusting that every puzzle piece in life, each moment spent doing even the mundane, is a part of the greatness inherent in our experience. Honoring every musical detail and then letting in go so it can claim its moment in time without overstaying its welcome is a lot like doing the dishes. We do them, they take a bit of time, and when they are done there is another activity to do. The next musical phrase is cooking a meal and eating, the next after that is calling our Mom or taking the dogs on a walk. Each activity, when supported by Love, is equal and just as requiring of our letting it go to move on to the next.

So what does all of this have to do with beautiful singing?

I have recently learned about Helioseismology, or the study of the sounds that the sun makes. Some people say that, through quakes and vibrations the sun sings her own song.

Does the sun know she's singing?

When we are truly loving, do we know it? Or is Love more like a way of being that we can remain in forever if we are willing to dedicate everything in our lives to letting it shine?

Beautiful singing is as bright as the sun singing in all of her glory. The details, the vibrations of her songs provide the details and flourishes of her performance, and she expresses herself through countless variations of energy and light, just like we live our lives through variations of love. Each moment is different, and the sun, thank goodness, never stops to wonder at the changes. She just sings on an on, and keeps us warm while we learn from her the meaning of beauty, and the power of true song.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

How the Voice Heals

My first voice teacher, the renowned Kammersängerin Hilde Zadek, used to refer to 'das Es' or 'the It'  all the time in my lessons.  In the way that we can intuit what a person might be saying in a language we have not yet learned, I knew what she meant.  I knew what she meant in the same way I knew what the wind was saying to me in the forested valley beside the house where I grew up.  It was a language I knew but had somehow forgotten: a vocabulary you cannot buy a dictionary for.  The words come only from being around people who have remembered how to speak it.

As those who know me most intimately are already aware, I have been on a journey of rediscovery, of healing.  On this point on my path as a singer I find myself asking:

When something in us is deemed 'broken', who or what is It that 'fixes' us?  If our voices, our hearts, our legs, our arms...our souls are broken, are we the ones who fix them? Or are our Voices, our Hearts, our Dancing Legs, our Embracing Arms and our Complete Souls the ones that fix us?

'Das Es' was the topic of every lesson with Madame Zadek.  She saw through my tears, through my desire and good intentions to the truth of what I was really seeking...of what I was really wanting to sing.

Madame Zadek taught me many ways to think of the 'It': It's like a boat floating on a stormy sea; like a child inside of you that might want to laugh at any moment; like looking at a beautiful flower or the snow falling silently outside the window.  I could understand all of these things, for indeed I knew love.  But somehow, my voice, for which Madame Zadek in all her knowledge knew that we needed 'the It', had retreated from that which which we were seeking.

I have been on a spiritual path ever since walking the bright red carpet in the Church we went to as kids.  When I heard the Voice of God call me there one day when I was practicing, at about the time Madame Zadek first told me about 'das Es', I knew that my search for my voice and my search for salvation were one in the same.  They are both simply the search for Love.

What is It that we are all actually seeking?  What is It that we bury?  What is It that needs healing and completion but the realization of true Love?

This true Love has nothing to do with religion or location, with experience or ability.  It is something that is in us at any time, and of which we see and hear only reflections on the outside until we find Its source on the inside of us.  It is why I could always identify passionately with my favorite artists: Leontyne Price and Maria Callas, Ani diFrano and the Indigo Girls, Christa Ludwig, Karajan and Paul McCartney, and my Mother.  I could hear the voice of 'das Es' calling to me from inside of them, begging me to come out and play like the voice of a child, the snort of a horse first thing in the morning, or the playful paw of a puppy in my lap.  It was calling me years and years ago, and, with time, I chose to answer It with all that I am.  I surrendered.

And now, with the violence of whatever made us all, 'das Es' owns me.  But not in the way of a strict patriarch.  It owns me in the arms of a mother and the compassion of a father; in the infinite giving of wonderful parents and the uncompromising love of forgiving siblings.  It owns me, as I am owned in the arms of my lover.

My every hope is that I write things that people understand and with which they identify.  But if by chance, you, reader, are afraid of what I have written here, I would encourage you to welcome the fear. For if I have learned anything on this beautiful journey, it is that where my fear lives, just beyond there is 'das Es'--and the secret Love that heals us all.

And if you should scorn what I've written here or find it childish or inapplicable to the world as we know it today, please take just a moment to listen to the wind or to take a taste of the finest chocolate or the finest wine, or to fall headlong into the embrace of someone who loves you. There you might remember yourself as a child, and by chance even believe that there was a time when 'It' spoke to you in a language you understood.