Thursday, May 14, 2009

BravoBravo! and My Farewell Letter

The time has come again -- that time is the fabulous BravoBravo! event hosted by the Detroit Opera House. With funding cuts threatening the existence of Metro Detroit's arts organizations, a group of 30 young professionals are taking the lead on filling the funding gaps left by state and corporate sponsorship budget cuts.

On June 5th, 2009 from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., BravoBravo! will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. BravoBravo! co-chair, Carmen Bell Ross, said "Raising money for the arts has never been so important and BravoBravo! makes it easy for the average person our age to make a difference while having fun doing it."

Last year, the event sold out with a record crowd of 2,000 young professionals partying for a cause. BravoBravo! reveals the best sights, sounds, and tastes of Detroit all in one place. The event offers five indoor areas and an outdoor tent for taking in local music acts, lounging, and noshing on food from Detroit's best restaurants and bars.

Guests will see that the theatre's main floor is covered with a platformed joined to the stage to create a large lounge area for mingling and dancing. This is the one event where the gorgeous theatre is transformed into a posh night club.
The event will host 40 different restaurants and bars including Small Plates Detroit, Crave Restaurant & Sushi Bar, The Majestic Cafe, Chen Chow Brasserie, The Century Grill, Opus One, Jacoby's German Biergarden, Union Street Saloon, Slows Bar B Q, 24 Grille, Angelina Italian Bistro, Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes, and Wolfgang Puck.
The event is also hosted by WXYZ's Erin Nicole. In the ten year history, BravoBravo! is pleased to announce its first mainstream national entertainment, The Cherry Poppin' Daddies sponsored by Hard Rock Cafe.

Other local acts include DJ Captn 20, The John Arnold Trio, Malik Alston & the Linwood Ensemble and DJ Frank Raines from Funk Night Detroit. Internationally known Chuck Flask, John Johr and a surprise guest presented by Paxahau and Movement Festival will also be there.
Tickets are available at or

And now the second part of this posting...

As summer is starting and Winter is ending, so is my semester-long internship at the Detroit Opera House. I not only saw it as a way to a free education and learning professional skills outside the classroom, but also as a way of networking, learning about the non-profit industry of Public Relations and Marketing, and experiencing my field in the real world with unfortunate realities, such as a non-profit surviving in this economy.
For those interested in what I did at the Detroit Opera House as the Public Relations and Marketing intern, here's a little bit about my semester-long experience. I wrote press releases with the amazing Rebekah Johnson guiding and teaching me to becoming a better writer, a created press kits and got the "hands-on" aspect of PR, I searched through magazines and newspapers daily or weekly and found clippings where the DOH was mentioned, I maintained this wonderful blog, interviewed world-famous artists such as Amanda Squiteiri, Stephen Lord, and others, along with helping out simple tasks like making program inserts, entering award contests, updating artists archives, entering events and updating press contacts.

Not only did I get to learn, but I got to go to almost every show during the Winter season for free. I also learned about strategies to be taken in a struggling economy. It makes me feel good knowing that I got to help out a non-profit (or so I hope) during these rough times. It felt good to be part of such a great cause- knowing that audiences are learning with me about opera or enjoying what they already know, that children come to see shows and hopefully are inspired and will one day become artists or supporters in the future.

I'm also glad my dance skills could come of use to my supervisor, Rebekah, at times along with my mad French skills when we were editing the copy of Bravo for Carmen.
Yes, I've had a great semester here at the Detroit Opera House and I hope another intern can benefit from this experience as much as I have. I have learned so much in these past five months and am forever grateful for the opportunity they awarded me. Thanks and farewell!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Interview with Lili Del Castillo

The last and final interview for the Carmen Series is with Lili Del Castillo. I had the pleasure of meeting with Lili and interviewing her with all my desiring questions about the choreography in Carmen. At the very end, you will find a slideshow of Lili coaching Kate Aldrich and Kendall Gladen who both are the lead role in Carmen.

Can you describe the choreography in Carmen?

I essentially give Spanish culture 101 lecture. It starts from the way that Spanish people walk in ordinary times opposed to the way Americans walk. Americans slouch, Spaniards don't so I teach movement so that’s the base. From there I have to work with special ladies that are going to do dance movements within the act and so I teach them very simple moves that immediately say “Spanish” opposed to doing Tap or ballet or something like that. Its all about teaching attitude for Carmen, the strata of society you're dealing with is different than if you were upper class. I deal with movement and I do my own dance. In different Carmen's, sometimes I'm asked more and sometimes less. There have been Carmen's where I dance throughout Carmen, and where I've done the fight scene actually fighting Carmen. So I have to find out what the vision of the director is and what movements best describes what he or she sees as part of the scene.

What do you do to choreograph for each different character?

I do Carmen's, Frasquita's and Micaela and the chorus ladies. So that three levels of command within the group of Carmen's. Carmen is the boss so I give her dominant movement. Frasquita and Micaela are flirtatious, and the chorus ladies are having a good time so I give them more exuberant movement.

Do you often choreograph for operas?

I've been doing it for 15 years. Once I retired from the flamenco world. I got into it and word spread, and this is my last and retirement from opera. So I do Carmen's and La Traviata's. I’ve been trained in Spain, in both Flamenco and Spanish dance and that has helped me in the world of opera.

What do you feel the audience gets out of watching the choreography in an opera?

Excitement, exuberance, and a sense of the emotion from the specific scene.

What got you into dance in general?

From the time I was a little girl, every time I would hear music, stories would come in my head and I loved musicals and the musical movies. My family was a very proper Spanish family- and good girls don't dance. And so, when I was 14 I said I wanted to dance and I started taking lessons in Spanish Dance. When I was a teenager, I am such a stereotype in looks to a gypsy woman and a man who had just come from a company in Spain wanted to start a company in New Mexico, and he said he would train me if I were in his company. From there I married a flamenco guitarist and lived and studied in Spain where we were both on a flamenco troupe over there. When we came back from the U.S. we went to New Mexico and started our own company and toured.

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

To be able to express what the music says to you. It enters you and through the years of taking lessons you have the technique to interpret the technique into movement that symbolizes your feeling.

Have you been trained in any other styles?

I've had some ballet and some jazz. And it helps a lot. Ballet gives you centering. And jazz lets you have movement flow through you. So ballet and jazz really helped my flamenco.

What is your favorite style of dance/What is your expertise?

For me personally, it would be of flamenco and Spanish classical. For watching any dance, I love beautiful movement of whatever culture or background. A good show is a good show!

Do you teach? Own your own company?

I've retired my company but I do teach and I coach. I teach students in Albuquerque, New Mexico; I like giving them a good base. I don't believe in clones and flamenco is very individual. Your personality comes out when you dance. If you only take from one person you become a clone of them so by taking from many styles, you learn what your style is.

Why did you decide to go down that path?

The only thing I was trained in was dance and in New Mexico there wasn't any other company to join so I started my own. I was fortunate to come into flamenco at the time where there were very few people doing it there and start a company and have a lifestyle strictly in the arts.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

That one of the great inspirations for me in flamenco is the fact that I'm married to a guitarist and I hear his music constantly and he gives me interpretations. If he gives me music that gives me bright and sunny things, and if I raise an arm he makes something that follows it. I'll give him a word such as “dark and smoky sounding” and he comes out with something that is evocative of something that is dark and smoky. It's been a lot of fun and has been quite the trip for the two of us. We married very young and have been together ever since.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Interview With Homero Velho

Hey again! Our second part of the Carmen interviews is with Baritone Homero Velho. Tomorrow with be the last part of the Carmen interviews with choreographer Lili Del Castillo.

What steps do you have to take in order to prepare for the show?
I guess what I try to do is being as musically prepared as I can. Make sure you have the music really well learned so you can follow what the director wants you to do. So I just try to be as best prepared I can with the music.

What is a typical day like for you when you arrive at the Opera House?
Well if I’m called from 2-5 I will warm up in my room and review a bit of the music and try to mentally think of the scene involved so I am prepared for what we are doing for that day. I guess it’s a little bit of anticipation so I’m prepared and when I get there I just do whatever has to be done.

How would you compare Carmen to other operas you have been apart of?

I think the one thing that sets Carmen apart is the sheer number of hit tunes. It has at least three or four tunes that everyone has heard of once in their life. I think that sets it apart from other operas. It’s one of those operas that becomes famous by its own right.

What do you find most fulfilling about your job?

The fact that I get paid to do what I love. That’s really the main thing that I get paid to do something I like and most of the time I’m lucky in that.

What sparked your involvement with opera?
Singing in my high school choir definitely. I was 16 when I started and gradually got involved with music. I can definitely trace it back to singing in the choir.

What is your favorite opera?
Its hard to choose a favorite opera and you end up getting involved in every one of them. But if I had to choose I would choose Don Giovanni.

What do you think makes opera singers unique compared to singers in musicals or pop singers?
I think we have to have more discipline. Practicing everyday, learning languages, and taking care of our voices. I’m not going to go out drinking every night or anything like that so I think it’s the discipline that sets us apart from other singers.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Carmen-Behind the Scenes Part 1

I had the opportunity to interview Janinah Burnett who will be performing the role of Micaela in the Detroit Opera House's Production of Carmen May 9-17.

What steps do you have to take in order to prepare for the show?
Well I have to learn my notes, learn the words that I’m going to say, memorize what the words are, what I say, and what the character I interact with says. I also have to know the storyline so I get the libretto or the story so I have background information. And I get vocally lined up as well by my teacher if need be.

What is a typical day like for you when you arrive at the Opera House?

First we go into the rehearsal hall and wait for the director to tell us where to start. So I go in and wait until its time for me to go into the rehearsal. Then we run it and he’ll give us notes after we finish. Then we watch the other artists do their scenes and chat a little bit.

How would you compare Carmen to other operas you have been apart of?
Being an opera singer, most of the work that I do I really like. Carmen is really popular because it has a lot of memorable melodies that are rhythmically exciting, which makes it interesting for the artist. Carmen is different because there is a female heroine that is so free, which makes the opera so cool because we have a woman that is unwilling to conform to the norms.

What do you find most fulfilling about your job?

Well I love to sing so just the fact and the ability to do that is really exciting. Singing with other colleagues and singing with the orchestra is the most fulfilling thing.

What sparked your involvement with opera?
In college I had to sing arias from various operas and I was pulled in- I really enjoyed it. When I got to graduate school that’s when I really did opera. And what continued it was to see my colleagues doing it and I really loved it, which inspired me to be apart of it.

What is your favorite opera?
Carmen and Turandot are my two favorites.

What do you think makes opera singers unique compared to singers in musicals or pop singers?
Well the first thing is that we use the amplification of our bodies opposed to microphones. So that’s the primary difference. Other than that, we all have to act. I will say though that opera singers have to be more stage actors than pop singers.

Anything else to share with our readers?
That opera is really a fascinating medium and it seems kind of boring but if you get out to a show like Carmen and draw into the fact that these are just people making these sounds it is fascinating. Also, allow the music to be the catalyst of the emotion that you feel.