Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bravo Bravo: An Insider's Perspective

Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of Bravo Bravo or maybe you’ve heard about it, are excited for the event, got your tickets in hand but still aren’t quite sure what to expect. Whatever the case may be I’ve decided to write this blog to give newcomers and the curious alike a better idea about what Bravo Bravo is really like from the people who can tell you the best, past party-goers.

Linda Hyter, a Clinical Care Coordinator at Children’s Hospital first attended Bravo Bravo in 2008 “ It wasn’t what I was expecting” she said. The 38-year-old Detroit native found out about the event from former Bravo Bravo committee members, Alexis Lewis and Kyra Sanders, after trying to get involved in her community and was surprised by the festive nature of Bravo Bravo, which she admits she became addicted to. “ It was an open bar type feel and the first year I went they had body painting and me and my friends got half our faces painted with butterflies”, “You end up waiting the next year for it to come around,” she laughs.

“The atmosphere is upbeat and full of energy.” She said of the event. Hyter also spoke of the diversity of the crowd and how that added to the energy as people from all walks of life were coming together to mingle with one another and have a good time. “It was the best”, said Hyter. When describing the music scene Linda explained how there’s something for everyone as the event gives off different vibes and moods as guest travel around the opera house and encounter different types of music. “The event exceeded my expectations,” Zemen Marrugi, Event Planner and owner of Opal E Events explained. The 28-year-old had always been a fan of the opera house and attended various musicals and performances there in the past. Marrugi first attended Bravo Bravo last year after agreeing to become sponsor at the suggestion of her business partner.

“The event was really exciting, it was a good representation of the city and was so much fun.” She said. Zemen who invited her clients to last year’s event felt it was a good way to introduce people to the city and invite people to the event that you’ve never done business with. Like Hyter, Marrugi also felt the same about the events music scene. “No matter what your personality is, you’ll find something you’ll enjoy” she said after describing how at last years event the main stage transformed into a club like venue for live performances while the smaller rooms featured more coffee house performances and the hallways featured food and drinks from various restaurants and drink vendors from the local area.

Both Linda and Zemen believe that Bravo Bravo is an event not to be missed. To Linda, events like Bravo Bravo show people that they can make a difference in their community and still have a good time. She also believes that Bravo Bravo is one of the premiere events to be a part of in the city and the best thing about it is the people. She also feels coming to Bravo Bravo is a good start if you are thinking about become involved in the community and is a good place to network. Hyter says that ticket prices shouldn’t turnoff guest, as tickets are pretty inexpensive in comparison to other fundraising events. When I asked Linda what was her favorite Bravo Bravo moment she explained how in the last two years, it has become buying her ticket because she knows she’s all set for event from that point on and that she’s done her part to contribute to the fundraising goal.

Zemen who has a similar outlook believes that Bravo Bravo is one of those events you ought to attend once because it has become a nice tradition and a part of the city’s history. She also believes that people should share in the experience of the event because it’s a lot of fun and features a great combination of food and music.

This year Linda says she looks forward to seeing the fashions and visiting the different spaces designed around the different fashion capitals of the world. She also tells me she looks forward to seeing her boyfriend’s expression since it’s his first time. “Me and my friends have been hyping him up for the event but we feel like he doesn’t understand” she says. Linda recommends that women come dressed to Bravo Bravo a little sexy but tasteful. She also says that comfortable pumps are a must, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking and standing. Zemen tells me she looks forward to mingling with the other attendees and seeing the transformation one of her favorite venues will make this year. For fashion tips she recommends that women have fun when deciding what to wear. She also says that they don’t have to be a fashionista and that a cool accessory or cute top will do the trick “Its not like you should be worried about making the fashion hall of shame” she says with a giggle “It’s for a good cause and everyone’s enjoying themselves”.

Bravo Bravo takes place Friday, June 4th, at the Detroit Opera House from 7:30 p.m to 12:30 a.m. Tickets are $95 for the month of May and $105 for the month of June. This year Bravo Bravo takes on a fashion theme and will feature more than 40 of Detroit's trendist restaurants and bars providing delicious food and the latest in libations. Each room of the opera house is filled with music, and features a variety of music by local bands and musicians. Proceeds from the event support Michigan Opera Theatre and the Detroit Opera House. For more information follow this link: Bravo Bravo Destination Fashion.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Interview with Tenor Noah Stewart (Mario Cavaradossi)

Raised in Harlem, NY Noah Stewart was first exposed to classical music as a middle school student performing as a member of his school's choir. There his choir director recognized his potential and encouraged him to pursue singing as a career. In his last year of junior high he entered into a competition under the vocal division and won first place.

While in high school he continued to sing in choir at the La Guardia High School for Performing Arts where he sang as a Tenor. “I was bad,” he said, recalling what it was like for him. On his first day of choir all the students laughed at him after the choir director pointed out that he was sitting in the wrong section, “I was sitting with all the all girls in the alto section and the director asked me what was I doing and told me that I was a supposed to be sitting with the tenors” While attending La Guardia High school he was introduced to many forms of music, including opera.

In his second year he attended the Harlem school of Arts where he studied music. As a student he received free tickets to events at the Lincoln Center and MET. He also enrolled in an opera workshop, He felt that opera opened up a new world for him, “opera was play time for me” he said “In order to be a good opera singer you have to have a good imagination because opera brings you into a whole new world.” At the end of his senior year he auditioned for Juilliard and got in on a full ride. The first two years at Juilliard weren’t stressful on the young opera singer “It wasn’t that difficult because I had such great preparation in high school, my school had a lot of resources I felt very prepared”.

While in college he continued studying opera both inside and outside of school attending free concerts at the MET and Lincoln Center whenever he could. He also attended the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, an 8-week festival held during the summer, twice during the first half of his career as a college student. When thinking about his time in Colorado he explained how he liked working in the different setting because it gave him a chance to learn more about music and work on his art. He also felt it gave him the chance to figure out who he was as a person as well as an artist. His last years at Juilliard weren’t as easy “It was intense, there were 8 undergrads in the vocal program 2 of us graduated on time, 2 stayed behind and the others dropped the program he explained.

At the age of 21 Noah graduated from Juilliard and auditioned for the Manhattan School of Music but decided not to go because he really wanted to sing he also felt he needed a break from the pressure of the conservatory environment. He explained to me how all his friends got jobs very young and how it was harder for him to start his career because his voice was not finished developing. “So I took a year off which of course became three-like it always does” he said with a laugh. During that time Noah waited tables, worked as a receptionist at Carnegie hall, and worked retail. “ What a lot of people don’t realize is how expensive it is to start a singing career” he said and “I thought I wouldn’t sing because my voice was out of shape” he said, explaining what it was like for him after making the decision to get back into singing.

After hiring and working with his current vocal coach he auditioned for the Academy of Vocal Arts and got in. He later moved to Philadelphia for 8 months then moved back to New York after discovering that it wasn’t for him. He then auditioned for the San Francisco Opera’s summer apprentice program. “That summer completely changed everything,” he said referring to his acceptance into the program and the time he spent there. “I was more mature, people took more notice of me”. While working with the San Francisco Opera he appeared in “Transformations”, a modern opera, soon after he was invited to join the opera house’s young artists program.

He stayed with the company for three years and made his professional debut there in the world premiere of the opera “Appomattox” by Philip Glass “That’s when people really started to take notice of me.” Shortly after that he was scheduled to sing the secondary tenor role in the opera “Macbeth”, which he claimed was his springboard into professional opera. During the last performance of the opera the tenor originally assigned to the role became sick and he had to take his place. “I only had 15 minutes to prepare but I was calm because I had a feeling something special was going to happen” the performance which was a success motivated him enough to move back to New York to get an agent to start his career.

When asked if this was the tenors first time appearing in Tosca or as Cavaradossi he replied that it was. “It’s very exciting, I’m very fortunate to be invited back after Nabucco,” he said. The singer appeared in MOT’s production of Nabucco earlier this fall. “My manager, Bernard (Uzan), is directing and this is one of the few times he gets to see me act.” The opera house is one of my favorites, its very beautiful, the cast is phenomenal and I’m lucky to have the support of Dr. D.,” he said recognizing his status as a newcomer to opera and that not many people his age would have the opportunity to sing in such roles.

When asked to describe the audition process he had to go through in order to appear as Cavaradossi he explained to me how he had sung for Dr. D in the past for a role in Carmen but didn’t get the role because he had already cast another tenor. When asked what it has been like working with the other opera singers he replied that it’s been fun, that it’s always great and that he’s happy to have a job. He also explained how he has enjoyed the cultural makeup of the cast as well as working with the smaller size. He also tells me how honored he is to share the stage with such great artists and to be working with the conductor. He also shares with me how at home he feels with Michigan Opera after his second production and how he feels he’s being spoiled.

When asked what he felt was the hardest part about being an opera singer he replied being alone. Not being able to share great moments and experiences with people. He tells me how he believes it’s harder on him because he comes from a social family. He also tells me that as an opera singer you almost have to be social because it’s a very lonely life otherwise. The advice Noah has for aspiring opera singers is not to listen to anyone, and to keep on dreaming. He tells me that it’s hard and lonely and that no one tells you how to do it because everyone’s path is different. He also says it important to never stop believing in your self, always take advantage of the resources you have and never stop learning.

You can see Noah Stewart as Mario Cavaradossi in Michigan Opera Theatre's production of Puccini's, Tosca at the Detroit Opera House May 21 & 23.