Today, Friday April 22, 2022 (Los Angeles CA) - I celebrate my first album release in what seems like a hundred years and I am so excited to share new music with you.
The story is: I sat quietly for two years while we all wondered what would come of 2022. Personally, I felt lost for a long time. I arrived at the place where I didn't know what to sing or what to write or why. I prayed a lot, and I asked the universe what to do, and one day I heard a voice in the silence of my mind. I can't make this up, it simply said:
"Become who you've always been."
I thought ok, I will go back to the beginning. For me, that's always been classical music. Before I was a singer, I played the viola in orchestra all my life and studied opera in college. So I dusted off my sheet music. I looked for a voice coach. And the collection of songs you will hear this year is that very day when I prayed to the universe, manifested roughly eight months later.
Some songs on the record I have been singing my whole life, and others I discovered this year during my training with Capucine Chiaudani, Italian Soprano coach with The Mediterranean Opera Studio, who I was lucky enough to begin working with over zoom. Never before would I have thought it's possible to take voice lessons with a teacher in Italy while I am here in the States but I know I wasn't alone in this revelation, and it became the entire process for the creation of this album.
Once I discovered this was possible, I was able to invite collaborators from all over the world to join me in this project. It wasn't easy, but step by step we figured out a process to create music with musicians who have never met in person before, mostly thanks to the incredible skills of our producer, Tim Sonnefeld.
Choosing seven out of hundreds of songs was also quite an undertaking. Seven seemed like the magical number so I stuck to it. It was important to me to have a balanced mix of classical art songs, opera, and American standards to allow my voice to paint with all the colors I have in my palette. It was also a challenge to sing in different languages, which I know will be a stark change for my regular listeners.
Track #1. Si mes vers avaient des ailes
We begin the album with one of my favorite composers, Reynaldo Hahn. "Si mes vers avaient des ailes" was one of the songs I have been singing since I first began studying voice at age 17. The vocal melodies, like birds in flight, just soar off the page and dance in and out of Daniel DiPaolo's breathtaking piano accompaniment as if we are two birds, not one. I thought it fitting to begin the album with a French love song to set the mood. It makes me think of French cafes in the rain, taxi cabs, tulips blooming, the smell of spring, writing poetry, and falling in love.
I was very fortunate to get one day of full on rain in LA, which used to happen more than it does now. This year, we got one day, and I ran to Target and bought a black umbrella and shot this music video just in time before it stopped raining.
Track #2. So This is Love
This one I have been singing since I was old enough to speak, but this was actually not a song I originally had in mind for this album. It was not until I discovered Leiki Ueda on YouTube, and when I first heard his piano arrangements of famous songs, I knew our friendship was meant to be. He is as big of a Disney fan as me! (And Lord of the Rings!) I think you'll agree, his classical arrangement of this all time favorite Disney song is a perfect match for my voice. I am so glad we got to work together and I hope to work with Leiki again in the future.
Track #3. Caro Nome
I have to start by saying I am very proud of this one, as it is undoubtedly one of the most difficult arias of coloratura repertoire (the type of soprano that sings in the stratosphere and resembles a petite songbird) but also to have gotten the opportunity to collaborate with greatly admired musicians Rupert Boyd and Laura Metcalf, known for their cello and classical guitar duo, Boyd Meets Girl. They were brave enough to aboard my ship as I navigated a recording project without a conductor, and in separate parts of the country.
But the main reason I decided to record this extremely difficult aria for my Spring album was simply the mere innocence of Gilda - the main character of Verdi's opera, Rigoletto, who falls for a man in disguise (and who is quite the womanizer). The aria means "sweet name" and is sung by the young girl who, in a daze, sings his name over and over again... heart emojis for days. In all honesty, if there is ever a good time to be a complete fool in love, it would be springtime. It is the season of young love.
Track #4. Quando Me'n Vo
I chose to sing this one because yes, it's a classical hit but also because my god... Musetta is everything a woman wishes to be. In Puccini's La Boheme (one of my favorite operas) Musetta seduces her ex-lover in this sexy and overconfident depiction of a female lead role. Just picture Jessica Rabbit. Or Sophia Vergara. Or Marilyn Monroe or Sophia Loren. A leading lady, that's for sure. A character worthy of every man's attention. in the room.
The real reason I felt this aria belonged in this collection is because it reminded me of this classic Bambi scene, the feeling of being completely "twitter-pated."
Track #5. Ah! Je veux vivre
This aria is from Gounod's opera, Roméo et Juliette, where Juliette is sort of having a teenage melt down. (She is like...really really young, and being pressured by her nanny to you know, get married and everything... Yikes!!!)
She responds in this beautifully crafted vocal melody by basically saying, (in my own words of course)... god woman let me live my life, let me enjoy the freedom I have just discovered as a girl, let me breathe the rose before it wilts, let me live in a dream where it can be springtime forever.
She compares falling in love to the dead of winter, where love just leads to heart break and tears, and poetically, her deflowering. She knows this. She's a smart girl. And yet, we all know how the story ends.
Track #6. Moon River
When one makes a record about springtime, one does not leave out the ultimate, instant tear-jerker movie soundtrack classic, Moon River. If I could dream of my all time springtime fantasy, I would be simply be Audrey Hepburn in every movie ever. But this one... this one hits hard. Nothing speaks of heart wrenching, inconvenient, life altering romance, other than passionate trench coat kisses in the pouring rain, while staring at your sweetheart who is staring back at you while you look for your lost cat. A huckleberry friend, rainbows, adventure, 99 cents stores, lovers, lattes, laughter... Nothing says springtime more than Moon River. Daniel DiPaolo brought this piano arrangement to the table and it was an immediate heck yes from me.
Track #7. It Might as Well Be Spring
And finally, it would not have felt right to publish a collection of songs about Spring without a classic Rodgers & Hammerstein tune. Although I realize I chose an obscure one. Did you recognize this? Many would say no. How can it be? This Great American Songbook classic has been covered by all the greats: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Astrud Gilberto (MY GIRL), Miles Davis, Andy Williams, Sarah Vaughan, and so many many more...
It came to me late in our recording process; in fact the entire album was already finished and something didn't feel right. I went back to the drawing board and came across this tune I used to sing when I was young, which I had completely forgotten about. I decided to be a total diva and hold up the project, while I recorded this "a Cappella" in my closet (which means I had no backing track, I sang blind with nothing guiding me) and my team of gifted musicians was able to build a string arrangement around my vocals. (Will, you're the absolute man).
For the music video, I revisited the 1945 film State Fair and wanted to closely depict a modern rendition of the original, sung by the young and beautiful Jeanne Crain. Fun fact: Jeanne lived on Van Ness Avenue in Los Angeles, which makes sense because it is just down the block of Paramount Pictures... which happens to be right where I live! How exciting! When I first moved into this 1940s apartment building, I heard it was originally a hotel for the stars while they were filming and so far, it seems to be true. I hope you get a chance to see me recreate the original in my music video for the song, on my own little balcony, on Van Ness Avenue.