Like knitting.  I’m knitting a jumper.  I have the back and about a third of the front.

Or the late 1920’s style dress I’m making for my Flutey Kayaking Friend who has the PERFECT 1920s haircut and she’s going to make everyone think Louise Brooks has come back to life and turned up at their college party.

Or possibly what the hell I’ve finally decided to do with that measly 1.2m of chartreuse silk seersucker that’s been sitting in my stash for nigh on 9 months (can I call it my baby now?)

Now I’m going to go into a particular peevy peeve of mine.  THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING TO TURN BACK. HERE BE RANTING.  IF YOU JUST WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE FLAPPER DRESS, OR IF YOU RESENT SKINNY AND/OR FAT PEOPLE SINGING STUFF AND/OR HAVING OPINIONS, MOVE ALONG AND FIND THYSELF OTHER INTERWEB-PASTURES NOW.  

I’ve been researching for my postgrad presentation, and it‘s made me angry and ranty.   Mostly, people are very caught up in how big/small opera singers are rather than how they sound.  I just want to get something straight: FAT LADIES AND SKINNY LADIES AND IN-BETWEENY LADIES ARE ALL ALLOWED TO SING OPERA. THEY ARE ALLOWED TO BE WHATEVER FACH THEY HAPPEN TO BE.  JUDGING PEOPLE ON WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE WHILE IGNORING WHAT THEY CAN DO IS SO FREAKING PRE-FEMINIST AND DOUCHEY.

Sometimes large lyrics come in little packages, and sometimes light cols come in big ones.  I’m not saying it happens all the time, but I wish people wouldn’t get so freaked out when it does.

Said as a decent-sized lyric who’s frequently accused of being too skinny (no, it is in no way deliberate), with many dear friends who get accused of the opposite.  It’s horrible either way.  Some people can have personal trainers and nutrition and weights and still be big, just as I will still be small no matter what I eat or how much exercise I do. If I didn’t have the scrawny genes, I would probably have already died of several heart attacks with the sheer amount of fromage I consume.  It’s horrible to hear of my friends getting fat-shamed or concern-trolled when they’re either way fitter and healthier than me, or they’ve been trying to lose weight and it’s really hard, or they honestly don’t care what size they are, they know the risks, they’re grown-ups.  It’s like sometimes people actually think someone’s going to turn around and go ‘REALLY??? OMG I NEVER NOTICED I WAS 130kg BEFORE YOU POINTED IT OUT, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!  I’LL JUST WAVE MY MAGIC WAND AND BECOME A SIZE 12, SHALL I???  JUST SO YOU CAN HAVE THE GLOWING HOLY SENSATION OF KNOWING YOU WERE THE ONE WHO HELPED ME FIND THE GLORIOUS LIGHT.’  Conversely, it’s also horrible to hear people walking behind you on the street saying to each other ‘omg she’s way too skinny!  That’s so unhealthy!  She’s probably got, like, an eating disorder.  Skinny people are so freaky, amiright?’  Come on.  I know there’s a particular summer dress that makes me look like a hat-stand with a little natty table-cloth draped over it, but SOMETIMES IT’S 37 DEGREES AND AN UNDERWEIGHT GIRL JUST WANTS TO WEAR A DAMN DRESS THAT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE IT JUST FOUND ITS WAY HERE FROM 1835 WITH ALL ITS FREAKING PETTICOATS, JUST SO THE GENERAL PUBLIC WILL BE SPARED THE HEINOUS VIEW OF HER STANDY-OUTY RIBS.  

Just like sometimes a girl is a size whatever and has the goods to be an opera singer.

Body policing is such a bitch.

And I was going to post something happy…

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Circus Daks and Angry Ladies

I got a commission!  Yay!  I’m making a late 17th/early 18th century sailor’s outfit for a circus friend.  Because of the nature of ropes acts, there have had to be some compromises accuracy wise, but the effect is going to be pretty cool, I hope.

There’s a shirt, made to the standard rectangles and triangles pattern that was common in the period, only, it’s made of a vile 2-way stretch cotton that’ll be soft and breathable to wear with plenty of give for acrobatics, but has a faint stripe in the weave that gives it the appearance of linen from a distance.  That’s from a distance.  That stuff was an absolute son of a bitch to sew, even with every trick in the book, like using paper under the seam, and it’s full of little wibbly-wobbly-seamy-weamy things.  *unsubtle doctor who reference*  I’m currently baulking at sewing in the final sleeve.???????????????????????????????

Or we could just cut an arm off my circus friend…???????????????????????????????

Because wibbly-wobbly-seamy-weamy.

There’s also a waistcoat, which will be brown linen, very simply cut and with fake buttons painted on (because real ones can result in nasty bruises when combined with ropes acts).

Finally there’ll be a set of breeches, also stretch for flexibility – but not stretchy enough to qualify them as the Breeches of Satan – gathered to a cuff below the knee, again to avoid rope burn.  I haven’t started on those yet.

I reckon the overall effect will be quite good, but the primary concern is functionality.

And while I was off buying fabric for that, I got some to make a petticoat and jacket!  The fabric for the petticoat is a lovely soft white silk twill (I’ll make other cotton petticoats to go under to boof it out a bit), and the jacket  fabric is a beautiful honey-coloured stripe, which I keep forgetting to photograph in daylight.  I’m dubious about my stripe-matching ability, but it was so pretty I couldn’t pass on it.  If the bodice goes well, I’ll just pop down and get a little more and lengthen the skirt to a full on robe.  If there’s any left.  The sales assistant was eyeing it off too like a seagull after a chip, so I might have to suck it up and get it soon.

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Pretty.  It’s more white with honey-stripes in daylight.

I couldn’t find any linen or cotton I fancied for a chemise or these fabled other petticoats, so another day I might pop down to Cleggs or *shudder* Lincraft and have a trawl through their selections.

But in the meantime, I’m having lots of fun rolling around in my new voice like a dog rolling gleefully around in a pile of poop.  It just feels so right.  I’m now an official card-carrying member of the fach of Angry Ladies, which is great because I am an angry lady.  Anyone who thinks otherwise just hasn’t seen me pissed off yet, or perhaps has been reading this blog. Gushing about robes a l’anglaise is calming.  Many, many things are angry-making.  Like the assumption that being tiny means I only have a choice of singing Zerlina or Susanna and that’s it, ‘kay thanks.  Not that they’re not great, but if you’ve heard me sing vedrai carino recently… it’s something like trying to use a chainsaw to cut a sponge cake.  Comical, but overkill.

Anyway, I have compiled a glory reel of angry ladies singing pissed-off arias, some of which I have the incredible good fortune to be learning, and some of which I’ll probably never do but can’t resist putting them on the glory reel:

Ahoy Diana Damrau as Konstanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail getting pissed off at the Pasha Selim (who always looks like Max Brenner in every production ever for some reason).  He’s just threatened to torture her if she won’t give in, betray her lovely man Belmonte and do him, so her reaction is pretty fair.

Laura Aikin, upon whom I have the biggest lady-crush ever, as Alban Berg’s Lulu, who’s fed up with being used and objectified by everyone and their dog and is about to shoot the man on the floor, who is one in a string of jealous, controlling husbands.  Twelve-tone coloratura.  That’s right, bitches.  You do not get more hardcore than that.

Miah Persson as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Her anglaise could use a bum-pad and some extra petticoats, but her triplets are insane and I think she looks a bit like Tara from Buffy. (Plus there’s surtitles on this one)

Edda Moser, as the Queen of the Night, my other giant lady-crush.  Oh.  Mein. Gott.  This is what voices like mine dream of growing up to become.  If anyone ever decides to write Anita Blake the opera, she has to be like this.

Birgit Nilsson as Puccini’s Turandot.  I will never ever sing this, but she is just a gun.  Calaf looks dismayed because he knows she’s walking the crap all over his sound in her steel-capped-boot high Cs.

I could keep going, but after Birgit you have to let the eardrums rest a while to recover from the magnitude of her awesomeness.

Chrome Sea Urchin

Yes, it is I, back from my sabbatical to annoy you further.  I had a week of intense study with my Yoda while I was away, and we discovered that not all was as it seemed fach-wise.  I thought I was – a coin I termed myself – a loloratura; a sorta crappy not-quite-lyric-but-not-quite-coloratura who cracks bad jokes.  Turns out to my and Yoda’s surprise I’m actually a  lyric with a high extension, a coloratura function, and a very metallic edge; or a whapping big chrome sea urchin, as I am calling it.  I just sounded bad because I was trying very very hard to force it into a little box made of society’s expectations of what a lass of my age ‘should’ sound like, and ended up with an over-manufactured, tension-filled, back-heavy sound.  Sort of like if you try and cook sea urchins and actively turn them into something, you end up with what looks like unexciting turds on a plate. So we cut the baggage and worked from the natural sound.  Sea urchins are naturally beautiful.  Technique renovated.

sea-urchins08-sea-urchin_17935_600x450Sea urchins are pretty and fun to image search.  This one’s from ocean.nationalgeographic.com, and it is what my sound looks like.

blackspikyseaurchin

This one’s my high register. via

redseaurchin

This one’s my low register via

cool sea urchin

This one’s just cool. via

cooked sea urchin gross

And this is a cooked sea urchin.  Not as pretty as an alive sea urchin. via

That was a whole twenty minutes of tangential distraction right there.

So now I’m trying out a stack of new rep that I never expected I’d sing, not even in 20 years, and not just that but it’s comfy and easy and enjoyable.  I’m aware that it’s not normal, but I don’t want people to try and shoot me or my Yoda down over it.  It’s my voice, I am the judge of what’s comfortable, and if the Lied der Lulu is way more comfortable than Vedrai Carino, I have to run with that.  I trust my Yoda and I know he wouldn’t lead me astray.

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been told to do is cut myself some slack.   So I went to the Fabric Store as soon as I got back (seeing as they were having a sale) and got a mountain of fabric.  Then I started working too hard and wearing myself down again, so I’m now looking at the Met Costume Institute website for some 18th Century inspiration to coax my stays across the finish line, and I have deliberately shut my book of Mozart arias while I do so.

Now, I’m not making a Française.  I know my limits.  But boy oh boy this one’s fun to drool over.  So the silhouette is dishy, 1778-85 they say on the caption (ohhh the narrow back pleats….), but the stripe matching and placement are what really does it.  Not only are the stripes matched from the bodice onto the shoulder straps, but they’re centred on the back pleats.  LIKE RACECAR STRIPES!!!  It’s like an old-fashioned racecar and a robe à la Française got together and had an improbable yet sexy lovechild.  I want to call it a robe a la transformers.

Met_1788-85_francaiseVroom vroom!

via

From the front this one’s a lot closer to my inspiration, and her fichu is a dead ringer for the weight of the silk georgette I have set aside. The only difference is I want to make a robe à l’Anglaise.  This one’s a proper full-on Polonaise as opposed to just an Anglaise with the skirt hoiked up.

met_1780_polonaiseWhen it comes to chewing shoes, Fido obviously prefers moving targets.

via

Then there’s the awesome thought of interchangeable bodices and jackets.  I’m just thinking it might be a good idea to make a jacket before I make a dress, in much the same way that one has single-celled organisms before one has vertebrates.  And then, much like single-celled organisms, if the jacket works then it can still be useful, and I can progress with confidence/trepidation/terror onto the complexities of a dress.  If it doesn’t work, then I haven’t wasted loads of fabric.  This one’s so kooky it’s almost modern, like something you’d find in Kinki Gerlinki.  Then you turn it around and it’s like WHAM POW FANCY COLLAR!  Like a subtle take on the well known mullet adage: business at the front, party at the back…

met_late_bodice_frontBusiness at the front…

met_late_bodice_backBATMAN AT THE BACK! 

via

I am having waaaay too much fun here…

The Sewprano Sings Too? Never Would Have Guessed.

Which is mostly to what my lack of bloggery lately has been due.  Also partially to it being very hot again.  The sewing machine and the iron just don’t go on when it’s over 32°C as a matter of principle.

But a lot of singing is being done because it’s that time of year when you’ve got to start thinking in competition mode, and I intend a sort of merry sweep through as many of them as I have the time/energy to do properly.  I have some absolutely scrummy Wolf lined up for the first cab off the rank, then it’s going to be aria central for a while; if I actually learn any arias that is.  I’m not renowned for being the most aria-obsessed soprano who ever lived, so I begged some suggestions from my effin’ awesome teacher this afternoon, who started with: it’s better not to leap into the big warhorses, it’s best at your age to start off with smaller simpler stuff; and then promptly rattled off some suggestions including some Lucia di Lammermoor and Peter Grimes.  Did I hear someone say simple?

Chamber’s still my happy place, so I have some stuff in a concert tomorrow – Shepherd on the Rock (the appropriate response is to chuck out some horns and bang your head around – it is unassailably awesome), some Spohr, some Roussel, and some Michael Head.

Now, don’t let me get started on Michael Head. Oh whoops, I am started, and now I’m probably going to offend somebody, but hey, this is my blog. His parents should have named him Richard.  His writing is so twee and sugary and pointless that it makes Dulcie Holland look like the next J.S. Bach. IF YOU’RE GOING TO PUT SO MANY GRATUITOUS RALLENTANDI AND AD LIBATUM-I (ad labotomy more like, in this case) INTO YOUR MUSIC, THEN WHY BE SO DARN NITPICKY ABOUT NOTATING EVERY INANE LITTLE RHYTHM? By default anything he writes is So Not My Fach.  So why am I bashing my larynx against this fluffy, poorly-constructed brick wall?  Because societally-conditioned-nice-girl brain was first to the consent buzzer. Now we see how feminism and singing intersect… But that’s another story.  Now I’m doing this damned piece and my [admittedly lovely] instrumentalist mates get to be on the receiving end of what happens when sopranos step outside their fach, and it ain’t pretty.  Once I’m done with it tomorrow I am no kidding going to take the sheet music out to the backyard and burn it.  Probably involving some kind of feather-waving, goat-sacrificing ritual so that it can never come back and make me sing it again.

…Unless I keep it to use for sewing patterns, that is.  Despite having the sewing machine off I’ve still been doing a lot of sewing, just mostly by hand while watching Buffy downstairs because I think it’s still below 30°C downstairs and my favourite housemate and I went halfsies on a box set of Buffy for Christmas.  So far I’m about a third done with an acetate pleated tulip skirt made from some acetate I picked up at the UMSU Theatre garage sale, and it’s going to be very poufy at the top but sort of nipped in at the bottom like an upside-down ’80s bubble skirt (I know it sounds ugly, but this is just like when the girl behind the counter at the deli at Vic Market questioned me buying 150g of goat cheese for a cheesecake,  TRUST ME. It’ll work, and it’ll be gloriously A/W 2013.  The cheesecake was great too, if you’re wondering.  I can’t find where the original recipe I used went, but this one’s fairly close, the base of mine was mostly butter and digestive biscuits… or what was left by the time I made it. They’re too moreish for their own good.  Damn it, now I want some, but it’s too hot/I’m too lazy to ride to the supermarket).

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What is the top doesn’t look like it in the pattern… and a bad photo of the pleats and the waistband.

Also I’ve been working on a toile for a pair of 18th Century stays as a totally gratuitous romp to refresh my mind after too long staring at my Nixon in China score.  Also to improve my hand sewing.  I look at amazing blogs by incredible people like Before the Automobile and Diary of a Mantua Maker and I get all inspired and then my hand sewing is more crooked than a medieval Pom’s teeth.  But the shape is generally looking on track and the fit (as much as I can extrapolate at present) is good, and also I guess there aren’t many people who memorise Nixon and make stays.  Even super wonky stays.

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For your viewing delectation, my abominable hand-sewing.

Once again, check out my illustrations in the next edition of Farrago, available from A Fair Few Places on the UoM campus, and COME TO CLASSICAL REVOLUTION AT OPEN STUDIO IN NORTHCOTE TOMORROW AT 5!