Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Where you come from, toast is a result of reflection and study!

One of my best friends from college, Cristina, is in Vienna right now teaching English and studying voice. Every few days we convene on Google Chat--we discuss dating, exchange recipes, and especially, talk about our singing. I know she reads this, so I hope I won't embarrass her by saying that she has a lovely light soprano voice with a stunning top--the lucky thing!

Yesterday, she told me that she was working on "Deh vieni, non tardar," an aria that I also sing, and struggle with. We were commiserating about the final section of the piece, with the leap from the F to the A. Cristina said, "Why is this so difficult for me?" I pointed out that it's difficult for everybody--"everybody has to push the toast down twice!" Which leads me to my second toast-related metaphor of this blog (for any new readers, the first one was in my first entry, and it was from The Birdcage).

A few years ago, I spent part of my spring break at Cristina's house in Maryland. I had brought my DVD collection along, and one night, we decided to watch Kate and Leopold. It's not really a good movie, but sometimes there's nothing like Hugh Jackman in period costume riding a horse around Central Park. In case you're not familiar with the movie, the basic conceit is that Meg Ryan's ex-boyfriend (Liev Schreiber) discovers a portal into the past on the Brooklyn Bridge, and then accidentally brings an incredibly good-looking 19th century nobleman back with him--that's Mr. Jackman, of course--where he has to negotiate Manhattan, and love, in the 21st century.

Which naturally includes kitchen appliances. Like the toaster. The first time Leopold tries to use Kate's toaster, he burns the toast beyond all recognition. He explains to Kate that the first time he pushed the toast down, it didn't toast, and then the second time, it burned. More specifically, courtesy of the Internet Movie Database:

LEOPOLD: That thing is a damned hazard!
KATE: It's just a toaster!
LEOPOLD: Well, insertion of bread into that so-called toaster produces no toast at all, merely warm bread! Inserting the bread twice produces charcoal. So, clearly, to make proper toast it requires one and a half insertions, which is something for which the apparatus doesn't begin to allow! One assumes that when the General of Electric built it, he might have tried using it. One assumes the General might take pride in his creations instead of just foisting them on an unsuspecting public.
KATE: You know something? Nobody gives a rat's ass that you have to push the toast down twice. You know why? Because everybody pushes their toast down twice!

Everybody pushes their toast down twice. It's not easy for anybody, no matter how it looks. This is an important lesson for me as far as singing goes, in the wake of this past weekend. I competed at NATS; it was not my best showing. I sang an aria that wasn't quite ready, had enormous memory flubs, and as a result lost my breath support. The girl who won my division was popping off high F's like they were nothing special, while I'm struggling to eke out a C# in my ornamentation and not look like I'm dying while I do it. But thinking about Leopold and his toast, I realize that it probably wasn't so easy for that girl to get where she is either. I'm betting that she has difficulty with other parts of her voice, and that this wasn't her first outing in a competition.

Singing is just plain hard, and it's our job to make it look and sound easy. Even people who seem like they've never had to work at producing a gorgeous, perfect sound have probably put in hours and hours of practice to get to that point. So I guess what I'm saying is, complaining about how hard it is isn't worth it. To quote another favorite girl movie that may eventually require its own post, "If it were easy, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great."

And since the fumes from the construction next door are starting to addle my brain a little (as Meg Ryan says in another chick flick, "My head's starting to get fuzzyyyyy..."), I'm going to wrap it up here by saying that I love toast, and that the prospect of always having to push it down twice--having to put in extra time and effort to make really GREAT toast--is totally worth it. I also just bought pineapple preserves from my favorite ethnic market, so that will make my toast even better (that part actually can't be translated into singing jargon--it's just a statement about toast).

Last but not least, a little ditty about toast. Enjoy!


  1. You are such an AWESOME writer :)