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  • NOTES: Jane Archibald's Diary

    By COC Staff


    We asked Jane Archibald, the COC’s 2017/2018 Artist-in-Residence, to keep a daily(ish) diary during a very busy April in which she made her title role debut in Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, jetted to the East Coast for a recital program in Halifax, and attended to some of the less glamorous tasks of being an international opera star, from power-washing the deck furniture to filing her taxes.



    April 11 (dress rehearsal of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables)

    I FaceTime with my daughter from my dressing room and she tells me my costume looks just like "The Princess in Black," a character in a book we read together about a rather prim princess who has a side gig vanquishing monsters. It gives me courage to go out and vanquish the monster challenge of singing my first Russian role for an audience!

    Bonus: there was no pathetic dead Nightingale puppet floating face-up in the pool tonight. We are WINNING!

    The Princess in Black... and a Nightingale.

    April 12

    It's the day before the Nightingale premiere and my sister is in town! Adult dinner planned, sans kids! The sun is actually sort of shining and I finally have energy, so: I WILL DO ALL THE THINGS!!! (Like clockwork, I turned into some version of a sloth the day before, and the day of, the dress rehearsal and accomplished diddly-squat. Well, except the dress rehearsal, so I guess that's something).

    Yay for clean laundry! Hurrah for paperwork! Woohoo for dry-cleaning that has been waiting to be picked up for three weeks! Yippee for the treadmill! I am superwoman!

    April 13

    "It's the day of the show y'all" (Every opera singer's favourite quote from the amazing Christopher Guest film Waiting for Guffman.


    Hard to believe opening night is here... this one snuck up fast!

    I am excited to be part of this production; it had such a great reception the first time around that it feels less nerve-wracking than the usual opening night, knowing in advance that it's probably going to be well-received!

    My job is to vocally and physically inhabit the spirit and magic of that little Nightingale, while also singing my first Russian intelligibly. Constantly balancing art and technique at the same time... that’s the true challenge of this art form! In this show, there are such magical and unusual visuals providing a big part of what is usually my job. Bonus!!!

    April 14

    Ah, the day after the premiere, a time to relax and savour (hopefully?) a successful opening night.

    It’s usually a day off - a chance to curl up with a book while gazing at the winter-wonderland outside. (Never mind that it is the middle of APRIL and I'm about to go insane with this never-ending cold and snow!) But not this time. So, how about we bundle up, skate through the streets over to the opera house and do another show!? What are we, on Broadway or something? My sensitive opera singer self is not used to this pace!

    April 15

    Gah, the double-edged sword that is a DAY OFF. How I long for it! How I loathe it! My body and brain need a break from the intensity of two back-to-back performances, preceded by a busy week of final rehearsals. I can sleep in, I can legitimately give myself a lazy day without any guilt. Awesome. But... my lonely heart is not helped by being idle, with time on my hands to think about how much I miss my family. It is the curse of the travelling singer, and one of the hardest things about this career.

    April 16

    Headshots day! Long overdue. I finally got tired of hearing myself say "I really must update my headshots" for the past three years! So I'm having a photo shoot today with Bo Huang, whose work I have long admired.

    Not sure what to expect, but I'm really hoping for some exciting new shots.

    Posing for headshots is no walk in the park. Photo by bohuang.ca.

    April 17

    Why is my neck so stiff? Oh right, a day spent posing for photos yesterday!

    It's been a busy time for the past... four months! I'm glad to have a day with no scheduled events to catch up on all the un-glamourous life tasks and bureaucratic business of being a singer: booking flights and apartments, dealing with tax returns in multiple countries, e-mails, e-mails, and more e-mails! And some treadmill time, too!

    April 18

    Well, consider my socks officially blown off! Just back from one of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, a noon-hour recital with the Ensemble Studio. The entire group sang wonderfully—no surprise there—but the fact that two members are also original, funny and poignant composers!? Colour me impressed. It was a delightful program! This afternoon will be spent coaching some of those wonderful young artists.

    April 19

    The renowned voice teacher Marlena Malas works regularly with the artists of the Ensemble Studio, and she graciously allows me to sit in and observe her work. It’s inspiring. I'm not a teacher but have recently done some coaching and masterclasses (my time in Toronto has allowed for some time to experiment in that milieu). So immersing myself and watching the process is always enlightening. In the afternoon, I have some lovely chats with several members of the Ensemble Studio, discussing and strategizing as they look beyond their time in the program and chart a course for their early careers.

    As part of Jane’s artist residency, she set aside time to share her knowledge and experience with the next generation of emerging artists—pictured is a session with Ensemble Studio baritone Bruno Roy.

    Still ahead, dinner with my BFF (for almost 30 years!) and her family. Can't wait. Friendship is such a gift and I'm lucky to call the brilliant poet Emily Sanford my bestie! A day of listening, learning, advising and—hopefully—relaxing with a glass of wine and the kind of talk that only comes with an old friend.

    April 20

    Today, I presented morning and afternoon masterclasses at the Royal Conservatory of Music. It was a very full day and, despite my usual night-owl ways, I think I will fall asleep before my head hits the pillow tonight. It’s a lot of work being on the other side of the equation in a masterclass! Especially for someone who is not a teacher. There were wonderful singers, each working on their own particular challenges, and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to find ways to help or encourage them. Lovely and exhausting day!

    April 21

    Only one more sleep!!! I might be even more excited than my daughter!

    I'm flying home to Halifax after tomorrow's matinee and I miss her like crazy.

    Up until the end of February, she had always accompanied me on all my opera (read: long) contracts, with either our nanny or my husband. This spring, we decided to keep her home and, while I have enjoyed the "me time" and chance to sleep in, I have missed her smiling face more than I can say. Luckily, it was "only" three weeks apart, and I will commute back and forth a bit over the next month, during the breaks between Nightingale performances.

    This is not something I'd be able to do were I further away (as most of my gigs are!), so I am really appreciative of how this particular show has been scheduled, and the fact that home is only a short flight away. In the meantime, I have wrangled another childhood friend, now living in Toronto, to enjoy the SUN with me today and meet on a patio. Heaven!

    Jane and her childhood pal Mary taking advantage of the patio weather 
    in Toronto’s Distillery District.

    April 22

    Coffee. More coffee. And still more coffee.

    What is it about a matinee performance that makes me sleep so poorly the night before? Is it like having an early flight? Must be. Anyway, caffeine and technique shall get me through, as it often has!

    It's been over a week since the last Nightingale performance, so here's hoping we all remember everything! And after? It's a flight home to my family—yippee!

    BTW: I sat right beside ELVIS STOJKO and SCOTT MOIR on the flight! I didn't let on that I knew them, but they were both lovely and friendly and I can give the inside scoop that they both like ATVs and Elvis watched Star Wars. Presumably they were on their way to Stars on Ice in Halifax.

    April 23

    Is there anything more lovely than coffee in your own kitchen, wrapped in your own oversized robe? I mean, really?! Not for me.

    It's a sunny morning. My husband is arriving home today from Frankfurt where he was singing Loge in Wagner’s Das Rheingold.

    My daughter is filled with declarations of undying love (the best!).

    And my son Axel is home from university for the summer and gifted me with a rare heart-to-heart chat.

    Family all under one roof; life is good.

    April 24

    After taking a day off to revel in being home, it's time to switch gears and get ready for my recital here in Halifax this coming Sunday.

    The fabulous Liz Upchurch [Head of the COC’s Ensemble Studio] will be arriving in a few days and we'll present a similar program to the one we did at the COC’s Free Concert Series in February. So looking forward to singing for the hometown crowd! Likely there will be more than a few people in the audience who knew me before I could speak!

    Also on tap today: hauling out the deck furniture! I get such a thrill obliterating the winter grime with the pressure-washer. It's the little things. ;-)

    Nothing like some power-washing fun!

    April 25

    Interview day!

    Beloved family has been instructed to beat it between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., so I can conduct a few interviews relating to my upcoming recital.

    Once they've hit the road, a mad scramble ensues to unearth some kind of outfit that looks ok for a TV interview. Turns out I left most of my "professional" clothes in Toronto and only have my "Halifax wardrobe" (i.e. jeans and leggings). But there, at the bottom of my drawer, a pair of polka dot pants.

    Too much?

    Well, they'll have to do!

    April 26

    Booster shot day.

    My daughter, in case there was ever any doubt, is most definitely the child of two opera singers. And everyone within a 10km radius of the doc's office now knows it.

    April 27

    TGIF! And a sunny day! This weekend will be a flurry of rehearsing and singing, plus sending my husband back to Frankfurt for a few more performances, so, after a memory run-through of my recital repertoire, it's G&Ts on the patio while daughter dearest goes on a smoothie date with our awesome neighbour! I love our Halifax life!

    April 28

    Torrential rain and thunder to welcome Liz Upchurch (Head of Ensemble Studio and collaborative pianist) and Dominic Desautels (clarinetist) to Halifax for our recital. Spring in the Maritimes! It's a good day to be inside rehearsing in the divine Lillian Piercey recital hall, only a few minutes' walk from my house.

    April 29

    Recital day! I am spent by the end of this day, but it was such an beautiful evening of nostalgia (seeing so many faces from my earliest years! Including my beloved first voice teacher!) and enriching music-making with Liz and Dominic. I need more recitals in my life!

    Jane catching up after her rehearsal in Halifax, with Liz Upchurch
    and her first beloved voice teacher, Leslie Lake Searle.

    April 30

    Adrenaline-hangover extraordinaire. Little sleep was had after my emotional recital and I'm up early for the preschool run. Looking forward to some time with Mum when she drops me at the airport this afternoon to fly back to Toronto for our next Nightingale performances.

    A scene from The Nightingale and Other Short Fables (COC, 2018), photo: Michael Cooper.



    Click here to experience Jane Archibald’s exquisite vocals in Robert Lepage’s jaw-dropping production of The Nightingale and Other Short Fables—on stage until May 19, 2018.

    Posted in NOTES

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