A Look Into the Life of Vocalist Ray Chenez, Athamas

Apr 4, 2016

I’m happy to write my first ever blog post, in which I thought I would share a bit of my daily life as an opera singer while here with Opera Omaha, which includes eating, singing, studying, eating, rehearsing, yoga-ing, eating and eating! All kidding aside, the first thing I do every day when I wake up is drink 2 glasses of water. It takes several hours for the vocal cords to hydrate, so it’s important to start as soon as possible. I also eat a good breakfast every day, usually a protein shake and a banana, or on a performance day I typically eat eggs, toast and bacon. After eating, I often crawl back into bed with my laptop (It takes me a little while to get moving), and answer emails. I almost always have business to take care of with my agents in New York and Vienna, travel to arrange, and social media to update.

I am always traveling, which makes it difficult to maintain a fitness and nutrition regimen. I believe very strongly in the practice of yoga, which helps me to feel my best both physically and mentally. Though I do not practice every day, I aim to practice 3-4 times a week. I always pack my travel yoga mat with me and I subscribe to an online yoga streaming service. As I did today, I like to practice after I have finished my work on the computer and before rehearsal.

When I am in rehearsal for a production, I am often preparing additional music for upcoming projects. After taking a shower and getting ready, I spent some time today studying some new scores. This is a difficult aspect of being a singer, in that while I am in rehearsal for one project I am also getting ready for the next project. For me, it’s very important that I sing every day and always warm up my voice properly. The voice and body are directly connected and feel different every day. Some days I find that my voice is ready almost immediately, and other days it can take much longer. For this reason, I prefer to leave plenty of time to start my warm-up before going to rehearsal so that I don’t feel rushed. Once I feel properly warmed up with exercises, I like to sing through my arias and also check any trouble areas. Opera is incredibly physical, and during the staging rehearsal process it can be easy for the voice to get derailed as you are focused on so much movement. This is especially true in baroque music, as the music requires incredible focus and precision to sing well. For this reason, I make sure to constantly review my music and sing through it regularly on my own. Oh, and somewhere in there I had two shots of espresso….

Here in Omaha, we typically begin rehearsal in the early afternoon and finish at 10 p.m. with a break for dinner. Today we staged my Act I duet with Ino, which I knew would be a very difficult number to stage from the first time I opened the score. The duet has a lot of quick alternating phrases between Athamas and Ino, which requires a lot of movement on stage and makes it very easy to get lost in the music. In our production, we are working within a unique concept by which Ino is physically embodied by Janice Lancaster-Larsen as a dancer on the stage and sung from the orchestra pit by Peabody Southwell. This creates a unique staging dynamic where I’m physically interacting with Janice on the stage and singing with Peabody who is at a distance from me. Our choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano and our director James Darrah worked together brilliantly to shape every tiny moment in the duet. It takes an incredible amount of focus (and experimentation) to find the right timing of the gestures within the music. Even with such detail in the process initially, we continue to change and develop every aspect of the production up until the performances.

After a short dinner break, I returned to rehearsal, in which the chorus was in attendance. Staging scenes with large groups of people takes the most time and requires a lot of mental energy and focus. In these rehearsals, we have the opportunity to put things together and see the entire concept as well as the flow from scene to scene. These large scenes are often among the most captivating moments in the performance, so they are worth the time and energy to create. After rehearsal I like to wind down late at night by talking to friends on the computer and by text message. I feel very lucky to live in a time when it’s so easy to communicate with people while traveling. I don’t watch much television, but I am a fan of the show Nashville, which I keep up with and sometimes watch after rehearsal.

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