The canals are now sporting a layer of ice, and even though snowfall has been limited, it definitely feels like winter. The Neva river is not yet completely frozen over, but has jagged sheets of ice flowing along with the current. This morning as I was walking over the Blagoveshensky bridge, I watched a group of birds taking joy rides on the ice with what looked to me to be gleeful smiles.
Sketch of the Blagoveshensky bridge (thank you Google Image):
When the canals and the Neva freeze over completely, I am told that the city authorities will break up the ice to discourage people from walking on it.
I came across this historic image (1924) of a life-size chess game on Dvortsovaya Ploschad (Palace Square), which is the main central square of the city:
I think about this picture every time I walk past the square…so much history here!
Recently I took a quiz entitled “What is your true age?” on BuzzFeed, and was informed that I am 75 years old. I suspect this outcome has something to do with my love for opera, tea and cats.
To rebel against my results, I decided it was time to go to a rock concert. Here are my friends Andrei, Misha and Masha in the Ledovy Dvorets (Ice Palace) Stadium as we wait for the arrival of the Swedish pop rock duo, Roxette:
For those of you who don’t know the group, here is one of their more famous songs:
If I took the quiz again, I’m pretty sure my results would go down 20 years at least. So there, Buzzfeed.
Things are going well at the conservatory. I have even made friends with Mr. Rimsky-Korsakov…
…even though he does not seem impressed.
One of my favorite places in the conservatory is the library. You aren’t allowed to go browse the stacks yourself; instead, you look through a card catalogue and tell the lady behind the desk what you need and she fetches it. The shelves are packed, dusty, slightly crooked, and utterly charming:
Things are continuing to go well with my teacher, Ms. Kondina. In addition to being a great singer, she is a wonderful person with a healthy supply of anecdotes, laughter, and zest for life:
Anecdotes are an uber-Russian thing, and come up often in conversation..I have found myself doing the same, so I guess I must be adapting to my new habitat 😉 Some of Ms. Kondina’s favorite things to say in lessons:
“Дыхание до пяток!” (Breathe all the way down to your heels!)
“Голос веди ровно, мягко, красиво…в космос!” (Lead the sound evenly, gently, beautifully…into the cosmos!)
“ЗВУК ВПЕРЕД!!” (Lead the sound forward!)
My American friend Frances and her family invited me for a beautiful Thanksgiving meal, which was deliciously prepared by the staff of their hotel. We had a wonderful time, and even though I missed my family, it was a memorable holiday with new friendships made!
My stomach was pleasantly surprised at the familiar comfort foods…with the addition of parsley, dill, pickled mushrooms and cabbage, of course…because Russia. Turns out they all go well with turkey!
My professor for art song class (“камерное пениe”), Maria Germanovna Ludko, is a whirlwind of an organizer and is always setting up performances for us (she is a National Artist of Russia and a local favorite–she has been performing since age 8! She is the head of the Art Song department at the conservatory and also has a Phd in musicology…you know, no big deal!). In November, we have had a few concerts, as well as community service recitals in a nursing home and in a support center for blind patients.
Maria Germanovna always introduces me as “our стажер (diploma student) from America,” so the audience knows where I am from and is always surprised that I don’t have an accent when I sing! After one of the concerts, a sweet Russian lady came up to me and talked about how political differences seem far away when you meet someone from another country in person, and even further away once you share music. Her comments were so touching to me, and I loved that her thinking was so in line with the Fulbright program and what it stands for.
Here is a picture taken after a concert in the beautiful town of Pavlovsk, a few kilometers outside of St. Petersburg. Our group included singers from Mongolia, Malta, Germany, America and Russia…quite a bouquet:
(Maria Germanovna is in the gold dress)
In other news, there IS an American-idol-esque show in Russia for opera. It’s called “Bolshaya Opera”, and features superstar judges and aria extravaganzas that include crazy props and microphones and reverb and light shows and everything…
…..and with that, I say good night and “Пока! До встречи!” (Until we meet again!)