Monday, September 6, 2010

"Gloomy Sunday" Revisited

One thing I have really been meaning to do for a long time is visit the little dive bar where the composer of the famous song Gloomy Sunday (Szomorú vasárnap) used to pound out tunes to pay the rent.  (I wrote a bit about this piece of music and its connection to Hungary in my post "Ray Charles, A Vietnamese Girl, and a Hungarian Jew walk into a bar")  I finally made it there last Sunday (of course I had to go on a Sunday) and while it wasn't completely gloomy, it was at least a little overcast.

Being there, I really felt like I was experiencing a piece of the past...I was the only person in the place and along with my latte I drank in the somber and antiquated atmosphere.  The bar is called Kispipa (Little Pipe) and being there reminded me of the power of music in a rather strange way.  As you can read in my previous post about this, the song Gloomy Sunday (known as the "Hungarian Suicide Song") is absolutely infamous for the mysterious power it is believed to wield over its listeners.  This was the most famous song by its composer and it encapsulates the hopeless and dark feeling of the entire era.
And so it continues today... the strangely enticing power of this song has an energy that continues to provide a livelihood for a small group of waiters and kitchen staff who work at Kispipa, where it seems the only draw is the legacy of Gloomy Sunday.  A painting of the song's composer is the most prominent thing in the place and it reminded me that a simple and honest sentiment, in whatever form, has a power and energy that can continue on for years, decades, and in rare cases, millenia.  So, it was a strangely inspiring and unusual visit indeed.  I recommend a quick listen to this piece of Hungarian history and a trip to this timeless place the next time you are in Budapest.    

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Around Town: Budapest II

I spent the afternoon yesterday on "Castle Hill" in Buda where I, rather shamefully, haven't been in about a year.  There is some amazing history up there: a plaque of Beethoven memorializing a concert he gave here in the year 1800, the castle that once housed the monarchs of Hungary (and still has the office of the President), the National Library (one of my stops), the National Art Gallery, and so much more... 

Here is a sampling of the 200 or so pictures I took of what I found there:

the gate leading into the castle
a lion watching guard at the entrance of the Chain Bridge
a Hungarian soldier
this statue is can't see it, but the testicles of the horse this guy is riding are a good luck charm for the local university students who go there and rub them before their final exams.   They are polished to a bright sheen!
a snack I had at "Russzwurm," a confection shop that has been in Buda since 1827 and was a favorite of Empress CiCi
another Hungarian soldier
Saint Steven (Szent Istvan)who is credited with converting the people of the Carpathian basin to Christianity and unifying them as a single group of people creating modern Hungary.
Looking across the Danube on the Chain Bridge (Lanchid) towards the Four Seasons Gresham Palace.  This was the first bridge to unite Buda and Pest which are on opposite sides of the river.
Really an inspiring place spend an afternoon.

Here are some related posts about sight-seeing in Budapest:
24 Hours I: The Thermals
24 Hours II: Grand Opera
24 Hours III: Sausage and Hard Alcohol
Keeping up with the Eszterhazys

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Around Town: Budapest

I took a walk last night and this is what I discovered here in beautiful Budapest:

Saint Stephen's Cathedral in Downtown Budapest
a sculpture on the side of a post office
statue of a hero from Budapest's Heroes' Square

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Beginnings.... sort of...

I am going to do something a little different with this blog, I thought it could be interesting to give you more of an insight into the total process of preparing, as well as performing the music I get to sing.  I will continue to write about other things too, like travel and what it is like living my life as an opera singer, but my plan is to have a series of posts for each project that will show you some of the nuts and bolts, the inner-workings, as I prepare for several performances this season.  I will try to include some video content and pictures, and while I wouldn't call myself a writer, I will do my best to keep it peppy and interesting.  Oh, and please feel free to let me know what you think by leaving a comment here...more of something, less of something... I would love to hear from you!

What's coming up:

I am preparing a recital for a New York performance and competition in October, so I want to talk about how I am choosing repertoire as well as what goes into competing as a classical singer.

I will sing Handel's Orlando in Sacramento in November so I will talk about the role both vocally and psychologically and also traveling and the challenges of being your best when you are on the road.

Then I am headed to Budapest to make a recording of an oratorio by Caldara.  I am very excited about this one, as I am sure you will see, and I thought I would talk about singing and recording a piece that hasn't been heard in over 200 years.

Then I am back in New York for Cavalli's Eliogabalo, a first for me with this composer so I am sure there will be lots of sparks flying across my synapses and plenty to write about when this project rolls around.

And I know I will indulge in some Texas style BBQ when I get to Fort Worth for Handel's Giulio Cesare in June of 2011.  This is a big debut for me and I am excited to show you some of what I am doing to get ready, including some perhaps surprising things like working with a trainer to acquire a "Caesar Physique"!

And I will write about whatever else comes up that seems worth mentioning as life hits me.. so come along!

P.S.  I have finally come around to joining the rest of the technological world and if you "tweet" you can find me on twitter at: rscotting

Friday, August 6, 2010

a vision in polka dots

This interesting couple was staring down at me while I enjoyed a latte at one of my favorite coffee houses in Budapest, the Auguszt Cukraszda...I love the polka dots!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Book. Cover. That whole thing.

Tonight I went to my gym at a very late hour. There is a large and very muscular guy who works at the counter from time to time and as we walked in he was playing loud adrenaline filled heavy metal music which he had cranked to an insane volume...the kind of thing you would expect at a gym filled with body-builder types, and he said, "just let me know if the music is too loud" as he bobbed his head to the beat. Of course we didn't say anything.

Later in the evening, at the end of the work-out and when he thought there was no one else around, at the same volume as before, he cranked impassioned classical music that he had deliberately chosen and he just sat still, in the dark, quietly listening to song after song...

It was, for me, a simple wake up call and a gentle reminder about assuming.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


It is easy to over look what is here and now. I find that as an artist who makes a living as a "freelancer," there is a constant need to think about what is coming up, making sure you have work for the future and that you are moving forward. As a result, it is so easy to live there, in the future, and lose sight of the present. It makes me feel detached and antsy so I decided I needed a way to pull myself back into the present moment and what I found is... gratitude. I take a moment each day to think of 13 unique things I am thankful for in that moment and it helps to re-frame my perspective and but me back into my life, as it is now, and aware of all the wonderful things that are making it rich and full. It helps me embrace what is and think less about what "should be," which is always dangerous. It's a simple idea that has made a huge difference in my perspective.