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Living in a foreign country is really a roller coaster ride of emotions. Actually, if we’re going with carnival ride metaphors, this day was like that dragon boat ride at Fantasy Island at the Jersey Shore, where you swing really high on one side, then fall back down, then swing really high on the other side. It’s pretty nauseating.

To start at the beginning (a very good place to start), this morning I was out and about, shopping for a Christmas present, eating pierochkis in Le Marais (from what is now going to be my favorite Yiddish bakery) and one of the most divine chocolate meltaway cookies ever at La Cure Gourmande on Île St. Louis:


I was wearing a dress I love from Zara, and I finally figured out how to tuck my scarf into my coat so I don’t look like a yokel; I felt very chic. It was raining, but it was that kind of romantic Parisian rain that people obsess about.

By 2 PM, I was curled up in a ball under the covers, sniffling. Singing just seemed impossible, I felt exhausted and worn out (épuisée, as the French might put it–that’s the word they use when your cell phone minutes have expired), and all I could do was sleep. And cry. I actually had to get up a few minutes into my pity party and take my mascara off so my pillowcase wouldn’t be utterly defiled. I must have tired myself out, because I took a pretty solid nap. I woke up at 4:15, feeling marginally better, and I had to get ready for my theater class performance; I had to be there at 6 to rehearse something that had been changed at the last minute (for the better, I may add–plus it was my idea, so there!). I was still feeling quite down, so I decided I would have a pastry for dinner…then changed my mind and had a sandwich, which cheered me up. As did this:


No fewer than seven Christmas trees in the tiny plaza across the street from Val-de-Grâce. ‘Tis the season! And then when I walked into the Schola:



I guess I needed a little Christmas cheer to motivate me. I went up to a practice room, vocalized for a few minutes, then sang whatever I felt like. Which was Kurt Weill, mostly–"What Good Would the Moon Be?" and "My Ship" and "The Saga of Jenny," to prepare for my performance of "Pirate Jenny" later that evening.

That two-and-a-half-minute song was what really turned the day around. I spend so much time alone with my voice, practicing, learning music, trying to figure out what I need to be doing and how much and how often to improve, that I forget why I do it.

It’s because being onstage in front of an audience, telling them a story with my voice, is the greatest feeling I know, especially when I really connect with the material. There’s the most amazing rush when you finish a song and you leave the last note lingering in the air for a moment before the audience applauds, and the longer the pause, the greater it feels.

And the best part is going out into the audience after the show and hearing that your voice is “ravissant,” and your director’s wife, who is a composer, coming backstage and demanding, “Où est la chanteuse?” Where is the singer? And knowing that you gave a phenomenal performance of a song you really love (NB: I hate songs about flowers and spring and stuff. Well, okay, I don’t HATE them, and I’m working on a glorious Schubert song about the moon right now. But is there anything harder to relate to than a brook, or a garden, or whatever? Give me pirates any day!) and that the director of your conservatory was in the audience, as well as at least one fairly important orchestral conductor.

So that was today. There’d be days like this, my Mama said.