To go ahead and clear the air–yes, I do sleep with a giant catfish. His name is Calvin, and he’s five feet long. He’s also a pillow (a comfortable one at that). This is just what happens when you live on your own. The nights are too quiet, the cushions on the couch aren’t supporting your back enough to watch TV, so you head to your neighborhood Bass Pro Shop and invest in a giant fish.

Week III of Salzburg was only a half-week, really, as then we had our travel weekend Friday through Sunday. The plague had hit hard and fast, and so numbers were thinning for master class and for opera scenes. I ended up subbing last minute in master class by whipping out Bach BWV 51 and singing through “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen” for the first time since senior recital–and you know it could have been worse. It’s funny how when we break from something for awhile and then come back with fresh eyes, it doesn’t seem as menacing as it once did. That’s actually a frequent occurrence with music. The other frequent occurrence is when you go look back at an old piece, start singing it, and discover all the terrible bad habits you originally learned with the song still in tact–and then you have the joy of breaking the whole song down and putting it back together.

The Geistbergers were on their family holiday in Italy, so Anna and I held down the fort–sort of. We first managed to break a cabinet door, a glass, and spend close to an hour trying all three TV remotes before figuring out how to turn on the damn thing. Men of the house to not change across cultures. Here is all this high tech stuff, and a man insists, “oh it’s so easy to use, really, you can’t mess it up, you just have to press z then y then x and then only touch z for this blah blah blah blah.” Not to plead woman, but sorry. That is not straightforward. There are universal remotes for a reason–as Anna and I eventually discovered, one of the remotes was indeed universal. Oops…

And for the record, it should be known that yes, one can make American chocolate pie in Oetsereich. Whouldathunk, I know, but I made it work. And it was quite tasty! I was so thrilled people ate it. Heck, one accompanist was practically licking the casserole dish I served it in. The pan problem is that normally the only circular pans the Austrians have are spring form pans–not needed for making pie. So I ended up going with a casserole dish that had the perfect depth for pie. With luck, I’ll be baking it again as it was such a hit. Anna also made apfulstruedel a couple days later which was heavenly. That is a smell in the kitchen I am going to miss a lot.

But apart from these slight setbacks, we had a blast. On Tuesday we went to the circus. Neither of us had been since we were small children, and we were hesitant that what we once thought was funny wouldn’t be any more. This was not the case, however. Circus Roncalli was much more like a traditional circus that one might read about in Water For Elephants except fewer animals. In fact, there were only horses–beautifully kept and beautifully trained horses, actually. Four stunning black Friesians and four shimmering white Arabians The horseman even rode one of the Freisans in a dressage saddle and schooled some nice piaffe/passage work and well as tempis. The clowns were hysterical, and the acrobatic acts made our jaws drop. Comedy never ceases to amaze me. Laughter breaks so many boundaries, be they cultural or linguistic. Even though Anna’s and my conversations were a German/English hybrid, both of us still could laugh and relate to the same comic acts we saw before us. I think for me, though, the really wonderful part of the evening was hearing the live musicians as they filled in the background music so seamlessly. Amusingly, albeit not too surprisingly, a lot of the music they covered originally came from Opera. One of the clowns even broke out into some Figaro for an act. It was a great evening for laughs and ice cream.

Ice creamwas also a popular theme for Week III in Salzburg. For those who haven’t been to Europe and eaten ice cream, truly the plane ticket is worth the ice cream. It is rich, creamy, natural, and explodes with flavor in one’s mouth as good ice cream should. Our German teacher, Lisa (she’s the same age as I am. Funny, no?), took our German class on a walking day and made a special stop for ice cream. Here’s a small sampling of some of the flavors readily available at a good European ice cream stand: hazelnut, chocolate, vanilla, yogurt, yogurt with berries, chocolate with chilli, nutella, cookie dough, mango, orange citrus, pistachio, banana, dolce du leche, strawberry, raspberry, and poppyseed. I ended up getting yogurt, chocolate with chilli, and berry. mmmm lecker!

We had our German midterm, which could have been worse. However, I truly managed to put myself at a disadvantage by studying French the night before instead of German. Now, I know that you, dear reader, are going, “Liz. Really? Really Liz?” And to that I say, “Next time you have to sing a nine minute French piece and are trying to learn everything in a crunch so as not to disappoint your French major partner or your French coach since you seem to be the only one qui ne parler ou chanter pas a francais (oh mon dieu), try it out and let me know what happens.” Anywho, I got what I’ve always gotten on German exams–mid 80, go figure. But, more importantly, my French diction improved lightyears over night and is now deemed passable.

Continuing with the French theme, I had a fantastic one-on-one coaching with Francois this week. He is definitely my new-found favorite person, apart from Prof. Wise and a certain German teacher. Not only is he a remarkable pianist and accompanist, but he’s very clever with his insight–not to mention, he’s incredibly patient with my silliness. The latter, of course, goes a long way with me and typically results in pie. All the aforementioned things considered, I am now seriously looking at Crane at Potsdam SUNY. If the caliber of teachers and coaches is even a fraction as brilliant as Francois, I would be so fortunate to study there. IU and Prof. Wise are still on my radar as well, though, as they have been for awhile.

For those who weren’t dying of the plague on Wednesday, our tall, dark, and handsome German teacher served as (a remarkably, unbelievably patient) fearless leader and somehow managed to herd thirty or so voice majors to and from Hellbrunn–a medal worthy feat, let me tell you. Hellbrunn is quite a nifty little palace. The actual palace is quite small, but the gardens are incredibly beautiful. Just check out the view. Additionally, it is known for its “water games,” which are, more precisely, jokes around the schloss that involve water. All the water around Hellbrunn has natural pressure; therefore, the emperor used it to create little amusements like the trick table which soaks everyone’s pants when they sit down. Or even more impressively, how about power an organ?

This was a long walking day, and once again, we had people not wear the appropriate shoes. Heels and mountains: folks, just don’t do it. For those of us who did have reasonable footwear, though, we climbed further up one of the hills/low mountains and snapped some breathtaking shots. We also got to see the first opera stage which was exceptionally cool. We (the singers) even took a whack at singing on it! Check out my pictures to get a glimpse.

To finish off the week before Vienna, we had our midterm concert where everyone had to sing one German Lied. Francois accompanied me beautifully on Schubert’s “Suleika I.” Take a listen for yourself.

Suleika I by F. Schubert

It’s been wonderful to hear and see the growth in other singers here, as well as hear my own. It’s the small victories in lessons or the five minutes of stage time that keep singers going and going and going. I’m slowly finding a few new friends to stay in touch with after Salzburg (I don’t even want to think about “after Salzburg”) and even chatting more with the teachers (who are ganz cool, wirklich). Shame it’s all going so quickly. But these are the lessons being abroad and travel teaches. The rug is constantly being pulled from under our feet; new people and scenes flicker in and out of our lives. A sagacious coach said to me that there’s a saying auf Deutsch that we will always meet one person at least twice in our lives. After that, fate leaves it to us to make it more than that.