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  • Writer's pictureAngela Mannino

A Month in the Midwest Can Be the Best

Well, folks, my time in Madison, WI is almost over :-( It's been such an enjoyable experience working with the lovely staff at Madison Opera, spending time with my colleagues in and out of rehearsal and now on the stage, finding my way through the role of Zerlina and spending some much needed (and sometimes, a little lonesome) quiet time on the road. I feel so fortunate to have been given this opportunity to revisit a role I last performed 4 years ago. The saucy peasant, Zerlina, is one of the greatest and most-complicated of the Mozart Soubrettes. There are many challenges: understanding and finding justification to where your character fits into the plot and why; delivering recitative in Italian and making it sound as if you are fluent in the language when you are not; singing Mozart--every singer I know testifies that singing Mozart is some the most challenging of all the operatic repertoire, yet also the most healthy because it requires very good technique and vocal stamina and in the end making it all seem organic. It's not easy to be surprised with what a character says before they say it!

This has also been my first experience with long term hotel living with a limited kitchen. When all is said and done, I will have been here a total of 26 days. That's over 75 meals that needed to be consumed and I came to Madison on a limited financial and caloric budget! I didn't want to spend my entire fee on going out to eat and, let's face it, I came here sheddin' for the weddin'! Don't get me wrong, it's been a blessing working and living right in the heart of downtown where all the great restaurants are. I've managed to eat out only around 10 times (so far, I've got a few days to go!) and have gone to the grocery and eaten the majority of my meals in my hotel room.

How does one do it and not go insane? Some thoughts and tips:

Plan ahead. Know what will be provided in the hotel room and bring stuff from home if you can. If not, you can easily find a bowl and a plate somewhere. Or, you could ask the hotel for one! I brought 2 microwave safe bowls and I've done all my cooking in both of them.

Leftovers are your friend!

A grocery store with lots of prepared foods is a life-saver. I've bought hard boiled eggs, chicken breasts, turkey meatballs, vegetables and cut-up fruit and have built many meals around them.

If you have the luxury of going to a grocery store, take your time and really search for things that can cook well in the microwave, that can live in the refrigerator even if you found it in the frozen section (no freezer in my mini-fridge) and things you can pair with a prepared item or a leftover. For me, I've found frozen brown rice, frozen quinoa, individual frozen veggies and some microwavable pasta.

Keep your eyes open when you are out at coffee shop or roaming around the hotel. Okay, this one is going to make me sound like a kleptomaniac, but I. Don't. Care. I found a salt and pepper shaker on some one's used room service cart that was waiting to be retrieved by the hotel and I took a few extra butters and mustard packs when I went to the coffee shop. You can call me names, but you can't call my food unseasoned.

All the obvious items--cheese, hummus, PB & J, cereal, crackers, tuna packets (no yucky tuna juice and you don't need a can opener!), yogurt and my new friend--a microwaved sweet potato! Where have you been all my life??

Lastly, we're lucky to have good, inexpensive food at the hotel bar and in the restaurant.

Where do I go from here? Until the summer when I'll go down the aisle :-) I'll be a little bit all over the place rekindling with all of my loved ones including Chef Paul, my parents and my beloved pets Colby (dog) and Jack (cat).

I'll be sure to pick up one more block of cheese on my way out of town!

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