Saturday, September 10, 2016

I want to preface this by saying this is NOT a plea for sympathy in the comments (or anywhere). I'm asking for something else entirely.

I'm going to ask a favour. A big one. It's important. And I'll go first. But I totally understand if you don't choose to participate.

Can we talk about depression and suicide without shame?

They are still in many ways part of a silent epidemic. Revealing such things can be terrifying, especially if you work in an industry where image is important - and these days that's just about every field.

Fear of being judged is why so many people do not reach out for help and spiral into a state in which we can consider ending our lives preferable to going on. Some of us feel desperately alone. Some of us know we are loved, we have people around us who would be devastated if we acted on those impulses. But all have one thing in common: we reach a state where the despair feels intolerable and ending our life looks like the only way out.

Were you paying attention to the pronouns? I am one of those people.

I have suffered through periodic bouts of depression, combinations of my own biochemistry and baggage. Sometimes they are triggered by events in my life, some of them seem to come out of nowhere, when things are going very well

There was a time I considered ending my life. Oddly, the time I did have suicidal thoughts was not when I was in the depths of despair, it was at a point when I felt myself on the verge of falling into another episode and I just didn't believe I could go through that again. I did not act on the impulse, but it was powerful. I reached out for help and I got it.

The details are not important right now. Suffice it to say that I've gone through periods when I was one of the walking wounded or struggling to keep my head above water, and periods when I thrived and felt pretty terrific.


Full disclosure: lately, I'm wrestling with a great deal but I am not depressed. I am at times sad or angry and I can't see my way through clearly, but I am not hopeless and I'm NOT suicidal. Really. I promise.


About a dozen years ago, I lost a friend to suicide. He chose to end his life and though I wish with all my heart that he had not, I will not judge him for it. Nobody can know the depths of another person's pain.

I am also privileged to have another friend who very recently reached out to me when he felt that depth of despair and after some struggle I am very glad that he chose life.


So that favour I'm here to ask...? If you are willing to participate, I want your help to end the stigma.

If you have ever been depressed, please speak up. It needn't be a source of shame.

If you have ever felt the urge to end your life, please speak up. It's not a dirty secret.

If you meet/speak with/read about someone who discloses these things, please refrain from judgment. If you meet one of us when we are in the throes of that condition, please let us know we are not alone and help us to get help.

I'm a survivor of depression. I am very lucky and very grateful to be here to say that.

We are not weak. Quite the opposite. We are survivors who contend with an illness that can at times be overwhelming. It is just one part of what makes up our lives. It does not define us.

Let's work together to end the shame by shining a light on the dark places.

If even one life is saved, or if even one person feels just a little less desperate for not having to hide, it's worth it.

Whatever you choose, thank you for reading this.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Performance Biography *


Dynamic and versatile mezzo-soprano Ramona Carmelly has captivated audiences in more than a dozen languages, in concerts and in roles from the sublime to the ridiculous. Equally at home on the opera stage, in music theatre, jazz and cabaret, Ramona was most recently heard as The Angel in the premiere of David Warrack's multi-faith oratorio Abraham and as Amneris in Verdi's Aida with Toronto's Opera by Request. 

Ramona made her Koerner Hall debut as Madame de la Haltière in Massenet's Cendrillon as a guest artist with the Royal Conservatory Opera program. Her previous roles include Fricka (Die Walküre), Waltraute (Götterdämmerung), Marcellina (The Marriage of Figaro), Meg Page and Dame Quickly (Falstaff), Mère Marie de l’incarnation (Dialogues of the  Carmelites), Mrs. Grose (Turn of the Screw), La Ciesca (Gianni Schicchi), Filipievna and Olga (Eugene Onegin), Dido and the Sorceress (Dido and Aeneas), Mother and Witch (Hansel and Gretel), Mercedes (Carmen), Lola (Cavalleria Rusticana), Maddalena (Rigoletto), Antonia's Mother (The Tales of Hoffmann), Ottavia (The Coronation of Poppea), Katisha (The Mikado), Golde (Fiddler on the Roof), and Miss Hannigan (Annie).
She made her TV debut as the oblivious diva amid murder and mayhem in the comedy-mystery series Zoe Busiek: Wildcard.

Trained as an operatic mezzo soprano (then as a lyric soprano, then as a mezzo, then as a dramatic soprano, then as a mezzo..!), Ramona obtained her graduate Artist Diploma in Voice Performance from the Glenn Gould School in 2003. In her final year, she was featured as the Alto soloist in Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with conductor Richard Bradshaw and the Royal Conservatory Orchestra at Toronto Centre for the Arts, was engaged as understudy for Dame Quickly in Falstaff with Des Moines Metro Opera’s prestigious Apprentice Artist program, and won third place in the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards.
Ramona has appeared with choirs and orchestras in the Toronto and Ottawa regions in programs of opera highlights and in oratorio, including the masses of Dvořak, Haydn, and Mozart, Vivaldi's Gloria, and the Fauré and Rutter Requiems. She debuted with Toronto's Opera in Concert in 1999 as Albine in Thais, and returned that season to critic l praise as Mrs. McLean in Susannah. She sang the Foreign Woman in The Consul, Mrs. Nolan in The Medium, Bianca in The Rape of Lucretia with Opera Anonymous, and moonlighted as stage director for their double bill of Susanna's Secret and L'heure Espagnole.


An avid collaborator with contemporary composers, Ramona created the title role in Emily, the Way You Are about artist Emily Carr, as well as Alora in the The Last Wife, and performed the Farmer’s Wife in the 2009 North American premiere of And the Rat Laughed. More recently, Ramona participated in a workshop of Christiaan Venter and Anusree Roy's opera in development, Noor over Afghan, at the Canadian Stage Company's Festival of Ideas and Creation.


Recent seasons have seen eclectic performances. In 2010, Ramona sang Chad Martin’s song cycle i will open petal by petal myself in John Oswald's Intimate Music project at the Canadian Music Centre for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, arias from the operas Cassandra and Mother of Kings by Amphion Opera for the Lyric Canada Conference at Shaw, and Brünnhilde from Wagner's Siegfried in The 50 Minute Ring by Myra Davies and Chris Willes for the Music Gallery’s Xavant Festival. In 2009, she was invited to perform among such luminaries as Susan Hoeppner and Jacques Israelievitch at the Glick Society’s Tribute to Srul Irving Glick. Concerts and recitals have included Wagner’s Wesendonck lieder and Mompou’s Cançons Becquerianas, Ravel’s Scheherazade, Ravel's Chansons madécasses and Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No.5. 


Ramona sang Helen Greenberg's Kaddish in the first concert sponsored by PEN Canada in memory of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl. She regularly lends her talent to a range of social causes, including V-day Toronto, Holocaust Education Week, 160 Girls: The Equality Effect on behalf of legal action for victims of rape and violence in Kenya, Hospice Thornhill, Spring into Action for the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Canadian Athletes Fund's See You in Torino gala in support of participants in the 2006 Olympic Games, and PGI plays the Red Barn, the Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf Tournament for Literacy.

Ramona looks forward to reprising Emily on a Canadian tour of Emily, the Way you Are, as well as a new project in development about "Mama" Cass Elliot, and a CD recording featuring compositions by some of Canada’s finest untapped talent.


“Ramona Carmelly was every inch the diva princess as Amneris, in a thoughtful performance that held nothing back, especially in her big scene in Act IV. This is a voice that could develop in several directions, as she has the top and low notes, and sang a huge role in a bluesy style a few months ago in the premiere of David Warrack’s Abraham.” -- Leslie Barcza, Barczablog
“Ramona Carmelly as the Spoken Voice and the Angel really surprised me. I'm already a fan of her full-throated Wagnerian mezzo, but I got to hear a different kind of singing from her. A more contemporary musical theatre sound with - wait for it - some DAMN FINE BELTING!” -- Gregory Finney, Schmopera
“As Madame de la Haltiere, Ramona Carmelly had the right comic flair and rich tone.” -- Joseph So, La Scena Musicale
“special mention for Ramona Carmelly … Her performance was a lesson in how deft acting can overcome the limitations of opera on the concert stage.” -- Wayne Gooding, Opera Canada
“Ramona Carmelly, with her plush mezzo, was outstanding as the jealously domineering Mrs. McLean” -- David Lasker, The Globe & Mail
“... Alora, played marvelously by Ramona Joy Carmelly” -- Peter Bevan-Baker - The Recorder & Times
“The gifted mezzo soprano … [gave] a soaring, gorgeous interpretation of Jewish-Canadian composer Srul Irving Glick's Time Cycle, a jewel from his much admired Yiddish Suite No. 2” -- Jordana Divon, The Canadian Jewish News
“It is not often a composer finds a performer who will prepare a work with such care and excellent musicianship... a top-notch performance.” -- Mary Gardiner, composer
June 2016

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Find Your Voice with MezzoDiva

As well as continuing a varied and eclectic performing career, a vibrant mix of cabaret, theatre and recording projects, I'm very excited about a new holistic area of my teaching practice for singers and non-singers alike, in a variety of formats from individual private lessons to group master-classes, as well as seminars and workshop retreats in various lengths, from an hour to 3 days.

Whenever I meet people and I'm asked what I do, I tell people I'm a singer. The very next thing I almost always hear them say is something like "Oh, I can't sing." Well, I call B.S! My manifesto is that everyone can sing. Very few people are physiologically impaired in such a way as to interfere with the healthy function of their voice.

There is a very good reason for the metaphor of ‘your true voice in the world.’ The living breath and a commitment to honest open vocalization (the same tools and techniques which allow performers to create compelling, authentic performances) make singing an incredibly powerful medium through which people at all stages of life can open up to their own true voice, and through their voice to their power, their passion, their creativity and their truth.

Singing and speaking your truth, finding your voice is your birthright as a human being. We are all born doing it: slap, breath, wail. That was your very first song, your own intuitive healing voice. And considering how many people in this world have that right stolen, silenced, or suppressed, it seems a great shame to waste yours. Now, stop caring so much what other people might think, and go sing something!

My work is about helping people get out of their own way psychologically and relearning good vocal habits. So if you want to reclaim your true voice in the world, call me. I can help with that.



Find Your Voice with MezzoDiva
Why we sing, how to make your voice your own,
and why it’s more important today than ever before.

Ramona Carmelly - Mezzo Soprano
Performing Artist: Classical, Jazz, Cabaret
Opera/Oratorio/Music Theatre/Television/Concerts/Special Events
 
Also available for Lessons/Master-classes 
Vocal Technique & Repertoire
Musical/Dramatic Interpretation,
Character Study & Stagecraft



Saturday, March 24, 2012

Relocated to Facebook

I am so involved in other activities that the care and feeding of a blog is not possible unless I clone myself, fully-formed and functional.

I've been so busy, I seem to have lost my blogging mojo (if I ever really had it). However, I still have quite a lot to say in person and online and I'd love to share it with you and connect and find out what you are up to.

I might drop in here from time to time, but if you're looking for me, you can find me on Facebook over here: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=796570093. There are all kinds of things up on my page there, including a few good Notes from the past, and several coming up, which really are sort of like Facebook blog-posts.

So if you want more from me, go check it out over there.
See a round the webiverse!

Ciao for now!

MezzoDiva aka Ramona

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It was not just another Tuesday afternoon

As it happens, once the police arrived I learned that they were in fact who they purported to be: plainclothes private security for the local dollar store.  And the terrified man they had chased for several blocks had indeed stolen some items: a few pairs of socks and a couple of cheap brimmed caps.  But had I not followed them all up that side-street to witness their apprehension of the man, would they have stopped at holding him down and yelling?

Had I not called the police, would they have done so only much later?  Rapidly advancing and flashing a laminated card at me for a couple of seconds after I expressed my concern does not prove anything.  And why were they so disturbed by my presence as to warn me off vociferously, and so threatened by the one photo I took with my phone to show the police, that one of them approached again to chest-bump, shove me and threaten me, desisting only when I offered to charge him with assault?

I was not, as they put it, “hindering their apprehension of the thief.”  I was merely acting as a witness, not willing to risk allowing someone who was clearly frightened enough to risk running into traffic to be beaten, or worse, simply because, as many others muttered as I went by enlisting their attention, “it’s none of my business.”

And I am very grateful to several other young men who responded to my requests to stay near when I said that I was not comfortable waiting there alone with the first three for the police to arrive and asked them to stand by calmly without escalating the already volatile and potentially violent situation.

I learned a few things yesterday afternoon on my way to an appointment in one of the less well-appointed neighbourhoods of Toronto.

1.  You cannot run, nor even walk rapidly, in flip flops.

2.  There is more chivalry among the young men of that neighbourhood than we might, from our stereotyped prejudices, assume. In ignoring such assumptions, I found allies who were polite and helpful in a potentially dangerous situation. And by treating them with respect, I earned theirs.

3.  I am in fact my brother’s keeper. We all are. And in these times ,when more than ever we are being made to feel disempowered and separate and fearful, we need to override those impulses and follow our truer instincts. The only way we will make this world the better place we want it to be is through a willingness to act according to our conscience.

I am also pondering one more thing:  what sort of circumstances would make a person risk arrest or worse to steal some socks and hats from a dollar store.  But that’s a question for another time.

"We must become the change we want to see in the world" ~ Mohandas 'Mahatma' Gandhi

Monday, September 13, 2010

FAT is not a four letter word.

FAT is not a four letter word.I applaud anyone's determination to manage their health and well-being, physical and emotional.  However, with everyone from parents to society, and now even schools becoming the fat police, this this makes me see red! Why? Because it does not help. Instead it (paradoxically, counter-productively, ironically, cruelly) creates an environment in which eating disorders and body dysmorphia thrive.

As someone who has spent all of her adult life on the other end of the scale (pardon the pun), I am a prime example of the damaging effects of harping on the fear of fat. When I was 13, I was 5'2 and I weighed 137 lbs. My petite mother panicked and dragged me to the doctor, beginning a life-long cycle of diets and weight gain, strict regimented eating or binging, and continual self-denigration. As a result, I have "yo-yo"ed between sizes 16-24 for my entire adolescent and adult life. It has taken me 32 years from that day to overcome the damage to my spirit and I am just starting to overcome the damage to my body.

We have to combat the zeitgeist of fat phobia - the last widely permissible (even lauded) bigotry. The very word, "fat", has become overloaded with anxiety and negative values. It has taken on hugely disproportional connotations of shame and mortification, and no longer functions as noun or adjective, but rather is used almost as a swear word. With the onslaught of media messages, from reality shows and "helpful" talk shows, the fashion industry to news reports of the latest "studies" on obesity, it is very easy to be caught up in the social frenzy and buy into the myths of fat vilification. Women in particular are bombarded with the message that if we are fat, then we are (or should be) physical, emotional and/or spiritual cripples, and fair game for all sorts of derogatory comments.

Enough!  I refuse to participate in or perpetuate that mythology. We owe it to ourselves and our sisters and daughters, and yes, also our brothers and sons, to combat the tyranny of our fat phobic society and how it targets and denigrates people based on size. You are beautiful at any size.

Let's be clear: We do not have a weight problem. We have a weight. They may have a problem with that. But let's stop letting them dump their problem on us.

As a child, I remember running around and playing with abandon. I took dance classes, and rode my bike, and walked, and ran, and... However, with the onset of tween-dom and adolescence, I succumbed to the pressures of schoolyard politics and lost my love of physical activity. In high school, gym class and school dances were at best boring and at worst humiliating. I became an artistic, nerdy, smart girl-woman who could not conceive of anything like physical "exercise" being fun (I recognize the words, but the sentence as a whole does not make sense).

In adulthood I rediscovered my joy of dancing and movement as well the pure unadulterated elation that comes from celebrating your strength, flexibility and endurance. I've walked 60-kms in two days (raising $13,500 to combat cancer) and had the blisters and lost toe-nails and sunburns and a cold from walking all day in the rain (because while healthy activity supports the immune system, extreme activity has been shown to suppress it) to prove it.  I've biked all around this fantastic hilly city of mine (just take a look at a topographical map of Toronto and you'll see what that entails). I've taken Yoga and Pilates classes, found myself able to contort my body into fantastic shapes and positions, though humorously hindered by bumping up against bits of myself in the process (like the time I had my legs thrown way back behind my head and found myself with a face-full of my own bountiful bosom, unable to breathe). And, after laughing at the strength-training instructor who wanted me to do push ups (Sure, honey. Tell you what. If you can bench press ME, we are on. Otherwise, can I push YOU up?), I discovered that real weight training was a true exercise in both torture and pleasure. Who knew it could be so satisfying to bench-press or leg press or, even, those dreaded PUSH-UPS!

All that physicality finally taught me to love my body as it is. Furthermore, I get hit on regularly these days - often even when I'm out walking with my husband. Real men who are not afraid to appreciate ladies with a little extra meat on our bones are out there and I am living proof that they can tell when we feel confident at whatever size!

Full disclosure: I currently wear about a size 24 (well, the labels say everything from 14-26, but I know my measurements but let's call it 24 if we have to give it  a number). In the last couple of years I've discovered something has shifted in my marriage. My husband, who used to be enthralled by the more usual womanly erogenous zones, is finding my voluptuous belly irresistible! His hands will inevitable stray to and linger on my belly.

This paralleled my own (gradual and hard-won) acceptance of that part of my body. Our unjustly maligned and oft-reviled yet generous and forgiving bellies can be honoured as a source of sensual pleasure, as well as serving so well in all the ways mentioned by Sarah Henderson in her wonderful poem: My Belly.  I just LOVE this. It's posted here: http://www.facebook.com/notes/sarah-ann-henderson/my-belly-a-poem-of-love-and-hope/401604304591

You know, it's a funny thing I realized on the way to size acceptance. No matter what size we are and whether it's our ribs or our rolls that are more evident, even swathed in a burka, our bodies make their unique and wonderful shapes known. It's not like we really can hide the truth of our body, so why not embrace it instead?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The parable of the cracked jar

An Indian legend tells of a man who carried water to his village every day, in two large jars tied to the ends of a wooden pole, which he balanced on his back. One of the jars was older than the other, and had some small cracks; every time the man covered the distance to his house, half of the water was lost.

For two years, the man made the same journey. The younger jar was always very proud of its performance, safe in the knowledge that it was up to the mission it had been made for, while the other jar was mortified with shame at only fulfilling half of its allotted task, even though it knew that those cracks were the result of many years hard work. It was so ashamed that one day, while the man got ready to fetch water from the well, it decided to speak to him:
– I want to apologize, but because of the many years of service, you are only able to deliver half of my load, and quench half of the thirst which awaits you at your home.

The man smiled, and said – When we return, observe carefully the path.

And so it did. And the jar noticed that, on its side, many flowers and plants grew.

– See how nature is more lovely on your side? – commented the man. – I always knew you were cracked, and decided to make use of this fact. I planted flowers and vegetables, and you have always watered them. I have picked many roses to decorate my house with, I have fed my children with lettuce, cabbage and onions. If you were not as you are, how could I have done that?

I met someone recently who offered her shoulder to support me during a moment of fragility. I had a frightening and unforeseeable health scare in the midst of a very intense period in the very last days preparing a performance. One day, just before an orchestral dress rehearsal, I found myself unable to compartmentalize my feelings in order to keep it together so I could function at full steam. And I did something I have not done often. I asked for help. I asked someone to listen so I could articulate my fears in the hope that would make it easier for me to pull myself together.

At a time when she was indescribably busy, juggling the numerous balls that lead up to creating a show in the last days of rehearsal, this person took the time to sit with me and talk. And at one point in that talk, she said something that turned my ideas about my self, my identity, and my life's journey on their head and made me rethink everything I have believed to be true about myself.

As the child of a rage-a-holic, I lived in a bizarre world where I never knew from one day (or moment) to the next when the other shoe would drop. As a result of this upbringing, for most of my life I've always been waiting to flinch. I've functioned like a battle-scarred war veteran. As I learned more about such things and understood my symptoms in the context of post-traumatic stress, I started to define myself as the walking wounded, as someone who was damaged by those experiences in my early life but who seemingly functions at a high level in the world for periods of time, only to withdraw (sometimes secretly, sometimes overtly) into depression, sadness, self-pity, anger, self-judgement, and most of all regret: if only things had been different, I could be different, better, stronger.

On the other hand, I also came to realize that I have depression to thank for much of what I have come to know about myself. Had I not felt so miserable, some days barely to get out of bed, I would not have been inspired to think, to sort things out and seek the help of others to help me make sense of the chaos. But I always wished it had been different. That I had been different, normal - whatever I imagined that to be. And when I would go out into the world, I pretended to others and to myself that I was not me, I was someone else. Even (or especially) when I was not okay, I endeavoured to create the impression that I was fine. This was yet another layer of violence upon my spirit, now self-inflicted.

This colleague and new friend saw right through me. She intuitively recognized the real me as someone who had also experienced a youth where fear and anticipation of the imminent catastrophe was ever-present, and proceeded to point out that I am much stronger than I have been willing to acknowledge, that what I have believed about myself for so long is not necessarily the only true interpretation. Perhaps the real story is not that I am flawed by my wounds and scars, but rather that they are precisely what make me incredibly powerful. They made me a survivor, the hero of my own life. They made me a resilient, compassionate, empathetic, and fiercely committed person. They make me the truly compelling artist, both the creator and the creative vessel that I am.

Karl Ulrich Schnabel said: "An artist experiences emotions that are much more intense than those most people feel. On a daily basis, we handle emotions that are so intense that they would kill most people." There is a danger that we can disown the jar of our own life because we fear or disparage the cracks we bear. We feel that they are too deep, too wide, too broken. The cracked jar in the parable felt sorry for the water bearer because the jar saw its cracks as flaws and thus felt it wasn’t up to doing its job.

If we look at our own jars this way and try to deny them, reject them, put them in the corner to collect dust, pretend we have no cracks, present a normalized façade to the world for fear of having our cracks noticed and judged, we are wasting life’s most precious opportunities.

So, like the jar of the parable, that which was thought to be damaged, wounded, cracked, actually gives life. And through it gardens are watered and beautiful flowers bloom for all to enjoy. Life invites each one of us to use the cracks in our jar to water the gardens of our lives, to create new life and to inspire new growth along our path in this journey.