Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Take a Look Backstage at The Lyric Opera Chicago

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That one time I was a Lyric Opera backstage tour guide... 

The Lyric's Guild Board hosts backstage tours a couple times a year, I volunteered as a guide recently. Have a look behind the scenes. 

Leyla Chicago

Before I go on, let me give you information for upcoming Lyric Opera backstage tours: 

On with the tour! 
How did I end up giving backstage tours, you ask? Simple. I'm a member of the Lyric Young Professionals and I was given the opportunity to lead a tour - naturally I jumped at the chance! Being a part of other people's opera discovery is quite enjoyable to me.  

To learn more about the LYP, visit the link here or their Facebook Page 

Video captured (quickly) using my #EZVIZ camera

We started in the main lobby, I met my group and started on our merry way. Headed to the box seats on level 2 and met our first lecturer. We learned about the history of the building and the legacy of the Lyric Opera.

Lyric Opera Box Seats

Headed down to the orchestra pit next, my favorite part. To sit down in the pit, to look up and see the whole interior of the building from beneath the stage felt like a dream. We had the pleasure of hearing two very different stories from the Lyric's orchestra members. The first was a trumpet player, and a 30-year veteran, the other played the double string bass and a rookie.

The group asked a question, "What's the difference between playing in a symphony vs. an opera?" I thought it was a great question and the veteran answered it perfectly. His answer was, "In the opera, there is a positive transfer of energy..." between the musicians and the performers. And although I can't feel it the way they do, I absolutely feel it when I'm listening from my seats. I might not be able to see them all the time, I certainly feel them EVERY time.

If you'd like to learn more about the Lyric Opera Orchestra, you can visit the Lyric Opera Orchestra Members Facebook Page or their Instagram account @chicago_lyric_opera_orchestra

Lyric Opera Orchestra Pit
Lyric Opera Orchestra

The best part of the tour is crossing the catwalk on the sixth floor and heading to the props rooms. There really isn't a good way to take a photo, and you're supposed to keep your phones in your pockets but mine has a handle - it was firmly affixed to my wrist.

Cat Walk Backstage 6 stories up
Catwalk 6 Stories Backstage

Opera Props Room
Prop Rooms at the Lyric Opera 

Props at the Lyric Opera

After the prop room, we headed to the wig room, make up and the sewing room. The wig room was fascinating. The wig making process is insane in the membrane, insane in the brain. Each wig is made of human hair and there are 1000s of hairs in each one. The wigs are traced to the actor's head, a mold of their head is made, etc. etc. The whole process is so detailed trying to describe it here is an injustice. It's truly fascinating.

Lyric Opera Chicago Wig room

Opera Costumes and Sewing Room
Sewing Room at Lyric Opera Chicago

Props demonstration fake blood @ Lyric Opera Backstage Tours 

Next we head to back down to the main floor of the stage and chat with the tech lighting guys. Next we enter the stage (see first pic up top).

Lyric Opera Chicago Backstage Tour
This is my favorite photo from my backstage tour 

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Year In Review by Leyla

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I had a really great 2016! In fact, it might be the best year I've had in a decade. Maybe my best year ever!?!

I'm not saying everything was perfect but 2016 was a great year for me. Top highlights from 2016 are recapped below, read on or watch the video, and see for yourself. 

Leyla Ruins Everything
Leyla at Ravina - Duran Duran 

I'm not saying it to be a contrarian, and I've certainly had my share of troubles, but 2016 was mostly awesome. Maybe it's because the previous years sucked, hard. Or maybe it's because I have different perspective. I try to approach each day with some sort of appreciation. I look to the good and don't harp on the bad. I'm happier, in a better place, so perhaps it's a law of attraction thing. Who knows?! 

We are all still here.
My family and loved ones made it through 2016 - and that's all that matters to me. I'm sad for the families of others who are no longer with us, but I'm glad we made it. 

Arsan Family Thanksgiving 1992
Family photo hanging in my aunt's house 

My aunt was in the hospital in 2015 and I spent a few weeks in early 2016 helping her recover. When she first came home from the hospital last January, I didn't know if she was going to make it and I certainly didn't think she'd lead a normal life ever again.

I spoke to my aunt on New Year's Eve and we discussed how incredibly far she'd come in her recovery. She told me that on NYE 2015 she asked the nurses to wake her at midnight because she wanted to say "Happy New Year". And they did. She went on to say that she cheered by wiggling her toe -- because it was the only thing she could move on her body. Since that time, she's had multiple back surgeries and has gone through extensive therapy. Today she's walking and in great spirits.

Work was awesome. 
I don't talk about it much but I left my former company at the end of 2015. I wasn't sad, scared or angry about it but I needed a break. I took it easy for a few months off and slowly started to work for myself again.

Kia Auto Show - Leyla Arsan
Kia Motors at Chicago Auto Show

In February of 2016, things started to pick up and that momentum continued month after month. I've been SUPER lucky -- if you want to call it that -- my friends and former colleagues were all so good to me. I didn't have to look for clients, they came to me through referrals. I got to work with people I really like, friends / professionals I respect, and I was a part of the entrepreneurial community again. The work was good too, I mean it was really good -- fun, solid work that I truly enjoyed.

Here's some news additional news that I haven't really said anything about... I accepted a full-time job last month. I start with a new company next week and I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be great.

I met someone I really like (part 1). 
This is a fun story... get ready! In January, I met "The Hand" aka "Handsy" (that's a nickname). He was funny, smart and handsome.

The Hand Loves PBR
"Handsy" loves PBR

I thought we clicked somewhat quickly, we had mutual friends (also an odd story but I don't want to get into it here), and we had things in common. He secured a second date at the end of the first, the second date quickly turned into many more dates - things were going great! However, he made it very clear that he did NOT want to be in a serious relationship, which was OK by me. Six months into our relationship, he abruptly broke up with me. Jerk.

Artun Travel turned 25.
My family's travel business turned 25. It was great, I'm so proud of him. We celebrated our customers by giving away $2,500 in travel vouchers.

Artun Travel turns 25! 

I had my golden birthday. 
I turned 44 on 4/4 and I did 4 shots at 4:44. I snapchatted the experience and others joined in. My birthday was a good one, they're all good ones. I am grateful every single day for my health, happiness and my good genes. Thank you Allah, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and whoever else may or may not be responsible for my youthful appearance.

My birthday cake this year

Me... taken around my birthday

My eternal summer of dreams.
I had the best summer of my life. I remember saying, "This summer feels like I'm a kid again" - back when summers were dreamy. We had AMAZING WEATHER and I took advantage of it daily! I was outside all the time, I would've slept outside if I could've. By August, I was clocking about 10 miles / 18-20K steps a day on my health tracker. I also went paddleboarding about 1-2 times / week and started to meditate. Oh, and I lost 15 lbs.

Jane's Addiction at Lollapalooza - Thank you, boys!

It was also the summer of concerts -- Lollapalooza (4 days), Duran Duran at Ravinia, Riot Fest (where I finally met @Brilldisruptive), Guns N Roses (I went both nights), just to name a few. There's more to the summer but these points have their own categories. 

I met someone I really like (part 2).
Handsy broke up with me for reasons that I understood, I thought he was stupid, but due to his circumstances, I understood. We talked about remaining friends, I wasn't really interested in that, but we still would see each other from time to time.

Chicago skyline
I spend a lot of time here in the summer

In July, I started to grow tired of Handsy's bullshit and began to erect the "Wall of Hate". I decided to end it and focus on meeting someone else. That's where part 2 comes into play! There was another guy, let's call him Bob.

I met Bob about two years earlier, he lived in the neighborhood but I hadn't seen him in a long time. Until this past summer on my morning walks. I would see Bob riding his bike on the lakefront path as I was coming back from my walk (he starts his day after I start mine). And I would see Bob paddleboarding, he would be going out as I was coming back in. I just couldn't ever bring myself to talk to Bob.

Then there was Bumble. One day in the late summer, I was man shopping on Bumble and boom! It was Bob. I swiped, he swiped and we went out. Things were good, a little awkward at first, but eventually got better. I think the turning point was when we spent three days at Riot Fest together - separately but together.

Here's where things get weird. Handsy re-enters the picture and I'm in a conundrum. I was mad to be in this situation -- but then I was grateful. Here's what I mean, and this is why I'm even telling this story. My whole life people (family & friends) tried to convince me that I'd be disappointed if I didn't settle down and get married. People would tell me to "just pick someone and get married." Insanity.

I met two wonderful men who were both nice, successful, smart, we liked the same kind of music, had the same sense of humor and good chemistry. Probably the two most "viable candidates" for life partners I've ever encountered and I'm 44. I'm neither as youthful, nor as attractive as I was 10 or 20 years ago, yet somehow this happened. My point is this... It can happen to anyone at any time and never let anybody tell you otherwise! 

My dad turned 80. 
This was a great, great day. We planned a surprise party for my dad and I've never seen the man as happy as he was that night. Seeing him that happy had me I fighting back tears all night long. His two best friends passed away in the recent past, but their wives and daughters were there, I was happy they were able to share my dad's special day.

My dad's 80th birthday

So many other great things happened! 

  • The Cubs won the World Series
  • My youngest brother turned 40 
  • Tony Ham came for a visit 
  • My friend Sheila got married 
  • I joined the Lyric Opera Young Professionals 
  • I got back together with Dave (Handsy)

Too many wonderful things to list, so I made a recap video too. My 2016 year-end video is below. It's a little long, so below the main video, I also included a shortened version in fast-motion for your viewing pleasure as well. 

Enjoy my 2016 year-end video

And here is the short version of my video

Find all my highlight photos from 2016 here
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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Farewell and Thank You

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Farewell and thank you, George Michael... delivered from Chicago to London.

My good-bye note to a pop star who was a big part of life growing up in the 80s. Along with somethings you may not know (but you should know) about George Michael. 

George Michael's Home
George Michael's home in Goring, where he passed away

I have a friend who lives somewhere in or around London, and much like other friends who live in foreign lands, we keep in touch on Twitter. It was this friend who first informed me George Michael’s passing. In fact, I am fairly sure it was he who informed me of David Bowie’s passing too… maybe my friend needs a new hobby? 

When we chatted on Twitter, he shared some neighborhood gossip about the deceased pop-star, including speculations that may have contributed to his passing. And then he told me that he lived in close proximity to George Michael’s home. 

Letters outside George Micahel's home
Letters from fans outside George Michael's London home

The following day, my friend said that he planned to ride his bike past George Michael’s house - as he often did. He does this for exercise, not because he has a weird obsession with George Michael. I asked if he would take flowers for me and he said, “No, I am not carrying flowers on a bike…” (which made sense). Instead he offered to deliver a note. I was satisfied with this offer and I accepted. 

I spent the remainder of the day thinking about this note to George Michael. What message did I really have to convey? Like many other women my age, I was a fan (of sorts) but I had much greater idols of that era. He hadn’t really made that much of an impression on me. Or had he? 

80s pop-star posters
Photos from my childhood bedroom between 1985 and 1990 (what a slob!)
Top right there is ONE poster of Wham!

As the day went on I could only think about George Michael's reputation - how he had a hard time accepting his fame (forced to act as a straight man couldn't have been easy), how he was vilified by the media and how poorly the general public treated him later in his career. What really stuck with me was when George Michael was busted with his partner committing a lewd act - or whatever he was arrested for in L.A. I don't know because other people's private lives don't concern me. AND then there was the legal battle with Sony Music over his contract. 

If you want to stop reading now, I won't be offended. This is a long post, but you should scroll down and read about Panayiotou vs. Sony Music. 

I came to the realization that everyone sucked. This action negated everything else George Michael had done in the world. They destroyed him, and for what? Soon after his death, the news of George Michael's Quiet Generosity surfaced. We're talking numerous charitable contributions in the 10s of MILLIONS that he kept private - after all true charity is anonymous. All of this made my farewell note easier to write. It suddenly became very simple. 

 My note to George Michael, hand delivered to his home - my friend sent me photos

When I saw the picture my letter amongst all the other letters, it all became very real and very sad. I posted the photos on Facebook and they were shared more than anything else I've ever posted. However, there is even more to the George Michael story -- and I'm not sure why it is not being talked about now, so I'll share it with you.

George Michael's "Professional Slavery" legal battle with Sony Music

Part of the reason he quietly disappeared from the spotlight was due to a legal battle he lost in 1994. He wanted to be freed from his multi-record deal. Had he won, it could've changed the way the music industry operates by dismantling multi-record contracts for artists. 

In 1988, George Michael signed an eight album OR 15 year contract (whichever came first) with Sony Music. This contract gave him no control or rights over how his music was marketed. There is a backstory behind the 1988 contract, it was an old contract bought, sold and renegotiated. You can find more details on the contract HERE and the full case can be found here.

At the height of his career, George Michael decided he no longer wanted to be portrayed as a sex symbol. And who can blame him for wanting to change his image? No one wants to be paraded around like a show monkey. George Michael's camp claimed that Sony Music didn't like the the direction of his new image and tried to punish him (or force him submit to their demands) by not promoting his albums. 

The proof was in sales. Faith, released in 1988, sold 14 million copies. His next record, Listen Without Prejudice Volume I, only sold only 5 million copies (at the time). Even the title of that album is revealing. Having owned both albums, I think Listen Without Prejudice is a much better record. 

Considering how things are in 2016, it might be hard to imagine that Sony Music would care at all about George Michael changing his image. Unless of course that image was of a gay man because they had already invested so much money in selling an image to straight women.

He lost the lawsuit but stood his ground. He decided to NOT write or release any more music for Sony Music. That's why he did not release another record until 1996. Virgin bought George Michael's contract from Sony and he released Older. But too much time had passed, it was too late for "Yog". Older sold fewer than 900K records.  

George Michael stood for what he believed in, not only his rights as an artist but possibly for his rights as a gay man. Ultimately it was that bad deal that destroyed the career of this kind and gentle man. At least in my opinion.

If you think George Michael is the only pop-star who has been involved with such altercations with their record company, you're wrong. Prince changed his name to a symbol after arguments with Warner Bros. (Rolling Stone), Madonna and Maverick vs. Warner Bros. (CBS News) and so many more. 

Mariah Carey might have said it best... ''It goes like this,'' she said. ''Something like, 'Industry Rule No. 480: Record company people are shady.'" (NY Times)

My letter to George can be seen in this photo - it's on the lower left

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