Viswa Subbaraman

Opera and Orchestra Conductor

Filtering by Tag: Indiaspora


It has been an interesting few weeks. I'm writing this while in Rennes, but I'll devote more time in future blogs to my week conducting in France. I the past few weeks, I closed up my time in Houston, packed up the apartment, and drove the cats to Milwaukee. The move was a completely nightmare (especially if you were to ask Milton Cat). I wanted to write a blog about my time in Houston, but I think it took a few weeks away to be able to sit down and think about it clearly. In many ways, I've called those seven years my crucible. I think that's a fair assessment, but it was also an amazing time. While in Houston I made some amazing friends. There are so many to name. I'm not sure that without Rene Salazar, Joe Carl White, Anne White, Jerome Istin, Scott Sullivan, Natalie Istin, Rick Pal, Tanya Pal, Jeanne Morrissette... Ok.. you get my point. My life would not have been as vibrant without them. (I'm sure there are many people such as Vernon McDonald, Alex Lawler, and oh so many others who are wondering why I didn't name them, but I think I could fill a number of blogs with names of people who were instrumental in my life in Houston). I don't know what the future holds and how often I'll get to see them, but without the people who were in and out of my life during the past few years, I would not be the person I am now.

I got to Houston and stayed because I started an opera company, and I met someone. By the end of my time there, I had lost both, but I had gained so much in return. Opera Vista did 7 world premieres in the time we ran the company. We performed Powder Her Face and received a review in Opera Magazine that I swear I didn't write myself, but it sure seemed that way. I served on steering committees for Houston Young Professionals for the Arts and Asia Society's Young Professionals. I was invited to be a young leader at the Asia Society summit in Jakarta. I spoke at Indiaspora, which in turn lead to an invite to the White House!

In the end, I cried as we pulled out of Houston with 2 cats in carriers and the MINI Cooper filled to the roof with stuff - not because of the crucible it had been but because of the amazing regeneration of the past few years. As we were leaving, I glanced at my Facebook and message after message from friends talking about how sad they were I was leaving popped up, and as my dad said once, "the way I always knew you were an ok person was that you have incredibly high quality friends." He's 100% right, and so many of them are in Houston. I can't thank you all enough for supporting me and supporting Opera Vista. It was an amazing 7 years of my life, and I'm excited about the new adventures we'll have at the Skylight and in Milwaukee, but Houston is always going to have a soft spot in my heart.

I am a lucky guy - in the past month, I'll have been in 3 of my favorite places in the world: Houston, Milwaukee, and Paris. Who could ask for anything more? (Waiting to see who the first person is who comments with "Toyota.")

Inauguration Weekend (Part 2)

Wow. What a day! Yesterday was the Indiaspora Inaugural Ball. I met my friend Bill Morris in the afternoon for lunch. I hadn't seen him in years. It was nice catching up with a wonderful musician. I headed back to Mike Votta's with the distinct goal of taking a nap. It didn't happen, so I threw my tux on. (And successfully tied my white bow tie all on my own. I haven't been wearing bow ties much. Even when I conduct I tend to wear a longer tie.) I then walked to the metro in my tux. (My skinny tux!) I can't quite explain how many weird looks I got from people because I was wearing a tux on the metro. DC doesn't seem to have the same tolerance for the bizarre as NYC.

As I got off the metro at L'Enfant Plaza, I realized I was turned around and had no clue exactly which direction I was aimed. Who knew the compass and map app in combo would be so useful? I walked over to the Mandarin Oriental where I was going to meet Peggy DeAnda for a drink before the Ball. It's not often one gets to meet friends from Big Spring in DC. I then took my ticket and walked in.

Little did I know what to expect! It was amazing! They had a red carpet with an Indiaspora background. There were photographers and reporters. I was behind Congressman Ami Bera. I think there was a bit of a let down as I walked down the red carpet. The reporters weren't sure who I was. I'm a bit curious what the photo of me on the red carpet looks like. (Especially since I could take up the whole frame since I wasn't sharing my moment in the limelight with a date or anything - perhaps something to work on in the future?)

As I walked in, I spotted MR Rangaswami and went up to say hello. He introduced me to a few people as an opera conductor, which usually sparks some need for explanation as to how an Indian kid ended up in orchestra and opera. After feeling like I was talking about myself too much, I asked the gentleman what he did. He replied, "I'm actually a congressman." (My inner monologue at that moment was "D'oh!"). So I had a nice conversation with Congressman Honda from Silicon Valley. I then turned around and was introduced to Dr. Ami Bera. Congressman Bera! That was pretty neat. He has a great sense of humor.

The night seemed to be one amazing person after the next. Many great Indiaspora friends. I could spend the next 2 pages naming them all, but I have come to really treasure the opportunity to spend time with them and hear their amazing stories. There are so many people doing some great work.

I then turned around and was introduced to Ambassador Nirupama Rao, the ambassador from India! When she heard I was an opera conductor she said, "my favorite opera is *****." My jaw dropped! What were the odds that ***** was the very opera we were contemplating opening the Skylight season with? (I'm forced to edit because the season hasn't been announced, and we really like suspense. We do create drama after all). So then I told her who we had directing, and she said, "***** is such an interesting choice! It sounds like I should come see this production." Here is hoping Milwaukee hosts the Ambassador from India on September 20th. Madame Ambassador, you have an open invitation. (As an aside, it was very cool that she retweeted the picture of us from the ball! Then I saw on her twitter feeds that she had a picture with Zubin Mehta and a picture with me!!! Talk about feeling very cool for 30 seconds…. Now if only I was invited to conduct in Berlin and Vienna. Hint hint).

Later that night I ran into Maneet Chauhan from the Chopped series on the Food network. She asked me how the food was and I realized I hadn't had time to eat. She smiled and walked me back to the kitchen, and we talked for about 30 minutes over some amazing Indian food. A quick plug - Maneet has a new cookbook coming out! you should all look forward to buying it! I asked her about Red Rooster in NYC. (Marcus Samuelsson's restaurant). It looks like I might be going there with Maneet sometime this week. Talk about ridiculous! Going to an amazing chef's restaurant with another amazing chef!

I honestly can't say what the night was like. I was blown away by meeting so many incredible people. The credit has to go to MR Rangaswami. The work he put in to create an event like this is truly monumental. I think Indiaspora is going to blossom into an important place for the exchange of great ideas. I feel honored and humbled to be part of the family!

Inauguration Weekend (Part 1)

So an interesting trip is beginning. (I know it seems as though I just got home from one). I'm in DC now, and I'll be in NYC for a week starting on Sunday. I was invited to Indiaspora's Inaugural Ball. As I've talked about in the past, Indiaspora is an organization that I think is becoming extremely interesting. When I attended the summit, I honestly did not think it would blossom like this. Partly because a good number of us from Indiaspora are keeping in touch, and the founder, MR Rangaswami, has done a lot to keep everyone involved. The inaugural ball is tonight, and I'm excited I fit in my skinny tux for it. Thank you Crossfit. I arrived on Thursday, however, and have spent the past two days with my very first conducting teacher Mike Votta. When I was at Duke, I was premed like all good Indian kids, but I kept realizing that the place I was happiest was in the music building. It was during the Wind Symphony's residence in Vienna when I decided (over mediocre Mexican food) while talking to Mike that maybe I should jump in the music (conducting) pool.

I don't think he quite knew what he was getting into. It was during that trip that I saw my first professional orchestra concert - the Vienna Philharmonic - in the Musikverein. Claudio Abbado conducted. It's been downhill ever since. I really knew very little about music. (Mike has many an embarrassing story about that, and I'm praying he keeps them quiet. Though the number of people he's already told…)

It has been good catching up. I'm so happy that he's at a program where he really enjoys his life. It's also interesting to be able to talk about music and conducting on a different plane. No matter how old I get, I always learn when I talk to Mike. Tonight is the inaugural ball. Next week I get to see Maestro Masur after a number of years. Reunions abound.

Mr. Subbaraman Goes to Washington (Part 1)

I kept thinking that my father had landed in the US in the early 1970s with $7 in his pocket, and his son was going to the White House. (It seems that EVERY Indian came with $7 in their pocket back in the day. I used to think it was a tall tale, but it was actually confirmed by my grandmother before she passed away).

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