Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tchüss, Lindoro

I would love to say that today's Lindoro was perfect, but, of course, that is not the case. How could it be? Such is the nature of live performance. What makes it exciting is it's imperfection – the vulnerability of being openly human on stage in front of an audience. No safety net, the possibilities endless. Aside from being incredibly happy with today's very successful show (our best yet in my opinion), what I will say is that today was undoubtedly the most fun I have ever had on stage in Lindoro's shoes. From the first notes of Languir per una bella, his first aria, I felt a freedom and a focus that I had never felt before singing this music. It was exhilarating. And what was more was that I felt the audience react – as I enjoyed myself more and more with each note and just gave over to the music more than ever, I felt the audience join me on the ride and enjoy themselves, as well.

I thought I wouldn't be nervous about this final foray, but I was wrong. I woke up this morning about forty minutes before I wanted to, and as I hopelessly tried to grasp onto a few more minutes of sleep, my mind started to race. It dawned on me that I was nervous, which caused me concern. Part of the reason I felt that Friday's show had been so good was that I felt so calm. I started writing my morning pages, and my nerves about the show started to morph into anxieties about the future and what was next. I had to jerk myself back into the present and remind myself that I should enjoy this final show.

While I was nervous, for the first time I was not afraid. In Frank Herbert's Dune there is a motto that is repeated over and over: fear is the mind-killer. Today's performance really illuminated precisely how true those words are. Free from fear and energized by nerves, I found that choices would open themselves up to me in those scary passages where, in the past, my mind would simply go blank as my fear overcame me. It was liberating, and I really started to have a lot of fun with it. At the end of the first aria, as I lay on the floor (as the staging here has me do), I couldn't help but crack a small, proud smile.

At intermission, I found myself pondering exactly what it was about this piece that struck so much fear into me. Of course, it is nerve-wracking music simply because of its virtuosic difficulty, but there had to be another layer to prevent me from conquering that until now. It got me thinking about visiting the Tate Britain last fall with my friend, Susie, who was invaluably helpful getting Lindoro back in to my voice after a two-year hiatus. The exhibition that we went to see, named Turner and the Masters (which is still on until January 31st) highlighted his competitive relationship with both his contemporaries and the masters who had come before him. A description on the wall in the first room of the exhibit discusses how "it is impossible to be an artist without engaging in the art of the past." It goes on to say that in Turner's time, it was expected for artists to "aspire to greatness by copying, then trying to rival those who had come before…"

When it comes to the training of singers and musicians, nothing could be more similar. We are surrounded by countless recordings of all our repertoire, performed by both past masters and our contemporaries alike, and we spend our careers trying to rival them if not, at the very least, match them in the level of their quality. A while back, when I was looking for management, I remember auditioning for an agent with Languir, and while she was interested, I immediately received a lecture. "Why are you beginning with this aria?" she asked, "It's an incredibly big risk you're taking. When you sing for people, you will automatically be compared to whoever it is singing this repertoire at the Met, the Vienna State Opera, at Covent Garden, and whoever just made the latest recording of it. This is a massively difficult aria – are you sure you want to put yourself forward for a first impression like that?" While I didn't end up working with this person, their message had wormed its way through my confidence, preyed on my insecurities and stuck with me. Thinking about what I was so afraid of at intermission today, I realized that I had been afraid this whole time that I wouldn't – that I didn't measure up. Today, singing this for the last time, I realized it didn't matter. My performances were mine – that is what makes them unique and special, and having had so many opportunities to do this was not only proof that they were worthy, but also something to be grateful for and enjoy.

Lindoro, more than anyone else, has been the greatest voice teacher that I have ever had. Every time I have encountered him, I have left feeling like I have taken four or five steps forward vocally and each time I am met with more challenges. Today was the wonderful culmination of those lessons, and it felt like, to steal the words of one of the managers I did end up working with, bidding a fond farewell as opposed to running away. Taking my final bows today, I was beaming, feeling a sense of accomplishment that I have never felt before after a run of performances. I am so grateful to him for everything he has taught me – and for helping me conquer my greatest vocal and technical fears over these past seven years. I look forward to taking all of these lessons into all of the incredible music that awaits me – including that other Lindoro, that is actually a count named Almaviva.

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