When Myra and I discuss our upcoming program, the word ‘challenging’ inevitably comes up again and again. The program is challenging in a variety of ways – both for the audience-member and for us as performers. At first, it was a word that made us hesitate – but now we are realizing that it’s actually something to celebrate and enjoy.
There is a lot of fun in facing a challenge, because suddenly there’s a game with hurdles and obstacles to overcome. Confronting challenges, we somehow become the heroes of our own romances, questing through long, twisting, dark and scary paths, and coming out the other side somehow better, more self-aware, and with new skills that we have acquired along the way. There is little that compares to the sense of pride and accomplishment after breaking through a barrier or figuring one’s way out of a labyrinth and solving a puzzle. For us, the barriers are linguistic (trying to understand 500-year-old Italian), the hurdles are vocal (negotiating Purcell’s roulades and Britten’s tessitura), the puzzles are poetic (understanding Hardy’s esoteric imagery), and the tests of our endurance are not just physical (singing sixty minutes of music with little respite), but also mental – we must maintain our focus and conviction throughout all of this. Otherwise, we’ll fail in our responsibility to tell each of these little stories in as much gripping detail as we can and give the audience the most complete experience possible.
Succumbing to fears and nerves is boring. Imagining ourselves as knights in shining armor, fighting battles, going on quests, and rescuing princesses is much more exciting. It will be fun to bring audiences along for the ride.