I sent a text to my JACOPERA counterparts yesterday telling them I wasn’t sure what to write about for my next post. I sang in a competition on Wednesday, wasn’t extremely happy with the performance, and didn’t advance to the second round. What do I write about? I certainly didn’t want to write about disappointment and make myself vulnerable to strangers reading this. Jennie reminded me that it doesn’t matter – we’re writing about everything pertaining to singing opera, not just the “glory days.”
I’ve recently signed up for an acting class. Acting was my first love before singing and after years of focusing solely on opera, I’ve decided to sharpen my acting skills. I don’t think enough opera singers take acting lessons, it can only help with the creation of the characters we play. At the beginning of the class, we were talking about social media and how it distorts our view of people because we only see the good things that are posted. I mentioned that I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that my life looks so glamorous (haha, it’s not) because they see that I post photos while at concerts wearing gowns and excitedly posting about singing. I also said, “well I guess of COURSE it seems glamorous, I’m not writing about my vocal insecurities for that day while I’m posting the gown photo.” My teacher shrugged and said “Why not? Why wouldn’t you post it? It’s real!”
Both he (my teacher) and Jennie have a really good point. As humans, don’t we crave a connection with other humans? Doesn’t social media, although connecting us in one sense, disconnect us in another and make us compete with each other by subconsciously playing “who can post the best photo and get the most likes” when really we ought to be competing with ourselves, our best selves.
By being real and honest, we stay human. The arts keep us human and help to remove our outer masks that we wear every day. If I were to post a photo of myself in my gown and say “HAHA OMG LOOK, THIS COMPETITION I SANG IN, LIFE IS SO GREAT” it would really just be an empty post, because that’s not at all how it felt. So, I’ll have the courage to admit that I had an “off” day.
I always pride myself on having the utmost amount of discipline. For the competition on Wednesday, I made sure I coached all six arias (yes, six, in various languages were required) thoroughly for weeks. I knew the ins and outs of every piece. Every note, rest, lyric, my roadmap for my breath support, all of it. Went to bed Tuesday night with my humidifier on (my humidifier is huge, it looks like a table. I have photos sitting on the top of it. Every singer should get one of these).
Woke up Wednesday excited and ready to take on the competition. Did my hair, makeup, ate breakfast, got dressed, and then it was time to warm up. Low notes – fine. Middle range – fine. High notes (my pride and joy) – not so fine. My voice just wasn’t cooperating as it normally does. I had no explanation. Warmed up a bit more, high notes came. WHEW. All is well. Were they as easy as usual? No. Were they still acceptable to sing? Yes. Off to the competition I went. Having an instrument inside of your body is nerve wrecking at times, because it’s connected so closely to every single thing I do and everything thing that I feel. The only constant is the mental strength to keep going and to think positively. It’s all about tenacity.
I gracefully walked across the audition room to give my music to the accompanist, then stood center in front of the judges, smiled, hoped for the best, and began. Ideally, it is best for a performer to be focused on the character and out of his or her head while performing. I was a little worried about my top notes so I was in my head the whole time, which I hate. I couldn’t enjoy singing while it was happening. During the aria: French diction? Fine. Breath support? Not as stable due to nerves, but it was fine overall. Top notes? I was surprised at how normal they sounded. All I had to do was trust that they would be there – and they were. Release the tongue, support, don’t tense up… and the notes came out. I felt like I had to support a little more than usual, but that was it. They had me sing a section of “Batti, Batti” from Don Giovanni before I left, and voila, the first round was over.
Did I advance to the second round? No. Am I upset about it? Not really, you develop a thick skin as a performer. Am I upset about the way I sang? I’m disappointed that I didn’t have an easy vocal day after all of the hard work that I put in, and I’m disappointed that I was in my head the whole time instead of allowing myself to let go and simply perform. Overall, though, I am not upset at all because I know how hard I worked to get here. A year ago, if I had woken up with high notes that weren’t extremely easy to produce, I would have cancelled, being too scared to take a risk. You know what I did instead? I took a risk on Wednesday. I showed up and I gave them the best I could, and luckily, my breath support was able to carry all of my high notes, and I could carry myself offstage with dignity. I stayed relaxed, trusting my body to find the pitches, and it did. So, I can’t excitedly post that I advanced to the second round and that I sang “perfectly” (perfect doesn’t exist, FYI, but I’m type A so I’m always reaching for it), and I can’t say that I’m the most amazing singer to walk the earth. I CAN calmly and proudly post that as a singer I’ve advanced, and as an artist and as a human, I’m real.