Singer

#MariaCrushMonday

Χριστός ἀνέστη, Христос воскрес, and Happy Easter to those who celebrated yesterday!

Today, in honor of Easter in the Greek Orthodox religion, we will honor a certain Greek diva you may have heard of for our first ever #MariaCrushMonday, instead of our usual #SingerCrushSunday.  Maria Callas was a fearless diva who broke the mold of what an artist could and should be.  Her legacy as an artist, singer, and woman will forever leave a significant mark on the opera world.   Her life was quite dramatic on stage as well as off, and both her professional and personal lives had “lead roles” in the public eye.  She was nothing less than iconic, and Leonard Bernstein even said she was “the bible of opera.” Due to her celebrity status during her lifetime, she faced plenty of criticisms, and the media would report with their own negative opinions on her weight, her love life, her performances, rumors of temper tantrums backstage, etc.  She was often a target, but she was a strong woman, and handled all of it as gracefully as humanly possible.  Who do we remember today?  Callas, not her critics.

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#MariaCrushMonday aims to leave you with a notable quote from La Divina herself, and of course, a timeless operatic interpretation. This week we will be featuring “Vissi d’arte” which literally translates to “I lived for art” from Puccini’s Tosca, a role that is historically associated with Callas’ interpretation, and a character that is often described as courageous.

“You are born an artist or you are not. And you stay an artist, dear, even if your voice is less of a fireworks. The artist is always there.” ~Maria Callas

 

Self-Doubt

Part of being an artist is the occupational hazard of having frequent self-doubt, and constantly feeling like you and your talents aren’t enough.  This can be good only if it motivates you to keep going, work smarter, and achieve that ultimate goal.  Most of the time though, (or at least from what I’ve observed) we tend to get into these waves of emotional angst, and thoughts creep in that make us put ourselves down. I want to shed light on the fact that every artist needs to be aware of this type of thinking.  It will chew you up inside if you dwell on what you perceive as shortcomings, because most of the time, no one else perceives them as shortcomings, or even notices them at all.

A few years ago, I was in a voice lesson, and I kept obsessing over all of the things that I felt were “incorrect” during an aria I had just finished singing.  My teacher at the time heard many good things in that aria that were signs of vocal progress, and was amazed that I couldn’t find one positive thing to say.  “Do you treat anyone as badly as you treat yourself?” She asked.  I can still hear her voice saying it in my head. It was such an eye opener.  The answer to that question, is no, of course not.  I’m not as judgmental, nit-picky, and as demanding of perfection when it comes to others’ performances.  That would make being an audience member an awful experience.  If you are TOO hard on yourself, you make being an artist/performer unbearable.  Why do we do this?

All singers have insecurities, I’m sure, whether they are related to outward appearances, the way he or she sounds, the way he or she moves onstage, etc.  There are so many elements that go into being an artist and we all hold ourselves to a certain, perhaps subjective, standard of performance.  However, the more we obsess over these insecurities and allow them to have a big presence in our day-to-day thinking, the outcome is usually quite detrimental, and being an artist becomes burdensome.  Isn’t this your calling, to be a singer, dancer, actor, painter, etc?  Why would you torture yourself constantly?  Our brains’ negative thinking can really do a number on our emotions at times- one thought leads to another and all of a sudden you become the ugliest, worst-sounding, least successful singer on the planet.  The reality of it is that no audience member will be as hard on you as you are on yourself.

So, to any artist who is reading this: As you go through your journey as a creator, check those insecure thoughts and don’t let them consume you.  Be aware of them, work smarter to improve upon them, but don’t waste too much energy obsessing  over them.  You need that energy to create.  The world wants to see what you have, don’t be selfish with your gift.

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By the way, you know when you are nervous before you go onstage, but once you are out there, the negative feelings go away and you remember how amazing performing actually feels while adrenaline rushes through you, and it becomes fun?  Hold onto THAT.  The energy connected to enjoyment is contagious – the audience can feel it.  I promise you – you are enough.

Classical Singer: Update!

I know I said I would update after the competition…but obviously that was a lie.  Instead of giving you an update, I went shopping.  I’m really sorry about that, but I’m heading to Fort Lauderdale/Miami this weekend for a little vacation and needed new adorable, colorful, beachy clothes (when you live in NYC, your entire wardrobe is black).

Anyway, I woke up Saturday excited to sing in this competition.  Took a shower, ate a good breakfast, got dressed , and – unlike the last time I warmed up before a competition – I was in “good” voice.  I warmed up with some lip trills, sang scales on AH and EE, went over the most difficult and highest passages of the three arias I had prepared, and voila, my voice was exactly where I needed it to be.  I was ready to go.

My go-to audition/first round competition dress is from White House Black Market.  I ADORE that store – it might be my absolute favorite clothing store, actually.  The dress is strapless, A-line, and fits me just right so I can still breathe well in it.  And of course, I HAD to wear white pearls.  White and black, my favorite color combination. So simple yet exquisite.

It was pouring on Saturday, so I put my dress into a garment bag and headed downtown to NYU.  Once I arrived and found out which floor the Classical Division was on (there was also a Musical Theater division), I changed into my dress, warmed up a bit more, and waited for my turn.  My time was 2:08, which is a great time to sing, it’s neither too late nor too early.  I can sleep in but not spend the entire day anticipating my performance.

As I sat on the chairs lining the hallway, waiting for my time, I heard one woman sing the Queen of the Night’s aria from The Magic Flute.  She was AMAZING.  Her tone, her high notes – everything was gorgeous and consistent.  I made sure to tell her that she did a great job when she was finished.  As an artist, it is easy to compare yourself to other artists and begin to worry about your own talents or worth.  We all do it, but it is also important to encourage each other BECAUSE so many artists have massive insecurities that we know nothing about.  Someone impresses you?  Tell them, even if you are “competing” with them.  Why put out negativity into the world?  Besides, that singer may be the Queen to my Pamina some day.

Once it was my turn, I took one last gulp of water and went in.  There were two judges, one male, one female, both disarming and very nice, which always helps when it comes to nerves.  I had prepared, “Ah, non credea mirarti…ah, non giunge!” to sing first.  Bel canto is where my voice really shines and so most of my rep is bel canto, and this aria is perfect since it shows agility and range but also legato.  Was I nervous?  A little, but I was mostly excited.  I was excited to perform, not nervous to “compete.”  I showed the accompanist (who was very good, I didn’t catch his name) where my cuts and ornaments were in the cabaletta, turned to the judges to state my name and which aria I was starting with, and began.  This time around,  unlike the competition I did in March, I wasn’t “in my head” or “self-conscious” during the performance.  I was simply performing.  Amina (the character who sings this aria in La Sonnambula) is so heartbroken during this part of the opera, and it is important to bring out the character as well, and not only sing the notes on the page.

I finished the first aria, feeling very good about it.  I wouldn’t say it was perfect, because honestly, when you are so immersed in your performance, you don’t have time to think.  I couldn’t think about whether it was perfect or not while I was singing – I was busy creating art.

The judges asked for “Addio, del passato” next.  I was THRILLED.  This is my most favorite aria in all of opera, and I recently learned it, so I hadn’t performed it for anyone yet except for my coach.  I made sure the accompanist knew that I was doing the traditional cut, and began.  Violetta knows she is at the end of her life during this aria, and thinks that she will never see Alfredo again, who is the love of her life.  Shortly after this aria, he runs in, they have their final moments together, and she dies.  It is absolutely heartbreaking and beautiful.  No wonder La Traviata is such a beloved opera.

I began the aria, and once again, I wasn’t “self-conscious,” I was performing.  I trusted my voice, it knew where it needed to go, and I focused on the character and the translation. I was telling a story…creating art.

Once this aria was finished, the judges looked up, smiled, and said thank you.  They had been writing very much during both arias, which is fantastic because Classical Singer mails each participant the judges’ feedback.  Constructive criticism is always good.

Once I exited the room, the woman who had been checking everyone in (I didn’t catch her name either) told me that I sounded great and that she loved my voice.  That made my day – considering she told me before I went in to sing that she has won the competition before.  A compliment from another musician always means a lot – their ears are finely tuned, so they will know when you mess up. =)

I changed back into my jeans, left NYU, and hopped into the subway.  I had been at NYU for maybe a total of 45 minutes.  The whole process was very simple and quick.

At around 1:00 am that evening, while I was out with some girl friends, I received an e-mail from the CS competition.  “Congratulations, you have advanced to the Second Round of the CS Vocal Competition in Boston at the CS Convention, May 27, 2016.”

I beamed.  I was so happy.  I AM so happy.  Hard work DOES pay off.

I guess I’ll see you in May, Boston!

~ Christina

 

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