A few weeks ago I started getting responses to the unedited audition comments that I’d begun to post. Some feedback came in the form of posted comments (anyone can comment on an entry by clicking the link at the bottom), some were emails sent to my address (see right), and others were posted on forums and other websites.
“You Go, Girl”
There were quite a few encouraging responses, and that was a great relief. I had debated long and hard before including these comments on the blog, but ultimately decided to go for it for the following reasons.
- Many singers actually believe that what audition panels write and say about them is far more vituperative and downright mean than it actually is.
- Many times, auditioners get bogged down in details (what if I breathe in the middle of that one phrase… is that “e” open or closed… should I say anything when I enter the room…) or despair over a single cracked high note or forgotten word. The big picture is far more important, and again and again, responses to the auditions show this.
- And (this is the most difficult one), many singers never have the opportunity to receive and integrate specific feedback. The Emperor’s New Clothes is alive and well in conservatory and studio situations. I’m all for unconditional love and encouragement, but it only gets you so far. Even if feedback is all wrong, you have to learn how to deal with it.
The Dark Side
I filter (“moderate”) the comments to this blog, which means that I see them before I allow them to be visible from the website. I’ve only witheld a few. Many bloggers won’t publish anything that is signed “Anonymous”, but I realize that singers and colleagues may have legitimate gripes with a posting but be justifiably afraid of saying so and signing their real names.
Generally, the objections go like this:
- You must hate singers.
- You are unbelievably self-important.
- How could you be so pretentious?
- You know nothing about singing/opera/singers, etc.
- My favorite recent one reminds us that “persons involved in opera are genetically predisposed to ego and drama.”
Now, I realize that most of you don’t know me. But the craziest part about this is that I’ve been struggling all my life to have the courage to speak my mind, believe in my instincts, and be convinced that my opinion has any value. And any of us who last more than a few minutes in this business have to have a healthy ego. But drama queen? I wish. I can’t even throw a diva fit when my life depends on it.
Of course, the whole damn blog is about my opinions. That’s the nature of the beast. If this were a third-person, just-the-facts narrative, no one would read it. But in finding out that readers believe I am boorishly overconfident and pretentious, I realize that I’ve come a long way. And probably saved myself thousands of dollars in therapy.
Anyway, in spite of my brave defense, I’ve been scared off just a little. For sure won’t post any more comments, and will probably be a little gun-shy for a while. But I’ll get over it.
Recital with Alan Held last Friday was one of those nights that’s all about the music. I’m not prone to jitters, but I usually have to battle several crises of confidence during any given performance. (Did I really mean to choose that tempo? Was that dynamic choice too indulgent? What was I thinking??) But that little evil voice inside my head was quiet. Probably because I’d been so sick that I was just relieved to be there at all. And because my colleague was so calmly and unswervingly confident that I didn’t have to absorb any free-flowing anxiety. And because I was so giddy that all of the various bells and whistles in my pre-show talk (video, wireless audio, iPod, PowerPoint…) functioned flawlessly.
Finally, Looking toward Summer!
First big project: Figaro! We’re doing a brand-new production of Figaro in the Filene Center in August – the first time in over 25 years that we’ve built an opera production for that theatre. If you’ve followed the Filene Center opera discussion that we started last summer, you know that we’ve had our challenges. But this approach will allow us to take artistic ownership in this production in much the same way that we take great pride in all of the new productions we do for The Barns. And, believe it or not (and it does strain credulity), we’ll be able to do it without spending any more money than we did to rent.
Excited about Figaro, as I always am. I’m as weary as you of the Mozart hype, and I get impatient with the “timeless masterpiece” approach. But I’ve done 8 Figaros, and each time I enjoy it more. Reading about David McVicar’s production that just opened at Covent Garden has further whetted my appetite. Lots of people disagree with him, but I’m totally on board. The legacy of the play is revolutionary, but the primary experience of the opera is about the people. I started out with Figaro as a newlywed who shared Susanna’s excitement; I returned to it many times to cry with the Countess, and now I’ve moved on to Marcellina.
Didn’t mean to go on that long… plenty more where that came from… back in a few days!