This weekend, New York City residents were forced inside by Hurricane Irene, and most experienced minor hardship aside from the drawbacks of being forced to stay in one’s apartment: indigestion from eating the contents of one’s entire refrigerator and pantry, eye strain from watching every TV episode saved on DVR, and mild psychosis from obsessing over the state of one’s operatic career. Maybe that last one was just me.
Perhaps it was Irene, perhaps it was the looming date of my annual recording, but either way, a dark cloud was overhead. I spend about one month of the year dreading my annual recording session, and eleven months out of the year critiquing the tracks uploaded to my website and exported to various opera companies. What can I say? I’m an optimist. I never feel recordings represent my work as a singer. For instance, I don’t have my bag of tricks to distract the audience from any flaws that may pour out of my mouth. I find great comfort in my distracting devices of gestures, jewel tones, and assorted illusions. I do not feel like myself when I can’t move around or mask myself in make-up. Also, many people think recording for classical singers involves lots of pitch correction, auto-tune, etc., but for this purpose, it’s just the instrument with minimal effects. I can cut and splice a section that may have tanked during the run of the aria, but other than that, it’s pretty raw and exposed. And I can only run through those arias so many times before my cords wear out and I start sounding like a bass with bronchitis, so my type-A “we do it till it’s done” mentality is hardly productive. If I had my way, I wouldn’t stop recording until I magically morphed into Diana Damrau and she polished off those cadenzas for me. Alas, I have yet to develop that mutant superpower.
Irene and cabin fever forced me to spend more time than usual delving into my fear of the demo. I think one reason I love live performance as an art form is that it comes and goes without time to think, analyze, or self-destruct (though Lord knows sometimes we try). I know that is why improv is my chicken soup for the soul. I want to leave an audience with an impression, a feeling, not a tangible record of any flaws in my technique or diction. I can safely say I’ve never given a perfect performance, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable displaying my imperfections. I wouldn’t seek out photographers if I knew I had a giant blemish on my face! Plus, this record of where I am vocally by September 2011 will help determine how many auditions I get for October, November, December of 2011, and 2012 as well. The recording not only determines my activity in the upcoming months, but it is also a constant reminder that audition season is ahead and things are about to really intense. Practice sessions will start alternating between singing my arias and whining “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line. Recording is just the slow uphill climb on the roller coaster that will soon accelerate, making my pulse pound, my stomach drop to my feet, and making me scream at the top of my lungs as my life turns temporarily upside down.
Now is the time to start facing my fear. I studied improv at Second City this summer so I could say, “Yes, and” to any situation, and my skills are being put to the test. Can you stand perfectly still and give your best performance of these arias? Yes, and I will enjoy the process and embrace my imperfections. Maybe others will find them as refreshing as I find cellulite on celebs in the tabloids!
Irene may have lost her steam in Manhattan, but I plan to be at full force here. She may not have broken my windows, but I’ll attempt some glass-shattering pitches, and more importantly, I’ll open those floodgates to my soul in song. And if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll come out of it with my own little rainbow.