Musings on m
y life as a busy opera singer, voice teacher, photographer and mom - not necessarily in that order! I consider myself immensely fortunate to have carved out a way of doing all of these things which mean so much to me - it may sometimes get a little crazy, but it's always worth it. Welcome to the madhouse!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Greetings from the road...

...where I'm hard at work on my next performances. I'm blessed with talented and delightful colleagues, staying with lovely people in a warm "college town" community which has me entirely charmed, and we've even had beautiful weather! Life is good.

It's funny that my last post was about preparation... because sometimes all of that goes right out the window and you just have to roll with the unexpected instead! I arrived here to discover that the translation was getting some last-minute tweaking which, in the case of my role, resulted in a LOT of changes (probably about 75% of the entire part). The changes themselves are very much for the better and in and of themselves small and seemingly minor, but having spent quite a lot of time practicing a completely different set of words, both my memory and my voice are confused! As our supportive (and, in the case of the text, apologetic) director said, "It changes the process". It sure does!

That said, now that I've lived with those changes for 5 days they're sinking in and starting to obliterate what was already there, so I can hopefully begin to relax with it a little bit, and my brain can go on to the "multi-tasking" process which is usually creating a role (and perofrming, for that matter). Singers, more so than any other kind of performers, have to be able to think about many, many things at once when onstage:

1. first, there's the "nuts and bolts": the notes, words and rhythms. This is the part that needs to be most securely burrowed into the brain so that for the most part I don't need to consciously think about them at all - they're simply there and available for use automatically.

1a. Staging. I call this "1a" since ultimately one WANTS it to be as automatic and ingrained as the notes, words and rhythms by the time we get to performance, but in early rehearsals, it's of course being learned from scratch; it's also an "organic" process that grows and changes in response right up to the time we step on the stage. In this production I'm blessed with wonderful colleagues who enjoy the "acting" side of things as much as I do, so I have no doubt that as we grow into the production across the next week things will be changing as we respond to each other! That is, of course, the fun part...

2. Character building. As of last night we got the blocking and actual "traffic pattern" worked out, so now it's time to really build the character. A lot of that comes out of the music itself, but in this case, the High Camp which can be added into the "Witch's Brew" is an entirely additional dimension to play with. The interesting - and challenging - part of doing this with the role is that while the it's definitely a "character" role, the music/vocalism itself doesn't HAVE to be sacrificed to do so, and the role is written so that it can really be sung. HOWEVER... it's really diffficult to get your body/face/manner to do one thing while your musical mind/voice does another! This is one of the longstanding challenges with this role and one I was prepared to face, but determining the actual ways in which I'm going to do that is still something which I am having to figure out; there has to be an organized plan so that I can selectively add some physicalizing mannerisms to my body language, without letting those appear in my sound.

3. Vocal technique. Yup, all the while this other stuff is happening, part of the brain still needs to be attentive to the physical mechanics of producing sound. Posture, breathing, mechanics of vowels, intonation, larynx, tongue... all the technicalities.

4. Music-making, and being attentive to the conductor and orchestra nuances! Our maestro really has a wonderful understanding of how the orchestra and singers can work together at a "pure music" level (in other words, without the added implications of the text, just based on the harmonies and musical phrases themselves) - a coaching yesterday offered a chance to talk about these things which has given me still more to think about! It's exciting stuff, although working at the high speed in our compressed rehearsal period (about a week shorter than the norm) means it's a tad overwhelming!

Of course, this is also what makes it fun - yes, it's hard work and the rehearsal process can sometimes be stressful and exhausting, but it's beyond rewarding when you realise you've moved beyond the basics and cooked it up into something that takes on a life of its own. I'm not quite there yet, but it's well on its way. I'm looking forward to the next few days!