I realise that this blog has gone in all sorts of different directions since I started it. Initially, I envisaged it focusing specifically on the challenges facing an "opera mom" out there in the trenches. Well, clearly there have been plenty of entries about that (welcome to my life!), but also a lot of entries on things rather peripheral to that.
In a way, that's a bit what 2009 has been like, so it's no surprise I suppose. My focus has been forcibly shifted by events and, while it hasn't always been happily so and has certainly rocked the boat, it has perhaps had some small hidden benefits.
It's all too easy to become hyperfocused as as singer, to ONLY be able to think about singing, things that relate directly to singing, what other people think of your singing, what other people are singing and where, where and what you want to be singing, ... it's no wonder that the caricatures of the self-obsessed singer are rife! Some of those attentions are necessary ones of course - like any high-pressure, competitive industry you have to keep up with trends and constantly be honing your skills, and with an instrument that's a part of your body, you DO have to pay attention to your health and general well being (physical and psychological) in a way that isn't quite the same as "civilians" who aren't expecting to be in the limelight and can do their jobs more privately. Even so, I think sometimes this self-focus can extend beyond self-care and into a kind of psychological and emotional professionally-driven tunnel-vision. This is a two-edged sword: that hyperfocus is often what keeps us going and drives us to perform and constantly seek to excel, but it can also make us forget to live our lives as whole people rather than A Singer.
Don't get me wrong - I regularly live this phenomenon, understand both how and why it happens and know that I sometimes NEED that tunnel vision available to me so I can gather and focus all of my physical and emotional energy into a really strong performance .... but I also know that it can be both difficult to live with (!), and also runs the risk of turning me into the Stereotypical Opera Singer, a caricature which I have long despised!
A friend and I often discuss the need for balance as singers. Balance in technique, to find the balance in the voice (the term for that itself even describing balance: "chiaroscuro" or "bright-dark" meaning the sound has both the brightness to give it cut and projection, and the warmth to make it beautiful) and balance in our lives to try and keep ourselves whole even while tapping into the reserves of self-focus that we need to do the job of standing out there onstage.
I think this year has given me new perspective on balance, largely because I've had more time to do other things. Photography, of course (which consumes one's attention too, although perhaps in a rather different way) but other things too. I've watched more TV this year because I've been home in the evenings to do so (given how little TV I've watched in recent years, it's been a very pleasant surprise to see how much it's improved of late, and I've really enjoyed some programs!) I've spent more time with friends (much easier to meet for an impromptu beer when you're not worrying about having to sound great at rehearsal the following morning). I've cooked more, played more games, been to more straight theater (thanks, Dad!), started listening to more music outside my own assignments and interests, and attended more performances "just because" ... activities I have in past years either been short of time to enjoy, or for which I just haven't had the attention to give.
So this blog has perhaps veered off its stated topic. But I'd like to think that encompassing a range of interests and activities reflects my own life as an opera singer in a very real way, and I'm not sure it's such a bad thing. The more of life we explore, the more of it we live, the more we have to bring to our art.
I suspect things will get busier as next year is already looking brighter than this gone by (wouldn't be difficult for that to be the case, but I'm happy to share that I have nice contract in the works for the summer), but I hope I can continue to explore my more global interests, even as I tap again into that tunnel vision which I will need to "do the job". I'm not sure it's actually possible to switch that off and on day by day as needed, but I'm interested to see what happens in the light of having stepped "outside" it for a few months. We'll see, I guess!