Saturday, October 18, 2008

chasing perfection

Yesterday afternoon was the first rehearsal with orchestra. While 99% of the rehearsal went really well, I still sang a sucky high B natural at the end of my aria. In fact, at the end of my second aria, there is a sustained high A, and I held it for a really long time, so the conductor joked "are you holding the A forever to make up for the B?" "Yes", I replied, "is it working?"

I have an ongoing saga with this note - B natural - but only when it comes as the climax at the end of an aria. For example, I sing another sustained B natural in my duet with Figaro which always comes out great, but somehow the one at the end of the aria only comes out well sometimes. Other times, it sounds like I'm singing straight tone and gargling at the same time. And there is no single thing I can do to make certain it works - there are so many factors that seem to affect it; how I'm feeling that day, how I sing the rest of the aria, my level of nervousness, and whether I stress out about the note in the moment or just sing it. I was really beating myself up about this problem (as I tend to do) after the rehearsal, when I had an enlightening conversation with the director.

He was wondering why I thought I needed to be perfect, when perfection is basically impossible. He told me about a study Time magazine did a few years back, where they made a list of the 50 most difficult jobs. Number one was some crazy kind of rock climbing without ropes, number three was neurosurgery, and number two was - yup, you guessed it - opera singing. So when people say "it's not brain surgery" we can reply "that's right - it's MORE difficult." Now, I'm not sure everyone would agree with that, but it was nice to hear someone acknowledge the fact that employing excellent vocal technique, acting - usually in another language, making sure to stay with the conductor and orchestra, remembering your staging, wearing a costume, dealing with the set, and doing it all at the same time is actually really challenging! And expecting utter perfection from ourselves to the point that we beat ourselves up when one little thing goes wrong is totally counterintuitive. I know for me, the biggest reason I usually flub the note is that I am worried I might flub it. I know this because I can always sing it perfectly in my dressing room before the performance, and in my living room when no one is listening. The ONLY times I sing it badly are during performances (and sometimes auditions). So basically, my extreme desire to be perfect is preventing me from the very thing I want.

So, I officially am telling you universe: I don't care what happens when I sing my high B. It is one note of many (and with Rosina, I mean MANY) and I sing the rest of them pretty well. I officially demote this note from "most important" to "least important" and I accept it in it's many incarnations. If it comes out sounding like poop, well then, I am perfect in my imperfection. Life is too short to have a high B natural as your ultimate enemy. Big kisses to you high B - may you stop torturing me so I can get on with the rest of my notes, and in a broader sense, the rest of my life.


asparry said...

I love being the anonymous "the director" in your musings...

Katypracht said...

Amen, sister,
and I think it would be something quite amazing to witness you singing straight tone while gargling. Sounds like an act for America's Got Talent.

Brian said...

I could have written this post about a certain C.