Monday, August 22, 2005

Oh for the love of God, just don't look back!

I was going to be one of those amazing people who document exciting events in their lives in exacting and thrilling detail, leaving readers to gasp and wonder how they could make their lives as near fictitious in scope as mine, but I suck and am pathetically lazy. So, below, I summarize.

I spent last week, Monday through Saturday, at a Baroque opera workshop given by one of the foremost directors/interpreters/insert appropriate superlative here of BO (har) in the world. The workshop has always been held in Germany as that's where the director and his amazing wife live. However, due to his excellent relationship with the Seattle Early Music Guild and his desire to move back to Seattle where he grew up, it was decided to bring the workshop here. When I got the announcement and application information in the mail, I could actually feel little veins in my head hemorrhaging from the excitement I couldn't show as everyone thinks I'm enough of a spaz without proving it so definitively. I mean, the one thing I want to do more than anything in the world is sing Baroque opera, and here was a class literally ON MY DOORSTEP, and all I had to do was send in an audition CD. As soon as I read that bit, the hemorrhaging stopped and my stomach ate itself. I hate making CDs. Listening to myself is the worst form of non-lethal torture I could possibly imagine. My voice doesn't record well. Now, that doesn't mean I suck, 'cause I don't, but I have kind of a largeish voice which always sounds echoey on recordings. Also, I had to find really early opera arias to sing and a harpsichordist to play for us. To make a really, really long story short, I found both. I, of course, got sick the week of the recording, so it wasn't my most spectacular outing, but it wasn't terrible. So, when I got in, I was thrilled. When I got my scene selections (the program was mostly on the Orpheus myth, as that story was terribly important to 17th century composers), I was less thrilled. Three tiny little four bar recits and a trio. I asked friends who were in the workshop with me what kind of scenes they were given. All of them had at least one aria. Hmmmm...I thought, maybe it's because I'm a mezzo, and most mezzo stuff from that period can be sung by countertenor. I told myself to stop being so selfish and to wait and see. Hard for me as I always want to be the one who gets the good shit everyone else is jealous of.

When the day of the workshop finally came I was very excited, and felt a little queasy from nerves. Or what I thought was nerves. I had worked very hard on learning my music. We did a sing through of all of the scenes and my worst fears were confirmed-another mezzo had a huge, gorgeous scene with an aria and an assload of recit. I was pretty cheesed. Not the most auspicious beginning to what I hoped would be a turning point in my career. I had pinned ridiculously high hopes on this workshop to introduce me to key individuals in Seattle and in the national and international Baroque communities. So, when I didn't have much solo stuff to sing, I was sure they wouldn't get to hear me enough to have any desire to further my career. I was cast as a nurse, a wind and a gender-indeterminate Pastoral. Sigh. I just wanted a fucking aria. Why is that so much to ask for????

In another fun, fun turn, what I thought was nerves turned out to be a 24-hour stomach flu that arrived Tuesday morning with, um, lower distress and a fever. We had our first staging rehearsals and music coachings on Tuesday, but I got through, just feeling really queasy and sweaty, in that icky, clammy, sickly way. God, I was feeling so sorry for myself I'm surprised Christian didn't pour my Spaghetti-Ohs over my head.

Even though I was being a giant, selfish prat about the whole scene assignment thing, I pretty much made myself get over it by Wednesday morning, as it would be unbelievably stupid to not take advantage of coaching with the program director, even on the small scenes, as he's THE MAN when it comes to Baroque performance practice. He made an awesome comment on the first day on how this genre needs ALL TYPE of voices, and not just the wispy ones that have been in fashion as of late. Baroque opera is so very different than all other opera and I want to do it as best and as accurately as possible. The duration of the note has very little to do with what's written and almost everything to do with stressed and unstressed syllables. That took a lot of work as, in my head, you hold a whole note in 4/4 for four beats, dammit. This crazy idea of letting go of the unstressed syllable, even if it's the last note of a phrase and is written AS A WHOLE NOTE was very hard.

I also did get to work twice with the amazing Roger, the stage director THAT EVERYONE WANTED. Anyone who tells reeeeeally stiff, hetero men to hug and "not be afraid to let their dicks touch" is my uncontested hero. Also hard, but likewise extremely enlightening, was the his take on the whole "back facing the audience" thing. Now, as singers, we're taught to never, ever upstage ourselves by turning our backs. My ass was to the audience a good third of my scenes, and I hate my ass, so I felt really self conscious. He believes, and I'm with him, that the back is very powerful. It creates an intimacy between the audience and the performers-you're seeing the action from their perspective.

In my scene as a wind, I had to dance around in an interpretive kind of way, and I was reminded how violently out of shape I am. Then I had to sing really fast. As a bird. It was damn funny.

I'm always frustrated with myself, though, when I'm being directed as I feel that I can't actualize the director's vision, even if I understand it. What's even worse is being an attention whore like myself and watching other, younger, prettier people get the praise I so desperately crave from the program director and scene director for doing things I could do if given the material they were given. I know that "there are no small parts, only small actors" but I'm tired of being given opera parts inversely proportional to my own parts.

After writing the last few sentences, I'm really tempted to delete them as they sound so God-awful petty, but I don't want to lie and pretend that I don't mind. I mind very much.

Anyway, I did get to sing at the free-for-all on Wednesday night, where everyone could sing one piece of whatever they wanted, so I sang Carmen and received many compliments, even though I sang still feeling pukey, 'cause I got to get my props in whatever pandering, manufactured way I can.

I don't want to be as bitter as this post sounds. I truly had an unspeakably marvelous time, and the faculty and other performers were utterly stupendous people. I think it was a very valuable lesson about the expectations I place on events that make it impossible to enjoy them. I do the same thing with vacations and holidays. I expect these type of events to be utterly transporting, but only moments of them will be, and that only if you're lucky. I am so glad I did it and oh my God, was it hard to come back to work.

I also wanted to kick the three Orpheus' singers and scream, just don't look back, you tard! It's like watching Titanic and thinking that maybe the boat won't sink this time.

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