It's so easy to dissect other singers' performances. From our comfy seats backstage it's the simplest thing to say that the soprano was miscast or the tenor was too strident; so easy to say that the production is flawed, the stage is too large and the singing uneven. But it's all a product of bitterness. All of us who don't have real opera careers are so eager to find fault in those who do, as seeing their faults makes us think that we could be where they are had we just had the right opportunities, as they are no better than us. It may be true, it may not. I do hear professionals who are no better than me, and some who are much better than me. But, however they got where they are, they are doing it. They are putting themselves out there to be criticized, to hear all of the back-biting comments and cruel imitations. The gossip, the pettiness, the jealousy is taking away so much of the joy of singing. I forget that I like to sing. I end up focusing on what I'm not doing rather than what I am doing.
I like many of my fellow singers, have lost perspective. If a production we see doesn't impress us as the most phenomenal one to ever be mounted, we profess ourselves to be disappointed, bored and irritated. Opera is on the decline, we say. We claim that singers are less spectacular than they used to be, that technique is shoddy and that more emphasis has been placed on looks than talent. What we have forgotten is that these things have always been true, but only to those who are left out, who don't get cast. We listen too much to the complainers, the singers who were born with a self-serving attitude, those who believe that they deserve perfection without having the open-mindedness to see that they are at fault for the imperfections they are decrying.
I find that I still enjoy the productions in which I'm involved as a chorister. There's always something good about each singer, sometimes something really special or spectacular, something I can learn from by example. For Lent this year, I'm going to give up criticizing other singers, and I'm going to stop participating in conversations that do. If it were me up there, I wouldn't want the things I hear said every night to be said about me.