~ Amahl and the Night Visitors, Eccles Theatre & Nephi Opera house, Nov 25th-26th 2017
Can you spot the muggins in the brown checkered dress, hair pulled right back, back arched most elegantly, on the far right? Yep? That's me. At the end of November last year my opera workshop class put on an opera. - That sounds more ridiculously obvious than it actually is, honest.
Anyway - the point here is in fact is that since I was 17 I sort of a bit fell in love and got involved with classical singing and have struggled my way through years of random vocal teachers, joining and dropping out of random choirs and attending (sometimes getting and sometimes massively failing) random auditions to get to.. 8 years later where I am now and am in my first opera. An amateur college production, yes. As a member of the ensemble, yes and as part of a requirement for the class I was in, yes. So not incredibly impressive, granted. But I'm not going to down myself completely; I did have to audition for the class and the other students I were singing amongst were mostly seniours, so I'll give myself credit for that at least. But the point I'm really trying to get to and am taking a diabolically long amount of time getting to; is that I loved it. I didn't know what I was doing on stage acting wise half the time and I really struggled at remembering the words to an aria that basically lists off every unheard of fruit and/or vegetable under the sun and the rehearsal nights leading up to opening night were killer BUT it was a fantastic experience and a lot of fun. I also got involved in a few other ways too; I was in charge of all the adult costumes, yes I had to work with what I had of course, but it didn't look totally bad in the end. (I would really have liked to have been in charge of the children's costumes, but for the school's and mine's financial reasons it was better off to let the children's parents take charge of that) I also helped create the scenery. It was a massive group effort and what I loved about opera workshop (as opposed to auditioning for something and simply getting the part) is that you really do all work together and put on an opera from scratch. The only thing we didn't create was the opera manuscript itself. (Thank you for that Menotti)
A few things I learnt from this experience is that when even if only a few people are dedicated to a cause, truly great results can be achieved. I learnt that I had no idea what I'm doing on the stage - which inspired me to take acting classes (as mentioned in a previous post) I learnt that a larger audience is sometimes less intimidating than a smaller one. I learnt that when you're blinded by stage lighting that this isn't always a bad thing (if you can't see the audience you can't see them watching you). I learnt that Amahl and the Night Visitors is such an adorable story (if you're not at all familiar with it - wikipedia the story RN.) I learnt that good costume designers and collectors are incredible people that don't get enough credit and most more than anything else I learnt that although I'm really frightened and have a lot to learn. I feel really at home in that world. On stage, behind it, in the wings, in the practice room. All of it, I really love it. It just feels right. It makes me feel alive and excited beyond description and I can only imagine what a night might feel like if you make a solo performance and make it a good one, what that must feel like?. The sense of achievement. It's a bit of a drug really. But thankfully a healthy one;)
Going on from this, I had my solo jury just before Christmas and the week before this in my private singing lesson we had a break through lesson. I love these. I have never had so many of these in a row than I have had at snow. I think it's a lot to do with the connection I have with the teacher and his teaching style and also the connection I have been able to make with myself recently - mentally- that has made a huge difference. I know I have a long way to go, but these small steps forward and bigger break throughs are really feeding me with that fire to really take a grab at my potential and try; something I've been lacking for a long time.
The jury went great. I actually managed to apply what we had been aiming for in my lessons in a performance in front of real life judges and for the first time ever I managed to perform something pretty good and at a relatively high level of confidence. I got really great comments and was really proud of myself. I'm a perfectionist at singing so I do know there is ALOT of things that need to be better and different but the new voice I've been concentrating on taping into came out for the first time ever and again for the first time ever in front of people in a performance setting and that was a big achievement for me.
Technically. To talk technically just for a second.. it's as though I've been singing with potential but my voice had always been 'shifting gears' like a car, a metaphor my husband helped me come up with. My vocal teaching has shown me that I have a big voice and that the high notes are where I'm most comfortable (something I've always thought about myself but never been able to consistently access). The challenge of consistency is still an on going battle, but things have really improved and the power of my voice has expanded so much already. I showed my husband a recording of the break through lesson and it brought him to tears, which really shocked me. (He is a musician and perfectionist himself, so I seriously respect his opinions - he'll also tell me when I sing crap, which is hard sometimes but I wouldn't want it any other way!!! it's so helpful -- because of this fact I took this next part to heart and will keep it there forever) ; He handed the phone back to me and simply said 'Wow, you can actually do this baby' - These words and the small conversation we had afterward about how astounding the change was has spurred me on to really try and make something of my voice. I don't aspire to became a greatly famous and acclaimed singer but to have a wonderful voice, to be able to sing these phenomenal pieces of music and maybe one day to teach others to do the same would be an honour. This is my goal.
This semester my teacher and I have created an exciting repertoire to work on that will challenge me in a lot of different areas. I'm studying an old German piece I used to know, to see if I can get the new voice working on it. A new Mozart aria, a quilter piece and then two other pieces - these excite me the most. They are highly comic pieces and I think this will help me challenge the performed hiding inside of me that's got to come out. Performing comedy arias, I find, are a great way to throw yourself into acting because you can hide behind a character more in comedy than you can in other genres and can focus a lot more with engaging with your audience. I love opera and I can feel myself on the start of something a bit exciting. And because of this I am starting 'The Opera Journals' series here on my blog. No routine or schedule to uploads or anything, I'll know when it's time. But a great way to log progress (forwards or backwards) and of sharing this new exciting world with you.
One thing I will log here that I have realised to be of great importance as of recent and could not ring more true: For anyone that is looking to teach, ever, or is a teacher or teaches or plans to teach in ANY capacity; if you really believe in your pupil, you will see the most amazing results. I promise you.
Peace and Good Music