One of the things drilled into your brain at music school is the fact that you never know who will be in attendance for any performance, and you must always give everything you've got because at any moment someone important could see you and "make you a staaaaahhhhh". Well, I've never been able to help myself but to take every performance extremely seriously no matter who the audience was or whether anyone "important" may be watching. Sure, I tend to get more nervous when I know that all the major New York newspapers are in attendance, or when someone tells me that one of my singing idols happens to be in the audience (like the time Susan Graham saw me sing Cherubino - mamma mia!!), but I tend to treat every performance with equal importance. It's not so much because I think somebody important will be there, but because no matter who is or isn't there, I feel the same way if I don't think I gave it my all; sucky.
This past weekend was no exception for me- I was participating in the Bard Music Festival by performing on a concert called "Bearable Lightness" which featured light music that was somehow influenced by Wagner, this year's composer of focus. The concert featured four singers and a pianist, two solo pianists, and a musicologist to discuss aspects of the program. The unusual thing about the concert was that it took place at 10. Oh, 10 at night you say? Well that's kind of late but a fun time for a concert of operetta music. And I reply, NO - TEN IN THE MORNING. The festival is packed with tons of incredible music making - so much so, that they have musical offerings all day long on the weekends, beginning at ten in the morning. Have I mentioned that it was at ten in the morning? Yeah, well, that's a tiny bit early for singers to perform. It's funny, all through high school I had choir at what we called zero period every morning - that was at 7 AM - and I never really thought much of it. But now 10 AM might as well be 4 AM for how crazy early it seems to be singing. Add to that the fact that our sound check took place at 8 AM that morning, and you had a very sleepy group of singers. Add to that the fact that for some reason I could NOT fall asleep the night before, and finally drifted off around 3 in the morning, only to wake up at 6 to get into my concert attire, and you had one very cranky mezzo.
However, the singers on the concert were all really superb, as was the pianist who accompanied us. And they all happened to be really nice, supportive, good natured people who make singing an operetta quartet, even at an ungodly early hour, really really fun. Plus Bard college is really near to my parent's house, so I got to have a fun little retreat at home, and Mom and Dad only had to drive a few minutes to come see their daughter sing. So despite my sleeplessness, I had a really good time singing on the concert and made the most I could out of my two little solos, one duet, and one quartet. After the concert I went and had a big juicy hamburger with the 'rents, and then fell into bed and took a long nap.
Then tonight, a colleague and friend forwarded me this article from the L.A. Times written by classical music critic Mark Swed. He attended the entire weekend of music, and wrote an interesting article about his observations about the music making and about Wagner himself. And then, to my surprise, the last paragraph of the article said,
"The festival’s performer list is too long to go into. So I will leave you with just one name of an emerging artist to jot down. You’ll want to hear mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera the first chance you get.
-- Mark Swed"
So it just goes to show - you really never know. Sometimes at 10 in the morning in a little auditorium on a college campus in upstate new york, you can sing a little arietta by Gilbert and Sullivan, and the critic from the L.A. Times might be in attendance. And he just might like you. Sometimes life is strange and wonderful.