Saturday, September 19, 2009

The lowdown

I thought I would elaborate on last night and the lead up to my big debut. Tonight is saturday night, and why am I at home writing a blog entry instead of out partying it up Berlin style? I'm freaking exhausted, that's why.

I never know what exactly to do with myself on the day of a performance. Usually when there is a run of performances, by a few into it I just start having normal days and doing whatever I would do if I didn't have a performance, within reason. But for the first show, I'm often a little paralyzed and don't feel like just being normal. Yesterday I watched a movie in the morning on my computer (Away we go - it was meh) and around noon I started to feel really nervous. Like panicky hard to breathe nervous. I had this revelation yesterday that what I'm nervous about is.....being nervous. Seriously, most of my rep doesn't really give me anything to worry about vocally or dramatically, as long as I'm calm and feeling normal. But when I get nervous and my vocal cords get all thick and tight as a result, I have to work extra hard to keep my voice sounding normal. Plus the nerves cause me to breathe high, so I have to counteract that by constantly reminding myself to relax. But none of this stuff happens in rehearsals, and I can sing everything without issue at that point. So what I'm nervous about is how my voice is going to act when I'm nervous. I could really do myself a big favor by just, oh, I don't know, not being nervous. But you can't control that I guess, so I do my best to distract myself.

Anyway, I found myself feeling really anxious, so I took myself for a walk and started taking photos of this cool church near my apartment. That did the trick and distracted me for awhile, and got me back to breathing normally. I got back to the apartment and tested my voice out and it felt totally fine - good even - so I allowed myself to relax a little. The nerves came in waves as the day went on, but when it finally got close to curtain, I started to feel much calmer, thank god.

I arrived early to the theater and started warming up, and in fact, I think I actually over warmed up a bit. It's a tricky thing for me because I don't really need to warm up much at all for most of the roles I sing, and over warming up causes my low to feel a little stiff if I'm also a bit nervous. But when I'm nervous I keep wanting to test my voice out and try out my high notes to make sure they're "still there." I found the Bartolo and showed him my cadenza to the lesson aria because he has to react at certain moments and we had obviously never done it together. I went to my dressing room and proceeded to attempt to speak horrible german to the VERY nice make-up and costume ladies, and tried to remain calm.

Before I knew it the overture was starting, and I was taking my place backstage for my first entrance, and I was singing recitative and trying to get laughs. Then soon after that I was sitting there getting ready to sing Una voce poco fa.

Ah, una voce poco fa, Rosina's entrance aria - I have a love hate relationship with you. You start so low and dip down to very low chest tones, then move around frantically with tons of coloratura (and especially with the crazy ornaments I do) and then leap up to a high sustained B natural at the end. Plus, other than the few lines of recit in the first scene, it's the very first thing Rosina does, so you don't have time to calm yourself down by singing other easier things. But at the same time it's a wicked fun aria to sing, and there are endless possibilities, so even after thousands of renditions, I am never bored with it. But it usually freaks me the eff out. It's not just me though, Rossini stuck all three of his leads with fiendishly difficult arias that start their roles, and I'm always backstage with Almavivas and Figaros who are crossing themselves and looking pale and petrified before they step onstage too.

Last night's una voce went very well, all things considered. I took my time, I didn't push in the low, and I managed to sing most of it as well as I could in the moment. As can happen, I sang the high note better in the rehearsals and in my dressing room than in the performance, but I am trying not to dwell on it. Especially since I sang a few other really excellent high B naturals during the course of the evening. But it's hard not to wish for perfection. Sigh. It usually comes when you least expect it, like when you're tired and not really thinking about what you're doing, and suddenly BAM all the notes are awesome.

For the rest of the show, I really had tons of fun. I said to myself, "Self: You are singing on the stage of the Berlin Staatsoper an opera and a role that you really enjoy with lots of comedy and coloratura, two of your favorite things, with a wonderful cast and supportive friends in the audience. LIVE IT!" and so I did.

There were definitely a few moments though where I didn't remember exactly where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to be doing, but somebody always discreetly pointed the direction I was supposed to go. There were even a few parts that I had literally never actually rehearsed - only watched - but they all seemed to go okay. After it was over, I hugged everyone very tightly who helped me get through it and supported me, including the very warm and wonderful director and conductor and all my cast-mates, and received hugs from the few awesome friends who came to the performance and supported me. And then I went out and had a couple of much deserved glasses of wine with my agent, and toasted a satisfying debut.

On a completely unrelated topic, I went on another bike tour today with two of my friends who are also singing in Berlin. Between the three of us, we are representing all three opera houses - my friend Heidi Stober is singing at the Deutsche Opera, and Maureen McKay is at the Kommische Oper. Here are some photos - okay, mostly for my mom and dad - but the rest of you can see 'em too if you want.

Three opera chicks on bikes:

Sneaking away from the tour to take a photo in front of the sign with my name and the Staatsoper looming in the background:

Action shot:

The light was so beeeeeeeyoutiful as the sun was setting:

I took this yesterday of the church near my house just after a plane made that air streak in the sky:


Unknown said...

Lovely pictures, I especially liked the 3 opera chicks on bikes. Also, the church steeple with the airplane contrail was very nice.

sabauda said...

Sounds like you are making the most of this wonderful time in Berlin....keep enjoying every moment! I'll be taking that bike tour one day!!

Katypracht said...

What a wonderful discovery about being nervous about nervousness. Good insight! I'm so glad you were able to enjoy yourself for most of that amazing debut. What a huge personal step to take while making such a big professional step. Brava!! :)

Those are great pics, too. Happy adventuring while you approach your next performance!