I've been thinking a lot lately about weight and how it affects the body and therefore the voice. It's all related to the fact that this is my "body year" where I've been focused on things related to my body and how that is affecting my singing. The conversation was also continued when a friend of mine lost a bunch of weight and found singing more difficult, and we started an ongoing discussion about weight and support, which I continue to ponder.
Of course, if I had a nickel for every time some stranger learns that I'm an opera singer and exclaims, "Oh, but you're not fat!" I would not only be a rich woman, but I also wouldn't feel the urge to strangle strangers quite so often for their rude ignorance. However, weight, and where your fat is actually allocated (because we all have some somewhere) does play a role in what your strengths and weaknesses are as a singer. People who have solid middles - that is they have either a layer of fat around their belly or just a really solid round ribcage, seem to have an easier time with support than those of us who have very small ribcages and skinny middles. When I gain weight it's all in my butt and thighs (thank you pear shaped genes - hello? why couldn't it just go directly to my boobs?) and my waist and rib area seem to stay tiny. This means that I need to compensate for my skinniness by thinking about support in a more specific way.
I've been continuing to have these body movement coachings with John Norris here in Berlin, and I don't want to oversell it and say that the results are mind blowing, but I have been seriously amazed at the vocal results I've been getting with body adjustments. John noticed right away that when I went up in range, I tended to pull out, up, and away from my center of gravity, and he pointed out that because I am so small in my middle, I have to affect some compression of my breath while still keeping my ribs open. I have no fat pressing against me to provide automatic support and compression, and I don't have this solid round ribcage that just stays open because of it's own design. This is not a new concept for me, but his work is very physical and hands on, and the results are immediate. In my session with him yesterday, I sang about 5 really amazing high C's after he dug his fingers into the middle of my ribs and pulled them apart, but pressed down on the top of my head so I could open and still compress. I kept looking at him after each one incredulously, and he would just laugh at me. I was like "Holy crap! There's my voice!! Here's what I'm actually capable of?? Who knew??"
In other news, I did go to Paris this week for an audition (more on that later when the results become clear) and it's looking like I have nailed down a future engagement about which I am VERY excited. Details will be forthcoming. Unfortunately, I spent less than 24 hours in Paris because of flight delays resulting from strikes (those French loooooooove to strike) but there was just enough time for me to remember how romantic and mysterious that city is, and how much I would love to have an opportunity to spend extended time there. Plus I got to speak french, which, after trying to learn german and still speaking occasionally in italian, officially made my brain explode. I'm still picking up the pieces. Aufrevoirderci!