Saturday, April 3, 2010

commenting on comments

Wow - thanks for all your nice comments yesterday after my little rant based on somebody's mean comment about me. You are all right, in that we must ignore things like that, not take them seriously, and not give them credence by writing entire blog posts about them. And by the way, I'm totally over it - I was only upset about it for like five minutes. But I have to say I'm glad I wrote the post for two reasons. First of all, it felt fabulous to get to respond to somebody saying something bad about me! I never really thought about it, but one of the reasons that it's difficult to get a bad review or criticism is that you just have to shut up and take it. Well, not me! I have a blog, and if somebody says something I don't like - guess what? I can scream and yell right back, and I tell you what, it's quite cathartic!

But the other reason I'm glad I wrote about it is that I think people in this business in general tend to do way too much categorizing of artists, and it's a dangerous habit. And when I say "people" I mean myself as well - I catch myself doing the "compare and judge" game, both with myself and with other singers all the time. I have blurted out to certain colleagues on more than one occasion, "Well, I don't know what you're worried about, you're having a WAY more important career than I am!" as if a career could be quantified, wrapped up in a little box and labeled, "important", WAY important" or "totally UNimportant, you freaking loser." It's ridiculous, and I should stop doing it - and I can thank my friend the "you're a nobody" commenter for reminding me of that.

As I mentioned in my post a few days ago, I went to listen to some live jazz the other night, something I'm embarrassed to admit I don't do nearly enough. I was totally mesmerized by the playing of both groups I heard, and I had the occasion afterwards to speak to one of the musicians about what it is to be a professional jazz musician. It's apparently shockingly difficult to make your living strictly from playing jazz unless you are quite a famous soloist who is touring around the world (and especially europe, which as with classical music, seems to contain a larger audience for musicians in general). He told me that the 16 piece band which played the first set I saw, and boasted some seriously talented soloists, each earned $25 for playing for about 4 hours. "But WHY do they do it then???" I asked incredulously. "Because they love it I guess," was the reply. Wow - no wonder listening to that music moved me so much - 16 really talented people, playing music for the sheer enjoyment of what they do? That's something.

And that conversation put all of this business with judgements and categorization into perspective for me. In the jazz world, you can be a really talented saxophonist, blow your horn with all you've got all night long, and walk away with just 25 bucks and some free drinks to show for it. But if you love it, you find a way to do it, and that's enough. In opera, we have all these organizations that are hierarchical, and therefore we instantly tend to categorize ourselves based on that hierarchy. But maybe we just need to ask ourselves; If the most you could get to sing this opera tonight was $25 and a couple of free beers, would you do it? And if the answer is yes, then screw the categorization and just enjoy the privilege of getting to do what you love. And enjoy the hell out of those beers.


Anonymous said...

The other thing to remember is that people posting anonymously on blogs could be absolutely anybody ;-). They aren't accountable for what they say, and they aren't obligated to reveal their agenda for saying it. You might even meet the person who writes nasty things like the comments that upset you, and you might decide they are a complete and total idiot. They might be someone you think hasn't a clue, about anything! And then you'd be able to put those comments in the proper perspective for yourself.

Just because someone posts something on a blog does not make it an inherently informed viewpoint, or authoritative in any way. It simply has the advantage of high exposure, and that's all. In many ways when it's the type of swipe you experienced it's just an ambush, and one perpetrated by a coward.

There is a disturbing tendency nowadays for some fans (I think only a small percentage of them, honestly) to buy into this "only so and so is a star, who is worth my interest". And yet half the time these are simply the artists who've gotten the most attention from the industry, and the industry is telling the fans that these artists are the only ones that matter, through their PR machine. Talk about manipulation! And talk about a bunch of lemmings...

When we get all caught up in these same famous singers' hairstyles, clothing, home decor and the like, it's simply part and parcel of this mentality. You know that there's much more going on than the trivial details of these singers' lives, Jennifer, right? You know that this tiny sliver of blog posting and fan commentary does not reflect the total reality of opera fandom today, too, I imagine. Stick with what's in front of you, every day, on every job, and you'll stay grounded. The rest of it is just a mirage, truly. Unless you're Peter Gelb, who buys into this garbage, haha!

pat said...

Loved the last comment on the opera chic post that was left by Becca Ann. I think that says it all.