In the last couple of days, I've been having fun with my colleagues discussing the very worst thing anybody has ever said to us after a performance. Things like, "Wow! That sure sounded DIFFICULT!" or "It was great - but why didn't you hold the notes longer?" But I really feel like I have the best story about this, which I will share with you all now.
I was performing the title role in La Cenerentola (Cinderella) - a role I've done many times. Cenerentola is a really demanding role for the mezzo, and ends with a huge tour de force aria with enough high notes, low notes, and coloratura to fill a large truck. It is probably the most demanding role I sing, and after a performance, I'm usually pretty exhausted. I was at the after party of the opening for one of the many Cenerentolas I've sung, greeting the public and the donors from the company. I was flanked by my mom, who had flown in for the performance, and I was feeling pretty happy with how everything had gone. People were coming up to me one by one to congratulate me, to say brava, to wish me well. I was shaking hands and smiling at everyone, so when a wealthy looking blonde lady approached me, I turned to her, smiling, expecting a similar exchange to the ones I'd been having so far with various audience members.
So imagine my surprise when she approached me and loudly exclaimed, "What size SHOE do you WEAR???" (I should take a moment here to explain that in the opera version of Cenerentola, Cinderella leaves one of her bracelets behind, not a glass slipper, which is how the Prince eventually finds her. But in some productions, the words are changed so that she can leave behind a glass slipper instead, like the fairy tale people are used to. This was a glass slipper production). "Excuse me?" I asked the woman. "What size SHOE do you WEAR???" she asked again "Because those glass slippers looked ENORMOUS!!!! "Startled, I replied, "Um... nine?" "WOW!" she exclaimed, "I would have guessed at least ELEVEN!! Those shoes looked gigantic!!!"
My mom, standing behind me, felt the need to intercede, pointing out, "Well, she is 5'9" - her feet are actually pretty normal for her height." But the lady wasn't getting the hint. "Well. They looked Hewwwwww-MONGOUS. Good job though, honey!" and with that she was off.
Wow. I felt like I had been run over by a tractor. I had just finished the most difficult role in my repertoire, and I certainly didn't expect everyone to praise me, but I also didn't expect them to comment on my (apparently) outrageously oversized feet. Before her arrival I was wondering if all my high notes were even and brilliant. After she walked away, I was wondering whether I should consider having some of my toes removed.
Of course, I laugh about it now. In fact, I'm always really pleased to have that story to pull out when exchanging "war stories" with colleagues. But seriously? How big are your FEET? Wow. I almost wouldn't believe it if it hadn't happened to me. But you know what they say about girls with big feet...... big high notes. Thanks a lot lady - first you criticize my shoe size, then you force me to make horrible jokes. A curse upon your feet; May the shoe stores always be out of your size.