Thursday, April 22, 2010

Open mouth, insert foot

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.


Anonymous said...

HaHaHaHa, thanks for the great laugh, and a great start to the weekend!

They get money, they think it's OK to say any fool thought that pops into their head, and like the Emperor, nobody will call them on it.

Anonymous said...

You're right Jennifer, that's one of those stories you'll never tire of telling. You never know where people are coming from so it does become necessary to have one's guard up, unfortunately - sometimes more than your natural personality would find comfortable or necessary. Your feet size? So stupid. Some people just have to find something negative to say. I would take it as a compliment, this lady really had to reach for a zinger, didn't she?

Janet said...

To perhaps mitigate the lady's comment a little: Some people get a kind of stage fright when speaking to an artist after a performance. You're thinking, Wow here is this incredibly awesome person who has just sung this impossible role, and what can I possibly say that she'd be interested in hearing? It's analogous to speaking to that cute guy in 7th grade--the most amazingly stupid things can slip out.

Kim said...

This story is really funny because 1. it's funny but 2. because it's an inside joke in my family that I'll never be hired to sing Cenerentola because I DO have size 11 feet. ;) Don't sweat it.

pat said...

I remember this incident. My recollection of it was that you said "she did not just say that, did she?" It was very unconscious, she did not really understand that she was being insulting, which made it all the funnier. (Or maybe she did, but if so, she was a really great actress.) She just came off as incredibly air headed and the irony was, she was dressed to the nines to go to the opera. Her only expectation was that the glass slipper would be small and dainty. I think that we found out at the after party that she was the wife or girlfriend of one of the board members.

Bella De Balle said...

That woman proves that Mark Twain was right when said It's better to remain silent and thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt lol. Besides, from what I've heard both Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O wore a size 10 shoe, so us "big footed" women are in good company :)

Anonymous said...

Love it! I'll be sure to look at your feet during the upcoming Barber production in Portland!

Kendall in Portland