Friday, April 2, 2010

What makes a somebody?

A couple of days ago, when I did the interview with my friend Kate Aldrich, Opera Chic posted our interview on her blog as one of her daily items, and linked to my blog. Today I saw that there were 7 comments on her blog about that post, so I did something that was probably a bad idea, and went ahead and looked at the comments. It's always dangerous to look at blog comments because they are essentially anonymous and therefore could say absolutely anything. And I was right to want to avoid them because right there a few lines down were the following two comments : "Who ARE these two? followed by "Nobody. Not worth your bother."

OUCH! Nobody? Wow - it's amazing how one little word can be so incredibly hurtful. I mean, obviously Kate can't be a nobody - if you're singing Carmen at the Met and Rosina at La Scala and you're a nobody, then who the hell is somebody? So let's put that aside for a second and assume this commenter was talking about me. I mean, certainly compared to the major singers out there, I guess you could say I'm a nobody - in fact, I jokingly say it about myself all the time. I haven't sung at the Met or Scala, and who knows if I ever will? But I think that labeling an artist as a nobody is really a dangerous way to criticize them if you are an opera fan, which I'm assuming this person must be if they read Opera Chic.

I read an article recently that quoted Renee Flemming as saying that The Met is the top of the food chain for singers, which is probably quite appropriate. And if we're using the food chain analogy, then we have to acknowledge the fact that food chains can only exist when all the different levels exist - if you remove one of the levels, everything above it dies with it - they need each other to survive. The same is true for any artistic field, but let's take opera singers in particular. Without singers that weren't super famous, we wouldn't be able to have opera companies spread out everywhere - if the only opera companies which existed were the Met, Scala, Covent Garden, and Paris, then nobody anywhere else would be able to see opera, and the art form would have a difficult time sustaining itself. And famous singers only exist because they worked their way up there - they all spent time learning and growing by singing roles with smaller companies and becoming better artists.

Maybe he or she is suggesting I'm a nobody because they think I have no talent or nothing to offer as an artist, but even that is certainly a misnomer. Anyone who has a desire to share something artistic with the world has something to say, while their natural talent (and even more, their circumstances of being in the right place at the right time) might limit the context in which they are able to express themselves. But even someone who gives a recital with 12 audience members might be able to move someone to tears with what they are communicating. And in my book, that makes them somebody.

I know that every person who puts themselves in the public eye has to accept that they will receive criticisms of all different sorts. And thank god I'm not a hollywood actress who has to read about how someone thinks I'm too fat, or that my career is over, on the cover of a magazine in a grocery store. But I really believe that any opera fan who categorizes any singer as "nobody" should quickly reconsider what they might be doing to the art form by dismissing someone so cruelly. This kind of remark doesn't do anybody any good. Well, I don't know - did it make you feel better for a minute, faceless commenter? Because I think your minute might be up now. So I would like to suggest that you go do something productive, unless you want every member of this food chain to shrivel up and die. And I'm not saying this to you anonymously - I'm saying it as myself, Jennifer Rivera. Somebody.

10 comments:

Mei said...

I can only say, for your selfsteem, that you cannot take so seriously the comments of people that presumably haven't hear you both singing...

I've heard you both... Aldrich as a Carmen in Munich and as Monteverdi's Nerone in Barcelona and you as Handel's Nerone in Berlin...

You both are something... I went to the theater because of you, I like to hear new voices, I need new supplies of vocal energy...

Take care...!

Susan said...

Ouch!

Well I'm just another anon-type reader (except that you can click on my name to see my blog...) In my self-centered view of the "world of opera," the fact that you have a career as an opera singer automatically makes you a Somebody!! Doesn't matter what stage you've sung on.

Go back and reread your March 29th, "30,000 Hits" entry. That's a lot of clicks for a nobody. I don't think you'll need to contact NASA about Spacecamp any time soon. :)

Lucy said...

ugh. What fun is LIFE (not to mention opera-going!) if it's spent passing such judgments? As so often, thanks for your thoughtful comments, applicable to undeserved dismissals in any number of situations. :)

pat said...

Did you think that that person or persons were serious? I did not think that anyone could be that stupid to post such a comment, so I assumed that they were just kidding around. If they were serious, it is actually pretty funny, such a display of ignorance by beings with the pretense of sophistication, opera snobs trying to kill opera so they can prove how self important they are. Surely they must have been jesting.

sabauda said...

Ouch. Dearest Jen - do not go there!!!! OC obviously thinks (KNOWS) you both are SOMEONE. Don't go to that mean blog comment place - you are above that. Move on.... you and Kate are both wonderful talented artists and very special beautiful people.

Sidney said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a cousin of Kate's and have sat in that apartment on the other side of yours whenever she's in town (and unfortunately you're not, so we've never met). She's told me about your support for regional houses and in particular new American singers on their way up.
As a writer myself,I fully appreciate what you're saying here about the need to express oneself creatively, no matter who the audience is. You're right that moving even one other person makes your effort important. But I would suggest that the very effort itself just to plumb your own creative depths makes you a 'somebody'.
Kate will always be a somebody no matter what she does and clearly, so will you. I look forward to reading your magazine once you get it off the ground and to meeting you someday. Thanks for being YOU!

Tom said...

Dean Martin had a catchy little tune about it! "Somebody(s) do love you" so you obviously don't qualitfy as a nobody. And all this time, I didn't realize I didn't qwualify as a "follower". That one is corrected now......... check!

Opera Cake said...

It's hard but you HAVE TO learn to ignore those comments.

After all why care if that creature thinks you were nobody!? Gratifying him/her your whole blog entry will make him/her feel like "somebody".

Think of us who believe you're both somebodies & great. And we're somebodies too :)

Cheers and have a good one

Mitch said...

word. You are a somebody.

Anonymous said...

While your outrage at that insensitive and probably not completely serious comment is justified, in this line of work a thick skin is a requirement, and the higher up the 'food chain' you go, the more important that becomes. Have you seen some of the vitriol written on the web about Renée Fleming or Anna Netrebko? It unfortunately goes with the territory, especially on the internet, where everybody has a mouthpiece. The flip side of that is that one comment, while hurtful, is not going to make much of a dent in what anybody thinks of you. Maybe developing that thick skin (or at least a very 'Zen' attitude) is part of your 'job', like the other things you mentioned in your post a few weeks back. Your public will ultimately 'judge' you on your singing and your dedication to opera, and so should you!