Friday, March 5, 2010

Honesty is such a lonely word

Or is it? I don't mean to dorkify myself by quoting Billy Joel (although I fully admit that I did really enjoy listening to his Live from the USSR CD in college) but I've been having some interesting discussions lately with people about whether or not it's prudent to be an opera singer who writes a blog about all her fears and vulnerabilities. Performers are supposed to be confident - confidence gets you hired - so who would be stupid enough to talk about being freaked out or insecure on the internet where everybody can read it??? Me, apparently.

Last week I was blogging about the "IT" factor and had a lot of interesting comments, many of which came from an anonymous source, whose only clue to their identity was that they are a "principal singer at the top level". Okay, so why would a famous singer feel the need to be anonymous when commenting on my blog? If that person is already at the top level, they should be able to relax and say whatever is on their mind without the fear of repercussions, right? No way! People who are savvy about the business know that you have to present an image from all angles, and that revealing your true thoughts can often do damage to this image, which you must protect because a lot of people's salaries now depend on YOU, the product! Yes, it's sad that singers are now products (which is partly what this commenter was noting) but of course that's the case in every entertainment industry, especially with the media playing such a huge role in any artists success in any field. So anonymous has to stay that way in order to protect him or herself and all the people whose salaries he or she might be helping to pay with their fame.

But what about me? I'm not paying anybody's salaries yet, that's for sure. I'm lucky if I'm paying my credit card bills (but that's more a result of my own addiction to shopping and not necessarily an indication of my earning potential) but there could be a time where I have to become more of a product to sell cd's or tickets or limited edition t-shirts with the slogan, "Trying to remain opera-tional - blogging for punny opera nerds!" So what do I do about this need I have to be honest with myself AND in my writing? Well, the honest answer is that I don't know. But what I'm hoping will happen is that this honest and open dialogue is able to become a part of my product. That one of the reasons people enjoy hearing me sing is that they have a little insight into who I am and what my innermost thoughts and fears are, and that insight actually gives them another angle on my artistry. I hope that I will both be able to continue to succeed in my career at a higher and higher level, and that I won't ever have a PR agent who says, "OH MY GOD SHUT UP!! STOP WRITING THIS DOWN FOR THE PUBLIC AND GO TELL IT TO A SHRINK!!!" Because my writing has become a creative outlet for me, and if I had to be something other than what I am, (which is a slightly neurotic if somewhat eloquent and ultimately relatively confident human being) I don't think I would be particularly inspired to write. So I just open up and let you see my beating heart, and hope that everybody is cool with that.

I've gotta go. My future publicist is chasing me with a big red delete button.


Liz said...

Hey! you don't know how much we love you! How I hope I can someday be able to buy a DVD with you in it. Or even better, could you possibly ever appear in one of the Met's HD movie theater performances?? That is just about all the opera I have available to me. It is a real treat to read your blog and share your experiences. You just how that you are a very real and honest person. And that is courageous and admirable.

Unknown said...

Brava girl, you go for it even if the product gets a little too revealed. Look, when people are more interested in the packaging that the meat inside, it no longer has substance. Look at Bernie Madoff, he packaged a real nice deal to a lot of unsuspecting people and where did that end up? Self expression always wins out because what folks are looking for is an authentic experience both on the stage and behind the scenes. Selling oneself to the public as art has it's downside no matter what you wrap it in, but the artist has to get some satisfaction or it is not worth doing. Every artist in the world is either insecure or bored out of their mind if they are not insecure, or lying about it.

C'est Moi said...

Besides, if you are lying to yourself or to others, you're just kidding yourself. AND, just try to find someone who is not insecure about something, and I'll show you a phony. Stay real - it's refreshing!

Chris Foley said...

Sestissimo, the honesty of your blog is the reason that I keep coming back to it!

Don't worry about the anonymous commenters. I have it on good authority that a number of very well-known musicians of a certain generation are dedicated classical music blog readers, but, because of privacy concerns, will only comment anonymously ;)

Janet said...

I feel a little guilty about it, but I honestly find the concerts of artists whose blogs I read more interesting. Even the best written blog wouldn't make someone worth listening to if they weren't otherwise, but I think I truly do listen with more open ears when I feel some sense of connection with the person behind the performer. So if they have something worth offering, I 'm more likely to hear it. I have not yet had the chance to hear you sing, but when I have that chance, I will go out of my way to take it, and that is definitely because I read your blog. If someone is a serious and thoughtful musician, and a decent human being, and their blog reveals that, I think it is a perfectly valid tool that any publicist should welcome.

mamascarlatti said...

Like your other commentators, I would go out of my way to hear you sing and that's very much influenced by your lovely warm HONEST blog. So come on girl, come and serenade us in New Zealand, lovely scenery and beaches, good food and wine, and a laid back lifestyle. Failing that, I'll wait to see you on DVD.

Tina said...

I am not in the entertainment industry -- I'm just Jane Consumer, so I'll speak as Jane Consumer. Prior to reading your blog, my chances of paying for an opera ticket were next to nil. I love theater, and I've paid hundreds for tickets to everything from "Contact" to "The Producers." But just didn't see myself as an "opera person."
Now, as a direct result of your blog, the experiences you've so willingly shared, and the glimpse you've given into this unique world, I'm sold. I didn't even have to hear a note from your lovely voice! If I ever find you're performing in/near New York, I'm buying a ticket. So from a business perspective, even if that was never your intent, your blog is a good thing.
It's the same principle with celebrities in all genres. People want to feel close to them, understand them. Have you read Andre Agassi's book? He exposes himself pretty willingly, warts and all. I recently overheard a conversation among colleagues about the way his willingness to share his story has increased their appreciation of him as a tennis player. (I was already a fan, so I'm biased.) Again, from a business standpoint, that is a plus, not a minus.
Please keep doing what you're doing for as long as it helps you process your experiences. You're touching a lot of people out there.

sestissimo said...

Wow guys - I am truly touched by these comments, and especially from Tina saying that my blog would actually encourage her to attend an opera! That is sort of a life's dream of mine - to encourage people to go to the opera who might not normally do that. So thank you to all of you who wrote these lovely comments - I find it very encouraging and I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to tell me how you felt. Thank you!

AND, for those of you who would like to see me perform, but won't be near Portland OR, St Louis MO, Austria, France or Germany in the next year, I am trying to upload a video to blogger of me performing. So far my technical abilities are getting in my way, but I'm trying!!!

alexandrina said...

I would like to add few words...
First, what can I say about all things you've written about me in this previous post...Thank you is just not enough but what else can I say? Thank you, Jennifer, from the bottom of my heart and with all my love!!!
But here I want to comment because the next posts after Berlin and the comments provoked me to say few words.
The IT thing - now I'm positive that it is a combination of fate and our own will. We do participate in the creation of our destiny and it's important to acknowledge this in order to take responsibility and learn. Yes, it is a cliché and as most clichés it is right! I am one of those (and I'll say this without any falls modesty) who could be singing in the Met but is not. But the whole IT concept will look different if I tell you that I declined a proposal to make an audition for Georg Solti who was looking for Traviata in Covent Garden when I was 21 years old because I had a contract for the season's inauguration of Teatro Reggio di Torino with Esclarmonde and was feeling TOO IMPORTANT to make auditions (lessons about arrogance are the most deserved, painful and severe ones)! I'm not saying that Angela Gheorghiu still wouldn't be preferred, but who knows if I was her cover or something, if Solti would had heard me, if...if...if... That's just one of many that could have turned my life. But now, looking back, you know what? Would my life be the same as it is now; would I have Nayo, the kids, the books, everything that I actually LOVE? Most probably not. Who knows if I would still be singing? And now, would I, if I could, change my career and MY LIFE for ANYBODY's career and life? And the answer is absolutely NO!!! So, I believe that somehow, unconsciously, I have made decisions (wrong at the time but probably not wrong if I look at the big picture) that have lead to the accomplishment of my destiny, that it is not the IT but me, and for a good reason!
Regarding the HONESTY: for Christ sake! In which world we are living? What image we are trying to sell? When I think about the image of an unbeatable rock it's always George W. Bush coming in mind saying something like "They misunderestimated me."
Nobody, even the most powerful guy on earth should play the undauntedly sure person, that's the easiest way to become a fool! Or, the "diva" image? The "diva" is dead. Today opera singers and even "divas" go to work by the subway, wear blue jeans and have facebook profiles. Just with one click of the computer... and if we don't tell the true about ourselves - someone else will. What you write here is so right, profound and genuine that the only way it can affect anyone is by making people be more interested in what you do and what a beautiful, intelligent, sensitive, fascinating, accomplished person an opera singer can be! I'm so proud of you and for all of us because of you, the way you describe this crazy life of ours! Please, keep being who you are and write just as you do and YES! - put it all together in a book!