Saturday, July 10, 2010

Okay, now what?

As you can see from the video and photo I posted in the last couple of entries, I have arrived in Innsbruck, and am now firmly in Europe for the next month and 3 days. Now what?

Well, the rehearsal schedule has been blissfully light so far - I had a couple of hours the first day, a couple the second day, a day off, and only an hour and a half of music tomorrow. I say blissfully because with all the travel and jet lag, I found myself sagging in rehearsal after about an hour at a time. But at the same time I get really frustrated when the schedule is too light for two reasons; first, when I don't have an imposed schedule I start to feel at loose ends, and second, I wish there were a way to condense the rehearsal process so we had a shorter number of days, but less time off during the process. The European people all jet home on the long free weekends to see their families, leaving the poor little American alone to twiddle her thumbs and thank her lucky stars for the existence of the internet. I've been gung-ho about all this European travel over the last couple of years, but it's starting to catch up with me and make me wonder if in fact I'm cut out for this kind of lifestyle.

Of course, everyone has their doubts about living a life like this. Even the most successful, driven opera singers sit in the window of their hotel room or newly subletted short term apartment, and stare out into space, imagining a life where they could walk their dog every day and tend to their garden. Where they could actually subscribe to magazines and have standing lunch dates in their town with their friends. A life where they could kiss their partner goodnight every night, in the same time zone, and in person, and where they never had to think about getting lost. Then something happens; they take an unexpected trip to the supermarket on the corner near their hotel, and discover a tiny street they didn't know was there with an amazing, unmarked restaurant that has the best tomato sauce they have ever tasted. Then they go to rehearsal and discover a new ornament perfectly suited to their voice, or a new direction in which to take their character which makes perfect sense, or a new place to get a laugh. And then they get a paycheck for what feels like playing around and sightseeing for a month. And then their agent calls, and tells them, "Great news! Blankety blank wants to hire you for such and such role that you've been dying to sing!" And they sigh, look out the window at that dream of the garden and the unchanged time zones and ask "Where do I sign?"

The grass is often greener from wherever you stand. If your dream has always been to have an opera career, and instead you are waiting tables, you can't imagine any factors that would cause you to not want to achieve that dream. Then you start achieving the dream, and the pangs of loneliness, anxiety, stress, and heartbreak build up, and you dream about having a normal life. Then, some people go ahead and make the change to living a normal life, and dream about all the excitement, challenges, and opportunities that not having an opera career causes them to miss. There is no ONE life that will make you happy - each choice has its pros and cons and ups and downs. You can certainly choose to have a more stable life, both emotionally and financially but you might miss the excitement, and you won't really know until you try. You also might NOT miss the emotional roller coaster, and find that you are more content to know where you'll be in two months, instead of wondering whether the apartment you will stay in will have a washing machine or a wifi connection. Or you might start to feel you'll wither away without the feeling of those hot lights on your face and your voice soaring out over the orchestra. Who can predict it?

All we can do is live our lives one day at a time, and honor our own gut feelings about what is right for us. And be grateful for all the things we do have in this moment instead of longing for what we don't.


Anonymous said...

Jennifer, you are so awesome! You are going to cover every aspect of this life before you're through. The whole taking-more-rehearsal -time-than-seems-necessary-American artist-left-twiddling-thumbs-on-weekends scenario is classic, in this field. Frustrating, right? And you'll love those sick releases for artists who find a way out of the long rehearsal process while the conscientious/no chutzpah/clout young artist helps the director and conductor feel useful as they wait for everyone else to show up, too!

There's a sweet little alpine zoo up in the nearby hills if you like that sort of thing... How about a train ride to Salzburg or Munich? I am sure you've been to both places, but in case you haven't they're worth considering. I read somewhere that the route from Innsbruck to Munich via Mittenwald is the most scenic. Perhaps you'd rather not spend the money right now, though. Innsbruck is most definitely a tiny little hamlet, though charming.

Good luck keeping occupied! You're right about the pros and cons, and for sure no one of us escapes these dilemmas and difficulties, whatever our lives look like. Wise beyond your years, I'd say.

Anonymous said...

Always having a personal and professional goal, I think, is the answer. If you are always working toward something and enjoying and observing the process, then you don't want to spend too much time regretting
what you don't have. Be where you are and not where you are not, that is my philosophy. It takes focus to keep yourself in that place, but it is worth it if you can manage it. It can keep you sane in a stressful world.

Andra Dan said...

I guess that this is a hell of a problem here. Myself, I wish to have an opera career, but in my country, this is nothing you can handle your financiar life with. Here, in Romania, opera artists are payed really bad, and hey have like a show per month to get their money. And they have to challenge themselves to badly that their voice starts to fade and to sound really odd when they are a deep spinto and they do The bell song. I just found out that these days the state had to cut 25% of the employees for whom the most money were spent or where "all out money went", and guess what? they've cut the opera, the philarmonica and the zoo, ages of work with nothing in your pocket to buy a decent dress for a Voices of spring concert. That's the situation of opera in Romania, in my town, Brasov. They might even close the opera house, but I wish they won't !!! if they cut our culture...what do we have left?
I always think about having an opera career from this point of view, which you described. The loneliness, the need of any kind of constancy in your everyday activities... I am young (21) and I am romantic and I dream about spending time with someone I love and being in love all my life but I don't dream about having kids and setlling down at 30. I guess it will be so hard for me, as it is and was for every woman. Women need love so much...the have a serious need to express it and a great need to have someone feel the same. And that consistency I was talking about...
Well, I am happy that you have found someone who truly understands that you always must go away in tours and for rehearsals, and again, God bles...the internet!