Sunday, January 08, 2012

Master Class

Sometime ago, I vowed I was done singing in master classes. It was just too scary, and somehow gimmicky, you know, sing it the second time and of course it will be better. I always felt I learned more listening to the "master" work with the other singers than I did when it was me.

Then I got the opportunity to do this one, to sing for Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano extraordinaire, and scary or no, I figured I'd better not let that chance pass me by. I went for a coaching to kind of polish up my piece, and my adorable coach said when I told her what I was preparing for:

"Okay, so this is one of those times when you really want to not suck."

Pretty much.

So, I felt good about my choice of arias, and where it was vocally, things were looking good. Then I got sick. AAAHH

I almost cancelled. But I've learned that my voice is usually okay all but the worst day of the cold, as long as I don't get a cough. Coughs are the voice killer. Nasal congestion is actually oddly un-scary for my voice, unless whatever I am taking to help it dries me out, making singing uncomfortable. Thankfully, I didn't really have anything pressing to do, so I could spend lots of time (i.e. waste an entire week) drinking green tea and getting better. With lots of encouragement from Joe, and my dear Mrs. M, I finally realized how stupid it would be to NOT do this, and we got up early and left for CT early Friday morning.

The truly lucky thing about this master class experience was that I was singing on the same program with two other people who just happen to be two of my best friends. And for some reason, the hotel must have sensed the connection and booked us in connecting rooms. This came in very handy when I was curling my hair and realized I had forgotten hairspray.

Oh the other thing-- Why didn't anyone tell me how perfectly amazing parts of Connecticut can be?? It's perfectly idyllic!! I'm moving immediately. Well, when I win the lottery, that is.

We rehearsed with the pianist, appreciated the amazingness of the gorgeous New England church, and then spent a lot of time standing around awkwardly and being nervous. Getting ourselves mentally prepared to be ripped to shreds in front of an audience of blood thirsty opera fans. I thought I was ready-- I'd memorized the meaning of each italian word, and I'd brushed up on all the facts surrounding the opera my aria was excerpted from...then she arrived.

Elegant, poised. It's the kind of thing that takes years of being an incredibly successful operatic powerhouse to cultivate. And it made me think that it I hope I someday can approach that sort of elegance.

So we all went out into the house to sit together and await our turn.

It was packed. There were so many people.

Then Flicka began her opening remarks. She didn't spend any time telling everyone about her very long list of accolades and accomplishments. She told people what it was like to be US-- the nervous, freaked out singers-- she said that the voice is part of the human body, therefore imperfect, and subject to all of the emotions and experiences that human beings have. You can't put it away, you can't have it tuned. You are just you, whatever you have experienced, whatever you did the night before, whatever you had to drink, however sick with a cold you were. So, thanks to this grand lady, before we even began, the audience was on our side.

I was first. Oh man oh man oh man. It was like my entire nose and throat region had completely dried up. Dry as a gosh darn bone. I'm dying. The music starts and somehow I manage to sing some kind of version of the aria I was supposed to sing. No whammies. No whammies.

The minute she addressed me, I felt like I was going to be okay.

I loved that she didn't make us prove how much we knew, and then make us feel bad if we were so nervous that we couldn't remember our own names. Flicka shared what SHE knew.

We had the best time.

So now, it seems, there is even less of a reason to be a diva-ish, complaining soprano. Flicka didn't need it to get where she got. Let's redefine soprano-dom, shall we? Can't we please prove that you can get just as far being generous and kind as you can with being demanding and, well, insecure?

Talk about a master class.
You go girls.


Sopralto said...

Thanks so much for sharing your master class experience. And what a lovely kind lady to speak and act in such a classy way, putting all of you at ease (at least somewhat!). Her comments about the voice being so vastly different than any other instrument is something I have written about in my blog as well. I'm a choralist, singing for personal enrichment, but I have learned so much about the very personal connection we as singers have to our instrument. I love reading you, laughing and comiserating with you as you share your achievements and struggles. Keep playing that instrument and sing on, my friend!

Jessica said...

Thank you so much for reading, and for the encouraging words! They mean so much to me!