Saturday, 31 March 2012
Living in another country. Singing in another country. Learning in another country.
That doesn’t sound too difficult does it?
Say you are lucky in your chosen new country. You have a nice apartment, you have a good teacher, you’re working regularly with a good coach and you’re getting along with the language that you’re learning. Are you still ok? How do you know where you stand, if you measure up? Do you need to know these things? How do you know that you’re making good progress and taking the right steps to your future?
But this is an opportunity. It doesn’t matter that you’re new in a new place. It’s actually a fantastic time to learn that your opinion is the one that matters, and to really, really listen to it.
I keep having amazing, crazy moments where I think that what I’m doing is utterly mad. What right have I got to be living here, in Berlin, and aiming to sing? I am not sure where I will end up, I am not sure what I will be doing or how I will get there. I am considering various options, singing to lots of people and doing lots of auditions. But the key point that seems to be continually expressed to me is that having the grit and determination to keep going, improving and working at your musicianship and technique is what will stand you in good stead for the rest of your career.
Over the past two months I have managed (somehow!) to set myself up with all of the above. Firstly, we have a great little apartment. We started off lodging with a wonderful violinist who plays in the Deutsche Oper. This was to give us time to get to know Berlin and to see where we would like to be. So that we didn’t overstay our welcome we began looking for a flat to sub-lease (Untermietvertrag in German) and eventually we found one on the ‘Opera-Singer Network Berlin’ on Facebook of all places!! Happily settled I have a little home to fill with vocal scores and house-type things.
Aside from sorting out digs, I have at the same time been seeking to create my own regular lessons and coachings to spur on vocal development. I am having weekly (sometimes twice-weekly) coaching with two different coaches and have just worked intensively with Laura Claycomb. I am taking the amazing advice of people I am working with and working not just on audition pieces but whole roles. By the end of April I will have Gilda completely prepared!!
As well as what I am doing in Berlin, next week I am off to Turin to work with a wonderful international soprano, and I am going back to Vienna to work with Chanda VanderHart and Rusalina Mochukova for a week of technique and coaching at the end of the month.
Where am I?
Well I don’t really know, but I think I’m going in the right direction. I am trying to learn to measure up only to my own standards. I am becoming exacting about every nuance in the music, every nuance in the language of the libretto. Learning to let go but also to be a perfectionist. Becoming my own gauge as to whether I am happy with my interpretation of a piece of music. You can learn these skills in any number of situations – opera studios, music college, on the job – but one of the hardest things about being alone in a foreign land is that you have to learn to trust that you’re doing ok all by yourself. And you have to keep going.
Embrace the challenge!