Grace and Measure, Day 61 (1 of 25)
Day 1 of 25, A Career-Centered Chapter
On many things I procrastinate entirely too much. After two weeks of wonderful but serious singing, I abstained from vocal practice and instead finally outlined the updates needed for my sadly outdated professional website. While emailing upcoming and recent events to my web designer Alban Bailly, I realized I haven’t had a month without rehearsals or performances in a very long time. What grace to work as a singer, making a living in New York!
Taking a couple of days away from the city at my parents’ house in a suburb of Philadelphia, I had a similar sensation of gratefulness when finally watching the Metropolitan Opera‘s documentary, The Audition. With two of my friends featured in the film, I honestly don’t know why I waited so long to see it. Nevertheless, by waiting, I had the opportunity to view it with my parents who despite their understanding and emotional support, still have many misconceptions about my goals as a singer and the business of classical singing.
Thankfully, my mother and father surpass in knowledge those who think all opera singers weigh too much and wear horns, and my father certainly enjoyed opera and classical singing in general before I did. Occasionally, a stray comment here or there alerts me to as yet unnecessary expectations that I should have a career like Stephanie Blythe‘s or even Renée Fleming‘s. Watching opera or shows about opera with my parents generally makes me uncomfortable because of such remarks that, while originating from a desire for me to succeed, often leave me feeling inadequate. On the other hand, I had an opportunity to express my opinions to them about my goals as an actor, an oratorio and concert soloist, and a professional chorister in general in a way I hadn’t yet articulated to my father especially.
As much as I thrive on singing as a soloist and acting in general, I imagine my father must understand, underneath the desire for my success, why I so enjoy singing as a professional in ensembles as well. Having sung with the Long Island Symphony Chorus as a young adult, he loves telling people about his concerts with the Greg Smith Singers, and he even conducted a small church choir for a time. So despite any misconceptions either of us harbor about the other’s opinions, I know we share an intense love of choral music. I know for certain he would have truly adored our concert on Sunday with the NY Virtuoso Singers.
Having worked with Mark Adamo when singing Meg in the Israeli premiere of his opera Little Women, I couldn’t wait to see him and perform more of his music. I had a great time singing his surprisingly comic but complex Cantate Domino with at times, one on a part in a chorus of more than twenty, and I felt truly moved when listening to the smaller core of the Virtuoso Singers perform his “Long Black Veil” from Matewan Music. Our soprano soloist for the Choral Music of John Corigliano and Mark Adamo concert, Emily Pulley, had many an opportunity from the composers’ works to showcase her unbelievably floaty and soaring high notes, juxtaposed with an outstanding vocal and dynamic range.
In an impressive span of comic and dramatic flavors, both composers brought some fantastic color and character to a Sunday afternoon choral concert in the incense-scented Episcopal church. Of all of John Corigliano’s well-crafted and inspired pieces, his L’Invitation au Voyage actually transformed me as we sang. Brilliantly composed to suit Wilbur’s translation of the inspired poem by Baudelaire, the music rekindled a beautiful vulnerability in me in a way rare and precious few works of art have.
When contemplating my career, I find it silly in moments like these to objectify my goals in order to seek wealth or fame. As one of the fortunate ones to work as an inspired artist, why in any imagination would I want to cut myself off from these experiences that provide more than just a paycheck, simply because they don’t particularly lead to mass notoriety? Although I won’t likely appear on the CD jacket and royalty checks don’t come with this line of work, I can’t wait to record this with NY Virtuoso Singers on Naxos in September for the two incredibly talented and gracious composers who have granted us the gift of their music.
“There, there is nothing else but grace and measure,
Richness, quietness, and pleasure.”
-Charles Baudelaire, Translated by Richard Wilbur