No shame in strategizing

Learning roles.  This means preparing all music for a character in a given opera even if you haven’t been cast yet.  This is how we pad our sparse resumes when actual stage-time is limited.  Am I speaking just for myself or are there brave souls out there who will admit to this strategy?  There’s no shame, just ruthless practicality.  No one can argue against the marketability of having a role ready to go:

– “Would you like to hire me?  I already know how to do this job.  I’ve spent hours studying, memorizing, and practicing.  And I won’t charge you extra for showing up perfectly qualified and super prepared.”

– “Sure.” (no arguments here)

HR experts and self-help/motivational speakers push us to dress for the job we want, not the job we have.  An opera singer puts on the Viking helmet of her dreams in the privacy of a practice room, and improves her odds by already knowing the notes and the characters.

It’s standard for applications, teachers, and other singers to ask what roles you have prepared.  Thinking fast, I say I’m working on what’s-her-name … because the straightforward answer is: I got nothin’.

The majority of my recent singing centered around local competitions and graduate school auditions.  These situations call for range in languages, time periods, and style.  It’s 15 minutes to show how much bang someone can get for their buck/endorsement/praise.  This versatility has its place in the real-world (I’m guessing here since my experience as a paid singer consists of two – count ’em, two! – contracts), but learning a role speaks of commitment.  It’s like getting your bachelor’s compared to taking some classes at the local community college; no one hates having credits in basketball and basket-weaving, but most of the praise seems to come around graduation time.

Working full-time, and going to school full-time (but not for music) left me very little time to prepare roles.  Thank the singing gods I’ll be an opera performance major in three months.  My existence will revolve around opera.  I’ll have the incredible luxury of spending 8+ hours a day on music rather than 8+ hours thinking about music.  I have a lot of catching up to do.  Many singers younger than me either have more experience or more impressive looking resumes.

I am singing a little of Pamina and Giulietta over the summer in San Francisco. I like a Giulietta with the guts to circumvent her family’s wishes and the maturity to balance out her emo youthfulness.  Does Pamina have the same fire?  She seems gentler and less terrifying to tackle, whereas Giulietta sounds like she could kick you in the face.  But Mozart is a trickster.  He strings notes together in straightforward progressions.  He says it’s okay to let down your guard and it’s absolutely possible to learn this piece in 30 minutes.  His lines float, but you realize you have to work to make it sound so effortless.

Pamina is a good place to start since the voice doesn’t have to fight the orchestration.  But the type of movement and control in Giulietta’s part is what I specialize in as a coloratura.  These two ladies will need to battle it out over the summer.

Plotting and scheming,

Joyce

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