Empowering Insight to Break the Nervous Cycle

Tonight, the lovely and impressive Patricia Wise led a master class as part of the BASOTI programming. I found out the day prior that I was singing in it – yikes – and decided to go with Giulietta’s “Oh! quante volte” because it had flowed so easily the past few times I worked on it. Ms. Wise complimented me on my Italian (which is amazing because I’ve never had a diction class; my first one will be here with BASOTI on Thursday!) and communication of setting and emotion (which I’ve worked hard on in order to set myself apart from the rest of the soprano population). I had to go first. Going first is great because you don’t lose the warmed-up feeling and can enjoy the rest of the show after your bit is done. Going first is less great when you can’t rely on someone else to set the tone for the evening – but someone’s gotta do it! It was my first public master class, and although Ms. Wise was friendly and not-threatening, the entire situation was intimidating.

Just this morning, we had an audition workshop with the magnetic Hector Corerra (he’s also directing an opera and several scenes, two of which are my Pamina and Miranda scenes). He shared inspiring words about staying in control in situations where we tend to become nervous: when we show up at the audition or the performance, we are the party, the main event. It’s not about the other singers or the panel; it’s about being well-prepared and confidently presenting your abilities to see if people have the good taste to like what you do! Go only if you can deliver what they are asking for (no one asks to bake the wedding cake if they don’t know how to bake or if they only know how to make one type of cake). Know the rules so you can break them intentionally. If you are knowledgeable and ready, none of their questions or expectations will throw you off. Since you are there on your own terms, then you’re the one in control. Don’t give your power away. What an amazing way to approach these situations, and I kept repeating this to myself leading up to the master class.

And what happened? There were no missing notes or words, and I was happy with my characterization and presentation. Yet, I couldn’t seem to get myself out of the unsettled, nervous feeling. I came in at all the right times, but my breath and, therefore, my voice were not fully engaged. The rounded warmth I’d enjoyed the past few weeks was missing – and I was aware of the breath issues but couldn’t find the reset button. I tried technical fixes: breathing lower in my ribcage, riding the breath through the intervals, keeping the vowels Italianate to prevent wasting the breath. I even tried non-technical things to get myself out of my head and into the character more: changing my gazing point, seeing Romeo (literally because the mezzo-soprano with who I’m singing the Romeo and Giulietta tomb scene was there tonight), focusing on the text. This second strategy helped me put on a good show, but it didn’t solve the breath issue. I wanted to sing with complete abandon, but I know I didn’t quite achieve that level of immersion: I recall thinking, “This isn’t working,” which means I was still in my head instead of Giulietta’s.

My breath was better when Ms. Wise made suggestions and I sang again. I think most singers know the second time is usually smoother, as if we need the first take to get the nerves out of the way. Why can’t we make our first opportunity our best showing? I gave up some of my power and didn’t get it back right away. What a reminder that I have a long way to go still. But in the spirit of keeping my power, I’ll say I am still fabulous but needing a little more polish. I have a one-on-one voice lesson with Ms. Wise later this week. No audience, and now that I’ve already had a chance to interact with her, there better not be nerves. My voice can come out the way it’s supposed to, and I hope to gain more insight from her regarding breathing, space, and coloratura.

Much less nervous and ready to sing tomorrow,

Joyce

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One response to “Empowering Insight to Break the Nervous Cycle

  1. That is a wonderful way of seeing auditions. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

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