My fear was amplified by the fact that I am the youngest soloist: 60, 57, 43 and 32. Trust me, the older you are in this kind of performance the better. Mainly because it is freaking hard music and solo roles aren’t usually trusted to the young. (Not that I am THAT young, but I am in this crowd.) I am also the only person that doesn’t hold an advanced music degree and who has never held a faculty music position.
We all had to do interviews for the media and it put me in an unsettled state. I always sound like the biggest dork when I’m quoted. Hopefully, they won’t use anything I had to say.
The orchestra is without a doubt, the best voluteer orchestra I have ever worked with before. Every single one of them could sight read this perfectly. They are better than some paid orchestras I’ve worked with.
That didn’t make it easier.
Before we went on, I could FEEL the soprano sizing me up. I overheard her say,”She looks…young.”.
I probably didn’t help matters by wearing my hair in pigtails.
She is a professor at a huge university and drove a long way to come to rehearse. With little ole’ me.
I kept desperately trying to tell myself that I had good training. I have worked my ass off for this moment every.single.day for months and that I was one of two full scholarships in my department, I have worked in stellar halls and with world-class orchestras AND HELD MY OWN. Anything to give me confidence when I got in front of that orchestra.
I. CAN. DO. THIS.
Then the phlegm started.
Whenever I do any kind of significant performance, I became almost paralyzed with F-E-A-R.
It isn’t just “Oh, I’m scared.” If that were all it was, I could just tell it to go the hell away and be done with it. The problem with fear and the singer is that it can totally screw with your body physiologically. In my case, it is reminiscent of anaphalaxtic shock: My throat starts constricting, I start to produce phlegm, and then I start to compulsively clear my throat and my breathing gets labored and sticky. Once this happens I have to consciously fight to get control of everything or it can lead to severe edema of the larynx, which causes hoarseness and turns your ability to phonate a decent sound into CRAP-O-LA.
I have a battery of things I do in my head to make me brave and to help alleviate the symptoms of stage fright. I had to use every single one of them because I sat waiting for my turn for almost an hour and a half. It didn’t help that I had to go after the tenor, who is freaking AMAZING and has the best role.
Know what, though?
I was fine. In fact, I was better than fine. I was good.
It takes a lot for me to say that, so please don’t think this is me and a huge ego. I was just proud of my performance, and that is rare for me. I hope I can do it when it counts.
After going over all my roles and finishing the polish on my duet with the soprano (Who has an amazing ring in her high tones, but is r-e-a-l-l-y stiff to watch) pulled me aside and said, “It will be an honor working with you.”
I was a bit speechless and stammered out a lame reply:
“I actually wish I could be the soprano in this piece. Mezzos and basses always sort of feel like the red-headed stepchild next to the soprano and the tenor.”
“Don’t you DARE my dear. People kill for voices like yours. You are a true, rich, gorgeous, Alto and those are scarcer than you can imagine.”
Later, the conductor’s wife told me that she talked to her during my entire run through and reprised the same thing. She was amazed I was just a housewife that sometimes sings in the shower and walked away from a career.
So am I, sometimes. I know it wouldn’t have been my true happiness, though. I have the life I wanted. I am pretty content with it. It is just nice to be given the chance to shine and feel like there is something I can do very well, that is very rare and have the occasional opportunity to dress up and live the life I walked away from for a few magical evenings.
You can’t ask for more than that.