I practiced every day. And every day I wanted to give up. I took detailed notes of what was wrong with my voice. My daily practice videos documented slumped shoulders, and a variety of hair cuts. On rare days I just stared into the camera. What was all of this for?
In a pandemic-ridden world, this is my call for kindness, patience, and compassion. It all begins with schmoozing.
Through the years the original Broadway cast recording, abridged as it is to fit the time limitations of a single “long-playing” vinyl disk, has remained the pinnacle of its major recordings. The soundtrack of the hugely successful film recruited legions of fans plus a few detractors, Bernstein among them, who found it overblown.
This silence is the loudest thing you've ever produced. It is absolutely deafening. It has left an entire generation of Canadian artists in confusion and tears. Culture is ultimately a set of actions, not beliefs. Your silence therefore is an act representative of your culture.
It's the kind of thing I imagined would happen within the performing arts - yes, even opera. True, the opera world isn't known for making sudden movements, but there are certainly minds in the industry who are staunchly forward-thinking; those people are experiencing some serious inspiration right now.
And speaking of the participating artists - I wonder very loudly how they felt about doing this for no fee, particularly those who found out about their cancelled Met contracts through social media posts. It's quite something for Peter Gelb to not call his contracted artists when COVID-19 shut everything down, and then ask them to come help "Save The Met" with a free performance at home. Yikes.
I guess the most humbling thing about this is realizing how utterly in love I am with something that the rest of the world just might deem unessential. Like, in the big-scheme, unessential; the line-up for government aid is already enormous, and priorities have already become clear. The performing arts are certainly a staple of human society...but opera?
How sad that in announcing the Met’s 2020-21 season and the addition of the first European tour by the Met Orchestra in 20 years, it has taken this course. 26 opera companies in North America have waived Force Majeure and many have adopted plans to pay their soloists at least 50% of their fees.
Perhaps the question to ask is, why do so many young singers put up with it? I would urge my colleagues to put aside the undying loyalty to the artistic dream for a moment and speak up against unfair working conditions of any kind.
We were away for six weeks in the fall and four in the spring, touring our opera in remote parts of Québec and Ontario. It may not have been France, but I have had some of the best moments in my professional life.