It's no secret that many professionals in the arts struggle to make ends meet. There is little to no job security, financial stability, or benefits that people in other fields often take for granted. Artistic professionals are often self employed or freelancers. It is an unfortunate reality of our field that artists are sometimes asked to provide their services for free, in exchange for "great exposure". What a steaming pile of horse shit.
The launch of Indie Opera Toronto includes profiles of each company's history and creative teams, brand new photography by Dahlia Katz, integrated social media for the Indie Opera platforms and each company's own social media outlets, an integrated calendar for all upcoming productions and short films by Darren Bryant.
I cross the street and jump over a huge puddle to get to the sidewalk that leads to my apartment. I look up, and there they are: Mrs. Shame and her good friend Mr. Humiliation. So we greet each other, reluctantly shake hands and pick up our usual conversation where we left it the last time I ran into them: "How can this happen to you? They said they loved your dress! But perhaps, if I you had done this phrase differently... I didn’t want to have to tell you this, but your high C was flat.
For any of you involved in the freelance performing arts as a source of income, I don't have to tell you the struggles of making a living, having a life, or maintaining relationships. There are, of course, the 1% who have hit the jackpot of a permanent gig that provides steady income, God forbid benefits, and the luxury of being in one place year round as to actually have a family and a home.
The business of opera is at times wonderful and at other times loathsome. It is, sadly, mostly run by the ill-informed and the ill-equipped. It is therefore oftentimes arbitrary and frivolous though it can sometimes be sublime.
It is not enough to re-experience our own pain on stage; we must externalize it so the audience can join us through empathy.
Isn't it possible, though, that you've taken all the fun out of it both for yourself and the audience? If you're running to a plan, there is no room for whimsy or spontaneity, for some little piece of improvisation that might turn a good performance into one which is delightful and memorable.
What I do know is I have questions that I hope we all can start to ask ourselves: Where does this critical conversation fit in this profession? What happens when superficial beauty standards discriminate gifted singers out of the business? Is there a way to have a body positive mindset and approach in this industry?
At the end of the day, there are certain things that you will not able to control, no matter how much you practice; and no matter how solid your technique is, you will hear, "no". You cannot take it personally, the thicker your skin is, the better you will fare. It will make the "yeses" you hear even sweeter.
So, the next time you get hit with a flash of "inspiration" to change something during the middle of a live show, STOP! Take a moment to consider the consequences of your potential actions as well as who they might impact. Nine times out of ten, you'll put more than just your own career at risk; ten times out of ten, you’ll always put your own career at risk.