Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Tough Choices

Cleopatra seduces Julius Caesar

'Teaching Tuesdays' are full of youngsters. Those who will aspire to a career, those who are not sure if they want to aspire, and those for whom the moment of truth is perilously close!

To get through the all important audition trauma, one needs to find something so unique in ones performance, that it leaves the audition panel quietly stunned. Within 16 bars of the first piece they already have the measure of the candidate, and in their necessarily stony and ruthless hearts, they already know if they will offer a place or not. So you see the first magical moments are the key to the future. This seems harsh, but I know it to be the truth, having spent 16 years sitting behind that frightening table, listening to scared young talent giving their all.

One young lady is so close to her auditions that she can even now, feel it's hot breath fuelling her excitement. She is singing an aria she has sung many times as her first piece. It is never a good idea to go into that tense and frightening situation with the added pressure of an aria which is on it's first outing, we want an element of 'auto pilot' to click in when, and if, the nerve 'freeze' sets in!

She is singing a most beautiful Handel aria from Julius Caesar, called Va'doro Pupille - or in modern parlance ' Boy do I love your eyes' ! It is a glorious seduction aria sung by Queen Cleopatra to Julius Caesar, which has the poor man powerless and incapcitated by the eroticism of the moment. Even in the 1724 sex was a potent element of operatic melody, and Handel was a master!

My young soprano has sung it since she was 16, and now 5 years later it has grown, progressed and 'bigged up', from the junior sized aria it was when she first began it's journey. It is a typical Baroque aria in as much as it has a part A then a Part B and then a decorated return to Part A, a Da Capo Aria to give it it's Sunday name!

In parallel with her vocal growth it has developed from that junior aria to a substantial and mature performance which is both vocally beautiful and intellectually sparkling. The wall she now must climb is the toughest. She needs to find that element of 'unique', she must add more of herself and her reality, she must sing the aria on her terms, and take a blind step off the edge of the performing cliff into the musical unknown. I know that it is all there, but accessing that deep and vulnerable part of oneself is a big ask, and requires guts.

Guts, this young lady has in abundant profusion. She is feisty and made of strong stuff.

Sometimes the 'strong' acts as a mask for the underlying depth of feeling!

The other problem we all encounter having sung a piece for many years - far more than my delightful young soprano ! - is to find something new to say, to keep it fresh for oneself, and in doing that we keep it fresh for the audience. Thinking of another angle or another scenario allows the synapses to fire off on different musical tangents, all of which let the music move further forward on the never ending road to perfection. There is no Sat Nav to help negotiate the zigs and zags of performing!

Not reverting to habits of years ago can be very painful, 'it worked that way before', = 'it's a safe nook in which to nestle'. Safe, undoubtedly, stagnant, most certainly, satisfying, almost never............

I make it sound as if it is all soul searching and hard graft - Yup, that does go a long way in describing the career long, ever stretching path of a singer, but believe me, it all pales into insignificance when compared with the emotional and physical joy and deep satisfaction one experiences, by being utterly submerged in the consummate beauty of the music.

I know this with absolute conviction.

I know this because for me, it is now gone.

So grab it girl.

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