Well, they don’t make weeks like that too often, and for good reason – I’m not sure the heart can take it! My previous week started out with an unbelievable amount of intensive, inspiring work, and ended with a day which inundated my emotions and rendered this chatty mezzo nearly speechless. (Well, nearly!)
Last Monday and Tuesday found me finishing up the final tracks for my next disc, and as exhaustion and fatigue set in, as they always do for the final days of the recording process, the work becomes a bit more grueling and challenging – all in the best ways. But the voice is tired, so you have to pace yourself with even more care and attention, and the brain power is wavering, so you must focus even more fiercely, and the body is giving into the fatigue, so grabbing the requisite rest as you can becomes even more paramount.
However, as always, the music is there to infuse you with power and energy. We spent the days with Berlioz, Gluck, and Massenet, and the familiar was paired with the new. For one aria I was hearing the orchestration for the very first time, because to my knowledge no recording of it currently exists, so everything on that piece was a complete discovery – both for me and the orchestra. (I can’t wait for you to hear it – it’s quirky and a bit bizarre, but fascinating to me!)
Next up on Wednesday was my debut in Lyon with the same concert we gave the week before in Paris, and I had a ball. Fatigue gave way to total immersion in the music and enjoyment in meeting this public for the first time in it’s unique black-box of a theater. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to look up during the signing afterwards and see young person after young person! You all are FABULOUS for coming out and bucking the trend of some other cities! I was truly amazed to see SO MANY young people, and that lifted my spirits quite high, I must say. Don’t get me wrong – I love people of ALL ages coming out for any musical experience, but we hear so much doom and gloom these days about “aging audiences” (which I personally think is exaggerated) and I LOVED being surprised to see right before my very eyes the incarnation of concrete, intentional outreach and education manifest itself! I hope to return very soon to this wonderful city and will be MOST proud to have their wonderful Opera Orchestra and Music Director as my colleagues on this next disc!
Then what happened…? There was something else … now, what was it? Oh yes, I made a quick trip to London. Just stopped off for a little luncheon, you know, as one does … and then … BOOM! I fell smack-dab into one of the most amazing and truly unforgettable afternoons of my life. I was surrounded by a room full of the movers and shakers in the recording industry – the people who are fighting vigorously and valiantly to forge ahead during what everyone says are uncertain times – a vibrant combination of heroes and visionaries and critics and fans and, most happily, friends, and that alone was cause for celebration. Record sales are continuing, thrilling new projects are being launched, music is still being created: it was definitely a “good news” event.
But then winners started being announced, and “good news” morphed into “Who did they just announce?” and “What did they just say?” and “Wait, wait, wait – that can’t be!!” I was beyond thrilled to be announced as the winner in the Recital Category for my Rossini disc, and that alone was reason enough to celebrate and phone home. How happy I was to be able to thank all the people who helped make the dream disc of mine a reality, and have “Serious Rossini” being taken seriously! I was on a cloud.
But then the bomb dropped, and this is where I switched into – entirely innocently, mind you - Oscar Mode. I completely get why those Hollywood actresses walk up onto the stage and sniffle and blubber and babble incoherently, for the wave of emotion and disbelief and happiness truly overrides any sense of composure or dignity! I’m still really not sure what I said in accepting the “Artist of the Year” award, but I’m quite certain it centered on you. (That’s you, the reader who is valiantly putting up with my babbling here!)
This particular award varies from the standard categories which are voted on by a jury of critics and editors associated with the Gramophone Magazine, in that it is voted on by you, the beautiful, opinionated, passionate public. (I do believe I invited you to cast your vote awhile back, for your favorite artist, but never did I actually think that my number of votes would put me into the top slot!) This was your award.
And so I’m quite sure that I made it a point to articulate to this roomful of power players that we must never, ever lose sight of WHO we are doing this for, of WHY it is vital that we carry on with integrity, vision and adventure, and how we must fight for not only the preservation of our industry, but allow for the exciting GROWTH of our industry as well. I do believe that I challenged them (as I will politely challenge you, as well!) to stay POSITIVE during all this talk of crisis and doom and gloom. I’m weary of all that. I know there is a reality to face, and I know we are all faced with certain challenges, but I hope we can find a way not to contribute to the spread of the fear and worry and panic, but that we can be leaders in remaining inventive and positive and joyful at the prospect of looking at the challenges we face and coming up with the most creative of solutions that will move us forward onto great things.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of thought, and how our thought patterns and processes can define us, often without our awareness. And I’ve been trying very hard to come up with one concrete example of where my negative thinking has produced any single thing of merit. In my personal experience, I’m pretty certain that the only thing it has produced is lethargy, suffering, inaction, woe and hopelessness. When I am facing something negative or difficult or challenging and painful, if I can somehow manage to shift my way of thinking away from despair to the positive side of things, then I somehow feel empowered to actually ACT, and to participate more fully in life. It’s a simple, but somehow immensely powerful thing that I’m trying to foster, and so I felt compelled to throw that out there for the recording industry to ponder, and happily, you – you amazing, astonishing wonderful supporters – you gave me the platform to say it.
You humble me, you charge me up, and you make me feel unspeakable amounts of gratitude for your vote of confidence. That’s the kind of thing that carries an artist through down times, knowing that the work they put in is not falling on arid ground – it’s being received and welcomed. So I owe each and every one of you a very profound and sincere “Thank you”, “Merçi, “Danke”, “Grazie mille”, “Muchas Gracias”, “Arigato gozaimasu”, “Děkuji”, “Dank u well”, “Obrigada”, “Multumesc”, “Спасибо”, etc!
The other highlight, and boy do I mean highlight, was performing with Maestro Antonio Pappano, who won the choral category for his latest “Verdi Requiem”. We tossed off a little “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, and boy were those words ever true that day! “Somewhere”, indeed.
Word on the street is that the Maestro is overjoyed with the results! I don’t think he’d mind at all picking up another award next fall back at the Dorchester!