In the spring of 2013, I saw an opera singer do something astounding, something that I, as a performer, now dream of doing. In my heart, in fact, she inspired the start of a revolution. Now that she had revealed the truth and I had witnessed it, I knew that I could never deny it. It awakened within me a desire to emulate her and carry forward a new tradition in opera—an Operevolution—that I believe will have the power to thrill hearts in a way that I hadn’t known was possible. I’m convinced, in fact, that it will have the power to win a new generation of opera lovers, on both sides of the footlights.
The performance I’m referring to is Joyce DiDonato’s portrayal of the title character in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda at the Met last spring. Even now I think back on it with reverence. Her every phrase—every pitch within that phrase—was sung with total commitment. She was so unapologetically engaged in being Maria Stuarda that I couldn’t help but match her level of presence. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire performance (that’s a long time—yo)!
The night of the performance I went home and did something I rarely do: made an ueber-passionate post on Facebook, telling everyone who had the chance to see Joyce in action to run, not walk, in order to do so. I had so many singer friends in New York that I wanted to share in the experience—so that they too could witness the DiDonato revelation—to start a conversation amongst like-minded individuals about how to make *this* happen more of the time within our art form.
I found that person in a new friend, Rachel Payne, a New York-trained, LA-based soprano to whom I had been introduced only a couple of months before. Once the conversation began, the flood gates were opened, and we couldn’t stop the conversation. Now, nearly a year later, we feel compelled to establish a forum for these conversations, and we are asking others to join in and offer up their own experiences, opinions and inspiration. If all goes to plan, the scheduled journey is from innocence to conviction, from self-consciousness to vulnerability and, finally, from transparency to transcendence.
In a nutshell, what Rachel and I are attempting to do is break down any barriers that exist between the performer and her ability to be completely vulnerable—transparent—in presenting her art. For that is what I believe Ms. DiDonato accomplished that night last spring. She possessed and exuded the courage to tell the story of who she was with her whole heart. She laid it all out there, and the result was absolutely astounding. And because she opened herself up in that way, the audience was invited to do the same, and the connection that resulted was transformative for all parties!
So, what are these barriers? What stands between a singer and the ability to be vulnerable in a way that will tell an honest story and awaken the deepest, most sincere desires in the hearts of ourselves and our audience members? How do we, as singers, get in the way of acting as the vessel for great art? Here are some of the ideas and topics that have been swirling around in our minds. Please feel free to comment and add your own—we are taking requests! It will be our aim to keep the conversation flowing by posting on a weekly basis. Along the way we will welcome experts in various, related fields as guest bloggers, to broaden our perspective and shed light on breaking through the barriers to divaliciousness (and divoliciousness—equal opportunity here!).
To back up my story, and to learn more about Ms. DiDonato’s groundbreaking interpretation, here are a couple of excerpts from the NY Times review:
“Ms. DiDonato’s performance will be pointed to as a model of singing in which all components of the art form — technique, sound, color, nuance, diction — come together in service to expression and eloquence…
“Ms. DiDonato is simply magnificent, singing with plush richness and aching beauty. At a few moments, from the collective sounds of the subdued chorus and orchestra, a pianissimo high note, almost inaudible, emerged from Ms. DiDonato’s voice, slowly blooming in sound and throbbing richness.”
In addition, feel free to click on the following links to read more about it: