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When is it Art?

When I think of a recital, the image evoked is of an intimate space where audience member and participant are uniquely connected in an expression not only of stylistic excellence, but personal vulnerability, openness. Where character is removed and all we have left is to experience interpretation from the unique perspective of the performer. Their life is the character they are sharing with us. Such journeys are glorious because that glimpse into who a performer is, can be inspiring.

I attended a recital last week that took place at the Dorothy Chandler. It’s a great big house. They had paneled off most of the stage and filled most every seat for the event of the evening. A diva’s recital. She was lovely. Warm and with a voice that evenly filled the hall, a demeanor that was disarming and kind.

This woman was a technician. Not only was her voice even, but it was rich and full with high notes that hung like vocal pearls in the air. But, sadly, I did not weep. I wondered why. It was nearly perfect. And she was a war horse. The recital was over two hours with singing of heavy rep that ended with no less than three encores. But I found myself asking the question: what makes an artist? I think of a few divas of yesteryear, whose recordings are arresting. Audio journeys that require so much of my concerted effort, I am physically exhausted by the end. In such experiences, I have gone through the fire with the performer. I have felt the loss, love, pain, joy, happiness. I have been included.

In a recital setting, I am included. Or seemingly so. But there is something that happens when a performer stops talking and starts singing. This diva was so personable, so kind, so honest. And then, she became a singer. She no longer had her quirks, but poise and direction, gestures and deliberate motion. And I do not weep. But I want to. But how do you intimately reveal yourself to a room of over a thousand people and sing so that each one can hear it? I think it is possible, with imperfection and with the decision to sing for one. I call it choosing to sing for the child. The person we know will listen, only when we are telling the truth. Only when we are honest. The one who doesn’t care so much about perfection, who has no means of comparison, but who has the best BS barometer around. We risk so much with intimacy. When we invite others in. When we allow ourselves to be seen. And yet, that is the birthplace of everything worth remembering.


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