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Archive for June 4th, 2010

This is generally what I look like right out of the shower.

Making crazy eyes.

As I have things to do later in the day that may preclude my posting later, I’m going ahead and posting now. Today you get a special peek at what I look like when I’m just out of the shower, dressed, but haven’t brushed my hair yet. I’m a fairly lazy person, so I generally don’t bother blow-drying my hair (I don’t even own a blow-dryer, although I used to), I just brush it and let it air dry, or I brush it and then put it into a pony tail. I actually prefer short hair to long, but I haven’t been able to afford a hair cut lately, so until I have a job again it’ll likely stay long.

Today I’m going to say a bit about opera singing. Now, the majority of people in this world tend to see opera as boring, especially if they have never seen or heard a real opera. They assume people who have classical training in voice are all snooty, stodgy, and incapable of seeing good in any other form of music, or even sing other kinds of music. I think that Sheryl Crow might have some words to say about that. She is one of several popular singers today who has classical training and still chooses to sing other genres of music (and more power to her, I say). As for me, I love music in general. I can appreciate Renee Fleming (famous opera singer) and Sister Hazel equally. There are limitations for me, in that really bad technique bothers me, but most popular singers aren’t so bad that I can’t listen to them. As I said, many of them do have some kind of training. Pop tends to be the genre most offensive to me, as most bad technique happens there, but I’ve been known to listen to a pop song once in a while as well. The only genres I have a lot of trouble finding merit in are rap and country, the former because it isn’t music (spoken word poetry, sure, and appreciable in that sense), the latter because I much prefer its predecessors, bluegrass and folk music, as they feel more “real” to me.

Enough about my personal tastes, though. Opera singing in general has gotten a really bad rap, and part of it is the generational divide and lack of education. There have been articles all over the place for the last couple decades talking about how opera is “greying”, how opera goers are almost exclusively elderly, and how most young people have no interest. Well, part of that is that they see most elderly people as stodgy and uninteresting, and thus anything those old people like must also be stodgy and uninteresting. Add into that that my parents generation was very much about rebellion and overthrowing the established order (my father tells me about how his parents believed rock and roll would eventually die out because it was meritless), and you get two generations in a row that have been made to believe that opera is completely useless. Why would we want to waste time on anything our grandparents liked when we could go see some awesome rock band in concert instead?

Then there’s education. It used to be that classical music was a large part of a person’s education. But as music programs continue to shrink and children get less and less exposure to the music that forms the very underpinnings of our current musical landscape, as well as less and less music teachers who have any idea of how to introduce them to these masterpieces in a way they can understand, the chances that a child may feel any connection to classical music in general, or opera specifically, are vanishingly small. And that is a damn shame. Just as I was graduating from college, my school created a new program. They made a graduate quartet, two men and two women, whose express purpose was to travel to various local schools and perform for children. I didn’t get to witness these performances, but I was friends with all of the people in the quartet, and they told me how many of the children loved them. These were mostly elementary school children, who had no understanding of the cultural and historical significance of opera. They’d never heard anything like it before, and they loved it. Part of it was showmanship, of course. The people in the quartet (in particular the baritone, he’s one of the most amazing singers I’ve ever met) were all very experienced performers, and they knew how to make performances exciting for people of all ages. But most of it was just that these small children got to hear and experience something they’d never heard or seen before. And since they were young enough not to be jaded, not to believe the world was full of useless crap that didn’t matter, they loved it. Many opera programs are trying this tactic, and I hope it continues to expand, because it would be wonderful if we raised a new generation of opera lovers, children who can see with new eyes, that this is a genre worth experiencing.

As for me, I love opera for a lot of reasons. I’ve always been a performer. From a very young age I loved singing, and being in front of people (I actually wrote and performed a song in front of my whole school when I was 7 years old). I didn’t believe I could actually be a singer, and so I decided I would be a veterinarian, because I love animals and want to help them (in hindsight I don’t think I would have ended up being able to, I hate getting dirty and I’m a bit squeamish about blood). It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I finally had enough self-confidence to decide I wanted to be a singer. This was entirely because I had a wonderful choir director who really encouraged me to do what I wanted with my life. I still feel grateful to him for pushing me so hard, and credit him for giving me the ability to articulate what I really wanted. The next year I started looking at colleges with good music programs, and ended up at a good one.

Performing has done a lot of things for me. It has helped me immensely in the area of self-confidence. I was a very loving and open child, but had quite a few bad experiences in later elementary and middle school that made me so timid I wouldn’t say boo to a mouse. I could hardly ask people for help, especially not adults, and forget speaking up in class or otherwise distinguishing myself. It wasn’t until high school choir that I began to blossom. I became more comfortable with myself, with my fellow choir members, with the idea of being who I wanted to be. And that only continued, the more I did it. I began acting differently in other areas of my life. By the time I got to college, I was a bit cocky, but I was also mostly able to articulate my needs, something that took a lot of effort before.

Opera, for me, isn’t a hobby. It isn’t something I like doing when I can’t be singing some other kind of music. It’s my life. I love singing jazz, Broadway, blues, and even sometimes rock and roll, but opera is above all those. I wouldn’t be who I am without it. I want to sing and perform more than I want anything else in the world. I may never get married, probably won’t have kids, might not even get to buy a house or anything most people seem to aspire to. But I don’t care. As long as I get to sing opera, nothing else really matters.

And that’s all I have to say about that, at least for now.

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