Radio 3 was running Verdi’s RIGOLETTO, one of my favourite old war horses*, tonight, from the New York Metropolitan, and not only that, but one of my FAVOURITEST singers, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, was in the title role. Be still my heart.**
AND WE HAD TO GO TO THE SECOND SESSION OF FRELLING*** ALPHA.†
We heard like the last five minutes of the opera, which is certainly a good five minutes for listening to the bloke singing Rigoletto . . . but it misses out the previous three hours.†† AAAAAAUGH. And the Met broadcasts are never available for replay . . .
. . . and then there was an announcement that Rigoletto WOULD BE AVAILABLE for seven days on the Radio 3 iplayer. Suddenly the world is a brighter place.
EXCEPT THAT IT’S NOT AVAILABLE. Usually stuff goes up within a couple of hours after it’s gone out over the air. Not tonight. You go and click on it and it says ‘try again later.’ AAAAAAAUGH. Tenterhooks. Tenterhooks. Will I be able to hear my favourite contemporary baritone††† sing one of my favourite baritone roles? Stay tuned.
Meanwhile . . . another voice lesson when I had a voice to play with today. I’m trying to enjoy this phase for as long as possible because I can feel myself starting to make up a fresh new list of things I can’t do and must therefore become totally frustrated and hopeless about.‡ Also known as moving the goalposts. That I have any voice is still a frelling miracle.‡‡ And it means I get to sing really cool stuff! We were looking at new pieces for me to have a bash at over the Christmas hols—another Dring from the Five Betjeman Songs cycle that my beloved Hotel Proprietress comes from, and the Schubert song that he then went on to write the famous Trout Quintet from—but the song came first. I have one more lesson before Christmas, next Monday, when Nadia will attempt to drag me through the German so I can play with it over the holidays without breaking anything.
* * *
* There’s an ancient author-answering-questions-about-her-life-outside-of-writing^ piece on my web site about opera, in which I mention that the somewhat less famous trio after the famous quartet, when Gilda bangs on the bad guys’ door, knowing that this is going to get her killed, and the storm is breaking up the action from the orchestra, is one of my favourite bits in all opera. Verdi is The Man as far as I’m concerned because of the way he could write music that is the absolute aural definition of the emotion he’s describing. Wagner, blah blah blah, Puccini, blah blah blah, anybody else you want to mention, blah blah blah. Nope. Verdi—for me.^^
^ Ie LONG BEFORE THE BLOG.
^^ Now I’m trying to decide what to say about Mozart, who is the pinnacle of a different mountain. No, no, it’s too late at night, it’s been a long day, I can’t tackle it. I’ll say this though: Verdi is deepest darkest red, and Mozart is clear pure green.
** Granted this was on radio, but that Hvorostovsky is cute is secondary to the fact that he can sing. Also this was the Las Vegas brat-pack production and I think it would probably annoy me.^
^ This is one of those ‘do squirrels eat all the birdseed out of the bird feeders/ do menopausal women crave chocolate /is McKinley still pissed off about that stupid FAUST production she saw a couple of years ago when Faust commits suicide at the end’ questions.
*** Look at the psalms. People have been cranky about God and the validity of religious commitment and expression for thousands of years.
† If I were getting along with Nicky Gumbel’s anecdotal style better I might be less . . . um . . . cranky.^ I don’t think I’m a natural member of his target audience—whatever his target audience is.^^ Maybe my ignorance of most of the basic tenets of Christianity^^^ is the problem . . . except I thought the point of Alpha is that it’s for people who feel they don’t know enough. Although I suppose not knowing enough is a variable concept.
It may be a long ten weeks. Although we now have a break till after Christmas . . . additionally useful for those of us with composure to regain. I like our group#: unfortunately we talk less than Gumbel does.
^ The set up seems to be that you watch a video presentation by some Alpha admin person and then your own live group discusses it. I think Gumbel began the whole show, but he’s not the only presenter. St Margaret’s is running an Alpha with live streaming from London and Gumbel is taking only one or two of the series, but we’re watching recordings on TV in a private sitting-room and they’re all Gumbel.
^^ But it requires knowledge of national sporting figures and recent TV programmes. FAIL.
^^^ I’ve got it that Jesus Christ is the human incarnation of God. After that it starts getting blurry.
# One of the other women tonight was talking about Julian of Norwich, who is on my reading list but I haven’t got there yet. I’m about to move her up near the front of the queue.
†† I heard about ten minutes of the early sashaying around in the duke’s court—missed O Questo O Quella^ of course—while I was bringing my geraniums in. I was a few minutes late to Alpha because I shot back to the cottage first to get the PLANTS IN because the temperature, having been a really pleasant sunny mild-for-December day, was busy plunging, and while the local weather said no, no, no, no, definitely no frost tonight, I know what happened last time. Tonight, of course, there will be no frost. Because I got my tender stuff indoors. Unless of course in the dark I missed something. In which case there will be a frost, and whatever it is it will be dead by morning.
Being able to foretell the future isn’t all it’s chalked up to be.
^ The first fabulous old war horse aria in this fabulous old war horse opera.
††† Unless you want to count Placido Domingo. No, Placido Domingo goes in the Can Do Anything category. He and Daniel Barenboim. Oh well, probably neither of them can write fantasy with strong female characters.^ But probably neither of them has ever tried.
^ And critters. And Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head.
‡ There are drawbacks to singing more advanced stuff: the more you get the more you know you haven’t got. To some extent this is just the amateur experience, but there are better amateurs and . . . less good amateurs. I am listening to my gorgeous operas and favourite singers with a whole extra layer of awareness and appreciation the last couple of months or so since I made my surprising little burst of progress in my own practise. But this inevitably includes a greater, more detailed and exact awareness and appreciation of how much I don’t sound like Joyce Di Donato. I want worse than ever to go sit in^ on some top-flight singer’s master class because I’ll get so much more out of it . . . but I may also crawl home after and burn all my music.
^ NOT perform, please note. I doubt I’ll ever reach that standard.
‡‡ Yaay Nadia, miracle-worker.
I am glad I’m not doing this EVERY Friday. Although there’s something to be said for getting your first few nights on the street over with in relatively quick succession so you can batter your way through the Very Early Utterly Clueless stage a little faster. I will still be mostly clueless by the end of tonight, my third official night, but I won’t be UTTERLY clueless. Er. I hope. So maybe by next month, when the schedule should settle down into something more nearly resembling one night a month which is what the official commitment is supposed to be, I can maybe not spend the day before duty night hyperventilating and feeling too overwrought to eat. You’re going to be on your feet for most of six hours, you ridiculous woman. You need calories. Feh. I like eating. But not when my jaws are clamped together in anxiety. Tension level is re-ratcheted up for tonight when I meet my alternate team for the first time—Maxine’s team—this being one of the months when her free weekends don’t fit with the Street Pastors’ rota.
. . . The jaws-clamped-together thing was especially awkward today when I FINALLY got to Oisin’s for a slash and bang at singing with accompaniment for the first frelling time in several frelling months. I wouldn’t ordinarily have sought a Street Pastors duty night for this extremely threatening additional activity, but first Oisin was on holiday for several weeks—the nerve of the man—and then our diaries have been bad-tempered with each other since he’s been home again and I was anxious (there I go being anxious again) to get Oisin back in the system especially now that I have a little more voice to play with and WOULD LIKE TO MAKE ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO GET USED TO THE IDEA—INDEED THE PRACTISE—OF AN ACCOMPANIST.
And then I managed to forget to make copies of the moderately death-defying new stuff I wanted to sing. So he had the music on the piano and I sang ee—oo—aaah over his shoulder because I can’t read the lyrics from several feet away, although at least, squinting, I had some idea when the accompaniment went up or down and where my entries might be. Ugh. Need to work on those entries. . . .
But it wasn’t a disaster. I don’t think. Maybe I was just preoccupied by the evening to come.
And now I have to hurtle hellcritters and feed them what they will consider disgracefully early and then GO OFF AND LEAVE THEM FOR HOURS AND HOURS. I’m not sure they’re too with ideas of Christianity and social responsibility when there might have been a sofa instead. What about responsibility to hellcritters?
My feet are already cold. . . .
* * *
While the Bechdel Test is useful in the aggregate (and I liked Bechdel’s Fun Home, which had the honor of being challenged not at the high school level but in two different COLLEGES), I do not like to see it institutionalized. I know Sweden means well, but the ultimate effect of content ratings is often that writers/directors end up artificially altering the story in order to get a more inclusive rating. If this were applied the same way MPAA ratings are here, I guarantee we’d start seeing movies where two women talk to each other for 10 seconds just to pass the test.
And as you mentioned, the setting of whatever story is being told does not always lend itself to multiple female characters. The one that’s coming immediately to mind is 12 Angry Men. And hooboy, that film prof is right about The Help. I should say no more…
ETA: Oh yeah. Parents and other adults who are disturbed by certain things in books frequently ask why they can’t have an age rating system like movies. Well, that’s why. Even though ratings are applied to finished products, it would lead to (some) authors and publishers self-censoring before the fact. Never mind the question of who would actually apply the ratings!
All of this is true. But humans remain the list-making and test-creating animal and as long as they’re going to make lists and apply tests I want to see something like this one—even if it institutionalises something that is much better uninstitutionalised, and yes, I’m a Bechdel fan too—out there making people think about what gets left out of the standard tests. Like women. The film industry is still overwhelmingly male and male-oriented. Anything that shakes that cage is worth considering. I’m not sure but what forcing directors to insert a wholly superfluous ten seconds of two women talking to each other is better than the fact that at the moment they don’t feel they need women characters who, you know, just talk to each other because that’s what people, including women, do.
* * *
Arrgh. I’m late. Story of my life. . . .
I had what passes in my case for a terrific voice lesson.
AND THE REMOVAL BLOKES GOT IT ALL IN.
These two large dazzling items totally outshine the rest which is a good thing because it was very nearly a disaster of a day.
. . . Starting with not getting to bed early enough last night, partly because I really needed to sing and one song leads to another. . . . Staggered out of bed this morning making hopeless croaking noises like an installation of rusty hinges* and started lubricating with caffeine. Took the poor hellterror for the fastest sprint she was capable of** and locked her up again with an extra kong to comfort her in our absence.***
I took hellhounds-of-the-touchy-digestion for a minimal get-it-over-with scamper around the churchyard. Darkness refused to comply with the purpose of this exercise. Arrrgh.
Hellhounds and I were on the road with twenty-five minutes to spare: five minutes to bolt up to Third House and ask Atlas to clear out drawers and move ill-placed piles of [book] boxes in anticipation of removal-men arrival this afternoon and twenty minutes for hurtling at the far end before my lesson.
Atlas wasn’t there.
I could feel my throat closing.
Well, nothing I could do about it; I couldn’t even ask Peter if he knew anything, since, in the first place, he wouldn’t, because he’s been in Gloucestershire all weekend, and in the second place because he was on a train somewhere and I guarantee his phone had no signal, because that’s the way it goes.
So we thundered on to our next scheduled activity.
Frelling Mauncester was backed up from halfway up the hill into town. Stop go (but not very far) stop go stop go stop go stop go stopgostopgostop. Chiefly stop. It was like this all the way through town.
I could feel my throat closing harder.
We arrived at Nadia’s with THREE MINUTES to spare. I took hellhounds for a three minute scuttle and . . . Darkness continued to fail to comply. ARRRGH.
I was pretty nearly barking by the time I burst through Nadia’s door. . . She did make me do some breathing and loosening up exercises before I sang anything, but my throat said, Ooooh! We’re at Nadia’s! We like it here! —And promptly warmed up a dream.†
WE GOT THROUGH THREE SONGS. THREE. IT’S A RECORD. We usually bog down on the first one because I’m doing so many things wrong, not that Nadia would put it that way, but I would. We may occasionally galumph through bits of more than one—indeed even three—but only because I have a specific technical question†† or they’re folk songs I’m singing at home and want a little general input—or scraping back from the brink. But THREE REAL SONGS? It doesn’t happen. And furthermore the third—Vedrai carino from Don Giovanni—I’d only brought because I wanted to go over the frelling Italian before I started really working on it. We’d had a stab††† at it a while ago and it got set aside, but it’s been on my mind and since I now more or less suddenly have more voice it’s one of the ones I snatched back from oblivion.
Oh, go on, let’s just sing it, said Nadia. So I did. Eeeeep. And she made one or two painless comments and told me to go home and work on it.
Then Un moto de gioja and we spent some time on that one. Here’s an example of why I adore Nadia. There’s a place in the middle of Un moto where you hold a note for a very long time and then come off it again with a wordless twiddle before you start the next verse. I hadn’t even registered that you’re supposed to sing the twiddle—when I started work on this song Nadia had told me to hold the note only as long as was comfortable, but to keep time and come in correctly on the new ‘un moto’. Then I ACCIDENTALLY heard Danielle de Niese singing it and she sings the twiddle. Oh. It ties the two halves together better, the twiddle. I can’t sing it up to proper twiddle speed at the end of a long note—which is the part I can do—and as I hurl myself into the next verse. So I sing it at half speed. Nadia said gravely, if you were preparing this for public performance I think I would take issue with your singing it so slowly, but for your purposes at present it works very well. —She takes you seriously. Even when you’re screwing up Do Re Mi or tackling something like someone with a flint axe trying to produce a knock-off of the Sphinx.
Finally we assailed the nightclub proprietress. This is such a fabulous song. There are no fully satisfactory performances of it on YouTube—that I can find anyway—but here’s the poem: http://wonderingminstrels.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/song-of-nightclub-proprietress-john.html ‡
It needs Lotte Lenya—who may have died before Dring composed it, in which case I excuse her for having failed to record it—or someone else who can put over age and despair. I don’t say you have to be old (despair optional) because in fairness I would then have to give up singing Voi che sapete, say, which is sung by a teenage boy, or Vedrai carino, which is sung by a bouncy village maiden (to her thick plank of a fiancé). But you have to put old and hagged over. I have a chance of this, with lived experience on my side. But the thing that is Very Exciting is that I can hear me beginning to sound like a mezzo: not just the range‡‡ but the resonance. And this is a very resonant song.
. . . I then took hellhounds for another hustle and FINALLY. A CERTAIN PARTY EXCRETED. We then belted back to Third House and arrived with three minutes to spare . . . and the removal blokes were already there. NEVER MIND. I WASN’T LATE. I let them in, pointed out all the Large Objects that had to go, apologised for lack of pre-clearance . . . and bolted back to the cottage to feed hellcritters‡‡‡ and take the hellterror for another mini-hurtle while hellhounds contemplated their bowls with disfavour. I was on my way out the door to flee back to Third House when the phone rang and it was Removal Men saying they were ready. . . .
I looked at their lorry before they shut the gate and my heart plummeted. There was no way they were going to get that lot in. I had the hellhounds with me again—no one had got any kind of a real hurtle thus far today—and we took off across some countryside§ behind the storage warehouse while Valiant Removal Men wrestled with the standard three dimensions of the space-time continuum and when we returned . . .
THEY HAD GOT IT ALL IN.§§
Oh, and did I mention that tonight was the first night of the Alpha course—?
* * *
* On this day that the Turner Prize is announced, this seems like a perfectly valid idea
** All right, the fastest sprint I was capable of
*** I’m sure, if asked, she would prefer the kong
† Please remember, when I say silly things like this that IT’S ALL RELATIVE. I have made a giant leap forward in the last few weeks but it’s still an 11-hand Shetland pony qualifying for prelim at the county show against the odds, not the branded warmblood insured for a gazillion pounds qualifying for the Olympics, okay?
†† Huh, whuh, um, bleaugh?
††† Way too vivid a metaphor, stab. Or maybe I’m just hallucinating KES.
‡ Baby ’pollies is not a mystery: they’re little bottles of a kind of mineral water popular at the time.
‡‡ I’m still putting in petitions to get my high C back. Lots of mezzos have high Cs.
‡‡‡ ‘Feed’ used loosely, which is to say the hellterror eats and the hellhounds do not.
§ And I managed to cut myself on some barbed wire. Frell. There was a normal gate to get in, and then at the other end one of those horrible temporary gate things that anyone who has spent any time wandering over English agricultural landscape will know to their detriment: several strands of barbed wire stretched between two light posts and held apart horizontally by being nailed to a series of short loose lathes. This contraption is usually held at either end by a loop at ground level where you stick the bottom of your post and then at the top by another loop which you have to shove it under, around the post of the real fence it’s being attached to. These things are a menace anyway, and if you lose your hold they collapse on the ground in a grisly tangle of barbed wire. But in this case . . . the frelling loops were made of barbed wire. WHY? Anyone trying either to open or close the evil thing is going to have to handle the loops. I managed to nick a finger and it bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and it was very boring and there are probably a whole series of predators out there tonight hopefully following my blood spoor. Sorry guys.
§§ Of course I still have ninety-six million books to do something with—I don’t mean Peter’s and my backlist, that’s already in its own storage unit—and a few odds and ends. Maybe a few more than a few.
YAAAAAAAH. I got to bed at . . . a little short of 7 am Friday night/Saturday morning.* The rest of the weekend is a bit of a blur. I’ve kind of lost track of when daylight happens, it is so easy to mislay this time of year.** Meanwhile I’ve been playing phone tag with my removal man about getting the big stuff from Third House that Atlas and I can’t shift in his trailer up to the storage warehouse place; I missed Mr Removal Man on Friday and assumed that was it till Monday, but I got a phone message from him today that I picked up on my way out the door to go to church, arrrgh arrrgh arrrgh arrrgh arrrgh . . . phoned him as requested when I got home again*** AND HE WANTS TO COME TOMORROW AFTERNOON. I HAVE A FRELLING VOICE LESSON MONDAY AFTERNOON. EXCEPT TOMORROW I’M HAVING IT EARLY. VERY EARLY.† AND THEN I HAVE TO COME HOME AND DEAL WITH REMOVAL MEN?††
I need to sing††† and then go to bed. Fast.
* * *
* It was a slightly odd night out on the street.^ I would have put it down to the fact that it was only my second official night and I still don’t have a clue, but several of the others on the team, including Fearless Leader, mentioned it, that there was a restless unease in the (cold) air that was unusual. I was home by four a.m. but the adrenaline aftermath was bad; the only two at all really tricky incidents were near the end of our watch, and I was actually engaged in one of them—yeeeeeeeep—and came out of it having done the right thing but jangling. And . . . it’s going to take me a while to get used to seeing real live very drunk and/or drugged up people doing the kinds of things real live very drunk and/or drugged up people do, both the hostile and the happy, and also the mere absolutely absolutely legless. It happens on TV. It doesn’t happen, you know, here. Oh yes it does.
^ Although my HEATED WAISTCOAT worked brilliantly, I only turned it on after the break. Ah yes, the break, during which the weather apparently yanks the rug out from under the temperature which, obviously, plunges dramatically, like a keystone kop engaging with a banana skin. So when you come outside again, full of hot tea and a warm glow of self-satisfaction+, it’s like walking into the Yukon in January. I noticed this last time. I think we must snap a trip wire or something and the ice gods all leap to their feet and shout NOW!, and then bang their icicles of office together in solidarity before dashing out to do their worst.
Anyway. I didn’t turn my waistcoat on till after the break when I figured I’d need it worse and it did brilliantly. Except that it was so brilliant that I had it turned up only a third of the way . . . and it was dead in three hours. It’s supposed to last up to six hours depending on how high you set it, and it only lasted for three at one third power?? I may ask the seller a polite question.
I have a set of neoprene toe-socks—they only cover the front half of your foot, which is clever, because your feet don’t sweat that way—that were sent to me by a very nice person++ and I decided to use them Friday night. Another couple of degrees in the wrong direction and I’m changing over to the heated socks, but they worked a treat this time—while I was moving, tramping those mean streets and trying to look like I had the faintest idea what I was doing.+++ What’s interesting is that they don’t work a FILBERT sitting still in the monks’ chapel.++++ Next Saturday night prayer with the monks: heated socks.
+ I’m doing WHAT? And it’s WHAT time of night/morning?
++ You Know Who You Are
+++ Although I’ve now heard my more experienced colleagues answer that—er—diabolical question, Street Pastors? What are you?, often enough that I’m beginning to stop hyperventilating about what I’ll say# the first time someone asks me this in a way I can’t hastily pass on to one of said more experienced colleagues. One of our first training lectures had us trying to come up with an answer and . . . none of us covered ourselves with glory.
I haven’t entirely stopped hyperventilating. But I’m hyperventilating less. But there is also the first time I’m going to have to PRAY ALOUD to worry about. Noooooooooooooo. Usually you can give prayer requests to the Prayer Pastors back at base, it’s what they’re for. But occasionally someone you’ve been talking to asks you to pray for/with them, right there. Right now. Eeeeeep. I’m still in the early hyperventilating stage about praying out loud. I tell myself that I don’t radiate the kind of centredness and authority that would inspire anyone to ask me to pray over them. Reasons Not to Acquire Authority. I wouldn’t mind a little centredness though.
++++ The monks’ chapel is sooooooo cooooooold. By the time I’ve sat there an hour, muffled up in my heavy winter kit and a blanket, in contemplation,# when the abbot finally does his rapping thing and we’re all supposed to climb to our feet . . . I can’t. Although trying to find my way out of my excellent, steadfast blanket does not assist this awkward process.
# Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, I’m so cold, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, I’m so cold. . . .
** Three weeks till the shortest day and then we start climbing back OUT of this pit.
*** And note that Peter is away till tomorrow afternoon so I’m having to do things like steam my own broccoli and cut up my own carrots.^
^ And Pav’s. Very fond of a nice carrot, is Pav.
† Way too frelling early. Just by the way. For someone who doesn’t expect to speak in complete sentences till after noon. Let alone frelling Italian complete sentences. The things one does just because one’s voice teacher is now a slave to the school schedule.
†† Hellcritters aren’t going to like it either. Hellhounds, who are in the 90 mile an hour couch potato category after all, are somewhat placated by Rides in the Car with the Hellgoddess but Pav eventually gets bored with yet another kong and wants to climb the walls and practise her trapeze artist routines for a while.
††† I’ve been having a fabulous time with the [Song of the] Nightclub Proprietress this week. Who is at least in English. For better or worse.
It was not going to be a good day. I didn’t get enough sleep and have been behaving like it. I managed to catch the edge of the loaded breakfast kong on the edge of Pav’s crate, thus spraying the cottage kitchen with soggy kibble and wet tinned rabbit mince. And then, bolting into the mews for an urgent pee, having been out hurtling and watching hellcritters pee* I unhooked my belt buckle** and with a sudden, sleep-deprived jerk . . . threw it in the loo. Inadvertently. Of course. At least it was Monday morning and right after Peter’s cleaning person had been here: it was a shining clean loo.***
I’ve also had a bad couple of days with the ratblasted ME and the hellhounds are only eating on alternate Thursdays when the moon is full. When the moon is full, the proper sacrifices have been made, their paths have not been crossed by any black cats, hedgehogs, rabid snails or mad gypsy fortunetellers prone to throwing the wrong babies into the fire†, and they have not been put off by the unseemly delight of a hellterror disembowelling a kong.
But Nadia makes everything better.†† I won’t say I had the most brilliant voice lesson I have ever had today—I’m still too post-ME floppy—but I’m having lots more fun, now I have something more nearly resembling a voice to play with.
This is like being a real [music] student
Good golly, miss molly!! And gorblimey *@#&$(%&^ (drat is about all I really fill that in with, but asterisks look more menacing), YOU ARE A REAL STUDENT and have been for a VERY LONG TIME!!!!!
Feh. I forgot you music teachers would be all over me for that remark. It is difficult to take yourself seriously when you have no visible talent at something that there are Joyce DiDonatos out there doing at stratospheric professional level. You can tell yourself you’re doing it because you enjoy it till you’re blue-with-spots in the face and that joy is important and fabulousness is not the only measure . . . but it’s still difficult.
I’m so glad you’ve been having and noticing progress with your voice! And I’m so glad everytime I read something about Nadia’s wonderful talent and helpfulness in getting you to find and use your voice.
A friend recently sent me an article from the NEW YORKER about Joyce DiDonato and I was completely riveted by descriptions both of her teacher and herself giving master classes: so much of what is quoted is exactly what Nadia says. Speaking of a teacher taking her students seriously, whether they’re ever going to do more than torture their dogs with their singing or not. But this is clearly why I am making progress. I have a good teacher. ::Beams::
But, goodness gracious, as Blondviolinist and I have said many times, you are a perfectly wonderful student. If you lived in the States (or I in England) maybe I would badger you into wanting viola lessons . . .
Snork. As a result of this frelling blog I now have several friends who play stringed instruments, and it’s like Oisin and his organ: if I were thirteen and talented I’d be taking organ lessons—and lessons on something with strings, probably either a violin or viola. I like both the size and the tone. The bigger stuff and the stuff you mostly strum or pluck doesn’t appeal to me as much††† although I have the standard romantic crush on harps.
go on You Tube and find a couple of PROFESSIONALS I like singing it and PAY ATTENTION.
And then tell us which ones so we can hear what you’re aiming for!
It came down to a choice between DiDonato and Cecilia Bartoli—and to my own surprise Bartoli wins by a seven-league-boot stride.
Voi che sapete is such a cliché and every mezzo voice student in the known universe has to sing it—I assume because it’s not disastrously difficult technically and because the story line is fairly straightforward. Even though it’s a trouser role, still, teenage [person] in love with every other teenage [person, possibly but not necessarily exclusively of the opposite gender] is a pretty obvious emotional arc that most of us can empathise with. You don’t have to be a frelling philosopher to get into Cherubino.
But the very straightforwardness of it I think is maybe a slight trap for the unwary. Or the ungifted or the clueless—but that shouldn’t include the professionals. And it’s interesting, listening to rafts of professionals. I didn’t hear a bad one, but I heard a lot that didn’t really have the fire in the belly that I would expect a teenage boy singing about love to have. DiDonato is almost too lyrical for me: too put together. The passion is all planed and shiny smooth. Bartoli, who in other repertoire sometimes eats too much scenery for my listening pleasure, gets Voi che sapete dead right for what I’m trying for—HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA—there’s fire in her/his belly and I’m not going to call it roughness, but as if the passion is going to break out occasionally, as she sings her beautiful accurate frelling professional line.
I suppose it’s also that I’m stuck with using what I’ve got: and there are a lot of imperfect voices out there that can put stuff over. I want to put it over. I need role models that suggest a way to do this. Bartoli gives me a little crack of light in the wall of my own . . . erm . . . limited competence.
(And I want to watch those viola lessons! ) . . . Maybe I could disguise myself as a really large stack of sheet music. Or a double bass.
:: falls down laughing :: Listen, you two, you’ve been hectoring me, in your kindly, well meant ways, for a long time now. Come to England, and we’ll meet on a blasted heath somewhere and do something . . . blogworthy‡‡‡.
Indeed, isn’t the Facing Down of Personal Demons exhausting? Reading this post was funny for me, because in my case I sing just fine (not great, by any stretch, but fine), but am lately facing similar issues – of fear about being heard, revealed, about speaking out – but mine are in re: writing. Sigh.
I so hear you. Nadia says over and over and over and over that singing is very revealing, that you have to get used to this. I am, I guess, getting used to it, which is why I’m finally beginning to make a, you know, noise.
Writing is also very, very revealing. But it’s revealing north by northwest: as I’ve said probably with even greater frequency than Nadia reminds her students that singing is revealing, my readers know a lot about me: they just don’t know what they know, because there’s no A equals B about it. Even the blog is consciously and emphatically shaped. But this is a rant for another night. . . .
* * *
* . . . every five feet because that’s the way critters are. I was hoping hellhounds were unusually bad because they’re entire boys, but Pav, an entire girl, is nearly as bad. Siiiiiiigh. I’m an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it person and I don’t whack my critters’ bits out without a reason but going for a walk/hurtle without stopping every five feet for a pee sounds pretty attractive—none of my spayed girls were ever this obsessive.
But watching some critter take yet ANOTHER pee I often think of Calvin having to get up in the night after Hobbes has been evilly whispering sweet nothings in his ear about running water. . . .
** It’s made to come apart in two pieces, and the open-and-close half to detach from the leather strap
*** I do not have a cleaning person, and the loo at the cottage is never what you would want to call shining clean.
† Il Trovatore, okay? I’ve been eyeing her aria again in my mezzo book.
†† As the mother of two small children, she would find this remark amusing.
††† Which is pretty funny, since up to two or three years ago I never really engaged with strings. And then I had a Transformative Experience listening to one of those solo violin Bach things driving somewhere in Wolfgang and was so ravished I actually had to pull over to the side of the road and listen. In hindsight I think this was a kind of practise version for the real Road to Damascus doohickey a year ago September—the Bach conversion was also pretty overwhelming and changed me. Although one of the less usefully wonderful side effects was that pretty much everything I had or have composed or had a stab at composing since then has looked like trash.^ Sigh. I’m having another go at setting a couple of lines from a favourite psalm. . . . Stay, erm, tuned.
^ This is not wholly Bach’s fault. But sitting by the side of the road consciously, attentively listening to genius seems to be where it started.
‡ And probably embarrassing.