Monday, August 22, 2005

never boring

One of the things that really drew me to singing is the necessity of a multi-faceted learning approach. There are voice lessons and coachings, of course, but in the course of learning to sing, I've also had the opportunity to study poetry, languages, conducting, dance, yoga, acting, movement, history,... you get the idea. It definitely keeps things from becoming monotonous.

What has really struck me this week is the resulting web of interconnectedness (interconnectivity? I think I'm making up words). Everything I study helps me in ways beyond what I would have originally imagined. For example, a couple summers ago I took an intensive Italian class at the University of Washington. Suddenly, really knowing the language, especially where accents are placed in words, changed the way I was approaching some high notes in an aria I was working on. Last week, in the Baroque opera workshop, I learned some period dances which totally affected the way I think about moving onstage, even outside of the Baroque realm.

This phenomenon happened again yesterday. I had the opportunity to take an embodiment workshop from the wonderful New York-based actor and teacher, Rob O'Neill. It dealt mainly with staying totally "in your body, in the moment," onstage, and with tools useful in developing the physicality of characters. I took it mainly because Hansel will be my first trouser role (when a female singer, usually a mezzo like me, plays a boy), and I wanted some tips on how to be believable physically. It was a fantastic workshop, and I came away with lots of great material to use, both with Hansel and in general. However, a funny thing happened. When I walked in to the room, my friend and colleague Molly (who runs the acting studio which hosted Rob), introduced me, and Rob said, "Oh, I've heard about you!" Molly replied," yes, she's not your average opera singer -- she can really move!" I was surprised -- at the time that Molly and I last worked together, I had no dance training whatsoever, and relatively little stage experience. Sure enough, when the class started, both Rob and his assistant commented that I moved beautifully, and that they would love to see me onstage. I was incredibly flattered. I think the Baroque dance last week helped some, but I realized later that it was probably due mainly to the fact that I play for ballet classes every week! I've never been a dancer, but I've spent countless hours watching dancers, from pre-school through professional level, be trained in how to move and carry their bodies. I must have picked something up along the way.

Another way this interconnected web works its magic is by inspiring me with new things to study. Learning new ways my body was capable of moving made me want to take more movement and yoga classes to improve my flexibility and open up even more opportunities. Singing all that Monteverdi and Landi recitative last week made me want to study more Italian and develop a new level of fluency with that beautiful language. I love having a job where I will never be bored!

4 comments:

Ariadne said...

Amen! The multi-tasking, multi-level, full body-mind-spirit thing is what I love about singing, too.

Way to go! Keep on blogging about singing, I l-o-v-e it.

Ciao for now,
your singer friend
andrea b.

Anonymous said...

>> I'm a pianist-turned-opera singer

may I ask you a question - how old were you when you decided to start studying classical singing? do you think there's an age limit after which it's completely a waste of time to even think about beginning? I'm asking that because, well, I'm 30, and a classical-trained-pianist as well, wishing to give classical singing a try (well, sounds a bit naff, that way...). Do you think I should try anyway, despite my age? Thanks.

Melissa said...

Thanks for your comments! I was 25 when I started studying singing. I had sng in choirs and things before that, but never had a voice lesson.

I think 30 (as I will be joining you there tomorrow!) is still so young in this journey we're on, and it's never too late. You'll find that your piano skills give you a huge advantage. Go for it, and keep me posted! :)

SJZ said...

Great post! You address some things that I have thought about often...How else would I have gotten to know Goethe, Verlaine, Dante and all of the great old church texts? Some people think singers only can do one thing, but that's so wrong. In some ways we've had a more well-rounded education than most.