We singers tend to boast that our careers offer the best form of psychotherapy in existence, for we are allowed to work out the bulk of our inner demons courtesy of the larger-than-life drama queens we encounter on the stage – those divine ladies who weep and love, moan and avenge more grandly and stylishly than in any other art form. On the surface, this therapy is a definite plus in a field fraught with challenges and extreme pressures. However, the real release and joy comes when we add you, the listener, to the mix and we carry out the unspoken pact to travel together to these hidden places we often work so hard to avoid in daily life.
Why do we adore these queens of the drama? The answer, for me, lies at the heart of why we love opera: we yearn to open hidden doors to the richest, most complex, utterly human and profoundly moving emotions that we may not be able to access when left to our own devices. The crazy plots and extreme circumstances of the operatic universe give us permission to unleash our often too-idle imaginations. We willingly enter this world of high drama, praying that we will find a welcome release in Cleopatra’s broken, haunted tears, or that we will be allowed to weep at Rossane’s unbridled joy, or perhaps learn to love a bit more purely through Orontea’s heartfelt plea to her sleeping lover.
The Baroque drama queen apologises for nothing, hides nothing (unless it serves her purpose, of course), lays herself bare without filter, and through glorious, magisterial vocal music gives us permission to dare to do the same. Who needs therapy?
Joyce DiDonato, 2012