I’m grateful for free days!

Yesterday I had no commitments, no phone appointments, no social engagements, no rehearsals, no need to set my alarm, and absolutely no reason to set foot outside my door, which was a good thing considering torrential storms took up residence all day here in London, leaving me time to surf the tele! Boy, did I need it. And boy, did I make the most of it! I actually used the day to mentally prepare a bit for the coming week, which on paper looks – well, insane, actually! But it was time to practice what I’ve often preached…

One thing I’ve always aspired to, is the idea that for a professional singer – or, I suppose, for most of us – the secret to success lies in one’s thinking and one’s mental approach. It has quite a lot to do with how you conquer nerves, how you handle illness, how you “take the stage” and, not insignificantly, how much you ENJOY the process. One’s mental approach to this career, I think, can either make or break you. (Athletes have long ago discovered this and apply it to tremendous advantage!)

I’ve been saying for months now how hard this period would be, how crazy I was to agree to such a short rehearsal period for a huge new role, how tiring it will be to do a recital the day after the final dress rehearsal, etc. etc., and saying these things over and over and over to anyone who would listen. Sure enough, I arrived at the end of last week exhausted, stressed, and thinking I didn’t have enough time – no surprise since I had told myself over and over how hard it would be! Well, following my own advice – I mentally “slapped” myself out of it, spent the day relaxing, reminding myself how privileged I am to sing a role in this epic opera here at the Royal Opera House, and remembering that I have prepared to the best of my ability, I’m surrounded by tremendous colleagues, and it will all come together beautifully. (Right?) But only if I ejected the mental stress, so to speak. Sure enough, after a day letting down, I had a tremendous first rehearsal with the orchestra today, and we muddled our way through the first act on stage, so slowly but surely it is all coming together. Funny how a changed outlook improves the enjoyment factor tenfold! (I’m actually starting to understand for myself why everyone raves about how great Donna Elvira is!)

So why the pictures of Lang-Lang? Because the FABULOUS BBC broadcast his wonderful performance from the PROMS on TV yesterday, which I observed in true couch-potato style! After a sublime Mozart Sonata and flamboyant Liszt, I was nearly in tears when he brought out this 9 year old to join him in a delightful Schubert duet, replete with all the delicacy and finesse imaginable! They radiate real chemistry together, and watching this 9 year old connect to something out of this world was the perfect dose of ‘Ah….yes…it’s all about the music” that I needed! In the end, no one cares about the mental process we performers go through – they want the musical experience to sweep them away – well, at least that’s what I want. So the more mental work we can do to clear the path for the music/character/drama, I think the greater the experience for all involved! You can’t tell me that these guys aren’t feeling it!!!