Home sweet home! I’m sitting in my very favorite spot, music playing, Christmas lights glowing (that’s right: they’re still up! I was only able to enjoy them for 3 days in December, so I fully plan on enjoying them for a few more nights while I can!), and a full day of productive errand-running behind me. Life is good. Those of you who have a home that you occupy most nights of the year, fortune smiles on you! I imagine you might take it for granted a bit, maybe only seeing the things that need to be cleaned or organized, but take it from this vagabond, you have it so good! Don’t get me wrong, I have it good as well – but man, do I relish every single second that I get here
My feeling of “aaaaaah” perhaps carries an exaggerated sense of proportion this time around, because I was in constant motion for the past month, never bothering to unpack my suitcase once, due to changing hotels nearly every 48th hour. But if I wanted to sing about love in so many different cities, it was a necessary evil. Astonishingly, considering the terrible weather that has claimed so many expectant travelers this winter, I must pay credit to the weather gods and thank them for not one blip of interrupted travel. I owe them big time.
I hardly know where to start in describing my last four concerts. Truthfully, I’m still overwhelmed at the reception. I knew from the start that this program would present a few challenges, but obviously, I’ve never been particularly hesitant to face obstacles in the past – actually, it’s my nature to run towards them a bit. This repertoire is not widely known, nor widely touted for being part of the cannon of “greatest songs ever written”. Yet in planning the program, each one of these tunes, in their simplicity and directness, seduced me. I’ve always been a believer that the most important component in presenting a recital is that the performer identify and love the repertoire they select – that a sense of needing to sing these songs be present, and that was my guiding principle with this recital. (Oh, also, I felt a need to show a different side from all that “Furore”: “Amore”, especially in the dregs of a grey and weary winter, seemed a most tantalizing venture! I happily embraced the opportunity to be a lover on the stage instead of a raving lunatic!)
Barcelona: oh how I have fallen in love with you! Thank you for the most wonderful reception. Thank you for making that huge theater feel as intimate as a salon with your attention and devotion, and for carrying on such an enthusiastic dialogue! I first sang on your stage a few years ago in my first (and most likely only) appearance as Fenena, with the epic performances of Leo Nucci and Maria Guleghina as Nabucco and Abigail. I’ll never forget the roar of applause at the end of those concerts that went on and on, and I remember thinking, “This house is something special.” Well, you certainly overwhelmed me with your reception, and I cannot wait to be back in your fair, picturesque city! (Sorry, no time for photos this trip, but I’ll be back!)
William Lyne was the director of Wigmore Hall for over 35 years. He refurbished and revitalized it, loved and nurtured it, and as a result it is the most special and revered recital platform in the world. It’s old news, but it was the scene of the crime for that rather famous critique leveled at me during the 1997 song competition: “You have nothing to offer as an artist” (which, while devastating at the time, actually fueled me on a rather great way to work my tail off to be sure no one could ever assail me with that observation again!) These were my 4th and 5th recitals underneath that gold frescoed dome, and as I mentioned in tacky “Academy Award Fashion” on Thursday, each time it means something more to stand on that stage and share music with such a beautiful public. I will not soon forget these two evenings on Wigmore Street.
Arriving in Brussels for the 4th concert of the week, David Zobel and I were a bit tired and run down, which, having unloaded our luggage at the hotel, warranted a big ol’ pasta dinner: linguine with chevre and smoked salmon. The creamy carbs must have done the trick, for we somehow pulled together the energy for the eager Belgium crowd.
Returning to this theater brought forth a flood of memories, for it was here that I recorded the “Furore” disc not quite 2 years ago. That means the small things like the familiar dressing room, the welcoming faces, and the nearby restaurant I remember liking, all contributed to making me feel at home and relaxed. Even if it was the 6th concert of the tour, nerves are still present, and the expectation of wanting to please the audience remains quite high, not to mention dealing with a tired body which makes the challenge a bit more daunting.
I have to say that it was the MOST strange concert! I suppose at the start it felt as if the audience was quite timid – not sure of whether to clap or not, (I invited them to kindly save their energy and not tire themselves out), and David and I didn’t quite know how to take it; we were slowly convincing ourselves that it was a disaster! At intermission, the powers-that-be assured us that this was normal, and that it was, in fact, going quite well. But neither of us was convinced. More tepid response in the second half really had us worried. It’s a dangerous frame of mind to get into as a performer: the moment you start imagining that they don’t like you, you can either start overdoing things, or giving up with a “why bother” shrug and try to finish without inflicting too much damage. But we really fought those temptations, kept giving all we had (both of us were sad that this was our last recital), and at the end were completely bowled over by the unexpected exuberance of the Brussels public. Truly – I didn’t see it coming.
Just as performers have different personalities and quirks, audiences certainly do as well, and this one completely took me by surprise. In the end, it would appear that they whole-heartedly entered into the intimacy of our songs and didn’t dare disrupt the mood. Well, my lesson is learned! You NEVER know what an audience is thinking or feeling until the end, (if, even then!) and if I’m busy gauging reactions and worrying if they like me or not, I can’t possibly have my head in the expression of the music, for it’s too busy analyzing what that *cough* meant.
That’s a wrap for the moment, although David and I will revisit this program for Paris in June (Aaaah…Paris in June!), but until then, it’s time for me to get my pants on and start flirting with anything that moves. Cherubin d’amor….!