I find that one of the most difficult things to manage in this career is the feeling of isolation that can easily creep into your psyche as you’ve been on the road for a little bit too long (or, as a matter of fact, even on that very first night you unpack your things into yet another sterile, rented apartment that houses one opened package of old spaghetti, a half-empty/full box of dry cereal, and usually 1/4 bottle of olive oil that you don’t dare use, because you can’t be SURE that it’s safe.) I stumbled over this quite a bit when I was first starting out in this career, and it was quite confusing: I was doing what I loved to do, and yet I felt quite miserable being completely on my own, away from the familiar and the secure.
It was especially true in the beginning years of European travel, because I didn’t know very many people in the business over on this side of the pond, and the foreign cities were overwhelming, as I spoke little of their language, didn’t always comprehend the cultural differences, and didn’t know that we had to price our own produce at the market! (It’s the small things, you see!) It was one of the most important “skills” I had to learn: not just how to be on my own, but how to ideally thrive in a solitary, foreign, often lonely environment.
For me, one of the biggest culprits was CNN International. It is usually the only English channel on the TV, and so on it went, and I would be bombarded with catastrophe after catastrophe, convinced that the sky, truly, was falling beyond all hope and that we are a doomed, doomed species. The word “demoralizing” barely scratches the surface for what this flood of information can do to a person.
I’ve certainly gotten MUCH better at handling the ups and downs of this career, but have set out with great determination to find the positive side of things, and to try not to indulge the bitter, dark side of humanity that is plastered everywhere for us to witness: terrorist attacks, genocide, greed, car bombs in Times Square, human trafficking, outrageous political machinations, inane bigotry, hateful and destructive religious extremism. The list is endless. And it so easily can give rise to a feeling of hopelessness and despair – which quite frankly equals death. Personally, I’m not interested in dying – metaphorically or literally – until it truly is my time.
So I choose to fight it in the very small ways that I can, and I have yet to find a better summation of how to confront such despair than by words that were uttered by the great Martin Luther King, Jr:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Last night I attended my very first Metropolitan Opera HD transmission here in Geneva. It was Rossini’s treacherous “Armida”, and everyone that was starring in the show I can happily call a friend of mine, which was a total hoot for me. I was SO thrilled to see them all giving such full-on performances and bringing joy to so many people.
But when Larry Brownlee fell to his knees in the famous tenor-trio, his eyes burning with passion and tumult as he recognizes he must choose between love and duty, I was flooded with everything that is magnificent and miraculous about the human spirit. Here is a person who has overcome so many obstacles in his life to soar to the very top of the operatic world, and he has done it with utmost elegance, class and humility. He is on that stage to serve people, and to serve his talent. It is humbling to me, and inspiring beyond words. I watched someone yesterday who has crossed so many barriers to bring light into the world through his beautiful voice and generous spirit.
We need more of this beauty. We need more of this light.
How lucky we all are – because I assume each of you reading this embraces music as a provider of access to something extraordinary – to have something that brings beauty and serenity and comprehension and insight and joy and tears and has the power to open sometimes the most stubborn of closed doors within ourselves. I’m humbled to work in a business with so many wonderful colleagues that bring such beauty and generosity to the world.
But there are an infinite number of sources for beauty and joy – and I just love finding them.
PS – John Osborne gets a HUGE thank you from me for the fabulous “shout-out” during the 4-tenor interview in the intermission yesterday! Dude, you are awesome!!!
PPS – Final dress is on Monday, and after a very beautiful pre-dress, I think everyone is really looking forward to our opening on Wednesday. This one is a keeper!!
PPPS – In proof-reading this little post (which doesn’t always help, because I know I’m not the Queen of Grammar – too many “!!!!”s!) But the title says “Wisdom”. I don’t mean to imply it is “my” wisdom – it refers to MLK’s quote. Which is, indeed, wise. (See what I mean about the grammar?!?!)