Finding the Words

Ah non credea mirarti,
si presto, estinto, o fiore;
passasti al par d’amore,
che un giorno solo duro.

In 2001, Carolyn Abbate released In Search of Opera, a book that changed musicology with respect to opera in that it viewed opera not only as an abstract entity, but as an ephemeral phenomenon. She set out to marry the idea of opera with its actual performance and in doing so revealed to us that one cannot exist without the other. La Sonnambula doesn’t exist without a throat to sing Amina’s words, quoted above; in fact, the abstract entity was only given form so as to realize the performance. Performance is paramount.

I am interested in the creation of the ephemeral. Those of us who have chosen opera as a profession, whether that be on the stage or at a desk, have essentially devoted our lives to just that. Because of its very nature, opera is difficult to explain to people. It’s difficult to write about. Musicologists like Carolyn Abbate expertly weave words to get at the work itself, but as a singer, I thought it would be useful for me (and maybe others) to try to write about what I do. This blog is my attempt to write about opera as I interact with it in my career. To be honest, it is easy to sometimes feel a little lost in the creation of so fleeting a thing; sometimes one loses sense of purpose (“What is it all for?”), sometimes one loses the path up the great, big mountain of Technique. With everything feeling so abstract and intangible, I wanted to make a space for something concrete.

Like the composers whose music I sing, I aim to concretize something in service to the art that exists somewhere “out there.” I hope to ask lots of questions of opera itself, but also of singing, that art on which opera so heavily relies. In a world in which I was finding that as singers we spent more time considering season announcements than our actual art form, I wanted to ignite conversations among singing artists about our medium. What do I hope to find? Perhaps ways to more ably describe my experience with opera to others. Perhaps more enjoyment of the art form for myself. Or maybe I’m just trying to find the words to express the emotional architecture of a life devoted to music. Joy and sorrow, victory and defeat, beauty and monstrosity – which is to say, what it means to be human.

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