Friday, April 23, 2010

Single White Diva

    Long before urban singles started getting to know each other in six-minute increments, the makers of grand opera had perfected the art of speed-dating. Except, when impresarios and conductors are adjudicating new singers, they don’t get a complimentary cocktail to take the sting off.

    I got a taste of what their job must be like when I went speed-dating the other night. That’s when about a dozen men and about a dozen women convene for a game of adult musical chairs, so to speak. You sit across from your potential date and try to leave some sort of impression within the span of six minutes, after which time a bell is rung, and everyone shifts over until everybody has met everyone. Then you check the names of those who you’d like to meet again. If a person whose name you’ve checked has also checked yours, then you theoretically go on a date. A slow date.

    Six minutes seems a bit quick, doesn’t it? Actually, I’d venture to say that most common audition arias are no longer than that on average. In that span of time, one can judge your vocal technique, your musical expression, as well as your sense of judgement by what you have chosen to sing, what you have chosen to wear; your character can be assessed by how you introduce yourself and what you find necessary to say. 

    Apart from the vocal technique, the same applies to speed-dating. Of course, the first thing we look at is, well, looks. I’ll admit, I got a bit gussied up and even buffed my finger nails with my new Seacret™ nail care kit (let’s hope I get a little revenue for that plug). Although, under the dim lights of the cocktail bar, so much attention to detail was surely not necessary. I discovered at the end of the night that there was a big hole in my stockings, too, but no harm done. At any rate, I figure if I make an effort to look my best and just be myself, I’ve done all I can do. The rest is up to them.

    Oops, wait a minute. That’s the only difference between speed-dating and auditioning. At an audition, it really is up to them. In speed-dating, I also get a say. 

    In most cases, I knew when they walked in the door which men I would potentially give a ‘yes’ to, and which were going to get a definite ‘no’. This was not based on physique, height or hair color, but rather by their style and the charisma they exuded. There were no definite ‘yesses,’ to be honest - none of the men won me over solely on their looks. In fact, at the end of the night, I had only checked one name on my list. (One more thing the two occasions have in common is, by the time it’s over, I’ve met a lot of fabulous new female acquaintances -- see previous blog: Operatics Anonymous). Still, I find the concept intriguing - no matter what impression the person makes on me in the first few seconds, he’s got about five more minutes to show me what he’s really made of. 

    I wish the same were true of opera auditions. In fact, I think there should be a rule that you get to start with any aria you choose, and then be guaranteed the chance to sing at least a portion of a second aria of their choice. Even if they have to politely sit there while secretly pondering what they’ll have for lunch, at least I don’t get the feeling that I’m being stifled.

Actually, maybe I ought to treat speed-dating like an audition -- let the guy sit there and yap for six minutes until I say “Danke” -- and go about auditions as if they were speed dates. Maybe I have more of a say in them than I yet realize.

To all my potential dates and employers out there, if you’re not gettin’ lucky with me within six minutes, it’s probably not gonna happen. 

Better luck next time with the Grahamophone!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cognizant Design

Dasein: being, entity, existence, substinence
Design: purpose, planning or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact or material object.

I had so many brushes with greatness in the past two weeks, I could’ve painted an entire canvas with strokes of genius. I was even armed with plenty of materials to paint a pretty clear picture; at a Bach concert on Easter, I had a demo CD ready for the conductor; after Orlando Furioso at the Oper Frankfurt I managed to gain entry to the final show party; at the premiere party of Salome in Mainz, I contacted agents and impresarios who I knew would also be going, and followed up by sending eMails containing links to my newly designed website (whaddya think, by the way?). It was a grueling couple of work weeks in the home office of Grahamophone Enterprises. 

I greeted the well-deserved weekend by going with some friends to see Hayseed Dixie. I’d heard of them through my musical maven sister, of course. They’d been around for a few years before I caught wind of them five years ago, and I’ve been a fan ever since. In fact, I’m taking steps to upgrade my status from fan to stalker, but that’s another story.

Here at this concert, there was no chance I would have to hobnob with the opera snobs. I didn’t have to pack demo CDs or business cards (which I still don’t have, by the way. Note to self: get business cards), nor did I have to put on a particularly pretty dress, either. But just when I least expected it, I met two ladies who might have potential money-making opportunities for me. And then, much to my surprise, I ended up knocking back several beers with a philosophercum rockgrass fiddler, discussing things far more important than demos and business cards. This man goes by a stage name with the initials B.S., nevertheless he seemed to speak the truth.

We talked about the evils of WalMart, about the stupidity of P. Diddy, and about cognizant Dasein and Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. I’ll admit, I had to look up the latter when I got home, but I did okay with the penultimate one - in so many words, living in the moment and recognizing that you’re doing so.

All right then, let’s investigate just what a “moment” is for a moment, shall we? Moments before I sat down to write this blog entry, I was doing absolutely nothing except realizing that I should be doing something, and this was frustrating. I saw that my tax receipts needed organizing and that the bathroom needed cleaning, but still I felt more compelled to continue sitting here doing nothing. I sensed that something more important was about to happen and I didn’t want to miss it when it did. I managed to get up and scrub the toilet and the tub, but couldn’t shake this feeling that something wicked this way comes. And when I say wicked, I mean cool.

After a little while of waiting for that moment to arrive (wait... does anybody else hear birds chirping right now?) my frustration returned.

It was at that moment  that I decided I should probably change the scale of the moment, allowing it to encompass just a bit of the bigger picture (the one I was about to paint with my ingenious brushstrokes, remember?). Unfortunately, even from the grander perspective, this current moment (that’s the last time I’ll say that word, I promise) was indeed a mini-representation of my life as a whole right now. The time spent doing what I do professionally seems to pass too quickly - the run of Rigoletto went for just four weekends, I sang a mere four performances of Miss Donnithorne - or just plain passes me by. The rest is spent waiting for something wicked cool to happen, and prevents me from relishing in the here and now, savoring the numerous possibilities of cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes, filing taxes, etc.

This is where Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung come into play. Most commonly, this phrase is translated as ‘the World as Will and Representation,’ but if it were up to me -- and right now at this moment (whoops, slipped out!) it is -- I would interpret it as ‘Want and Imagination.’ Imagine, if you will, what you want in life, and life will have an easier time of bringing it to you. As B.S. (whose real name is John) went on to say, “It’s like when you decide you want to buy a black car - all of a sudden, all you seem to see are black cars.”

At that moment (oops! did it again), after all the hard work I’ve been doing to recognize and design my own existence, I heard a glorious ‘ping’ resounding from my laptop, which alerts me every time I get a new mail message. Hoping that it might be a note from my hillbilly life-coach and guru, I was not disappointed to see that it was actually one of my agents with an offer for another audition. Just sitting here writing about Wille und Vorstellung seemed to point the Universe in my direction. Looks like Heidegger and Schopenhauer weren’t full of poop after all.

Thanks to all the musicians who have inspired me both onstage and off these past two weeks: Johann Sebastian Bach, Katy Marriott, Annette Seiltgen, Brenda Rae, Florian Plock, Felice Venanzoni, and Barley Scotch, just to name a few.