Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What are the chances...?

What are the chances that a 
Christmas cactus blooms during Lent?

• What were the chances that today would be sunny? 
80%, supposedly, but after months of cloudy skies and yesterday’s little blizzard, it seemed like a frickin’ miracle.

• What were the chances that I would be second in line at the consulate for my 8:30 appointment, and actually get in and out of there in about 30 minutes? 
Slim, considering non-US citizens had been standing in their much longer line for an hour by the time I got there. Luckily it was sunny. 

• What were the chances that I misunderstood part of the instructions which led me to believe I could pay with a personal check? 
Good, because I’ve been under the weather - way under - and not thinking clearly these days.

• What were the chances that I wouldn’t have the equivalent of $110 (which is actually €82.29, but in some tweak of inner-consular mathematics it was €88) or a major credit card on my person? 
I would say, rather excellent, since I don’t keep my credit cards together with my cash (which proved to be a clever move when my bag got stolen a year and a half ago), and see above.

• What were the chances that the U.S. Consulate General does not take the EC Karte (European debit card) as a form of payment?
Even better.

• What were the chances, that I would be standing behind a fellow opera singer in line at the cashier window (as well as outside) and that said opera singer happened to be carrying his score with him at the time so that this would be obvious to me?
You have no idea how many opera singers there are wandering around, but the chances that two of us would be standing next to each other in line at the consulate... Slim, very slim.

• What were the chances that I would work up the courage (i.e. audacity) to ask my fellow opera singer, a perfect stranger, if he happened to have €13 I could borrow?
Pretty good, because otherwise, I would have had to exit the consulate, walk 1.2 kilometers to the nearest cash machine and back (it was sunny, but it was also freezing) and go through the whole security rigamarole again.

• What were the chances that I would miscalculate, have to chase upstairs after my fellow opera singer, and grovel for another €10?
At this point, I’m thinking anything is possible (and he’s thinking I’m a bag lady).

• What were the chances that, en route to the cash machine to pay him back (by way of the 17-minute subway ride to the main station and a coffee), we would discover we not only have mutual friends, but we have mutual good friends?
The world is getting smaller....

• What were the chances that I got to repay karma almost immediately by giving a random woman at the subway stop the change she needed to buy a ticket?
A small, but clear sign.

• What were the chances that this encounter with my fellow singer, someone who is only a couple years older but far more operatically experienced than myself, would snap me back into a time when I was amongst the people I to this day love the most, reminding me of who I used to be before I was filled with insecurity, fear and self-doubt. Reminding me that I have everything it takes and more to survive in this business.
I don't know, but I'm feeling pretty lucky.

• What are the chances that I’ll get to sing with my new friend on stage? 
Slim. But after today, I’m willing to take my chances.

Thanks for the loan, Scarpia!

Now, what are the chances that I’ll get my new passport in time enough to fly to Madrid for performances in three weeks? 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Must the Winter come so soon and stay so long?

Must the winter come so soon?
Night after night I hear the hungry deer
wander weeping in the woods,
and from his house of brittle bark hoots the frozen owl.
Must the winter come so soon?
Here in this forest neither dawn nor sunset
marks the passing of the days.
It is a long winter here.
Must the winter come so soon?

Giancarlo Menotti from Samuel Barber’s opera, Vanessa

There are reasons for seasons, meteorologically speaking of course, but all creatures are slaves to their own rhythms, inwardly or out. It has indeed been a long winter here, and it just so happens to coincide with my time between jobs. Perfect. This was supposed to be, for me, a phase of rebuilding, polishing my act, learning new roles, devising a master plan, really making use of the time at hand. 

Allowing for the usual period of post-production depression, having just returned from a wonderful time in Hannover working with really great colleagues, I wasn’t too hard on myself for the month of December. A couple concerts came up around the holidays, which gave me a bit of motivation and cash, and I even wrote another blog entry for the first time since July. Any second now I was going to get to work on building my business. And learning Spanish. And redecorating the kitchen. And exercising, of course.

Rubbish. These are things for Spring, are they not? Winter is for hibernating, isn’t it? Aw, hogwash! I’ve got nothing else to do. Now’s as good a time as any! In between performances in November, I managed to go to yoga 2-3 times a week. Now I’ll surely go everyday, right? Right... in my dreams, as I slumber until the spirit moves me to wake up, or until a call from the Deutsche Oper am Rhein jolts me out of bed at 9:30 to jump in that very night for Barbiere di Siviglia. If only I had that kind of adrenalin rush every morning, then maybe I could actually get something done.

But what exactly is it that I am supposed to do? Learn Spanish? Okay, I signed up for a course. Redecorate the kitchen? I ordered some colorful Mexican oil cloth to adorn my cabinets. Exercise? I defeated my pig dog big time yesterday when I dragged my ass to Bikram yoga, almost turning around to go back home, whimpering as I walked up the steps to the studio only to plod on and have one of the best classes ever (life’s small victories). Practice? Yes, I suppose, I’m chugging away fleissig for my next role --rehearsals start in April....

You may ask yourself, how do I work this?
You may ask yourself, where is that large automobile?
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house.
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife.

Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime

Is that it? It’s still not enough. It’s not enough to fill the time in this ever so discontented Winter. It’s not enough to for me to say, I deserve that trip to Barcelona I just took with my friends so that I could please just see the blue sky for more than 20 minutes. It’s not enough for me to say, Sure I can come out tonight for a quick drink because, to be quite honest, nobody is scolding me for not getting anything done today. I feel like I haven’t done enough.

As we are creatures bound by the rhythm of the seasons, we are also animals trained by the concept of task and reward. That which makes me so successful when I  have a task makes my life miserable when I have none, for I am a faithful servant but a terrible master. I am meticulous, I am eager. I am punctual, I am righteous. This is my time to work and to reap the rewards. But there is no work, and I’m weary of inventing it.  Cleaning house? Filing taxes? Are these the most exciting tasks life has to offer me right now? So yes, why not Barcelona (it was lovely, by the way)? Why not do whatever I want, when I want? 

Perhaps it is because I am from the Desert, I am not trained in the ways of hibernation. I do not know how to Chill. The Fuck. Out. The life of a “so-called professional opera singer” (put that phrase in quotes into a search engine and you’ll get my life story), a freelance one at that, is not governed by the rules of working hours and weekends. Yea verily, we have our strongest moments between 7:30 and 11p.m. When the need arises, it’s going to arise at that time of day. But in the interim, our friends with ‘normal lives’ and ‘day jobs’ are going to demand our attention during these precious eventides and weekends.

And so the task is at hand, despite the season, despite the workload, to reap the rewards we have yet to sow. Oh, heck... isn’t harvest in the Fall? I have completely lost track. Who cares? Even if you don’t feel worthy of a night out on a Wednesday evening with friends, take it. Even if you don’t ‘deserve’ a day off, it’s all you have -- enjoy it. Do not stay home and brood as I have done. It is a long winter here, and next one will come too soon.