Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What's the first thing a soprano does in the morning? Goes home.

Or how about this one? A Spanish tenor, a South African baritone, an English bass, a Chinese mezzo, a German dramatic soprano and an American coloratura soprano walk into a bar ...
Well, okay, it’s not a bar, it’s a theater canteen. And it’s not a bad joke, it’s just intermission at the opera.
After the show is over, some of the singers return to their homes (they’re fest at the theater and they live in this town), and the others, working as guests, return to their hotel rooms, only to leave the next morning for their respective homes. No, not Spain nor South Africa, China or America, but to some town in Germany where they have set up shop for their freelance opera career, and where they now call “home.” Home is, after all, where your stuff is.
But after six weeks of intense rehearsals, this strange brew of a cast and crew has somehow become your family. And your best friends are the characters of various television series you’ve downloaded to keep you entertained [cue theme song]:
♫ ♫ I’ll be there for you ‘cause you’re there for me, too. 
doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo....♫ ♫

The scenery may be different, and the plot is not the same, but each production gives you a very familiar feeling - to rehearse, make new friends, perform together and share in this imaginary world for a few hours in front of a live audience, celebrate afterwards and then sleep peacefully. It is not always wine and roses, but it is always very real. At least to me.

Ever since I started this business, I envisioned having a home base (i.e. somewhere to put my stuff), somewhere to come back to between adventures. Some adventures lasted longer than others and ended up becoming home base by default - Düsseldorf for six years, Coburg for four. And then I was free. Free to choose where I wanted to live because nothing and no one was determining that for me. So, for various good reasons, out of all the cities in the entire world, I chose Frankfurt.
Although I so much enjoy being greeted by the Frankfurt (Mainhattan) skyline upon returning home from another town, and although I adore my apartment and my neighborhood - and the people I’ve known in Frankfurt, some for almost 10 years - I’m realizing that “home” has to be something more than just a place to hang my proverbial hat. 
Even in the most familiar of surroundings, amongst my belongings -- my vintage copper kitchen utensils, my couch, my bed, my pictures, my towels, my 31 pairs of shoes -- I am still not always quite as comfortable as I am when living out of a suitcase in some crappy little apartment doing what I believe to be what I was put on this Earth to do.
We are not really connected to any place or even to any people except our parents, our siblings and eventually our partners and children. So aside from that, what comprises a “home” and how do we know where we belong? And will we recognize it when and if we get there?
Maybe it is a bad joke, after all.


  1. We are not really connected to any place or even to any people except our parents, our siblings and eventually our partners and children. So aside from that, what comprises a “home” and how do we know where we belong?

    Well, owning a residence and consequently having a stake in local legal and administrative issues may make the difference. But I wouldn't know, as I have never done that. I lived (alone) in one American city for 13 years and have lived (alone) in another for almost 10, but I have yet to feel as if I belong to a place other than the one in which I grew up, where I have not lived in 25 years.

  2. Hurm....!
    The Proverbial Can 'o Gumibears, eh.

    For ME, madman that I am, there IS a place to where I AM connected - even with all its faults (cultural, social, economic, AND geologic), Los Angeles IS my 'home' because that's where I was born, raised, and spend a big hunk of my life growing up. Hell, I even took the wild step 2 years ago of getting myself a little pied-a-terre close to downtown, & have tenaciously hung on to it since because that's where I SHALL return and establish as my home base.

    As to the other part of your most-eloquent kvestchun (how do we know where we belong?), I'd have to say it's been my experience that people have MANY places where they 'belong', throughout their lives. For you, dear bloggerista, currently it's Joimunny - that may yet change. I think as humanoids we owe it to ourselves to travel AS much as we possibly can during our lives, so that we may know ourselves by seeing our reflections in other places around this planet. That's our birthright!

    Thus, rejoice.
    (And eat mo' currywurst.) >:3

  3. Ze Germans have two words for "home" - Heimat and Zuhause. The first one being home, like where you come from. Tucson will always be my Heimat - I can sense that when I'm there. But "Zuhause" is the Home is Where Your Heart Is kind of home - one you make for yourself (if I understand that correctly).

  4. I also have a sense of "coming home" whenever I'm in a production doing what I was put on this earth to do. I wish I could simply tow all my living stuff around with me; that would probably be home enough for me. Except they don't appear to make caravans with full-size bath tubs!