Death by Aria

The joys of Opera Studio- you know what I mean. Waiting for my turn to get up, make my charismatic entrance, smiles flashed to audience and accompanist- all while trying not to trip, throw up, or faint. Breathe. Remember to breathe. Standing in the crook of a not-so-well-tuned grand piano, I wait. I am asked “what would you like to sing”? I answer, giving the name of the aria- but not so sure of the name of the opera that it is from. My lack of confidence is picked up instantly. No problem- I do the entrance a second time, and a third. Each time I repeat the process I am reassured that I will not, in fact, die of fright. The accompanist is human- and even makes the odd mistake or two, as if to demonstrate that perfection only exists in lifeless marble. The first round of the aria goes a tad too slowly. I am told that I need more energy- and silently, I wish that I had brought a tape recorder to save all of the sage kernals of stage wisdom so generously offered by our amazing directors. By the third round, I am actually beginning to enjoy myself. No one has thrown compost at me- I am told that my voice is ‘beautiful’- and I go sit down to enjoy the rest of the evening. No one gets to finish their aria- the whole point of the exercise was “owning the stage”, getting out there and making the first impression. Upon reflection, I found most valuble that one simple act of remaining open and teachable in the midst of a highly vulnerable situation. Watching other capable and virtuosic musicians crumple under the scrutiny of criticism is difficult, and my own tendency used to be withdrawal. Since the master class with Tom Diamond, the idea of embracing (even welcoming!) the mistakes has resonated- as one learns much more from one’s foibles than from one’s moments of sublime victory. Perhaps life is the same- we cannot learn the kindness which is our soul’s aria when we are white-knuckled about our own perfect performance. The focus must be outward. On the stage that is our life story, God is the director. His work is perfect and all His ways are just.

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