Sunday, April 20, 2008

Blossoming furiously

This is perhaps the perfect photo to post about my first concert here in Brussels last night at La Monnaie: not quite in full bloom, perhaps a few rough edges here or there, and while perhaps something unexpected is close to emerging, it is something quite unique just as it is. Ah - blech...I'm trying desperately to make an analogy here, and not finding much success - in the end, I just liked this flawed but beautiful young rose, and perhaps it does share a tiny bit in common to my concert, but I will stop searching for any parallel poetic justification - that's for others to do or not to do...

I had an amazing time last night. So much so, I was still wide awake at 5:30 am. This concert pulses with racing adrenalin from start to finish for me. There is no warming up, no easing into it, no gauging the hall or audience, no coasting - it's 100% impact from the get-go. I don't know that I was quite ready for the intensity - although I certainly should have known better from the theme - no one gets off easy in these pieces! Again, here I am taking a program out for the very first time, which is an enormous learning experience in itself, no matter how well prepared you are: the pacing, energy, voice, the arc of the evening - all of this can only be acquired through performance, and it's really only possible once the wonderful public arrives - for that throws the entire equation off from our impeccably settled rehearsals! It's the energy/public/adrenalin factor! Ah ha - it's the EPA!

What is wonderful about the mysterious, mystical "EPA" factor, is that it charges all of us up on the stage: last night the orchestra was on fire, Christophe and I seemed to be dancing this music together, and everyone felt 100% committed - this is all I can ever ask! It's a thrilling feeling to be swept away like that: it doesn't mean it's a note-perfect performance, but again, that's not why any of us are up there. It can also mean that you get a bit *too* carried away in tempo or temperament, but that is where the lesson of pacing comes learn how far you can go, and if, in fact, you dare afford to go farther. I just love that this is a constant learning process.

I had a few interviews to do today (working way ahead here, as I meet with press people now in order for them to write up feature articles to coincide with the arrival of the disc this winter...which gives me a bit of seasonal whiplash - NOT WINTER AGAIN!), but we were in a cafe having a lovely, interesting interview (which thankfully felt more like a conversation than a rehashing of "where I was born"), and a lady approached the table. I'll be honest, I thought "Wow - this is good timing, maybe the journalist will be impressed that a fan is doling out compliments to me this morning." Well, the compliment was backhanded at best, once she saw fit to inform me that I was terribly tense during the first half - you see, she was in the front row, so she could take note of everything, and she was asking if I thought that would improve as the performances went on. Well, naturally, I hope I improve with every single phrase that I sing - any artist that I know who is serious about their craft feels the same way, and I politely mentioned this to her, mustering a big smile. And while it took a bit of lip biting, I opted not to explain that there is a slight difference between INTENSITY and BEING tense - and I don't know that I've ever sung a more INTENSE program ever before. So perhaps she didn't get my dramatic inflections. But I had to chuckle, for in nearly every moment of my career when things seem to be going well, there is just a LITTLE asterisk included somewhere nearby - people ask me how I stay grounded? It's lovely ladies like today that make me smile and make me realize it's ALL a matter of opinion! I will always do my best, and leave it there for the paying folks to decide if they got their money's worth or not. At the end of the evening, if I gave it my all, leaving nothing behind, I am happy. The rest of the audience greeted me with a standing ovation, and it was the warmest welcome I could have hoped for here in Brussels! Dank u well ~ et~ Merçi beaucoup!

So what happens now? I get a DAY OFF tomorrow! I will be working a lot on the notes I took from listening this morning (where I need more text, more legato, more drama, more rhythm, less emphasis) as well as looking more at Romeo - lest I forget my next job looming on the horizon - and stay relatively quiet. I actually feel quite relaxed going into the second concert knowing that the orchestra and I are starting to really play with each other - and YES, even laughing together! I also know that there is a lot of wonderful material from the first concert, giving us a great foundation to start building something really wonderful. It's such a different way for me to record, being in front of a live audience, and I can feel immediately that it will bring a very special energy and power to the disc - it's that mystical EPA! I won't even attempt to close out my bad poetic attempt here by posting a rose in full bloom - just enjoy the bliss it invites!


heldensoubrette said...

brava, complimenti!
like what you said, it's a matter of opinion. i happen to like artistic "flaws". i think that what makes artists perfect.

Susan said...

Congratulations on a successful evening!!

The top rose picture took my breath away! I also noticed that the colors match my nail polish. I rarely wear polish but a good friend insisted I go with her for my first mani/pedi yesterday, and I chose a pearly colored polish with glints of pale pink and pale green that exactly match the flower.

That woman during the interview... ouch!

"Dancing the music," what a great description! And EPA - cute. But the pun is true, if you think that together with the audience you create a healthy musical environment, free of "hazards" or anything that can "pollute" the performance. Ok sounds hokey but still... you know what I mean, right?

Enjoy your day off!

[Lilith] said...

Hi ^^

Congratulations! I wish I could have gone to that concert...

First concerts of a new repertoire are always special in that 'I have no idea what will happen tonight' way. As you said, we don't attend a concert, a recital or any other, let's call them 'artistical phenomenons', to hear a note-perfect performance, but to witness something moving, thrilling and full of new sensations.

I'm sure you achieved that with great success, even if you say (I don't quite believe you ;) you didn't do a vocally perfect perfomance. I was certainly carried away with your Angelina in the Liceu, so I can imagine how it feels to attend one of your concerts - not to mention I love Händel!

Good luck for the next performances to deal with that 'EPA factor'! lol

Lots of love,


Papagena said...

Hi Joyce! I am from Madrid and I heard you sing for the first time at the Liceo's Cenerentola. You were great, I loved your singing.

Just wanted to tell you that the lovely lady you mention is a friend of mine, and she flight to Brussels from Barcelona just to hear you sing because she's a real fan. She's been watching opera in the Liceo for 25 years, and oviously she didn´t want to say anything unappropriate but wanted to be true to you. I am sure that if you knew how excited she was with the concert you wouldn't have been that tough. I think it's people like this lovely lady, who don't care to spend money and travel miles and miles just to hear their idols, that keep artists alive with their love and admiration.

Congratulations, I will see you in Teatro Real and in Paris this summer, I hope that with Miss Netrebko if she's still ok as to sing.

pepita said...

Dear Joyce,
Once more, you're just incredible. Your post is so much what I felt this saturday at 22:30 !
I guess you were really exhausted after this performance; this huge program; after all you gave to us; all the sense(itivity) you gave to each character, each word...
All that with your natural charm and welcoming.

Thank you so much, have a good rest until your next performance with this magic team.

So grateful !

Yankeediva said...

Pepita! I'm thrilled you "enjoyed" (?) it so much - perhaps it's not about 'enjoying', this program, but 'experiencing'? I'm not sure - but I'm glad it was positive for you!

Joyce (yes, who was exhausted!)

Yankeediva said...

Papagena! Thank you for posting this! You know, I debated whether or not to write anything about that encounter, because I'm very sensitive to the fact that I know how much it takes for most people to approach an artist or performer and speak - it's absolutely not something I take lightly, and it's something I appreciate greatly. I also realize that perhaps not everything comes out in the clearest manner under those circumstances, and can easily be misunderstood. My only reason for writing about it was to bring light to the fact that very often when I'm feeling quite good about a performance, there is something to bring me right back down to earth - and I actually value that in many ways, because it just reminds me that there is still work to do! I certainly didn't mean to be too tough on your friend, and I'm glad she said something, even if it is true that those things can be difficult to hear! I just try to always take the good with the bad, the positive with the negative, filter it all, and go on about my work. I am sorry if I offended, but am very happy to hear she did, in fact, enjoy the concert! All my best, and thank you to everyone for your incredible support! Who knew this 'blog' would carry with it such a network of positivity - THANK YOU!


Papagena said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer. My friend will go crazy when she knows about it!

You're so sweet, thanks again :-)


Mei said...

Yankeediva, I was the lovely lady...

I'm sorry the comment about your initial tension, understandable during a premiére, was the only thing that catch your attention during this brief encounter.

I did really sense the concert, it was a great experience. As I said to you the Hercules arias were spectacular...

I'm really looking forward to this CD.

Best wishes.

Gi said...

Back home in the sun (but not much warmth), I just want to leave a note to say what a wonderful time I had saturday evening.

I expected only good things from the concert, but it exceeded expectations. Everything was great, from the beautiful Haendel arias to the musicians, the theatre (though my seats were too high up, my fault for buying late), and of course you.
The standing ovation was well deserved: you are a great singer and a generous one. It was a privilege to be there and a further privilege to talk with you afterwards.

Now I look forwards to the disc, and perhaps to another chance to hear you live in the meantime.


Yankeediva said...

Ah, Mei! I thought I sensed a Spanish accent! I had no idea it was you! An absolutely no hard feelings! Again, I think the only reason I wrote about it was to inform people that nothing is ever perfect, everyone experiences the exact same concert in a totally different way, and that I am, in fact, most human! I'm so happy you enjoyed the Hercules - that was, after all, the seed for this entire project!

Gi - it was a delight to meet you, as well - please say hello to the sunshine for me!