If you’ve been following Susan’s audition tour (see her last blog here), you know that last week was a rough week for her. But, sometimes seven days can turn your whole world around! This week, Susan is back with a vengeance, ready to take on the world! Or at least take on the opera world. Read on to see what Susan has been up to this week and what her plans are for her music and upcoming auditions.
“What a difference a week makes! I’m doing a lot better, guys. By coincidence, my sister is here in Berlin on vacation with her boyfriend. Neither one of them speak a word of German, so I’ve had a lot of fun showing them around town. We got all dressed up for Halloween and hit the town. They had to rely on me to talk to the bouncer or ask for directions or translate things people say to us on the street. It’s really helped my confidence in my language skills. My German is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly better than nothing.
Plus, there’s something about having a family member around that can remind you who you really are. I’m trying to do a hard thing, but I knew it would be hard and decided to do it anyway. I also did a bunch of research, put together a long term plan and a budget in order to do this, so it’s not like I made this decision on a whim. Anyway, it’s not like me to mope – at least not for long. So I got back up from the mat, and got back to emailing and making phone calls. Before I knew it I had an audition set up for every week in November. Obviously, I’ll keep putting out feelers, but it’s good to already have something of a structure in place to plan around. I’m going to Düsseldorf, Munich, and Baden-Baden (the fourth audition is here where I’m based in Berlin) and that’s all just in November. Having that in place already makes me feel better all the way around, really.
I feel so lucky to be here. One of the weaknesses of my singing is languages – that I can get all the pronunciation correct, technically perfect even, but then I spend so much brain space on that, that the finished product can still not be truly communicative. Language is more than a string of sounds, though. So it’s good to address that weakness by throwing myself into the deep end of the pool, where I have to communicate in this language anytime I leave my apartment for any reason. I’ve noticed that I’m already beginning to understand things in a more nuanced way. For example, “gut” means “good” of course, but it can also mean, “fine,” or “okay,” depending on tone and context. Plus, language shapes our thinking. For example, in English we say “Is everything okay?” but in German they’d say, “Ist alles in Ordnung?” which literally means, “Is everything in order?” The same, but not the same. There’s all this subtlety. I’m learning all the time, and it is hard but I love it.
In other news, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that seems totally out of left field to me – nonsensical, even. I even briefly considered the possibility that one agent was confusing me with somebody else. I spoke to some of my singer friends here and it turns out getting feedback that makes you go, “Huh?” is kind of part of the process. I’ve heard everything from, “Find an audition dress that suits you better,” to “I’m not sure you really ARE an Olympia,” to “Your top notes were a little wild and unfocused.” So, that was not my favorite thing. I promise you guys, despite what these people said, I am not terrible at singing. Exacerbating the issue, it rained a bunch here this week, which makes my Wifi spotty, so I had a hard time getting a hold of my teacher so I could have a good whine about all of this dreadful feedback I’m getting. It’s hard to know what to do with feedback you honestly think is insane, besides dismiss it. But, you also don’t want to let yourself off the hook too easily. It can be a tricky wicket. You don’t want to ignore something useful, but you also don’t want to give too much weight to what a stranger thought after hearing you sing for all of five minutes.
In my experience, there is no sting of rejection that cannot be succored by going back to work. I find that when I focus on the work of singing and making music itself, the way forward becomes clear. Opportunities present themselves, things fall into place. When in doubt, get thee to a practice room. This practice (see what I did there?) has served me well.
The coach I’m working with regularly suggested I pick up a Handel aria. If nobody is going to ask for my English, we’re thinking that perhaps it’s not a bad idea to tweak my package so that it’s 2 German arias, 2 Italian and 1 French. One never knows when one may need an early music aria. I do love early music and it suits my voice. I love my English aria too, but my coach has managed to convince me that part of being a professional is learning how to tailor yourself so that you can be useful to the needs of others. This business is inherently collaborative by nature; compromise is essential. Plus, one agent I sang for said, “Your repertoire was a little erratic.” He could only be talking about the Menotti. Everything else on my list (Blonde, Doll, Adele, Oscar) is totally standard for my fach. I’m not auditioning with Queen of the Night, but I am working on it since there’s just nothing like it for getting out the rage.
My father is always telling me, “Tell the story, Susan. Just tell the story. That’s the ball game.” It’s good advice and I intend to take it. Wish me luck.”
I don’t know if I could have said it any better- “part of being a professional is learning how to tailor yourself so that you can be useful to the needs of others.” That’s the heart of business everywhere, folks. It’s an extremely tough lesson to learn, and some never learn it. It sounds like Susan has learned quite a few invaluable lessons this week, including the value in practicing when you are doubtful and collaborating in business. If that’s all Susan takes away from this audition tour, I’d say the trip was well worth it. Though, I’m sure she will take away much more than these gems of wisdom! Subscribe to our GVAI blog to receive her story in your inbox every week!
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