One thing I’ve come across a lot in this world of wannabe (not a bad sense of wannabe, but really people that are studying to be I mean) opera singers is the time issue and the comparison issue.
I’m gonna start off with the very simple fact that there is no finger print that is identical in two people, there is no finger print just like yours nor mine in any other person. With that said I believe I can affirm that we’re all very different. Now in this world of discovery of repertoire and of performers one can’t help but compare, we compare everything from costumes to vocal type, from high notes to low notes to interpretation to everything! And I’m not saying its bad thing having knowledge of repertoire and having watched many productions and having preferences and a well founded opinion, no!
What I’m talking about is, taking for instance my case, I figured out that I wanted a career in opera when I was 22 and the first person I looked up to a lot was Anna Netrebko. So I googled her and read about her, Anna had her debut in the Mariinsky Theatre at 22, playing Susanna in Nozze di Figaro, what is my reaction? “Oh my world, I’m so far behind, when she was my age she was already doing opera in a big opera house! And here I am still striving to get those high notes just right, and at my age she was already playing with them” I can assure you that that is a despairing thought! And for me it was a real struggle, I felt really bad, hopeless even!
But then my singing teacher gave a little piece wisdom that I always carry with me and I find that it makes sense and it sometimes comforts when I’m feeling down. These aren’t the exact words she said, because I had to translate it but it goes something like this:
“There is no one like you in this world, or me. I’m sure there are people out there that are better than you in certain things and people that are not as good as you in others. But you are unique, just like everyone else in this world. There’s only one you and one me.”
It is my absolute dream to sing at the Met, and another wise thing my teacher always tells me is that if you do your best and it’s meant to happen, you’re meant to do this, be certain that it will!
And when you really grasp the meaning of these words you don’t need to compare your development with anyone else. And digging a little deeper how could I compare myself to Anna, she’s completely different from me, she grew up in Russia and I grew up in Brasil, completely different climate, food, traditions, schooling, everything of course her path is gonna be different from mine! When she was 19ish she was in the conservatory while I was studying to be a musical theatre performer, that doesn’t make her better or worse than me, we’re just different!
And then the other issue that is time is completely entwined in the comparison issue. I’ll give you a solid example; I went to the Live Stream of the Met’s “La Clemenza di Tito” last month with 2 friends, one of which wants to be an opera singer. And she told me that she didn’t know who Elina Garanca was (first I just started, ‘cause how can you not know, but anyways…) and I started telling her about Elina and that she was super young, she’s 35 now, if I’m not mistaken. And that one of the earliest things I’d seen her in was a 2003 production of La Clemenza in the Salzburg Festival playing Annio, and that this festival was a really big deal, not just anyone performs there. And my friend just started counting the years with her fingers and came to the brilliant conclusion that she was 25 at the time and then she said “Okay, I have 5 years to make it then.”. I was silent and just thought for a while about what I had just heard, people are so desperate for a result they mirror themselves in successful people to stipulate time. That is a very tricky and awful way to go, ‘cause it’s 99% chance you’re gonna end up disappointed. And it’s very different from having someone who inspires you, a role model, again it is comparing yourself to someone else that, even though has the same profession as you wanna have, is completely different from you!
By the way these two kicked ass on this, I absolutely loved it. Elina Garanca as Sesto and Barbara Frittoli as Vittelia in the 2012 Metropolitan Opera production of Mozart’s last opera “La Clemenza di Tito”
I prefer (and oh my world, this is my opinion, I’m not saying I’m right or wrong) to think that my body is developing and so is my voice, I study every day, try and watch and learn as many things as I can. I’m doing my share, I can’t force my body to develop itself before it’s really ready to do so. Every new opera that I watch is a journey, into the language, the story, the music, and I’m just trying to enjoy the ride and not overstress myself because of time issues. Plus another wise thing my teacher always tells me is:
“While you’re talking about someone else’s voice or whatever you could have done three vocalizes! It’s not gonna do you any good stressing yourself over other people’s voices.”
And since we’re all different we have different development timing! So, a piece of advice? Sing your age (I now it’s hard, I wish I could sing those Rossinis and Donizettis), be yourself, don’t try and be the next someone else, people wanna see the real you, not an imitation of someone who’s already out there, and just enjoy the wonderful thing that it is studying music! We do this because we love it, not because our parents made us! Which is not what I can say for most people I know, we’re so lucky to be doing something we truly are passionate for and love.
Ps; I’m not saying that having this kind of attitude is easy, I really owe it a lot to my singing teacher, who is an angel and super cool and to many things Joyce DiDonato says in her videos. But you gotta figure it out for yourself, when it really starts making sense in your head I can assure you you’ll feel way better.