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December 4, 2012

Family and Opera

It is 10.30 in the morning and my adorable terminator and princess have just left the building. I am sure that most of my neighbors are thankful that they are now spared the constant rustle and bustle a 6  and an 8 year old inevitably bring with them. On the other hand here I am, missing them terribly already which brings to the fore the, arguably, only really serious problem that one has to live with in order to have an international operatic career; long periods away from loved ones. I mean, really? How can you not miss someone who tells you that you are still a great, graceful skater despite the fact that your skating prowess is not unlike a drunken bull in a china shop?

I think few established opera singers would argue that there is anything more difficult than being away from one’s family and friends. Skype and long weekend trips make it easier but the latter still doesn’t really replace the beautiful everyday moments like picking up your kids from school or tucking them into bed. I have flown to Malta at crazy times, sometimes immediately after concerts, just to be able to pick my children from school the next day.

This is one of the reasons I take a sabbatical off singing professionally a couple of months a year and it is also why you might see me, very early, checking in for a flight sporting a face that should really be still resting on the pillow.

In the end the most beautiful sounds I have heard to date are the spoken words “papa.” Of course the phrase “you are the best dad in the world” comes in at a very close second….

Comments

  1. Lovely heartfelt description of – as you say – the most difficult part of the job.
    When I started gathering interviews for my book about tenors, it was pre-skype days. And for some of the guys in the late 1990s, they were just starting to carry laptops with them. I heard lots of stories of calling home every day to stay involved that way… flying home in the middle of rehearsals or between performances (to the dismay of opera company management) for a quick visit… and some who lost the connections forever.
    Thanks for this description of a part of your world – and bravo for scheduling the annual vacation for yourself.
    ciao,

  2. Bente Smidt

    I really understand that it may be difficeult. I’ve often thought about it regarding other singers, especially my favourite soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, whom i’ve followed for decades now. You spend so long periods of being away from home. We must all be very grateful to you that you’re dedicating so much time and energy to your singing.
    I’ve just received the CDs with the greatest tenors of the world. I love it, and recommend it to all my friends. Thank you!

  3. Rosa

    Te admiro como cantante y mucho mas como persona, por tu gran humanidad.
    Tengo un hijo que es Director General tiene dos hijos de la edad de los tuyos y solo les ve los fines de semana.

    Gracias por compartir tus sentimientos con nosotros.
    Estoy deseando de verte en el Baluarte el 14 de enero

  4. I always feel rather sorry for singers when they mention being away from their families for long periods of time. I’ve read articles with other tenors who mention just bawling with homesickness, and it makes me want to give all you wonderful musicians a hug and all my gratitude for sharing your wonderful music with us. It was nice that your kids got to join you and help you with your ice skating. Hope you get to be with them again soon!

    • admin

      there are way worse things in life and we are so privileged to get to do what we love for a living. thanks for your feedback!

  5. Christine

    What lovely heart- warming comments! Really enjoyed reading. Keep this up and God bless you and your two special bundles of joy.

  6. Joanne

    Joseph…. I can understand perfectly how you feel…..God Bless You and Keep you strong. You have a beautiful family …. treasure every moment you can.
    Shame on us who just come and listen to a performance and most of the time do not appreciate or realize what huge sacrifices you Singers have to do.
    Keep Up the Good Work….:-)

  7. Vincent

    Joseph,
    You have such a wonderful gift and what a great joy it must be for you to share it with the world of music. Your many fans realize the sacrifices that you make to share your voice with them. You are one of the greats!! Thank you for your gift!!

  8. Anne Boardman

    Joseph -

    I have always admired the effort you put forth to spend time with your children. And as they grow older, you’ll need to work even harder but the rewards are certainly there. My husband and I have worked very hard to maintain solid relationships with both our children and actually to parent them (this seems somewhat rare in this day and age.) It hasn’t been easy at times and we didn’t have careers that take us all over the world like you do. However, now that my youngest is 31 (Vicki) and my oldest is 33 (Billy), we can truly say that we have participated in the formation of two fine adults that we can also call our friends.

    All the best.
    Anne

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Joseph's Blog

September 10th, 2014

A summer festival in Malta?

I was more than a bit amused to read some negative reporting re the fact that the government sponsored my summer concert. Hundreds of thousand of euros, if not millions, were thrown around  and some went as far to state that I was “on the take” and part of the hundreds of thousands were directed to my pocket. The claims are so ridiculous and unfounded that, to date,  I didn’t even bother to point it out. For those unfamiliar with our island, Malta is ferociously bi-partisan it is inevitable that, for some at least,  everything has to be turned into a political football. Others simply measure by their own yardstick. For the record I got no remuneration by the government, whether directly or indirectly, in the deal they made with NNG promotions nor form part of same company.  To my knowledge, the funds are wisely spent on the filming, editing and international distribution of the concert creating an incredible advert for Malta. Should the government sponsor such initiatives? Of course it should- as what better advertisement can Malta have to increase the much coveted “cultural tourism”?

In Malta we have the curse but also the blessing of being very small. So small in fact that you can walk from one end of the island to the other in less than a day. And what a walk that would be. Despite our small size, our location – smack in the middle of the Mare Nostrum  – made sure that every major civilization left its mark throughout our 7000 year history. Natural resources are pretty much non existent and even for fresh water we have to turn to the sea. Still our island nation enjoys the most important resource of all – its people. Once you remove our petty and constant bickering which (surprise surprise) usually revolve around politics, the Maltese are a force to be reckoned with and a nation that shy away from challenges we are not. Most of us are at least bi-lingual , hard working, resourceful and good hearted. Talent is also another virtue that this island has and never before  did we have so many young budding artists on the verge of an international career. When I was studying to be an opera singer there was literally no one else on the scene on a professional level bar Miriam Gauci. Nowadays we have close to a dozen. Clare Ghigo, Nico Darmanin, Cliff Zammit Stevens, Joseph Lia, Nicola Said and Marvic Monreal are already chasing their dream in conservatories and colleges abroad. Nico Darmanin in particular is already performing professionally and has already debuted at the Royal Opera House. This from a nation of 400,000.

Indeed it is a time of renaissance for at least classical music in Malta. So many festivals whether in Gozo, the place of my very first performances,  or Valletta. In fact it is time that the government notices the elephant in the room and launch THE proper summer festival our island deserves. The raw material is in place already it just needs to be coordinated and a month long festival is really within our grasp and no there is no multi million euro outlay as we have the necessary infrastructure in place already.  Our airport and airline are top notch and hotels comparable to the best on mainland Europe. All that is needed is that nudge, the concentration of the laser beam, the proverbial pulling of the same rope and Malta could host a festival that would rival any in Europe. This government has won with such a majority that it should really use that majority to implement changes that no one had the courage to do before. Redundant boards and committees should be restructured or removed altogether. Competent people should be given executive power to effect necessary changes and not waste their time and energies navigating the endless meanders of bureaucracy caused by useless boards.

 

Last but not least lets give Malta its cultural home back and move ahead with a National Theatre/auditorium. I hear there are great plans for the MCC, now is the time to move forward and turn these plans into reality. We have so much to offer and it would be a great sin to miss out on this opportunity. I dream of the day when Valletta will turn into a major and globally renowned  artistic hub. Believe me when I tell you that we have what it takes.