November 29, 2013

Loneliness and how to try to overcome it

3356596800_8b0d02f788Yes one does have to learn to be comfortable with oneself but lets not kid ourselves, homo sapiens are social creatures and there is no doubt that one of the hardest things for an opera singer*  at a certain career stage is, plain and simple, loneliness. It is a bit better for singers who are under contract in one theatre, as this means they stay mainly in one city. However,  if a singer is freelance he or she is invariably hopping from one city to another sometimes forgetting in which city they are  in (think concert tours) and often mistake closets for toilets. Yes, before you ask, the latter did happen to me and it had my girlfriend  in stitches at the ungodly hour of 4am. I didn’t even know that chicks could laugh at that hour…

For jet setting singers it is very hard to maintain close connections with friends and colleagues. Indeed  the minute you start building a friendship it is time to leave again to the next city probably on a different continent . Of course there are the advantages of constant changes of scenery, exciting new cities, people and challenges but the fun stuff can be easily forgotten when you don’t really have someone to share the joys (and occasional pains) with. In normal circumstances, leaving out the terrible tragedies that life sometimes throw at us, there is simply nothing sadder than going back to an empty hotel room or apartment after a successful performance. No one to dissipate the adrenalin on and no one to share the Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge ice cream with…

It is of course good to have a good laptop and a tablet to keep you company with your e-books, music and videos after your legs get tired from exploring the city. And talking about the  latter; discovering a city on foot is one of the best ways to discover a new city. I have so many great memories of running around Munich in minus 15 degrees Celsius, jogging on the soft snow and don’t let them scare you about the voice. As long as you’re healthy and appropriately dressed, running in the cold actually builds your stamina and resistance. Just don’t sing on the same day of jogging as you might find your nasal passages a bit dried out. Zimmerman’s dark knight music is particularly invigorating and meditation inducing during such jogs.

When loneliness becomes overwhelming there is always Skype and Facetime and you will be surprised by how many hours one can actually “burn” on these endless chats and how many times you will find yourself kissing and hugging the screen. Sometimes it almost seems that your loved ones are in the same room with you which makes it all the more difficult when you hang up and realize that actually, they are thousands of kilometers away. Then again you will “hug” your loved one silly when you next see him or her and if you have children you will just learn to give them every minute when you are actually with them. Distance does make the heart grow fonder sometimes and this is apparently scientific now!**

Then there are those who are lucky enough to find a better half that doesn’t mind all the travelling and city hopping. When this happens, loneliness becomes a thing of the past and almost all the disadvantages disappear being replaced instead by a sort of “honeymoon after honeymoon” experience as long, of course, as the relationship works is healthy. If you are an opera singer and you find that person don’t ever let go as they are a special kind. In fact I just can’t resist but take this opportunity to thank my beautiful girlfriend Victoria for putting up with this crazy life!


*singers are generally homosapiens although it is still open for debate whether tenors do indeed form part of this category..




  1. hello joseph,
    it is a very nice blog page what you have.
    wish you all the best and i hope i can see you here in germany when you singing.

    greeting from germany

  2. Pierre Mangionn

    Hi Joe, very nicely written. loneliness is a hard nut to crack and hits nearly everyone. Wish you all the best and regards to the lovely Victoria.

  3. george gauci

    Hello Joseph. lovely blog. I once sent you an e mail and asked to meet you so I could sign a copy of the novel I published this year once you were on Gozo. I still kept this for you whenever you want to meet up. Have a great day
    George Gauci author of the novel THE CROSS.

  4. george gauci

    Hello Joseph. lovely blog. I still have my novel to give you whenever you want to meet up. Have a great day
    George Gauci author of the novel THE CROSS.

  5. Annabel Mallia

    I find the worst part of being away from home is eating alone; feeling self-conscious in a restaurant and sometimes eating too fast because there is no one to converse with. However, having said that, the older I get, the more comfortable I become with my own company.

  6. Hi Joseph,

    It is a very nice blog ndeed .lonliness is ver hard when it hits you. My thoughts were always with you. I am very happy for you that now you can share your life with Victoria. We MALTESE PEOPLE ARE VERY PROUD OF YOU.

  7. Diane cooper

    A really heartfelt and lovely blog x you are a true treasure of Malta a country my family and I have visited for the last 41 years sometimes more than once a year and now my kids love it too my plan is to one day see you there and cope with the heat !! As I always avoid August and that’s when I see you advertised x take care in your travels and be happy x

  8. Gill

    Joseph, your latest blog was quite a revelation, and so very observant, even down to the picture you used as an illustration.

    It would not have occurred to me that an opera star might feel lonely when leading such a busy life, but It’s easy to understand how one might feel without someone there with whom to share something as simple as the beauty of a sunset.

    When I take up my seat – alone – next April in the Royal Festival Hall, I shall be seeing you in a different light: not simply as a tenor with a voice, but also as a man with a heart.

  9. Kate

    Mistaking the closet for the toilet is a problem that seems to affect all musicians. Have seen that so often at a certain music college (plus people not being able to open doors the right way) – it makes me laugh every time. Maybe it’s because they are so concentrated on their art……:-)

    Lovely blog.

  10. Jose

    what to you was the loneliest song you’ve ever sang?

  11. Chris Mamo

    Dear Joseph,

    Thanks for you sincere reflections on what makes us human. Everything in this Universe is in relationship – from the simplest atom to the most intimate of human relationships. It is not good for any of us to be alone and even the most beautiful of experiences seems worthless unless shared. I have done some traveling myself, clearly nothing like you, but even the most opulent of hotel rooms cannot address the desires of the human soul. This lack that humans feel is the source of much pain but also makes desire possible for you cannot desire what you already have. This desire sharpens relationships that you cherish.. as you say, you will hug them silly next time you meet them in the flesh. Emptiness desires to be filled and it is a great motivator. During this time of ‘loneliness’ may you discover solitude rather than isolation. That requires mindfulness and stillness.
    Your work and singing carries so much of your listeners’ hopes, dreams, love, pain and other innumerable human emotions and for that many are thankful. Your communication seems to be one way as you give ‘voice’ to so many yet your audience only listens and never gets the opportunity to speak ‘sing’ back to you.
    You are cherished by many but we never get the chance to say it. My hope is that this little comment is a step in the right direction. Remember that you are never alone, we must find a way to let you know that and not let your success, albeit welcome, cut you off from the familiar, common comfort and the relationships that make us human. Go gently and may you may never feel disconnected. Chris

  12. Simone

    Unfortunately, loneliness is part and parcel of every successful performer’s life. It is definitely not an easy life. However, I think that having a companion all the time without a break is not healthy for a relationship. One misses the most exciting emotion, namely, meeting up again after a couple of weeks’ absence. Also, there is the fear of boredom and getting on each others’ nerves after the initial euphoria.

  13. You know, when you find your true love, you could be a million miles away, and still feel the warmth of their love—I hope tht onr day, you find your own true love!
    Mine died 30 years ago, and I do not really feel his loss, just the love he gave me, I’m still wrapped in it’s embrace.
    Meanwhile—{{{{{HUGS}}} from Scotland!

  14. Steven Humes

    I echo your sentiments and would only add that ‘projects’ help me through some lonely gigs. Wether it’s website building, editing videos for fun, redesigning our living room makeover with paper and pencil plans or simply watching a whole season of a recommended show, those things keep me on a long arc of busy thought that I can’t wait to return to when I’m ‘alone’ and not thinking about music.

    My tip is “project free tv” where I watched all of breaking bad, LOST, etc and am now onto Dexter!

  15. Kieran

    Thanks for looking at this difficult issue Joseph, very important in our world today. Let us remember how music can help us feel connected with others as well as with ourselves. It is only when we are comfortable with ourselves as we are that we can embrace being alone.

  16. J-M and J FERTIER

    The loneliness is not where we imagine it. What a great homage to Victoria. It’s beautiful Joseph. J-M & J, fans (we were at your wonderful concert on 18th january to Pleyel in Paris, whith the snow in addition!)

  17. pam

    Very thoughtful blog – thank goodness for modern communications which allow a better link with loved ones than previous generations had. We amateur singers may be envious of your voice and talent but at least we can lead comfortable home lives and enjoy our music in our spare time – thank you for giving up “normality” to share your wonderful voice with us!

  18. David Hornby

    Very interesting and deeply felt comments. I guess opera singers have always been prone to loneliness – it permeates the letters sent by Caruso, for example, on his Latin American tours. The stressful nature of the job – and the tightrope walking it sometimes entails – must intensify this feeling. It’s possible also to feel lonely surrounded by people. One singer I never associated with loneliness was the seemingly imperious Nellie Melba – but one of her biographers has pointed out that on her tours of Britain in later life, she cut a very lonely figure indeed. At any rate – please make sure you come to London again soon, when the cheers and applause of a capacity crowd will hopefully drive away any vestiges of loneliness!

  19. When you live in a big family, until you leave home you are never alone other than in sleep. Last year I found myself alone for the first time in a lovely City three and a half hours away from my family and friends and made new friends very quickly but I had no tv and found time alone unusual. I found the blog community and what a brilliant way to spend ‘alone time’ it is.

    I had everything from exercise tips, fashion advice to cooking instructions, making gifts to life stories, short stories to read and brilliant photography from all over the world. Because of time differences all over the world you don’t have to be ‘alone’ any more 😉
    Best wishes

  20. admin

    Great stuff. Keep the comments coming!

  21. David Hornby

    Another thought I had is that opera is itself a great antidote to loneliness for many people…

  22. Malcolm R McEwan

    Life on the road is not as glamorous as it sounds and one hotel room can seem very much like another, eating out can be something of a chore rather than something to enjoy. Your absolutely right how can you enjoy any where on your own and if there is something really good you need someone there to enjoy it with you. As a performer others have great expectations of you and for that time on stage you are loved but afterwards you are on your own. If you have a talent its great to share it with others but you need to make time for yourself, friends and family these are the most important things . You don’t get the time back , birthdays missed etc. If you have someone like Victoria its like a rock and an anchor , some one to share and enjoy life with . If you are happy in yourself then it will come out in your performance.

  23. Sherezade

    I agree with what someone else posted, that as you grow older you are more comfortable with your own company. Also when I travel I find it rather nice starting up a chat with the person on the next table.. it is like friendliness without giving away too much about your job or private life.. in my case most of the day is normally booked with chores and relish going back to my room with my own agenda..

  24. Svetlana Gladtsyna

    You are lucky to have Victoria to stand by you. I wish you both value that and be good company to each other. And let it be lots of vocal victories when you are with Victoria. Looking forward to your concert in Moscow and hope it will not be cancelled (there are no tickets available yet).

  25. E’ la prima volta che leggo riflessioni così profonde sulla solitudine dell’artista. Questo caro Joseph offre una immagine stupenda della tua personalità che va al di là della tua bravura! Sarebbe bello poterti conoscere da vicino e conversare insieme!

    Un caro saluto, my dear friend!


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Joseph's Blog

May 16th, 2016

Quo Vadis Eurovision and other stories

Malta did not win the Eurovision but lo and behold the sun still rose and the island (the center of the known universe) still spun…

My two cents is that Ira Losco gave a really good performance and that the whole presentation was excellent. She shouldn’t have performed cause she is pregnant? Come off it – I have performed repeatedly with pregnant opera singers well into their 7th and 8th month of pregnancy and trust me when I say that rehearsing and performing for a full opera production is much more physically demanding than a couple of days at the Eurovision. Of course there are those who know much better than the undersigned and who went on to say that the presentation was a tad “camp”…oh the irony when one considers that the Eurovision is the campest of them all.

Meanwhile, this wouldn’t be Malta and the Eurovision wouldn’t be the Eurovision unless its politicized to the exhaustible hilt. The inevitable “mud slinging competition,” which we will see a lot of in the coming 22 months, ensued and even yours truly (inexplicably) ended up in the midst of the fray, in yet another “supernova” in a tea cup. The Eurovision suddenly became an interchangeable bullet to be used ad nauseam by both sides much like bitter parents who use their innocent children during disputes.  I have always found sycophants interesting, even amusing but they will not be getting the much desired Streisand effect from me, thank you very much. It is part of human nature after all to conjure conspiracies and we are not going to let the simple truth get in the way of some exciting and convenient fiction.

Speaking of “conjuring” is it me or is a company advertising real estate using a chap “connected” with the tragic and unnecessary death of an underage girl? It must be a clone or a”doppleganger”, otherwise this would be the epitome of bad taste and a 100 shades of wrong. Don’t get me wrong I am all for “second chances” and all of that but shouldn’t there be due process first? After all Lisa Marie didn’t get a second chance did she?