November 29th, 2013
Yes 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..