I returned tired but immensely satisfied today from my first coaching on the Strauss role which will start in April (non-singers may gulp here at the long lead-in; singers will no doubt recognise how bloody difficult Strauss, R. is to learn properly).
On the way home, I couldn't stop thinking about the difference between my freelance life and what's going on here. Most singers, I appreciate, do this the other way around - they may well start off as part of a company (although of course in England that's a vanishing option), then branch out to occasional guest performances, eventually turning freelance. However with my unerring instinct for the winding path, I appear to have got this the other way up - and I couldn't be happier, oddly enough!
In the realm of learning operas, for example, the onus has always been on me to show up well-prepared (notes and rhythms in my body, words memorised in the correct accent, all in a stylistically suitable manner). Much of this can be achieved by elbow grease at one's own piano; however, particularly for trickier roles, a good coach is invaluable. I have been privileged to work with some glorious coaches; they don't come cheap, but they are necessary to polish a role until it's fit for performance and thoroughly learned. A fair decent proportion of one's fee for a role can find its way into the coaches' pockets - this is naturally not resented, just part of the freelance life.
Here, however, I have several friendly and utterly professional experts on tap - and we're all pulling together to produce a good result. Of course, it's still my responsibility to learn everything correctly, but the emphasis is on a team effort; "we" need to get this role prepared... It's such utter luxury! Today's was world-class coaching; it made me think, pulled me up on the slightest discrepancy, patiently picked apart oddly-timed entries, made me laugh and exhausted me. And I got paid for it!!