I knew it would get me eventually! I've been extremely lucky so far in having had plenty of time to mentally switch from one role to another, and, compared to many of my colleagues, have had a darned sight fewer foreign words to keep safely penned within my brain. This last week, however, we had the last performance of the Offenbach, rehearsals for the forthcoming Smetana, a talk (on the day of my performance; I did get an apology and thanks for that) about a complicated new opera, and a Salome performance. The fine detail of my Strauss unfortunately fell prey to the occasional memory lapse, exacerbated by the fact that my best friend had made the trek from London to see the show, and I naturally wanted her to see a perfect performance (they don't exist; doesn't stop every singer I know yearning for them).
Words disappearing from one's brain just before one is meant to sing them is of course a recurrent nightmare for performers. It occurs to me that I'm at just the wrong stage of learning German; were I fluent, I'd be able to make some sort of sense come what may. And were I LESS fluent, well, the words I have learned would be the only alternative, and the only thing to do in such circumstances is take a deep breath and think "Hmm, interesting, wonder what's going to come out now? Goodness, those were the words!!" (This works better than you might think. You have to get the right balance of trust and benign amusement, however.)
The problem here was that I knew the gist of what I needed to say, but unfortunately several alternatives presented themselves to my brain just before singing, and I couldn't decide which one was right. It's utterly amazing how much rubbishy thinking one can get through between one breath and the next! These were short, everyday sentences, for which I now have several options, and frankly I have no idea what actually came out or whether it made sense... Luckily I managed to rein in the panic and just kept on acting my way through, and the big set pieces worked beautifully.
It's not as if I hadn't studied the role thoroughly in preparation; I'd also gone over it with concentration several times in the run-up - as ever, the difficult bits are where I thrive, and the easy stuff, well I reckon I just took my foot off the pedal mentally. Ah well, lesson learned for next time... and there will be another occasion, especially considering the amount of time we have between performances - it's four weeks to the next (and last) Salome!
It probably didn't help, either, that I moved house (flat) (oops, apartment for the Americans) in the same week! Careful planning, that... I am thoroughly indebted to various friends for their invaluable help, and as ever rather determined not to move again for a good long while. I have a beautiful view of the Rhine from the huge picture window with balcony that stretches across my whole flat, and rather think I shall be happy here. Certainly the peace and quiet is wonderful, and the Rollläden (roller blinds which shut the light out completely) are a godsend in terms of getting a decent night's sleep. They did however lead to a completely surreal experience when my friend was here; my phone flashed up a message, which woke me up, and I thought, oops, better get that flashing light out of here. I stuffed the offending article in the kitchen then tried to make my way back to bed - only to realise after a few steps that I really couldn't see a thing, and indeed was completely surrounded by directionless and dizzyingly strange lightless space. It took me an eternity to find my way, terrified of stepping on a sleeping limb or crashing full length into a cupboard or wall... such spatial knowledge comes with time, of course, but having spent nearly all year with the residual light from a street lamp permeating my living space, it felt momentarily exceedingly odd!
Greetings from a Germany which has decided in the space of two days to switch from sullen overcast spring to hot and glorious summer!