Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Singers' Life Lessons #36: Watch out for the bloody music! It's out to undermine you.

Yeah, yeah, I know. We always watch out for the music. But sometimes it sneaks under your skin in unexpected ways, and catches you unawares, and then you're like an upturned tortoise sans shell and there's not an awful lot you can do about it.

I thought I could deal with it, you see. I'd managed to notify the theatre last week that I wouldn't be able to sing tonight's last performance of Salome (that sounds a lot more organised than it actually was; luckily for me, one of the friends who initially came to my rescue in hospital is part of the theatre management, and I vaguely remember hanging on to her in the middle of howling and begging her to let them know I really wasn't malingering). Operation successful, sprung from hospital yesterday thanks to amazing healing (and probably lying) powers - and it's great to be home, despite my flat being smaller and rather less well appointed than my hospital accommodation... marvellous supplies of drugs, and a pair of very good tickets. My parents were due to attend this final performance, but due to my medical emergency, my mother flew over on her own to (watch over me like a hawk... oops, did I just say that out loud?) (escape from the chaos at home - nope, definitely didn't say that one) kindly look after me. So after a well-rested day, I thought it might be interesting to watch this last performance from the audience.

You don't get that many opportunities like this, you see. I mean, if you're ill. generally you're ill, and not in any fit state to bung your pearls on and pretend to be part of the audience. Either you sing (from the side of the stage if needs be) or you stay in bed. This time, however, I was in a pretty unique position. Post-operation, there was no way I could sing or even walk the part, but I felt well enough (OK, curious enough) to go and experience this great production from the other side of the curtain.

I dressed carefully, trying to not accentuate, yet not hide, the throat bandage. Not much danger of appearing ridiculously healthy to a public who had paid to see me (supportive mother hanging eternally from elbow puts paid to most of that anyway, thank goodness); I was however determined to appear dignified, supportive of my colleagues, thoroughly professional.

Well bugger that for a game of soldiers. That's where the bloody music came in, you see. I was OK until then; a few solicitous enquiries as I floated gently through the foyer, then my seat; no problem, conductor had clocked me so wasn't going to fall off her perch with surprise, all going to plan. But. BUT. I'd allowed for physical weakness. Yup, that was allowed.

And the baton lifted, and the music breathed into action, and the emotions swelled, and my eyes started leaking, and basically that was it. I cried through every single beautifully-sung or expressively-spat phrase; I couldn't do a damned thing about the way the tympani made my heart beat faster or the double basses made my heart stop.

Embarrassingly, once the taps had been turned on, they refused to turn off. I cried through what was meant to be a totally unobtrusive visit to congratulate my world-class colleagues; I wept on the director and the choreographer and made all the make-up artists thoroughly soggy with my tears. So much for the dignified and poised support of my fellow professionals.

I tell you; watch out for that damned music!

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