Monday, 27 September 2010

I was just thinking today what a sheer, luxurious, physical pleasure singing can be.  If you do it for a living, it can be easy to forget, but what with me being in the interesting position of rehearsing for an acting-only role (hehe, my first professional gig as an actress, and in a foreign lingo to boot!), I have the luxury of being able to practise exactly what I want, when I want.  I generally wander into the theatre in the "dead" time between rehearsals - two until six in the evening.  That way I can be pretty certain of getting a practice room.  Whilst reworking my voice, given the noises that came out from time to time, it was also useful that very few people are around at that time - and I guess it became a habit.

I am starting to get a handle on the über-modern opera role, but really at the moment it's a question of note-bashing and trying to get the somatic memory to kick in - some phrases are now fixed in my body, others will I suspect take much, much more time, patience and gnashing of teeth.  In the middle of serious study for this, which takes a certain type of concentration and a particular, slightly-odd-for-opera-singers way of producing the voice, I find it healthy to break off occasionally and belt out Something Completely Different from time to time.  Well, today my butterfly mind alighted on Je vais mourir - a gloriously lush French aria, from Les Troyens by Berlioz.  This is so wonderfully written - Dido, realising that death is the only remaining path, starts - for me - with a particularly human shriek of pain (the realisation that death is real, and imminent, rather than an abstract idea), before launching into a lyrical farewell to life imbued with royal dignity.  I would kill to sing this part!  (It has one of the most beautiful duets ever written, between Dido and Aeneas.  Nuits d'ivresse, if you're interested.)  Anyway, from the first notes, I was completely in the music.  And for some reason I really FELT the music flow through me, and appreciated the physical release of the voice.  Such a lovely feeling, the notes flooding through, always in motion and yet grounded in very corporeal vibrations.  I can totally see why singing, whether in a choir or in church or in the bath, has been proven by several studies to have life-prolonging benefits.

What's more, the sudden concentration on the physical aspect of singing meant that I experienced the modern opera in a slightly different way when I went back to it; there are several long notes that are meant to start "from nothing" (eek!) and swell, and when I concentrated on the feeling, it was interesting to note what that produced emotionally.  Very much in tune with the words; I am starting to appreciate this composer in depth.

I finished off by noodling through some settings of Armenian poets by Respighi (from the book I bought in Rome).  Again, the FEELING of the plaintive legato line, filled with delicacy and beauty, was thrilling.  Yes, of course I'd noticed the physicality of what I do before, but somehow it seemed more enjoyable today!  I hope I can remember that enjoyment as I move on.

PS the photo was from a recent bike ride with a friend; we accidentally ended up in a particularly beautiful town, and this was taken after a couple of glasses of wine with lunch - well it made me giggle! - I think we maybe should have eaten more, we ended up shrieking with laughter whilst belting hell for leather on our bikes down towards the river.  No idea how we managed to stop in time...

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