I've written before about the importance of learning music correctly in the first place, and am currently reinforcing that lesson in my practice... I am re-learning huge chunks of Carmen (which I adore) for a forthcoming concert in England (which I am looking forward to) and discovering to my dismay that my initial preparation was bloody slapdash (in my defence, I accepted the contract with one week to learn the opera, one week to rehearse, then flying straight out to Thailand for a tour, so I didn't really have the time for proper preparation!).
It's not so much the broad sweep of things - the words are pretty much stuck in my memory, the arias of course have been part of my repertoire for years (you can't look like I do and fail to have a Carmen aria or two up your sleeve for concerts!), and the basic rhythms are just so right that they can't go wrong. No, it's the little details. Where notes are dotted and where not. How long to hold a particular note for. Very quiet here, slightly louder here... Emphasize this note, pull off on that. Oh, there's a world of nuance and sophistication that I missed the first time around, and am now under a moral duty to correct. Bizet took the time to compose this with particular effects in mind, and as an interpreter I am failing him if I ignore his intentions.
Damned hard work, though. It really is so much more difficult to re-work something than to learn it correctly in the first place. The slightest lapse of attention, and your brain reverts to previous patterns...
Still, definitely worth it. I love how, as a singer, you discover new aspects of a character every time you sing her. It's similar to re-reading classic novels; you are never the same person you were when you previously read them, and new angles present themselves to the older you.
Right. Back to annoying the neighbours with the same little phrase repeated thirty times!!!