I am composing this post in the immediate aftermath of another wonderful series of master classes with Joyce DiDonato at Carnegie Hall. I’d like to frame the wrap-up for this year’s series of posts to The Singer’s Audition Handbook by sharing some advice that Joyce offered to the singers she worked with as well as their audience.
Joyce encourages all singers to plumb the depths of your creative powers and polish your artistry to a fine sheen. And, as she has consistently emphasized throughout the classes that she has led for us, doing so is its own reward. To her, whether or not you go on to pursue an opera career is a distant secondary concern.
“You’re opening, and it’s so beautiful, and the least interesting thing to me is what it does for your voice,” she told soprano Suzannah Waddington. “What it does to your voice is thrilling! But that’s the least interesting thing about all of this. I don’t know if you’re going to have an opera career… I’d love it, if that’s what you’re meant to do and you really want it, then of course I’d love it. But if you can open here, then that is something you are going to take into your life and bring to everything that you have. That’s the goal. And if you can open up in your life, you’re going to experience things in such a way that you see things you didn’t even know were there, and things are going to come to you that you didn’t even know were there. Then you have a much richer palate of life to bring to the stage. And because you’ve become richer – imagine what you’re going to be giving to us. It will work for your opera career as well, but it’s going to work for your life.”
I invite you all to consider this question: What does it mean to be a singer? What does it mean to you?
I’ll share some of the things that it means to me:
That is what it means to me to be a singer. And I think that it is fair to say that if I am able to live these principles not only in relation to my singing but also with regard to the way I engage all my activities and relationships, I will enjoy a very rich life indeed.
Because singing is such an all-consuming practice, I imagine that most areas of your life and activities can be experienced as extensions of your singing and can be tapped in support of it. The final day of master classes included a wonderful example of this. Joyce invited tenor Haô Ting, who is also a yoga teacher, to sing his aria while moving through a series of yoga poses. It led to immediate, remarkable results for his musicianship and ease of singing.
“You’ve worked this into your body already, and the muscle memory of your body is flow, breath moving through it… You body is teaching you,” she pointed out to him. “Let [your yoga] teach you where the voice goes. Usually the things that we love are not so far apart.” Joyce talked about how earlier that morning, a panel of artist managers and marketing specialists on hand to advise the singers emphasized the importance of staring where you are and using the resources already available to you rather than imagining the tools and opportunities for launching your career lie beyond your grasp. In Haô’s case, “You live in Taiwan, you’re French, you’ve sung in Hong Kong, you perform musical theater, you’re working on commissioned pieces – that’s where you start. Go back to where your home is. Go back to vinyasa, go back to the Hong Kong Opera, go back to the summer programs you like and start from there. The way “there” is by building with your building blocks, one by one, taking what is “home” for you and building on it.”
Keep building your voice, creating your life, and enjoying the journey!
Joyce DiDonato’s October 2016 Master Classes are available to stream on medici.tv: