As a young opera student entering into such a huge, demanding world, you find that you cling to one little word, one niggling feeling, above all others in your time of need – doubt.
Doubt surrounds us all, no matter what profession or life you lead, but doubt especially surrounds the world of opera and classical music as a whole. Maybe this is because every second article I see about opera in the mainstream media has the title “The Death of Opera?” or something adjacent. Perhaps it is because opera is such a broad and demanding art form that there is so much room for doubt to creep into your technique. These are huge contributors the the plague of doubt that is hitting young opera students around the world. But why do we persist? Why do we keep fighting off that little voice in our head? The answer is simple really – passion.
There is not a day that passes that I don’t doubt myself, that I don’t doubt my abilities, or that I don’t doubt the future of my passion. But I had a realisation the other day whilst listening to a Cecilia Bartoli recital of Vivaldi music (Viva Vivaldi! – I highly recommend, her voice is unstoppable and her musicianship is just remarkable). I realised that there is also not a day that goes by that I don’t hear something or watch something that lets me know that I am in this for the long run, and I’m going to fight for the life of my art form. Usually my passion-booster for the day is something Schumann-y, or Gounod-y, or anything with Peter Pears or Anthony Rolfe Johnson. But there I was, listening to extreme Italian, Baroque coloratura and I was loving it. If I ask anyone else what their passion-booster is it might be Jessye Norman singing Strauss, or Jonas Kauffman being Jonas Kauffman (because who doesn’t love that). And then it all made sense to me, it’s not just the fact that there is such beautiful diversity in classical music, and it’s not just the music itself – it’s the role models.
The role models and legends of classical music are of as much importance as Lady Gaga is to pop music. They are heroes and icons to look up to and aspire to. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I have sent a message to my fellow students with the rough template of, “*insert name of message recipient* WHY CAN’T I BE *insert name of singer being listened to*”. It is such a fantastic eliminator of this doubt and solely because it inspires passion. And passion is what grants us that persistence through the tough times because whatever it is it must truly mean something to you.
Coming into the new year, I’ve made many a resolution (I’ve yet to break any but I guess only time will tell how well I do) and I’ve told myself to make a collage vision board of everything I love about what I do. As potentially lame as that sounds, imagine getting up every morning to a massive board of everything you love, a friendly reminder of why you do what you do and where you want to get in your life. And if you don’t know what you’re doing maybe you’ll get closer to finding out after you make a vision board. And for the musicians and music lovers, do yourself a favour and make a “Soundboard” playlist, with all the music that inspires your senses and your passion, it works just as well. In conclusion, let 2016 be the year of driving your own passion to overcome any plaguing doubts. And if you ever need a reminder of what someone can do after following their passion then LISTEN TO CECILIA BARTOLI SING VIVALDI BECAUSE WOW.
Written by Louis Hurley