Tag Archive | musical

Performance Anxiety

An invite to my first opera. I don’t know about this. Opera is not mainstream. Isn’t it pretentious? I feel intimidated, baffled and even a little frightened by this upcoming event. What if I don’t understand it? Is there a certain way to listen to it? What if I just don’t get it? Will they throw me out if I fall asleep? Or look bored? And what about concert manners? I must read up on those. Google University will help.

Do What When

Concert manners start with not being late. No tripping through the aisle to your seat after it starts. No way. The ushers are the enforcers. They will not let you in until after the first act. No squeaking chair, no coughing, no fidgeting, no whispering (whispering is not silent), no walking around. Look only at people you can see without moving in your seat. Don’t turn around: they will sneer at you. Really? Don’t even think about opening your purse, taking your sweater off, rustling the program or even saying shhh. Not allowed. It’s not like watching TV (Hey Al…grab me a beer). If I mess up, these classical snobs will bury me with shame. Maybe I will just sit like a statue and hold my breath. Play it safe.

Paris, France - May 3, 2016: People Taking Pictures At Opera ParClaptrap

And even worse would be the ultimate blunder: clapping at the wrong time. Death at dawn will be the penalty. I’m sure of that. Clap at the end of each aria (aka the pretty songs in opera versus recitative where they just talk)? The combination of these is what makes opera so emotionally intense.  Clap only at the end of each scene when the curtain goes down? Or after each act? I’m pretty sure you do applaud when the conductor walks out to the stand. That person is running the show! Will there be clapping cues?  Should I wait till someone else claps first and hope they’re not an ignoramus like yours truly? Why didn’t I major in Opera? Darn.

Why Can’t We Be Friends

Or maybe I will make this opera my best friend, before the concert. Effort on my side. Listen to the music as I read the libretto (text). Over and over again until I want to de-friend it. Will this send me into states of ecstatic abandon? Maybe not, but I will know the story. Read up on the performers and the biography of the composer. Check out the historical period of the piece. Romantic, Baroque, Classical? Go Google! YouTube, here I come.

Fashion Faux Pas

What should I wear? Why do people dress up? Because they can? I’m from the land of tee shirts and Homer Simpson flip-flops. For any occasion. If it’s opening night, does one go formal? And what does that mean? Floor-length gown or is a cocktail dress appropriate? Will my frock from Goodwill give a deceptive outer appearance of great worth? Polishing my shoes might help. Maybe I’ll get my teeth cleaned, too.

The Marriage Of FigaroFinale Ultimo

The audience stands, applauds and shouts bravo as they throw flowers on the stage. Bravo means well done in Italian. You say bravo for Mr. Diva, brava for Miss Diva and bravi for two or more performers.

Who is performing more? The opera or the audience?

So many questions I have. The final one is: should I stay or should I go?

Tickling The Ivories

It’s not a good scene to be jealous of eight-year-olds.

That’s what happened at the party my piano teacher gave for her students and their parents. I tried not to let it show as I turned green with envy. These eight-year-olds, who never practice, played beautifully. No choking. No losing your place in the sheet music. No sweat. No being flummoxed beyond control. No panic. No big deal. Eating cookies and drinking lemonade was more important. Thank you Apollo, god of music, for not requiring the adult students to play at the party. Relief like you feel when your dentist tells you that you don’t need a root canal.

I choke when I play for just one person: me. The brains in those eight-year-olds are sponges, absorbing anything and everything even if met with resistance. My brain is quite the opposite. It can be pounded on with knowledge, some of which seeps in, but then it disappears. My brain gives me the silent treatment. And I can’t figure out what I did wrong to deserve that.

At age sixty-three I started piano lessons. Something I have wanted to do since I was a kid. A beautiful piano entered by life unexpectedly as a gift from a beautiful person. I will write about her later. The first lesson entailed stating my goals. Did I want to do a recital? No way. You have to memorize the song, no sheet music crutch. All on your own. With an audience. I’d faint. And then die. And then go to piano purgatory. Give me a pass–straight to hell.

Understanding and appreciating music more is the primary goal. The secondary goal is just to play for the sheer fun of it. By myself. It’s a brain game! Maybe get rid of some of that gray fluffy stuff for something more substantial. So I will be attractive to Zombies who feed on the brains of the living. It would hurt to be passed up.

The lessons go well if I practice one hour a day. But sometimes I feel like an eight-year-old in that I’d rather just go out and play. Or watch paint dry. Or go to the dentist. Anything but. I give myself a good talking to and then behave and do what I’m supposed to. Other times, the hour breezes by like a gentle wind. I’m carried along carefree and confident. But sometimes the monsoon storm hits, wreaking havoc in my brain and with my chords. I just can’t find shelter in the correct fingerings. Over and over for over an hour, the chords are played, sometimes right, sometimes wrong. And then the skies (and my brain) clear up. There it is. Epiphany!

The first time I played the easiest of songs was an absolute thrill. Something pleasant to my ears that I was creating. A wow moment. Joy and pleasure can be so simple. The music has become  more challenging, complicated and elusive since then. I have to work harder. But that’s okay. The payoff is such a sense of achievement. I still have a brain. And it seems to be working. Ta Da!

Rainbow Piano Keys

If any of you have a similar pursuit of happiness story, please share it. And let’s encourage everyone and anyone to chase their dreams. Age doesn’t matter.