I was paid a great compliment yesterday. I was talking with two new colleagues, baritones both, about Santa Fe’s season next year. I mentioned that I intended for this to be my last summer away from home, but that when I saw that they were doing Magic Flute, I was tempted to reconsider. DG asked if I wanted to sing one of the Three Ladies, and I said, no, that I’d want to cover (or sing!) the Queen! He then replied, “Oh, you’re a soprano? I thought you were a mezzo – you’re so grounded. You’re not flighty enough to be a coloratura!” Haha! I was amused and flattered.
Then today I had a coaching with Nico Castel, a wonderful resource to have “on hand” for part of the summer. I sang through “Qui la voce,” my newest aria and first real attempt at bel canto style singing. Whenever I would get to a cadenza (an interpolated passage of notes, usually not written by the composer, and usually very florid), Mr. Castel and Pedro, the accompanist, exchanged glances and raised eyebrows. I was pretty sure that was good, but you never know! Then, when I got to the sustained high note at the end, I chickened out and didn’t hold it very long. After complimenting me on most of my singing, Mr. Castel said, “But that last note? It’s too short. After all those fireworks you gave us, we were left wanting! I call it ‘cantus interuptus.’” (Get it?)
So, what to do? I’m still nervous about sustained high notes, and I think he may have hit on a big reason why. I am so proud of my non-diva attitude offstage, that I don’t bring out the Diva that needs to be there to sing those notes. Mr. Castel talked of the anticipation that can be built in the audience when a singer has given them thrilling moment after thrilling moment in an aria and the brings them to what they know will be the final high note, the climax. By taking some time to really prepare yourself to sing that note well, you can also create a feeling of expectancy in that moment. And so I gave it a shot. I sang the penultimate passage, which ends on a high C, then took a moment as Pedro held the dominant chord in tremolo. I brought my hands in front of me, in true diva style, took a big breathe, and let it rip. And I could tell by Mr. Castel’s reaction that it was just what he’d been waiting for.
So while I’m maintaining my “Diva Next Door” persona offstage, it’s time to embrace the Diva onstage. The Diva who leaves her audience breathless, who makes them wait for the notes she knows they came to hear. And who can deliver them every time.