Here’s another corny post about singing because that’s what I do.
It’s Valentine’s Day, yet another heavily commercialized holiday in the United States, and most people fall into one of two categories. Some folks enjoy donning pinks and reds, giving or receiving chocolates, flowers, and other little gifts from loved ones, or eating an overpriced dinner amongst couples with the pressure of a marriage proposal looming overhead. Others shun the holiday entirely with a Scrooge-like “harumph” and an attitude of bitterness or sarcasm. Regardless, the somewhat controversial holiday is here, and it’s all about love.
Typically, Valentine’s Day consumerism is dominated by an expression of romantic love. It’s a nice acknowledgment of partnership, but the pressure makes it disingenuous– “Today, I have to show you I love you more because everyone is doing it.” It’s nice, but the whole thing feels a little forced.
However, like most holidays, I enjoyed Valentine’s Day growing up. My mom always got my sister and me little candy bags with notes about how much she loved us. Beautiful flowers and two cards (one funny Snoopy card and one gushingly romantic card) adorned the table as a present to my mom from my dad. The little boxes we made for Valentine’s Day at school were a thrill, and I loved reading into whatever Valentine my crush gave me– of course, it all meant nothing, as we were in third grade. But it was fun and lighthearted. Love can be like that, too.
Love is an ill-defined emotion shared among humans at a certain level of intimacy, romantic or platonic. It’s different for everyone and designates a relationship as important. I’ve made it a point to tell my friends I love them nearly as often as I do my family or boyfriend– I want people to know I love them. It feels good to be loved.
The physical sensation of the emotion of love is similar regardless of whether I love a person or an activity. Maybe this is normal; I’m not sure. We throw around the word “love” with various degrees of weight, like, maybe when I say, “I love this cheeseburger,” I don’t mean that I love that cheeseburger as much as I love my mom, but dang, that is a great cheeseburger.
Fine, I don’t love a delicious, overpriced artisanal cheeseburger as much as I love my mom, but I do love to sing as much as I love my mom. The physical sensation of love is the same when I sing as when I hug my mom. There’s less of an adrenaline rush, sure, but my body’s intense perception of love and joy at that moment is the same.
I had the pleasure of craning my neck in my partial-view seat at the Ordway in St. Paul to see the second-to-last performance of Minnesota Opera’s Daughter of the Regiment on Saturday. Regardless of comedic or dramatic outcome, operas tend to tell love stories, and this light-hearted, funny show was no exception. It tells the story of Marie, a young woman abandoned at a French regiment’s doorstep as a tiny baby. She is raised as a daughter of the regiment, with each soldier acting as a father figure to her, and creepily, she is expected to marry one of them once she feels ready to settle down and become a mom. Weird.
She falls while picking flowers one day and is saved by a Tyrolean man, Tonio. The regiment is not a fan of this burgeoning love affair since Tonio is not a soldier. He joins the French army to gain their approval just as Marie’s long-lost “aunt” comes by to say, hey, I’m royalty, so glad I found you, and you’re going to be a duchess and marry this Duke of Krakenthorp. Marie has a tough time being a lady, misses Tonio, and in the end, the “aunt” reveals herself as Marie’s actual mother (illegitimate child alert!), and she allows Marie and Tonio to get married while saluting France.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again– if you think opera is boring, think again. Minnesota Opera’s next show is Don Giovanni, and phew, let me tell you, that one’s a doozy. If you missed Daughter of the Regiment, I recommend catching Mozart’s fiery tale in May.
Besides the engaging plot and sharp comedic timing, the singing was phenomenal. Marie and Tonio, the leading soprano and tenor roles, have some of the most challenging passages of bel canto repertoire. Both Vanessa Becerra (Seagle alum!) and David Portillo sounded magnificently free and joyous throughout the show. They love to sing. They worked for years to attain this level of facility in their singing, and their playful energy was palpable to the audience. It was electrifying and magical– everything I like to hear at the opera.
I lost my love of singing for a while. Singing was hard; I couldn’t get it right, I got fatigued all the time, and I didn’t like how I sounded. I was in my head, my breath was forced, and my high notes were non-existent. It wasn’t fun or joyful, and I certainly didn’t love it. I kept talking about quitting because, truly, what was the point of all this work for nothing when I didn’t even enjoy myself anymore?
I’m so grateful that changed over the past few months.
I had a rehearsal for an upcoming concert last night, and it was thrilling to sing through some German art songs with a fabulous and fun pianist. The feeling of love rushed over me, and I remembered what makes music so addicting–that emotional response. It’s corny, but so is Valentine’s Day, so I’m calling it appropriate. Singing is as lighthearted and fun, like a childhood Valentine’s Day, as it is serious and romantic. I love to sing. I hate saying it that bluntly because I feel like a giant cheeseball, but it’s true. I try to instill that emotion in every lesson I teach, practice session I embark on, and audition or performance I sing. I don’t have to get every role, award, or accolade; I can just love the process. And as I continue my vocal recovery, I can acknowledge that’s enough to keep going.