It’s Wednesday and Dido & Aeneas is this Saturday at 4pm. Of course I don’t really want to back out but I have, over the last week, been subject to bouts of ‘who the hell do I think I am to be singing Dido?’ I always wonder at what point someone like Jessye Norman or Pavarotti or any other world-famous singer goes on stage and thinks ‘I have every right to be singing this’. Is there a light-bulb moment when they realise that their technique, quality of voice and ability to convey whatever emotion is needed is all there, and they are completely confident in their own ability? When they think ‘Yeah, my voice IS so awesome that people will gladly pay a large portion of their weekly income to hear me?’
Obviously I’m a journeyman (journeywoman?) singer in a small city near the bottom of the world so the expectations on me are just a tad lower, but I still angst over the fact that people are using some of their precious time and money to listen to me. They have a right to expect something at the very least competent. And I realise that I’m being overly dramatic (no, really? Me?) because I’m not the only person they’re coming to hear. It’s just that there’s this little song at the end of the opera that Dido sings. The one everyone knows. And because they know it, they know when you don’t get the timing quite right, or a note exactly where it should be.
And so this morning, as I practised Dido’s Lament in the shower – don’t you love shower acoustics? – I thought, to hell with it, I know the notes, I can sing them competently, I’m just going to let go and invest it with all the emotion that I feel when I sing those sorrow-laden words. Maybe I’ll come in half a beat late on a ‘Remember me’. Maybe I’ll forget a bit of ornamentation. But by golly the audience is going to feel my despair!
Because that’s what it’s really all about isn’t it? Not just pretty notes – it’s about making people feel something.
I’ll be back after the performance to let you know if I succeeded.