When I lived in Paris, I saw everyone. Everyone comes to Paris. I met up with everyone constantly.
When I lived in Gouda I had a great group of friends in the area. Not many travelers came to Gouda. I did not see everyone.
Now that I live in Amsterdam, I’m routinely alerted that friends are coming through town. It’s always a pleasure to see everyone again. I also haphazardly meet people who also live in Amsterdam that I wouldn’t normally make appointments to see. It’s like this, we run into each other in the tram, like the other day -- “Persephone!” I heard a voice exclaim and I turned to find a singer I had met at a masterclass a few years ago smiling at me. Ready to step out of the tram, transport pass clutched in hand, at that very moment I was stressed and needed to go throw myself in the swimming pool to work off a little steam before the pool closed. She wanted to talk to me, she seemed to imply that I would go one stop further with her or immediately step into a café together for a coffee. I said, “Hey, let’s message on FB!”
A week later we met up. She was late and tastefully dressed, showcasing her small narrow frame. We assessed what had changed. She was still working part time at a global concern in customer service, she had been expelled from Conservatory. When I first met her a few years ago, dismissal had seemed set in the tarot cards. The singing professor and the vocal coach were worried. They threw in their weight to try to make a monumental change happen for her, the miracle didn’t appear. They whispered suggestions, out of her ear shot, theories of why things weren’t working, they clung on to the factors outside of their responsibility.
“I have two songs recorded.” She announced to me. She speaks very quickly. I noticed that she suppresses her breath.
“What roles have you sung?” I asked. She had just stated she had turned 26 and had to get her career started. She slapped the table when she said this, displaying the sense of urgency.
“None.” This sounded familiar. I don’t think I had sung an entire role at 26. Or maybe I had just sung all of Despina. "A girl of fifteen should know about things, things that hang around and have ‘tails’” – you may know that aria sung by the maid from Cosi van Tutte. “But I have the two pieces, one aria and one song recorded, for auditions.” She picked at her sandwich. She eats quickly and sloppily, the slender fingers tapping, pulling, and pushing the bits of filling on her plate. She explained she was leaving in two weeks for a masterclass in England. It sounded like a push in the right direction, with the right teachers in the right places. She was applying to more Music Schools, solid names. She didn’t know where to practice cheaply in Amsterdam, she didn’t know where to gain the experience of singing a role at a bargain rate, she didn’t know a lot of things she should have known. She’d been living in Amsterdam more than three years. I reflected on my life experience. I had been a bit like her, but when a conductor said to me, “Get out of Conservatory and into the real world,” I knew he was speaking the gospel. It boils down to this, there are very few top soloists that come out of the constrictions of a Conservatory. Mostly, young starting singers head towards third rate stages, take the hits, navigate the bullets, try to keep in condition and with luck and some funding may make it.
“Technique,” she was clinging onto this word, “It has to be good technique before anything else.” True, and where my friend, do you find this and at what price? "The dream is a cocktail at Sloppy Joe's," the words of the poem drifted through my brain....Langston Hughes.....