I'm sitting here doing my laundry and getting ready for tonight's third performance of Cenerentola, and thinking about day of performance rituals. Some singers are really specific about what they need to do on a day of a performance - exercise at a certain hour, eat at a certain hour, nap at a certain hour etc. I used to be impossible to be around on performance days (just ask my parents about those fun years) because I would be so nervous and anxious that I just felt miserable. I also used to be really specific about what I ate and when I ate it, when I could eat anything at all because a nervous stomach is not a hungry stomach. Things have changed considerably since those days, and I've actually made a specific effort NOT to have specific things I do, so that if I ever have to do things differently because of circumstances beyond my control, I won't freak out.
Today, for example, I woke up and ate some breakfast and checked my email. Then I went and bought a cheap pair of sunglasses and a beach towel for my dad, who is visiting. Then I took my dad to South Beach so he could swim a little in the ocean. I was a little specific about needing to sit in the shade and not going in the ocean myself because I didn't want to get too hot or tired before singing. Then I took my dad to a bookstore I really like with a cafe, and we had lunch. And now I'm doing my laundry. It's hard to imagine that in only a few hours, I will be onstage singing for thousands of people and assuming an entirely different persona for 3 hours.
My dad told me something interesting today. He said that when I was a kid, my first voice teacher Thelma, who was a retired opera singer herself, gave me the advice that I should never develop any specific performance day routines, nor should I ever have any good luck charms or rituals. She said it's just too dangerous - that having specificity is like having a crutch, and if you have it taken away, you have big trouble. I have no recollection of her telling me this (I was only 9 when I started studying with her) but it's funny that all these years later I am in fact taking her advice. The more normal and relaxed I feel, the better I sing, and the easier it is to communicate something while onstage. So if doing my laundry a few hours before I'm onstage makes me a better Cenerentola, bring on the Tide. But only sometimes!