I've been gathering my thoughts in the last couple of days about this production of Agrippina here in Berlin because, well, it was kind of a big deal for me. Let me take you back to almost exactly a year ago today to explain why.
One year ago I was finishing up a run of Cenerentolas in Miami, enjoying the warm sunny weather, but also kind of freaking out. You see, at that point I was a little worried I might need to find another line of work. I had had a busy fall and early winter, but at that moment, I didn't have a single other singing job lined up for the rest of 2009. And this was February. Why this was happening was anybody's guess - this is a funny, fickle career, the economic crisis was especially brutal to the arts industry in the U.S., there happen to be about a zillion very talented people in my fach and not a zillion roles, I probably didn't come over to europe as early as I should have career wise, etc, ad naseum. Regardless of the reasons, I was pretty much having freak-outs on an almost daily basis.
I left Miami and went back to New York and was wondering if I was going to have to get a job waiting tables at the Olive Garden in Parnassus, NJ (for you non American readers who might wonder what that means, it's basically a fate worse than death), when I got a call from a conductor asking me if I could come to Warsaw to sing a production of Lucrezia Borgia in a few weeks. Delighted, I learned the role, hopped on a plane, and had a great time in Warsaw, excluding the time I couldn't tell the difference between the men's and women's restrooms and walked in on some Polish guy at the urinal. While I was in Warsaw, my agent called me and told me that Berlin was looking for a Nerone for the following season, and could I pop on over to Berlin and sing for Maestro Jacobs? I took the five hour train ride to Berlin (my first time ever seeing the town), stayed the night, and got up the next morning and sang for the Maestro on the stage of the Staatsoper. He took me into a practice room afterwards and worked a little on one of the arias and some of the recitatives, and then said, "Yes. I think you will do it. And we'll make a recording."
I walked out of the dressing room and into the passageway underneath the theater and started to cry. Tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of years of pent up excitement and frustration. I walked back out of the theater, put my sunglasses over my red eyes, and took the train back to Poland. I called my mom and dad, I called my agent, and I felt a euphoria that I would imagine compares to getting married or having a child (although I don't know for sure because I haven't done either of those things). I cried off and on all the way back to Warsaw.
Now, here we are, one year later, and I just sang in this fantastic new production at the Staatsoper. Other than the month of March, my 2010 is completely booked, with me going from job to job with barely a day in between, with debuts in several theaters in Europe, a world premiere, a recording, and a lot of new possibilities. What a difference a year can make in a person's life - I'm living proof!
But I wouldn't change a thing about that slow, scary time. Because it made me appreciate in a deep new way, what a privilege it is to earn my living as an artist. It can be terribly frightening, soul crushingly brutal on your ego, and completely fickle and undependable. But it is an incredible privilege and one that I will never take for granted again.
And so I spent this entire two month rehearsal period in Berlin enjoying myself tremendously. I loved getting notes from the Maestro that I had forgotten a rest in one line of recit, I loved having the director encourage me to take something in an entirely different direction than I thought possible, I loved watching the other singers grow and create beautiful portraits of evil characters. I giggled at every single costume fitting and I marveled at the sounds the orchestra was able to make. And while I was terribly nervous as I stood offstage listening to the overture and waiting for my entrance the night of the premiere, I was also happy. I get to do this. This is my life. And it seems like for now anyway (knock on wood), this continues to be my life. And that is truly a thing of beauty.