What makes a somebody?

A couple of days ago, when I did the interview with my friend Kate Aldrich, Opera Chic posted our interview on her blog as one of her daily items, and linked to my blog. Today I saw that there were 7 comments on her blog about that post, so I did something that was probably a bad idea, and went ahead and looked at the comments. It's always dangerous to look at blog comments because they are essentially anonymous and therefore could say absolutely anything. And I was right to want to avoid them because right there a few lines down were the following two comments : "Who ARE these two? followed by "Nobody. Not worth your bother."

OUCH! Nobody? Wow - it's amazing how one little word can be so incredibly hurtful. I mean, obviously Kate can't be a nobody - if you're singing Carmen at the Met and Rosina at La Scala and you're a nobody, then who the hell is somebody? So let's put that aside for a second and assume this commenter was talking about me. I mean, certainly compared to the major singers out there, I guess you could say I'm a nobody - in fact, I jokingly say it about myself all the time. I haven't sung at the Met or Scala, and who knows if I ever will? But I think that labeling an artist as a nobody is really a dangerous way to criticize them if you are an opera fan, which I'm assuming this person must be if they read Opera Chic.

I read an article recently that quoted Renee Flemming as saying that The Met is the top of the food chain for singers, which is probably quite appropriate. And if we're using the food chain analogy, then we have to acknowledge the fact that food chains can only exist when all the different levels exist - if you remove one of the levels, everything above it dies with it - they need each other to survive. The same is true for any artistic field, but let's take opera singers in particular. Without singers that weren't super famous, we wouldn't be able to have opera companies spread out everywhere - if the only opera companies which existed were the Met, Scala, Covent Garden, and Paris, then nobody anywhere else would be able to see opera, and the art form would have a difficult time sustaining itself. And famous singers only exist because they worked their way up there - they all spent time learning and growing by singing roles with smaller companies and becoming better artists.

Maybe he or she is suggesting I'm a nobody because they think I have no talent or nothing to offer as an artist, but even that is certainly a misnomer. Anyone who has a desire to share something artistic with the world has something to say, while their natural talent (and even more, their circumstances of being in the right place at the right time) might limit the context in which they are able to express themselves. But even someone who gives a recital with 12 audience members might be able to move someone to tears with what they are communicating. And in my book, that makes them somebody.

I know that every person who puts themselves in the public eye has to accept that they will receive criticisms of all different sorts. And thank god I'm not a hollywood actress who has to read about how someone thinks I'm too fat, or that my career is over, on the cover of a magazine in a grocery store. But I really believe that any opera fan who categorizes any singer as "nobody" should quickly reconsider what they might be doing to the art form by dismissing someone so cruelly. This kind of remark doesn't do anybody any good. Well, I don't know - did it make you feel better for a minute, faceless commenter? Because I think your minute might be up now. So I would like to suggest that you go do something productive, unless you want every member of this food chain to shrivel up and die. And I'm not saying this to you anonymously - I'm saying it as myself, Jennifer Rivera. Somebody.