Roller Coaster

First, let it be said that I have always really enjoyed roller coasters. I was never one to shy away from the scariest, most upside -down, curvy, crazy roller coaster ride because I've always gotten a huge charge out of the speediest moving, fastest dropping, wildest swinging rides. I would wait til the end of the day when the lines were short so I could repeat the scariest ride 5 times in a row. Although, I'm realizing that I haven't been to a park where they have roller coasters in probably 5 years, and I wonder if, as I get older, I would still want to line up just for the thrill of being thrown around by a big moving piece of metal.

I say this because yesterday, I was telling my boyfriend how excited I was by the rehearsal I had just finished, and how happy I was with how the week had gone, and he joked that I was practically bipolar - one day threatening to quit singing, the next day talking about how much I loved it. He was totally kidding, but I can see how someone who was talking to me on a regular basis would have the feeling that they were on a roller coaster ride, and they didn't know when the next dive-down or soar-up would be coming.

This week in rehearsals ended up being really fulfilling for me. For the last several days, we've been staging what is probably the central part of my role in this opera - the climactic lead up to the finale of the second act, which ends with a big crazy aria for me. I go through scene after scene with people coming on and off the stage getting mad at me, while I remain on stage trying to figure out what is happening. Then by the end of the act, I have figured out that I have caused all kinds of hell to break loose, and I have a "freak-out aria" (technical term). So for the last several days this week, I've been called to every rehearsal, and have been really concentrated and working very hard. Yesterday, we concluded with the staging of my freak-out aria, which involves me walking the opposite direction on the turn table covering the whole stage while it makes one full revolution during the course of my aria, as I'm getting lost in the maze that the set becomes when it's moving past me in a kind of slow motion haze. It's really cool looking (or at least feeling, since I can't actually see it from the outside) and I was so happy to have put in so much good hard work this week. Plus I finally started to feel like I had a better understanding of how to play this character after staging these scenes, and that all the gallons of recitative were finally starting to solidify into my brain. I was on a high after that.

Then I woke up this morning, the day off, and realized that by tomorrow, every single member of the cast will have a spouse/child/friend/lover/family member in town visiting them for the rest of the time here, whereas I am too far away from any of my people to coax them to come over here. Upon realizing this, I started to feel sorry for myself. I've been really spoiled for the last several gigs I've been on, in that I've been surrounded by a lot of very social people and I spent a lot of time having fun dinners and going out with all of them. I got the best of both worlds - to be enjoying my work, and to avoid the pitfalls of loneliness that often come with travel by spending time with a bunch of people I really liked. I guess I was due for one of these gigs that we all dread where you spend most of your free time by yourself. Cue roller coaster dip.

Actually, you may have noticed that I've been blogging more than usual since I've been to Austria. It's because when I first arrived here I felt really unsteady, like I didn't quite have my footing. I realized that I needed to do some stuff that grounds me and makes me feel like "myself." That might sound like a weird thing to say, but when you're in a country you've never been to before, trying to communicate in a language at which your skills could be described as shoddy at best, doing a difficult opera you've never done before, with not a soul you've ever met before, you just don't feel like yourself. We tend to define ourselves most easily by our environment, the people around us, and our work. When all of that is new and different, things start to feel a little wonky. So I started blogging more, getting more regular exercise, and studying my music every morning over coffee or tea. And it really helped. Actually I feel better every time I write a blog entry. So thank you for reading this, because you're actually helping me center myself by caring enough to spend 5 minutes with my rambling thoughts.

My response to my boyfriend teasing me about my bipolar behavior was to say that being an artist is like being on a roller coaster. Some people can't stand all the highs and lows, and prefer a life of mediums, so they get off the ride. Other people get addicted to the thrill of the unknown, and can't ride it enough. I think I fall somewhere in the middle - I like to enjoy the exciting parts of the ride, but could do without the parts that make you feel like you want to puke. So I do my best to keep the roller coaster from turning into a never-ending Tilt-a-Whirl by controlling the things I can control, and grounding myself when the ride gets too crazy for me to handle.

And if things get too slow around here, I can always climb onto the turntable and ask them to turn it onto the fastest setting. I just hope the spinning during my aria doesn't make me puke in the middle of a trill. No - I'm sure it will be fine - all those years of riding roller coasters will finally serve a practical purpose.