The anatomy of anxiety

I've been thinking a lot about fear in the last few days, and why we get afraid of things. Mostly because with the dress rehearsal and the premiere of L'Olimpiade approaching here in Innsbruck, I knew I was gonna be getting nervous, and I was dreading it. I have started to dread not performing in general, but the opening performances of operas because I get the most uncomfortably nervous for those performances. And because I know I will have those kind of nerves, I start to get nervous about the fact that I'm going to be nervous, because I know that performing is more difficult and a lot less fun when I'm all jumpy and wacky with nerves. I'm at the point now where even when I'm nervous, I have ways of counteracting my anxiety when I'm on stage, and it doesn't have much of an outward affect on my performance, mostly just on how much I'm able to enjoy myself in the moment.

At last night's premiere of L'Olimpiade, I did a lot to counteract opening night jitters. During the overture I did all kinds of stretching and moving around to try to keep my body from feeling the tightening it feels when I get nervous. And when I got out on stage, I commanded my brain to slow down and take care with the words I was saying instead of running by them too quickly to experience anything. The opera begins for me with an extraordinarily long recitative where I sing for so many pages in italian that it's easy for me to feel overwhelmed. But I felt like I managed to keep my energy up while still being in the moment. When I got to my first aria, I had this dry mouth thing that happens only when you're nervous, but I was refusing to let myself get sucked into constantly swallowing and licking my lips, which actually just makes it worse. At one point my lips were totally sticking to my teeth, but I just said to my brain "this isn't going to affect your singing, actually" and it didn't. I kind of looked like one of those little dogs who have been snarling and just haven't put their teeth away yet, but at least I didn't have to interrupt a phrase just to lick my lips. As usual, I had calmed down considerably by my second entrance, and with the exception of a brain fart or two (which you really can't avoid in a five hour opera when you factor in nerves and excitement) the show went well and was very well received by the audience. I couldn't believe it when I made my entrance during the third act at 11:40 at night and the theater was still full of people! It was like a miracle!

Just two more performances until I am officially on VACATION! For me, a dream vacation means being in my own apartment and being able to drink as much wine as I want whenever I want without having to think about whether or not passing out in a drunken stupor is going to affect my ability to remember italian recitatives the next day. You know, maybe that was my problem all along - maybe passing out in a drunken stupor would have cemented the italian recitatives in my head much quicker - especially if I was drinking a Chianti or something. I'll have to remember that for next time. But beginning this friday, I can just get drunk for the fun of it.

*perhaps it is a slightly unfortunate juxtaposition for me to end a blog post entitled "the anatomy of anxiety" with a paragraph about passing out drunk. Please rest assured that I am neither crazy nor an alcoholic. I'm just tired of being so effing serious all the time in my blog! It's time to bring back the funny! Or at least the mildly amusing (if what you'd been reading before this was the Wall Street Journal).