18 July, 2007

honesty...such a lonely word

A discussion about vocal/dramatic honesty versus that thing that you see sometimes that you can't really put your finger on but it SEEMS like the singer onstage is acting/singing with an ear/eye to the audience reception..and sometimes that means that the "diva" is still in there a bit, and many times it means that the audience goes crazy over the performance--even if it was not acted/sung as honestly to the character as it could have been:

Last night the soprano outsang everyone. She was riveting to watch because she was always just Luisa. Not a lyric soprano singign Luisa. Not a soprano who will sing in XYZ theater next year and who made her debut with ABC theater in whatever year.

The audience warmed to her and gave her brava's at the END of the show, but it was the men, (not Vargas, that was just too much star quality to have in this comparison) who acted with a bit of a 'divo' attitude and with that "I want you to love me because I love you and my voice is awesome and you know it and I know it"-- who got the long bravo's after arias and duets during the performance.

So what does that mean? We are taught to be as honest as possible. We get kudos from straight theater directors who cross over to opera when we do what straight actors do- which is immerse, become, transform--without any trace of US, or where we came from, or where we are going. Just that character, where THEY came from, and where THEY are going.
But why is it that others buy the "diva"--it's not even diva, I don't want to use that word negatively... but why is it that there are others (music directors, audition/competition panels) who are won over not necessarily by a dramatically and vocally honest performance, but with that added element of "self-love of voice and character".

The NFCS forum has discussed this, but only in a sense that a singer has to bring the mojo into the audition room, or that "FU" attitude, and not be apologetic for being a good singer and having the "opportunity" to audition. But what I'm talking about is different. It's just this feeeeling that I get as a singer in the audience, or onstage with a colleague, watching other singers "get away" with replacing an honest performance with an amalgam of acting chops and even a fine voice, but combined with that "look"...that look---that whether in audition or onstage makes me cringe a bit because it's a bit masturbatory, yes, I typed out that word in the blog.

And "people" buy it. More than buy it---LOVE it. Hire it. Promote it. I'm not saying we can't be divas at all or bring that into any type of character on stage. The more diva the better if that floats your boat--in real life or onstage I guess...

I just think that when it comes down to performance and audition and competition, it is a bit maddening to see that. Of course an organic performance is what we all strive for, but is it a talent to add that "element" in and know that you'll win the audience/audition/review--whatever it is you want to "win"? Or is it a substitution for a truly honest performance?
Or some combination of the two?


Anonymous said...

"And "people" buy it. More than buy it---LOVE it. Hire it. Promote it. The more diva the better if that floats your boat--in real life or onstage I guess... "

I think you're making it too complicated. What you're writing about is charisma or star quality. If the performer has it, the audience will pay good money to watch that performer read the telephone book. Think about Jack Nicholson. Whatever he plays, he's always Jack Nicholson. Is he "real"? Sometimes, but not always. But he's always fun to watch, so we pay to see him. The audience wants value for its money and time. Entertainment isn't everyhing, but it's a lot. And after a really tough day at work, a lot of us don't want to think too hard. We just want to be entertained.

me said...

No, it's not charisma or star quality..it's actually the detrimental version of that..the person that COULD have something great but instead chooses--or maybe can't choose-- to act a persona to the audience. Star quality and charisma are all things that add to your characterization. I love Jack Nicholson and I love when he knows that we'll love something he does--but it's more than usually "in" character for whatever he's doing--even if that character is the same version of his crazy self over and over. I'm talking about performances that would not be categorized as great vocally or dramatically by singers who were watching it, (and having studied the material, know what CAN be done, or the potential that the role or aria can have) but because the singer presents themselves in a certain way, the audience and even audition/competition panel really responds positively to what is otherwise perhaps not as strong of a performance technically as someone else...
Entertainment has a very high value, yes, but it's surprising how much better of a singer one person was than another, and yet, she did not get the accolades even though her performance was much stronger than others- who somehow played into the grandeur of their voice/themselves and were vocally and dramatically weaker.