These days, I’m spending most of my time in my flat in Glasgow with my wonderful boyfriend, with the luxury of free time I haven’t had since before starting music college. Unfortunately, a lot of it has been spent practising for contracts that are still being cancelled.
But any practice is good practice, I guess?!
I worked as a cleaner in a local hospital during the first lockdown where I made a few really great friends and got my confidence back again after the initial shock of the diary being wiped out. It turns out, I am quite a decent cleaner and my attention to detail pays off! It was also quite a therapeutic job, great for running through new songs and recitative in my head whilst scrubbing a floor!
I even managed somehow through all of this to make my German house debut at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in two different productions in October 2020- lucky me!
Although, the moments of doubt are still very present and I still ask myself everyday; do people really NEED me to sing ever again, or would I not be more useful doing something else? I’m sure I’m not alone in that train of thought and I appreciate some have had it a lot worse. But it still brings me down from time to time.
The combination of the pandemic and the absolute disaster that is Brexit has brought about a new-found sense of reluctance and guilt in being a young artist and even a sense fear in being a “British” singer- and I’m never one to hide from being Scottish!
Brexit itself almost feels like a new “identity” within us. Maybe its because of the “oh so important” new blue-coloured passports!
I think what has been most alarming about the situation is that an industry that contributes so much to its economy has been so ignorantly overshadowed and can be so instantly crushed down by bureaucracy, with absolutely no sense of empathy or even basic understanding of an average musician/actor/theatre crew/technician needs to survive- and the necessity of being available to the EU market!
The sheer amount of money, paperwork and administrative prowess one needs (with no prior knowledge or comprehensive guidance from the powers that be), just to get a visa for two days’ work in some countries just makes the contract almost impossible to take on. This of course, as a freelancer needing to work in several countries on a seasonal or even monthly basis, will affect their ability to even work at all. It is simply an unacceptable way for the country, its economy and its workers to manage. Scarily, if anything changes at all, it might take years! Many great emerging talents will struggle setting up with this reality before their careers have even begun.
Perhaps its why we need art for art’s sake, more than ever.
*rant over, I promise* ;)
So, to keep myself busy and feeling happy, I’ve been trying to use my extra time to work on a few things, besides singing; I enrolled in a vocal anatomy course, improved upon my German language in particular and finally learned how to make Italian Panettone. With a few failed (but still tasty) attempts, of course!
I’m sad to have lost 95% of my contracts since 2020 and continuing through as Germany and other countries start to close again. However, I hope to start up my upcoming season again with some concert performances of “Giulio Cesare” (my favourite opera!), a lieder recital in Denmark with the remarkable pianist Julius Drake and hopefully from September onwards, hopping about between France, Switzerland and Germany for some Handel, Mozart, Rossini and Bach madness!
P.S.: Useful tip for all freelancers trying to get back to work abroad: whatever contracts/invitation letters you are providing for evidence, one thing they don't tell you (and thankfully wasn't issue for me) is that your document MUST have a company logo: orchestra, theatre, artistic company director etc.
They will turn you away otherwise as they believe the document isn't official enough, even if it has a letter head, title, company address and signature.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed revisiting in recent months is my love of poetry, French in particular. I’ve now also been enjoying matching some poems with paintings in the online digital galleries and exhibitions when I’m bored and fancy “visiting somewhere” from the comfort of my sofa (Isn’t the internet wonderful sometimes?). I love spending an evening with a cup of coffee (or something stronger!), flicking through my poetry books, then browsing a collection of paintings in a gallery I’ve otherwise never had the chance to visit.
A few days ago, I felt deeply inspired by this painting (The Church of Varengeville by Claude Monet) and this poem (Soleils couchants by Paul Verlaine) put together. Perhaps I’ll make a poster! I wonder what music it would inspire?
“A diluted dawn watered over the fields the melancholy of its setting suns. Melancholy with sweet melodies shields my heart in oblivion amid setting suns. And strange dreams, like suns setting on shores, crimson spirits, an endless procession passes by, like great suns setting on shores”
Bradamante in “Alcina” at the Opéra de Lorraine in March 2020
Action shot of “Die Walküre” at Deutsche Oper Berlin from October 2020
A panettone I made (tearing it apart is the best bit!)