A lot of excitement and a sucker punch...

Well, I can now say that I’ve conducted an amazing, world class orchestra twice: the first and the last time! Actually it really was twice – once in Montreux and once in Vienna. (In Bremen a chorus and a bass magically appeared out of the audience and I got to sing the piece with them instead!) This Rameau tour had many surprises for me – I’ve never sung part of a concert in the dark or seen an orchestra play large sections of a concert in the dark before either. But this orchestra, Teodor Currentzis’ MusicAeterna does that and more – they dance, they stomp their feet, they lead us into intermission by playing while exiting the stage, and they play the hurdy gurdy (not making it up – it’s a really cool instrument that you can look up here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurdy-gurdy.)

And Maestro Currentzis also asked this soprano with no conducting experience to “conduct” the orchestra during one of the encores. Was this terrifying? Only if I thought about it. Luckily, I knew that the orchestra was not relying on me one bit – it was truly just for fun. Maestro was playing percussion during this encore and the concert master was also there leading the way. Singing is much scarier to me because I have worked so hard at it for so long, and with every performance at least there’s the chance that I might be able to move people in some way. Conducting next to Teodor Currentzis, in comparison, was a good way for me to let go, try something truly thrilling, and have a good laugh at myself.

I loved singing these concerts, and it felt very special to make my debut at the Vienna Concert House on such a big day (season opening). I left the city feeling great today. When my plane landed in Berlin, though, the little part of me that finds it hard to leave well enough alone turned on my phone to check the reviews. And despite there being some lovely ones, there were two that were not so kind. I felt as if I had been punched in the gut – a huge overreaction to a few short sentences. (A few minutes later, I walked belly first into a broken metal automatic gate, and it actually hurt much less.) But why? Why are we so willing to believe the bad things we hear and read about ourselves over the good? My career means that I am giving people permission and even asking them to critique me. That’s part of the deal, and these guys were not nasty in any way. I think because I had had such a great feeling from the audience and the people that spoke to me after the show, I had forgotten to worry. Maybe not such a bad thing - performing is just an extension of real life, and while we are not immune to caring about what people think of us, we also can’t let people’s opinions about us ruin our experiences and our memories. So I did what I always do when I get knocked down – gave myself permission to feel bad for a short while and then got back to the work that I love so much – delving into the music...

Written by : Robin Johannsen

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