MANY FOLLOWERS OF THIS BLOG WOULD LIKE TO TALK ABOUT HANDLING PERFORMANCE ANXIETY .
As the Fall season approaches every serious singer, be they student or professional, will be “performing” in some manner or other, I.E. an audition for the Opera Department at your school or for one of the important Young Artist Programs. Many of the major and regional opera companies will be auditioning for their future seasons. Professional singers will be embarking on a new performance calendar in opera, recital or concerts.
A singer never stops “performing”. It is a much better mind-set than “auditioning”, of course. To perform means to share musically, vocally and interpretively. To audition connatess “being judged”. If we think of “performing” in the broad sense of the word we will go a long way in mentally preparing our thoughts as to how we want a piece to sound, what emotion we want to convey. So many young singers, either through inadequate vocal and musical preparation, become very nervous at the thought of “performing” in whatever venue he is facing and mentally treat it more as “auditioning”.
There are many reasons why a singer feels a great sense of fear in facing a performance of any nature. One of these reasons can be their attitude in developing a good technique. If this goal is approached as an end in itself the singer will not be as ready to “perform” as to much as to “exhibit” technical skills. The needed impetus to communicate music and text will not be in the forefront of their thoughts. Instead they will be “trying” to do it “correctly”. It is absolutely necessary then that vocal study, from the beginning, must incorporate the intuitive, spontaneous, musical and vocal impulse each singer naturally brings to their voice lessons or coachings.
Voice science has taught us so very much about the workings of the singing voice–about the anatomy of a singer.. But this knowledge must not be isolated and focused on to the point of making a singer overly conscious of their physical mechanism. This will only induce a sense of “holding”, not allowing a singer to go to the level of truly comfortably expressing the human emotions inherent in the music, be it on the Operatic Stage, in the Audition Hall, the Studio or the Practice Room.
How does one then find the calmness and alertness to perform with joy and ease. Is it by being “excited” when you walk on stage? Or is it a definite gathering of energies prior to stepping out to sing? The latter, of course, is the more sensible way. The former only is uncontrolled energy, somehting like a runaway car.
This brings us to Preparing to Perform. And it is all has to do with how we prepare mentally, physically & emotionally prior to stepping onto the platform with the healthy impulse to perform and to share. And this preparation takes time, concentration and calmness. A body that is tightly held because of over-focusing on the mechanical cannot vibrate. By the same token, a body that is under-energized and “loose” will never make a beautifully ringing tone. Therefore the postural preparation of the singer is a good place to start in any lesson, coaching, audition or performance. We have to wake up the body and the mind to “want” to perform.
Cecilia Bartolli is quoted as saying she feels like a young race horse in the wings -” eager for the gate to open” so that she can go out and run with energy, making the performance a wonderfully joyous experience.
Some singers find this calmness and readiness by doing physical warm-up exercises. it is a good idea to have a set that one does regularly. They can be stretches, Tai Chi moves, dance steps, etc.
Another way of finding the impulse to perform is to be affected when hearing certain piece of music, a poem, a particular thought. Each singer is able to find something of this nature that will be the driving impetus that brings one to the wings with energy and alertness.
All of this preparation takes time, patience, intelligence and concentration. Only if these skills are developed in advance will the performer truly perform with ease, energy and a wonderful sense of calmness.