I spoke earlier about the “freakout” stage of my process: that magical time when I doubt everything. “Why did I say yes to this? Why did I think I could do this? It’s too much! I can’t do this. There is no way this will turn out well–failure, here I come...” The inner monologue continues. This opera is no exception. It is the second hardest opera I’ve ever done, and the role of Alberich is a beast.
This is where you have to decide if you are going to give up and throw in the towel or if you are going to push through in spite of the fear, and keep working. It’s very easy to give it up if it’s just a personal project, and that’s something we all tend to do. We set a goal, make a promise to ourselves, make a plan...then we give up. We might get sidetracked by the demands of life, we might hit a wall and concede defeat, we might just decide to work on a different project instead. But what if the project is for a gig (paid or not)? I find that makes it easier to persevere, because I really don’t have another option. I have often had to tackle music that was much more difficult than anything I would have chosen for myself, simply because it was the gig I was hired to do (or the gig I paid to do). Once the option of quitting is off the table, I know that no matter what I have to find a way to make it work. So when I hit the wall, as I invariably will, instead of just giving up, I allow myself to freak out for a bit, and then I get to work. And as I said before, if you just keep working on the things you can do, eventually it all comes together.
Speaking specifically of this role, the layers of the challenge hit me in stages: there’s so much German, there are so many weird chromatic intervals (Wagner loved him some tritones!), this role is a big sing (so can I even really sing it), it’s tricky to line up a virtual opera due to internet issues...the list goes on. The self-doubt has been very real, and I have had to really push myself to keep working in spite of that. It has been a while since I’ve had a role that required this much digging, and the work has been no joke. However, it has also been incredibly rewarding to have such a challenging project, and I have had to remind myself often how much of a privilege it is to have this opportunity. This is the crucial extra step in the equation that results in successfully overcoming the obstacles we place in our own way.
If the first part of the equation is perseverance in the face of fear and doubt, the second part is gratitude. Gratitude for the ability to sing and create, gratitude for the chance to learn this particular role at this time, gratitude for the colleagues that I get to work with, etc. Being thankful for the chance to engage in any project is really key to finding the motivation to overcome roadblocks. Thinking about the blessings in a situation can often shift the focus from being a victim to being a victor. Of course you have to focus on the problem(s) themselves, but if you can also remember the gifts that have gotten you where you are, you will remind yourself that you are stronger and more capable than you might have thought. Aside from the role itself, this attitude is the biggest takeaway from working on Alberich: success may be closer than we think if we confront any challenge with thoughtful patience, focused action, and honest gratitude.