Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Brilliant Career

I suspect I’m becoming one of those graduate students whose dissertation starts being supplanted by her blog. On top of everything else, I’ve come down with a brutal sore throat. Among other things, it’s preventing me from singing, but that bothers me a great deal less than it might. After my last pregnancy loss, an ectopic that ruptured and took one of my ovaries with it in March of this year, I immediately plunged back into my work. Work alone remains, I thought; Arbeit macht frei. But now everything that has meant so much to me for my entire adult life and in fact much earlier – music, philosophy, beauty, and an exaggerated idea of my own abilities to contribute to these things – is like a bouquet of dried weeds lying on a barren patch of ground. Instead of picking it up, I turn away.

Many years ago, in the early days of my apprenticeship in classical music, if I were sick and unable to sing for even a day, the whole world would turn black for me. It just came to me today that my zeal and discipline for the serious study and work of singing only began a month after my abortion seventeen years ago. I believe that it was again partially a case of Arbeit macht frei. With nothing else but a bottomless pit to peer over, there’s only, and always, work. Also, with the bottom kicked out of who I thought I was, I thought I might as well make something of myself. The man who caused the abortion, whom I’d loved, obsessed over, and pursued, suddenly seemed like a much less good prospect. However, as I found out years later, it was the abortion itself that made him regretfully realize that he did love me after all. Afterward, he invited me in, so I stuck with him, not sure of what else to do. He was a brilliantly disciplined man both professionally and emotionally, and I took on his discipline partly to impress him, and partly because I truly believed that discipline would set me free.

So I became disciplined and hard-working, and also competitive and shrewd. I was so disciplined that I spent every spare minute I had studying scores, making translations, haunting the Rogers & Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound at the Lincoln Center Library for obscure recordings of whatever it was I was working on. My obsession for work certainly enabled me to eventually become an accomplished musician, and my passion for study helped me immensely with the project that would occupy the greatest part of my singing career, which would involve the study and performance of specialized and neglected repertoires.

When the marriage to that man ended, I stopped singing opera. I believed somehow that my cool-headed pursuit of a singing career had led me down a path that was totally wrong, a self-centered path that had ended up wreaking destruction in my life and many others’ as well. I just could not do it anymore. I fired my agent and stayed in bed for a long time.

But I didn’t stop singing, though perhaps I should have. Rather, I went on with the specialized repertoire projects, singing mainly for academic audiences. My engagements allowed me to travel fairly often, and in the course of those travels, I came to know my wonderful friend, now deceased, John Stewart Allitt, whose example was among the many phenomena that led me back to my faith.

Now I’m writing in my dissertation about the patristic theological trope of abandoning music pursuant to a spiritual conversion. Perhaps I shall have to abandon music too. Right now I don’t see the point of going on with it. It is not balm to my soul, not now anyway. Whatever God wants, hopefully He’ll make clear to me.

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