Welcome to my new blog, and thank you for stopping by.
How to begin to tell one’s own story? I’ll just get right to it, starting from the middle, of course. There I was a few months ago, happily rolling along in my career, very excited about the projects I was working on, the old and new orchestras I would be returning to or making debuts with, the conductors and colleagues that I couldn’t wait to meet and sing with for the first time, as well as the conductors and colleagues that have become like part of an extended family of people who create something together in bizarre circumstances far from home…
I couldn’t have imagined that the Coronavirus would come along, bringing with it unprecedented suffering for so many, and for a time bringing the world we knew to a complete stop. My first cancelled concerts were in Asia in March. These concerts had been a long time in the planning, and I was especially looking forward to singing Mozart with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, one of the world’s best orchestras that specializes in Baroque and Classical music, my favorite music to sing. I had been working on the music for months already, studying on other tours, dragging my scores on trains, planes, and automobiles the way you do with something that you love and want to make a part of yourself.
Still, when I updated my website to reflect that the Asian tour had been canceled due to the virus, fate intervened, and I got an invitation to “jump in” in a performance in Vienna on the date I was originally supposed to be singing in Seoul. This provided a very welcome distraction, as I was able to throw myself into booking hotels and flights, and of course, learning a new score, Handel’s oratorio, Solomon.
By the time I was to travel to Vienna on March 4th, though, everything had changed. It was no longer possible to buy hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, or toilet paper in Berlin. My children’s school had already been sending home warnings that one could no longer attend school for two weeks after visiting (or coming into contact with someone who had visited) various countries, but now this list of countries was expanding almost daily. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a joke in February when the school sent home new rules that students and teachers could no longer shake hands and should elbow bump instead. I laughed in disbelief. Nervously…
But in Vienna on March 4th, despite the heightened anxieties, the world, or at least my world, was still somewhat normal. I loved being in rehearsals in Vienna, working again with the orchestra, Concentus Musicus Wien, and with the conductor, Stefan Gottfried, who I’d had such a great time singing with on another project the year before. I might have (Okay, I definitely did.) washed my hands more often, but I still hugged and kissed my colleagues (both cheeks as they do over here, why skimp?) and even some audience members who came backstage after the show. I might have (again, guilty) gone to a couple of drugstores in Vienna, searching for hand sanitizer and wipes that were long gone in Berlin, but still it wasn’t until shortly before the concert began on March 7th, that I finally understood. I remember suddenly having the strong feeling that I needed to savor this performance especially, as it would almost definitely be my last for some time to come. I left the stage that night after the concert with tears of gratitude for the beautiful music. I knew that I had been lucky to be in the right place at the right time, doing what I was meant to be doing. But in my heart, I also knew that I would need to hold onto that feeling with everything that I had, as I would not be standing in front of an audience again for a long time to come. Three days later, the Musikverein in Vienna, where I had just sung, shuttered its doors, and cancellations began coming in daily from around the world for the foreseeable future.
So what’s next? Well, that’s actually why I’m here. Performing artists were among the first to have all of our work cancelled, and we will surely be among the last to get back to the work that we are so passionate about it feels like a calling. You can’t just throw thousands of people back into crowded theaters until you figure out how to make it safe to do so. But I still have a voice I need to use, and I still want to feel as if I have a purpose outside of my incredible family. In the meantime, I am practicing those Mozart arias every day… and I will offer these words into the ether with an open heart.