Well, we’re back to more or less what March weather is supposed to feel like, I’ve discovered a glorious new recipe for pan-fried eggplant, I’m reading a great book (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell), and three separate people asked me for directions today–two in French and one in English. I’ve come to the conclusion that people are attracted to me because I clearly am not French but I also don’t seem to be a tourist, so the odds are good that I speak both French and English well enough to give directions, and also that I know where I’m going.
But that’s not important right now. What’s important is my new ambition to sing in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles like Sandrine Piau, whom Heather and I saw in concert last night.
If you squint you can see the stage. We paid the student rate for tickets, so we were sitting about as far back as you could be. I did a lot of craning my neck around the fidgety girl with the camera in front of me, trying to get a good look at Mlle. Piau. Luckily, she (Sandrine Piau, not the girl in front of me) was wearing a very sparkly dress and looking, from far away, like Sutton Foster in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Okay, so closer up the comparison doesn’t really work.
Anyway. It was an incredible concert. I suspect that Sandrine Piau is, like Patricia Petibon and Natalie Dessay, a little crazy, but she also has a rock-solid technique, a gorgeous timbre and truly exquisite high notes. I’m also glad we weren’t closer, because I think her slightly crazy gestures would have distracted me immensely if I could have seen them better (though being far away also meant that I couldn’t hear most of the words–I caught plenty of “amour”s, though!). She also really knows how to be part of an ensemble. She wasn’t always the aural center of attention, but that’s part and parcel of a real collaboration like that.
The whole thing was really thrilling. It was a perfectly structured concert as well; it lasted about two hours including intermission, and Heather and I agreed that at no point did either of us feel bored or wonder when it would end. The program alternated moods, styles, composers and time periods, so that every new piece was something fresh and different. Not to mention that the French baroque is much less predictable than everybody else’s baroque (to my ear, anyway); there were definitely a few musical moments where I went, whoa, that wasn’t at all what I was expecting. The orchestra was fantastic, and everybody looked genuinely thrilled to be involved with this project. At intermission, Heather and I went up to the front (about a mile from where we were sitting, I swear) and looked at the instruments.
Once we got up close we also realized that the conductor had a chandelier pretty much in front of his face, which might have explained why he wasn’t lifting his arms very high. He was also wearing a hilariously shiny jacket. French fashion is perplexing at times.
Hey look, it’s Heather!
And me! With some guy!
When I listen to Sandrine Piau, I hear a lot of things in her voice that my voice is also good at–clean coloratura, round tones, and soft high notes–and I think, man, do I have a lot of work to do! It’s concerts like this one that make me realize that despite all of the training I’ve already had, I’m not even close to being at the level of people with careers like Mlle. Piau’s (a career which I seriously covet). And I think about maybe going to grad school, and maybe going to grad school for early music performance because how on earth am I ever going to be Sandrine Piau when I grow up if I don’t know how to do what she can do, but on the other hand, maybe not, maybe it would be best to get a masters in voice at a school with an active early music department, but then maybe I should just go home and work some more and not bother with any more school, and then I wonder if Europe isn’t the best place to pursue the things I’m most interested in at the moment, but then what of all the Sturm und Drang I’ve eaten in the form of Ritter Sport over the last few months just trying to make it to August? No wonder I’m not getting anything like restful sleep at night!
I wonder, if enough people tell me that I have a natural affinity for baroque music and style, will I ever get the point and make it my career? In my more lucid moments I’m starting to come to terms with what it means that I couldn’t care less if I never sing La Traviata or Don Pasquale or La Bohème–but when my eyes are closed, which is most of the time, I have to try everything before I give something up to specialize.
Non disperar, chi sa?, as a baroque aria that isn’t really for me puts it. Though if Sandrine can sing it…