Thursday, July 3, 2008

Costa Rica - An Educational Success

I know that I've been back from Costa Rica now for almost two weeks, but now that I've separated myself from the experience a bit I can look at the whole thing a little more objectively. It should be a requirement for every aspiring/studying singer to do a concert a two abroad before graduating. Just like the recording process, I learned more about my voice in my week at Costa Rico than several years of instruction could have taught me.

As an attempt to sum up, here are three lessons I learned:
  1. Trust your training/teacher: several months ago Stanford and I had a really good conversation about what to do when you travel. The main thing I took away from that message was how important it was to hydrate. As Stanford suggested I took nasal sprays, mucinex, and thought about drinking a lot of water (and then really did it when it became necessary). The Cujus Animam (the tenor aria in Rossini's Stabat Mater) I've been told is one of the most difficult arias in all of the tenor repertoire. Now I actually believe! It ends with a glorious (at least intended to be glorious) D flat, which just happens to be a half step out of my range. I had no trouble whatsoever singing it in the confines of my voice studio, but as soon as they put me in front of an entire orchestra and we began competing with each other I couldn't even squeak it out. The last rehearsal before dress rehearsal just before I sang I reached down and took a giant swig of water, and next thing I knew it was there. I took the cue, drank a ton of water the day of the dress rehearsal, and it was great.
  2. Follow your instincts: the night of the first performance came, and I was pleased to see that the stage manager had put water bottles by our chairs so I knew I would be safe. In the beginning of the Stabat Mater there is a big number with the chorus, and then it leads right into the aria. When the first chorus number was over my throat screamed at me to turn around and take a drink of water, but for some reasons I ignored the feeling, thinking that it would be rude of me to stop the whole show just to get some water. As soon as I started singing the Cujus Animam I knew I was in big trouble. The D flat squawked miserably and I quickly came off of it, but of course the damage had been done. I sang the rest of the concert extremely well, but it didn't matter - that was the tenor note everyone had come to hear, and I blew it.
  3. Learn from mistakes, don't get discouraged, and don't make them twice: luckily for me we had one more performance Sunday morning, and this time I went to the conductor and told him I would be taking a drink of water before my aria. He said that would be just fine, and asked why I hadn't done that Friday night (oops). So I did, and it was amazing. The D flat was the best it has ever been, and the entire ensemble performed with great energy. I was proud of myself for not letting Friday night's fiasco get me down.
I think every singer reacts differently to travel, but apparently my body gets very dry. Last year in Graz, Austria I became frustrated because every time I sang it sounded like I was fatigued even though I knew I wasn't. I thought it was allergies, so I took some medicine and it still didn't get better. Now I know that it was a hydration problem, and thankfully I won't ever make that mistake again!

Unfortunately for me, the reviewer came Friday night. I think his review said something to the effect (and I'm paraphrasing), "the tenor Eric Hanson did not satisfy, and I'll just go ahead and skip the embarrassing details." I just laughed, then yelled, then laughed. Oh well, you win some you lose some :). In the end I came away with a real feeling of victory and gratitude for education.

Here are some pictures:
Here we are with the maestro
(Me, Young Ju Lee, Karen Esquivel, Zamira Barquero, Chosei Komatsu)

This is the view from my hotel room

Young Ju really wanted Korean food, so Gustavo found this place (Little Seoul). You must try toasted rice!

The Costa Rican National Theater

The stage we performed on - small but beautiful

The ceiling of the National Theater

There we are!

And again!

This is a group of Karen's old students we taught a master class to, they were great!

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