A few months ago after performing a role at Woodhouse Opera I was invited over to Brazil by the conductor/director to perform the same opera again. It had been a UK premiere when I performed it at Woodhouse and it was going to be a South American premiere performing it in Brazil. Not only that but I made my international opera debut!
Luckily it was winter in Brazil so the weather was around 30 degrees which was bearable. I was hosted by a lovely young couple who really looked after me and who were super keen to do touristic things which was amazing. I was advised not to walk anywhere by myself mainly because I am quite obviously foreign from my white skin. Some reactions to my colouring were hilarious, not only the staring and the pointing but I had strangers telling me I was beautiful, which made me laugh, probably because I'm British and find it hard to take a compliment. It's amazing how much you learn about yourself and your culture when you are immersed in another. I've realised I am super polite, maybe too polite. I've also noticed I apologise more than I actually mean to. I've seen this a lot during rehearsals or masterclasses where the person taking the masterclass tells you that you are doing something wrong and you apologise. But what for? It struck me today watching the 'Great British Bake Off' and one of the candidates apologised for her cake not being cooked properly. I think its a very British thing and I've been in situations where I've been told to stop saying sorry (which I obviously responded with 'sorry') but I don't mean sorry as if I have done something wrong. What I think I'm doing is showing respect to a more authoritative figure who I believe knows what they are talking about.
I had the pleasure of working with a very talented American harpsichord player and a very skilled Brazilian conductor who speaks seven languages. They both had studied and worked all over the place and the best thing was they were very generous when giving me advice on what I need to be doing to improve my career further. I was pretty chuffed that they both said I had a really good singing technique and were impressed with my sound. They both thought that I should look into studying in Germany (while I can) with the voice I have and the stage I am at in my development. I also realised I NEED to learn a language. It's a little embarrassing when you're surrounded by people who can communicate in many languages and you can only speak English.
Luckily I wasn't alone in my lack of linguistic skill as half way through the first week my USA friend Patrick, whom I had performed with at Woodhouse, turned up. I love working with Patrick because I can learn a lot from him and he is very generous in that way. He moves so well on stage and it really adds another dimension to the character. Not only was I performing opposite a dancer but I was also living with one! Patricia who was one of my hosts used to be a ballet dancer and she now teaches. She invited me along to some of her classes and it was so hard. I love watching ballet and I'm so jealous of people who can dance well. It's amazing how much physical awareness dance gives you and how important it is when you're on stage. Ballet isn't very good for singing because turning your feet out affects your lower back which will affect your breathing and support. However if you are aware of that and keep an eye on it then there is no reason why you can't sing and also do ballet. It's something I'm going to try during my year out and I can report back.
I am absolutely loving all the experiences I am having and I think it's because I am learning so much. As a singer you are constantly learning and if you enjoy learning you will never get bored of singing and performing. Another thing I'm learning is to not indulge in the food so much when I go away, unfortunately I realised that too late on this trip...