In the City By The Bay: Finding Balance

Categories: ASC, Blog, Cultural Partners
Melinda Whittington is a Charlotte-based opera singer. She has performed locally with Opera Carolina, UNC-Charlotte and CPCC; in addition she tutors young singers. She will be writing for ASC this summer while in California as part of the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Young Artist program. Read part one here, and part two here.
In the masterclass with Carol Vaness

I can hardly believe how fast this summer in San Francisco has flown by!  This last week is speeding along, headed straight into the most important event of the summer – the Merola Grand Finale this weekend.

Every time the whole group sings through our closing chorus, Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso (see the quartet as performed at the Met below), I am already feeling a sense of bittersweet nostalgia.  Part of it is Mr. Puccini’s incredible, heart-warming music; but it is mostly the amazing people joining their voices with mine.

Rehearsing the blocking.

The thinking goes that the reality of being a singer is that you find yourself surrounded by
“divas,” or rather people who are so consumed with themselves and their own voices that any real, meaningful connection is impossible.  But I have found, here and in other places that these people are actually the exception to the rule.  And with each rung I climb on this crazy ladder, the more I encounter amazing talent coming attached to equally incredible and special people.

My fellow Merolini have provided a listening ear, musical and emotional support, many good laughs and memories, and talent and devotion that encourage me to always strive for excellence.  I have made many friendships that I know will be lifelong, and I am thrilled that these are going to be my colleagues for many years to come.

Singing at the sitzprobe, sing-through with orchestra

In addition to the amazing relationships that have been formed, my other take away for the summer can be summarized in one word: BALANCE.  This textbook Libra usually finds that achieving balance comes naturally, but under this sort of rising professional pressure, it is something I had to cultivate more intentionally.  When away from your “normal life” – your relationships, jobs, and home – and given the (amazing!) opportunity to focus on nothing but your craft all day, every day, the scale can easily tip. Whether it meant always carving out time for a yoga class or the gym, indulging in some retail therapy with my roomies, or learning how to say “no” (a really hard skill for this people-pleasing nurturer!), I have had to work to balance my singing life with my personal life.

This quote reminds me of this important truth (leave it to Oprah!)

I have had to work to balance all the opinions of so many well-qualified coaches and teachers with recognizing and maintaining what makes me a unique, individual artist.  I have had to work to balance my “head” – all the details of vocal technique, stylistic rules, the business of being an opera singer, the pressure I put on myself with my heart, my artistry, my love for what I do and sharing that with others, my calling.

Ultimately, that’s all there is to it.  The rest is just noise …