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  • Writer's picturemadamelidoine

Getting Your Hopes Up

My Mum, Sue, was a fantastic parent. She taught me many things that are central to my understanding of the world, and the way I live my life. Good things, like "The naughty kids grow up to be the most interesting", or "Make sure the fat is good and hot before adding your Yorkshire pudding batter to the pan". She showed me how to care for a garden and how to care for those less fortunate.

However, she led me astray on one thing. There was a phrase Sue used a lot that I have come to regard as poor advice, at least where an opera career is concerned.

"Don't get your hopes up in case you get disappointed..."

Oh Mum.

In this career, there is only uncertainty. The vast majority of singers cannot see where their living will come from beyond the end of the next calendar year. Pursuing a career means auditioning, a lot, and waiting to hear whether you were successful. That means hours, days, weeks of waiting, and imagining. Except that if Mum's philosophy was to be believed, you mustn't dream. You mustn't imagine how wonderful an adventure may turn out to be, because you might be disappointed.

There is a flaw in this logic (again, sorry Mum. You really were wonderful!): The flaw is in thinking that some dreaming time will make disappointment worse. In my experience, this is not true. Disappointment is like a mini-grief period. You can lose a longed-for future the same way you can lose a loved one. Of course you can be prepared for the loss of a loved one, but that doesn't mean you can avoid enjoying them whilst they are alive, or that your preparation makes the pain any less when they pass.

So get your hopes up, young and old! Imagine what it would be like if you got that gig, or that college admission, or the chance to sing that role again that you thought you'd said goodbye to. Because then, your life is full of imagining beautiful, exciting things. You visualize a bigger life for yourself, which is a good discipline, no matter what you do for a living. Creative visualization might have gone out of fashion, but it deserves a second look. And you will need it, so much, if you are to be a good performer. Think of it as practice for imagining who a character other than you could be. Who could Violetta be? What could happen to her? What could her staging be? How could it be thrilling?

The alternative is a life full of fear. Even if you tell yourself it is sensible, it is still fear.

Oh, and one last thing: Make a pact with yourself that if (when) disappointment comes, you will feel sad for a day, and then... move on.

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