Being studious

So, I’ve had a few days off rehearsals. Days off rehearsals are both adored and resented by singers, in pretty-well equal measure, though I lean much more to the former.
I’ll explain. The resentment bit first.
You’re away from home to work, you’re not being paid (because singers are never paid to rehearse, only to perform, something which I keep banging on about because very few people believe me), and yet you have to stay in the city. In theory you might be able to go home but as often as not it’s impractical or hideously expensive. Some opera companies forbid it; you are not allowed to leave the city without the consent of the boss. You’re renting expensive digs (and yet you’re not being paid). You’re thinking: I could have arrived here a week or two later, paid less rent, and still got the job done in the time I’ve been used. You could find yourself in a city that is, very often, an absolute armpit (I’m thinking Liege here) with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and sod all to do.

Tour guide

It’s a lazy Sunday in Amsterdam for me. Saturday would have been lazy too; no rehearsals, for a change, and nothing pressing to do. But it didn’t turn out that way. A handful of Brits, despite a free weekend on the cards, decided to stay put in town rather than cough up the ridiculous sum it now costs to pop home for a weekend. Gwynne Howell, despite his mammoth career, has never spent anything more than a few days in the city. He’s 73 and his wife is joining him in a few weeks’ time. He wanted to know where they should be going, what the city had to offer, and having established my credentials as the cast’s longest-serving Amsterdam hack, it was only natural that he should turn to me for advice. I volunteered to take him on a little tour.

Move over Sharapova

It’s a strange thing about being a singer, that you far more readily remember your failures than your successes. Well, I suppose that’s probably true of any performer and it’s not just confined to the singing fraternity. The difference is, I guess, that singing technique is very much tied to confidence; half the battle goes on in the brain rather than in the throat, and anything that makes your brain say “really, are you sure you can sing that high note? Well, best of luck but don’t count on it!” is far from welcome.

Meat and two veg

I had some of the cast, all Brits, over for a good old-fashioned Sunday lunch today. Despite having come to Amsterdam regularly for the last 21 years I’ve never done this before. There are many reasons for this.
First, for many, many years I used to fly home most weekends so it wasn’t a possibility. Second, this is the first time in a long while that I’ve done a show here with enough old friends who not only understand the concept of Sunday Lunch but who are also not flying home themselves every possible weekend. I’ve got used to spending Sundays here on my own.