lol so it’s like 7:22am and i woke up 22 minutes ago from what i would say is an..interesting…dream.
so basically i’m sitting at my laptop and my mum calls and i’m like “wut happened” and my mum is like “open the door deborah voigt is here” so like i open the door so fucken casually and there’s deborah fukcign voigt and she says “hi!” and kisses me on both cheeks and i’m just so casual about it i like go back and sit down at my couch bc i guess my mum and deb had ‘business’ to do or some shit so i sit back down on my laptop and legit open tumblr and make a post (and this is exactly how i remember this) that says: “deborah voigt’s at my house nbd” and then i woke up what the fuck what the fuck what the
Shoutout to opera fans who are too poor to see shows, or buy music, or visit Italy and Europe or the Met, to those who love opera even though they can only hear it on the radio or after checking it out from the library. Here’s to the opera lovers who don’t get to go to conservatories, who can’t get voice lessons or join a high quality choir- you are wonderful, and still matter to the whole opera community. Opera love forever!
for all young artists (performers, composers, et al)
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO EMAIL / CONTACT PEOPLE WHO YOU ADMIRE or WITH WHOM YOU WANT TO COLLABORATE
It’s a small task with potentially big payoff. I do so as part of my weekly regimen of work – I consider it an essential supplementary part of being an artist. Where I email folks about commissions, performing new works, and residencies, singers and instrumentalists can email about auditions, internships, lessons, coachings – you name it. For example:
I began studying with my composition teacher, Iain Bell, simply because I was advised to email him with questions by a professor – Iain turned out to be the most generous and helpful man, and his time and generosity have only made me a better composer and artist. I would not be where I am without his guidance (and I’m still generally confused why he decided to take me under his wing, but I’m not questioning it.)
The majority of my opportunities thus far, compositionally, were from cold emails, sent both to past colleagues and to smaller theaters/companies. The cost of these emails is simply time; their worst result is simply no response, and their best result is a new collaboration, which can, in turn, snowball into others.
This was the case with my latest opera, Sweets by Kate, which premieres this summer with The Midwest Institute of Opera: I sang with the company three years ago for their Don Giovanni, and because I was impressed with their staff and productions, I sent an email to the producers of the program (John and Tracy Koch) to ask if they would like to premiere a new work written specifically for their program. They accepted, we met, and the rest has unfurled.
Many people on this site (especially those who write for and/or participate in the magazine @opera21) have interviewed, met with, and received advice or coaching from opera singers simply because they reached out. Simply because someone is busy and famous does not mean that they will initially scorn you – the majority of high-level singers that I’ve met and worked with have been kind, generous, and eager to help.
This is certainly not the only means of building connections or fostering new collaborations, but it has yielded many things for many people.
That being said, there are things to keep in mind:
Be specific, rather than general. When I was first trying my hand at this, I sent a fair amount of “hello i am a composer please listen to my sampless and hire me ok?” emails – which almost never yielded responses. (I used somewhat more punctuation and formatting, but you get the picture.) I’ve since learned to be more curt and specific with the emails: (i) introduce yourself, (ii) pitch a specific idea (in my case, a story or adaptation if it’s an opera house, a set of texts if it’s a singer, a specific kind of piece if it’s a chamber ensemble) and any links to said materials, (iii) link them to your website or samples, and (iv) politely sign off. No rambling on, no monologues – the recipients are almost always very busy people, which means that their inboxes are brimming. Make your email memorable, but slim.
Be polite and professional. Regardless of the party’s response (or lack-thereof,) all artists deserve your respect. Courteousness and professionalism go so, so far beyond what you can imagine. Even if you’re contacting an old colleague, be business-like: it proves that you take what you do seriously and that you’re looking to commit yourself to something. On a similar note:
Don’t bombard with emails. If someone’s not going to respond, they’re not going to respond. I’ve probably only received responses from about 20% of those that I email (and that’s a liberal estimation) – and of those, only a handful have had enough momentum to become something. You won’t be able to alter those number by burying someone in emails – you’re far more likely to discourage response that encourage it with unnecessary repetition.
At first, you may not get paid from these. I am not getting paid for Sweets by Kate. I offered to write it for free. This is not a viable option for an opera composer’s career, but it does mean that I’m having my first full opera produced at the age of 26 rather than several years down the road, the more standard timeline by far. As much as I dislike companies who attract participants with the allure of “connections” and “experience,” I have no problem trudging through poverty to gain both of those. I take what I can, when I can.
My teacher, Iain, worked as a personal trainer for seven years before he received a liveable income from commissions; he eventually reached that income because of his tirelessness during the low periods beforehand. Do not scoff at unpaid work. It teaches you just the same.
In summary: do not take a back seat role in your career. Start making a big noise, and someone will take interest. What you do with that interest is up to you – but until then, do not lay mute and wait for someone to magically pick you from the crowd.
New Music® composer:[writes ill-prepared vocal leaps larger than an octave]
New Music® composer:[puts nasal vowels and/or schwas in high registers or directly in the passaggio]
New Music® composer:[writes horrifically-unidiomatic runs]
New Music® composer:[understands literally nothing about dramatic structure or pacing]
New Music® composer:[demands blood-curdling glottal attacks, trills, and shrieks]
New Music® composer:[puts unstressed syllables on strong beats]
New Music® composer:[writes long, preach-y program notes]
New Music® composer:[sets texts in other languages without knowing their translations]
me:this is what dying feels like
New Music® composer:[writes things in illegible and impossible compound meters that suffocate any sense of ensemble between all involved parties]
me:this is it
New Music® composer:[writes an accompaniment so devoid of any tonal- or modal-centricity that the vocalists live in a state of deep, abiding terror as to whether they can even begin to attempt singing this fuckpile of a composition with any semblance of accuracy, let alone any real emotion other than seething hatred]
me:I'm going towards the light
New Music® composer:[gets reviews praising his/her music as "brave" or "adventurous"]
me:bury me face-down pls
New Music® composer:[gets a university job indoctrinating young minds into this shallow, torturous vacuum of empty intellectualism and self-adoration]
me:hoe i told you not to do it
New Music® composer:[gets large commissions]
me:now look what you did
New Music® composer:[writes operas that sputter horrifically and are universally-despised by their cast, orchestra, conductor, director, set and lighting designers, stage managers, et al.]
me:i am literally deceased
New Music® composer:yes I've really always considered myself an opera composer -- it's what I'm drawn to
me:and now i will haunt you and your children forever