Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Day 24 - getting a Handel on my new body ;)

Apologies for skipping yesterday's post - had an essay to hand in and was a little busy...Okay, that's an understatement. Today I started another one, too, so that's three to go (and ten thousand words - woot) before the end of term, plus two exams. Lizzie insisted I go out, though, because I've a tendency to become a recluse if I have a lot of work. Perfectionist, moi? Never.

She booked me an hour in a practice room, so I went; and I sung my heart out. I'm a mezzo-soprano, and have been having lessons since the age of fourteen, but have only recently begun to be confident in my voice. What's this got to do with my mission? Well, on Sunday I spoke of Rosalind, which is a breeches role, as it involves a woman taking on the guise of a man. (In Shakey's time, of course, it would have been a man - boy - playing a girl, playing a boy, which is fascinating.) As a mezzo, I get to explore similar dynamics. A lot of people complain about being 'stuck' with such roles - but I love them. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Handel loves them (loves us mezzos, full stop!) - and the equal fact that Handel is about as high in my musical estimation as you can get. If I weren't an atheist, I'd call him God; I probably have.

Anyway - because I'm not walking at uni, the need for some form of exercise is a great excuse to sing. Not that I really need an excuse, but I'm quite shy, so I can't/won't/don't sing in my room in halls for fear people will laugh. It took some convincing on Lizzie's part to get me into the music centre, but my body was crying out for the physical exertion, and it won. Maybe I'm finally learning not to over-analyse my feelings.

Having said that the exercise is good for my body, the changes in my physical state appear to have been just as beneficial for my voice, so it seems it's a two way thing; which brings me back to Handel and my awful pun. One of the pieces I'm currently singing is 'Ombra Mai Fu' from Serse (Xerxes) and it's really helped me with homesickness, though perhaps the homesickness is helping the song. I find I become totally immersed in any and every part. It's about a plane tree, and I imagine I'm in our lounge at home, looking across at the ones on Hampstead Heath, before visualising walking over the fields.

It's not really a technique, as it isn't deliberate, but it's nevertheless similar to what happens when I sing another of my favourites - and one of my few non-Handel or Mozart pieces. In Ambroise Thomas' version of Mignon, the eponymous character sings an absolutely beautiful aria called 'Connais-tu le pays?'. (It's also known as 'Kennst-du das Land', but the French is better.) Mignon isn't strictly a trouser-role, as she's a girl, but she was raised as a traveller and doesn't conform to typical late-eighteenth century expectations of women. This is precisely what 'Connais-tu...' is about, as she believes for the greater part of the opera that she is an orphan, and is desperate to find her homeland and place in the world. She is in limbo, like Rosalind and Viola, and like me. Yet, also like them, by the end she is granted (indeed she grants herself) happiness and peace - as I, too, hope to find.

For now I'll keep singing and plodding - and remind myself of this little boy:

Come along with us?

So much love to you all.

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