Total Pageviews

Friday, September 23, 2011

Process & Product

I read a quote attributed to Gandhi:
"Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory."

Full Effort = Full Victory
Satisfaction = Effort

Why then is it hard to "put an effort" into learning new music? Why is the process of learning music so filled with E F F O R T? Aren't we supposed to feel satisfaction at making an effort? What is effort? What is satisfaction?

I agree that I get the most satisfaction out of the PROCESS (i.e. EFFORT) of working on an opera. The PRODUCT (i.e. ATTAINMENT) interests me, on a personal or artistic level, very little. This is true of operas I produce with students or professionals. I do find that there is more of a pressure to "produce" during the process with professionals, as they are focused on the product and want to make sure you're not leading them down a path that might end in either bad reviews, mixed audience receptions, or losing out on being re-engaged because they were part of a bad show. But mostly, the pros LOVE rehearsing because they get to be in a room filled with like-minded people who get to "play" while creating art.

For my students (particularly those who've never been in an Opera McGill show before), there seems to be an expectation that the process will be hard, or effort-filled; both the process of learning the role as well as the rehearsal process. I'm not sure I understand why that expectation seems to occur initially. I think it has a lot to do with worrying about doing it correctly, learning the notes correctly, being taken seriously by their colleagues, etc. I also think there is a sense that opera is SERIOUS BUSINESS and so that means we should all be SERIOUS.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. As I say often, I take "Opera" VERY seriously (why else would I dedicate so much of my life and time to it?!), I just don't take myself seriously! Neither do most of the great artists I've ever had the pleasure of working with. In fact, it's usually a bad sign when an artist tries to make the others in the room understand that they are a "serious artist!" (add in big eyebrow movement and a haughty voice and you've got a few divas I know!)

With my students, I find that by day three or four, their worries and expectations are forgotten, as the sheer fun of working on an opera takes over. I'll let out a secret: 90% of the time we're having a good ol' time. I've laughed so hard my side hurts, I've been moved to tears at a student's performance during a staging, I've rolled around on the ground pretending to be a zombie, I've said ridiculous things - some bold, some stupid, some really insightful - that I have no memory of saying, yet witnesses attest...

I've played.

That's what we do in rehearsal, we play. We pretend. We create. We make music, collaborate, work, sweat, laugh, eat, cry, dance, move in slow motion, hurt ourselves on props... the list is endless, but the truth is that we are ALIVE during this process in a way that most humans on this planet never get a chance to be. That's a precious sort of effort and it does indeed give a great deal of satisfaction.

The Product does too -- knowing the show is "good" or "solid" or "amazing" and that you've made it so is terrifically fulfilling. However, the applause is fleeting and dies fast. But the moments that stay with you are rather timeless and I find I can slip into them so easily: Katy and Peter dancing in Camelot bring me joy, Christopher's miracle in the same show still gives me goose bumps, Kate and Greg kissing in Cafe Momus is still the hottest kiss I've staged, Philippe in his heels brings a smile and his singing of over Lily's body brings a tear, my (now) six trees are ever-present in my imagination, as is Lara's circling of the globe in my head, the moments I've had with students in Wirth Opera Studio live on in me and are brought alive each time I step back into that room.

Perhaps that's my satisfaction.
Those efforts give me a daily dose of Victory that fills my tank up and allows me to return for more!