I gave myself a goal to read more nonfiction this year; books that make me spend more time in my own head and less time in the minds of fictional characters in fantasy universes (though if you would like some fantasy book recommendations, I'd be happy to share my favorites with you). My most recent nonfiction read is called "How to do the Work," by Dr. Nicole Lepera. I have followed her on her social media pages for a while now @the.holistic.psychologist, and I have always resonated with her posts. While her book has given me a lot to think about overall, there is one tiny sentence that keeps coming back to me on a daily basis: "If you don't trust yourself, you outsource your worth to someone else."
Reading that immediately made me think about the business of opera. We singers are told how to sing by so many different, conflicting authorities over the years, that we often find ourselves confused and aiming to people-please "authorities" whose aesthetic opinions span such a wide chasm, it's a wonder anyone ever finds their way to a career in the first place. We spend so much time outsourcing our own worth. We spend so much time looking extrinsically for an answer, never trusting our own judgement.
As an example, I recently sang for a notable competition in which one judge commented that my coloratura sounded natural and impressive, and another judge told me my coloratura passages looked too easy, and I should try to emulate Cecilia Bartoli to make them more exciting. Who the heck am I supposed to trust in this situation? These are both authorities in opera world with storied resumes and awesome hiring power. Who has the power to decide my worth?
I have decided to give myself the power to trust my own judgement, and I encourage you to do the same. I am not sure who is reading this, but I am positive that whoever you are, you are an Artist who has a very clear standard for what technically-sound and aesthetically-pleasing art is. Do not let anyone tell you that you should try to make yourself sound like Cecilia Bartoli when your standard for good singing is a young Agnes Baltsa or vice-versa. Do not even take the opinion of someone who says it sounds natural and impressive, when you know you faked some of those notes, and you want to work harder to make it right and make it better.
Neither of those opinions ruled me or the way I thought of my singing afterwards, and it was so freeing to know that I have my own standards to hold myself to, and I can trust those standards; I have worked for a decade to create these standards, so why shouldn't I trust them?