Saturday, January 2, 2016

Sometimes, You Just Can't Listen

I feel like recently I've been having a lot of conversations with singers on the topic of idiotic advice, so I'm going to elaborate here. To illustrate my point, I'm going to tell you a story:

Once, I was in a masterclass with a successful NYC agent for classical singers. I sang a Handel pants role aria for them and they proceeded to critique my performance. They immediately began to compare me to my colleague (who has recently switched fachs and is now a soprano); they told me that since my colleague was smaller and thinner than I, that I shouldn't ever play pants roles. Instead, I should only portray female characters onstage, because I am "more curvy" (the agent's words). Not only had they directly compared me and my colleague (which I think is an unhealthy habit, especially in a masterclass setting), but they hadn't commented on my voice or my acting ability at all. They had only critiqued me on my physical body. I was furious.

Up to this point in my career (when this annoying advice was given), I had been cast in six operas. Four of those roles had been pants roles. I had worked hard to do well in this niche and I had had success. (Also, if you know me at all, you know that pants roles interest me in particular and four out of five of my current dream roles are pants roles.)

Obviously, I ignored the agent's advice and kept on pursuing roles that I sang well and that I thought suited my particular artistry.

Let's fast forward to now. I recently sang Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro and was given the following reviews: "Kimberly Feltkamp, the Cherubino, had me checking the program for her gender when she tumbled onto stage, so convincing was she as a twichily teenage boy" (Patrick Dillon of OperaNews) and "The Cherubino of Kimberly Feltkamp was a treat to see, with all the awkwardness and dumb enthusiasm of a teenage boy" (Taminophile). I'm not trying to toot my own horn here; I'm trying to prove a point.

My point: don't listen to idiotic advice when it goes against everything you know to be true about yourself, even if it comes from a reputable source. Sure, if everyone is telling you the same thing over and over again, maybe you need to listen, but you can't let one person's opinion change your self-image or self-worth.

Sure, I could have listened and pursued all female characters. Or, I could not limit myself and work hard and go for whatever interests me as an artist (and fits well in my voice and is appropriate for my age, of course). So, if you happen to get some idiotic advice, please take it with a grain of salt. Don't listen to everything you hear and follow your gut. It usually knows what's up.