The moment of truth
A couple of years ago I saw Diana Damrau in La traviata. To this day I remember her È tardi! after Violetta reads Germont Sr.’s apologetic letter. Was she pitch perfect, did she navigate each act with the appropriate vocal, emotional and technical range set out by Verdi? I think so, but I don’t quite remember it all. What I do recall is that È tardi! Her delivery resonated with my own regrets and losses and it stayed with me and most likely will for a while yet.
There are, of course, anally rententive people out there who will strike your performance for a missed high C or too much vibrato/rubato/portamento, too little volume etc., but generally I think audiences are rather after these elusive moments of connection. We identify with the character, and the singer, channeling the character, speaks/sings for us and then catharsis happens (everybody wins).
Easy for us to say please, singers, live the character’s life on stage tonight. But how did Damrau get to be so effective with that È tardi!? Whatever regret/loss did she have to access? We won’t know but she had to connect with something real within herself. In some ways that might be harder than hitting the high C. It’s not just discipline and honing your skills and taking care of your voice, it’s also putting yourself out there (but learning how not to lose yourself in the moment):
I like this chap. I think he’s helping singers build essential tools in a very direct way yet with a lot of gentleness.