I just finished my first Tosca with Nashville Opera. What a joy it was to work with my dearest director, John Hoomes, again! After doing Salome with him 18 months ago in Milwaukee, I knew that I wanted to work with him again. And when he offered me Tosca, he made this season a completely happy one ~ regardless of what comes next!
What a character she is, Tosca! And Puccini’s music is so spectacular! It’s one of those operas where the more you know the more you understand why it is one of the most beloved operas of all times. Sounds sort of naïve, I know, to say that… Duh!! But, there are those special pieces that continue to amaze. And I feel rather certain that Tosca will continue to amaze me for many years to come.
Having now done a fair amount of Salome performances, I certainly know the rush and drain that it is to sing and “be” her for a few hours. I was also told over and over again by past Salomes just how taxing it was to go through that experience of her journey…
I was not prepared for the devastating process of Tosca. Not that I didn’t get the marathon of singing that the score calls for. I did. And I understood that the character would not be easy to wrap myself around. But I was taken by surprise by the depth of emotion, exhaustion, and sort of total feeling of deconstruction.
It puzzled me, this out of proportion effect on me of Tosca in comparison to that of the tragic and psychologically disturbed Salome.
So I started to look at the nature of these two characters.
What I came up with is something that is crucial to my study and commitment in life at large. Something that comes up a lot in the literature and training of self-development, spiritual awareness, self-confidence, etc.
Salome is a self-generated person. Her desires, statements, actions are all sourced by her own will, her own insides and imagination. She is self-determined. At least she is in the present. She is of course a product of her environment, but inside of the time frame of the opera, she is someone with an amazing sense of self and purpose. Nothing anyone else says or does changes her determined path of action and will.
Tosca on the other hand, is a woman who is completely given by the circumstances and people around her. She is always in a position to be swayed and affected by the slightest inference from ANYONE and ANYTHING. She is a leaf blowing in the wind of whims of others. In one second flat she looses sight of the things she knows to be true and REACTS to the things she is told. She has no consistent sense of self in the face of adversity or lies.
Ultimately, she is passionate, strong and willing to do what it takes to go on. But, in the meanwhile, she is completely at the effect of circumstances, and because of this fatal flaw, she and the one she loves lose everything.
I think this is why she is so exhausting.
It is completely draining to have no internal sense of stability ~ To have no structure upon which to base your responses ~ To be a reaction machine, constantly questioning, regretting and coping with the things you’ve said and done.
It is exhausting to not be the generator of your own sense of joy and satisfaction…
LIFE WILL NEVER DELIVER!!!! Other people deliver happiness only as a matter of luck. ONLY to the extent that we are solely responsible for our own happiness and joy do we experience grace in the presence of other human beings. Because only then do we have the capacity to offer only joy and freedom to those around us. To the extent that we rely on others to make us happy, we are slaves to the faulty circumstances of a life and reality the actual purpose of which is to challenge us to be self-determined. AND, the extent to which we hold others responsible for our happiness, is the extent to which we bind them in a web of guilt, self-doubt and defiance.
What ARE we doing to each other, I ask?
Hm. That means we are actually, really, and by design destined to fail ~ until we finally get that it’s all up to us to be happy from the inside out. And then offer our own happiness as a gift to those we love — and by extension, to everyone!
That may sound a bit disturbing, or overwhelming, at first, but ultimately, the only way to give your self to anything is to have a self to give…
Happy ~ and free of neediness.
Now, wouldn’t THAT be something?