Prague, Czech Republic, January 1, 2020

Never in my lifetime has a new year arrived so packed with relief, anticipation, and intermittently, mortal dread.  Everywhere people are yearning for change, for grace to enter in, for simpler and quieter values to find a place in our lives.  But never has the darkness of hatred and corruption been so explosively present in our daily experience.  

In those dark moments, I feel old.  Older than I am. In those moments I am in close conversation with the part of myself that is aware and accepting of the mortal parts of my design – that perhaps my best days and deeds are behind me. Perhaps I am too weary and tired for enthusiasm to grab me…

But I am also more intensely aware of the fleeting, or transient nature of experiential moments – of emotions, and attitudes, and judgements about Life and its workings.  

A year ago, my best friend had a massive stroke mid-sentence.  His vibrant, busy, intensely verbal, and multitasking lifestyle came to an abrupt halt.  And what took its place was Him in his essence; his core personality, his values and his value, his accepting nature, his love for his wife and child, his love for friends… as well as his fundamental existential fears.  There is nothing left of the charade that previously masked uncertainty or frailty, nothing to shelter his (or our) heart from the painful truth – that the privileges we enjoy are on loan only.

His journey through 2019 is like a distilled version of what we as a collective are going through.  The system is crashing, our old ways of making sense of it or fixing it are passé, and we are left with the paired down basics of our existence.

Trying to see the Big Picture makes no sense at this juncture.  Trying to figure out what is around the bend is futile, and above all, meaningless and deeply misguided.  It is a human knee-jerk reaction, but it does not serve our sense of aliveness or ability to respond to Life.  

Because, as much as the terror of existential survival can hit us at moments of defenseless doubt (and I know it is hitting most of us quite often these days!), so can the depth and grace and wonder of Life pull us up by our proverbial boot straps. Or rather, I imagine it as a lasso being hurled from the depths of the Universe, looping around my body, and yanking me up with it – into the light of transparency, grace, relief, and acceptance… Surprising me always, with the innocence and loving care of something so tailored to my heart, so perfectly attuned to my sensibilities, that I am left feeling intimately loved and seen, and protected.

It is what the love of God amounts to for me. You can call it serendipity. Or luck. Or good fortune. One can explain it away through justifications of the existence of its opposites – the unfairness in the world, misfortune, death and destruction, war and hatred; or why not childhood cancer?  But, nonetheless, there it is – in the middle of war zones and death camps, death beds and disease, natural disasters and hate crimes… the lasso that wraps itself around our hearts, and pulls, tugs, rips us out of our patterns of thought, out of our heads, and opens us up to the possibility of love and kindness. It transcends everything we believe our lives amount to: this time, this place, these circumstances.

In A Course in Miracles it says:  “Learning is inevitable. Our choice is only whether we learn through love or fear”.  Well, it is obvious that the world, collectively, has taken the road of fear…  but that does not mean we, as individuals, cannot choose differently.

I am staring down the rabbit hole of uncertainty and change, professionally and personally.  And that is not a terribly comfortable place to be.  And then, through serendipity or chance, or my personal universal lasso, I find myself plopped down in a revival of Beethoven’s Fidelio at the State Opera in Prague. On January 9th, we will inaugurate the newly renovated opera house with Vera Nemirova’s beautiful and touching production. I last saw Vera on the most devastating night of my professional life, 10 years ago in Vienna. We shared a crazy and deeply disturbing experience of the opera business at its worst. One that put scars in both of us, and in many ways altered the paths of our professional lives in ways that were very difficult to rise above.  But we did, both of us, each in our own way.

Prague State Opera under construction. Photo: Kateřina Svátková 

Ten years later, we are uniting to bring the most life affirming of operatic stories to life.  One that personifies Redemption, Grace, Forgiveness, Love, and above all, Hope.

Leonore is my special friend.  She touches me to the depths of my being.  Beethoven’s music lights up my heart and makes me deeply grateful to have possessed a relatively useful voice in this life. 

Leonore is the only role in the standard repertoire that I kept on my list a year ago, when my health issues forced some tough choices.  She is the one I was willing to fight for, with which I am definitely not finished…  And she came calling for me!  My gratitude knows no limits…

It’s fifteen years since I sang her the first time. And many things about me and my instrument have changed since then. But the one constant, is my personal relationship with Hope.  And I know that will shine through everything.