Updated: Oct 31, 2019
We all have had experiences with these, and mainly from family when you least expect it, digging up all of those insecurities that you already have about yourself, but thought you were okay with.
Family: I love them, but sometimes I just want to yell into the giant sky and beg that one day they'll understand the damage and frustrations that come with their unwarranted opinions.
As opera singers we are exposing our souls CONSTANTLY, hoping that our soul connects with others (the audition panel, who am I kidding). We are taught to be prepared for rejection the moment we take on any kind of artistic endeavor because "it's so competitive, and you'll need a back-up plan..." But hey, we know this, and we signed up for this, and we either learn to take the 90+% rejection rate, or get our feelings hurt every time someone looks at us the wrong way.
A little bit about me:
I'm known as a sensitive person within my family, and some of my friend groups, and I like to think that I've matured and gotten over any kind of criticism from my loved ones. Today proved to NOT BE THE CASE.
I had a family friend call me while I was my way to the gym (because, you know, we now have to adhere to certain appearance standards within the opera industry on top of everything else) and the conversation started so innocently. This family friend is much older than I am and wants me to succeed so badly, which I get. These people have watched me grow all these years, and want me to achieve a level of success that they think I should have by now...
Hah, if only...
In a nutshell, she eventually told me OUT OF NOWHERE that she didn't like my audition videos of two arias that I sang because they didn't "sound like Liya" and that if she worked at an opera company and saw/heard those recordings she wouldn't hire me, either. In her defense, she honestly hasn't heard me sing in 3 years. My voice has changed a lot since grad school, and I am still discovering what it wants to do. Also in her defense, those videos were not the best: I had a terrible sinus infection, a fever two days prior, and had already been singing for two hours in a completely dead room during a coaching. I know, no excuses, but I literally had no other time to make these audition videos for this season, and ya girl is broke.
What she told me stung. My eyes immediately welled up and my throat got stiff, the way it does when I'm trying my damned hardest not to cry during a conversation (spoiler alert: I always cry. I'm terrible at holding back tears). She clearly knew I was upset and tried to repair the situation with genuine compliments and loving words, and I knew she was being authentic.
However, I couldn't help but think, "Why was this opinion even necessary? Did I ask for it at all prior to her bringing it up? Does it help me in any way?" NO. The answer to all of these questions is NO. I already know what I have to work on. I already am doing the best I can with the resources I have. I get enough rejection as it is and I'm okay with my profession telling me no.
But to hear it from family is the hardest fu***** thing because I also sing for them. They are my biggest supporters, and if they don't even like what they're hearing, then something must be wrong...
Singing is completely subjective, though! And they aren't opera singers, so they don't know what it's like to even go about the audition process, or to pursue this career, be constantly judged by outsiders ALL. THE. TIME!
Ugh, so many conflicting feelings!
This does make me think, though, that there is some merit to their opinions. They are our audience. In the end, they are the people that buy our tickets and support our lives financially, if we are lucky enough to have family such as this.
But I struggle with accepting this because my mental health is also a part of my art, and this isn't an easy career filled with days and weeks and months of paid singing, but days and weeks and months filled with self-doubt, illness, shi**y auditions, and watching your friends get farther in their careers much faster than you. It's watching your best friends in other fields land jobs with starting salaries that opera singers can only DREAM of.
But hey, we aren't in this for the money... but we still need to live, and the fact that dreaming of having all of your expenses be paid through music alone is sad that most don't ever get to this point in their careers...
I struggle with accepting this because my career isn't for them. What I do isn't for their happiness. It's for my own, and there are only so many unwarranted opinions I can handle.
Before you put your two cents in about what you think this person should be doing with their career, ask yourself, "is this genuinely helpful?" "Do I know what I'm talking about?" "Does my opinion benefit their career in any way?" "Did they ask for my opinion?"
That last question is the most important one. No one likes unwarranted opinions.