Sunday, April 1, 2012

Let's Get Physical

I've been chasing Spring this year.  After a beautiful time in Florence, Italy I came home to Georgia for the month of February where we had some of the warmest temperatures on record.  It was gorgeous.  The cherry blossoms started blooming in late January and by mid February the near 80 degree temperatures had me resisting the urge to start planting flowers.  The first week of March I headed north to Washington D.C. for a few days and then on to New York city for three weeks.  Again, I was met with incredibly warm temperatures and early blooms.  Now, I'm in Detroit and when I flew into town on Wednesday last week, I was greeted with a balmy 72 degrees.  I love chasing Spring!  These past two months of warm weather have given me the opportunity to get outside and get my body moving.

One of my New Year's resolutions (surprise, surprise) was to get into shape.  I've always been fairly active and have managed my weight by what I eat.  I've been practicing Yoga for 12 years, the last 6 years of which have been fairly intense and dedicated.  But, I wanted to push myself this year to new levels of fitness because, as I have gotten older I've noticed how much harder the travel and singing lifestyle is on my body.  I knew I needed more.  So I took advantage of the beautiful Springwinter and got outside.  

I began in January while in Florence.  I walked to the theater from my apartment.  It was a nice 40 minute walk and very beautiful.  To and from, I figure I was walking 3-4 miles a day.  I continued my Yoga practice but adding the extra cardio really helped when I had to run around on stage as the Contessa di Folleville in Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims.  I had to run around in high heels while singing high E flats.  That was easy in my 20's but ten years of the business and the hard travel has left me with some injuries that flare up at the slightest strain.  I joined a fitness group on Facebook led by the fit and fabulous tenor, Larry Brownlee.  It has become a great place for support and a place to ask questions concerning any level of fitness.  We discuss workout routines, food, favorite running shoes, and post accomplishments.  In February I took advantage of the sunshine and began running outside at the Chattahoochee Nature Trails in Atlanta.  Some days I hiked Kennesaw Mountain and I kept up with my Yoga practice by attending intense vinyasa classes.  I started an evening Fab Ab February challenge with my husband that progressively got harder.  We ended the month with 100 situps and a 2 minute plank hold.  It's amazing how one month of dedicate work made me feel.  In March I went to New York for voice lessons and coachings. Yes, I still have to keep my voice in shape.  Singing is identical to being a top athlete.  You must train and you must stay in shape vocally.  While in New York I visited my favorite Yoga studio and teacher as often as possible and worked out at the gym.  I walked on the warmest days, which there were many, and I continued with a Mad Abs March routine in the evenings.  I've lost 5 pounds since I started, which may not seem like much but I've gained a lot of muscle and have toned my body.  I feel strong and lifting those heavy suitcases while traveling to Detroit weren't near as hard or bad on my back.

I am in stagings for The Pearl Fishers by Bizet.  It's the Zandra Rhodes production directed by Andrew Sinclair that has gone all around the country in the last ten years.  This is the same production I did in this past November in Pittsburgh.  Yesterday we staged the intensely physical scene between Leila, my character, and the baritone Zurga.  It is a work horse just to sing standing still.  It is full and lyric and one of my most favorite duets in opera.  It's one of the only times on stage I get to fight back instead of give up and die.  It's a hot scene and very physical.  I get pushed to the ground several times.  I literally wrestle with a large baritone while singing very difficult music.  I sing full out while crossing the stage and we end with me screaming in his face and then he tackles me to the floor.  It's awesome.  Come see it.  Yesterday's staging work was incredible.  What I felt yesterday after three months of dedicate fitness was COMPLETELY different than what I felt in November.  I was less out of breath.  I could fall to the floor with ease and support from my muscles.  I am stronger and it makes singing sooooo much easier.  Singing opera these days is quite physical.  I've had to run in high heels, fall backwards down stairs, run up stairs and sing, fall down in a 30 pound costume then get up and sing, and I've wrestled with baritones while singing high b flats.  When I went on at the MET in 2010 as Marie in La Fille du Regiment, I had to run all over the stage, flail my arms while ironing clothes, and roll around on the floor and sing.  Opera is no longer just about the voice.  You have to be in top form.  

I write all of this because I know a lot of people who read my blog are young singers.  I encourage you to get physical!  Start now and add to your vocal practice some sort of workout routine.  You can start small but START!  Find something you love, that you will commit to and just do it.  It will help you stay injury free from the stress travel makes on the body and you will be stronger and more able to play your characters fully and truthfully.  Your body is your instrument.  It doesn't stop below the larynx.  Take care of your instrument like a top athlete does.  You'll find not only do you feel better and look better, but your singing will be connected to something grounded and strong.

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