What’s Love Got To Do With It? Part 1
“What’s love got to do with it”? What do you mean? What’s love got to do with what? It’s got to do with your life’s work. That’s what. So, I’m not talking about Tina Turner’s legendary view of romantic love. I’m talking about that deep spiritual, elemental kind of love that commits us to our work.
I had a great opportunity to learn more about that deep elemental love in action.
Years ago when I was a young singer at the beginning of my career, I attended a recital given by Frederica von Stade, the American opera singer and recitalist.
She was, and remains to this day, one of my favorite opera singers of all time. For me, she represents the consummate artist while possessing a largess of heart and spirit. Throughout her 40-year career, her instrument was rich, agile and glorious, and she was a wonderful actress on stage. But mostly, I always felt her joy and love — not only for her craft, but for her audience as well.
So, imagine my excitement to get to experience Frederica von Stade live in recital!
When Flicka (as she has been affectionately called throughout her career) came on stage and started her first song, I was so excited. She sounded amazing. But, by the end of that first piece, I became aware that I was gripping the arms of my seat. I then noticed that I had become anxious. I was feeling ill at ease and fearful. I couldn’t put my finger on it. So, I tried to just focus on the wonderful Flicka. She was poised and in control. But I knew — I just knew — that there was something going on with her – a struggle of some sort.
That might seem a bit pretentious coming from a young singer and fan sitting amongst several thousand people. But I intuited that something was up with this incredible lady.
I had learned in the course of my vocal studies, that I was keenly sensitive when listening to other singers and could sometimes intuit their vocal processes when they sang.
As a spiritual thinker, I had been practicing inner listening – listening for messages and directions as a result of my understanding of God.
In those first moments of the recital, I realized that I had a choice. I could just grip my chair and remain distracted, or I could do something more constructive. I decided to pray.
I prayed to affirm God’s loving control over the event. The Bible teaches, “God is love.”1 So I reasoned that Love itself was wrapping and weaving itself around this event. Nothing could harm the performance. Whatever was going on, my job was simply to continue loving that lady up there and be a supportive fan witnessing her professionalism and artistry. I knew that this kind of thinking would release me from whatever was making me so anxious.
At the intermission, I turned to my friend and mentioned that I thought that Miss von Stade was going through some kind of challenge, though I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. My friend was incredulous at my assertion. He essentially wrote it off and dismissed what I had said. How could I be aware of anything like that?
I decided to be quiet.
Flicka came back on and finished her recital with kudos and bravos roaring from the audience.
In the second half of the recital, I was able to let go of the anxiety. I deeply enjoyed the rest of the recital and shouted my bravos along with everyone else.
The next day, my friend called and asked me if I had seen the article on Flicka in the Los Angeles Times. I said no. He told me that the reviewer was lauding Flicka for singing a gorgeous recital despite the fact that she had gone on with a very heavy head cold.
Her choice had been to either (1) cancel – thereby causing great disappointment, not to mention loss in revenue of ticket sales sold months in advance of the recital – or (2) to “go on with the show” and give the performance to the best of her abilities regardless of this physical challenge.
The article reported that Flicka had refused to announce this problem ahead of time to the audience. The reviewer spoke of Flicka’s consummate performance and the fact that the cold was undetectable.
Wow! What a profound object lesson: This experience taught me the undeniable importance of the power of love – on both sides of the footlights.
As I analyzed this experience later, I asked myself what had actually taken place. Did my prayer help Frederica von Stade? I can’t say. But it did help me. I got past the fear and anxiety I was feeling. I realized that the act of praying had made me re-position my thought above negativity into support and enjoyment. I was able to love that great artist – and myself — through the performance.
Flicka’s triumph that night came from her own love — devotion – for her life’s work. But I could also see that she triumphed as well, as a result of what we all wanted to see and hear in the audience that night. We were expecting her greatness and therefore we received the greatness that no head cold could cover up or take away. Love works both ways back and forth across the footlights.
As an audience member, I learned more acutely my role: to love and appreciate the performer, support her endeavor.
As a performer myself, this experience taught me also to trust implicitly my own sense of decision-making on stage – and also to trust that wonderful sense of love that I naturally feel for my audience – and that same overall sense of love feeding right back to me.
So whether I am in the role of performer or audience member, Love wraps itself around the whole experience, — supporting, protecting, and rejoicing over the performer, the performance and the audience. Love is the currency – the medium of communication flowing back and forth over the footlights. Love goes both ways, and around and around.
So, what’s love got to do with it? Everything!
PS: Just for the record, I am a HUGE Tina Turner fan too — for so many reasons!
Entry filed under: Inspiration, Performance, Practice & Performance: Working It Out, Spiritual Thinkers. Tags: Frederica von Stade, opera singer, recitalist, Spiritual Thinker, Tina Turner, What's Love Got To Do With It.