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Here, I give an in-depth and deeply personal look into romance and relationships in the opera world, my own relationship, and what it takes to make love last. They love you back, they respect you back, and they want to commit to this crazy thing, too. For opera singers, it can be a little tricky.
Love may knock on the door at an inopportune moment, and we have to jump on a plane to rehearse in Madrid. Our intense work and travel schedule is by far the most burdensome part to fostering true love. Especially at the beginning of a relationship: Experiences need to be shared by two people and memories need to be made. So how do we make it work? We have our ways.
Many opera singers enjoy the natural distance and space in a relationship that their career provides them. Emotionally, they can be there for each other. Physically, it takes a larger toll, but for them the wait is worth it. Skype has revolutionized long-distance relationships. Nowadays, FaceTime, texting, etc.
Being able to say goodnight and blow a kiss is a game-changer. This is what I do, but more on that later… Whether you prefer a relationship where you and your loved one are inseparable and hang out all the time, or the independence that a long-distance relationship can provide, the important thing is to find someone who shares that same preference in lifestyle. And you have to know the other person, too, and accept them for who they are, no matter how much you love them.
Couple Combos The three combinations of couples in the biz are these: They have endless material to relate with each other and they share a very intense passion and creative life. They can sing duets together!
Think of it this way. Opera singing is, in many ways, a selfish career. We, as performing artists, set out to succeed individually from a very early age. This mindset can result in a self-centered approach to life, which is deadly for a successful relationship of equal partners.
We opera singers are a vulnerable breed, and can be sensitive to the demands of a highly-emotional job. We can become anxious, lonely, or stressed out from various factors of the singing life.
Empathy from a partner is essential in creating a strong bond and fulfilling relationship. The uniqueness of what we do is at once both a burden and a beautiful thing. These can be instrumentalists, former performing artists, artistic administrators, painters, dancers, etc. No matter what type of person an opera singer dates, they need a supportive partner.
Striking A Balance In any relationship, you have to give part of yourself to another person. Too much of either is not a good thing. There needs to be some give and take. You can take time for yourself around demanding rehearsals or performances, but afterwards make sure to return that love and patience that your partner gave to you.
The same thing goes for doctors, teachers, or any profession that demands a large amount of your time and energy. During the daytime, I started to build a routine of housework, community classes and visits to stave off my loneliness, but it didn't alleviate the dread of going to bed alone each night.
Born into a very large family living in overcrowded conditions, I never slept in a bed on my own as a child, let alone in a single bedroom. Marrying young and having the children meant that I had never felt lonely before.
At 80, I had to get used to living by myself and found it torturous. That first Christmas, I spent time with different children including my elder daughter whose MS was now debilitating. The following April, eight months after Iris's death, she too died, and although a release in many ways, the loss added to my despair.
To help her father with the funeral, my eldest grandchild, Louise, returned from Canada and in her well-organised way, became my saviour. With a disabled mother, Louise had taken on responsibilities at a young age and grown into a very capable and efficient young woman - some might even say bossy.
When she visited me, she pointed out the obvious - I needed female company and, importantly, Louise knew how it could be arranged. I am not computer-literate, although before Iris's death, we had both learned how to email.
Louise regularly kept in touch via the internet and was now keen to take my computer skills a step further through a dating website. She also knew which one would be suitable given my views on religion, politics and reading habits. I have been a Guardian reader for decades and although sometimes appalled by the trivia that counts as news these days, it is a newspaper I am proud to support.
Before Louise's intervention, one of those "trivial" aspects of the paper would have been its Soulmates service. Hence, without my knowledge, Louise registered me as: Within days, I had email responses from several women around the country and I replied to them all with my phone number.
I soon received a call from someone who lived quite close by, but it became immediately apparent that her aspirations were well beyond my pocket. Another, much younger lady with a voluptuous photo on her profile, got in touch too.
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And despite assuring me that she was attracted to elderly men, I couldn't help but wonder how she earned her living. Although I didn't know it at the time, it was the next call that really counted. Jenny lived in Sussex but regularly visited London and we agreed to meet for a matinee performance of The Country Wife at the Haymarket theatre.
Iris and I had always loved the theatre and when Jenny told me that she would be wearing a green jacket with matching shoes, I assumed that, like Iris, she would be dressed in a genteel manner for our first meeting.
Instead I found this apparently square-shaped woman, wearing a green anorak and walking shoes, outside the theatre doors, and I felt rather disappointed. After the play we strolled around Covent Garden and had a cup of tea together. Jenny, a few years younger than me with daughters and grandchildren, had led an interesting life and travelled extensively with her husband until his death four years earlier. Both early members of CND, we shared similar politics and taste in music, and she was almost as opinionated as me.
I was also amused that she was too embarrassed to tell her family that she had joined Soulmates. She should have been perfect, but something was lacking and I felt frustrated when I took the tube home alone on that early summer's evening.
I hadn't been home long when my younger daughter and then a son rang to find out about my afternoon.
When they heard about the Soulmates listing, my children were enthusiastic for me to find a mate and saddened that I had not found what I was looking for in Jenny. But it was after explaining my misgivings to them that I began to realise that the fault lay with me. I had hoped that Jenny would be like Iris - and, of course, she wasn't. Jenny was her own woman with her own style of dress, hair and opinions. Like me, she sought company but unlike me at that time, Jenny knew that her first choice in a partner was no longer available because he had died.
Fortunately, she was willing to give me a second chance. This time, I drove down to Hove and held her hand as we walked along the coast to a fish and chip lunch. It was a warm day and we slowly returned to Jenny's flat overlooking the beach for tea on her little balcony.
We talked for hours about our lives, our families and our spouses. We knew that they could never be replaced but, equally, on that second meeting knew that we might have a future together that could be fun and rewarding.
Since then, we have spent much more time together than apart, either in London, Hove or abroad, and next year, we plan to visit Louise in Canada and meet my new great-grandson.