I believe it is important to take time to rest and break away from work. It creates space and gives the mind some time to really rest and let what you’ve studied and worked on settle in and percolate. I also think it’s really necessary to find a balance between self-discipline and hard work and knowing when it’s an appropriate moment to really rest. Burn-out is real, and I think this process is showing me that even without classes, balancing life, work, and music is truly still a challenge. Finding a sustainable balance is definitely something I would like to work towards.
I’m thankful that I chose to take some time off. Some new ideas have popped up, and intriguing conversations with friends on research that I’ve done really sparked a new focus and energy.
I decided to work through Acts I through IV to review what I’ve learned so far and see how well things have settled in. This was a great way to review and brush up on any tricky spots. I also noticed more musical characteristics that led me to understanding specific characters or moments. For instance, Romeo’s music often shifts the harmony unexpectedly and is very chromatic and somewhat ambiguous. I think this is Gounod’s way of expressing how Romeo’s character has a specific and somewhat jarring effect on Juliette and her fate.
Acts I – III felt really solid musically for me. I haven’t begun to work in the French language much yet, but the notes and rhythms feel very clear and solid in my brain. Act IV was pretty solid until the last scene, after Juliet’s potion aria. This last scene where Juliette collapses during the wedding is where her music really gets heavily dramatic. The lyricism and melodic nature of her music shift to a more dramatic and declamatory style.
My next steps are to learn the notes and rhythms of Act V, as well as brush up and solidify those last moments of Act IV. Meanwhile, I am going to begin my French language study and really get the language into my brain and speaking voice. Yes, I have learned (almost) all of the notes and rhythms, but I haven’t put the French in yet. This may seem super backwards, or a weird way to learn the music — and to be honest, this is the first time I’m approaching learning a role this way. Usually I just plunk out notes and rhythms, speak the text a few times, and then practice putting it all together. This time I have learned all the music and practiced it vocally, without the extra challenge of the language. I really want to focus on the voice and finding that continuous flow, and then I can just add the French right into that flow.
To approach the French — I am going to make flashcards of all of Juliette’s text. On the notecard, I’ll have the French, beneath that I will have the English translation and I will also include any IPA symbols (international phonetic alphabet, not the beer) to assist with the pronunciation of difficult words. I’ll practice speaking the French and my hope is to have it very close to memorized before actually putting it together with the music.
Top focus/goal: REST. REVIEW. PLAN for what needs to happen next. (French language, Learn Act V)
Challenges: Giving myself a chance to rest, without creating stress and guilt about not working.
Further topics: Romeo’s music: identify the moments of his jarring harmonic shifts and how they correspond to the dramatic moment.
Characterization of Juliette: Reviewing Acts I – III shed light on the musical characteristics of Juliette’s character… how the style of her music changes and develops throughout. (Post discussing this more, coming soon.) I also noticed that a lot of Juliette’s “action” is actually her reacting or responding to something or someone. In fact, the only time that Juliette is alone in the entire opera, (except for a few asides) is the potion aria. This inspires me to further explore and consider how that aria is portrayed both dramatically and vocally. If this is the only time Juliette is truly alone — this is the first time that we get to see her true self.