Advice For a Traveling Opera Singer

For those of you thinking about the life of a traveling opera singer (or for those of you already immersed in that world), I wanted to pass along a few tips I have picked up over the years that might make your experience a little easier.  Certainly everyone has their own ways and habits, so don’t feel that you have to follow all of my suggestions, but no matter who you are, it is not easy to be on the road all the time and away from home.  Even George Clooney got tired of it in “Up in the Air,” and that guy was never home!

1) Sleeping
For me the hardest thing about traveling is trying to sleep in so many strange places.  New bed, new surroundings, new sounds, new everything, and it can be hard to get a good night’s sleep.  The first thing that I quickly learned is to bring my own pillow.  There’s nothing worse than staying at a host’s house or on a friend’s couch and having to struggle all night to get comfortable on a throw pillow or an armrest.  Sure, sometimes they have super memory foam feather cloud heavenly softness pillows, but you can’t be sure of that, so bring your own, just in case.  Unless you normally use your couch’s armrest to sleep on.  In that case you’d probably better leave it at home.

My biggest breakthrough in the world of extra-domestical slumber is my sleeping mask.  For so many years I would be staying somewhere, sleeping peacefully, completely unaware that at 5:45 AM a beam of sunlight would blast directly through the far window in the hallway directly into my eyeball.  We opera singers have awesome schedules.  We work late, and we sleep late.  But other people have boring 9-5 jobs and often times turn lights on in the house as early as 8:30!  8:30!  Since you are an opera singer, you know that there is no reason to ever be awake before ten, and a sleeping mask will assist you in this goal.  Sure it was a little weird at first, but now I never travel without one.  The human body is programmed to wake up with the light, but the superhuman opera body does what it wants, and it wants to sleep in.

2) Food
Listen carefully, because this is an important tip.  You cannot east fast food all the time, or you will literally turn into the fat lady who sings, and then it will be over.  It is important for you to eat good food while you are on the road.  If you are staying with a host family, it may be possible for you to mooch off of them most of time and eat all of their food, but even if they get wise to this, you should at least be able to get a little fridge space for making your lunches.  As a general rule, try to only eat out only once a day, or, if you are super broke, zero times per day. 

If you are in a hotel or something, it may be that you do not have a fridge or any way to cook food.  In this case, mooching becomes even more important.  Here’s a useful tip: board members love opera singers!  They will want to have you over for dinner.  Depending on how large the board/volunteer pool is, you might get free dinner every night you are there!  And when all else fails, you can live on pop tarts, ramen noodles, and PB&J for weeks.

3) Fun
One common mistake that singers make when they are on the road is they spend all of their time being boring.  Do not make this error.  Time away from your usual routine means you can actually have fun!  Catch up on some reading or watch entire runs of shows on Hulu or Netflix in a matter of days!  Create music videos about your favorite beverage!  There’s no telling what you can get done in your time off from rehearsals!

Above all, do not miss the opportunity to check out the local offerings of whatever place you happen to be in.  Maybe they just have one local bar that you can spend every night in, or maybe they have the Space Needle, I don’t know.  The point is, there is stuff to do wherever you are, and you are not going to experience it sitting in your room huddled over your Gianni Schicchi score.

I hope these tips are helpful.  I have plenty more if you want them.  I am a veritable vat of wisdom.  If you have more travel questions for me, ask away!  Good luck, and happy traveling!

Posted in Opera, Singing, Travel.

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