The "I Do's" in Singing

Apr 14, 2010

By Jennifer Berkebile

We were first asked to write a blog for Opera Omaha about four weeks ago. I was assigned the last date, but that didn’t stop me from immediately starting to brainstorm ideas. I’ve never written a blog before, frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone really wanting to read my thoughts and opinions on random topics, but I accepted the task (obviously) and was determined to write something interesting, current, and pertaining to the music world. Well, that was four weeks ago….

Now I’m offering you something totally different than what I first had in mind. But it is personal, hopefully interesting, and kind of pertaining to the music world. There are four people in our house and every one of us is currently in various stages of a personal relationship. Two are married, the other two in serious relationships. Two are involved with singers (me being one of them), one with a writer, and one with a dancer turned sales genius. We’ve spent many a night first getting to hear the stories of how/when/where we each met our significant others and later stories of how we were all going to make it through the months spent apart. I am sure my blog today is tainted by the fact that I haven’t really seen my significant other in over two months, living on phone calls and video chats, and that I only have to wait 10 more days before we are reunited again. It’s hard not to get excited.

All relationships are hard. My parents did not have an incredibly easy marriage, but it has lasted and I am grateful to have witnessed both their struggles and reconciliations. Their relationship taught me a lot about what I wanted and saw for my own personal life. A normal relationship is hard work, but add in all the elements of a beginning career in opera and the odds really become stacked against you.

Everything that makes opera singing grand and exciting: the constant traveling to new places, the pride of working for yourself and being contracted for your talent, the thrill of performing and auditioning, the fulfillment of spending hours with a score learning every detail to better your art; can be murder to a personal life. How do you make it work then? I was talking to one of my housemates the other night about this very issue. He said that, right now, we’re doing what we absolutely love, what we were made to do. Our partners must do the same thing in their lives too, or we will never be happy together. I believe his statement. And if that’s the case, then I actually get off a little easy. My partner is a singer! What luck! We have the same passion; we were made to do the same thing; we get each other. I completely understand his want and need to pursue this dream, but does that mean that our relationship is doomed to take a back seat to our careers? Honestly, I cannot answer that now. I do not know. Yes, there have been sacrifices made already and we are just starting our lives together. It’s interesting to think about our future, because even though we know we will be together, our career paths are still very unknown and we are forced to take everything day by day. You never know when a company will call or a gig will come up, so you have to be ready to change plans, budget in visits, make compromises, and put forth the effort needed to sustain weeks away from each other. It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. We as singers get to test that theory year-round.

I recently attended an intimate masterclass given by the great soprano Virginia Zeani, who was married to the well-known bass Nicola Rossi-Lemeni. She addressed her marriage during the class and told us why they were so successful in their relationship for so many years. She said you must love each other “too much” and that was the only way to survive together. I liked that statement very much and I think it is a good representation of the depth of commitment needed for such a demanding career. I have faith in my relationship; we are independent people but we are stronger together than apart and we will both work at keeping our lives fulfilled and happy. I am excited to see what the future has in store for the both of us, and I am certain that whatever happens our lives will be filled with “too much” love.

Jennifer Berkebile just completed touring Nebraska and Western Iowa with Opera Omaha’s Voices in Residence, a series of engaging, interactive, multi-media classroom performances created for students in middle school, high school or college, the performances provide a framework for experiencing the interaction of word s and music – the essence of opera. She will appear in Opera Omaha’s celebration of the great American musical So in Love with Broadway.

Lyric Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Berkebile is thrilled to be a part of the Voices in Residence Program with Opera Omaha this season! A MMus graduate from the Eastman School of Music, Jennifer studies under Ms. Rita Shane. Jennifer most recently was a member of the Gerdine Young Artist Program with Opera Theatre of St. Louis and will be returning this season to make her debut in the world premier of Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket. Previous honors include winning the Jessie Kneisel German Lieder Competition as well as being chosen to participate in the Marilyn Horne Masterclass for the Foundation’s The Song Continues…2007 Festival. She has been a participant in the Resident Artist Program with the Berkshire Opera Company where she was in Hansel and Gretel and Madama Butterfly as well as participating in numerous song and aria concerts where she “unfurled a voluminous, opulent voice in a richly expressive performance of Respighi’s gorgeous Il Tramonto” (Music&Vision, August 2006). A native of Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, Jennifer received her BMus Degree at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music under Dr. Jonathan Retzlaff and currently resides in New York City.

Tickets for So in Love with Broadway start at just $19.

Friday | April 16, 2010 | 7:30p
Sunday | April 18, 2010 | 2:00p

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