Many times I have heard from friends, family members and colleagues that I shouldn't take my singing so personally. This comment usually comes right about the time when I am upset about something that someone said or wrote about a performance or audition that I sang.
Now, I know that criticism in itself is merely an expression of what a person thinks, which is an extension of that person's tastes and biases, and therefore is not any sort of final decision as to the quality of my singing or my artistry. However, I find it odd that we, as singers, are asked to do seemingly contradictory things when it comes to our profession.
On one hand, we are asked to make our singing such a part of ourselves (in terms of giving the audience pieces of our own personal experiences served up in the form of musical dramatizations of operas and songs) and then, on the other hand, when someone criticizes our singing, we are supposed to be able to brush it off easily without a second thought as to the emotional reaction we have to these unsolicited critiques. Especially when we are baring our souls to auditoriums full of people we've never met, all in order to share something beautiful that we, the performer, experienced, and which will enrich their souls by intuitively participating in our emotional journey during the performance.
Considering that we singers are in a business where we are asked to perform for a living (which of course requires that we provide real experiences to the audience in terms of dramatic truthfulness), it is understandable that we are open to criticism from everyone who happens to see us perform, hear us perform, hear about a performance that we have given from someone who's attended or heard that performance, or heck, even read about an account of a performance we gave! (Or, thanks to the internet, have seen some bootlegged videos of performances we gave, or are in rehearsal for.... at the current moment, even.) At any rate, I do understand that criticism is part and parcel of this career path. Though, why should we have to acquiesce to our critics without having our own say?
These critics pronounce their judgement on us with such finality, often after only hearing us for a short time, and without getting to know us as people, or artists for that matter. I honestly don't see the fairness or validity of such opinions. To be sure, there are many people who will read the critics' opinions of musical performances religiously anyway, even after considering my point, but... perhaps there will also be those to whom this makes a bit of sense.
I'll go even one further. We as singers are asked to represent something as close to an 'ideal' of who we are ask people to our audiences. It is easy to wonder as a singer, whether or not this 'ideal' of who you are becomes the only thing that matters to people who see you perform. And so there are times when you don the mantel merely because you feel beholden to the responsibility of being that 'ideal' to your audience. (I know I'm going out on a limb here for those of you who aren't performers, but for those of you who are, I know that this must ring true on some level- even if perhaps you hadn't thought of it concretely before...)
Therefore, we have a duty not only to sing beautifully and act convincingly, but also to serve as a higher self through whom the audience can live vicariously, even if only for an evening. So then, why is it that when our critics cut us to the quick emotionally at times, does it seem 'weak' or 'tender-hearted' to be genuinely hurt by these critics' remarks? Honestly, at the end of the day, we singers are only human beings, and there is a great deal of psychological pressure put on us when we are on stage, and ultimately, what we really want is exactly what the audience members want. To be told at the end of each day that we are needed and loved by so many people just the way we are. And, that even if we never sang another day in our life, that we would still have made a difference in the world, regardless of whether we sang well once, or a million times.
So, critics, if you would please keep this in mind, we singers would be eternally grateful. :)