Our Little Women opened, ran, and closed last weekend. It was a triumph for everyone involved, a labour of love, an arduous journey full of ups and downs, ending with a sold-out performance and standing ovations all around. Honestly, to do opera at the (largely) undergraduate level is audacious at best. Not to mention the fact that we literally do it on the smell of a gas rag (our budget is minuscule), it’s actually craziness. Opera is so complex, with so many moving parts. To truly do it justice, you need far more experience (on the part of the students), rehearsal time (we rehearse a maximum of 11 hours a week for about 6 weeks–in the “real world” they rehearse 6 hours a day intensely for 2-3 weeks) and dedicated staff (I administer it on a 3-hour-a-week teaching load). And yet, year after year (and long before my arrival at Laurier 20 years ago), we produce outstanding productions of an extremely high calibre. The students outdo themselves regularly, and defy their own expectations (and often everyone else’s). The learning trajectory is intense. And this year was even more so, with many of the students (due to the pandemic) never having previously set foot on any stage, out of practice from the rigours of a rehearsal schedule, and a really complex work that offered significant challenges both musically and vocally. They nailed it nonetheless.
And yet…yesterday we had our usual post-show debrief. This allows both students and faculty to reflect on the experience and offer feedback. And although for many students the journey was overwhelmingly positive and even deeply moving, there were those who were dissatisfied, disgruntled and even deeply disappointed. This is always heartbreaking for me; I love the art form, I love to teach and I live to inspire these students to grow to love it too. So when I feel that I have failed them in some way–something that’s been forgotten, something that’s not been attended to, some need that hasn’t been met (almost always unknowingly)–it hurts. I was in deep mourning after the session, unable to process it for hours afterward.
So, I’m trying to move forward, to make changes where they can be made, to be clearer about limitations where they exist, and just to try to do better next time. I know that I will never be able to make everyone happy, to deliver a perfect experience for every single student. I can only be perfectly imperfect, just as the students themselves, just as we all are. With apologies to Jo March (and her auteur, Mark Adamo), we are ImPerfect As We Are. Doing our humble best. Fumbling towards ecstasy (and sometimes despair).