Garlic, ginger and gargling.
This past month I have been in rehearsals for Orfeo ed Euridice at The COC, understudy rehearsals for Cenerentola and Ariadne auf Naxos, performed two chamber operas, chaired a record-breaking gala for Opera Atelier, had a few gigs, gone to wardrobe fittings, hair consultations, competitions, coachings, lessons, masterclasses, sold half of my wardrobe, did my taxes, planned my summer and wrote a 5 day diary for The National Post. Someone once told me that “if you’re not singing, you should be sleeping” but alas, there are so many other things involved in this career.. Like staying healthy so that you can actually sing and get paid! This post is influenced by husband, who is supposedly asked quite frequently if I do anything weird or crazy to keep my voice healthy. “Can she talk before a performance?” Oh, I can talk. “Can she drink alcohol or coffee?” Quite well, thank you.
Opera singers are very self-aware individuals; we are very perceptive of our instruments/bodies. If you ever want to know how to fight an illness, just mention that you may be getting sick in a room full of singers, and you will receive a plethora of advice! Including, but not limited to: Using a neti pot, oregano oil and zinc, fresh garlic juice, vitamins, supplements, steam, ginger, lemon, tea, polysporin in your nose, salt gargle, hot yoga, straight vodka, and always using a humidifier (or six).
We all have things we do, foods we eat, and tinctures we concoct in order to feel our best and be able to sing for hours. On long flights I put polysporin in my nose, take oil of oregano, drink litres of water and a Belvedere on the rocks upon landing. Tea, hot water, fresh juices (garlic and kale) are consumed like mad. Yes, there is a humidifier on at all times next to my bed. To the average human, this seems completely insane, I get it, but these are vocal cord survival tactics! I don’t drink red wine because it makes me angry and my lips swell up, (which looks amazing!) but champagne and white wine are delightful and quite necessary after long staging rehearsals. Ice water is painful. My body naturally repels dairy products, so that’s also a given no-no. Carbs and proteins are heaven. Singing in an Opera is like training for a marathon, so one must keep their strength up by eating quite a bit. Straining the voice by screaming or conversing in loud restaurants is a very bad idea, so stay away. We only have one pair of cords, so we must take care of them, and if we seem to be neurotic in the process, that’s fine by us.