— This event has already taken place —
Collaboration: is it inherently dangerous? A singer’s perspective
Organizer: Rosie Middleton
Wed 09 August 2023, 17.00 – 18.00
Content warning: this presentation contains brief references to self-harm, sexual violence and trauma. Though post #metoo, discussions around ‘consent’ and ‘safety’ in classical music have slowly increased, in practice, hierarchical power structures in singing training and the opera industry combined with onstage sexual and physical violence against women continue to lead to well-documented abuse, and a culture of disempowerment for women. Singers sit at the intersection of classical music and theatre, combining the obedience and unattainable perfectionism of classical training with theatre. Vulnerability onstage is highly prized for female and upper voice singers, who embody a wide range of intense emotions and violence including abuse, murder, grief and explicit sex scenes. However, displaying real, human vulnerability offstage is often received as ‘being difficult’ or unprofessional. In an industry where the jobs are already limited, and currently declining, the fear of not being rehired is high, making it very difficult to give meaningful consent, or be ‘safe’ at work. Drawing on my own experiences in both opera and in new music collaborations, this paper will consider the separation of our onstage and off-stage personas and the physical and psychological risks taken by experimental vocal performers who were trained for the opera industry. I will explore the tension between onstage and off-stage vulnerability, and the point at which performance or creation can become an act of self-harm.