The Carmen of 70 Meters

by adriafi1 on October 30, 2010


Carmen, Adria Firestone & Patrick Powers, Photo: G Veredon

Una ‘Carmen de setenta metros

Yesterday at a press conference here in Ávila, Spain, a 15th century walled city, I was asked did I get anything out of being in these ancient walls. There are a couple of paths to take with a question like that – be diplomatic and give a “Come visit Ávila” speech, or say – “Hell, Carmen is Carmen, no matter where it’s set” (even with my back against 70 meters of wall, no matter how historic). Then there’s the part of me that can no longer be suppressed. There is the part of me that says, I’m here to do much more than sing Carmen, it’s a privilege to be within the sacred, and to communicate the high, the divine – the core at the center of the being I have honed for so many years.

Maybe I have come again to “why do I sing”, and now I have a different perspective. There comes a time when either we decide to carry pain with us, or learn from it, and lay the burden down, and walk on. Somehow it’s no longer about the recognition, or lack of it, in singing, it’s a much larger sense of mission.

When I ask myself what do I want, the answer is huge, and yet very simple. I want to be a light on this earth. Even the tiniest ray of light dispels darkness, and I‘ve got amperes of light and power I haven’t even accessed. Why not? Fear of being exposed, vilified and reviled? What’s new? If you’re different – all of the above is part of your path. If you put your head down and close your eyes so that no one can see the brightness there, and baaaaah like the rest of the sheep, you’ll be able to hide in the flock. If you dare to open your eyes, reveal your heart and mind, sing instead of bleat, and dare to try another path – all the self-appointed shepherds will come at you with their staffs.

This morning at breakfast a waiter made a comment that, ‘all the people in Ávila that will come to this arena production know its cold at night, only the stupid Americans don’t dress right’. I’ll admit there was an enormous temptation to pierce him with a withering glare and say, ‘although I speak your language and three others, and you are an uneducated idiot, I’m American’. I didn’t. My Spanish colleagues tried to ease the embarrassment, and I simply let it pass.

This teaching by example is hard – it means, no preaching, but doing and being, all I say I am. Damn, this is tough! It’s hard to see the make-up artists I last saw on the day my father died when I sang that night two years ago in Santander, and not to revisit the pain or the drama, but instead see the distance I have traveled.

We have choice. It’s difficult to stay centered and understand that another’s clinging voraciousness is fueled by insecurity. Difficult to see that I too, wanted to be “loved” by a faceless crowd and it doesn’t make it any better that I was more skilled at hiding the blaze of my ambition. What a challenge to release the outmoded definitions of myself. What restraint is required not to humiliate a prejudiced, narrow person, and instead choose to live the compassion I preach. It is a Herculean task to stay centered and know that it is how I do these performances that matters, not the performances themselves. It is how I interact with the souls around me that leaves a positive imprint.

But then, how would I look in sheep’s clothing? A simple, neutral wool, maybe cut on the bias?

July 6 1999, Ávila, Spain

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