If she ever needs to remind herself why she dedicated herself to singing, Joyce DiDonato thinks back to a meeting she had with the great American soprano Leontyne Price. “I said, ‘Miss Price, do you ever put on your own recordings?’ She goes, ‘Oh darling! Sometimes I open a bottle of champagne and listen to them all afternoon. What a gorgeous voice I had!’ ”
The message DiDonato took from this seemingly immodest outburst was that singers should resist the temptation to retreat into a shell of humble self-deprecation. “I’m always self-deprecating, but I thought ‘We get a short amount of time to do what we do, and I want to celebrate it.’ I want to give my best and be able to say, ‘I wasn’t perfect, but I gave everything I had, and I hope you enjoyed it.’ “
I love the above. I’m not anywhere near the level of Miss Price or Miss DiDonato, but I still think there’s something to learn from what Miss Price said. I tend to live in self-deprecation land. Sometimes it’s that I fear that I’m a sham. Sometimes I am just angry at myself for how I’ve played. And other times I’m fearful of becoming arrogant. I really do hate the idea of becoming overly confident or arrogant. But of course putting myself down all the time isn’t a good thing either, and does affect my playing.
There has to be some sort of balance. I can, I’m sure, always play better. But I think all of us can all take great joy in what we do, and there’s really nothing wrong with being thrilled when we really nail something. Self-deprecation really doesn’t do anyone a bit of good, and false humility — something at which I excel (see? I CAN brag!) — is just … well … false. And kind of ugly, too.