My latest brainchild, hee hee!
I started a club this week. It’s called Opera Language Circle!
So basically we get together on Tuesday nights and have foreign language conversation. Half an hour in French, half an hour in Italian, and half an hour in German. (That’s the order we did it in the first time but I hope to change it up each time- people were getting lazy and tipsy by the time we got to German…) These are the main languages that singers have to study. Most of us know a little bit of each, or maybe speak one of them pretty well, but we’re all “supposed” to speak all three somewhat fluently, and pretty much no one does.
I can’t even remember how this idea formulated, but I have enough friends who specialize in one or the other language, and who are interested in learning the others. I speak French, as does my friend Sarah, who I sang with in Paris and who now lives in NY. My girl Anne speaks Italian, and so does our friend Sal- we all used to sing in the same church choir. And my friend Jenny, who was double cast with me in Ruddigore, speaks fluent German. So we are making up the core of the group. Now I’m trying to bring in more people, lots more people, to join us. My main concern now is to get enough people (and some who are fluent in each language) to let the meetings go on weekly even when I or some of my official regulars can’t be there.
So this week was what I called a preliminary meeting- just the five of us. I invited other people I know, but didn’t make public announcements. I wanted us to try it out first among friends, see how it went, what changes needed to be made, etc.
First problem: EVERYBODY was late. Except me. Even my most responsible person I know in the whole world was late. I was pretty embarrassed sitting there taking up two tables in the cafe by myself, with my dictionaries and verb books spread all over the place.
But finally everybody got there, and we took off in French. It was harder than people expected- ten minutes into it I heard cries of “c’est la torture!”- but even my “no French at all” person started finding that she could figure out enough to join in the conversation, which made me really happy!!!
Then we switched to Italian. I was able to say things, but I felt like my grammar was all over the map. I could follow 100% of the discussion, though. That’s encouraging.
Finally we moved onto German. This is where things got tricky- Jenny was the only one who really spoke German. I was in a distant second- I had three years of it in high school and placed out of it in college. I had to be the taskmaster and keep snapping at everyone to stop chatting in English. I’ll have to make sure the rules are absolutely clear before we start next time- speak the language or shut up! Fortunately, somebody had a German phrase book with a very colorful page on sex talk, so we all learned a few things.
The officially condoned activities, if you don’t speak the language, are listen and try to follow the conversation, study on your own or with another beginner, or, if you must speak English, go sit at the bar.
Overall though I felt like everyone was pleasantly surprised to find that they could do more than they thought they could. That was very uplifting to me. It’s one of my main purposes in bringing this group together. I used to teach ESL and my task was always to get students to not be afraid of speaking and listening. Same thing here. People are so scared to try out the language skills they’ve learned in school! Come on, it’s not that bad, see?
Soooo now to help it grow. It’s not just for opera singers- everyone is welcome as long as they’re willing to study all 3 languages. So you the reader can come join us on Tuesday nights at Cafe Amrita, 310 W 110th st, NYC. As long as you’re not creepy. I hate putting my whereabouts on the internet. Creepy people and fans who just want to hang out with me please censor yourself out of the picture. Thx.
Everybody else, I hope to see you there!!!