Sending our Quarantine Questions to Nova Scotia native Jane Archibald was a comforting exercise; the soprano is finding moments of peace and restoration amid the widespread closures.
Between mid-March and the present, how have you adjusted to this “new normal”?
“I’ve adjusted pretty well! I have always been a singer who likes time off between gigs to rest and recharge. I’m trying to view this as an extra-long recharge! 🙂 I love performing. I love having that symbiotic experience with an audience and with my colleagues. Singing feeds the spiritual part of me that will always be there, needing sustenance. It feeds my soul, but I’m not addicted to it. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one for me. I know I will sing again. I don’t know when, but I don’t have any fear that it is gone forever.
“So, in this situation, I am able to look on the bright side and not get too ‘antsy’ about not singing now. I love my home and my neighbourhood and, normally, I never get more than a few weeks to settle into a routine here before flying off again, so it’s been wonderful! This time to spend with my daughter and husband, this forced slowing-down and focusing inward, has been really, really special.
“Losing work is scary. I’m not going to lie about that!! Not knowing when I’ll be able to earn money again is unsettling, but my husband and I have always been savers (we’ve been in the fortunate position to be able to save, and I know many in the biz are not in that position!), so we are hanging in for now. It’s amazing how little money you spend when you’re not flying a singer (and family!) here, there and everywhere! We certainly have bigger grocery bills, as we bake and cook (and feast and snack and BBQ…)! But otherwise, we’re learning just how little we actually need.”
Aside from your ability to work and perform, what do you miss most right now?
“Well, the obvious one is time with family and friends. I really want to hug my mum, have a glass of wine with my sister, sit on the patio with my brother. But NS is starting to open up cautiously, so I have faith those things are coming if we hang on! As for what I miss about my career… honestly, it has taken me a while to miss anything. For the first month or so, I didn’t have the brain space to miss anything- I was too busy worrying, adjusting, homeschooling (serenity now!!!), and, frankly, reveling in the extra time at home.
“But now it’s clearly become a long-term situation and I have started to miss the adventure of my life on the road. I’ve had time to forget about the negative aspects of the job that, in all honesty, have started to grate at this point in mid-career (endless airports, lacklustre apartments, aching loneliness, etc.) and now I remember the amazing benefits of the travelling lifestyle: how warm the springs are in Europe (compared to Nova Scotia)! Sitting at a cafe in Paris! Eating pizza in Naples! Swimming in the south of France! It’s been a good reminder that I’ve had a really amazing life as an opera singer! I find myself reminiscing about those memories a lot these days.”
What is a prediction you have for the opera industry during and after this pandemic?
“Oh my… I am a cynic! Most of my predictions are not that optimistic. I predict that fees are going to go down (a lot!) and many companies will fold (as they did in 2008). This has been catastrophic for the industry. But I am HOPEFUL there may be changes to contracts to allow for a slightly better balance of risk between singer and engager. Until now, we have taken all the risk. Maybe we will shift to a portion of our fee given upfront as a rehearsal fee? And immediate reimbursement of flights? Some financial assistance with housing might be nice… maybe it will happen? And, hopefully, a clause allowing some kind of minimum payment will be added to contracts to protect us the next time an event like this happens. That would be amazing.
“Casting my cynicism aside, let me just say that so many people in the arts are amazing; there is energy and ingenuity and drive! I predict there will be some amazing new ventures and creative solutions that I can’t even dream of; I can’t wait to see that!”
How do you imagine your re-entry into full-time work will look?
“I cannot imagine there will be re-entry to full-time work. It’s going to happen gradually, watching each attempt and learning from our mistakes. Countries are moving at different paces so there will be an element of luck for the performers depending on which contracts you have and where. They are starting to do some things already in Germany, Austria and Italy now, with the audience distanced (and thus much-reduced).
“I don’t really know how we singers can do staged operas and maintain 2m distance… perhaps there will be some concert-performances at first? I am hopeful. I do know we all want to perform and want to industry to survive, so people are scrambling to make it happen, somehow. I’m practicing my rep and hoping for the best!”