Mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh spent some scary weeks in San Francisco at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but she managed a flight home and now continues her work as a San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, remotely. She answers our Quarantine Questions:
Between mid-March and the present, how have you adjusted to this “new normal”?
“My journey has been a changing one. Between March and April I was living in downtown, San Francisco. It was extremely difficult to go outside with any semblance of normalcy. You could not leave six feet of distance when walking by other pedestrians, the homeless population seemed to become more and more prevalent with more odd behaviours, and there was a sense of fright in everyone’s eyes. Not an ideal place to be for a lady of small stature. I’ve since left America to be with my loved ones back home in Ontario, and I continue to work remotely from here. The transition was not easy; flying anywhere right now is bizarre. It was also a little frightening to see how few people were wearing masks while in close proximity to one another. Aside from the middle seats being vacant, the flights were absolutely packed!
“The 14-day full quarantine was also a difficult task for me and my family, who tended to me since I could not cook or go outside. However, it is definitely worth the peace of mind knowing that I would not transmit COVID-19 to my fellow Canadians. Since coming out of the quarantine, I have picked up a few new hobbies, including running and being able to appreciate the beautiful nature we have in Canada!”
Aside from your ability to work and perform, what do you miss most right now?
“I am a rather social being. I enjoy being around others, which we are obviously unable to do right now. Though, what I have appreciated is being able to reach out to long distance friends with whom I wouldn’t normally have video chats with. Just the other day I had a reunion with my friends from my masters degree, and it was really lovely seeing faces that I haven’t seen in years!
“Another thing I miss is all my favourite restaurants in San Francisco… Though this has been a great opportunity to work on my cooking skills!”
What is a prediction you have for the opera industry during and after this pandemic?
“I predict that everything goes back normal by July and it’s just a weird few months of our lives… THE END.
“Realistically, I think this will have a direct effect on our performances up until the point that vaccines are widely available, allowing people to congregate in large groups again. What that means in the short term, is that artists will need to be creative in their output, but also find ways to generate income artistically online. Our industry is hurting so deeply, and my biggest hope is that companies are able to survive through the economic downfall. I have been so impressed by what some of our Canadian companies have been doing online these past few months, as well as their devotion to paying their artists. It would be tragic to see any of our companies not return.
“I do believe that our craft will be changed drastically after the pandemic, but I think that the arts will come through in a big way. We as a society are dealing with a massive amount of grief, and music is the best way to heal. I can’t wait until that moment when I can sing and connect to a live audience, as well as get to hear my incredibly talented colleagues. I know it will be an unbelievably powerful experience once we can.”
How do you imagine your re-entry into full-time work will look?
“I can’t say what our jobs will look like with any certainty. At the moment, I am working for San Francisco Opera who have been so devoted to their artists and made the current Adler Fellows a huge priority while working remotely. During this time, I have been able to focus on my voice and craft in a way that I haven’t been able to in years. Of course, it’s not ideal to be working with coaches and teachers over Zoom, but we have been given a plenty of attention and it is workable.
The big question is, when can we see ourselves going back to in-person coachings? I can imagine that it will be very different from what we’re used to, as the health of my community and colleagues is paramount. That being said, I cannot wait until we return.”