|Which are apparently as complicated as baseball signals.|
Well, I could see why you would think that. It's certainly what you see from opera singers onstage! But offstage is a different story. Offstage, perhaps a lot of opera singers are the life of the party. But there's also a lot of us who are rather quiet. Mild-mannered. Unassuming. And yes, introverted.
It may seem like a contradiction in terms, but there are a lot of introverted opera singers. And I am one of them.
What does it mean to be an introvert? First of all, let me clarify one big misconception. It's not the same thing as being shy. Shyness means being afraid or anxious about social contact, whether you want that social contact or not. You could be an extrovert who wants to talk to a lot of people but struggles with shyness. Likewise, you could be an introvert who is confident in approaching people but prefers to be alone most of the time.
It's also not the same as being antisocial. Introverts don't dislike socialising. We just prefer to socialise with people one-on-one, or in small groups. And while we may love socialising, we can find it tiring. The same party that makes an extrovert feel energised can leave an introvert feeling drained.
|Like one of those Sailor Moon villains has sucked the life force out of you.|
Yes. I am that geeky.
So when an introvert talks to someone, they aren't just carrying on the conversation on the surface. Their mind is probably working a million miles a minute, reflecting on what this person is saying, comparing it with their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and wondering what point or topic might come up next. It can be extremely overwhelming! It's no wonder that an introvert might become quiet in a conversation. They aren't disengaging, they're just taking time to soak it all in.
|I may look like a mindless zombie right now, but I'm just an introvert.|
How does that make any sense? Wouldn't the extroverted babies be the ones waving their arms all over the place and making lots of noise? Well, actually, it makes a lot of sense if you think of it in terms of balance. You see, since introverted people are more reactive to outer stimuli, they're more likely to become overwhelmed and seek more calm and quiet. On the other hand, since extroverts are less reactive, they might seek more outer stimuli to "feel alive". Both types of people are just seeking a happy balance that feels right for them.
|Not too loud, not too quiet... juuust right.|
If you think about it, it's no wonder that after spending a while at a loud party, the classic introvert wants to go home and get some quiet. We need this kind of quiet time to reflect, to rejuvenate, and to process everything that's happened.
Introverts and extroverts can get along well, as long as they understand and respect each other's differences. My boyfriend is a complete extrovert - if you don't believe me, you should have seen us at this party last week. While he tore up the dance floor and chatted with loads of different people, I sought out quiet corners and had in-depth conversations with a few people. Sometimes I would come and join him on the dance floor, and sometimes he would join in on one of our conversations. We know that we both enjoy parties differently, and neither of us would try to force the other to be someone they're not. Our differences complement each other, and we both bring something special to the relationship.
|We're both special. Mr Rogers told me so.|
This is a question I've struggled with a lot, and I still find it difficult. Of course, my natural temperament doesn't do me many favours when it comes to acting. A director once told me I had a "natural reserve" that will always be a challenge for me as a singer. And it's true - I do tend to be inhibited, understated, a bit slow-to-warm-up.
But then the stage gives me the perfect chance to be someone I'm not. To unleash my inner extrovert. I know some truly great introverted singers who do just this, and it's an amazing thing to witness. See, the great thing about performing is that there's this neat little line you can draw between onstage and offstage. Onstage, you can fully inhabit another personality without worrying about losing yourself. Because when the performance is over, the performance is over. And offstage, you can go back to being you. It's an incredibly liberating experience!
But sometimes the show isn't quite over yet. Now we come to one of my biggest nightmares as an introverted singer: the Post-Performance Reception. I've just finished a show, it's late, I'm exhausted... all I want to do is go home and read my book and go to sleep. The last thing I want is to schmooze and make small talk with a bunch of strangers, pretending to be all sparkly and outgoing.
Don't get me wrong. I get the post-show buzz. I like meeting the audience. I want to celebrate with everyone. But by the end of a show, I'm already feeling tired and drained, and talking to a lot of people is just going to drain me even more. It's not that I don't like the reception. It's just that I want to hang out there for maybe half an hour, and then go home. I need quiet and calm to recover. A glass of wine, yes - but by myself, with my book.
But there are definite advantages to being an introverted singer. Reflective thinking and self-awareness are great attributes for any artist to have. They're great tools for developing a character, or reaching a deeper understanding of a poem. An introvert might perhaps have more trouble communicating their thoughts and feelings to the audience, but trust me, they have a lot of thoughts and feelings going on there. Still waters run deep.
And introverts tend to find it easier, even preferable, to do quiet work on their own. So skipping that party and staying in to study a score by yourself? Not a problem for the introverted singer!
As for travelling, which comes part and parcel with this career, I love it. While many people might dread the "boredom" of spending hours on a train or a bus, I savour this quiet time to myself, when I can read my book, write in my journal, or just think things through.
So is it a disadvantage to be an introverted opera singer? Only as much as it's a disadvantage to be an extroverted one. There's no better or worse - they're just different. And it would be a very boring world if we were all the same! So whether you're a quiet and reflective introvert, or a loud and kooky extrovert, embrace it. We all have something unique to offer.