What would Father’s Day be without some good ol’ fatherly advice? When visiting Mr. Sybaritic Singer’s parents on Sunday for a nice Father’s Day meal, we mused about the best pieces of advice during some obligatory golf-watching. This year’s U.S. Open which was played at The Olympic Club (San Francisco, CA) seemed to be one of the most challenging courses in recent memory. In fact, the U.S. Open is actually designed for quality players to make on pars with very rare rewarding/exciting shots. As the promise of Furyk and McDowell seemed to wane after the 13th, my dearest mentioned that the best golf advice he ever received from his father was, “learn how to play your second shot first.”
Now, I am not adverse to athletic activity. You all know how much I love a good jog; however, patience with a golf club is not my strong suit. While the gentlemen in the room happily ticked-off all the states in which they have played a few rounds, I thought back on all the poor souls that have been privy to my golf ineptitude. I took golf in gym class, went to the driving range, even tried to make it through a few holes with my golf-playing family members only to realize that golf is a time-intensive sport. Mark Twain and I seem to agree that golf is merely “a good walk spoiled.” But, the advice did not fall on deaf ears. For all the trouble and impatience I brought to the sport, learning how to play my second shot first could have changed many of my experiences.
One week you’ve discovered the secret to the game; the next week you never want to play it again. — John Feinstein
Sybaritic Faithful, I am in no way running out to a golf course to try this new direction. I did, however, think about it before my entrances in rehearsal last night for our upcoming production of La Traviata. While waiting in the wings, I imagined what I would have changed if the director stopped us in the middle of the scene and asked us to start over. Would I have brought different inflection to the text? Would I have changed my facial expression earlier or later? Would I have turned to create a better angle on stage? Would I have supported the breath better in that section? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. But the intention and forethought was there.
Like this year’s U.S. Open course at The Olympic Club with winding fairways and subtly difficult greens, the set and scene always changes. Each show is a new and different experience. To get better we must learn how to take our second shot first. Opera, like golf, is often a time-intensive and highly intellectual sport. We have to focus a great deal of attention on our technique and our ability to read various situations and respond effectively. After a while, rehearsal doesn’t feel like a good walk spoiled. It feels invigorating. Finally, your performance will pay dividends what you put into your form and overall execution.
I mean, I’m sure that’s how my father explained it to me…