5 items to make touring life more funOp-Ed
When I started studying classical singing, I often fantasised about my life as a professional opera singer. I would tour the world, singing in all the greatest Opera Houses, spending only 2 or 3 months per year in my fantastic loft in New York. I pictured myself in a luxurious hotel in Paris, sitting on a charming balcony overlooking the Seine, eating my perfect breakfast served by the Michelin 3-star hotel restaurant before rushing to rehearsal in a perfect car driven by a perfect chauffeur provided by the opera house, sitting beside my perfect assistant who would, of course, make sure that my perfect and gorgeous French private yoga instructor would be available for an afternoon session just before my dress rehearsal of Werther, in which I would be starring as Charlotte.
Well, it turns out that my life has unfolded a bit differently…
Although I sing professionally and I manage to work full time with companies that I love, and who share my values, my career has remained pretty local. However, this past year I have had the extraordinary opportunity to go on tour singing Oreste in La belle Hélène with Jeunesses Musicales Canada. We were away for six weeks in the fall and four in the spring, touring our opera in remote parts of Québec and Ontario. It may not have been France, but I have had some of the best moments in my professional life.
When I think back on the girl sitting at her perfect Paris hotel balcony I realise… she would have missed out on all of this.
Here are five things that, for me, transformed a Comfort Inn in Mont-Laurier into an extravagant suite in Paris.
I LOVE coffee. But I mean REAL coffee. I am true a third waver. Nothing bothers me more than bad filtered coffee or, even worse, burned milk in an over infused and burned allongé with foam on top that looks like sprayed polyurethane insulation. Tim Hortons is, to me, probably the closest vision that I have of Hell.
When I realised how difficult it would be to find good coffee on the road anywhere past Québec City I almost fainted. But then… I discovered Wacaco. Wacaco will be your best morning friend. It is a compact espresso maker that makes some of the best coffee I have ever had. You even have a beautiful crema on top. You just have to have access to boiling water and voilà!
Yoga mat and Adriene
Our first tour extended all the way to Îles de la Madeleine, which is 1379km from Montreal. That’s a lot of car time! Actually, most of the time I spent on tour was sitting in a van with my colleagues. Let me tell you a thing or two about the benefits of stretching when you spend six hours straight in a car and you have to sing the next day.
I was used to having a yoga routine in a studio when staying in Montreal, but I truly understood the necessity of it when we had our first week of driving. At first, I had trouble sleeping and I felt very uncomfortable in the car. Then, my friend Maude, who was singing Hélène, introduced me to Yoga with Adriene, a series of free yoga routines adapted to what you want to do and the time that you have. All the videos are of different lengths and Adriene is an amazing teacher. We started doing our routine daily, which made the car rides so much smoother for my body and allowed me to sing more consistently even after long drives.
I may not have a private French massage therapist called Louis, but I was able to untie the knots that were killing my back after the long hours sitting in the van. I chose the Acupoint Physical Massage Therapy Ball Set because it was recommended by a friend who works as a yoga teacher, but you could use tennis balls, which I have used in the past.
What I love about the massage balls is the smooth texture and small size, which allows me to massage my face, neck and arms when I am sitting in the car. When I get to my hotel room, a can lay on them to massage my back.
Going on tour is probably the least environmentally friendly thing I have done as a singer. Not only do we burn a lot of gas to get to the places where we will perform, but we also end up eating out every meal at places where reusable plates and cutlery is a distant fantasy. For the past four years, I have been working hard at home to reduce my trash to almost zero and before we left, I tried to come up with some essentials that would allow me to stay close to my environmental values.
Here are the four things that I carried with me at all times that allowed me to drastically reduce the amount of trash that I produced:
- Reusable bamboo cutlery from To-Go Ware. I especially like them because they come in a kit and they are light.
- Reusable coffee mug. I use a Mason Jar because it’s easier to close and it never leaks. I added a drink lid from Jarware to mine because it makes drinking in a car much easier.
- Reusable container from Onyx. You can actually ask to have your meal put directly in your container at most take out places. I use a stainless-steel air tight container because it doesn’t leak and I can just throw it in my bag when I am
done eating without fear of finding the rest of my salad dressing all over my music score. However, if you are I microwave user, you might be better off with a traditional plastic reusable container. 4. Reusable water bottle, of course! You might want to bring one that has a narrow mouth… if you prefer drinking your water in the car without taking a bath at every bump.
Finally, I brought with me a portable humidifier, which allowed me to breathe better at night and kept my throat nice and hydrated. The level of humidity in each hotel is very difficult to predict, especially on cold nights when the heating is on, and I found that it is really hard for me to sing well when my throat has dried out overnight.
I used the travel size one from Boneco, which is compact and can be used simply with a plastic water bottle. I carried the same water bottle with me and refilled it during the whole tour.
It may not have been the decadent life that I had imagined as a student, but it has been a transforming and enchanting experience. We may not have been staying in the most extravagant hotels, but I saw a side of my own country, my home, that I had never seen before.
I met amazing colleagues that became close friends, I listened to elevating and vulnerable stories over (good) coffee with inspiring human beings, I sang for people who waited the whole year to hear the only opera that is accessible to them in their town, we made people laugh, we shared something precious and authentic. When I think back on the girl sitting at her perfect Paris hotel balcony I realise… she would have missed out on all of this.