Singers spend an inordinate amount of time travelling and staying in hotels. While rock stars are reputed to — and maybe contractually required to — trash their luxury suites, whiling away the nights, and probably days, between gigs in an orgy of drink, drugs and, well, orgy, classical singers in their more modest accommodation pursue a quieter life in which rest plays an enormous role.
The physical requirements of the unamplified voice are neurosis-inducing, and the question of how to fill the downtime is perennial. I’ve always read a lot, but sometimes reading is just that little bit too strenuous. I used to watch CNN a lot, but the endless repetition of the increasingly extruded and etiolated news cycle was, in the end, too much. For me, as for many other travellers, the DVD has been a godsend, and the HBO series The Sopranos hit the spot. If I wasn’t OD-ing on drugs, drink and dissolution, at least I could quietly watch some other people doing it.
When, as a distant echo from the depths of popular culture, I first became aware of The Sopranos, I did, of course, pathetically assume that it was about singers. It would be nice to pretend that The Sopranos was a television series about a hard-bitten gang of coloraturas and mezzos, who indulge themselves in a spot of casual violence, racketeering and lap-dancing.
It was only when I read a long and appreciative essay review in the New York Review of Books a year or two back, that I realised that here was something not to be missed, and that the subject matter was the New Jersey Mob.