It's a small world, and as much as I hate starting a post with a cliché, this particular one was a sort of running theme for yesterday's 25th Anniversary Concert from British Youth Opera. I have to say, I've never been so glad of 8 hours spent on a bus (this is both ways, thankfully, and I am writing this courtesy of on-board wifi, so at least it's a semi-productive journey). While my role in the concert was only to slightly bolster the already formidable singing forces of BYO alumni in the final number, it was great to be in the audience and see the remarkable cross-section of singers who have come through this institution. You can imagine how interesting it was to hear soloist ranging from well-established singers I've seen and admired on the operatic stage like Rosemary Joshua (who was a principal in the very first BYO production in 1987) and David Kempster, through young professionals who are already making a mark as Young Artists at the UK's leading opera companies, all the way to this year's BYO principals, some of whom are still in college, and singers on every imaginable level of professional development in between.
For someone like me, reading the biographies in the programme and watching all these people perform was like looking at a road map of the singing world and all the routes one can take to get to where we ultimately want to be. Yes, they all had BYO in common, and the National Opera Studio figures in quite a few bios, but not all of them, and yet here they all are, with roles at major companies under their belt. It's comforting to think that it won't be the end of the world if I don't get into NOS, because there are other ways to success, all it takes is determination. It's funny how hung up we 'youngsters' can get on NOS and Glyndebourne Chorus. Yes, they're great, but there's a whole world of possibilities, so maybe we can afford to give ourselves a break and not act like failing at plan A is the end our careers (even before they've begun).
Another perk of being at the event as a BYO alumnus was backstage access and seeing how familiar everyone is together, regardless of age or standing. Maybe that's something that the BYO atmosphere evokes particularly well, but luckily it's not the only place I've experienced it. You can feel the unspoken words hanging in the air: we're all the same, really... in a good way. Yes, the small world means we are sort of competing, although that's not really the right word, I think a better way of putting is that we're all trying to find a place for ourselves in a slightly cramped space. Luckily most of us are polite people who don't push or shove and are ready to support someone who's stumbled.
Talking in the pub after, you don't even really think to yourself that the last place you saw the person opposite was the Coliseum stage or in an article about the Jette-Parker programme and how you wish that you get to do the same things... Well, obviously I've thought that ;) but luckily not at the pub, as most of these people don't provoke such thoughts, because they're just really nice. And when you do think about it, it's more about being glad that good things happen to good people and that since we're all not really that different, that means we all have a chance to find our place. And when we do, we'll keep running into our friends from back when it all started.
Once again, BYO has managed to give me a nice dose of optimism, and whether that's by design or inadvertently, I'm very grateful and glad I made the trip. It shows the company isn't just about the principal 'stars' but actually does something positive for everyone involved. Looking forward to the 50th!