I think we all do it…make ourselves small from time to time. Renee Fleming, probably 6’4″ tall in her spike heels and solid as a brick outhouse, though not fat, stood tall in the first part of the 154th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Academy of Music. On stage with her, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and later, also Paul Simon.
First was Renee Fleming, who sang “O Mio Babbino Caro”, amongst others.
Then, Paul Simon came out, to great applause and acclaim, sang a few two bar phrase tunes to his people, the aging Main Liners, and brought back Renee Fleming to sing something with him. She came on and buttered him up: “You haven’t lost your high notes! We lose our high notes!”
Well yeah Renee, and you haven’t sung your whole career with the help of a microphone like he does. And besides, he did sing around his high notes, using a falsetto a la Montserrat Caballe when she was 71 years old.
Anyway, Renee Fleming came on stage with the 5 foot tall Paul Simon. There she was singing away, cutting herself down to his size…except that it was Mission Impossible, she was stuck with dropping her head down toward him and hunching and bending her knees.
Shrinking under stress. Not only the stress of standing there with him; she also had to sing in two bar phrases like she was running out of breath at the end of two bars.
And the woman has no nasal vowels, I mean really, what was she thinking.
Once upon a time 20 years ago, Hubert Godard, Parisian Rolfer™ and movement guru, had us do a class exercise showing what stress can do to height. There were 12 in the class; first, we stood up straight and found someone whose eyes were the same height as ours.
Second, each of the parts of the pair moved about 50 feet apart. One was to stand still and wait while the other one walked toward the one standing. The stander was to have no emotion showing, just regard for the person walking toward them. The walker was to think, either, “I am bigger than that person”, or “I am smaller than that person”.
Upon arriving at the other side, the thought had become the truth, either the eyes were above or below, no longer even, depending on whether the “short” thought, or the “taller” thought.
One person really got into it, saying to himself, “He is bigger than I am, like my father who used to beat me!” and was 2 inches shorter upon walking arrival at the standing person.
Ours was mostly not serious stress.
Renee Fleming had serious stress and shrank to the challenge.
Here she is, in full cry, enjoy. If you follow some of the “suggestions” over at the right of the clip, you can also hear the cherished Leontyne Price and the 71 year old Montserrat Caballe, still stunning.