How to Deal with Critics – Advice from a Professional Opera Singer

It’s a tough issue. Critics are important as they keep professional organizations in check in a way. They are, ideally, professional ears that will call out a company who is putting out sub par work, to hold them accountable. But no critic is perfect, as is no one, and from the outside they have a distinct advantage but also a distinct disadvantage. They get to see the whole picture, fresh, arguably zero bias. The disadvantage is that they haven’t seen the process and arguably less intimate with the work because of it. They see things from the outside, they have to intuit, lay down immediate judgements rather than through deep score study and experience: the experience of actually creating something, actually performing a piece, with all the fallibilities of performance.

For the performer, the best thing to understand is that criticism is the lowest form of art. It takes zero risk, there is no starting point, there is no zero point. Everything they need is in front of them already premade. They just have to describe it. There are of course master critics and it reaches its own level of art and magnitude but it still is an inferior art form with distinct limits. At its core they are feeders, they feed off of the creative work of others.

Never be afraid of the critic because most likely they will not understand you. It is potentially controversial but I tend to feel that only artists can understand other artists. Only people that can create and create at a high level can see, literally see the depths of what another person is expressing. A good comparison would be to a sport. I can watch football and get enjoyment out of it, I can watch and watch and develop my knowledge of the game and how it works. But my perspective will be ultimately and fatally two dimensional compared to the three dimensional perspective of someone who has actually played the sport. It has to be. If I have not exerted the effort in doing I can never fully understand by watching alone. There are obviously hybrid critics who have experience performing and I suppose they would have better input, but the question becomes to what level have they performed. What is the depth of their experience.

You are superior to the critic, always remember that. Through and through you are superior, you are making, you are taking the risk of failure, of putting yourself out there, of being imperfect. You are triumphant, even in your failures because you had the balls to work for it and do it. I never read reviews. They have no bearing on what I do. I know what went well and what went wrong. I have eyes and ears that I trust and I listen to them. The opinion of some ghostly figure in an audience carries no weight in my mind. My critiques come from the artists I respect. The artists who are equal to and better than me.

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