Fed up with your job? Planning a career switch?
Consider the legend of Linda Ronstadt, and you may reconsider the old rut. Having turned in her scepter and crown, last Thursday the former queen of rock 'n' roll debuted in a serious opera at the Public Theater.
"What am I doing here?" she asked a court scribe. "I don't know," many answered in chorus. Her performance as Mimi in Puccini's "La Bohe me," it seems, was not at all what her new subjects wanted. "Her voice is too thin." "She cannot sing opera." The words stung.
She thought fondly of her previous audience -- so loyal, so steadfast.
For Ronstadt took her position seriously. She stayed in drab motel rooms while touring the land, and she was often locked into windowless recording studios for hours on end. Yet she complained not.
Then one dark day she abdicated her throne. Her fans wept. "Too old to rock 'n' roll," she sang, "too young to die." The queen was tired, but she had discovered a new realm to conquer. In downtown Manhattan, where serious things happen, a wizard of make-believe called Joseph Papp beckoned. He bid her to participate in his Shakespeare Festival. "How regal!" she sang.
Opera, Papp told her, is what you should do. It is theater with music. You can act. You can sing. "Too old to rock 'n' roll," she sang, "but not too old to learn opera."
She started anew, out of doors, three fine Junes ago. Something light to start, Papp had prompted. Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" it was, in a park called Central. Her subjects -- both new and old -- were pleased. You have not abandoned us, they cried, you have brought us culture.
Papp devised yet a bigger plan for his star. Sing real opera, he suggested. Mimi, the star of the Cafe Momus in Puccini's "La Bohe me" is your role. All seats to the Public Theater event were snatched up.
My subjects want me, she thought. I can do four performances a week. Easy. I did seven when I was queen of rock 'n' roll. No you cannot, said the royal vocal coach. No diva would attempt more than one performance of Mimi a week.
I must bring culture to my subjects, Ronstadt argued. I will do three performances a week. "To me, 'Bohe me' was like an old Buddy Holly story that everyone had forgotten," she told her new subjects.
And the former rock 'n' roll queen tried on a new crown.
And the jewels glistened, but the crown would not fit.