Inspired To Inspire

In the age we live in, where everything moves so fast, when instant gratification is considered a virtue, and when faster is usually better, it's a true gift when we are captivated -- when we simply stand still and witness a moment of inspiration.
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Photo: Decca/Chris Dunlop

Soprano Danielle de Niese debuted her first Huffington Post blog last year. She will be chronicling her time in New York City exclusively for Huffington Post as she prepares for the release of her next album, Beauty of the Baroque, and prepares for the World Premiere of The Enchanted Island at the Metropolitan Opera.

There are so many serious issues affecting our nation and our world; from the Occupy Wall Street movement, to the Republican GOP nomination debates, the economic crisis in the Euro Zone, the uprisings in the Middle East, the moral tragedy of the little Chinese girl left to die on the road....

So what on earth could an opera singer say that would have relevance for you and what you're going through at the moment?

We can all afford to do a little soul-searching about the choices we make and the way we live our lives, but sometimes searching one's soul doesn't provide the answers we seek.

I could ask myself, for example, why I work hard to bring music and opera to schoolkids who have yet to be exposed to classical music when there are so many bigger problems with our education system. With basic education budgets being chipped into all the time, should we care at all about getting kids to try classical music, which can seem so "optional" in comparison to English or mathematics?

I can only answer this question based on the influence of music in my own life, so for me, the answer is a resounding YES.

Music can be a source of escapism. Escapism may have a negative connotation for some, and Wikipedia defines it as a "mental diversion by means of entertainment".

From my perspective, music allows me to escape from the world of what is happening right in front of me... to the world of my thoughts, my dreams, my hopes and ideas -- for the world, for my own life, for the day, even for the moment. Music is as integral to me as my own DNA. My life has become a continual soundtrack, with music underscoring the most powerful and even the most banal moments of my life.

As a recording artist, I meticulously research my programs. It's a labor-intensive period for me, sifting through centuries of repertoire and choosing the most treasured gems to present to the listener. I am obsessive about my programming because when you listen to my album, you are not just listening to my voice. You are listening to music that charts, almost like a biography, my life itself. Each song is like a vivid color of my musical palette -- each interpretation, a slice of me that you take with you. An album becomes a sort of matrix that decodes me and denotes who I am, like notes on a page. I'm sure that if my soul could materialize, it would come to you in the form of a song.

Going into the studio is both exhilarating and daunting. However, when everything and everyone is connected, and music resonates within all of us at the same moment -- it's like being in one of those sweat lodges where the mental focus and synchronicity of people taking part in the same process -- working together to make notes turn into music -- can make you almost levitate to a higher state of being. This paragraph is looking ever stranger as I write it, but I can't lie. When everything works together in harmony, I feel as if every thought, emotion, breath, expression, word, note leaves my body, and connects with not only my fellow musicians, but with the people who hear the music, whoever and wherever they are. One of the great joys and rewards of recording is the process of capturing all these elements, the live energy from a cluster of musical creations, funnelling it through a microphone, and channelling it all the way through a little spinning disc (or download!) into your life.

I was honoured to be asked to perform at the opening of the 2011 TED Global Conference in Edinburgh. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. The TED Global Talks were formed to bring together the brightest minds of the world in all fields and disseminate "ideas worth spreading." What excited me most about this performance was the idea that I was performing for some of the most brilliant minds on the planet. I also spent time in Edinburgh attending the other talks and left the conference overflowing with inspiration. All of us at TED shared one very important trait -- a need to share our own inspiration with others and the result was that more people shared that inspiration and were in turn inspired.

Like the Egyptian Facebook Revolution started by Wael Ghonim, this is a great lesson we can take with us throughout life: being inspired can lead you to inspire others. We can take inspiration from people in different fields and transfer it to our own lives -- it can give us something to strive for.

In the technological and multimedia age we live in, where everything moves so fast, when instant gratification is considered a virtue, and when faster is usually better, it's a true gift when we are captivated -- when we simply stand still and witness a moment of inspiration.

Music can give you this on a daily basis.

Sounds like I'm running for office!

And in a sense, I am.

Or maybe this is more like a love letter to music and its power and ability to move you as it has moved me. I can't promise that entering my world will magically alter the day-to-day struggles we face. But I can hope that the experience can transport you if even for a moment, whisk you away from the ups and downs of your daily life, allow you to look at the world of music through my eyes and take a little piece of inspiration with you as you journey on.

I will be chronicling my time here in New York City exclusively for Huffington Post as I prepare for the release my third album, Beauty of the Baroque, on Decca Records and simultaneously prepare to sing the role of Ariel (of Shakespeare's The Tempest) in the world premiere of a ground-breaking baroque pastiche entitled The Enchanted Island at the Metropolitan Opera. Written by librettist Jeremy Sams, this new production will be premiered on New Year's Eve under the baton of esteemed conductor William Christie, whom I've had the privilege of working with many times before including my debut album, Handel Arias. The production will be directed and designed by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, and will be transmitted to cinemas around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series on January 21, 2012. My distinguished colleagues include the legendary tenor Plácido Domingo, as well as counter-tenor David Daniels, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, soprano Lisette Oropesa, and counter-tenor Anthony Roth Costanzo.

Join me on this inspirational journey.

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