Viswa Subbaraman

Opera and Orchestra Conductor

A Review of the Past 2 Years

I know it's been quite a while since I blogged regularly. (I also know that off and on I'd commit to getting back to blogging more regularly and bail on that). The honest truth is that it's been a rough two to three years. I think there was a continuous string of one great disappointment after the next with one of them being a life changing one. So, now that things are moving in the right direction again, I thought I'd quickly bring you all up to speed. There's no question the three years of roughness started when things ended between myself and my girlfriend of the time (from here on, we'll refer to her as HER). I think when a relationship of almost four years end - especially when you thought it was the last person you'd ever go on a first date with - it turns your life upside down. I know that I didn't handle the ending of that relationship well. I basically compartmentalized and focused on the next thing, which was my audition with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.I didn't face what it meant for that relationship to end. I didn't really work out all of the inner turmoil that created. There are so many things that I should have done better at the end of that relationship. There is no doubt in my mind that without HER, Opera Vista would never have had a chance to grow, and I don't know that my life would be heading in the direction it is now going. For a while, I couldn't think about those four years together without feeling angry at the ending of it all, but I have to admit HER was truly important to my growth, and I owe HER a lot.

I have to admit that those two concerts with the CSPO were two really amazing nights. I had a blast working with them on Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, Saint-Saens' fourth piano concerto with Di Wu, and Beethoven's seventh symphony. Working with an orchestra for the first time in an audition is very much like going on a first date. I have to admit that I fell in love with that orchestra. I really felt like it was a great match for me, and I had fallen in love with the idea of working with that orchestra. I remember coming back home from that audition so excited about the future. I continued to work on Opera Vista, but I had also said in the back of my mind that if that gig didn't come through, it was time to hang up the baton and move on to something else. (Never make absolute decisions when you're emotional... especially when you have one broken heart situation and one great situation - you don't really know where you are).

I continued putting Opera Vista shows together, and we had a great success with Daron Hagen's Vera of Las Vegas. It was a few weeks before that when the CSPO broke my heart. I was suddenly operating on 2 broken hearts - one personal and another professional. I think it's about that point when I stopped blogging. It was also about that time that Opera Vista hit a stumbling block, and in many ways, that stumbling block was caused by me. I've since realized that my strength as a leader is in inspiring people and putting them in the position to succeed. At that time I decided, however, that it was time to put Opera Vista on my back and carry it forward. In doing that I moved away from my leadership style and began pushing people to work harder and to do more for the company. It felt a bit like I had to get Opera Vista to succeed right then and there - otherwise it was yet another failure in my life.

Between, the end of a relationship, the CSPO, and Opera Vista, nothing in my life seemed to be working. I felt like I had reached a point where I started with everything and ended up in a tiny apartment, living alone with 2 cats. I was now a "cat guy." I wish I had handled all that better, but I guess most people who confront crisis after crisis would say the same thing! The great thing about those years is that I have learned an immense amount about myself - both about my professional life and my personal life.

I look back to the end of my relationship with HER, and I realized that I never really listened. I thought I heard and understood, but I didn't. Things were bad for months before it ended, but I was so focused on Opera Vista because my name was tied to it that I didn't do what I should have for my personal life. I subsequently buried myself in my work only to realize that I hadn't fully found any balance. I then decided to drag Opera Vista kicking and screaming to success... Again no balance. Even in the midst of all that, Opera Vista pulled off two productions that I am so utterly proud of - Vera of Las Vegas and Powder Her Face. But again, I had found no balance. In the end, I realized that for me to be effective in love and in life, I need to maintain perspective and balance.

When people ask me whether I get nervous before conducting or before a concert, I always answer, "no.. If  we screw up, nobody dies." I have always said that as a matter of keeping the performance in perspective. The irony is that I didn't realize that in other aspects of my life. I have spent a lot of the past 2 years really taking stock of my life and simultaneously feeling like a character out of Into the Woods - "I wish... more than anything." In the end, I can say I'm excited about the future. I DO wish some things in my past had worked out differently - I don't think you can live life without wishing that. BUT, I am looking forward to the future. Opera Vista is in an amazing position and has a great fall season coming up. I guess Garth Brooks was right in his song, Unanswered Prayers:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers Onward and Upward!