15 May 2020
I wanted to thank you for your interest in my story and career, taking the time to read my book and write a very generous and comprehensive review of my narrative. I have little to retort on the critique because I welcome it all; it is a crucial and only way I believe I can grow, by learning from unique views and developing my craft and outlook from there.
I also agree with your astute view that I held back on delving into the socio-politics of the opera world, singing techniques and how they have changed for me through the years and other pertinent issues I alluded to but did not expound upon. When I first wrote and self-published the book in 2014, I had graduated from the Academy of Vocal Arts and it was very much the first time I performed as a full professional without the bounds of student life.
The book came from my writing as a therapeutic exercise and later as a memoir to answer some questions from interested patrons and students keen to know more about my background and what motivated me as a performer.
But I had a quandary to resolve because I felt I was not yet at a level where I could talk about vocal techniques or go deeper into the politics of opera. After all, I was only starting.
You have also pointed out the intricacies of the opera world, which is driven by private donors, wealthy corporations and in some countries, funded by the government. This presented a unique situation: Would my book be a full biography and scholarly in its form and expound on the socio-political, socio-economic and touch on some scientific and technical landscape of singing?
That would pose a challenge because what authority did I have?
Thus, I decided that a memoir – comprising selective memories and focusing on the hard realities of starting an opera career- would be more appropriate and achievable for a first attempt at telling my story.
After self-publishing, I spent the next two years trying to get respectable bookshops to store and sell my books, but they rebuffed me. I also tried reviewers and publishing houses to publish a new edition, that way the book could be accessible to students in South Africa, but that also did not produce any favourable results.
Then, in 2017, Marlene Fryer from Penguin Random House gave me a shot. I had to rework the manuscript and add more anecdotes to it. We all agreed to stick to the setup and not change too much.
I have been thinking about the missing parts of the book and I am writing and storing for a new edition that would probably be in four years when I turn forty.
Having read Es’kia Mphahlele’s Down Second Avenue and many other biographies, which inspired me to love reading and writing, I much appreciate how comprehensive and intriguing an autobiography needs to be, I can only aspire to get there someday.