11/07/2014 01:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Now and Then

Remember wondering how in the world things might change in our world as much as they had in our parents' lifetime?

This past week Carnegie Hall started a series of live, web-streamed concerts with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato's Carnegie Hall Recital via

Podcasts are now a norm in classical music. Many singers speak directly to fans from their webcams. Blogs and Twitter feeds are everywhere. Marketing and publicity are a whole new animal that once was only print-oriented. Now they account for much of the time a singer puts into their career through all of the above.


Courtesy of Opera News.

In 2000 I was the poster girl on the cover of Opera News magazine with the headline, "Singers in Cyberspace." I am way behind that eight ball now. Even more ironic, as I try to keep up with the world, I have been asked to present a Selfie Session at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in December.

My "pre-technology" time on the road was quite isolated. I was either resting for a performance or just tired of feeling so lonely from dining and sightseeing alone. This is a struggle that exists for all singers who travel a lot even now but it is eased by the virtual world. My hours, days and months away from loved ones contributed to general melancholy for me. This combined with my history of domestic abuse prevented me from being as upbeat, bubbly, or engaging as many of my colleagues. I know in some ways this hurt my career because there was a perception of aloofness. I have to believe that if I had the access to social networking and the Internet that exists today, I would have experienced less isolation.

At risk of sounding like an old fart, here are some differences in life on the road, particularly abroad, between now and the first 20 years of my 34-year career.

Now: Air travel is booked online

Then: The choice was a travel agent. Aside from People's Express (who remembers that?) airfares could be pretty steep.

Now: Cell phones

Then: I paid astronomic phone bills for land line (who even thought there would be any other kind?) use from hotels. In Europe I was lucky to even have a phone, and when I did, I heard the click click click of each little snodget of time racking up. In Italy, I had to wait in a long line at the SIP (Società Italiano per L'Esercizio Telefonica) for a booth from which to call home. European airports and post offices had rooms with phone cubicles where I could place a semi-affordable call. In Zürich I had to wait by a payphone at a designated time each morning to get a call from home.

Now: Internet/Facebook/Skype, and more

Through Facebook, especially, I am in touch with so many friends, students and colleagues. The "community" I missed in the past, is now virtual.

Then: No Internet in the early years but then once the information highway appeared I used dial-up for an Compuserve Account. Skype was something out of Get Smart or a James Bond film. Boy, would I have loved to keep contact with my son via Skype. And as far as a community, at home I was always preparing to leave again and therefore did not feel a part of a community or routine.

Now: Available reading material in English anywhere in the world

You can get just about anything in any language anywhere due to global trade or online.

Then: I would shop for cheap books and then ship them over to Europe in order to have something to read. If I had enough money I would rely on the International Herald Tribune to get my news each day. In some ways this was a great exercise choosing novels that had relevance to the country to which I was headed.

Now: TV is watched online or on demand. I can even access my Dish Network remotely on my iPad.

Then: I had a portable radio on which I could listen to the BBC. TVs were an extreme luxury. Heck, just figuring out the German word for one took a while. (It is Fernsehen, in case your are interested; word that bears no resemblance to TV.)

Now: email

Then: At first the only option was postal service which even with airmail stickers on pale-blue, light-weight onion skin paper that would take at least a week to get to Europe and vice versa. Then fax machines appeared and with it, immediate communication.

Now: ATM and online banking

Then: We were paid in cash at intermission necessitating hiding the funds in my armpits and going to Foreign Exchange on a regular basis.

It is a bit like being a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. I am surrounded by technology but working in an over 200-year-old art form.