That Little, Inner Voice

Lily Pons - Silvermine, Connecticut
Broadcast during the 1950s
Lily Pons
Themes: fear

I have always suffered terribly from nervousness before each performance. But throughout the years, I have tried to control this stage fright to such a degree that I would be the only one aware of it. And by assuming a virtue I did not possess—to quote Mr. Shakespeare—I actually gained a benefit from this assumed attitude.

I believe that nervousness before an important event is not the result of fear or cowardice but the realization of the great responsibility and the wish to fulfill my task to the best of our ability. Somewhere along the line, the assumed attitude of calmness became a reality, with the result that today I am actually less nervous than if I had given in to my natural inclination right along.

Life has given me many blessings, but there are others which I should acquire through planning, study, and perseverance. Nature was kind to me when it gave me a voice, but I certainly was not born a finished singer. Years of vocal exercise, musical lessons, language studies, and histrionic experience brought me nearer to being a finished performer. Although I would by no means pride myself on ever having achieved the final goal.

There are numerous other aspects of life where I can benefit from an assumed attitude. All of us, for instance, are born with a certain amount of native instinct, that little voice which tells us, with or without rhyme or reason, that a certain thing is so, for that we should follow the particular course or not follow it. Unfortunately, however, in modern times we have been taught since infancy to discard that little, inner voice and believe only in cold facts. I yet assume a trust in this instinct.

I have always tried to listen to that little, inner voice to guide me in my decisions on serious as well as frivolous questions. Now I invest in the language of that little voice. I can distinguish between the times when it shows me a beneficial road or when it will lead me on a wild goose chase. In assuming this or any other virtue, I am merely trying to better myself and to enrich my life. Without a desire to always develop as a person and an artist, I would become smug and self-contented, and I will have gone through life without actually having lived it.

Born in Cannes, France, Lily Pons was a coloratura soprano with the Metropolitan Opera from 1931 to 1960. She frequently starred in such roles as Lucia, Rigoletto and Gilda. Pons was married to conductor Andre Kostelanetz, and she died in 1976.