Singing is a very personal art form. An instrumentalist has to deal with, and touch, other objects--a violin, a piano, etc. However, singers are the object of the art, and singing is the most personal way to express it. It is you, and you are it. The breath that is involved with singing is a technical thing. It is part of the training that helps to produce the voice in the best form possible. But breath, in terms of the Spirit of God, is really about the sense I get of being in the hands of God when I sing. I really do feel I am in touch with something much higher than myself, and much higher than the performance I am giving. I am in the hands of God, who guides me far beyond any technical expertise I may have.
I never go out onto the stage without praying. I have to have that moment before I go onstage, because I will not go out without letting God know I need his strength. One night, I was supposed to perform, and I was very ill. This happened in Dallas. It was the opening of the wonderful new hall there, in 1989. My recital was supposed to be the first one held there. As always, I took time to pray before, and somehow I was able to get to the stage. I leaned on the piano because I was very weak and ill, and I prayed silently after each note, as if saying to God, "It's really not up to me alone. It's up to you and me." I will always remember that night, because I probably did the best singing I have ever done. With every note, I felt God's presence. After the performance, I was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with diverticulitis.
I think all artists are vessels and we are guided in the way we express our art. I feel so grateful to God that He gave me the gift of being able to sing. I cannot believe that any artist does not acknowledge that his or her art was a gift from God. It has been said of the composer Giuseppe Verdi that he was an agnostic. I do not believe you can compose the Verdi Requiem and be an agnostic. Whenever I sang the Requiem, my own experiences and my total belief in the omnipotent merged so completely. Conductors have told me it seemed as if I were having an out-of-body experience when I sang it--that I was someplace else, though of course, always in the music, but outside the notes. In every performance I have ever done of Verdi's Requiem, it felt as if God wrote every note.