Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Part 2: Acting for Opera Singers! Being expressive is NOT Acting!

Wednesday musings...

An opera student was confused by this statement this week and asked me to elaborate...

Thus, part 2 of acting for opera singers...

Overall - being a singer of ANY genre requires a multitude of layers and complexities to discover behavioral techniques in every aspect of what it means to SING and be on stage!  Voice, musicianship, and acting behavior.

Having a physically balanced and resonate vocal instrument does not assume a singer sings musically or expressively;  the instrument itself can sing the notes well but not be musical at all!  A voice can be musical but not be expressive - it can be pretty and have nothing to say!  And just because you gesture or pretend to "feel" the character, doesn't mean you are acting!!!!

Each technique has its behavior, and each behavior must integrate with the other to create a multi-dimensional and complex reality that shows no technique.  We can work on each simultaneously - with our focus moving from one to the other over time in order to integrate more thoroughly.

Each level of creating a multi-dimensional technique demands attention, awareness and skill.

You may love your music, but it doesn't make you musical.  You may be innately expressive, but it doesn't mean  your voice functions in a way to carry that expression.

And then the acting....

Expression comes from musicality.  Musicality is brought to higher relief with the KNOWLEDGE of what informs it.  The musicianship skills and technique of language, of articulation, of shaping, of style, or genre...expression comes from the music and the instruction therein.  It comes from the style and the form and evoking of that style and form.  It creates with the combination of knowledge and execution of style and musicianship.

This is not acting.

Acting allows for the knowledge of expression, but it is another level entirely.  In opera, or any musical genre, the music helps to create a layer of character - but it isn't the character itself.

Building a fully dimensional character means ALL aspects of technical behavior are developing...

Waiting to have one in place until you address the other simply cannot happen.  You can allow for overlap!!!  Otherwise, there is no place to integrate!!

Acting is DOING.  Doing is not feeling.  You do not "do" an emotion.  You "do" an action.

Action is how you allow your audience to feel.  You EVOKE from your action.  The security of your technique,  and expressiveness of your musicality will have even more authenticity if the character you create takes ACTION and is not passive and simply isn't  FEELING!

So - take yourself through some simple it's not easy.  If it were easy, everybody could do it!!! And even though many think they CAN, few have the craft!

WHO is your character?  WHY is your character?  WHAT is your character?  (nothing "expressive" about this is there?)

WHY the aria you are singing? What's the point?  What conflict does it create?  Does it resolve?  Does it continue?  Does it continue the plot?  Does it reinforce something?  Does it promote something?  Does it foreshadow something?  Does it give another knowledge of something?  What is it there for?

What happens AFTER the aria?  Why?

So, to get from A to B - there needs to be action!

What journey do you need to take your audience on?  What emotions do you wish to evoke in them?  How often do they need to shift or change?  Is your audience directly involved in this journey, or indirectly via another character, an internal conflict,  what?

Begin creating ACTION words for yourself - and the beauty is that they can have nothing to do with anything!  They need to be STRONG and not passive.  They need a PHYSICALITY!

"I want to be loving" a singer once told me;  well how does the character "DO" "LOVE"????

"passion?" was the confused answer.  And me " How do you "do" Passion?"

"Well, I could TASTE him", she responded suddenly and everybody laughed.

I said "DO IT - TASTE him with your breath, with your intention - through the ENTIRE first section".

She did.  It was incredible.  Everybody in the audience felt like a voyeur and loved it!  Her action brought her voice, her subtext, her expression in the relief of ACTING.  We suddenly experienced a CHARACTER and a level of subtext that transported us so we didn't SEE technique of ANY kind.

This, my gentle snowflakes, is the beginning of the discovery of acting.  THE DOING.  The doing creates the wonderful theatrical mystery that makes it seem as if the character is experiencing every emotion that you, the audience is.

Layer it, fill it, discover it - ALL.  One cannot be enough.  No it's not easy.  Yes it takes time.

Theatre isn't about chicken shit.  Theatre is about recognizing truth, committing to it and claiming it!  YOU HAVE TO TAKE ACTION AND GET IT YOURSELF.

Having a pretty sound isn't enough;  being expressive or musical isn't enough;  being an actor isn't enough;  ALL of it is necessary!  ALL of it is accessible by allowing it to integrate and develop together...

You don't put an outfit together by wearing one piece at a time - you need the outfit in all its parts at the SAME time, or it simply isn't an outfit.



  1. Thank you!!!!!
    - Ynina :)

  2. I totally agree that being expressive is not what we called acting. As what I have understand acting is something that you portray while expressive is expressing once feelings.

    Thanks for sharing by the way!