Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Wish for Opera AND Music Theatre

Wednesday musings...

Sorry I've been MIA - the end of summer got ridiculously full.

As the fall season begins to develop momentum,  I have a wish for the development of opera and music theatre.

I wish Opera Singers and the training that goes into singing opera - be it undergrad, grad school, conservatory programs and semi-professional/professional YAPs and summer programs - could find a consistency in the development of opera singer as ACTOR.

Overall, this is lacking in operatic training.  Yes, there are some programs that spend time and energy on it, but in general it is a major part of theatrical training that is lacking, or in some cases, not there at all!

Ideally, Operatic training needs, along with voice development and language training et al,  NEEDS movement classes,  basic dance classes,  acting through physicality, acting through language, character development,  stage combat classes and an introduction to stage make up and wigs.

Opera is indeed about the VOCE, but it IS theatre after all!!  It is NOT park and bark.  It is NOT "light my good side",  it is not "look away acting"!!!  (ask me if you aren't sure about THAT one!!!)

What saddens me is that there are MANY singers who are operatically trained who have little to no stage craft,  little to no acting skills or discipline and have to often figure it out themselves.

If we began the integration of voice and physicality of acting from the beginning, how much more versatile our opera singers would be!!!  How much more evolved would singers be in the integration of craft and discipline - singing AND acting.  Not singing and pretending to act.

Acting is NOT pretending.  Acting is behavior just like singing is.  We don't want to see your technique while you sing, nor do we want to see it, or the lack of it when you act!  Combining of the two takes time and exposure and development.

Opera singers who have acting training,  who understand language and character - through tone, through breath, through physicality - don't walk and move and gesture like an opera singer!  They develop a dimensional sensibility of the physicality of the character.  There is dimensional realization that is larger than life and not positioned!  Character reality emerges!

On the flip side - what I wish for ALL music theatre singers is that they all study voice REGULARLY to develop a behavioral technique that allows them to align and discover the ENTIRE voice.

Singers who have learned how to find their TRUE voice,  how it aligns, how it resonates,  how it  physicalizes with the breath and the body, how athletic it can be,  are so much more able to discover stylistic authenticity, AND develop strength of endurance and stability!

Many theatre singers are afraid if they study they might sound too "classical".  Wrong.  All "classical" training does it to develop the voice fully,  so the singer can then begin to explore the details of further technical prowess to inform the styles he/she is pursuing.

The so-called "classical" training should be required for EVERY singer.  Why?  It allows the singer to emerge from somewhere and have a place to return.  It creates a balanced alignment of muscle, breath, resonance and athleticism to allow a place of departure.  If there is a "neutrally balanced" instrument (my term),  the voice has OPTIONS to move and develop specificity of style and genre.

This will allow the singer to utilize only what he/she needs.  This gives options! This develops security of technical behavior and clear technical decision.

Great technique means the voice will LAST!!!  In music theatre, because we are required to part of the equipment and often do 8 shows a week,  wouldn't you WANT a voice that LASTED?!?!?

The voice develops endurance and sustainability and longevity not cause you wish it so;  but because you BUILD IT HEALTHILY!!!

Imagine in all of "Musical Theatre" - be it Opera, or contemporary Music Theatre - that we had authenticity of character, of acting, AND of singing in EVERY style.

If each teacher and each singer takes responsibility to do their part - it is possible.

It takes recognition, responsibility, dedication and the DOING!

I will do what I can in my little corner - so what are YOU doing?


  1. You make some excellent points. One of the reasons I enjoyed NYCO's Don G. so much was that the singers could act--all the principals had superb physicality while singing. The direction demanded nothing less than heroics in terms of fluid singing and acting. It was an excellent show as a result. Concerts-in-costume, if they ever were popular, are definitely out of fashion.

  2. Hurrah! What gets me are the singers who use "opera" as an excuse NOT to act.

  3. This is SO TRUE!!! I am a student, and I can't tell you how many times I have been thankful in my musical theatre roles for my voice training, and in my opera roles for my acting training. It is so necessary to be knowledgeable in both fields. Both amateurs and professionals alike tend to rise to the top of the field when they combine good technique in both. I think singers and actors both are cheating themselves out of a good education if they exclude one of these fundamentals. Why wouldn't you want to be on top of your game! Wonderful! Thanks for sharing :-)

  4. It's NOT "light my good side"??? Damn...


  5. It's NOT "light my good side"??? Damn...
    LOL. Very funny!