“I do not mind what language an opera is sung in so long as it is an language I do not understand.” Sir Edward Appleton
There are plenty of different people who love a certain singer or composer. Each to their own, after all. However, when it comes to music, opera and its magnificence are at the pinnacle with singers who, over centuries and centuries, have made their way onto the stage to accompany an entire symphonic orchestra on their own.
This incredible energy and physical prowess is enough to leave is stupefied. It’s more than that, though. It’s an art form in itself where notes which would otherwise be impossible for an amateur or beginner to croon are beautifully delivered to the ears of music lovers.
A lot of young people tend to characterise opera as ridiculous affairs with elements like people dressed as trees singing in German. To be fair, most French people don’t understand everything going on in Carmen and Italians would say the same when it comes to the operas of Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini (which are in Italian).
However, you have to say it’s a complete art form in the every sense of the word. Who doesn’t dream of being able to sing with the incredible and elegant timbre of Luciano Pavarotti or Roberto Alagna? Here are a few tips and tricks to set you on your merry way.
We’ve already been able to put together ten different elements that you’ll need if you want to start singing baroque music or classic opera.
Opera singing requires that the singer moves the audience just like the strings of a violin can pull on your heart strings. (Source: Donald Tong)
Train your ear (familiarise yourself with the masterpieces of Haydn, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninov, Schumann, Bellini, Mahler, Britten, Brahms, Offenbach, Beethoven, Rameau, Franz Schubert, Handel, Gluck, Debussy, Gounod, Strauss, Vivaldi, Massenet, etc.)
Learn to sing in key with the help of video and audio resources and a private tutor (additionally, studying music theory or knowing how to play an instrument will help a lot, too)
Study a bit of Italian, German, French, and Spanish, so that you can read the language of almost any opera before you learn to sing in the operatic style.
Once you’re old enough, work out what your tessitura is and record yourself regularly while looking at the notes and advice your vocal coach leaves you.
Enter into competitions or start attending a music school.
Never stop training. However, make sure you don’t overdo it and exhaust your throat. If you smoke, you should quit immediately.
Develop and master all the different subtleties and singing techniques (vibrato, trills, etc.) and learn to sing as part of a duet or along to a philharmonic orchestra.
Don’t forget the importance of your acting and your stage presence.
Perform in public.
Persevere but also remember to have a back-up plan.
If there’s one big difference between a club singer and an absolute diva, it’s how powerful their voices are. In short, it’s like trying to compare the singing of a breathy indie girl singer and Beyoncé in terms of the power in their voices.
The first thing that characterises power in people’s voices is how they breathe. This, in turn, depends on the pitches made by the vocal cords. An agile thoracic cavity is half of what makes a great singer a great singer…
When singing, they need to work on their breathing in exactly the same way that athletes and sports stars do when they want to win. The pressure needs to be balanced and maintained both above and below the throat in order to be able to sing strongly with minimal effort.
The airflow needs to be regulated. It’s easy to make a single sound, like when using the whistle register but it can be difficult in other registers. Try not to overexert yourself as you may find yourself losing your voice. This is one of the biggest worries for those working on their voice, losing it.
In fact, mentally, don’t consider it as singing loudly but rather as making yourself heard by those who are far away.
A piano keyboard is divided into octaves from the lowest to the highest.
When it comes to both male and female voices, you can say the same. Singers are classified in terms of the range of notes they can produce. Generally, female singers are classified as (from lowest to highest):
Being able to tell the difference between the bass clef and the treble clef is basic music theory. (Source: pixabay.com)
Male singers are usually classified as:
Each of these categories are often further divided into sub-classes. To make things even more complicated, certain composers even amuse themselves by writing particularly difficult parts for singers and really challenging them in terms of their range and abilities.
Don’t worry, though. While tenors and sopranos seem to often be the stars of the show, there are plenty of starring roles for all types of voice!
It should go without saying that in the past, composers and artists would come under heavy criticism and end up never playing again.
While things aren’t as strict in the modern world, if you want to avoid metaphorical rotten vegetables, you’re going to have to work on vocal technique, master music theory, and completely refine your voice for an ever-scrupulous audience.
What would people say if a pianist performing a Berlioz piano concerto had never learnt his scales or his arpeggios? You can already imagine all the rotten vegetables being thrown upon the stage.
How can you tell one tenor from another? It’s often their range. The range of one tenor can make them much more suitable for a role than another. Of course, they’re expected to have mastered their range before they start trying to hit the higher notes and falsetto using a head voice before going on to master a more powerful chest voice.
As you can see, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Of course, you should look at works like The Barber of Seville, Lohengrin, Hamlet, The Tales of Hoffman, The Marriage of Figaro, Requiem, and Il Trovatore.
Opera singing is first and foremost a passion: we love music, we train our musical ears, then we start joyfully discovering new works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (The Magic Flute, for example, with Queen of the Night), Bizet, Gaetano Donizetti, Richard Wagner, Rossini, etc.
The first thing you need to learn is to sing in key. Ideally, you’ll learn this as young as possible so that you won’t have too many gaps in your knowledge and will be able to effortlessly tackle the more difficult activities later on in your training. Additionally, you should consider music theory classes or singing lessons. There are plenty of music workshops and classes around the country for young children who are interested in it.
Unfortunately, some people are more talented than others when it comes to music. Not everyone has a naturally beautiful voice or a mastery of vibrato necessary to play the starring role in an opera. However, even if you do have the voice of a famous tenor, it’s not worth anything if you don’t persevere with singing or just stop enjoying music altogether.
In order to expand your knowledge, you should attend operas, visit famous theatres (both in the UK and around the world).
If you want to perform in the world’s most famous opera houses, you’ll have to work tirelessly on your vocal techniques. (Source: Amy Wakley)
Musical knowledge will also help a great deal. If you play an instrument like the trombone, horn, baritone saxophone, harp, accordion, harpsichord, cello, or the contrabass, this will be really useful when studying singing and music theory.
The ideal method is to start learning as young as possible (adolescence at the latest) with the help of a quality vocal coach who specialised in the human voice and its physiology. Puberty can be a trying experience, especially when singing. Once your voice breaks, you’ll have to re-learn how to use it. Fortunately, you don’t have to start completely from scratch when this happens.
This is where a vocal coach can be a huge help. At around 16 years of age for girls (and a bit later for boys), your ideal tessitura will take shape.
The learning process can take a long time. It always requires that you have self-confidence, perseverance, physical endurance, and are determined. Physiologically speaking, singers at this kind of level are the equivalent of top-level athletes.
With a lot of hard work, you could end up being good enough to enter into singing competitions in order to attend some of the most prestigious schools around the world. Your first modest performances will put you well on your way to becoming a professional and performing some of the biggest masterpieces of opera from greats such as Purcell, Wagner, and Berlioz, for example.
What comes after that? Contracts raining on your desk? A European tour? International fame?
Sign up for your first singing lessons now.