Singers know well that bel canto opera is demanding stuff. For pianists, a quick glance at the sparse, simple accompaniments in the arias by Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini can give the false impression that the repertoire is simple. The notes may be straightforward, but there's more to the art of playing bel canto than meets the eye:
What would opera singers be without their stretchy, malleable tempos? More specifically, where would they be without the unwritten rules - "performance practice", they're often called - about when you simply must take some extra time? Opera is no place for heartless clockwork; but when it comes to mastering operatic skills, sometimes being a cold metronome is a clarifying experiment.
Readers, the beginning of a new school year is almost upon us. Some of you get excited by the autumn colours and the fresh notebooks; some of you emit a strong sigh of "here we go again." Whether you're a fan of the fall-to-spring grind or not, it's better-spent with a good dose of focus.
Mozart's Così fan tutte - that weird mix of romantic comedy and relationship commentary - is one of the most common picks in the operatic canon; yet for many tenors, Ferrando's first aria, "Un aura amorosa", tends to come with a bit of jitters and baggage. It's fairly slow, and sits in an exposed and tricky range of the voice. When it's done well, all the technical feats go largely unnoticed, overshadowed by the beauty of Mozart's writing.
It's a cornerstone of the operatic repertoire: Violetta's Act I aria from La traviata. It's got everything, from delicious long lines to flashy coloratura, and it has the special honour of closing the opera's first act. Violetta is a role that most sopranos covet, and many of them start their Traviata trip with "Sempre libera". Along with the work you do with your voice teachers and coaches, our latest Aria Guide a little naviagtion kit to help you along your way:
Have you ever been faced with an ugly truth that's hard to deny? That's the gist of the stunning "Embroidery Aria", sung by Ellen Orford in Britten's Peter Grimes. The Embroidery Aria is no easy sing, and as you work on it in the practice room and with your teachers and coaches, we can help you get off on the right track with our latest Aria Guide:
It's brisk, colourful, more than a little meta in subject matter, and it's a trouser role to boot. It's a densely packed aria that shows off your goods, and there's a fine line to tread between singing beautifully in the way that Strauss so often asks for, and pushing your voice into the realm of screaming.
Music that's meant to be slow can come with side effects like heaviness and stagnancy, which make the singing process unnecessarily difficult. Often the easiest way to find an aria's shape - and uncover some decent phrases - is to practice it at a metronome marking that's decidedly too fast.
There are some words that aren't actually helped by being overly literal with the pronunciation. The T's in words like "better" and "getting" have a natural tendency to sound more like D's; depending on how they're set, the sung versions of these words come out more clearly by keeping these "lazy" D sounds. An airy T sound can actually obscure the sound of the word, since it's unfamiliar to the ear.
Since we're in the business of helping you all stay passionate about it, we're pleased to share this great infographic from the folks over at TakeLessons.com. In the midst of all the things there are to learn about singing and musicianship, it can be easy to skip the bare essentials, like keeping your body healthy, limber, and prepped for great artistry.