There's no faking what opera singers do onstage. It's the result of legitimate hard work, and the staggering skills they show come precisely from not taking shortcuts or band-aid approaches to fixing problems. Real as it is, these artists have their bags of tricks. Singers, please forgive us for outing some of your little secrets...
Next up for our Aria Guides: the tenor's favourite scary aria, "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. It's an aria about love at first sight, about idealism, and about proving that music can be difficult to sing even if there are no B-flats or crazy coloratura. Along with your teachers and coaches, we can help with some tricky corners of this aria, and even get you confident about adding it to your audition package.
Sesto's Act I aria from La clemenza di Tito is somewhat of an Olympian feat for mezzo-sopranos. Packed into about 5 minutes, the aria has it all: a big, wide range, sustained lyric singing, and some intimidating coloratura saved for the end. The latest in our series of Aria Guides is dedicated to easing the learning curve for all aspiring Sestos, a supportive start to go with your invaluable time spent with your teachers and coaches.
Firstly, they can get hung up in all the notes, and start to drag the tempo as a result; the bigger trap actually precedes this first one, and that's spending too much time on all the notes. We're not suggesting you trade in fluttering scales for mashing the keys like a gorilla, but it's about picking your battles.
We don't know why it's so annoying that she does her "vocal scales" on the words "Ave Maria" (maybe it alludes to something a bit more classical). And ironically, her demonstration of the "wrong" way is easier on our ears than the "right" way, which upon hearing makes our throats sympathetically tighten.
There are a few instances where singers can really use this vibrato-as-litmus-test phenomenon. The examples are likely endless, but we've narrowed down a few sections from beloved arias, where attention to vibrato can keep the singing easy, and the singer honest.
For young singers, it's a fantastic way of working on breath control, and singing in that "not quite high enough" register that many sopranos find difficult. Read on to find a few general guidelines to get you through this aria; along with your teachers and coaches, we can help keep things simple, and indulgent in the right ways.
If you're an opera singer, cadenzas are your real "listen to ME" moment. The orchestra cuts out, and all ears are focused on your voice. Cadenzas come with lots of tradition, lots of hype, and they can be covert competitions among opera's inner circles. So, what makes a cadenza great? More notes? Extreme ranges? Surprise tricks up a singer's sleeve?
This is Juliette's first aria from Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, and she sings it after her nurse yet again brings up the fact that she has to get married to Paris. Juliette is young, and that can either mean she's giddy and exciteable, or that she's nervous and insecure about things like arranged marriages and being only 13 or so. "Je veux vivre" is a hugely popular pick for audition packages; it's not too long, it shows off some coloratura, and it's a great opportunity to show polished acting chops.
Ah, Don Ottavio. Is he the lame duck of Don Giovanni, or is he the quiet hero that doesn't get a lot of high notes? Whatever your opinions on the useless/heartfelt role of Ottavio, you can't deny that his arias are difficult, and often thankless. "Dalla sua pace" is an introductory piece to Ottavio's character; we get that he's sympathetic to Donna Anna's emotional highs and lows, and we know we'll never meet a more dedicated man when it comes to love.