Part of the job of the music staff working on an opera is to deliver notes to the singers. Notes, in this context, are basically "things the singer is doing wrong". If you're a music staff member with compassion, this process can leave you feeling at best like Toby from The Office, or at worst, Estelle Costanza from Seinfeld.
Next up in our series of Aria Guides: Mimì's first aria from Puccini's infamous La bohème. The aria is Mimì's response to Rodolfo;s "Che gelida manina", and together, they form one of opera's most amazing moments of "getting to know you". Puccini's scores are rich in detail, and he doesn't leave much to the imagination. But along with your teachers and coaches, we can offer a few starting points as you get to work on this delicious bit of music.
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.
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.
We're continuing our Song Guides series with another guest post by mezzo-soprano and founding member of the art song initiative Lynx Project, Megan Moore. Schumann's "Widmung" is one of many songs Robert Schumann wrote for his wife, Clara. That's the fun part, and to get there, singers need to master things like singing legato in German, and pulling off a successful two-against-three.