Pianists, when you're playing orchestral reductions, it's all a complicated system of smoke and mirrors. Rather than on getting every note under your fingers, your priorities lay in creating a broader palate of sound, representing the different sections of a hypothetical orchestra. There's a difference in sound between a viola and an oboe, and a group of strings can have a different collective rhythm than a group of winds.
What I've found is that rolled Rs in a singer's text can act as a sort of litmus test for where that singer is maintaining their resonance. As a coach, if I ask for more consonants in an Italian aria, and a rolled R seems difficult to project, the problem usually lies in the preceding vowel.
Technically, a singer's deadline for learning and perfecting a role is opening night. In reality, the ubiquitous deadline for opera singers is the first day of music rehearsals with the conductor. In this rehearsal, most singers want to a) sing incredibly well, b) make the conductor happy and c) not embarrass themselves in front of colleagues.
Some folks have an inner pulse that rivals most metronomes. Others have to work for rhythmic perfection. Singers, we know you all get bad reputations among classical music circles for not being able to count, and frankly, sometimes you earn the stereotype. Singers who work regularly have excellent rhythm, and they know how to make music within a beat structure.
Répétiteurs, rehearsal pianists, the ones who repeat sections of music over and over; they're a special breed of pianist, with an insanely focused set of skills. Being a répétiteur is one of those jobs that can feel thankless, where people only notice your playing when you mess up. It's about checking your pianist ego at the door, and facilitating a rehearsal for others: singers, conductors, and directors.
If you go to hear Claire de Sévigné in an opera, there's a good chance she's the one singing the highest. The Canadian coloratura is a graduate of the COC Ensemble Studio, a recent finalist of the Montréal International Music Competition, and soon to be a member of the International Opera Studio at the Zürich Opernhaus.
The universal steps to learning a song, I know you've all got them down. You can read music, count rhythms, learn language, and tell stories. A lot of the music I work with involves a pianist and singer, and duetting is all about communication. In the process of "learning your part," it's easy to forget to look up (or down) at some of the other musical lines happening in tandem with your own.
As classical singers, we constantly are looking for creative ways to learn a language quickly and affordably. Languages are important to our craft: we sing in different languages, we work in different countries, and our colleagues speak different languages. Yet we’re often not in another country long enough to learn the language by exposure alone.
When it comes to singing coloratura, it's easy to imagine that there are those who can, and those who cannot. "She's always been able to move her voice," we say, as if it's a skill one is born with. That may be true, but it doesn't mean the rest of you will never sing fast notes.
It's summer program season, everyone. I'm so excited for you all! These are good months, spent in intensive training programs with teachers and coaches that are hard to pin down throughout the year. Lightbulb moments will be had, and new arias will be learned.