The classical singing world is at a crucial point in its history. One hundred years ago, there was very little competition for audience members’ attention. Fifty years ago, opera stars were known celebrities and performed on primetime television. We are in a completely different world now, one that most of the great operatic composers would never have been able to imagine. Classical music is in competition with every other type of media available for the attention of over-stimulated, over-committed fans. It is so much easier for music lovers to stay home and be entertained by electronic devices than for them to buy tickets and travel to see a live operatic performance. There has to be a compelling reason to keep audience members coming. Shocking interpretations, unusual costumes and computer-generated images can only go so far in enthralling an audience for hours at a time. What is consistently enthralling about opera is the soul-touching music that speaks universally to generation after generation without seeming tired, hackneyed or anything other than miraculous. And the power of that music rests largely on the techniques of the singers performing it. Great music performed by mediocre singers sounds mediocre. Great music performed by great singers and supported by meaningful interpretations, sets and costumes has the ability to transport the audience and offer a powerful, visceral experience that can never be had by virtual options.
That type of experience is what makes live operatic performances unique. For opera to survive, it is crucial that singers are trained to embody all of the necessary qualities for a truly professional sound, that teachers learn how to recognize and teach those qualities effectively in all voice types and that opera companies hire the very best singers to perform. The magic of opera lies in the music and the music deserves to be sung ravishingly. This is the way for opera to not only survive, but to thrive in the 21st century.
These crucial qualities of the professional singing voice will be discussed in detail in my blog for the next few weeks, along with examples of singers who exemplify these qualities. Stay tuned and keep up the training of your own ears.
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