With a blog title like that, I feel a little like the operatic version of a Carrie Bradshaw!!! However, wanted to give you a little giggle if I could!
This has come up time and time again - and I've been thinking about it a great deal.
First of all - what is fach in opera? It is a theatrical system developed in Germany for determining what roles a certain voice type would sing. It can be a bewildering thing at times!!
It is not a system of absolutes - thank god. Some singers just do not "fit" comfortably into one fach. Some roles have been traditionally looked at as a certain fach, and now are morphing into others...
So, as singers - how do we find some answers and figure some things out for ourselves? Of course, having that team of teacher/coaches around you will also help!
As with type in Music Theatre, your fach is gonna change!!! As your voice continues to find its depth and strength and development, this often indicates you may move from a certain set of roles to another. Not always, but often. If you stay within a fach, you will just inform it more thoroughly as the voice settles.
And here is what drives me nuts...personal pet peeve: WE ARE NOT ALL DRAMATIC VOICES!!!!! and guess what?! IT IS OKAY!!!!!!!!
Bigger is NOT better if you aren't physically or vocally built to be a dramatic voice. What happened to being in love with being a soubrette??? I would like that to be okay again...
So - perhaps the first and foremost thing is this : STUDY. Develop that voice, see where it is and see where it MIGHT be. I often see singers who try to jump into repertoire that is beyond them right away, and end up crashing and burning because they tried to walk before they crawled. Often, what has to happen then, is going back and learning to crawl. Learning those roles that lead into the next, in order to develop the necessary vocabulary and language - vocally, stylistically etc - to bring authenticity.
STUDY TRADITION. This is important for several reasons: know where these roles originated and who was singing them and why. Recognize that the singing athlete today is NOT what went on 50-60 years ago, so begin to develop a compare and contrast of what was considered the norm then and why and how it differs today.
STUDY CHARACTERIZATION. Fach is THEATRICAL device. Recognize HOW it has been used, how it continues to be used, and how it is often used differently from country to country. And in North America, how it can be different house to house!
DISCOVER HONESTY. This is the hardest one. KNOW YOUR VOICE. Be honest with yourself. Be TRUE with yourself.
Another pet peeve - young singers who think they NEED to fach themselves too early in their development. DO NOT PUT YOURSELF IN A BOX!!!! There always seems to be a need to say "Hi I'm so-and-so and I'm a such-and-such soprano". I am amazed as I consult with younger singers how micro-fach they become "Hi, I'm so-and-so and I'm a full lyric moving into spinto with a dash of dramatic and on good days slight coloratura soprano".
I feel like I am at Starbucks ordering a voiced-latte!!!
I would like to suggest to you, that ALL voices if developed well, need to find lyricism, fioritura, dramatic depth, and physicality and commitment.
What if you don't NEED to be ANYTHING as a young singer? What is you JUST SING and find that voice first and learn to sing?
As you develop the voice and find its true balance, and discover the character in the voice and its relationship to your physicality, perhaps the roles and fach you can explore will become apparent from the inside out.
If we begin with arias being simply notes on a page, anybody can sing the notes. But that is just the beginning. Then, can you sustain the athleticism physically and vocally, not to mention, artistically for that role? And can you be heard through an orchestra the size that the composer wrote for, in a house that you need to sing in today?
If there is ANY hesitation, perhaps it's time to take a step back and re-evaluate.
As I had eluded to in an earlier blog, opera is theatre, and we are seeing more and more that the physical type is becoming more prominent in casting, not just the "park and honk" mentality. HOWEVER, every fach demands a certain physicality - not just in character but in vocal strength and endurance. Does your voice match your body type? Another consideration as you develop your understanding of voice and fach and characterization.
There are reasons the Wagner girls are usually bigger than the soubrettes!!! THEY HAVE TO BE to make and sustain that much SOUND PRESSURE!
So, to you young singers, please DO NOT fach too soon, let along micro-fach yourself! You will often notice that singers who have been around a minute or two longer tend to just give their general category: "I'm a soprano, I'm a baritone" etc. They do not specify. They don't need to. Opening up their mouths and singing will give enough information if they have done the work.
Perhaps aiming for THAT truth will make that fach more apparent to all concerned.
Susan Eichhorn Young
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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