What is the protocol when choosing repertoire for competition/festival work? I mean, REALLY?
If we are looking festival work that is amateur-driven, this can get difficult as a singer must follow the rules the festival classes dictate and don't always fall into the categories suggested.
If we talk opera classes - and I am - this is an even deeper kettle of fish!!!
If you are going to enter an opera class - be it baroque, classical, grand, contemporary - whatever - you need to know why.
Because you want to isn't good enough. Seriously.
Most opera classes in festivals draw younger singers who in all honesty have no business working on opera yet. Even if you can sing the notes of the aria you present, you are not ready to present the entire role yet. However, the opera class isn't asking for the entire role, they are asking for an aria to represent an era.
What is the criteria to make this decision? Who is involved in the decision making? Why? Why not?
If everybody is an opera singer then nobody is. It is FINE to bypass these classes. REALLY. There are usually many other more appropriate classes for singers to enter!
The decision must lie with the teacher and singer together. Which frightens me sometimes as I wonder what you were thinking to put the singer in that position!
Performance of ANY kind creates a vulnerability for a performer. Competition creates another vulnerability what a marking system and a public adjudication.
As a singer, wouldn't you want to be so prepared, and so ready to meet the repertoire that you wouldn't have to worry about being prepared?
So, what do you need to ask yourself before you say "yes, I am entering the opera class?"
Can you sing? Is your voice balanced? Is there enough dimension and resonance to take on the style you wish to portray? If you still have no core, if you are breathy, if you don't know how physical your breath and support can be right now to create enough intensity, then perhaps the opera class is not right for you.
How can you choose repertoire if your voice has not developed enough to really approach a fach possibility?
Do you have a real grasp on the language the opera is written in? Have your researched the style of the composer and the opera itself? Do you know the character? Are you aware of the performance practices and demands of that character/that aria/that composer?
We hope you are musical, committed and focused.
Do you know how to create a character with your body and your breath and your vocal color?
Is your vocal weight/timbre/tessitura accessible to the repertoire chosen?
It is one thing to work on something for the sake of singing it - this can happen in private all the time. I love "Vissi d'arte" but I won't be performing the role of Tosca in this lifetime. I might sing it in a concert with piano, but I am not a Tosca. I know that.
Do you know what you can DO? NOW???
Sometimes we are so concerned about what we WANT and where we might be, that we forget to be where we are NOW. Perhaps that is not in an opera class. Perhaps it is not in a public competition yet. Perhaps it is not with Verdi or Puccini, but maybe it's with early opera or contemporary opera.
Singing the correct notes (!) and rhythms and pronouncing the words correctly doesn't make it opera! There are just too many things that infuse the voice, the dramatic temperament and the breath and support that need to be addressed.
Entering a competition "just for the experience" can be fine, but find a class that is less demanding if your voice has not developed to a level that can take on the demands of the operatic sound and dimension. IT IS OKAY!
Your voice may be doing the "hurry up and wait" to move into its true fach in several years, so sing something you can be believed in NOW. Show us what you can do, not what you wish to do. Not for competition. Competition is NOW, not 10 years from now!
Your commitment to your craft and your development is up to you. Your sense of self must lead you as you decide what makes sense for you in competition. Your teacher must often be brutally honest with you to save you from yourself if you feel you are ready and you are not.
Realizing the demand and how you can meet it or not, is absolutely necessary in order to create the best possible performance for yourself, and for others to enjoy. Doing something difficult for the sake of difficulty if you can't meet the demands isn't worth it. It simply shows you cannot do it. There is no 'win' in that equation. Difficult doesn't mean better.
When you are entering festivals and competitions, you need to jump the hoops of requirements and if you simply cannot, you must learn to step down. If you can meet the requirements, you then must choose to show your BEST not what you wish to be.
Knowing the difference comes first. Living the reality of this will keep you real and honest with your ability, your talent, your development and your passion!
Susan Eichhorn Young
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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