Opera singers are known as the true “vocal athletes” in the music world. They must rely entirely on their body to be heard: no microphones allowed. (Unless they’re performing in a stadium, of course)! Operatic singing requires voices that can easily be heard over a full orchestra in very large houses.
Although pop music dominates today’s televised talent shows and the radio, opera is still a celebrated art form that is more accessible than ever. Every year, many young singers begin their studies of opera singing technique in the hopes that they will have a successful career singing the music of composers like Mozart, Puccini, and Verdi.
Have you always wondered what it takes to become an opera singer? Let’s take a look at the five keys to mastering opera singing technique so you can find out how to get started!
How to Master Opera Singing Technique
1. Find the Right Teacher
An opera voice teacher must have a strong knowledge of the “bel canto” technique, which means “beautiful singing” in Italian. Renowned opera singers such as Maria Callas and Jussi Bjorling knew the importance of bel canto and made it a point to study with such teachers often.
When looking for an opera instructor on TakeLessons, you can easily find someone with experience who specializes in bel canto. See if the instructor lists who their teachers were, and what master classes or other programs they have attended. If you’re really serious about opera, you should study with someone who has learned from the experts.
2. Practice Opera Singing Technique Daily
Yes, daily. Opera singing requires more than other genres, and to succeed you must have stamina. There are several helpful resources you can purchase that opera singers use, including the vocal exercise books by Vaccai, Concone, and Sieber. These books are inexpensive and can be used daily to improve your opera singing technique!
It’s important that you spend time perfecting your arias. However, keep in mind that there is such a thing as practicing too much! While there isn’t a magic number of minutes that every singer should practice, listen to your body. If you feel any sort of fatigue, it’s best to stop for the day so you don’t strain or damage your voice.
3. Study the Greats
The best opera singers were considered great because there was consistency in their voices, and they knew how to treat them! Watch them closely and you’ll start to notice things, like how they never “push” or put forth way too much effort when they sing.
They also knew what roles were appropriate for them, as they were fully aware of what their voices could and couldn’t do. Dame Joan Sutherland was often approached to sing heavy Wagner repertoire, but she declined knowing it would ruin her voice. She instead stuck with the bel canto repertoire, which showcased her incomparable coloratura skills.
There is a reason why people still talk about artists such as Sutherland and tenor Luciano Pavarotti to this day. Both were absolutely committed to the art of bel canto. They both enjoyed long careers on the opera stage because of their reliable technique.
Here is a YouTube video of them describing some of the basics of bel canto, along with revered mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne.
4. Take Care of Your Instrument
You are the instrument! Unlike a pianist or guitarist, you can’t put your instrument away – it is with you at all times and you must care for it almost obsessively. Opera singers should be sure to have an exercise regimen and a healthy diet.
Many famous opera singers practice yoga as it helps them breathe more effectively. It’s also critical that opera singers get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated at all times. As for your diet, it’s best that singers avoid caffeine and too much dairy, as it can cause acid reflux and excess mucus.
Operas are not known for being short performances. As mentioned previously, you will need lots of physical and mental stamina to sing your role well! Keeping your body and voice in tip top shape is necessary to improve your opera singing technique.
5. Study a Few New Languages
Americanized vowels, such as the diphthongs you hear in country music, are frowned upon when singing opera. This can be one of the biggest challenges singers face when learning opera singing technique, but a good voice teacher will help you master “pretty vowels” (which bel canto is all about)!
Beginning singers should consider taking classes in as many of these languages as possible. Depending on what happens with your opera career, you might be visiting these European countries and you’ll need to know how to communicate with the locals, too!
So there you have it. If you can master opera singing technique, you can sing anything! Are you ready to get serious? The best place to start is TakeLessons. Find the right classically trained vocal coach for you today!