The opera originated in Italy around 400 years ago and continues to be a celebrated art form even today. It integrates various forms of performing and creative arts like vocal and orchestral music, dance, drama, stage designing, and costume designing. Through the ages, opera has reflected contemporary trends and practices of the different art forms that it integrates. It has evolved in style over time and never failed to inspire and move its audience.
The most important aspect of this multi-faceted art form is the spell-binding effect of its music. Opera singers not only have to sound melodious but also have to bring the characters and their emotions to life through singing. So, they are given roles that are suitable for their voice type. The male singing voice is categorized into countertenor, tenor, baritone, and bass. The female voice types include alto, mezzo-soprano, and soprano. Wondering how to get a voice like an opera singer? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Getting the Fundamentals in Place
The journey to becoming an opera singer is an arduous one. You really have to be passionate about the art form if you wish to make a mark. Here are the fundamental steps that you need to cover to build a career as an opera artist:
Figure Out Your Vocal Range
In opera, roles are assigned based on voices or the different voice types classified under major voice classification systems. Knowing your vocal range will help to determine your voice type. The vocal range denotes the lowest and the highest musical note that you can key in without going off-tune. But in classical singing, what is most important is to sing the notes without straining your voice. So, opera singers need to find their tessitura or the range they are most comfortable singing in.
When it comes to male singing voice types, the bass has the lowest range. It is followed by the baritone which sits on the middle voice register. The tenor is one of the highest of the male voice types. The countertenors are mostly baritones or tenors who usually resort to falsetto or the high head voice while singing. Among the female voice types, the alto sits on the lower vocal register, followed by mezzo-soprano and soprano.
Vocal Training in Classical Music
Taking vocal training in classical music is a crucial step in your preparation. This will help to improve your diction and style. Your stamina will grow and you will be able to sing the lowest and the highest notes in your range with ease. Your voice should sound powerful without sounding strained when you hit these notes and this kind of musical training will definitely help you to achieve your goal.
Strengthen Your Vocal Techniques
To sing opera, it’s not enough to simply know how to sing in a melodious voice. You have to back it up with certain vocal techniques to give a flawless performance. These would include working carefully on something as basic as breathing. You would need to work on your chest voice, head voice, and 'passagio' techniques to iron out unwanted breaks in singing. You will also need to master resonance techniques which will help to naturally amplify your voice while singing. Learning vocal effects like the vibrato that can add warmth to your tone is also of great help.
Learn to Emote While Singing
Opera artists have the task of bringing the characters they play to life through their singing. Hence while you prepare, remember you should attempt to not only sing in tune but also understand the meaning of the lyrics and convey the emotions when you sing. This will help to build your confidence and make you better prepared when you finally start auditioning and performing.
Working on Additional Areas
Opera singer training is an intensive process as this art form requires performers to master multiple skills. In addition to singing, they also have to act and dance since opera combines both music and theatre. While you train to acquire these skills, your understanding of the art form will improve. Let’s explore what you need to do.
Learning Foreign Languages
The accent is of crucial importance when it comes to singing in opera. Since a majority of the operas are composed in Italian, French, and German, it’s a good idea to learn these languages to get your accent correct. Knowing the language will also help you to understand the lyrical composition better. This in turn will improve your ability to convey emotions correctly when you sing.
Reading Sheet Music
Knowing how to read sheet music is important for opera singers. They are often expected to sing difficult pieces without prior practice and knowledge of sheet music comes in handy on such occasions. You will know which notes to sing without standing the chance of going off-tune. In order to gain a thorough understanding of sheet music, you can learn to play a musical instrument.
Taking Acting Classes
You might consider attending acting classes or workshops tailored for opera singers. Learning acting techniques will help to elevate the level of your performance. Opera singers are mostly trained to focus heavily on style, diction, breathing techniques, etc., and often lose connection with the character they are playing. Acting lessons can help you to learn ways by which you can infuse emotion in your performance.
Working on Physical Fitness
Any kind of performing art requires artists to exhibit a high level of physical fitness. In opera, this demand is much higher since this art form integrates both music and theatre. This means that opera artists have to be good at both singing and acting. So while you train to become an opera singer you have to ensure that you invest time in taking good care of your health and fitness. Breathing exercises, yoga, healthy diet – these are some of the things that you can take care of.
Immerse Yourself in Opera
It’s important to expose yourself to the art form as much as possible. Watch opera either live, on DVDs, or online. This will help you to experience the art form, understand the structure and flow of operas, the way in which harmony is created, and other details that are particular to this art form.
Seeking Professional Help to Further Your Goals
While you may have taken singing lessons to gain a foothold in the discipline, seeking the help of a professional who has experience in opera is recommended. This will help you to understand the operatic techniques and the art form better. Also, you will gain confidence, learn to recognize your strengths and weakness, and also be able to decide which roles will be more suitable for you going ahead.
Opera Singer Voice Training
Since learning to sing opera by oneself is not possible, you have to train under an instructor after you have mastered the fundamentals of singing. Finding the right coach will depend on factors like your skill level, your professional goals. If you wish to pursue this full-time then it’s best to train under an expert opera singer voice teacher with the right credentials. The trainers themselves have strict criteria when it comes to selecting students they will train. So before approaching them you must ensure that you have a certain level of preparation.
You can also choose to enroll in a degree program in music from a college or conservatory. Under the guidance of expert teachers, you can learn all you need to know to become an opera singer.
Given the nature of the art form, opera singers have to have a lot of physical stamina. The only way to acquire it is by practicing daily. You can start with warm-up exercises for your voice followed by the practice of various vocal techniques before getting into singing your songs and other complex areas. The routine practice should be carried in tandem with your scheduled classes under your trainer. Also, as part of this routine, you should practice the lessons given by your instructor at home.
Before you start auditioning for roles make sure that you train long and hard. You should have a repertoire of opera songs ready which you can sing at these auditions. You can choose to audition for the role of a soloist or choral member once you've completed your opera singer training. Your vocal training along with your knowledge in music theory, history, foreign language, and other areas will shape you as a performer. So devote time and patience to build your skills as this will help you to land good roles in the future.