What to Expect When Learning Opera


Opera scene of woman and man in period costume - what to expect when learning opera

Opera is dramatic storytelling through the blending of music, singing, and theatre. Traditionally, the singing is unfiltered and untouched by modern technology like the microphone, allowing the performers to connect with audiences in much the same way as they did for the past 400 years. Finding a qualified voice teacher who not only knows how to teach opera but has experience performing on stage is crucial for students who want to master stage presence along with the technical aspects of singing over a 30-piece orchestra. If the idea of learning opera sounds exciting, read on to find out what to expect when taking opera lessons.


Determining the Vocal Type


Voice types in opera are determined by the vocal range, the vocal timbre or quality of tone of the voice, and the tessitura which is the comfortable range in which the singing voice has the best sounding timbre.


The common voice types in opera are:


  • Soprano

  • Mezzo-Soprano

  • Contralto

  • Tenor

  • Baritone

  • Bass


A voice teacher will not only help determine the student’s vocal type, but will also help the student increase their vocal range.


Perfecting Resonance for Performance


Resonance allows the opera singer to be heard over the orchestra. It is the result of vibrations passing through the nasal, pharyngeal, and oral cavities to achieve the full reverberating tone desired by opera singers so that their voice is amplified to fill a concert hall and be heard with precision and clarity.


Singing with Proper Vowels and Diction


Common languages used in opera are Italian, French, German and English. Students need to learn how to execute vowel sounds properly in order to carry the right tone. The shape and sound of vowels, rounding and retraction of the lips, jaw movement, and the degrees of mouth openness will affect the quality of the singing. Diction, which encompasses pronunciation and enunciation, is important for non-native speakers. With the correct diction, performers can channel the correct emotions and expressions and authentically present the composer’s intentions.


Learning How to Breathe


A qualified voice teacher will teach students how to breathe properly in order to have a longer air supply. Longer air supply supports singing so that the student can sing with clarity as opposed to sounding airy. Controlled breathing also improves flexibility which describes how quickly a singer can move precisely from one note to another.


Caring for the Vocal Cords


It is important for students to protect their vocal cords. Vocal cords are the elastic muscle tissue found in the larynx which is also known as the voice box. Overuse and strain of the vocal cords will cause vocal damage. A qualified voice teacher will teach students how to warm-up their vocal cords through voice exercises in order to prevent vocal damage. The voice teacher will also help students expand their vocal range and will be careful not to rush the process.


Storytelling and Stage Presence


Opera is not just singing but it is dramatic storytelling. Performers need to be able to read music and have the stage presence and expressiveness in a way that captivates the audience. This is why it is important to find a voice teacher who not only knows how to teach students how to sing opera, but also has experience performing on the stage and knows how to engage the audience.


Finding the right voice teacher is critical for anyone who sets out to learn opera. It is one of the most challenging singing styles which involves learning new breathing techniques, studying new languages, commanding attention on stage, with the added pressure of being able to sing properly over an orchestra without straining the vocal cords. Many students with vocal training decide to pursue opera because they see it as an exciting opportunity and the next logical step to strengthen their vocal abilities and have a desire to learn new music techniques. They feel energized, inspired and stimulated. If this sounds exciting to you, feel free to reach out to us to learn more about our singing lessons.


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