Training Requirements for Singing Opera
If you’re interested in training to sing opera, you have plenty of territory to cover. Training for opera usually requires a long process of lessons or study, which isn’t necessarily bad. Studying singing for a lengthy period isn’t a punishment: It gives you the opportunity to master your voice.
For many singers, the long process of studying also means starting early in life. Review the following list to see what you may experience as you train for opera.
Sound: Singing opera requires you to sing long phrases, sing loud enough to be heard over an orchestra in large halls, and sing material that’s musically demanding. For opera, the performance is about the sounds the singer makes. The sounds are consistent and not as varied as they are in jazz, musical theater, and pop-rock.
Healthy technique: When singing opera, the focus of the performance is on the singing technique. Opera technique is bel canto technique, which literally means beautiful singing; as you may expect, the space in your mouth and throat needs to be wide open.
Endurance for long operas is an issue for singers. You want to practice enough that you can sing well for the length of the opera, which can be two to four hours.
Language: Opera singers often sing in Italian, French, German, or Russian. You don’t have to be fluent in all these languages, but you want to be familiar enough with them that you can easily sing and sound like you’re fluent in them.
You can work with a teacher or coach when training for each aria or opera, or you can take classes (called diction classes) to help you see the words and pronounce them correctly. You also want to be able to translate what your scene partner says so you know the difference between “I love you” and “I love those satin slippers.” You can’t react appropriately if you don’t know what your scene partner said.
Naming names: Some familiar names in the opera world include Olga Borodina (mezzo with warm, round tones), Renée Fleming (soprano with luscious tone and a flexible voice), René Pape (bass with deep, rich, dark sounds), and Bryn Terfel (baritone with fine diction and a good actor).