Having performed opera as a mezzo-soprano soloist internationally, in “updated” and “modernized” classic operas, I know how difficult it can be to maintain a singing career, and what it takes to be at the top of my vocal game. Being a singer today, no matter what music you sing is wonderful but also very challenging. I also have a lot of compassion for singers in today’s world, particularly in the field of Opera.
Great music, performed by great singers can heal and inspire. What today’s global and corporate media promote in music productions, movies, and pop icons, isn’t’ always healing or inspiring. We are exposed to songs and music/dramas that give voice to criminals and crime, vulgarity and grime and degrading relationships. We are paying for this in many ways.
And today’s singing artist, particularly in opera, is confronting difficult choices as well. The singer has to pay their bills. If they want to convey the beauty in their heart and soul in at times, today’s appetitite for negativity in music, poses a problem. When you have a warm heart and feel things deeply, you are attracted to the power of music. You want to convey what is in your soul.
It is a challenge to rehearse and perform in opera productions where the stage director ignores the logic of characters and their relationships to props, people, and the music! So many of great operas today are given “edgy” “minimalist” or other superficial “modernizations” that pretend to bring something new to the opera, but actually ignore the substance of the relationships between the men and women, often avoiding showing tender and passionate relationships.
For example, the great works of Verdi – such as “Don Carlo” or “Il Trovatore” or the beautiful, super-romantic and idealist story in the great French Opera, like “Werther” by Massenet, where the stage director decides to re-set a romantic/historical story into an imaginary psych ward of his own mind, or to compete with the latest horror/thriller movies seen on the big screen. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/04/AR2008070400858.html
Here we are, professional opera singers, having spent years training to sing in the great operas of Bellini, Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, and the like, deciding how or if we can perform in what we call “Euro-trash” productions. As Maria Callas has said in an interview “I believe that when the public go out to a night at the theater, they want to experience something they don’t usually have…and they leave the theater feeling better, breathing better, feeling “there is something worth living for after all.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MApX-iqCszs – The Callas Conversations Volume One Part One 1968 (1)
As a music educator and voice expert, I continue to strive to empower young singers and those in career, to aspire to create “something worth living for” with their song. I believe that great music and great singing make life worthwhile. As long as there are young people who want to make singing great music their life’s calling, and are willing to study hard to achieve that, than there is hope for all of us.