I combined my small sample of interviews with a larger scale survey online, which was made available to the post graduate vocal students at Trinity Laban and the ‘Opera Talk’ page on Facebook, which has over a thousand members, most of which are professionals involved in opera across the world.
The aim of this survey was to garner opinion from a higher number of opera singers about how they characterise a role and the differences between preparation of a role and an aria for a concert. From the nature of the other discussions on ‘Opera Talk’, I knew that there were many mid career opera singer members, as well as directors and teachers, so this would give me a broader view. I also hoped that completing the survey would encourage some more volunteers to be interviewed from Trinity Laban College. The latter did not happen.
Qualitative and Quantitative Survey to Singing Teachers
Whilst I acknowledge the breadth of characterisation in a range of genres (art song, folksong, lied) I tackle how characterisation is approached to general singing teachers who do not specialise in opera. This was in contrast to the Singers’ Survey respondents who answered via the ‘Opera Talk’ Facebook page which was biased to those working in opera specifically. The Association of Teachers of Singing was another arena used to get respondents, as the teachers’ experiences in ASTOS vary in teaching a mixture of ages from beginners to the advanced professional. It was also circulated to the vocal teaching staff of Trinity Laban College to ensure those teaching advanced singers were included. This was to ensure respondents who were teachers of less advanced students did not skew the survey in relating all answers to the teaching of technique.
For this type of research, qualitative data is the best approach, as it gives respondents plenty of room to express their varying opinions on what is a subjective topic. However, I chose to include a few quantitative questions too, to force some choice between some prescribed options. This slightly forced polarisation had the benefit of providing the general feeling of respondents on particular questions. A text box for qualitative answers was always provided alongside the quantitative questions, to allow for further comment.
In-Depth interviews – audience members
Although this research comes from my perspective as a singer, it is also important to consider the audience, without whom, a performance is not really worthwhile. They are relevant to this research as characterisation is there to help to tell a story to the audience, which allows them to understand and experience the drama. Although very limited in sample size, I interviewed two audience members, one of whom is a regular opera goer, and the other who attends concerts more frequently. I also spoke to a wide number of others, to get an idea of their differing expectations when going to an opera or a concert of opera arias. It was also interesting to seek out any research about audiences, to see if anything could be drawn out.
 James.A.Holstein and Jaber.F.Gubrium, Inside Interviewing:New Lenses, New Concerns, (Sage Publications, 2003), 161.