I have been performing successfully as an actress and singer of light music for over ten years. In these particular contexts, I have always felt confident and comfortable in my exploration of appropriate characterisation. Nevertheless, in the context of the operatic genre, particularly in a concert setting where several arias from different operas might be performed back to back, (combined with technical vocal issues distracting from characterisation), I have felt considerably less confident in the processes of character development, to the point of feeling restricted, even inhibited.
In particular, I have struggled with how to inhabit a character within a concert setting where there is a very short time to convey a character, ie the duration of one aria. Added to this, there is no director to aid the creative process, no fellow cast members to interact with, and neither scenery nor costumes. As a result, the opera singer on the concert platform inhabits many roles: singer, actor, director, narrator and costume designer.
I also believe it likely that a generalist audience will not know the whole story of a particular opera, and will have few pre-conceived ideas about the characterisation of an aria, but do want to hear beautiful classical singing. For me, this assumed audience priority of beautiful singing has squarely put the emphasis back onto technique above characterisation once again, along with other indicators such as the vast amount of literature of singing technique, and strong technical emphasis in vocal training.
The stark contrasts in my attitude to and aptitude for characterising lighter music and that of classical operatic repertoire have provoked this research.
To conclude, in this report I reassess the question: how do opera singers project the character and dramatic content of arias in a concert performance, in order to establish what the singer must consider in order to introduce the audience to the full breadth and depth of each aria in question. This is informed by footage of me performing, and primary sources, via interviews with opera singers, teachers, and audience members and surveys. I formulate an argument to establish the importance of dramatic consideration in a concert performance. I posit a detailed definition of characterisation which draws on technique, acting and placing, which places the singer as the embodiment of many artists (singer, actor, director etc).
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