In educational settings, choral programs can complement opera programs beyond just augmenting the opera chorus. Collaborative master classes, social gatherings, vocal-health round table discussions, and strong attendance at performances among students and faculty aid in building and sustaining bonds of mutual scholarship and support between opera and choral music programs.
Choral programs intersect with opera programs in terms of the students they share. Healthy singing and stellar musicianship are a priority in both areas. As someone who has had professional success singing a variety of styles both as a soloists and an ensemble musician, I know that singers can and should be encouraged to learn how to be ambidextrous, striking a balance between healthy vocalism and stylistic versatility. In my choirs, singers are encouraged to sing healthfully with their naturally vibrant voices. Blend and balance issues are most often addressed with the physical placement of the singers before addressing a singer’s individual technique.
But when I do talk technique in choir, it usually boils down to posture, breath flow, and resonance. By encouraging the development and application of these three technical skills, I can hold singers accountable for being flexible with regard to dynamic contrast and vowel color. I can insist on attention to musical details, and I can work on building the singers’ aural skills so they can make intuitive, healthy vocal adjustments informed by their own ears.
For opera students participating in choir, this means employing healthy vocalism in the choral setting that doesn’t compromise their individual technique. I’m less likely to ask for a change in vibrato and more likely to ask for a change in dynamic or vowel. In this way, operatic voices actually enhance the richness and depth of the choir; the choir sounds vibrant and healthy with the ability to be stylistically versatile and musically precise.
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