Being blessed with a beautiful singing voice is usually just that: a blessing that an individual is born with. Having an excellent opera voice, on the other hand, is not an inherent gift. While raw talent may be present, no one is born with the ability to sing opera. It is a learned skill; one that must be altered, critiqued and honed to perfection. Opera singing requires years of training and dedication. Opera performers must be disciplined and committed to understanding their craft and improving their abilities.
While individuals who are inexperienced or unfamiliar with opera may not realize it, opera singing involves rigorous physical training. The relationship between an opera singer and their vocal coach is similar to that of an athlete and their trainer. Vigorous vocal activity is much more demanding than other styles of singing. To compare opera singing to other singing would be like comparing running a mile to running a marathon. Both are physical activities, but one is much more challenging.
The bond between performer and coach is incredibly important. They spend immeasurable hours together, pushing boundaries both physical and emotional. The best opera singers are not only athletes and vocalists, they are also actors. They are true performers that demand the audience’s attention and command the stage. That level of skill is not often seen and serves to further distance opera singing from other styles.
There is one question that is often asked and rarely answered. What is it like during a performance? Opera singers are constantly asked what it is like to be on stage, not only their thoughts but the physical demands of a performance. Their failure to answer is not so much a refusal as it is an inability. Many performers simply struggle to find the words to provide an adequate description. In an attempt to better explain the experience, German baritone Michael Volle performed a song while inside an MRI machine.
His performance of “Song to the Evening Star” by composer Richard Wagner offered a unique insight into the world of an opera singer. While the images were somewhat eerie-looking, the scans were able to demonstrate something never captured before. They offered an exclusive glimpse of the astonishing vocal control, range and power necessary for a performer to produce the evocative reverberations and incredible notes that are the hallmarks of opera.