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Thread: Do opera singers have to 'have the look' now days to make it?

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    Newbies barkingbartok's Avatar
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    Default Do opera singers have to 'have the look' now days to make it?

    I've heard a lot of talk of more demands on opera singers to look certain ways to get lead roles, so I was wondering about other people's thoughts on looks verses voice.

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    The more attractive someone looks, the better their chances of getting the lead roles - however, there are roles for the ugly guys as well! Opera singers have to play with what they've got and I'm sure there are roles for everyone.
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Junior Member RicardoTheTexan's Avatar
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    You wish. I wish.

    A long, long time ago La Scala (the company) made an experiment. The administration flatly refused to re-sign overweight singers, no matter how well-known. The results were absolutely astounding. Suddenly most of them lost weight (including those who had previously claimed that a) losing weight was impossible for them due to .. blah,blah, bla b) losing weight would destroy their voices). I don't think a similar experiment would be possible today.

    Two years ago I saw Rigoletto at the Met, conducted by Placido Domingo, and featuring a bunch of youngsters in the lead roles. Domingo is perhaps the best (most respectful of the composer) conductor in the world right now. As for the cast, it was a pleasure to see the Duke leap away from the garden gate in a cat-like motion when Rigoletto opened it. It was also a pleasure to see Maddalena perch playfully on the table and touch the Duke's chest with her toes while singing. It was truly a pleasure.

    I mean, looks are not REALLY vital in opera; sometimes, however, those primadonnas of both genders can REALLY get out of hand with the idea that their vocal ability justifies everything.
    Ricardo is the author of Getting Opera - for real, a revolutionary audio course that turns the listener into an opera expert in less than three hours.

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    Junior Member LFcatface's Avatar
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    Looks play a part in casting opera productions but at least appearance is not the number one concern (after box office) as it is in Musical Theatre. When casting a musical the production team select out those who look the part and from that set of people, they select and cast the performer who acts and sings the best.

    Generally, in opera companies like to select the excellent singers who can ALSO look and act the part.

    There are many standard roles in the repertoire that are well within the abities of many ,many professional opera singers, so those in charge of casting can easily find an artist that fits the role visually and vocally and also the specific production.

    For example it certainly would be less believable to cast an Octavian that is much shorter than the singer playing the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier Given the choice of two mezzo's one being short and voluptuous and another being tall and flat chested , most directors would choose to cast the tall one to play this" trouser" role. In fact chances are that the short voluptuous mezzo does not even have Octavian worked up, but instead is prepared to sing Carmen.

    It is a good thing that most people involved in casting opera understand that a lady or gentleman who is carrying a bit of extra weight auditioning in front of them, will usually look quite nice anyway in a big opera costume , maybe even better than a"fashionably"slender person. An hour glass figure and cleavage look great in period costumes on a big stage.

    In a few instances looks do get in the way of an exceptional vocal talent. For instance if a very large lady has a voice suitable only for soubrette or ingenue roles and there are a wealth of petite young ladies available to sing these roles, or in the case of a tenor with a leading man's voice and decidedly "charachter" looks.

    It is my theory(from studying how facial stucture enhances sound) that excellent singers are more likely to have what society considers to be exceptionally beautiful facial bone structure, as the face is a part of the instrument(singers resonation in enhanced there) therefore the soprano with the beautiful cheekbones and the beautiful big smile cast in a leading role may actually sound better than the less beautiful singer who is understudying!
    Last edited by LFcatface; Dec-05-2007 at 23:24.

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    Newbies luigi.di.violini's Avatar
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    Wink

    The combinations of appearance and voice is a very individual factor for each singer and situation. It doesn't hurt to look good and have a good voice, because you have an advantage over someone who looks less ideal but has a good voice. But opera characters are people as well, and it's ok for some of them (especially peripheral characters, fathers, uncles, servants, comic heroes and heroines) to be short or plump, etc.

    However, I read that La Traviata failed when it first came out because the soprano was around 170 lbs. which didn't fit the image of a delicate, frail, and dying lady. An average figure should be acceptable. We shouldn't have to devote our lives to looking like models, though obesity seriously affects overall health which can be damaging to the voice. Obesity worsens conditions such as acid reflux, allergies, etc. But it is actually easier to sing when you have 2-3 extra lbs. rather than being too thin, as someone once said "An empty sack can't stand up."

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    Anna Netrebko does. James Valenti does. There are a few. The former is heavily marketed, but certainly not deprived of talent. Valenti is young, trained by Corelli. Like Corelli, exceptionally tall for a tenor (1.90) and handsome.

    James Valenti singing "Addio fiorito asil"
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=bxq5H7JcizA
    Last edited by Klassikal; Dec-14-2007 at 03:27. Reason: Added title for youtube link

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    certainly does not hurt because they have to be actors as well.

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    Junior Member LFcatface's Avatar
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    Question Corelli?

    Hi Klassical,
    You wrote that Valenti is trained by Corelli. I was under the impression that Valenti has been a student of Bill Schuman. Corelli has been dead for few years, was he really Valenti's teacher or did Valenti just sing for Corelli in a master class or something? I think we should be careful before we give the credit for training a voice to an opera star (even a great one like Corelli) when all the work was done by an excellent singing teacher such as Bill.

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    Lacatface: very true, I am sorry if I did not chose my words carefully. I do know Valenti studied with the late Corelli and certainly when I hear him now I hear lots of influence of Corelli. Whether his fundaments came from elsewhere I don't exactly know, but I am sure the teachers that got him to that fundament which he built upon should receive full credit.

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    I think appearance is very important who is an excellent singer.

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    Yes...........

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    Senior Member Elaryad's Avatar
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    I think opera is not Hollywood. Well, I hope it isn't.
    But I don't know if you're talking about general looks (if the singer is very pretty/handsome, very fat, etc.) or the adaptation to the role (cut or letting grow their hair/beard, etc.).
    I agree with the second but cannot accept the first.
    Unfortunately there is a general tendency (according with our wonderful times) to choose someone by the looks and THEN by the skills.
    There's a Portuguese proverb that says: there are the eyes that eat the first bit.
    So the answer is Yes.

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    Junior Member Zombo's Avatar
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    I dont think it should. The #1 reason must and always remain the singing ability of the candidate.

    However, given two candidates with equally good singing and given that Opera is performing art, the spot must be given to the more attractive singer if the role demands it of course.

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    Opera is not a moive and a show.people who come to appriciate opera focus on the following:firstly:singing.voice and tequnic .But It dosen't mean we don't even look at the apperance of the singer.as an audieance we really hope the apperance of the singer could be quite perfect with the conterpart role.we don't want to see the 50-year-old woman to act the petty lady in opera.But if she has an incredible voice and tequnic.It's ok.That's my opinion

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    I don´t think it should matter what a singer looks like, but I understand some roles require a certain shape, but I think people should be chosen on voice most of all. I judge singers by their voice myself but I do understand that some people in looks are more suited for certain roles, but the voice should be the main thing the role should be given on, if theres an ´ugly´ singer with a great voice and pretty one with a medium voice, the choise should obviously fall on the good voice, if both are equal in technique and voice quality, I do think its fair they place the choise on looks, but only if both are exactely equally good for the role in voice.

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