What makes a great soprano????

The following video is a wonderful overview of the types of soprano that exist in the world of opera. They come in all shapes and sizes, with varying timbres from bright to dark. They cover a vast vocal range and are used in operas from the 1600’s to present day. It explores what is needed to become a great soprano; demonstrating the need for the singer to be well versed in languages, stage deportment, and have a solid and flexible technique. Being a great soprano doesn’t happen over night. It takes years of schooling and waiting for the right opportunity to come your way. It has been said that “luck” is where preparation and opportunity meet.

The issue of fitness and strength are discussed quite a bit in this video. It is true, the singer is like an athlete. The muscles of the diaphragm and core are used at all times. The legs and feet must be strong enough to withstand the various sets and raked floors for hours at a time. The lungs, or “powerhouse” for the singer need to be strong, flexible, being able to expand in as little as a single second to accommodate the air needed to sing long, dramatic phrases. While it is true that singers should ovoid being overweight, the same is true for being underweight. As an adjudicator of numerous competitions and auditions, and as a private voice teacher, I have noticed a trend for the young female singer to be extremely thin. I find this quite dangerous. One is not capable of supporting the tone when one lacks strength and stamina in the body. The body is not free and flexible enough to engage the muscle system and take in the proper amount of air. I try an urge all my students to focus on strength of body, to exercise and eat properly. One doesn’t need to be model thin to be successful, however one does need to be strong and body “aware”.

The title of this video is “What makes a great soprano”? I believe the advice is wonderful for any voice type. Whether you sing opera, jazz, musical theater, country or rock, these principles will apply. Singing is extremely difficult and requires a life commitment. With proper training, dedication and of course, a beautiful and exciting voice, one should be able to enjoy many years of great singing.

Opera Singer to star in DOWNTON ABBEY……

Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa decked out in their Downton Abbey regalia for Dame Kiri's guest appearance playing Nellie Melba

Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa decked out in their Downton Abbey regalia for Dame Kiri’s guest appearance playing Nellie Melba Photo: ITV

 

 

 

THE TELEGRAPH

By Laura Thompson

 

7:30AM BST 02 Oct 2013

Downton Abbey is starting to resemble the heyday of The Morecambe and Wise Show. Stars queue up to be in it. Just as Glenda Jackson and Andre Previn seized the chance to cavort with Eric and Ernie, so a Hollywood name like Shirley Maclaine happily trades quips among the teacups with the Granthams. Now we are about to see one of the greatest opera sopranos of the past 40 years, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, in the role of Australian singer Nellie Melba, singing at a Downton soirée (and raising the incidental question of how the cash-strapped Earl could afford Melba’s famously enormous fees).

This is a particularly splendid feather in Downton Abbey’s cap. What is extraordinary, however, is that the legendary Dame Kiri is quite sincerely ecstatic to be part of the programme. Like 120 million others around the world, the New Zealand-born goddess of the opera house is a bona fide fan.

“I nearly choked when I saw the email that invited me,” she says, before describing how, during a stay in New York, she downloaded the previous series then watched it every night in her hotel room. “I rationed myself to an episode at a time. Once I did watch three at a sitting. They’re like chocolates. You try and just have one…”

Kiri Te Kanawa in Downton Abbey’s drawing room

We are talking in a suite at the Mayfair Hotel. Smart as paint in her black trousers and red high-collared jacket, Dame Kiri has the courteous, smiling regality of a true star, but also a down-to-earth Antipodean warmth. The writer and critic Bernard Levin, who was so besotted with her that he proclaimed “When I die they will find ‘Kiri’ written on my heart”, also said, more judiciously, that she “carries such conviction because [her performance] comes from a nature in which there is no falseness, no dissembling”. I have only seen her sing on film, in Joseph Losey’s marvellous 1979 Don Giovanni, and on television at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, but it is easy to recognise the truth of Levin’s perception.