This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen
I have studied opera for 15 years, I have been performing opera for 10 years, and lastly, I have been performing opera professionally for 6 years. In 2013, my dream of being a legitimate opera singer came true and I joined the outreach program for one of the most prestigious opera companies in the Midwest. I work with a great group of people who are like my family, and I get many opportunities to perform and direct opera. However, I feel compelled to mention that doing opera is hard. Extremely hard.
Few of us ever get to the point in our careers where we can live on opera alone. In the United States, where opera is not an integral part of the culture, it’s hard to find gigs, and at that, paying gigs. Most people do not come from a wealthy background, and do not have the financial means to fly all over Europe, paying thousands of dollars to sing roles and secure hotel rooms for days. Once we finally get a good job, the pay is not enough to live off of. This country sponsors athletics, but not the arts.
In graduate school, I took a class on the history of opera. We learned that opera started in churches (particularly the Catholic Church). These big churches had clout and representation to sponsor singers; and later on, to sponsor opera productions. Patrons and benefactors felt it was their call, their sacred duty to contribute to the arts. From here, little traveling opera groups would get the community involved and would perform in churches in order to receive provisions for their productions. The churches deemed it a fair trade off, to pay professional musicians in order to hear beautiful music and see it performed. Imagine that.
I doubt that we ever understood how opera works in the States. Who are our artistic directors of our opera houses in the States? Usually people who are business oriented and have no background in opera.
So here’s what happens: opera companies try to get sponsorship from big corporations and pan handle the common populous. Many times, big corporations and companies want to make more and more money, not spend it. They donate very little to opera companies that ask for sponsorship, if at all. They don’t know opera, they have nothing to do with opera, they don’t care. Why are we wasting our time?
Then, opera companies charge a lot of money for tickets, and ask for donations from the common folk, who don’t have the money to donate. Finally, opera companies can’t pay their performers, because they don’t have the money. So who’s performing opera? Wealthy people. Why? Because they don’t need to be paid. Meanwhile, the rest of us get “pimped out”. You have rich people prancing around, main staging in opera productions, who are playing opera singer. They had the money to go to the right schools. They had the money to do internationally acclaimed young artist programs. If you’re an opera singer and you have money, good for you! You can support your career. That’s a good thing. But understand that these days, performing opera in America is a glorified hobby because the pay is not enough to live off of.
For those of us who are not wealthy (and most of the population are of peasantry, not the aristocracy 😉), we will have to have SEVERAL day jobs. Church gigs help pay the bills, my friends. If you’re not religious and you’re an opera singer, I’d say, put it aside. If you ever want to make any money and put food on the table, understand that you’re just doing your job. The down side of church gigging? You guessed it. You still won’t make a lot of money. The most common phrase I’ve heard after performing a Christmas Mass:
“I’ll send you a check in the mail. I’m not sure how much I can give you, because I have to pay the orchestra first.”
So you’re waiting for your check in the mail. Waiting…waiting…waiting…
I’ve seen it go as long as three months before receiving a check from doing church gigs. And no, it’s not just churches that take their time paying “the help”. Many times, you’re lucky to get paid at all. This is a reality of being an opera singer.
So what else would I suggest? Teaching. If you’re going to be an opera singer, do yourself a favor and teach. You will no longer have to live hand to mouth. You will be able to pay your bills, and more importantly, it will give you a chance to do some good and give back. People love music. It makes them so happy and provides good therapy. I love teaching. My students teach me as much as I teach them. Teaching forces you to grow as a person and to see things from a different perspective. It also makes you a much better performer.
Finally, if you’re an opera singer, it’s great to get involved in other aspects of the production. Directing, conducting, stage managing, costume designing, dancing, playing the piano…these are things that mean if you don’t get a role, you still have a job! Isn’t that great?!!
You might ask, “How do I get roles on my resume if I didn’t go to a prestigious school?”
The answer is, do local opera gigs. There are so many little groups of opera lovers springing up everywhere, fighting to save opera in the USA! They get a group of people together, and perform operas in bars, churches, parks, wherever they can get a venue. If the role is worth putting on your resume, do it. Even if the group can’t pay you, you are still indirectly getting paid, because you’ve done the role. This means, when you audition for a main stage role in a legitimate opera company, you are much more likely to get the role than your fellow auditioners, because you’ve already done it. Opera companies don’t care where you performed the role, they just want to know that you’ve done it, so they don’t risk the whole production on you. These days, you have to give an opera company assurance that you are professional and capable if you wish to be cast in a role.
(Unless you have the money to donate $10,000 or more to the opera house. Those people get cast in roles fairly often too. Not sure why…)
Opera singer, I wish you the very best. I wanted to give you a heads up, so you could be prepared for what is to come. I wish I had been told, but I’m telling you. Opera means long, laborious hours, with very little compensation. It means high expectations for little pay. But, it also means the occasional ritzy party with some really good cheese and champagne. Oh, those are exciting times!
Opera is my life, and I perform opera for no other reason than the fact that I love it. It’s who I am. That’s why it’s worth it to me to sing opera, no matter what. If you’re going to do opera, do it because you love it. It doesn’t make a lot of money, and it doesn’t promise fame. But it does mean you get to spend your life doing what you love, and doing something beautiful, rare, and strange that actually contributes to humanity. Opera singer, good luck! Or, rather, toi toi!
Non ne so.
Ben disinvolto! Bravo!
Or via, giuocar si può.
Si pone a tagliare, Alfredo ed altri puntano
Qui desiata giungi.
Cessi al cortese invito.
Grata vi son, barone, d’averlo pur gradito.
Germont è qui! il vedete!
Ciel! gli è vero. Il vedo.
Da voi non un sol detto si volga
A questo Alfredo.
Ah, perché venni, incauta!
Pietà di me, gran Dio!
Meco t’assidi: narrami quai novità vegg’io?
Ancora hai vinto.
Fortuna al giuoco!
È sempre vincitorel
Oh, vincerò stasera; e l’oro guadagnato
Poscia a goder tra’ campi ritornerò beato.
No, no, con tale che vi fu meco ancor,
Poi mi sfuggìa
Pietà di lei!
Frenatevi, o vi lascio
Siete in sì gran fortuna,
Che al giuoco mi tentaste.
Sì? la disfida accetto
Che fia? morir mi sento
Pietà di me, gran Dio!
Cento luigi a destra.
Ed alla manca cento.
Ancora. Un quattro un fante hai vinto!
Il doppio sia.
Un quattro, un sette.
Pur la vittoria è mia!
Bravo davver! la sorte è tutta per Alfredo!
Del villeggiar la spesa farà il baron,
Già il vedo.
La cena è pronta.
Flora e Tutti:
Che fia? morir mi sento
Pietà di me, gran Dio!
Se continuar v’aggrada
tra loro a parte
Per ora nol possiamo:
Più tardi la rivincita.
Al gioco che vorrete.
Seguiam gli amici; poscia
Sarò qual bramerete.
La Traviata, in a nutshelll
“It’s the Olympics of singing."—Renée Fleming
Tune in to PBS this Friday for the Richard Tucker Opera Gala on Live From Lincoln Center, starring Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, Isabel Leonard, and more! Check local listings: https://to.pbs.org/1gZbKgx
Day 13 - A sexy aria.
Doesn’t get much sexier than Delilah, that biblical trollop.
Here’s Maria Callas singing “Mon coeur…”
Anna Moffo (1932-2006) Born in Wayne, Pennsylvania, Moffo was an Italian-American lyric-coloratura soprano admired for her warm, radiant voice and her beauti…
Day 12- Favorite female opera singer
Again, it’s hard to pick a favorite. For me, it really depends on what they’re singing. For instance, I really do love Anna Netrebko as Violetta, but I don’t like her as Juliette at all.
Anna Moffo is my favorite for Gilda, so I decided to post “Caro Nome,” which I am currently working on for NATS.
Recorded in Salzburg, 10 June 1965 Wunderlich sings Tamino’s Aria to piano accompaniment.
Day 11 - Favorite male singer
I don’t really have one, but here’s Fritz Wunderlich doing the mooooooooost on Tamino’s aria from Die Zauberflöte.
The great Italian dramatic mezzo (most probably an undercover contralto) Fedora Barbieri singing the sinister aria ‘Stride la vampa!’ from Verdi’s opera Il Trovatore.
Incredible attention to detail, highlighting the atmospheric, ominous quality of the aria completely. For such a huge, raw voice, she shades her tones remarkably alongside those booming chest notes which have such foreboding and depth. She maintains the haunting suspense throughout with immaculate diction, phrasing and her final trill (or maybe trillo) is so chilling.
Barbieri wasn’t the definition of a ‘perfect’ singer, but her voice tapped into the dark, supernatural qualities of Verdi’s operas that made her an outstanding Azucena and Ulrica respectively.
Carmen - Elīna Garanča (Carmen), Roberto Alagna (Don José), Anita Hartig (Micaëla) & Massimo Cavalletti (Escamillo)
- Michael Pöhn for the Wiener Staatsoper (2013)
In which Roberto Alagna is the luckiest goddamned fucker in the world and the debate of whether or not a blonde Carmen is acceptable is forever put to sleep because LOOK AT HER CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH.
Most of these links are staged, with English subtitles. I tried to include a variety of different productions and singers. Enjoy!
Lohengrin: Bridal Chorus
The Flying Dutchman: Senta’s Ballad
Wesendonck Lieder: Im Triebhaus (In The Greenhouse)
Wesendonck Lieder: Träume (Dreams)
Tristan und Isolde: Act III Prelude
Tristan und Isolde: Isolde’s Transfiguration (Liebestod)
Das Rheingold: Prelude
Das Rheingold: Entry of the Gods into Valhalla
Die Walküre: Prelude
Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries (Walkürenritt)
Siegfried: Forging Song
Siegfried: Horn Call and Dragon Slaying
Siegfried: Brunnhilde’s Awakening
Götterdämmerung: Siegfried’s Rhine Journey
Götterdämmerung: Siegfried’s Death and Funeral  (Translation)
Götterdämmerung: Siegfried’s Death and Funeral 
Götterdämmerung: Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene
What’s that? Is it the ENTIRE RING CYCLE WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES?? Yes, it is! This was my first Ring; I saw it in 2012 for my 18th birthday and was delighted to find it on Youtube.
Parmandil’s Youtube Wagner Masterpost (This is by no means extensive! Have a dig around Youtube and you’ll find wonderful things.)
The Ring Cycle Retold by BetterMyths.
If you’re into The Ring, Wagnerheim is an indispensable resource full of analyses and leitmotif guides.
And here’s an annotated gif from the end of Siegfried for the road:
Happy Wagnering!! Please feel free to message me about any of these operas.
OKAY BUT THIS IS THE BEST FUCKING THING EVER I’M CRYING
Ah!!! I can’t wait to teach an opera history course…I mean, I get to talk about opera all day long.
Verdi’s Aida (presented by The Metropolitan Opera) is on KERA/PBS? right now!!!! Score.