Our interviewees all vehemently state that ongoing vocal training is absolutely essential for all opera singers, new and veteran. Successful ones have gotten to where they are through very hard work, long hours and singular dedication. A natural ability is important, but operatic singing can be (and must be) learned.
Being accepted into a music school typically involves some pre-screening followed by a live audition. Music school officials inform those auditioning what kinds of vocal works are required for the process. The audition can also be a video recording, MP3 or CD submission in addition to live auditions. Regardless of the kind of submission, schools, in general, would like students to memorize an aria, or some other appropriate selection, in multiple languages.
Common bachelor degree majors include music, music performance or music theory. 4-year programs typically cover subjects like vocal performance and development, music history, chorus, acting, diction and ear training. Piano is also generally required to be learned. Note that opera majors will often be asked to give a solo performance prior to their graduation.
Other than training and classes, a big benefit of school is the student productions. Most music schools have several musical theater productions and even fully-staged operas for opera students to hone their craft.
A Master of Music program generally provides students with individual, tailored vocal classes. In addition to advanced vocal development, graduate programs help students to focus on working in the professional world, including audition, vocal coaching and preparation for rehearsal. Typical classes would be opera staging, acting, history and diction. Graduate programs also offer more opportunities for students to perform on the school stage.
It is important to also keep in mind that opera houses have apprenticeship programs for aspiring opera singers who are still working toward their degree and for those already graduated as well.
WHAT IF I DO WANT A DEGREE TO BECOME AN OPERA SINGER?
- Oberlin College-Conservatory of Music
Oberlin’s college-conservatory is an undergraduate music program. This is good news for the undergrad as there is a lot less competition for top roles in the college’s opera productions. The college is choosey and only accepts a small number (around 20-30) of vocal students every incoming year.
- Eastman School of Music
The Eastman School of Music is considered to have one of the most selective and acclaimed vocal performance programs in the country. Offering full-scale opera productions, students are provided with the opportunity to have lots of practical experience singing and acting in both operatic and musical theater productions, such as The Marriage of Figaro, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and shows like Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins.
- New England Conservatory
This historic school has produced some of the finest singers performing today, including such notables as Denyce Graves and IMG artist Jill Grove. The New England Conservatory is often thought of as one of the great departments for vocal performance in the country.
- Yale School of Music
Considered as one of the most competitive and intensive graduate programs for vocal performance in the country, Yale Opera’s output is on an equal basis with any major opera company. Yale provides New Haven with its favorite and most famous music ensembles, and every semester students of the program stage a large scale opera production at the school’s Shubert Theater.
- University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
The Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music stages several impressive large-scale opera performances per year, providing plenty of stage performance experience to its many talented young vocalists. Additionally, students are afforded weekly private lessons, recitals, and workshops under the brilliant tutelage of the school’s exemplary faculty.
GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR
Again and again, the common theme in our research and interviews with opera professionals is the following: Great training, consistent and constant practice, unending vocal preparation, mental perseverance, performance experience, a great attitude, a singular devotion and exemplary work ethic all can enable a singer to become successful.
A good school can offer so many benefits to the aspiring opera singer, such as networking, practical experience and, of course, intensive training.
Opera singing demands a great deal of stamina. By everyday dedication to training, your voice will be ready for the rigors of demanding use on stage, in the hard but immensely rewarding world of opera.