Saturday, May 11, 2013

How to speak to an opera singer

Talking to an opera singer can seem daunting, almost impossible.  But it's really not that difficult.  We know our profession is odd, and probably the last thing you expected to hear when you asked "What do you do for a living?"  Regardless, I have taken it on myself to coach you through this difficult task.  Consider it my civic duty.  The following are questions you should NEVER ask an opera singer.

1. 'Have you sung in Phantom of the Opera?' Yes, there's opera in the title, but it's not an opera. It's a musical. Big difference.  Soap operas aren't operas for the same reason.

Phantom of the Musical?  Not as catchy

2. 'Have you ever auditioned for American Idol?' Um, no. Pop singing is a whole other set of skills, just as rock collecting is not the same as geology. I don't think the judges would know what to do with an opera singer if they did. I personally would love to sing something for them, just to hear Randy Jackson say to me 'that's pitchy, dog.' (By the way, no except Randy Jackson says that. It's called being out of tune)
"That's pitchy, Dog."

"Your Nessun Dorma was the shit, but I couldn't understand a word you said."
3. 'Do you watch American Idol, or The Voice, or whatever?' Yes, just as I watch Family Guy, Game of Thrones, Modern Family, and the West Wing. For entertainment value. I'm not there taking notes of what what they performed or what the judges said to them so I can line up songs for my next album. I actually don't watch them anymore. I tried, but the judges are so incompetent! The fore-mentioned Randy Jackson being the worst, in my opinion.  But now they have Britney Spears. Yeah, that's who I'd want giving me advice. Unless it was advice on how to go crazy and shave my head. The Voice isn't bad, I like how they judge them on their actual instrument without looking at them at first. That's cool, then it just turns into American Idol. Anyway, I digress.
"You could use some work on your legato.  Most likely your breathe isn't quite hooked up."

4. 'Do you have a CD?' Not a lot of us do. You're probably assuming that since we sing, that like all the other singers you've heard of, we just make recordings. Some opera singers do. Some even have a lot of albums out there. But most of us don't. Not like its a bad thing, but it's expensive, and despite what you might have heard, we aren't all rich.

5. 'Have you sung at the Met?' That's probably the only opera house you know, and that's fine. It's a good one to know. But did you know there are over 250 other opera companies in the US alone? The Met is just one company. Granted, they have a much more public face than most other companies, but it's not a requirement for an opera singer to work there. Some of us have, some of us haven't. Trust me, that has no indication of good we are.

6. 'Do you know Pavarotti?' Um, he died. In 2007. Yes, he was probably the most famous singer of his generation. Yes he was ridiculously talented. No, we probably never worked with him. Some might have been lucky enough to, but few.
"I'm sorry, who are you?"

7. (This one isn't a question, but a statement people make in these situations) 'I really like Josh Groben/Charlotte Church/Andrea Bocelli/Il Divo.' I'm just gonna say this, they're not opera singers. They're cross over artists, which is fine. But it's not the same. I don't think most of them have been in a professional opera production in their lives (Bocelli was, but no one could hear him over the orchestra).  Saying that's like saying college football players are the same as pro football player. That might be a bit harsh, but this one bugs me. The reason I use that analogy is because they use microphones to sing. We don't. I have no problem with their voices. I have no problem with their careers (might be jealous of the money they're making). What I do have a problem with is them claiming to be something they aren't. It's like me saying I'm the President because I voted. Not the same
Still have no idea who this is

8. 'Do you have insurance for your voice?' I can't afford basic healthcare.

9. 'Have you done the opera with the metal underwear and horn on your head?' Never had to do that for an opera, just when bored on a Saturday night. (Damn you Wagner, we will fight that stereotype forever...)

10. 'Are there a lot of fat chicks in opera?' (This was actually asked of me) Yep. Lots of skinny ones too. Lots of medium ones, lots of pretty ones, ugly ones, sexy ones, funny ones, tall ones, short ones, black ones, white ones, old ones and young ones. There is no physical requirements to be a opera singer. Just like there probably isn't to do what ever you do. We're just people.
No fat chick here

11. 'Do you know my uncles next door neighbor from Utah? He was in an opera.' Yes I do. Please tell him I said hi. Yes this business is small (too small sometimes), but we don't know everyone in it. Assuming that is like if you told me you were a doctor and I asked if you knew Dr Kevorkian.

So here's my advice when ever you are forced to talk to one of us opera singers, just talk to us like we're normal people. Because we are. You don't have to impress us, you don't even have to try and relate to our work. We can carry on normal conversations about things out of our business. Chances are we don't want to talk about it.  Lets talk about politics, or food, or movies, or puppies.

1 comment:

  1. LOVE this post. It will help smooth out many future conversations.