While I am known in the Washington, DC area as a voice teacher who works with musical theater and popular singers, I was a classical soprano for 27 years, and do work with a good number of post masters’ degree opera singers, especially soprani. The majority of these singers are talented, hard-working and smart, but need help finding operatic repertoire for auditions that is 1) suited to their age, experience and stage of development and 2) not what everyone else is singing in auditions.
If you are a lyric-coloratura soprano between the ages of 22 and 29 or so, consider the following arias in place of the standards you needed to learn as an undergraduate or graduate student:
1. “The Fairy God Mother’s Aria” from Massanet’s Cendrillon. Esther Heideman has a beautiful recording up on You Tube, and there is also video of a charming master class by Renee Fleming at Harvard which features this aria.
2. “Kommet ein schlanker Bursch gegangen,” one of Annchen’s arias from Weber’s Der Freischutz. Look for the fabulous Edith Mathis on Youtube.
3. “Saltro che lacrime,” the lovely minuette sung by Servilia in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito
4. Mme. Mao’s Aria in Adam’s Nixon in China
5. Cunning Little Vixen’s Aria in Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen (I once had an unusually brilliant high school student cast in this role for The Washington National Opera many years ago!)
Famous voice teachers often don’t agree on what are considered appropriate arias for voices, but I think that if they themselves were pushed into singing repertoire that was not right for them at one time, maybe they’ve wised up. That happened to me right after I first sang Fiordiligi, at age 27, which was a perfect role, but then I began to be hired to sing arias from La Wally and other big gun stuff before I was ready. Or, maybe those things were actually never right for me. But it is hard to turn down work, especially with orchestra, especially paid…etc.
The reason this is important is that the voice does not lie. Sure, you can fool people, and most people in your audience don’t know the difference anyway, between what’s “right” for your voice and what isn’t. But the incorrect operatic repertoire takes a toll on your psyche and physical instrument, and it is hard to deliver authentic performances when you are masquerading as something you are not.
Find something you can learn and do it well. Biting off Petitgirad’s Coloratura aria from The Elephant Man when you would be much better in “Fair Robin, I Love,” from Tartuffe is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Do what is right for you, not what you WISH was right.
This series of posts will feature guest teachers. Please feel free to add any ideas or comments, or post links to other repertoire.