Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Acting vs. Voice

Obviously Opera is a form of drama. It requires all the parameters necessary for a dramatic production such as lighting, costumes, sets, staging, acting, etc. etc. But Opera has another parameter; Music. And in Opera, Music is the primary dramatic force. It conveys emotion, ideas, intellect, concept and internal meaning that is not as readily available with any other performance parameter. Consequently, anything that deals with the music in an Opera must be given primary consideration. It is for that reason that once a production is finally staged, the stage director is no longer in charge; the production is now completely in the hands of the conductor. Opera is the only theatre art form in which a musician has the final say.Singers act with their voices. How they sing, how they declaim, how they color the text, how they time their enunciation, etc. etc. all become the essence of how we, as observers, perceive their character and, more importantly, their value within the production. We even evaluate their singing ability more by how they have convinced us of their characters quality than how they create their tone.And if, a most glorious if, they also can move well on stage and can use their whole bodies as instruments of the theatre craft we are overwhelmed with the raw essence of their characters emotional experience.The late Wesley Balk, one of the greatest teachers of the singer-actor, would often develop exercises for his students that required them to explore extremes of acting ideas for a given scene. Only after having experienced such extremes was it possible for most singers to find a middle ground that had immediacy because it was physically informed by the extremes of the acting exercise.

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