Opera often is considered one of the most challenging singing styles, and with good reason. Opera singers must master the fundamentals of singing. But they also must rely on their bodies to produce the tremendous volume levels required to sing over a full orchestra.
If you've been to a live opera and have been deeply impressed by the singers on stage, you might want to try your hand at opera singing yourself.
If you start looking online, however, you will probably find that there aren't many beginner-friendly sites for learning opera. That's why I've compiled this short guide to help start you on your opera singing journey. It won't be easy, but if you're dedicated and have what it takes, the results will be well worth the effort.
Six Keys for Learning to Sing Opera (and Mastering it)
The following six keys can seriously help you become a better opera singer, and I'm confident applying them consistently can take you from beginner to advanced, to maybe even a master.
Master the Fundamentals First
If you've only been singing in the shower or along with your favorite stars in the car, you need to take a step back and focus on developing your fundamentals first. Opera is a complex and challenging style to learn, so your foundation must be reliable.
The two main things on which you should focus are how to sing high notes and how to sing with power. Your voice and body are powerful instruments, and you must take care of them properly. Many people tend to strain their vocal cords, especially when aiming for high notes. Doing so can lead to vocal cord damage. The same applies to singing with power. If you do it wrong and generate too much force without managing it correctly, you can do severe damage to your voice.
By learning how to sing correctly, you can avoid strain, tension, and blowing apart your vocal cords. If at all possible, sign up for a singing course, either online or with a real trainer, to get your basics down before moving into singing opera.
Immerse Yourself in Opera
While you're mastering the basics, you can still learn a lot about opera without singing it. Watch as many operatic performances as you can, on DVD or in person. Doing so will give you a good feel for how operas are structured, how they flow, how perfect harmony is achieved, and how they sound when performed well.
You can also start identifying opera singers whose vocal style you prefer and would like to imitate. Defining your style gives you an excellent opportunity to discover what roles and parts speak to you most and what you'd like to learn when you start opera singing.
Recommended Reading: What is my Voice Type?
Find the Right Teacher
Once you're comfortable with the fundamentals of singing and can manage your power and hit high notes consistently, you can move on to developing your opera skills. It's almost impossible to learn opera by yourself, though, so it's worthwhile to hire a coach who can guide you on your journey.
Finding the right teacher will depend on a lot of factors, including your current skill level and how serious you are about singing opera. If you want to sing part-time or as a hobby, many excellent opera teachers can help you master opera singing in your own time.
If you want to make opera singing your career, you'll need to be more discerning about the teacher you choose. Ideally, you'll want a teacher who has studied under experts of the style and has carried on with master classes and other programs to hone their skills. These experts aren't easy to find and can be selective about who they take on as students, so it's vital to be sure that this is the path you want to take.
Study Classical Techniques and Language
Not surprisingly, having an American accent while singing opera is generally frowned upon, due to the focus on aesthetics in all facets of the genre. Opera usually is sung in Italian, German and French, so it's a good idea to study these languages when you’re embarking on an opera-singing journey. By learning to speak these languages, you'll gain a better understanding of the art form and the pronunciation you'll need to focus on as you get deeper into an operatic career.
Many opera singers are also expected to play an instrument of some sort. Doing so will give you a deeper understanding of the art and the skill of reading sheet music. Opera singers are expected to sing difficult melodies without any practice, and the excuse of not being able to read sheet music is not an acceptable one.
If you're not willing to commit that much of your time to the craft, it's still a good idea to focus on diction and style. An excellent place to start is with classical music, especially classical art songs. These shorter songs are a great way to develop stamina and range without putting too much strain on your voice.
Learn from the Best
There are many facets of opera about which people don't tend to think about. That's why you should take the time to learn from the best of the best. The best opera singers are those who are consistent in vocal quality and understand what they can and can't do. If you watch performances with some of the best singers, you'll notice that they never push themselves and put in too much effort while they sing. They take care of their voices and don't take on roles that are not suitable for them.
You should try to emulate the greats in this regard. As you continue learning to sing opera, you'll quickly discover what roles and styles are best suited to your voice. By sticking to these, you'll be able to sing for longer and maintain a consistent quality throughout your career.
Take Care of Your Body
Unlike other musicians who can put their instruments away at the end of the day, you're stuck living in yours forever. It’s vital to maintain a healthy exercise-and-eating plan at all times. You can also take the time to learn various breathing exercises, or take up yoga, which teaches you to breathe effectively. Professional opera singers take this training to the extreme. For example, they avoid coffee and dairy entirely because these things can cause acid reflux and excess mucus, thus compromising the performance.
Further Reading: Immersive Guide to Scream Singing
All Singing Disciplines Require Consistent Practice
Opera is incredibly demanding on your body and requires both strength and stamina. You can't develop these skills without putting in the necessary amount of effort, which means practicing daily. The same rule applies to all other singing disciplines, as everybody benefits from as much practice as possible. It helps develop stamina, strength, and skill, all of which are essential for you to perform at the highest level possible.
Really, you should be practicing singing exercises daily to get where you want to go.
As with any workout routine, your practices should be structured, with a specific goal in mind. Start by warming up your voice and practicing specific vocal techniques before moving onto more complex areas and songs. Your teacher should be able to assign you lessons that you can do at home, in addition to your regularly scheduled classes. There are also many books about the subject that you can study to supplement your lessons. These can teach you new skills and help you hone existing ones.
Follow key steps in learning how to practice singing to really hone in on your voice, which can be crucial for getting into Opera singing.
On the other side of the equation, as with working out, you can overdo practicing opera. That's why you should always listen to your body for signs of fatigue or strain and stop when you feel you've done enough. You'll find that you will develop more stamina and strength as you continue to practice daily. There is no set limit on how much you must practice daily, as different people will have different limits. The best thing you can do is stop when you start feeling as if you're straining your voice.
Balance and consistency over a long period of time is what gets the job done, it would be wise to consider this while continuing your singing ventures.