About a month ago, we released the blog Going to a Performance Institution (and how to survive!). After the success of this blog, we decided to follow it up with this sequel: The Tools and Tricks to the Trade: What I Wish I’d Had in First Year. This blog is mainly for the first years that are overwhelmed and unsure on where to even LOOK when it comes to Opera. What tools and tricks are going to help them as they try to tunnel their way into this obscure and difficult world? Well below are YouTube Videos, apps, websites and subscriptions that will help you and inspire you during this journey of Classical Voice.
First let’s start from the very beginning: The singers! Let me just say that it is not strange to enter a Classical Voice program without any knowledge of opera singers. So we’ve compiled a list of singers (and YouTube videos of them being fabulous) that will help introduce you to this wonderful world. We have divided the list into “Opera” and “Art Song” but please do not be deceived: Each singer is flexible and fluent in both styles… We just had a bit of preference!
MiniPiano: Every singer needs MiniPiano on his or her phone; whether it be to help pitch a note, or to find out the pitch of the high note you just squealed in the car!
Metronome: Highly recommend getting a metronome app where it has the imagery of the old metronome ticking and tapping along with the sound… Gives you the visual as well as the aural!
Duolingo: This FREE app is brilliant for anyone currently studying any languages… You’ll feel super guilty when you miss a few days of language training as this app will get you to do the work and learn the language!
Italian, German and French Dictionary: It is always super helpful as an opera singer to have these dictionaries on your phone, as well as having a physical book. Certain apps will also help with conjugating verbs, a task you will spend most of your Bachelor trying to master.
The O Word: Whilst we say this so humbly, this website was created by students just like you FOR you! We have packed it with info and interviews to help you on your journey in opera and art song… Information is only a click away!
IMSLP: Okay, so chances are most of you will already know this. But IMSLP is your website for free sheet music. As long as the composer is out of copyright (Must have been dead longer than 70 years. Sorry Vaughan Williams and Britten fans), this website is a lifesaver and will save you so much money!
YouTube: You learn so much by listening and watching! Whilst YouTube is great for watching and listening to your favourite singers perform (and cat videos), there are also lots of resources up there of interviews and web series to help young opera singers and inspire you to do the work. We recommend the various masterclasses available, soprano Tamara Wilson’s Channel Exit Stage Left, Joyce Didonato’s Channel The Yankee Diva, the web series Conversations (talking to famous opera singers about how they got where they are) and Peter Hobb’s Living the Classical Life. From there, you can keep clicking to find more!
WA Opera: Going to watch live opera is essential to learning as an artist. Whether it be good or bad, you will learn so much from watching this craft. You can get a subscription for the entire season for approximately $100… At $30 an opera, that’s pretty damn good.
IPA Source: Your language and IPA (International Phonetics Alphabet) friend! This website is so essential when it comes to understanding your text in translation and pronunciation. I’m not sure I could’ve survived my degree without this website (my languages would’ve been even worse… and that’s saying something!). At $70 for a twelve month subscription, buy an account for your entire year group. Assuming there’s 15 of you, that’s less than $5 a year.
Met HD: Whilst there’s a lot of subscription services to watch opera (including MediciTV), we understand that spending the money can be tough and difficult. So we’ve narrowed it down to Metropolitan’s Opera ‘Met on Demand’ Subscription. With this subscription, you have access to all of the Met’s recorded performances and will save yourself the trip to the theatre during the Met in HD movies at the Luna. At $150, this subscription is not cheap. But once again, if you buy it between your entire year group, it works out to be $10 for the entire year.
- Invest in some singing books. Whilst most music is available on IMSLP – It is always handy to have books of music ready for competitions and performances. Find out what composers you like best, what voice type you’ll need (high/medium/low book) and begin your library of music!
- Have an Opera Night with your peers: Get together at someone’s house, open a bottle of wine and dive into the Opera World head first. You can either watch an entire opera or you can watch snippets of your favourite singers on YouTube, sharing your favourite singers and performances. If you’re going to watch an opera, we recommend Carmen starring Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna or Faust starring Jonas Kaufmann and René Pape.
- Don’t forget books! I will just quickly list a list of books that will help you along your journey. Great Singers on Great Singing and Master Teachers are both great books full of advice from major artists in the art form, offering their pearls of wisdoms. Be warned that it can be an intense read at once! Opera for People Who Don’t Like It is a hilarious book with little anecdotes and funny ideas about opera. Also, reading artist’s biographies is a brilliant way to read into how these artists got to where they are. I thoroughly recommend Deborah Voigt’s Call Me Debbie and Renee Fleming’s The Inner Voice.
- Invest in a steamer! Steamers will be your lifesavers during your time as a singer and you will never regret owning one (especially around flu season!) Steamers can be bought from your local pharmacy’s but can sometimes be a bit tricky to find… When in doubt, ask someone who has one where they got it from!
By now, you’ll probably be feeling a bit overwhelmed… and that’s okay! I’ve chucked a lot of information into one blog. But now you have a starting point for your research and enjoyment, as you pick away at it during your time studying opera. I really do wish you all the best and hope that this helps you out on your journey!
Written by Katherine Goyder