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Opera News issue about training students for opera careers

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I just got around to reading the July 2007 issue of Opera News, which is devoted primarily to a survey of singer training in the US today. ("Facing the Music: Are Voice Students Ready for Professional Careers?")

There are a number of fascinating articles covering aspects of teaching, coaching, competitions, auditions, etc.

Here's a brief summary of the some of the complaints raised by opera teachers, coaches, etc., today.

-- students are too rushed, want careers too quickly, get pushed ahead without adequate preparation;

-- lack of interest in the history of the art;

-- emphasis on technique for its own sake, without the ability to communicate feeling;

-- lack of opportunities to work with coaches;

-- too many schools and teachers; too many students who are given unrealistic hopes for professional careers;

-- competitions with standards different from those needed to sustain a real professional career;

-- in the words of one contributor: "What worries me about opera is that everyone seems to think the visual element is going to save it," rather than music and voice.

I was especially impressed by something said by Peyton Hibbitt, cofounder of the Tri-Cities Opera in Binghamton, NY.

I just auditioned fifty-six singers in two days for the training program. Most of them sing loud, loud, loud. There's no music and no poetry. They're not taught meaning -- they're taught noise. I'm a fanatic for the absolute inflection of the word. As the great Flagstad, my favorite singer, said, "Singing is merely speaking on tone." When you sing, sing to move your audience not to impress them. If you set out to impress the audience with volume and high notes, it becomes phony and commercial and has no depth.

Based on what I read -- including opinions that have been posted here on BT and on BT4D -- there are those who are sometimes troubled by some of the same issues in ballet today.

Any thoughts?

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