Day 12: Operacise

I think I’ve just found a new name for the blog! I’ll change it when lockdown is lifted.

Today’s a bit of a sweaty one – or should I say glowing? I decided to take the blog out on the road with me for a morning run. As you know by now, I love sport and it always sets me up so well for singing.

It’s tricky because I love a routine and am committed to short sessions aimed at improving all sorts of singing-related skills – from languages to character work, and to include exercise – but I hate doing things in exactly the same order, day in, day out. I like to mix it up so there’s variety in my day and I can truly say, you don’t know what tomorrow will bring! However, working out before I sing is so great for getting the lungs working, limbering up and engaging different muscle groups that it makes sense to do it early in the day and practise later. So, that’s generally what happens.

Anyway, I was thinking about the stereotypical image of an opera singer. A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the origins of the phrase “it isn’t over until the fat lady sings”, conjuring up an image of a sturdy Brünhilde in all her garb. There are also famous singers who would arguably be classed as overweight on the height/weight NHS charts.

There are benefits to a greater body mass. I’m convinced it increases the quantity and quality of resonating surfaces and spaces, off and around which sound can bounce. The result in many cases is a more luxuriant tonal quality. By the same token, it must increase natural amplification.

A large frame isn’t always unhealthy – I have a broad back for example – and there’s a need to balance the benefits of increased resonance with those of being fit enough to make it through an entire opera! Some can be up to four hours long and even the shorter ones can include vocal acrobatics that get the heart racing, not to mention the demands of a director who favours a lot of movement or even choreography.

My favourite recent example is Kate Lindsey who sang Nero in Handel’s Agrippina at the Met. As an ambitious, irrepressible adolescent boy, she sang most of the role while performing athletics – from pressing up a flight of stairs to eight bars on a side plank. She’s my hero right now.

Maybe I just love sport and convince myself that it links to improved singing ability to justify my lifestyle. Well, that’s not such a bad thing, is it?

Give it a try yourself and let me know what you think. Try singing a short song before you exercise and return to the same piece afterwards. See if you feel any different – if the sound, breath or emotion comes more easily.

Consider operacising to stay healthy, stay cheered and lots of love xx

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