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Opera Singer


Opera singers are singers, actors, and translators, all at the same time. There are few jobs for opera singers, so anyone who wants to be an operatic star has their work cut out for them. They must become exceptional singers, who can read music, hit notes square on, and memorize pacing, song structure, and lyrics. They need to be good actors, who can express emotion, character development, and plot changes through their body language and actions. And since operas can be written in many, many languages, it is up to the opera singer to translate those foreign words to the audience through their singing and acting techniques. Opera singers use both their singing and acting abilities to convey stories to the audience.

Years of training and hard work go into an opera career. Opera singers learn new languages, they learn how to fence, they learn how to dance, they learn how to make their voices soar over those high notes, holding them for ages in those upper reaches of sound. It takes a good teacher and years of practice to become a respected opera signer. Opera singers are classified by their voice range. They are soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, or bass.

Many opera stars are members of the chorus, singing smaller roles and ensemble pieces in operas. But these singers are not disappointed with their supporting roles. Getting that far is admirable, and anyone with the talent, stamina, and energy to sing opera is a star in their own right.

There is no formal training for an opera singer. Still, no one can become an opera singer without some instruction. Opera singers work with teachers, privately or in a music school. As the art of singing is continually evolving opera singers will train throughout their careers.
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  Interests and Skills  
It takes a lot of talent, patience, and energy to work as a professional opera singer. Opera singers must be dedicated to music, and be interested in performing to large audiences. They should be willing to practice daily, and promote themselves to theater producers, agents and other singers. They need a thick skin to handle criticism and rejection. Opera singers also need a good ear for music, as well as the ability to sense the mood or audiences. A knowledge of other languages, and some experience with theater, would be helpful. They should feel comfortable in front of an audience, work well alone, and function within a cast of actors, as well. They should be creative, persistent, healthy, and willing to make sacrifices to pursue their art.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Practice
  • Audition for opera companies
  • Research character and time period of opera
  • Perform live
  • Record music
  • Opera singers sing. This is what they do every day, either in performance or when practicing. They will also spend time reading music and sharing ideas with castmates, producers, or managers. They may meet with agents, conductors, and opera company executives to discuss tours, promotions, or shows. They will have to rehearse the acting component of their role. They will travel, bringing the music to the fans, and they encounter many types of people.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Opera singers usually work as part of an opera company. They may advance through the ranks to principal singer, and then work as an independent singer, touring around the world as a guest performer in an opera. Some opera singers do not sing in a company, but instead perform opera and classical concerts, accompanied by an orchestra or choir.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Opera singers can build up a reputation internationally, and become quite successful, commanding leads in performances all over the world. They can leave the operas, and begin performing both classical and popular music in a solo act. They can get into musical theater. They can begin writing music, playing instruments, and become music teachers, vocal coaches, choir conductors, arrangers, or composers. They may decide to start a recording label, open their own recording studio, or open up a club or a concert hall. They can also become managers or talent scouts.

  Educational Paths  
Opera singers must train extensively with vocal coaches who specialize in opera. The more serious and talented a singer, the more intense the lessons get. Opera singers can attend universities for training, as well as take private lessons at conservatories or music schools. Because operas are in many languages, along with vocal training, the singer must learn the proper pronunciation of the words. Also, they must learn some acting skills, as operas tell stories through the music and the actions of the singers. The best way to get started is find a teacher who specializes in opera coaching--it will be evident fairly soon if they have what it takes to sing some of the most beautiful, and technically challenging, songs ever written.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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