Smorg, a reader of mine, asked an extremely intriguing question regarding my last post and I feel that the answer deserves its own post. He asked,
"Do you think it is scarier now to sing emotionally loaded duets today when you may also have to also act the romance of it out on the stage while singing than in the pre-Callas days when the singers didn't have to act much and could just put everything in the voice? Or perhaps the other way around (the acting is making it easier?)?"
This question would most likely elicit a plethora of answers depending on who you're talking to, but here's my personal view on it.
I know that, for me, every element of performance works together and as you add more elements, the performance experience gets more intense. For example, simply singing an aria is intense, but when I really allow myself to get into the emotion of it, another dimension is added and it is more intense than just simply singing. But that's obvious. Now, add another person to the mix and it gets even more intense. They don't even necessarily have to be singing -- if someone is there to work off of, the experience is immediately different. And when that other person starts singing, it's a totally new game.
So to answer the question, I find that physicality in addition to singing makes the experience of performance more intense. Also, I think this is due to the fact that when I'm physically involved, my singing is more emotive and "in the moment." I've found that when I'm acting out a scene, there are things that come into my singing that I can't replicate when I'm just standing there singing. It's usually spontaneous and a result of my acting or of my current physical situation or of something that my scene partner has done.
I don't think that acting necessarily makes the singing "easier," but it does effect it. If my singing partner is physically involved, that changes my singing as well. So I personally think it is scarier to sing "emotionally loaded" duets with the physical acting because the experience in general is more intense and when things are more intense, they are obviously more scary. It's not the physicality itself that is scary, but rather the increased intensity of the emotional and musical experience as a result of the added physical acting.
Smorg, I hope that answers your question! I love being stirred to think through these things. What a fun occupation this opera spiel is!