Friday, December 18, 2009


I'm beginning to believe that there is something incredibly intimate about singing opera with someone.

Anyone who has performed in tandem with other people knows how intensely you have to depend on your song/scene partners. It's a strange bond that you make with them because you depend on them, and they depend on you, for the success of the performance. So when I sing opera with someone, this is already there and I feel that it's very intense because the voice is so unpredictable and opera is so difficult that it's easy for things to go wrong.

Then there's a connection on the physical level because you have to be physically close in a scene. Boundaries that exist in normal life are broken rather quickly, especially with my opera director. When I joined the opera last year, I lost all sense of personal space. We joked about it, but it's real.

But you can say that about straight acting or musical theater. There is another element that is specific to operatic singing. When you're singing correctly, it's loud and it's intense. When another singer is singing really close (or sometimes not even that close), my face bones vibrate. My sternum resonates. The music is so intense that it makes my entire body respond.

So imagine doing a scene with someone -- first of all they're pretending to be your lover, they're usually saving you from some horrid fate, you're depending on them for the success of the scene and you know they're depending on you, and they're singing right into your face and your very bones are reacting. And to top it all off, the said scene partner is usually singing something passionate (this is opera after all). Isn't it normal to feel a special connection with them? I mean, how could you sing something like the Dorabella-Guglielmo duet from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte and not be effected? (I am SO afraid of singing that duet -- it is one of the sexiest pieces of music that I've ever heard. But that's another story.)

Life never ceases to surprise me. I'm continually intrigued by its nuances and hidden idiosyncrasies. And music -- the greatest nuance of life -- never stops making my heart pound.


Tyler said...


I do not wish to undermine your own intelligence, but I am confident that you shall be one of the best opera performers, for I read your thoughtful reflections and careful examinations of the music in all of your posts, and it seems that you ahve captured the essence of performing in words.

I also liked that duet between Keenlyside and Graham; moreover, I enjoyed it so immensely that I began to watch the other clips available of the performance, and I do not often engage myself in that practice.

Finally, I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas!

Smorg said...

Now you've got me curious, Kim. 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?)?

Anyhow! It's always a pleasure to read your posts. Merry Christmas and Happy 2010!