Debate: have modern opera singers got the wrong attitude?


Feeling ill this last week made me think about this comment in the Guardian :

Debate: have modern opera singers got the wrong attitude?
Peter Conrad, writer and critic wrote “I remember when great singers felt obliged to justify their reputations at every performance and made it a point of pride not to disappoint the customers, whether or not they had good reason”.

My parents instilled into me a strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility to other people be they customers or colleagues.

I can’t remember taking a day off sick at High School or 6th Form, even when I broke my foot I turned in to 6th form the following day, and had to work with the other students not going on the Christmas trips, whilst having to cancel the end of term shopping trip to York because I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk around much with the group.

However, last week to preserve my voice I rested it , there had been an awful bug going around and I thought I’d escaped it but I eventually got it. I did try my best to be useful to my group in the final week of the second trimester and used my other skills in dance to participate in the end of term collaboration project which turned out well.

I’m interested in early remedies to sore throats as soon as the tickle starts because it is hard not to sing. If any of you have any really good remedies to get rid of a dry cough I’m listening.

19 thoughts on “Debate: have modern opera singers got the wrong attitude?

  1. Thanks to my dear friend, Maurice Hargreaves who contacted me recommends ‘Sanderson’s Throat Specific Mixture’ to gargle with, which can be bought over the pharmaceutical counter. It is said to be a brilliant remedy for lost voices and sore throats so i will definitely try this today.


  2. Here are some of the things that help me – I get a sore throat all the time… Drinking a bit more water than usual in small sips throughout the day; avoiding certain proteins (such as dairy or nuts) because they irritate the throat that is already a bit sore; sipping warm (not hot!) tea made of fresh ginger with honey and a small slice of lemon. Inhaling hot steam (e.g. from boiled potatoes) before sleep is more hassle, but a very good remedy. Dusty rooms and cities make things worse. Talking and even listening to music make things worse, too! Best wishes (and thanks for following my blog!) 🙂

    1. Thanks for the advice, it is such a nuisance when you you can’t do what you love to do. I hate it when I have to rest my voice 🙁 but the consequences if you don’t aren’t worth thinking about.

      I will give some of the ideas you suggested a go next time i am under the weather 😉

  3. I knew an excellent singer, a soprano who began with the antihistamines the moment she got drainage of *any* kind. The point was to keep the mucus off the chords (and thus prevent swelling) for the entire period of illness. Otherwise, she stuck to the usual cautions–stay hydrated, use the voice carefully. This definitely worked in her voice.

    1. I have been recommended to use antihistamines in place of other cold remedies, especially those that dry up a cold. I will give this a try next time around and publish the results on my blog. If it works I can then pass on the tip.


  4. My vocal doctor (New York City opera Ear/Nose/Throat specialist) prescribed Flonase for me, and that worked. A nasal spray, it would always stop the drainage pretty quick. Left me feeling odd–not dry, exactly, but not normal–and it had the advantage of not putting me in a stupor as Benadryl and related antihistamines tend to do.

    1. Thanks for the update on my request for help 🙂 I will ask if the product is available here in the U.K. I will definitely drop by your blog again soon as I am sure it will help with my understanding of musical compositions. Do you mind if I ask you a question; do you sing professionally? I am always thrilled to meet singers and learn from their experiences. I am only on the first few steps of my personal journey and I need plenty of guidance and help if I am to succeed .

      My very best wishes

      1. I have sung professionally as an operatic tenor working out of New York City. Went to Austria and Germany a couple of times. I stopped going out to audition/perform when I started a family. My roles were dramatic tenor parts like Pinkerton, Florestan, Bacchus, Canio. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have.

      2. Thank you so much for your answer. I do have several questions that spring to mind but I would hate to overdo it 🙂 A couple of questions I would like to ask; where did you train and who was your teacher? If you don’t mind I do have others but only if it is not an imposition.

        My very best wishes

  5. I trained at City University of New York (Brooklyn College), with Richard Barrett. I met him at the Aspen Music Festival–went back three more times to work with him while doing undergraduate and other work, then went to study with him full time. I’m happy to answer questions–I don’t have an big illustrious career to talk about, but I can tell you whatever I know.

    1. Thanks for answering my questions 🙂 last couple of questions for tonight ( honest ) . How did you get your first break into opera? Do you miss performing ?

      Best Wishes

  6. If you mean professional break, it came from being in New York City. People are always putting on productions, and you’re part of a large community of singers. Someone needed Don Jose’, so I did that; someone needed a first act Tristan (concert only), etc. The Aspen Music Festival was great, lots of experience, but the students who moved from there into careers (like Renee’ Fleming–she was in the same classes as a grad student as I was as a raw beginner, sophomore year) were from Julliard and Eastman only. At this point, I’d say anytime someone offers you money to sing and it’s good for your voice, do it. Even if the first contact isn’t what you intend for the long term, every time you sing for someone and do a good job, you’re creating a potential future opportunity. It’s thrilling to perform a role and do well, but I only miss it now and then. I started (and got my music degree) in Composition, and I’ve done that all along. And my children make me happy every single day.

    1. Thanks for your answers, I am grateful that you took the time to respond. I have worked with several young composers whilst at the junior RNCM and enjoyed every minute of the time with them. Collaborating with them on their pieces was a great way to learn about what I could do with my voice and for them to see the limitations of the voice within their compositions. I hope one day to perform in a an opera and will continue to work hard so that I can achieve my dream. I know I will need all the help that I can get if I am to break through so I am especially grateful for any information or guidance provided by people such as yourself. It is your personal experiences that help me understand the whole process and allow me continue on my journey.

      Best Wishes

  7. I’m a writer, not a singer, but I think that professionalism goes a long way in anything you put your mind to. We’re fortunate to be able to work in the arts, and I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that! It sounds like you feel the same way. 🙂

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