Opera critics can be harsh. Tell that to any singer or composer and I’m sure they’d agree. So when a composer writes a new opera for public consumption you can imagine what an ordeal that is. But brave composers aside, let’s think about the singers.
New opera can be a gift for young opera singers. Fresh out of college, not ready for Mimi but also not wanting to be bound to boring Mozart choruses for years until they are ready to wow the ROH. Often they are written with younger, fresher voices in mind and can sometimes tackle modern subject matters requiring youthful looking characters.
This is a perfect platform for emerging singers. It gives them a chance to feel their way through something that hasn’t been performed a million times by the great opera singers of the past and can only be done a certain way or else it isn’t deemed acceptable. It also stops people trying to emulate a certain sound which can be damaging for young voices that are at the most susceptible to misuse.
I was recently involved in 2 new projects – ‘Theses Things Happen’ by Jonathon Pease and ‘The Clown of God/The Ancient Mariner’ by Louis Mander. The former was more of an operetta based on the loves lives of 8 friends who told their individual tales of paranoia, unrequited love, boredom etc It was a challenge for the singer as it was very text heavy, but this was a perfect exercise in diction for the singers. The latter was a double bill of two short chamber operas. The Clown od God was about the life of Nijinsky, the Russian ballet dancer and ‘The Ancient Mariner’ was based on the poem by Coleridge.
Both of these shows were completely different requiring varied skills from making love to a chair to singing from under a veil at a great height. All in the name of modern opera. So come on composers, get writing new opera in all its forms. The music colleges keep churning out good singers that have a lot to offer. Write for them!