** Coming out of the subway this morning, as the noise of the train died away I heard a lovely tenor voice singing. I didn’t recognize the music, but it was French and definitely opera. I stopped and turned around; “Was that you? Are you an opera singer?” Sure enough, he was, and as we were walking in the same direction up 8th Avenue we talked a bit. We exchanged names; he asked if I was singing here in the city. I said yes and mentioned the upcoming Barbarina, to which he replied, “Oh, so you’re a real opera singer!” As we parted ways, I thought it was too bad that someone with a voice like his (it really was lovely) didn’t consider himself to also be a “real” opera singer.
But! When I got home, I looked him up – and he’s doing quite well himself! He sings a lot in Europe and Canada (he’s Canadian); does quite a bit of new music, it looks like; and has shared the stage with some great singers. He, too, is a “real” opera singer, whatever that really means! If you’ve found your way here, GG – nice to cross paths! Hope to hear you on a better stage than the subway platform someday!
** Also this morning, at yoga, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a young singer this week about breathing and building one’s support. I think much of my support technique has come from working with a mirror, specifically (and this may be too much information, but I think it’s helpful!), without a shirt on. I think I first started this one evening, years ago, while brushing my teeth; I just inhaled and exhaled while watching “the mechanism” expand and contract. This led to my manipulating the system while observing: isolating sections, keeping the ribcage expanded while only moving the abdominals, using only upper/lower/middle abs, expanding the back, etc. I could really see how my support was working and how my body got the job done.
I eventually tried this same thing while singing (obviously, in the privacy of my home, not at school!). What happens when I engage a phrase? What does it look like? Up-support or down-support for this phrase/these notes? What’s the difference, physically? If you’re an anatomy junkie, like me, this kind of work is fascinating – and helpful! I probably “practice” breathing like this about once a week or so, usually when brushing my teeth…
(And let me say again in regards to your breath and lungs: regardless of whether you are a singer, use it or lose it! Get aerobic exercise. Practice yogic breathing techniques. Our lifestyle today does not allow us to automatically use all of our lungs, so we have to be active about it. Observe how shallowly you are currently breathing! Why breath with only a third of your lungs’ capacity when you could use all of it?)