During the Giovanni tech week, I did a lot of marking, relatively speaking. I rarely mark when I’m feeling healthy, preferring to work the role into my voice during rehearsal, playing with the phrasing and colors as I develop the character. I always mark the first time through a new staging, since the important thing at that time is the “chess game” of staging (where I go and when I go there). Many of my colleagues mark on and off throughout the rehearsal process, and some never mark at all. It’s an individual thing, all part of knowing your own process and limits and stamina.
But not all marking is created equally. I remember being visited in opera class in grad school by a singer who was about ten years ahead of us in the business, and I still remember what she said about marking: it’s all about energy. If you are marking to save your voice, as I was during tech week, it is crucial that you don’t mark on your energy level. A severe drop in energy can completely change the way a scene works, both from the perspective of director’s table and from that of your colleagues on stage. Keep your face engaged, stay focused on the text and on telling the story.
The easiest way to do that is simply through the text itself: go for the consonants. It is largely true that most of your singing is done on the vowels. That’s where the sound really moves, where your voice is really engaged, so it stands to reason that this is where you’ll need to take it easy when marking. Consonants, on the other hand, use much less vocal power, even the voiced ones (b,d,g,l,m,n,r,v,z). By focusing your energy in this way, your text will still carry, which means your intentions will be clear to your director and scene partners, and your diction will be easy to follow for your conductor.
I’m on a plane to the desert, where I will greedily soak up the sun and 90 degree weather, healing body and spirit. It’s possible that the shift in weather might hit my system again, but I’ll be ready. There are no high Es (or Ds or even Cs!) in this role, so it shouldn’t be vocally taxing, but just in case, I know how to mark...