What is a dramatic voice?
The term “dramatic voice” is a vocal category used to describe a voice with the largest volume when compared with other voices, able to sing over the heaviest orchestration by such composers as Verdi and Wagner. This is not to be confused with dramatic interpretation or acting which is another aspect of performing.
You say that the program is designed for large and unusual voices. What constitutes a large or unusual voice?
Large and unusual voices can be found across the full vocal range. Sopranos, mezzos, contraltos, tenors, basso profundos, and true basses can all fall under this definition. A true dramatic coloratura would also qualify. By their very nature, these voices tend to be oriented toward Verdi and Wagner, but some of these singers, such as basses and contraltos, also need specialized training in Monteverdi and the Russian repertoire.
Can a voice be a dramatic at 15 or 18?
A dramatic voice may reveal its true colors that early; however, a 15 or 18 year old should not be working on dramatic literature or trying to sound dramatic. Instead they should be working on developing healthy singing habits that all singers need. They should also already be familiarizing themselves with the dramatic literature and styles they will be singing, as well as the languages they will be singing. There is much a young singer can work on without using their voice. They can work on the text, act out the plots, and study the musical issues such as rhythm and tempo.
Does a dramatic voice sing differently than a more lyric voice?
No. A dramatic voice is large by its own natural endowment. Attempts to make a voice even bigger than it is will result in the same damage a lyric one encounters when attempting the same thing.
Can you make a lyric voice bigger by vocal technique?
No, you cannot. Trying to make a dramatic voice out of someone who is not will ultimately damage the voice. However, good vocal training will bring out the resonance that will give any voice more presence. The opposite is also true. Trying to squeeze a large voice into a smaller space or artificially lighten a large voice will also do damage.
If I am accepted into the program does that make me an unusual or dramatic voice?
Not necessarily, especially if you are in the Opera Discovery, Introductory or the younger ages of the Intermediate program. At that age we also take participants who have potential for those dramatic or unusual types. If we are not sure, and the singer is talented in all the requisite ways, we will take a younger singer and see how they evolve. If you are a talented lyric you have more chance of success if you gear your career towards the lyric repertoire.
I sing louder than the other students in my high school chorus. Does that make me a dramatic voice?
Not necessarily. There could be a few reasons for this. It may be that you are a lyric voice singing with more resonance and are more vocally evolved for your age. Resonance increases the ability to be heard. However once your peers with bigger voices develop resonance and technique, they would drown you out. A competitive desire to “out sing” colleagues in a choir may make you feel as though you are singing louder than the others. It could also be that your voice is so large that you don’t know what to do with it and are having difficulty fitting in, or your voice feels out of control when you try to blend.
If I turn out to be a lyric does that mean I am not good enough for the program?
No. It just means that our program is geared for specific voices. We do take some spinto type voices and lyrico spintos who have the right voices for certain repertoire. For example, Eleanor Steber sang Mozart, light Verdi, and light Wagner. Since our specialty is Verdi, and Wagner, we focus on voices that fit that repertoire.
If I am a dramatic will I be automatically admitted to the program?
No. In order to be accepted into the program you must show aptitude in other areas. Once in the program, singers must demonstrate the ability to absorb information and evolve.
If I am a Wagnerian soprano or tenor, does that mean I need to have a voice like Birgit Nilsson or Melchior?
A lyrico spinto can sing Elsa, but she would not really be able to sustain a career as a Brünnhilde. It depends on the role, and though we seek out dramatic voices, we do work with spinto types.
If I am a lyric or a lyrico spinto at 25 will I grow into a dramatic when I’m 35?
It’s highly unlikely. Though some lyrico spintos will occasionally sing a more dramatic role, those who make it a regular habit will usually suffer vocally. The role of Elsa can be sung by a lyrico spinto. The role is also just heavy enough that a real dramatic can sing it. Young dramatics often cut their teeth on a role like Elsa, then graduate to one like Brünnhilde. The same can be said for a baritone who can sing Posa in Don Carlo. That role can be undertaken by a heavy lyric baritone, but Rigoletto would eventually take a toll on that kind of voice.
I discovered I had a voice at 27. Is it too late for me to start?
If you have no training whatsoever, in most cases it is too late. There have been exceptions, but usually because there were other things already in place: they played a musical instrument, or they already spoke the language in which they would be singing, or they had sung in a professional chorus or something similar. Language and musicianship are more difficult to assimilate the older a person becomes. We do have a separate program for rank beginners with exceptional talent with little or no training up to age 22. A rank beginner is defined as someone with little or no musical, vocal or linguistic training.
If I am a rank beginner, what do I audition with?
Please send recordings of any songs you feel comfortable singing. It can even be a folk song. If the audition committee feels after listening to your recording that we should hear you, then an audition will be arranged and you will be administered an aptitude test. The test has been designed to address the needs of singers who don’t read music or have not had exposure to linguistic and vocal training. Keep in mind that this is a serious training program, and not a summer camp. If you are coming just for the fun of it, you may find the program too intense. If you really like to sing and you have the kind of talent and attitude we are looking for, you will most likely enjoy the program.
I have just graduated from a young artist program with a major company. I have several contracts, but I have not established my reputation yet. What can I expect from the program?
Free intensive coaching and/or lessons with internationally acclaimed coaches and teachers able to work with stylistic matters pertaining dramatic rep, particularly Wagner and Verdi. It’s an opportunity to learn a role inside and out from an interpretive, stylistic linguistic and musical point of view.
Do all students work with you?
All students work with me in some capacity. How much is determined according to each student’s specific needs. We have an excellent world-renowned faculty of teachers and coaches to address the requirements of every level of development, from the special needs of the very young singer, to young professionals who wish to hone their skills in dramatic rep, as well as conservatory level students, and emerging singers who are about to begin their careers. Our faculty work hard to ensure that each level and each singer gets what they need.
How do you differ from other programs?
Most programs have a narrower age range and encompass a wider variety of voice types. In contrast, we have a wider age range and a narrower range of voice types that would be able to sing difficult to cast roles, primarily those of Wagner and Verdi, but also including Monteverdi and Russian repertoire.
Another way we differ is that most young artist programs are geared to a specific level of experience. For example, a major company may look for singers with specific roles in mind they expect them to perform. Another may provide primarily coaching with cover or understudy assignments.
Our program, on the other hand, encompasses a much wider range of experience, and we work with very young singers just starting their education, to young professionals who have already had significant experience and are coming to the program to hone and polish stylistic matters, or to learn a role inside out. We also offer advice on choosing roles that are appropriate for a singer’s vocal level and development.
A third way we differ is that the singers we select for long term development receive continuous help from us according to their needs until their careers are established. Those needs vary depending on what kinds of programs they get into, and what kind of momentum they gain from other sources as they achieve skills and experience.
How much can be accomplished in a three week program?
Much can be accomplished. For some singers three weeks can make a major break-through. For others it advances their training to the next level and for young professionals, it can be a dedicated time working with vocal and stage professionals to focus on a new role or refine a technique. Each singer has different needs and will work at a pace that is appropriate to their experience. At the end of the three week session, the singers are not abandoned – our instructors and coaches maintain a high level of interest in their students from one summer to the next. As well, we organize informal workshops throughout the year to which the singers are invited.