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Is it harder to be an opera singer now than ever before? Joseph Calleja pitches in.

The Maltese tenor has been pondering the Antonio Pappano ‘weak singers’ furore and related issues. Read him here.

Sample: There are advantages nowadays mainly in the medical side of things treating vocal ailments promptly and surely. Antibiotics take care of bacterial infections in record time and doctors are able to diagnose allergies, viruses, infections etc. promptly before the latter are allowed to do extensive damage. The prescription of “cortisone” can help with certain afflictions but I strongly advise young singers to stay away from “overuse” and to only take it when prescribed by an ENT. My rule of thumb is to never sing when the larynx and surrounding tissue , specifically the vocal folds, are compromised in any way.



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  1. Graf Nugent says:

    An interesting and articulate appraisal of the situation as he sees it. I particularly enjoyed one of the readers’ comments which regretted the all-too-short singing career of Alfredo di Stefano…

  2. I found his comments about cuts versus singing the full score very interesting. I had no idea cuts used to be so common. His response to a comment about traveling and cuts to the score is particularly interesting. Very intelligent and articulate man – even in his non-native language.

    “To your second point yes some singers do take some roles way too early and simply just do too much. However how many tenors nowadays can request not to sing the Cabaletta in Rigoletto? Alfredo Kraus, a perfect tenor technically, reputedly used to have it in his contract that he will not sing it. Bjorling used to cut, apart from the customary cuts, “Ma se me forza perderti” from the last act of Ballo and this at the Metropolitan Opera. Such behaviour is impossible to do today and we are singing in bigger houses, with bigger orchestras with ever higher tonality.”

  3. Actually read the original comment here and discovered other goodies. Very informative! Keep up the good work.

    Joseph Calleja

  4. What’s he talking about? Singing pitch was lower 50 years ago? orchestras were smaller and less bright sounding? Halls were smaller?

    maybe he meant 150 years ago….

    • I’d say the last 50 years have seen a slight rise in pitch from around A=440 to A=442 or even A=444. Not a huge amount, but enough to make a difference.

      • …especially if you are singing those large set piece arias and are close to the ceiling of your voice.

        There is a huge amount of pressure for singers to start to early, with middle-aged singers largely written off (this is unless they are Spinto or Dramatic Fachs in which case they ccan and do start at an older age)

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