What Is an Opera Singer?

Dan Cavallari

An opera singer is a person who sings the libretto, or text, that accompanies the musical score for the performance known as an opera. An opera is a type of performance that combines singing, music, and some acting to tell a story, and the opera singer is responsible for the acting and singing parts. A significant amount of training is necessary to become a singer for an opera, and only the best singers rise to prominence within this arts industry. Male and female vocalists may become opera singers, and while rare, it is possible for a child to sing opera.

An opera singer sings the text that accompanies a musical score.
An opera singer sings the text that accompanies a musical score.

The voice style of the opera singer is often categorized, and the categories will vary by gender. Female opera singer voices, for example, may be categorized as contralto, mezzo-soprano, and soprano. Males are usually categorized as bass, baritone, tenor, and countertenor. The categories are distinguished by the range in which the singer can sing. The specific musical notes on a scale that the singer can sing confidently will define his or her classification. In some cases, a male may sing in a female category, though he is usually still categorized as countertenor; these singers are sometimes known as singing castrato.

The opera house in Sydney is one of the world's most famous.
The opera house in Sydney is one of the world's most famous.

Opera dates at least as for back as the 16th century, and it has evolved over the centuries. Modern operas may or may not adhere to traditional operatic themes or performances. The opera singer has, of course, been a part of this musical form since its beginnings, and the types of opera singers may have only become more diverse as time has passed. Some singers are able to sing in more than one range, making them a versatile choice for different types of performances.

The opera singer must be prepared to perform in front of large groups and acoustically varied venues as well. It helps if the opera singer knows how to speak more than one language, though this is not necessarily a requirement. Operas are written in a variety of languages, and while the singer may not be required to understand what he or she is signing, the singer must learn how to properly pronounce each word when singing them. Multi-lingual singers are common, and having knowledge of several languages makes the singer more appealing to directors and vocal coaches. The singer will need to be able to read the libretto, or the words to each song, which will often be written in a foreign language.

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