A young(ish) opera singer's random thoughts and observations.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

What is it about song...?

Just to air my brain out after last night's song recital with my year group in college, I thought I'd jot down some thoughts I had on the differences between performing lieder and opera.

I don't get to perform songs as much as I'd like to, especially the more intense ones, in a proper lieder recital setting. Yesterday's affair wasn't in fact that kind of setting, as it was in the RWCMD Foyer, a fairly traffic-heavy venue. It's amazing, however, how a performance of intimate songs can transform such a busy space into an oasis of calm for an hour, especially as some of the audience were just passing through and actually stopped to listen.

I think that's the magic of lieder: they draw the audience in, rather than emote in an over the top way, as opera (arguably) does. An aria tends to impress more than move people. Performing song therefore feels completely different to me, than performing opera. In fact, while I do enjoy concerts of operatic excerpts with piano, compared with a recital it feels like an incomplete art form. One can (and should always aim to) perform a song to its full potential in a recital, whereas opera without production values and an orchestra will only ever be a pale facsimile.

Singing songs, I also feel much more exposed and vulnerable. The relationship between singer and pianist has to be that of shared thought, emotion and musicality, and the slightest disagreement instantly comes across and kicks us back into the real world. But if it works, the feeling is almost like creating a new reality, conveying the full impact of a feeling or significant moment. The actual performance space melts away, and all that's left is a feeling that the audience have been invited to inhabit the performers' shared mind. Looking across the audience after my colleagues finished their songs, I could see many glazed looks, but not out of disinterest, but from pure focus.

It was a fantastic evening, a joy to perform and then listen to everyone else. I must also say that it felt great to present the audience with Polish repertoire and see that Karłowicz and Paderewski could give the likes Wolf or Tchaikovsky a run for their money.

Also, I can't wait to do Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with orchestra in May!

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