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Great Singers and Great Actors? Yes, please!

Guest blogger:  Alan Hicks, author of Singer and Actor: Acting Technique and the Operatic Performer. Available from Amadeus PressAmazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Illustration by Cliff Mott

In the last ten to fifteen years, many changes have occurred in the operatic profession largely due to a dwindling audience and a need to attract the next generation of operagoer. The most obvious example of such a change is the advent of the high definition broadcast – for an eighth of the price of an orchestra seat at the Met, opera lovers can go to their local movie theater (maybe “theatre” is more appropriate here) and see the latest operatic offering.

In addition to changes in marketing and the diversification of mode of presentation (and perhaps, because of these changes), artistic directors are now looking for the “total package” performer – one that can sing, looks the part, and (hold your breath), can ACT.

Most people think opera is a musical art form. Well, they are only half right. When the Camerata met in the late 1500’s, they were not setting out to create a new musical art form – they were setting out to create a new theatrical art form. It was Greek theatre and the use of the voice in Greek theatre that inspired the first operas. Letters from the great composers including Verdi, Mozart, Gluck, and Wagner (to name only a few) prove their desires for singers to be not just great singers, but also great actors. Gluck and Wagner went so far as to say that drama was more important than music. And these guys were no slouches.

So, why did we get away from the theatre of opera? There are likely many reasons, one of the most interesting being the advent and mass distribution of sound recordings, which allowed consumers to listen to the music of opera devoid of the theatrical spectacle. Whatever the reason or reasons, operatic theatre (and by association, acting) seems to be making a comeback.

Available now from Amadeus Press

Singer and Actor demystifies theatrical acting technique stemming from Stanislavski’s Method of Physical Action and provides singers at all levels a roadmap with which to complete character preparation, using a clear and organized progression based on the work of Franchelle S. Dorn and exercises and examples (recitatives, arias, and ensembles). Singers (including choristers) are given the necessary tools to prepare auditions and inhabit a character from rehearsal to final performance.

Singer and Actor also provides a history of acting from its beginnings to the present day, including a survey of acting techniques from Stanislavski, Meisner, Hagen, Strasberg, Larry Moss, and others. Drawing additionally on the writings of composers and other creators of opera, the book deals with the misconception that only the singing matters in opera and includes a discussion of previous approaches to operatic acting.

Alan E. Hicks, in nearly twenty-five years in the arts, has worked as a professional opera singer, award-winning stage director, and teacher of musical theatre and opera. He is a former faculty member of the Actors Studio Drama School and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts as well as schools of music across the country. His students have found success from Broadway to network television and from opera to major motion pictures. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.