Echoes of spectacular voices

     (PNAN-CA) –  “Opera is not for everybody,” said Blanche Thebom (1915-2010), co-founder of the Opera Arts Training Program in San Francisco, California. “The feeling today is that the average young person doesn’t have much discipline because with TV and computers, everything is so facile, so easy.” Criticized at times for her lack of compassion in the three-week rigorous training program, often reducing the 13 to 17 year olds to tears during challenging workouts, Thebom knows that these young girls are willing to push their voices beyond physical limits to become a part of the opera world and she does not flinch in showing them what it takes to get there.

     Thebom sang with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for twenty-three years and was the first American artist to sing at the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow. Born in Pennsylvania in 1918, Blanche spent a large portion of her childhood in Canton, Ohio, where her family had relocated, and she always wanted a career in singing. The lack of money in the thirties left Blanch to practice her voice in any way possible.

     The church choir and weddings helped her keep a glint of promise toward a life of song as she worked as a secretary to pay the bills. Her chance arrived in 1938 when her employer offered to pay for her study with prominent voice teachers. Years of study and intense training could never prepare her for the harsh criticism of reviewers of becoming a new, young rising star but she refused to be beaten and has passed this knowledge along to others.

     Another prime example of the tireless, extreme career of a celebrated female singer, often referred to as a Diva, is Brooklyn born Beverly Sills (1929-2007). Devoted to voice lessons with Estelle Liebling at the age of nine and graduating from the Professional Children’s School in 1945 at age sixteen, ten years of grinding work began as she toured with opera companies. But it was not until 1955 and eight unsuccessful auditions later that Sills was finally received in her début at the New York City Opera as Rosalinde in “Die Fledermaus.”

     Beverly also proved that you don’t have to be of international breed to make it in the world of opera, marrying a journalist from Cleveland, who worked at the local newspaper, the Plain Dealer. Always a smile on her face and known for her warmth, intelligence and humor, her nickname of “Bubbles” just seemed to fit. When Bubbles had to relieve her singing career as an opera star, she continued in the public eye on TV and served on several committees, including being Chairperson of the Metropolitan Opera.

     In the male arena of greats, Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo (b.1941) is known for his versatile and strong voice, possessing a ringing and dramatic tone throughout its range. In March 2008, he debuted in his 128th opera role, giving him more roles than any other tenor. Beyond his golden voice, he conducts opera and concert performances, as well as serving as the General Director of the Washington National Opera in Washington, D.C. and the Los Angeles Opera in California.

     Considered a musical instrument within the human body, the voice is an interesting but complex machine. Positioning the tongue or lip position, loosening or tightening vocal chords and regulation of air pressure can create an already near perfect voice into one of grace and substance, traveling far over a sixty member orchestra and beyond, stroking even a rock outside of a packed theatre.

     The registers involved in the human voice are Chest, Middle voice, Head voice and Super Head Voice/Falsetto (also called Whistle register). A good vocal teacher is absolutely essential for training the voice in breathing, resonance, volume, phrasing and warm ups to achieve Opera status. Disciplining ones voice to perfect opera quality is not merely a passion for singing but a way of life.

     Performing well for a hall full of opera enthusiasts is like hitting a home run on the baseball field to most singers. The magnitude of having complete control of a perfected voice and throwing tone with each change of a scene is incredibly thrilling to both the players and the audience.

Published by on May 2013. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, Centerstage Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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