Acting in opera (mezzos in trouser roles)
Acting in opera
I take it as a matter of fact that opera is musical theatre, with about equal emphasis on music and theatre. Therefore I expect the singers to get into character and act. The character you’re playing is not yourself, it’s a role you’ve been assigned to play based both on skills and availability. With musical theatre you have to do more than just hit the right notes. You might do an arguably good job singing an aria during a recital1 but when you’re on stage – or on a recording of a complete opera – I expect you to convey that character. It doesn’t matter if you, as a person, like the character or if you have no emotional links to it. If you signed up for it it’s implied you don’t terribly hate it. But even if you do, at least try to challenge yourself for the sake of professionalism. Try to get in the shoes of this fictional person and see what you can do to best express who s/he is.
Mezzos in trouser roles
Just because it’s in the job description doesn’t mean everyone can do it successfully. In fact, the large majority can’t, either because they don’t want to get all “manly”2 or because their voice flat out can’t convey androgyny. Which is fine, nobody expects you to do everything, but if you can’t, don’t.
- I still say you should act the scene you’re singing, but I’m more likely to let you off the hook in the context of a recital. ↩
- I don’t know if my assumptions are correct as I can’t get into the minds of others. However I was involved in amateur theatrics for a spell and I know how hard it is to get into character sometimes, when you simply “don’t get” the character you’re supposed to play. I also know that sometimes it’s not very obvious what you’d find hard3. ↩
- A sensitive chap I knew found it easier to play a demure woman than a macho man whilst a very feminine looking but feisty woman in the group did a bang-on job with playing a punk-ass boy – so it might be more about your own personality than gender per se4. ↩
- …and from here on we can go into a very long discussion about personality and gender roles but that, interesting as it might be, is not the object of this blog. ↩