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Opera Daily 🎶 — The Stamina of Stars
This week's Opera Daily features how artists showcase their athletic prowess in every note and every step
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Operatic Feats and Pop Marathons
As I mentioned in last Sunday’s newsletter, I was recently in London seeing my friend Nicole sing Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata at ENO. Nicole was incredible, and the opera, lasting a straight two hours, had Nicole on stage for almost the entire duration (no intermission!), her voice weaving the tragic tale of Violetta with incredible stamina and killer singing.
While I never thought I would make a comparison like this in the newsletter, Nicole’s performance brought to mind Taylor Swift’s current world tour. Swift’s concerts are a marathon, lasting nearly three and a half hours and featuring a staggering 44 songs.
These experiences — Nicole’s opera and Swift’s concert — reminded me of an often overlooked aspect of vocal performance: the sheer athleticism involved.
Singing: More Than Just Voice
Often, we focus purely on their voice when we think of singers, be it in opera or pop. Yet, what struck me profoundly was how these performances demand a level of physical endurance and strength akin to that of world class athletes.
Stamina and Endurance: Nicole, on stage for nearly two hours, navigated Violetta’s challenging role, which demands a spectrum of vocal feats (which I discussed last week). Similarly, Swift’s lengthy concerts require not just vocal endurance but also physical energy to engage with the audience throughout over 44 songs.
Breath Control and Physical Training: Both opera and pop performances necessitate excellent breath control, which is a physical skill developed through rigorous training. The ability to sustain phrases, control volume, and maintain vocal quality over hours while running around the stage is comparable to the endurance needed in sports.
Mental Toughness: Beyond the physical, there’s a mental aspect. Singers must stay engaged, connecting with the character or the song while managing their performance and interacting with the audience. This mental agility and focus are crucial.
Whether on the opera stage or in a stadium filled with thousands, these artists showcase their athletic prowess in every note and every step.
Reflecting on the stamina and skill required for such remarkable performances, whether it's Nicole's portrayal of Violetta or Taylor Swift's marathon concerts, it brings to mind another extraordinary example of vocal athleticism: the aria sung by Konstanze, “Martern aller Arten” (“Tortures of all kinds”) in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
Today we’re listening to…
“Martern aller Arten”, sung by German Soprano Edda Moser from Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
A Glimpse into Die Entführung aus dem Serail:
Premiere: Vienna, July 16, 1782.
The Story: Mozart’s opera tells a tale of love and rescue, set against the backdrop of a Turkish harem. It blends comic elements with serious undertones, exploring themes of fidelity, bravery, and the triumph of love.
The Aria’s Context: Sung by Konstanze, the opera’s heroine, “Martern aller Arten” is her bold defiance against Pasha Selim’s threats and demands. She refuses to betray her love, Belmonte, despite the Pasha's promise of torture.
This aria demands technical mastery and a deep emotional understanding to convey Konstanze's complex feelings. It’s a perfect example of how operatic singing transcends mere performance to become a high-caliber athletic feat.
🎧 Treat Your Ears (10 minute listen): German Soprano Edda Moser singing “Martern aller Arten” from Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Edda Moser is fierce and fearless throughout this piece.
Grateful for your time and ears,
PS. Missed our last edition? We featured Maria Callas's interpretation of "Addio del passato" from Verdi’s La traviata, live from Teatro alla Scala, 1953.
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