3 ways to have a great first rehearsal

3 ways to have a great first rehearsal

Jenna Simeonov
Technically, a singer’s deadline for learning and perfecting a role is opening night. In reality, the ubiquitous deadline for opera singers is the first day of music rehearsals with the conductor. In this rehearsal, most singers want to a) sing incredibly well, b) make the conductor happy and c) not embarrass themselves in front of colleagues. Sure, the list of Things You Can’t Control is long indeed; but you can create a great rehearsal environment for yourself, using these three things that you can control:

1. Prepare for the uncomfortable

There’s just nothing worse than being in the middle of your favourite long phrase and running out of air because someone made you sing too slowly. This and other surprises are pretty likely in a first rehearsal with a new conductor; while a first run-through is about everybody getting to know everybody else, it can suck for one’s work morale to let surprises wreck your well-practiced technical skills.

Like everything else about a singer’s job, staying unfazed by weird tempos or unexpected rubato just takes practice. Tempos are simple: once you’ve established your ideal tempo, start practicing at tempos that are slightly slower and faster. Instead of feeling reliant on one specific tempo, you’ll figure out a range of speeds at which you’d feel comfortable singing on stage. Plus, taking time to practice various speeds means you can pinpoint how your technique needs to change, so you can be adaptive and well-practiced for Rehearsal One.

2. Be willing to try anything once

No matter what the ridiculous thing is that you’ve been asked to do, the fastest way to get the suggestion out of your life is to try it out. Conductors may ask for an impossibly long phrase, or a cadenza that sounds better on the piano than it does on a soprano. You could spend time trying to talk them out of the idea, so you don’t have to sound ridiculous in front of your colleagues, or you could give it an honest try, and hope the maestro will share your opinions.

On that note: if you’re asked your opinion, don’t be afraid to give it. If a conductor offers you two options, and you like one better, speak up, but speak up positively. Better to point out what you like about Good Option, rather than what you don’t about Bad Option.

3. Show what you’ve been working on

I get excited when I can tell a singer is taking advantage of rehearsal adrenaline to try out something that they really want to do on stage. They’re testing a high note, a cadenza, a new trill, to see if it’s a possibility worth entertaining in performance. Whether or not the singer pulls it off isn’t even what’s exciting about taking risks; it’s about showing off what you feel, what you’ve discovered about this music and this character. Sure, a conductor or director may veto your findings, and so the catch is to make sure your musical choices aren’t your only musical options.

I’m of the opinion that a singer benefits from putting his or her operatic cards on the table, and making decisions about musical and dramatic corners. Whenever I hear that in rehearsal, I feel like I know infinitely more about that singer and what he or she has to say. Singing imperfectly in front of your colleagues and bosses is a pretty vulnerable act, and it’s hard to be anybody but yourself when you do it.

Readers, what tips do you bring to the rehearsal room? Let us know in the comments below!


Unlike other sites, we're keeping Schmopera ad-free. We want to keep our site clean and our opinions our own. Support us for as little as $1.00 per month.