There is no one way to learn a piece of music. Some musicians can pick up scores very quickly, for others sight reading is a strength, some can memorize very quickly. Each of these components are different parts of the music learning skill set. Stage singers have many things on the go in any one performance: music and text memorization, blocking, tracking your props, making the blocking an authentic part of your character, keeping in contact with the conductor... the list goes on! This is why opera only truly exists and thrives in the live theatre- it is a living, breathing entity which requires a myriad of moving parts to relay its meaning to an audience.
When presented with a new operatic role (but this can apply to any new piece), this is my ideal process: -Go through the entire score, looking for the comings and goings of my character, highlighting my part -translate the score and IPA where necessary
-Learn the text in rhythm
-Learn the notes
-Marry the two previous factions
-bring the entire score to as many coachings as I can
-take as much of the score, especially the vocally tricky bits to my teacher
-read the original source
Now, here's what usually happens: -Fret about which highlighter colour I should use for my character. Is Elettra more orange or purple!? THE TURMOIL -Scan through the score, looking for all the high notes, pitting my jealousy against those with more high notes -Scan the score for arias. Where are all my diva moments?! -Translate the score (I actually love this part), but half-ass the IPA
-Bash throught he score as often as I can, focussing on arias and cool ensembles -Counting rests? Who does that? -Get shamed by my coach for my terrible rhythm
I like to give myself lots of time to learn things. Especially for big pieces, I need to leave myself room and permisson for a crucial bit of learning: failure. Mistakes are humanity's great teacher and I am no exception. Your technique resides in the moments when you regain your bearings after faltering, whether it's on stage or in the practice rooms. For me, technique means that you are taking responsibility for your instrument and musicality, giving yourself time and space to do the learning you require. For me and for many of my big-voiced colleagues, that means a careful learning process and allowing yourself more time than you think to let all the pieces fall together. Training a voice needs to be a discovery, not a construction zone.
This is an ever-evolving process. We are never done learning, regardless if we are in school or performing on a professional world stage. We are never prepared enough, so it's best to over-prepare.
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