Posted by: Dramamezzo | July 21, 2010

Social Media’s Effect on Opera Awareness

The great thing is that social media is causing all kinds to have their first experience with opera.

The terrible thing is that thousands of people are having their first experience of opera from a recording.

They watch a video on youtube and think that explains everything.  Those who have known and loved opera for years know that a recording is at best 25% of the experience.  The experience of being in a room where an operatic voice folds around you or spears through you can not be recreated on youtube.

The next terrible thing is that many of the truly informed and knowledgeable operafiles (I just made up that word) don’t bother with youtube and blogging for the masses.

The result is deeply disturbing discussions on youtube comments that go like this:

  • Are we really discussing Beyonce and Borodina in the same sentences?????
    To get back on point, this is possibly the most “contralto-ish” version of this aria besides Ewa Podles and I just love Borodina’s rich burgundy wine-like coloration in the voice. She really makes an awesome Delilah because of her rich organ-toned chest voice although she’s really awesome here with some top notes that would make more than few dramatic sopranos jealous.
  • agnellodei 1 year ago 7 
so I guess mcdonalds is better than salmon and veggies since it is more popular.
4 months ago

I simply detest it when mezzo’s or alto’s push their lower register. Just listen to what she does at 1:12. It is such a turn off and display of bad taste. When I hear this I just cringe. If I was in charge, such an Eboli I would never cast, sorry.

5 months ago

you know this is really not the kind of aria she should be singing; she doesn’t have the high notes or temperament for this or amneris (note at 1:08, how she aborts that high note). gorgeous voice, but not for her the dramatic verdi mezzo parts.

5 months ago
Sorry,but that cant be a mezzo.She is a very big soprano and fantastic singer,but not a mezzo.I like her nevertheless.
This is confusing
How many young singers go to these videos to learn and get input?  In the US I’m sure it’s close to 100%.  Close enough.  Really opera buffs and singers need to take more responsibility.  Get off your high horses, overcome your extreme natures and speak sensibly about singing and singers.
Is this a new way to express prejudice???
I have a hard time listening to really straight and piercing voices.  What many people call “pure” voices.  I would never take that opinion and lambast Luciana Serra’s singing because of it.  She has a different voice.  The quality is common in coloratura voices.  The technique is used by many.
I understand that people are passionate about technique because bad techniques have ruined voices.  The reality is that many singers have been successful for many years by singing many different ways.  The basics are the same, everything else is an opinion.  Get over it.  Get over yourselves.
Why do people speak of things they know nothing about?
Did some of these people even bother reading other comments on the page?  Would understanding someone else’s opinion be such a waste of their time?  Not listening creates the idea that someone being able to sing high notes well makes them a soprano.
A discussion on fach
I can sing an D#6.  That doesn’t make me a soprano.  I have been called a true contralto because of how dark my sound is.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that from teachers and audience members a like.  I have also worked soprano rep with teachers because I have a fairly easy top.   There is only one tried and true way that someone can tell what voice type a person is, and that is by testing where the break (passaggio) occurs in the voice.  If you haven’t heard this before you need to know this because too many people don’t know what they are talking about.
This is pretty extensive explanation but it’s worth the time if you are a young singer:
The next thing you need to know is that  just because somebody can sing an aria doesn’t mean somebody can sing a role.  I can sing some soprano arias, but I would be hard pressed to sing a pianissimo C6 or sing an entire soprano role.  Many sopranos sing mezzo arias but can’t do a full role.
Even weirder
Some people can singing entire roles that are meant for a different fach.  Which is a great trick, but if somebody attempts do this through an entire career they can destroy their voice and end their career much earlier than is necessary.  Doing a role outside a fach is actually done fairly often by experienced singers especially in dramatic mezzo and soprano fachs.  Moreover, many singers do this throughout their career in countries that are less stuffy about fach demarcations like Germany.   They obviously have to be very solid in their technique and in tune with their voices to avoid early burnout.
There are other exceptions
Some people start out in the wrong fach and switch mid-career to maintain their voices.  Some people sing smaller/lighter roles as their voices mature and then move into the fuller/heavier roles when their voices are fully matured and they have more experience and stronger technique.
The biggest misconception
That once you put a voice in a nice little fach box that it can’t come out.  You are talking about vocal talents that can sing 5 octaves plus.  You are talking about people who know everything possible about their instrument.  Just as there are freaks in track and field like Ussain Bolt.  There are freaks on the operatic stage that can sing what they feel like singing.  Technique helps A LOT, but some voices are just that flexible.
What brought this diatribe on?
Mostly the comments on this video (go to youtube to see full comments.)
Borodina is one of the few voices I can listen to and feel the kinship of a similar voice type.
Not only are people who are obviously not dramatic mezzo-sopranos talking about how Borodina isn’t one.  They are talking about how she shouldn’t sing a role that she sings fabulously.
I know many operafiles hate chest voice.  I happen to love it.  I love to hear it and love to sing it.  If you hate chest voice you hate dramatic singers and contraltos.  That is a sorry existence, but I will respect it because I have a hard time listening to the other extreme, high straight toning.
Then there is the oh so obvious newby
Someone who has probably only heard classical singers on youtube, tv or recordings expresses the opinion that Beyonce could sing “O don fatale” better than Olga Borodina.
This is something akin to torture.  Reading that flays me.  I totally understand the impassioned response by people who know better.
Yet, you have to understand what this child has grown up with.  Most of her generation prefer the undersinging and unsupported sounds of their pop idols.  They don’t know what a high C (C6) sounds like without a microphone.  I promise you if they stood in a room with Beyonce and Olga Borodina  singing side by side they could tell the difference.  They aren’t idiots.  They just don’t have the experience to know better.  There is more outreach that needs to be done as music is sucked out of schools.  We have to get kids and adults alike in the presence of operatic singers so  they can understand the difference.
Have you had any fach revelations?  How has choosing your fach been a vital part of your career?  Are you marketing/auditioning as a fach that you know will not be your final fach once you are matured or have a fuller career?
I’m very interested in hearing your fach experience and or diatribes 😉


  1. Borodina is not a dramatic, but a lyric mezzo-soprano who sang many dramatic roles. I interviewed her and those were her own words.

    • That is something I’ve never considered. A lyric mezzo-soprano with unusual warmth. The next question would be why she considered her self lyric, since lyric is usually defined as having a lighter voice (opposite of depth or heavy)? Or maybe just a more flexible voice. Very interesting. I wonder if recordings make her sound heavier than she actually is.

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