Accessibility links


Sign In
  • Home
  • News
  • Listen: How does an opera singer’s voice actually work?  

Listen: How does an opera singer’s voice actually work?  

Exploring the science of singing with vocal coach Paul Farrington and singer David Junghoon Kim. 

By Hayley Bartley (Former Content Producer (Learning))

28 April 2016 at 12.14pm | 2 Comments

Ever wondered how an opera singer manages to project their voice over a full orchestra? Or how tiny changes in posture can affect the vocal folds?

Vocal coach Paul Farrington shared these secrets and more at a coaching session with Korean tenor and Jette Parker Young Artist David Junghoon Kim, as part of a recent Insights event celebrating the opening of the Wellcome Collection's This is a Voice exhibition.

Working with the aria ‘Recondita armonia’ from Act I of Puccini's Tosca, Paul explores the 'passaggio', the transition area between the vocal registers, which he refers to as ‘the gear box of the voice'.

Read more: How opera singers take care of their voice

'If you were to drive down the road at 50 miles per hour in first or second gear, what kind of noise would the engine be making? It would really be working hard and the vocal folds are the same,' explains Paul. 'So we need to make sure that we are in the right gear for where we are in the range in order that the vocal folds are vibrating optimally'.

During the session, Paul demonstrates how specific vocal techniques and movements can support a singer's passaggio. For instance, he introduces David to what he calls a 'minor and a major Shirley', recognisable diva-like movements associated with the singer Shirley Bassey.

Find out more about upcoming Insights events

The Wellcome Collection's This is a Voice exhibition takes visitors on an acoustic journey, focusing on the meaning and emotion conveyed through rhythm, stress and intonation of the voice. Rather than the traditional understanding of the voice through linguistics, this exhibition explores its psychological and physiological origins, illustrated through paintings, manuscripts, illustrations and objects.

In collaboration with the ROH, the exhibition also includes an interactive sound installation created by electronic musician Matthew HerbertChorus asks visitors to sing a note which is automatically added to an ever evolving chorus of voices, including performers and staff from the ROH. The installation can be heard in the exhibition space, on the Wellcome Collection website and via a listening post at the ROH's Stage Door on floral street.

Read more: Voices of opera

By Hayley Bartley (Former Content Producer (Learning))

28 April 2016 at 12.14pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged human voice, insights, Jette Parker Young Artists, singing

This article has 2 comments

  1. John Malone responded on 28 April 2016 at 11:44pm Reply

    I'm a operatic tenor .This is very interesting thanks for the article. I'm not over trained just a few lessons over the years .

  2. Stephen Pollock-Hill responded on 1 May 2016 at 12:53am Reply

    When will the ROH discover the amazing Roxana Contantinescu see her here with Roberto Alagna in Carmen, but her range of roles is enormous, and her voice range astonishing! A future great star without doubt.

Comment on this article

Your email will not be published

Website URL is optional