Tag Archives: Is Opera music?

Is Opera music?

The 250+ pounds barrel-chested, reared-back, thick-vibrato soprano opera diva screamer with her well-exposed deep cleavage is often wearing some gaudy-looking stage drapery material she found backstage, without the traverse rod.

Hola a todos. In vocal music in the classical music tradition, when someone says, “I’m a classically-trained singer” with few exceptions, what they should say is:

“I’m a screamer.” That’s essentially what “classically-trained” means now for a vocalist. That’s what it amounts to. I mean, let’s tell it like it is.

I’ve been awaken many times by my clock radio — especially on Sábado/Saturday — playing what sounds like barking and screaming noise. It was awful. My first response upon hearing this was: “Who let her out?” It’s usually some screaming shrill, screechy soprano. Screaming sopranos and screaming tenors — the two higher voice parts — are the worst of the bunch. What I’m hearing is vocal screaming from opera divas with their harsh, shrill, grunting, barking, forced, extreme “over-singing” noise. It is indeed noise because it sounds unmusical and tasteless — that describes most opera divas with few exceptions and I’m even hesitant to add the “with few exceptions” part — as if the singer-screamer demands and is in need of attention, and as if s/he is competing with everyone on the stage. Either that, or s/he is oblivious to all other musicians on stage. “It’s all about me, the vocal soloist-screamer. I’m special and more important than any other musician on this stage” seems to be their thinking. Along with, “Didn’t you see the way I walked out on stage as if I think I’m a god and to be fawned over, worshipped and glorified?”

It can often be “him and her” in a duet together, or that’s what I think their intentions are: To sing a duet. Even though their heavy-vibrato voices are not at all blending as singers are supposed to do when singing a duet. If anything, one singer screamer seems to be trying to out-scream the other to see who can scream the louder. The genre being played on the classical music station is called “Opera.” But their vocal part with the orchestral accompaniment doesn’t sound like music or refined music at all. What I hear is shrill screaming and barking.

Music is beautiful when performed correctly. It doesn’t require any talent or artistry to scream and bark noise “at the top of one’s lungs” which is what this sounds like, and flutter and wobble between pitches. What I’m hearing in this opera on the radio is not lovely singing at all. Although the bourgeois “opera goers” (Dahling) who have been brainwashed to like this heavy-vibrato noise would likely say “Isn’t that beautiful singing?” — “Singing?” Is that what you call it? Clearly one has no ear for music — because that’s precisely part of the brainwashing associated with opera. The misguided thinking seems to be: “If someone’s voice is wobbling, fluttering and quivering along with screaming and barking noise — where one can’t tell what pitch the screamer is even singing — then the singer-screamer must be good, and considered to be ‘classically-trained.’” Well, that shows how much they know, or don’t. One wonders where they trained, or did they? On the radio, as I said, the two screamers aren’t even attempting to blend/harmonise their voices with each other. As the screaming soloists typically do in Beethoven’s Ninth, they seem to be trying to out-scream each other to see who can scream the louder overpowering all the others including the Orchestra, and in this particular instance that I’m writing about I couldn’t even hear the Orchestra. The screamer’s noise was even overpowering the Orchestra. This is not music. It’s noise pollution presented as “music” or specifically Opera (Dahling).

Again, music — when it’s performed well — is beautiful, pretty, comforting, soothing, consoling, can be very moving to one’s being, very pleasant, and when performed by stellar musicians can bring tears to my eyes watching and listening to the finest musicians in the world and their exquisite artistry and talent, both Orchestra and Chorus (singing with a lovely straight-tone/no noticeable vibrato, of course). But that’s not at all what I’m hearing in this broadcast that woke me up as if there were a dysfunction outside my window. I’ve never felt forced to get up out of bed to turn off beautiful music. But on multiple occasions, after asking, “What is that dreadful noise?,” I’ve been forced to get up out of bed to turn off this screaming noise pollution from opera divas called Opera.

An “All-Star Cast of Soloists?”

An “All-Star Cast of Soloists?” Is this a classical music performance or a corporate spectator sports event they’re promoting on a certain classical music station with their hyped “All-Star…” language? Such a turn off. I think I also heard them referring to their list of “All-Star Composers.” “All-Star composers?” (roll eyes, sigh). So now classical music has to be marketed to the dumbed-down sheeple using sports team jargon? I guess the next thing we’ll hear is, “Each of those soloists at the end of Beethoven’s Ninth scored a home run while belting out their part.” Also reminds me of these orchestras that are putting up huge screens above the Orchestra to give the sheeple something to watch and to distract them while the Orchestra is performing. But didn’t they come to see the Orchestra performing which they can’t do when the lights are down so that the audience can instead watch “television?” It’s distracting, but that’s partly what dumbing-down is about. And the “All-Star Cast of Soloists” they’re hyping is for, at the most, four (4) singers screamers. A soprano, alto, tenor and bass, if there are that many vocal soloists per the score. There are only two vocal soloists in the Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem, for example. But why are they hyping the vocal soloists when the performance they’re promoting is not about them; it’s not an opera. It’s a symphonic choral performances which is about the Orchestra and Chorus, or do they not know the difference? Even though I don’t like the tacky term “All-Star,” I’ve never heard orchestral musicians or choristers referred to or hyped as “All-Star.” No, that mainstream corporate language is reserved for the vocal soloists-screamers, as if the public’s attendance at this event is solely dependent on who the vocal screamers are. So they’re trying to bait the public to attend symphonic choral performances based on them. I don’t really give a damn who the screamers are and I’m not there for them in a performance of a symphonic choral work. I’m there for choral excellence; the hopefully well-prepared superb Symphony Chorus singing with a beautiful straight-tone. The vocal soloists-screamers don’t perform the majority of the work in a choral work. They sit silently most of the time, because again, it’s not opera. So why don’t these announcers parked at studio microphones hype the other musicians who will be on the stage as much as they do “An All-Star Cast of Soloists?” Well, I think we all know the answer to that and that’s because the Chorus is thought of as “it’s just the Chorus.” The Chorus is considered unimportant in their minds. Perhaps some of these announcers never sang with a well-trained Orchestra Chorus to have a thorough knowledge of the amount of training, work, talent, dedication, skill-level and discipline involved to produce choral excellence. Although I don’t think their mentality is new. In Händel’s day, his premiere of the oratorio/symphonic choral work Israel in Egypt (also known as the oratorio of choruses), was not well received because of its “over-reliance on the Chorus.” Well what was wrong with that? What was the quality level of that Chorus? Were they podunk or were they an example of choral excellence? Who knows what they sounded like since we have no recordings from that music period. And I’ve never read anything about the level of choral excellence or lack of from that era. But the public in that day wanted and expected to hear vocal soloists for the majority of the performance of Israel in Egypt and not the Chorus. Today, I don’t think it’s really any different. For a symphonic choral performance, the Orchestra and Symphony Chorus are mentioned in the concert promotion only in passing, as if they serve only a minor role. Yeah, I’ll show you how “minor” they are. You take the Orchestra and Chorus away and see what kind of pathetic performance you have with four “All-Star Cast” divas standing there screaming their tonsils out at each other with no accompaniment! See how you like that. That’s why I say that the Orchestra and Chorus are the real “All-Stars.” The vocal soloists-screamers could stay home and nobody would miss them or know the difference, except those who mistake symphonic choral performances for opera. In fact, the performance would sound far better if the principal flautist in the Orchestra played the soprano vocal solos on the flute with the Orchestra accompanying the flautist, and have the principal cellist play the tenor vocal solos on the cello with the Orchestra accompanying. Now that would be lovely; I could easily listen to that. That would be far more enjoyable. But without the Orchestra and Chorus you don’t have a performance. Period. (Mi amigo/My friend has often asked: “Why did this composer feel the need to stick these vocal screamers in his work and ruin it?”) And this unfortunate mentality of hyping and promoting the vocal screamers over the real and talented musicians on stage also relegates the Symphony Chorus to the status of Second Class Musicians. I’ve seen this repeatedly in choral performances on U-toob. Commenters often completely ignore the Chorus in the performance and instead gush rabidly over the screamers with their minor solo role. Commenters also engage in conductor worshipping and feel the need to name-drop their favourite international celebrity conductor (Related: Dudamel does it best! No, Bernstein! No, Solti! No, Karajan!). By doing so, it’s intended to give them credibility (so they think) as a self-appointed authority on all matters of classical music. It’s usually the self-appointed know-it-all Classical Music Snots (CMS) who do this name-dropping stuff. I’ve always thought that the CMS are probably wannabe musicians who didn’t possess the talent, skill-level, discipline and didn’t want to put in the decades of hard work required for being a real, serious, well-trained musician, so it’s much easier for them to be a know-it-all armchair critic. But the real stars in a symphonic choral performance are the Orchestra and Chorus. Period. Sadly though, with these concert promotion announcements on radio, it’s all about the vocal screamers and how wonderful they are and they’re not to be missed and how “distinguished” they are. (roll eyes) And at performances in the US, the vocal soloist-screamers are usually parked sitting up on the edge of the stage to the right or left of the conductor per tradition, rather than sitting back near — but not in — the Chorus. They’re usually sitting back on the left side of the Chorus in many performances I’ve seen from the EU. When the screamers are parked on the edge of the stage it looks weird to me because they end of starring at the back wall of the hall the entire time and they can’t actually see any of the performances and musicians behind them. I saw one performance in the EU where the vocal soloists — they were all mostly good except for the shrill soprano and her occasional screaming — looked like they wanted to watch the Chorus and they turned their chairs to a slight angle but they still couldn’t turn around to see the superb Chorus in this instance. With this traditional seating arrangement for vocal soloists-screamers, they also don’t have a good view of the conductor because he’s sort of behind them, either slightly behind and to their right or left. It’s a damn odd tradition.

Why is opera so obnoxious?

What is this noise they call “opera” doing on any classical music station? I suppose someone would say, “Well they have to put it somewhere!” Well I have an idea where you can put it: No, not there. I know what you thought I was going to say. I suggest using this as the noise in those Emergency Alerts — you know, the ones that scroll across the top of the television screen? — that are played on radio and television. Or use it as the noise on ambulances/emergency vehicles. The screaming, shouting and siren-sounding divas in the Opera House would certainly get people’s attention much more so than those annoying beeping tones and sirens they’re currently using. Or, it would be most appropriate as a tornado alert siren. That would get people’s attention.

When did opera become all about screaming and barking noise?

There’s no talent at all involved in harsh over-singing, pushing one’s voice, shrill screaming and barking noise with heavy-vibrato. Of course it should be pointed out that the heavy-vibrato is often used to disguise pitch problems because Mr or Ms Diva can’t sing on pitch unfortunately. I’ve heard many vocal soloists-screamers in symphonic choral performances with pitch problems, and the conductor gave no indication to the screamer that s/he was flat (usually). So to get around pitch problems, apparently their voice professor (assuming they had one), vocal coach or somebody told them, “Just turn on vibrato, nobody will know the difference! They’ll just call you ‘Classically-Trained!’” So when you’re not singing on pitch or can’t find the pitch, they’ll just think that your wobbling and fluttering heavy-vibrato is the reason you’re not singing exactly on pitch. And that’s considered perfectly acceptable with opera divas, so you’ll fit right in. Yes, that’s about the extent of it, isn’t it? There’s also no talent involved in singing in between pitches rather than exactly on the pitch. Did these screamers not study ear training anywhere? We had very thorough ear training at the Conservatory where I trained. Amateurs can be heard singing in between pitches. It’s called “singing” sharp or flat and amateurs don’t often know the difference. Vocalists who sing sharp or flat need additional ear training, regardless of who they are and where they trained. When I feel I’m temporarily up to listening to some of the operatic screamers invited into symphonic choral performances, they do indeed have pitch problems. I’ll say to myself: Mi amor/My love, you’re not exactly on the pitch there. And apparently they can’t hear that they’re not on pitch because they don’t try to wobble onto the correct pitch. They’re usually flat in between the two pitches, and again, the conductor never signals to them that this is the case. But if it were the Chorus that were flat (or maybe the soprano section), the conductor would take his index finger and point to the ceiling indicating to the Chorus or a certain section of the Chorus that they are flat and need to raise the pitch slightly. I’ve seen conductors do that on the odd occasion with a section of a Chorus. But I’ve never seen a conductor do that in a performance to a vocal soloist-screamer who is not screaming on pitch. Vocal soloists-screamers seem to be sacrosanct and above reproach. Is this double-standard because the screamer was contracted for the performance through their artist management agent and that makes them better and sacrosanct in the mind of the conductor? Didn’t the conductor work with the soloist-screamer at all privately before the performance where any pitch problems could be addressed? I know some conductors do work with the vocal soloist-screamer before hand. I’ve seen conductor Philippe Herreweghe work with the soloists. I’ve seen his performances where they showed behind-the-scenes and he was doing exactly that with the soprano soloist in that case in their rehearsal hall.

The vocal soloists-screamers are even promoted in some video images used for some performances of symphonic choral works, such as the Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem. I saw examples of that while writing this article. Either the bass or the soprano soloist is pictured on the “cover.” When really, both soloists sit silently most of the time during the performance. Shouldn’t it be the Orchestra and Chorus who are pictured since they perform all the movements of the work? One would think so, but again, by “industry standards” both are considered unimportant compared to the “All-Star Cast of Soloists” vocal soloists-screamers. And I understand that some of this is U-toob’s doing by the images they grab for the video “cover” when the video is processed. But I would guess that U-toob would also have a strong preference for vocal soloists-screamers, as opposed to the real musicians on stage: The Orchestra and Chorus. There are a few real musicians who are vocal soloists, but I could pretty much count them all on one hand. They are such a small group.

I know a 90-year old woman who used to come to performances in San Francisco with her senior-aged group of about 10 friends. She told me awhile back, “We went to the San Francisco Symphony on a regular basis for an outing and something enjoyable to do.” I asked her about it recently. She said they no longer do that except maybe once a year. I asked, “Why?” Her explanation was basically what I’ve said in the previous paragraphs. She and her group had been going to the San Francisco Symphony, but she said that the vocal soloists used in various performances at the Symphony were so penetratingly loud and noisy. She said, “They just scream at you; it wasn’t enjoyable. [Editorial: sound familiar?] When did they start doing this?” We couldn’t take it. Who likes that harsh sound?” I said to her: Well apparently a lot of brainwashed people like that sound because they think they’re supposed to like that awful noise in order to say they’re into operatic soloists because of opera’s reputation of being for the white, elite and bougi. She, too, asked when this style of performance started. She said it didn’t used to be like this.

No, I don’t remember it being like this when I trained, although I’ve never been into opera. Obviously I heard opera at the Conservatory of Music where I trained and I heard some Conservatory students playing operatic recordings occasionally in their dorm rooms, but I don’t remember hearing any performances live or recorded that sounded like the screaming noise one hears today, or maybe I tuned it out thinking to myself: What a harsh, dreadful noise. Our Opera Department performed Suor Angelica by Puccini one year and I enjoyed some of that, mainly the choral sections. Surprisingly, the lead in the Puccini sang her role with a straight-tone. She didn’t sound like a screaming, forced opera diva at all. She didn’t sound “operatic” at all, and all of her notes were exactly on pitch. She sounded more like an Anglican treble/choirboy. The one person I could listen to and still can to some degree is the late Joan Sutherland. Although mi amigo/my friend can’t take her voice or any operatic voice. And I really couldn’t tell you much about anybody else from that genre because I didn’t pay attention to them and still don’t, until it’s forced on my ears and then again I couldn’t tell you who the screamer is. Nor do I care who it is! There’s only one other sound that is perhaps worse than opera and that’s the sound of a screaming baby. Take it away! Like nails on a chalkboard.

Why do most “classically-trained” vocal soloists-screamers sing differently than well-trained choristers?

Presumably, because they think they’re supposed to. Loco./Crazy. The thinking in the classical music tradition seems to be: If you’re a vocal soloist-screamer in opera or in symphonic choral performance, you must sing with heavy-vibrato. Period. No exceptions. It’s required of you, otherwise you’re not a real vocal soloist in the public’s mind. The public expects all vocal soloists to sing with ugly heavy-vibrato and to flutter, quiver, and wobble their voice. And scream and yell those high notes whenever possible. The public doesn’t know the difference! They don’t expect to hear you sing on pitch. Instead, they rabidly applaud screaming and yelling. That’s what they expect to hear. “So get with the programme!”

And some audiences will rabidly applaud anything on cue in the US regardless of the quality of the performance. Reminds me of when I heard the predictable and expected roar of applause and approval from those in attendance at the end of the Tanglewood Music Festival 2-3 years ago for the BSO and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus after their soprano section screamed those high notes at the end of Beethoven’s Ninth. They were cackling, they sounded screechy and shrill with wobbling vibrato. It sounded awful, unrefined. I had to turn the volume way down. Maybe it was the wine and cheese that was really applauding, drunk people sitting on the lawn who don’t know the difference between choral screaming and beautiful singing/choral excellence.

But for the real artists among us: Assuming the chorister is singing with a lovely straight-tone in the Chorus — which is the only way a Chorus can achieve the desired perfect intonation/one of the basis fundamentals of choral excellence — when said chorister takes on the role of soloist, why not sing the role of soloist with the same straight-tone voice? Why start fluttering, wobbling and quivering with heavy-vibrato? Where is it written that one must do that? I suppose someone would tell me, “Oh, it’s per tradition you know.” Why not keep the exact same voice and vocal technique with a reasonable increase in one’s volume level as soloist? There’s no need to turn on the heavy-vibrato switch. Why sing with two drastically different voices, which I’ve heard in some instances? Or put another way, why do most vocal soloists mistake screaming for singing beautifully?

Dear Vibratobots: Skilled and Talented Orchestras Have the Ability to Accompany at the Quietest Volume Levels

Talented, gifted genuine artists have the ability to sing beautifully at near speech-level volume, and the finest orchestras have the ability to accompany them at the quietest levels, contrary to the rubbish one hears from the Vibratobots that “one has to sing over the Orchestra.” No, one does not have to “sing over the Orchestra.” (Translation: Scream/yell.) That’s a myth. It’s a lie promoted by the Vibratobots. It’s their lame excuse for justifying screaming because on the opera stage ear-piercing screaming with annoying wobbling vibrato is the standard tradition. Which makes thinking people ask:

Is opera even music?

Well, the orchestral part is of course. The orchestral part can be quite beautiful. But there’s really nothing musical or artistic about heavy-vibrato screaming, grunting, barking noise. It’s obnoxious. It takes no talent to scream. Any fool can scream close to on-pitch and “at the top of their lungs.” Mi amigo/My friend cannot stand to listen to most vocal soloists in classical music symphonic choral works. So I’ve learned to fast-forward through vocal solo passages so as not to irritate him. I think I have a bit more of a threshold for that noise than he just because of my musical background and experience.

But for those who don’t know despite my continuing to say this, a symphonic choral work is a composition for Orchestra and Chorus, often with vocal soloists, unfortunately. Rather than selecting excellent soloists from the Symphony Chorus — and many choristers have training as soloists and are quite comfortable serving as a vocal soloists — orchestral management usually contact artist agents and drag in celebrity soloists from the opera genre. This is very inappropriate because symphonic choral works are not opera. It’s the mixing of two different genres. But orchestral management — the same elitist people who propose cutting the health care of their musicians! — are notorious for using screaming opera divas as advertising bait to get people to show up at the performance because the thinking from management seems to be: “The public won’t show up just to hear the Orchestra and Chorus, so we need big-name celebrity-screamers and use them as bait for the audience to fawn over, worship, glorify and genuflect to.” Again, (for the thick people who e-mail me about this), the problem with that is a symphonic choral work is not opera and has nothing to do with opera. So there’s a clash in musical styles between the Symphony Chorus which is hopefully singing with a lovely straight tone guaranteeing them perfect intonation (no noticeable vibrato) in all vocal sections (SATB) and the obnoxious heavy-vibrato opera soloists/screamers who are screaming noise that they mistake for beautiful music. The noise from the screamers and the beautiful music coming from the well-prepared Symphony Chorus do not match.

Also, I know that symphonic choral music is often confused with opera by ignorant people who know little to nothing about music.

And usually, the soprano soloist-screamer is the worst of the bunch, followed by the tenor soloist-screamer. When the two start screaming together, one seems to try to outdo the other. It becomes sort of a competition between the two to see which one can scream the louder and produce the most noise. An example I’ve been using of that is Beethoven’s Ninth where the solo passages in that work usually sound like a screaming train wreck with one screamer trying to out-scream the other three rather than performing a beautiful quartet trying to harmonise with each other and sing beautifully, which they usually don’t. I’ve never heard the quartet in Beethoven’s Ninth sound like what I would call lovely singing and beautiful music. It’s usually nothing but screaming/yelling, close-to-on-pitch. So, I usually have to by-pass the shrill and screaming solo sections in Beethoven’s Ninth because of this. Usually the soprano screamer wins out because her noise/powerful screaming voice — which can easily be heard on the other side of the City (even a City the size of Los Ángeles) — cuts through everyone on that stage. Her screaming noise cuts through and overpowers the full Orchestra and 150-200 voice Symphony Chorus. If the pipe organ in the Concert Hall is being used in the performance, her abrasive voice can cut through that too and overpower the organ even if the organist is using the full resources of the instrument. Everyone else on stage might as well leave because “It’s all about her,” Ms Soprano Screamer seems to be her thinking. And I have seen what I just described countless times in symphonic choral performances. The soprano soloist-screamer seems clueless that anyone else is even there and clueless that she is supposed to be trying to blend her awful voice with that heavy-vibrato, quivering, fluttering, wobbling, screaming noise with the other vocal soloists-screamers. Then for her bow, she has to curtsy — which to me looks conservative and or chauvinistic, misogynistic, sexist or something (take your pick) — as if she thinks a curtsy will generate her more attention and applause. Wasn’t her obnoxious screaming voice sufficient to generate her the needed attention she craves? By contrast, the tenor and bass don’t curtsy so why does she feel she needs to? Curtsying looks so very pro-feminist, doesn’t it? (roll eyes, sarcasm intended).

Why do some people not know the difference between opera and symphonic choral works? Because both genres employ vocal soloist-screamers

Then we have the musically-ignorant among us who go on U-toob who don’t know the difference between opera and symphonic choral music. Under a video performance of Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem Op. 45 these people write, “I love this opera.” Except a Requiem is not an opera. A Requiem is a symphonic choral works. Opera has costuming and scenery. Did you see any costuming and scenery during the performance of the Brahms? No. But I suspect one of the reasons for people not knowing the difference between opera and a symphonic choral work is because vocal soloists-screamers from the opera genre are brought into the Concert Hall for symphonic choral performances and they sang scream and bark the same way they do over in the Opera House.

The public has been brainwashed to worship celebrity vocal soloists, but they don’t treat instrumental soloists the same way. Why?

I’ve seen the following scenario over and over, in fact, I saw it last night while working on this article. The Orchestra (and Chorus) are on stage. The stage door opens and the vocal screamers from the opera genre come on stage along with the conductor. The audience begins a roar of applause and loud approval — WHY? — as if the most famous rock stars in the world have arrived on stage. The camera shows the soloist-screamers standing there with their noses in the air as if to say, “Yes we’re here now. Aren’t you glad? We know you’ve been waiting for us, the real stars of this performance.” That’s how they come across. Get over yourselves, vocal soloist-screamers. You’re no better than anyone else on that stage let me assure you of that. And your perceived arrogance is a major turn-off.

I saw a version of this behaviour at the New England Conservatory for their Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem, Op 45 performance (which unfortunately I couldn’t listen to/watch because of the heavy-vibrato from the NEC Concert Choir. I take it their Chorus Director doesn’t believe in perfect intonation. The NEC Philharmonia was excellent though.) But anyway, it was odd to see this behaviour — including hooting, hollering and foot-stomping from the audience — for vocal soloists coming on stage in the Conservatory’s Jordan Hall as if the soloists-screamers were rock stars. The celebrity worship of the vocal soloists-screamers had begun. When the Orchestra and Chorus came on stage, I suspect the audience sat in silence. (The Orchestra and Chorus were already on stage when they began recording the performance.)

What makes the vocal soloist-screamers so special in the mind of the public and any more important and deserving of applause than the other superb real musicians on stage?

What I see is a case of the public having been celebrity-brainwashed that vocal soloists-screamers are special and somehow above the real musicians on stage, which of course is ludicrous thinking. In fact, the vocal screamers sit most of the time in the performance doing nothing depending upon the symphonic choral work being performed. The Orchestra and Chorus perform the majority of the work, yet they are not worshipped and glorified by the audience. This celebrity-worshipping of soloists/opera screamers almost relegates the real musicians (the Orchestra and Chorus) to second class musicians status by the public’s twisted logic and their brainwashed devotion to vocal soloists-screamers who often project noise pollution towards the audience from his/her mouth standing there alone or with three other noise projectiles called “the vocal soloists.” All four “vocal soloists” who could easily out-scream a jet engine flying over the Concert Hall at full throttle.

Vocal soloist-screamers generate more applause than instrumental soloists.

Another thing I’ve noticed consistently is that the screamers get more applause
than instrumental soloists. Why is that? This is especially true if the soprano screamer does an outdated curtsy for her bow (think: Victorian Era; and curtsying is a gesture of an inferior to a superior. So she feels the audience is superior to her, does she?) In the public’s mind, the choristers — who are highly-skilled vocally-trained singers — are considered second class musicians, so why are vocal soloists not seen as the same? All the vocal soloists do is to “sing” scream by themselves rather than in an ensemble. Yet vocal screamers seem to be seen as gods just because they sing or scream by themselves, especially when they rear back and belt out ugly noise pollution.

I’ve also noticed that during the applause and bows at the end of a performance, opera diva-screamers in symphonic choral performances rarely try to divert the attention off of themselves by turning around and acknowledging/motioning to the Orchestra and or Chorus to share in the applause. Contrast that with the many instrumental soloists in a concerto setting — such as pianists, flautists and others — who graciously share in the applause, with some instrumental soloists seeming to be a bit embarrassed by all the applause. One example of that is pianist Yefim Bronfman. He’s very humble and gracious and doesn’t seem to like the attention. He doesn’t try to make it all about himself as do most vocal singers-screamers (especially females). He and other instrumental artists try to take the attention off of themselves and give the credit to the Orchestra and or Chorus, as I would if I were the piano soloist in a concerto setting. The only interaction I’ve seen the vocal soloists-screamers have is with the conductor.

Conductors gushing over female vocal soloists-screamers

Oh that’s another story. The conductor usually gushes over the female screamers — as if they’re considered special compared to the male screamers; yes, sexist him is usually fawning over and kissing the female screamers on the cheek while the male screamer(s) are standing there looking somewhat alone, confused and isolated and probably thinking, “Well I screamed just as well as she did so why don’t you give me as much attention, praise, honour and glory as you’re giving her, or it because of her gender and because she looks like she’s expecting all the attention?” — again, as if these screamers are seen as gods. I guess most conductors enjoy screaming noise pollution too, especially if he has experience in conducting opera. I mean, didn’t the performance conductor choose the vocal screamers or did orchestral management do that because they wanted to feature those particular screamers?

And who goes to the opera? (By the way, they pronounce it Op-rah, Dahling). The elitist (Dahling), the class-ist, the wealthy (Dahling), the well-heeled (Dahling), and the nearly all-white opera audience (Dahling) of the Upper Class (Dahling). Yes Dahling, that’s who goes to the Op-rah because they’ve been brainwashed to, that Op-rah is part of all that. That Op-rah is part of wealth. For example, the Opening Night Gala (Dahling) of “The Op-rah” is more about a fashion show for bougi women’s designer expensive gowns (Dahling) and what everyone is wearing rather than about the opera being performed. By comparison, the opera production itself seems to be a more minor event of the evening (Dahling). The Opening Night Gala (Dahling) is just an excuse for wealthy basura to be there in stuffy tuxes and over-priced gowns and jewels (Dahling). Pretentiousness and Keeping Up Appearances (of Wealth, Dahling).

For those who still don’t have a clue what I mean by a Symphony Chorus singing with a lovely straight-tone or no noticeable vibrato, below are examples of performances where the superb Chorus sings with a beautiful straight tone (no noticeable vibrato) giving them perfect intonation in all choral sections (SATB: soprano, alto, tenor and bass):

Brahms/Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45:

This one from the EU — the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Concert Choir — is superb from Copenhagen performing Brahms – Ein Deutsches Requiem.

Symphony Chorus: KoncertKoret
Orchestra: SymfoniOrkestret/Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Sopran: Camilla Tilling
Baryton: Peter Mattei
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor
© Danmarks Radio

Or their superb performance of the Fauré Requiem:

Symphony Chorus: KoncertKoret
Orchestra: SymfoniOrkestret/Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Ivor Bolton, conductor
© Danmarks Radio

Beethoven/Missa Solemnis in D, Op. 123:

Cappella Amsterdam is an Orchestra Chorus in the Nederlands and the Chorus performing in this video:

The Vibratobots

Oh them! Groan. They are best ignored. They are the disciples of heavy-vibrato and they are likely among the musically-ignorant people who don’t know the difference between opera and symphonic choral works. The Vibratobots are usually from Boston which seems to be the Vibrato Capital and they rush to defend the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Or is it just one guy who writes me to defend the currently beleaguered Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which is currently being overhauled by the way by James Burton. Much needed. This Vibratobot guy trolls me by saying, “but you can’t have a 150-200 voice Chorus singing the way these two choral ensembles in these performances sing. A large Chorus must sing with vibrato.” Where did he get that brainwashed thinking? It’s rubbish. Obviously, he loves vibrato so it’s pointless to continue any discussion with him. Fact: the size of the choral ensemble has nothing to do with whether or not they sing with noticeable vibrato. It can be a quartet or a 200-voice Chorus. The size of the ensemble has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the Chorus Director wants perfect intonation or not, and again, perfect intonation can only be achieved when the choristers are singing with a straight tone (no noticeable vibrato). I cannot stress this enough. Understand, Vibratobots? No, I suppose you don’t. Or are you really that damn thick?

All of the Orchestra Choruses (consisting of between 150-200 voices) in that I had the privilege of singing with in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and Davies Symphony Hall sang with a straight tone (no noticeable vibrato). I know of no one’s voice — including my own — over my many years of choral singing that was ruined or damaged by singing with a straight tone. That sounds right out of Fear Card nonsense.

But the same cannot be said about the opera genre and operatic screamers.
The Vibratobots try to lead one to believe that those singers screamers who sing scream with annoying vibrato have no vocal problems at all when in reality they are the ones who do! Because who sings with heavy-vibrato? Opera divas/singers-screamers:

How do some opera singers’ damage their voices after only a few years of singing?

So for the Vibratobots to suggest that opera divas escape any damage or harm to their voice because they sing scream with god-awful annoying heavy-vibrato is more rubbish.

One of their commenters sounded more like me:

“….There are opera singers who sing with poor technique — they yell their high notes, they scream, they do all the things rock singers do, just with different music. They’ll insist they’ve been singing with correct technique all these years, but the proof will be in the pudding, so to speak. Barring mitigating circumstances, if an opera singer blows out his or her voice, it’s because the technique was (and had possibly always been) wrong. It doesn’t matter what teacher they learned it from, what school they went to, or where they gave their operatic debut: if your technique is bad, you may sound thrilling and exciting… but it’s going to catch up with you, regardless of genre.”

Mi amigo and I have listened to outstanding period Baroque performances, such as the performance below, from the EU — Amsterdam in this instance, although the superb performers are from the Česká republika/Czech Republic, Praha/Prague — and in those performances the soloists are chosen from the Chorus and they really sing no differently as soloists than they do when they are singing in the Chorus. And that is my point. Their volume level increases some of course because they are also a soloist, but certainly not to the screaming level that one customarily hears from obnoxious opera divas who are very insensitive to anyone else being on the stage and who seem to try to drown out and overpower everybody on the stage. The soloists in the Zelenka performance blend their voices beautifully together with no one trying to overpower the other. They’re each very sensitive to one another as it should be. These are true artists.

Mi amigo asked me why this changed? He asked me why don’t the soloists today sing like they do in the most polished and refined period Baroque performances where all the soloists are a pleasure to listen to? Probably because that is not what is expected of them by orchestral management — who also seem to confuse opera and symphonic choral performances as if they’re one in the same when they are not — and because of the tradition of the opera genre where obnoxious harsh, shrill, cackling, wobbling, fluttering, quivering screaming is the norm, and that’s what is expected of opera divas-screamers as they “push their voice.” And they mistakenly call that noise “singing” and “music.”

One has to feel sorry for the people who live around outdoor venues in the Summer months where “Opera in the Park” is performed. Those poor resident! How do those local residents around the park survive? Well, the Orchestra would likely sound good to them, but those screaming divas? With most of the screamers on the stage at “Opera in the Park,” one can hear their voice “carry” all the way over in adjacent cities where those residents are likely asking each other, “Do you hear that noise? It sounds like someone blew a tonsil. What is that dreadful noise?”

Also, regarding vibrato: any singer can turn off their vibrato — well-trained choristers do that all the time — and sing with a beautiful straight tone (no noticeable vibrato) — although one should expect the Vibratobots to say that’s not true. They’re lying. It’s similar to a string player not playing with vibrato, if asked to, when s/he usually does play with vibrato. But string players using vibrato in their playing sounds tastefully musical. The same with well-trained flautists. It doesn’t sound at all like screaming. And “tiny” vibrato is fine. That doesn’t sound like screaming. But “tiny” vibrato is not what one usually hears these days.

Speaking of that noise:

I found this article from Classic FM in the UK (a classical music station and BBC Radio 3′s competition) interesting:

“Back in the day, Catherine explains (we’re talking pre-16th century), nobody needed to sing ‘louder than lovely’. People sang outdoors, in church or at home, which could all be done at the same pitch as speaking.”

Let’s stop right there. Is Catherine aware that she just said that operatic singing is not lovely because it’s singing “louder than lovely?” Like most Vibratobots, she seems completely unaware that orchestras have the ability to accompany and play extremely quietly so there is no need for an opera screamer-diva to scream over the Orchestra.

She continued:

“There were no opera houses, concert halls, or orchestras – and as a result, singers didn’t need to produce a very loud noise.”

Noise? Noise? Did she use the word “noise?” Yes she did. She said noise. Well it’s about time that someone other than myself is honest about it. It is indeed noise and a rather harsh, ugly, obnoxious noise at that. That screaming noise certainly doesn’t sound like music.

She says that vibrato is used to help the voice carry. Oh it “carries” all right, like a jet engine. Not necessarily a good thing. The sounds of war “carry.” It’s easy to get noise to “carry.” And once again for the thick people, the voice doesn’t need to “carry” or scream over an Orchestra — that’s a lie, it’s a myth, it’s just an excuse used for “singing with heavy-vibrato” and for screaming — because, once again, the finest orchestras are not stupid. They can accompany at the quietest levels. I’ve heard them do so and they do so quite skillfully. Well-trained, professional Orchestras — such as my favourite hr-Sinfonieorchester/the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra — can play extremely quietly.

Catherine also says:

“Technically speaking, vibrato alters the pitch and frequency at which you sing, but it should be so tiny and so fast that you don’t notice it’s happening.”

And that is the problem, isn’t it? Today, vibrato is not “tiny” at all and one does indeed notice it, unless you’re absolutely deaf. I’ve seen concert-goers sitting in the front row in the Orchestra section and when the soprano opera diva rears back and lets out this harsh, shrill scream she mistakes for very musical singing — can one ignore a jet engine?! — the faces of the audience show some distress as if they’re thinking: “It’s a bit strong, don’t you think? Do you really need to scream at us? Where did you train? I know what it says in the programme but what’s the purpose of rearing back and letting out this glass-shattering screech at us? You sound worse than a screaming baby. I didn’t bring ear plugs because I didn’t think they would be needed. This is supposed to be beautiful music I came to hear, not screaming noise. Maybe I should look around and see if there’s an empty seat near the back of the hall so I won’t get my ears blown out by this woman. And it’s most often the soprano vocal soloist-screamer who is the worst of the bunch. Where did they get her from?” She seems to be trying to compete with the sirens on the emergency vehicles that just passed by outside the Concert Hall.

Put an end to screaming opera divas! Wear a wireless microphone
Then they can sing as if they possess some talent, training and an ear for music

Note to Vibratobots: There’s no longer a need for ugly and obnoxious screaming — which opera divas mistake for lovely singing — when one can wear a wireless microphone. These days with the technology we have, opera screamers can wear a wireless microphone. This will allow them to try to sing on pitch for the first time since they trained, and at a more speech-level voice to “carry” their voice as they like to say, so there will be no need for “singing screaming over the Orchestra.” Take your pick from these wireless microphone options:

Wireless microphone headset for singing. These are used all the time in US pop culture in those singing competitions on television. Why can’t opera screamers use them as well?

In the Baroque performances I mentioned earlier, the soloists have a stand mic positioned in front of them, so in symphonic choral performances a soloist can be mic’d and sing at a reasonable volume level. This is done in Baroque performances all the time, so why can’t it be done in other performances?

Oddly, on stage I’ve never seen any conductor say a word of constructive criticism to any of the vocal soloists-screamers, or at least none that I’ve ever heard from my experience in Orchestra Choruses. Yet conductors have no problem correcting sections of the Orchestra or Chorus on stage. It seems that conductors view vocal soloists-screamers as some type of sacrosanct gods and above reproach. Well, he or she is a diva after all! It’s a very strange phenomenon.

I can’t think of any other musicians who hold themselves in such high regard as do opera divas-screamers and when they walk out on stage seems to live under the illusion that they are the “stars of the performance” (hardly!) and almost expect the audience to genuflect, bow and scrape to them. There are of course some musicians with big heads and an over-inflated sense of self worth. But as a group, I can’t think of any other group of musicians who have developed a reputation such as that of opera divas-screamers.

Some opera divas are quite a piece of work from what I’ve heard and read about them. I won’t name names, other than Kathleen Battle. You can read about her there at that link.

But the audience who attends symphonic choral performances — some (many?) of whom are likely from the opera genre — is partly to blame. They’ve been brainwashed with the mentality that vocal soloists are the “stars” — as I mentioned earlier in radio promotions where the vocal screamers are referred to as “an all-star cast of soloists” — so the audience applaud wildly when the vocal screamers glide out on stage.

Mi amigo/My friend and I watched most of a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 in d awhile back which is an orchestral/choral work or symphonic choral. The alto soloist started out just fine with a quiet and mostly straight-tone. She sang with an open throat and lovely dark tone, the same way I was trained. But, as she got more and more into her part she turned on more and more vibrato — which changed the pitches/notes she was supposed to be singing; she was wobbling and quivering in between pitches — which ruined it for us, especially mi amigo. So he asked me to fast-forward through her. He said, “She’s now into opera.” Yes she was. I agreed. She had turned her part into heavy-vibrato operatic music even though Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 is not opera. In fact, Mahler never wrote an opera. Although he was a conductor of opera and was the music director at the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan and at the Vienna State Opera. Some people say that Mahler’s symphonies were his operas because some of them use choral ensembles and soloists/screamers.

So when can we expect to see opera divas-screamers sent back to the Opera House where they belong and stay the hell out of the Concert Hall stage where they don’t belong? Well I’m a realist so the answer to that is: Not anytime soon. They don’t belong on the Concert Hall stage. When might we expect to see them and all vocal soloists in symphonic choral performances and in opera wearing wireless microphones so they can sing perfectly on pitch as a genuine artist performs and at a reasonable volume level so they don’t need to scream their tonsils out? Yes, I’m sure this will certainly happen; right around the corner? Why contaminate the Concert Hall with that awful, ugly, wobbling, harsh, shrill unmusical screaming noise? I won’t have it!

After writing this article, I watched a superb performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana from Copenhagen. Well, it was superb from an orchestral and choral standpoint as both were superb as well as the trebles/boys. All the choristers sang with a straight-tone giving them perfect intonation. Then there were the vocal soloists, and some commenters. Some commenters thought Carmina Burana is opera. It’s not. It’s a symphonic choral work specifically a cantata. But some people probably it was opera because of the vocal soloists-screamers. Someone wrote a comment about the tenor and how he needed to learn to sing and not scream. The same could be said about the soprano. Although when she sang with the boys she was singing rather beautifully with no screaming. But when she sang alone is when she went into operatic screaming of sorts (not full-on screaming) where she wasn’t singing on pitch because of noticeable vibrato. Also interesting as well as sexist that a female soloist can come out on stage “half naked” with one breast practically exposed but the hypocrisy is that one of the guy soloists can’t do the same. He can’t look the same way unfortunately. He can’t wear a tasteful-looking tank top or shirt exposing half of his chest. Why not? No, he’s required to be all covered up in a stuffy tux from head to toe. The hypocrisy and sexism is noted. Chau.—el barrio rosa

Here in this performance (below) from Amsterdam is how soloists should sound. These musicians are true artists and have real talent. They don’t resort to using wobbling vibrato to cover up bad technique and pitch problems. There’s no noise on this stage at all. It’s all tasteful music and extremely well performed by:

Collegium 1704 & Collegium Vocale 1704
o.l.v. Václav Luks
Solisten:
Hana Blažíková, sopraan
Kamila Mazalová, alt
Václav Čížek, tenor
Tomáš Král, bas (Zelenka)
Marián Krejčik, bas (Fux, Tůma)

Jan Dismas Zelenka:

and

Here is a superb performance — from the Chorus, Orchestra and Soloists — of the symphonic choral work, Fauré Requiem Op. 48. The Chorus sings with a lovely straight tone (no noticeable vibrato) and I especially love their tenor section. But they’re all superb. And both of the vocal soloists are real artists/musicians, not screamers. The soprano soloist doesn’t try to clear the room with her voice.

Performers:

Chorus: The Collegium Vocalle Ghent
Orchestra: Chapelle Royale Orchestre Champs-Élysées (Paris)
Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe

I believe the Chorus is from Belgium, and to my knowledge they are the “Official” Chorus for this Orchestra, the Champs-Élysées. They have performed a couple of times with my favourite Orchestra, the hr-Sinfonieorchester/Frankfurt Radio Symphony.

Related:

Editorial: Opera’s Diversity Problem & How to Fix It
“Did these moments resonate in a room full of opera professionals comprising mostly of white faces? The message was crystal clear from these two Black women, both top professionals in their field with one actually trained as a classical vocalist: the opera house was no place for them…After this panel, I spoke to one conference attendee – a Black woman – about how I felt more at ease in European opera houses compared to ones in the United States; she echoed that experience.”

Tangling with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus