Page 99 - Classical Singer magazine 2019 Fall University Issue
P. 99

photo by Jamie Niebuhr
he says. “Especially when you’re young, you are thinking about it all the time. Improv can really get you out of your head very quickly so that you can actually respond to a dramatic moment, rather than always depending on doing the same thing.
“We rehearse and rehearse and rehearse so that we can repeat it exactly as we rehearsed it, which we have to do— but then the di cult thing about being a singer is that you have to keep it alive and lively in that moment as though you’ve never done it before, acting on what you want as a character. Or what you don’t know. You, as a singing actor, have to believe that you don’t know how this is going to turn out. You can’t play the end of the opera.”
Heggie also emphasizes a meaningful use of the words. “English is an enormously expressive language,” he says.
“I work very hard personally to make sure that singers at least stand a chance of getting the words across.” [Laughs.]
If singers want to return the favor, they’ll follow Heggie’s simple advice. “Make sure you know what
the words you are singing mean,” he says, “do them as monologues out of the context of music. Do the whole thing with no music and none of the composed rhythms, and get your own sense of it, and then add the rhythms and the intervals.”
That spontaneity is what it’s about for him and what he wants for his audience members. If they say they got caught up in the drama and forgot they were watching
an opera, he takes it as a complement. “You should be engaged in the action,” he says, “care about the characters, drawn into their musical worlds. To me that’s the fun of it, that it’s live theatre.”
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