#20   Acting for Singers


Bay Area Opera and Musical Theater Director David Ostwald has written a fine text book “Acting  for Singers”, subtitled Creating Believable Singing Characters, available through Oxford University Press.  

This is a well-designed systematic approach which clarifies a sequence of steps one can follow to develop convincing characters and interpretations in opera, musical theater, art songs and auditions. 

One learns how to analyze the dramatic structure of a piece, fashion a theme statement, define the character’s super-objective and motivate the character’s actions from moment to moment.

The exercises are all given in the context of the special requirements of the singer; to help them remain un-entangled with physical tensions that may arise in expressing emotions so that they may maintain their vocal flexibility. 

Included in the book are  exercises for the individual,  as well  activities for groups in the acting class setting.  

A regular director for many of the regional companies of the Bay Area, including BASOTI and West Bay Opera, Ostwald’s unique approach to finding the through line of a characters’ development leads to inspired and inspiring productions.

Ostwald’s Ten Maxims of Believable Singing Acting


  1. Your characters believe they’re real people

  2. Your music is your characters’ feelings

  3. All humans have a common reservoir of feelings

  4. You are always you

  5. If you don’t let it show, the audience can’t know

  6. You are making art

  7. Believable characters engage your audience

  8. You make your characters believable by endowing them with convincing, apparently spontaneous , re-creations of real human behavior.

  9. Play the  minutiae of what’s happenin

  10. Never try to repeat results  


Try This:

When looking at a piece of vocal music this week notice how your interpretive skills are improved by looking for answers to these questions:

Where is the character?

When in history and in the lifetime of the character is this event occurring?

Who is the character in relation to others?

What does your character want?

Why do they want it?

What is the theme of the piece (love, jealously, joy, fear, etc.)? 


Have a very fine week, and rest from your labors!



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Copyright © 2010 by Sarah Oppenheim-Beggs