#22   More on Acting for Singers  

This Thoughts on Singing includes more material  based on David Ostwald’s book, Acting for Singers, and serves as a guide for students who are preparing audition pieces this week for their class.  This method  may be applied by any singers choosing to improve their craft of creating interesting and effective performances in opera, musical theater and recital settings. 

Notice that your internal creative perspective is likely to evolve as you pursue this process, and that the choices you make artistically will develop within the context of the language and music that you’re given.

Additional influences on your interpretation and expression will be external,  such as the subtle variations of your accompanist’s  playing or changes in inflection of the characters you are interacting with on stage.  

Begin by reading the  libretto, watching a production, listening to a recording of the cycle if it’s an art song, and reading as much background material as you can. Familiarize yourself with the whole work. Whether it’s musical theater,  opera, or art song, you want to experience it’s larger context.

Once you have acquainted yourself with the material in its entirety you can begin to ask yourself these questions:

What is the theme of the work?

What is your character’s super objective?

What are the smaller objectives or “beats” moment to moment?

What is your subtext?

The following are examples I’ve created based on the musical My Fair Lady;  music by  Frederick Loewe and book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner,  based in the play Pygmalion; A Romance in Five Acts by George Bernard Shaw. 

As examples these are personal choices,  not definitive, yet serve to describe the concepts.     

What is the theme of the work?

Fashioning a theme statement gives one an overview to a work; a sense of prospective that helps  you develop your character. A possible theme in My Fair Lady could be  “people change and evolve”.

The two primary characters and their behaviors suggest this might be a workable theme; Professor Higgins learns compassion for Liza and Liza learns that she is a person with value.  

What is your character’s super objective?

Your character’s super objective is the need that drives your character. Following with the example of My Fair Lady , Professor Higgins super objective might be presented as “I, Professor Higgins am a man who needs to be in control”    and Liza’s super objective might be presented as “I, Liza am a woman who needs  to better myself”  You can see how those two super objectives combined move the story forward.  To check and make sure that the super objective you’ve chosen is  viable, make sure that everything that your character says, sings or does supports it. 

What are the smaller objectives or “beats” within a piece?

Within a song or aria there are numerous smaller objectives or beats  that occur from moment to moment. In referring to “beats” this is how the emotional shifts occur, phrase to phrase, as opposed to the term beats as a rhythmic concept.  For example in Freddie’s “On the street where you live” each separate verse can be considered a smaller objective or “beat”.      

What is the subtext from moment to moment?

As we’re singing or acting, there is a  level of communication which is occurring underneath the literal text which gives our characters depth.  In Liza’s  “I could have danced all night”, the intro text is;  “bed, bed, I couldn’t go to bed, my head’s too light to try to set it down” A subtext might be “That was an amazing party!”   Notice that if the subtext was changed to a literal interpretation of the text “I don’t want to go to bed” how different an interpretation that would be. 

Try This:

This week prepare your audition pieces  by doing a thorough preparation.

Watch a full production of the musical that your audition piece is from.

On a separate sheet of paper write what you think the theme is of the musical production.

Examples might be: people are generally good, people are generally bad, honesty wins over dishonesty, dishonesty wins over honesty, etc.

Decide what your character’s super objective is.

Example: “ I, (your  character’s name here) need/want_________.”

Write in your music where smaller objectives may be apparent.

Example: Verse one “I want ______”, verse two “I ________”,  etc. 

Write in your music your subtext, phrase by phrase. 

Example:  If your text is “I’ve grown accustomed to her face” your subtext might be “I like her”


Have a very fine week,



PREVIOUS       INDEX      NEXT       



Copyright © 2010 by Sarah Oppenheim-Beggs