Your indispensable guide to what an opera singer can add to your event, what type of music they can perform, the types of accompaniment they can provide, and much more.
What is an opera singer and what do they do?
An opera singer is a highly trained classical singer who is also a stage performer - opera is the classical equivalent of a big West End musical. A major part of an opera singer's training is to power their own voice to fill a large theatre or opera house without the need for any amplification, but many prefer to use a microphone if they are singing in a non-theatre environment, such as a hotel or outside. An opera singer can adapt their voice to almost any event from wedding entertainment to corporate dinner, to thrilling effect - many people are amazed by the awesome sensation of both hearing and feeling an operatic voice.
There are four main voice types:
• soprano (high female voice)
• mezzo (lower female voice)
• tenor (high male voice)
• baritone (lower male voice)
If you book an opera group rather than a soloist, they will probably bring a combination of these voice types so they can sing a wider variety of music for you.
What do opera singers sing?
Most opera singers for events offer a selection of opera highlights, the most famous songs (arias) and extracts from popular operas, and you'll be surprised how many you'll know even if you've never seen an opera in your life! Opera is often used in film soundtracks, adverts, TV series and more, and an experienced classical singer will choose a selection that suits your occasion and your guest list. They may also include operatic-style songs as sung by groups such as Il Divo, and songs from classical musicals, such as "Phantom of the Opera". If you have any special requirements, make sure you ask your singer if the music is in their repertoire well in advance - due to the different voice types, not every singer can sing physically every opera or musicals item you might wish.
What should I look for to ensure quality?
All of the classical singers offered by Alive Network have already been carefully pre-vetted so they represent the most experienced wedding, party and corporate event opera singers in the UK. We select our artists carefully, so all you need to do is choose one from our web site and relax in the knowledge that they are already pre-vetted!
Professional events opera singers should be able to offer you the following:
1. A demo CD or website samples
Listen for popular items, well sung, in time and in tune. A good voice will shine through even the most basic standard of recording, so chances are, you'll know if you like the singer's voice within 30 seconds or so. Listen to two or three short extracts, imagine that voice in your event scenario and ask yourself:
• does the voice hold your interest?
• can you hear (and understand) the words?
• do you want to hear more? If the answer to any of the above is "no", find another singer!
2. Professional photos
Opera singers need professional 'head and shoulder' photos as part of their marketing, but ask if they have any pictures of them performing in different venues too. Don't be surprised if they don't have a video, however; making a video with the proper sound quality to do opera singing justice is very expensive, and copyright laws on opera and musicals very strict!
3. Customer reviews and testimonials
If your chosen opera singer or singers have performed before, they should have customer feedback available for you to read. Some opera singers for hire may also offer the contact details for satisfied customers who are happy to give a reference.
4. The backing of a reliable agency
Any opera singer can set up a website and offer their services for events. However, unless you book via an agency, you can't really be sure of their quality and if something goes wrong you are on your own. If you book through a reliable entertainment agency like Alive Network, your personal entertainment coordinator will make sure the opera singer you book is fully briefed and understands your requirements. If something goes awry, we will be there to help 24 hours a day, rather than a busy opera singer who can only answer their phone when they are not singing!
5. Professional fee levels
Experienced, high quality opera singers are much in demand, so they don't come cheap. Low cost opera singers may seem good value, but chances are they will not have the experience to give a good performance regardless of the venue or event, nor the repertoire of music to suit all occasions. As with all things entertainment, with opera singers, you get what you pay for. Alive Network represents experienced artists who define their own fees, so our website offers a good indicator of what the 'going rate' is.
What exactly will an opera singer or singers do at my event?
Professional opera singers can offer a range of formats, from solos at wedding services to sets in between courses of a charity dinner. For weddings, funerals, product launches or similar, simply choose the solo items you'd like, and check they fit into your event format. Most singers know exactly how long items take, and can tailor what they sing to the minute, if required. Alive Network will provide details of each opera singer's show format.
For corporate dinners, wedding receptions, or charity events, sets of opera highlights should be no shorter than 15 minutes and no longer than 45 minutes, while a single set should be around one hour. This gives the audience or guests lots to listen to, but they are left wanting more, not wanting to leave!
What equipment and accompaniment will my opera singers require?
The most vital piece of equipment for an opera singer are their own vocal chords (or folds), and opera singers take very great care of them! Therefore, they are often very fussy about any additional amplification they sing through, to ensure their sound is kept as ‘true’ as possible. If your event requires a sound system, make sure your booked singers know this, and talk to your sound system providers well beforehand. Your singers may specify the kind of microphone they require, while other singers may prefer to bring their own PA system and/or mics.
Your opera singer will also require accompaniment, either as backing tracks, or using their own pianist, instrumental group or even an orchestra. Each type of accompaniment has its own requirements (and costs), not to mention space and rehearsal demands, so feel free to ask exactly what your singer offers. Most opera singers work either with a live pianist, who may require you to hire a piano for them or bring their own digital instrument, or backing tracks, which may require a PA system if the singer doesn't bring their own.
Most opera singers prefer to sing acoustically whenever possible, which in turn requires an audience or guests to be able to sit and listen in quiet surroundings with a good view of the performers. It is both difficult and tiring to sing over people talking or eating, plus the audience miss all the drama of the performance too. Equally, people find it difficult to talk over opera singers, so they just talk louder, which is why you should avoid booking live opera singers for drinks receptions, meet and greet events, etc.
How much space will opera singers require?
The space required varies according to how many singers you book, what accompaniment they require (see above) and whether they are amplified or not. Remember, your opera singers will want to give a performance that can been seen, so don't stick them in a corner or under a dark balcony!
What else will opera singers require?
For evening events, most singers perform in full evening dress and sometimes in costume, so they will require a secure, private room to change in and leave their possessions in - please don't expect them to change in toilets, the staff room or your chair storage cupboard!
Some opera singers like to eat a meal before they sing, and others afterwards; check what your performers require. Even if they don't require a meal, they will usually require at least 2 litres of mineral water - singing is thirsty work! An agreement for bar staff to provide soft drinks at no charge to the performers will always be appreciated. If an opera singer insists on alcoholic drinks being included and served before they sing, don't book them: alcohol will affect their vocal performance and not in a good way...
Your opera singers will probably require at least one hour to set up and rehearse in your venue before their show, during which time they will need time to balance their sound without noises from table laying, etc. Equally, they will require time to change and pack away equipment and costumes after a performance without being hassled to clear quickly by security or venue staff.
For solos at wedding or funeral services, your opera singer will require rehearsal time with your church organist in advance, unless they bring their own accompaniment. Make sure you provide full contact details of both organist and clergy, so they can liaise in advance. For wedding receptions, most opera singers will liaise direct with your venue to ensure they are set up and ready by the time you and your wedding party arrive.
How do I book an opera singer?
Once your Alive Network coordinator sends you a confirmed quote and you are happy with the price, they will go through the logistics and timings, confirming the details of your booking. You will then be required to pay a deposit, usually over the phone by credit card, and then contracts and receipts will be emailed to you. The artists will also sign the same agreement. Once a booking has been made you will be put in contact with the artist 3 weeks before the event to double check the arrangements and make any changes necessary.
Remember, this is NOT the time to ask for special requests; these should be made at time of booking in case the opera singers are not able to perform your chosen items due to their voice type or the number of singers you have booked. (You'd be surprised how many solo opera singers are asked to sing the Flower Duet (British Airways advert), which is for two singers!)
Anything else I should know?
Never be afraid to ask your opera singer or Alive Network questions about any aspect of your booking, whether music, logistics or timings - any professional will be happy to help as it ensures your event goes as smoothly as possible for all concerned!
Written by Kirsty Young of Southern Funeral Singers - Adding something special to any funeral, helping celebrate a special life with beautiful music sung live.