Monash University

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Emotional truth in opera performance

posted on 2017-02-22, 04:18 authored by Torr, Oliver J.
Opera conventionally focuses on the vocal music aspect of performance. This paper is instead concerned with the dramatic performances of opera singers. The research considers criticism of opera performance as well as early operatic history and a an ethnographic study of two opera rehearsals at Opera Australia and one with Staatsoper Berlin. Alongside the ethnography, interviews with opera stakeholders, such as singers, directors and conductors were made. The historic research showed a significant interest from those who began the tradition of opera around the year 1600 CE as well as written criticism from that time toward a truthful portrayal of character and motivation. The field research also consistently demonstrated that a more truthful opera is seen as desirable, both inside and outside the opera industry. The research also shows that despite a more truthful opera performance being seen as desirable, many within the opera industry, showed skepticism toward acting techniques based in Stanislavski or "The method". This research project also begins an ongoing investigation into developing an opera-specific drama technique/methodology that draws from Stanislavski, Adler and Meissner methods, specifically Eric Morris• acting methodology. The practical part of the research was a seven-week drama workshop conducted with Opera Australia artists that ran February to April 2013. The workshop was a prototype acting/drama class specifically tailored for classical (opera) singers. Attention was paid to the purity of voice not being lost, direct and fast exercises that were simply understood and improved awareness of and adherence to obtaining performances as emotionally truthful as possible. The before and after assessment of the workshop shows that an emotionally truthful performance of an aria is more engaging for the same audience as well as satisfying the singers performance desires.


Principal supervisor

Stuart Grant

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Theatre and Performance


Master of Philosophy

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Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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