People often have prejudices against opera. This can mean particularly the way singers sound in classical opera as they sing without amplification. Singers spend years in developing their voices to the maximum, building their own instruments and their ”built-in microphone” . This means the voice gets louder and more penetrating because it has to carry over the strong sound of an orchestra. Sometimes this development is taken to an extreme and the beauty of the sound even compromised. There is a lot of carrying power, a strong so called singers formant. At near distance such a voice can literally hurt in your ears! In many cases these voices are classified as dramatic and may be suitable for certain types of repertoire. The component of brightness is exaggerated in relation to darkness or there is an overly dark pressed phonation– against the old Italian ideal of the balance of chiaroscuro (bright-dark). This can also be a result of too much air pressure. Such overly metallic or unnaturally darkened voices are not always produced with harmful technique but the danger is near.
And the unaccustomed ear of an opera layman may feel classical singing is unnatural and ugly. Hmm… How unfortunate is that. So, as a singing teacher I also want to say, classical singing is not always about a full-blown ”operatic” sound. Singing should be beautiful – that is ” bel canto”. Of course, singing about dramatic and violent emotions cannot be sweet. The emotional context should colour the singer´s sound. But a reliable, balanced and safe singing technique probably makes the best of every voice. Then it is beautiful, flowing, soft or strong, both bright and dark in its individual timbre.
There are so many other musical styles besides opera where classical singing technique enables the voices to flower expressively, emotionally and intelligently.