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Opera Stunts & Action Singers  

Opera Stunts & Action Singers  
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Opera Stunt & Action Singers 

Stunts are the most Operatic, show element,  in their magnitude! 

Nowadays, performers do what one would expect to see in movies! 

The comparison to feature films is focused on two differences : The Performer Sings Throughout the action and doing so , Live! No possibility to edit and repeat.

Furthermore, if one would compare the aesthetics  of Stunts and movies, easily it leads to the idea of extended time and suspense. One can recall many Legendary Japanese Movies that used action in slow motion to add beauty to the violence ; Hence making it into an art form! 

Indeed Movies in different formats ; may it be on Netflix and/or  the silver screen, have become the biggest crowd magnet and there are certain expectations from the side of the public , to see something similar in the presented action also on the opera stage.

An opera singer can be compared to a Gladiator and yet somehow his or her body preparation is being sided towards pure technical singing , while standing. 
This is true, at least in the first singing years in the respected colleges. 
Later on after the singer learns to sing while standing upright (motionless) , they are given once a week acting class and if lucky several days of movement or short stage combat introduction.  This puts the body preparation at a disadvantage.

One would think - well......they are opera singers, let them sing and the rest will work out somehow....! but indeed, they are part of a theatrical performance ..therefore,  the acting part is crucial for their development.

Nowadays also the style of acting is more realistic, natural and less about posing.
The amount of glorious singers is emanse! So apart from the voice and beauty, your life on stage is held very much by your ability to deliver a convincing character. 

Why Stunts and Actions?  Opera always has its climax evolving Death, war, duel, murder, fire, suicide, or disaster of any sort! as it leads towards the catharsis.
We are used to movies - so we have our expectations very high, also from the stage.

Rather than treat stunts as a technical additional special effect I would see it as an opportunity to have a bigger than life approach towards taking the audience to an exciting journey. The music and singing only benefit from a fully committed and connected performer.  It does require an understanding of both worlds in order to melt them into one functional creation.

Like any other professional job, also the work of a stunt coordinator does require technique and most clearly it has a lot to do with instruction. 
Just that it is a high risk element and the preparation for such work, practically and technically is beyond measure longer than what one would need to a straightforward acting scene. The more the singer is prepared , the easier the process. Yet - as we are trying to portray a credible role, not necessarily or l must end up as superheroes!  The fragility is as strong as the more forced elements! but to reach that? It takes time and trust! 

Stunts are all about trust that needs to be built between the Stunt Coordinator and the Performer, but also for the performer to trust his or her own skills and preparation.

More to the point , if we refer to what previously was mentioned; the physical education and movement should go hand in hand with the development of the voice, as the fluidity of the movement and sound are part of the same thing. Fighting Skills teaches you to find your centre and balance and create lines!

My personal approach is to teach the body memory rather than tire the head with simple memorization of a series of moves. When the body learns a fighting language or Dance it stays in the muscles, just like if you study wrong an aria when you are young, it will be hard to fix/change it later on in your advanced singing years.

Therefore, we must be fortunate to be on the right path from the start.....
if not?  Just come open minded and thank god you get to do some cool stuff on stage while others may do less "entertaining" lines of work. yes - at the end of the day , it is Show Business ! not reality - we do not expect the singer to be a Ninja! but surround him with the technique , equipment and choreography to be able to sustain this "illusion" for the duration of the scene.

We are born perfect ! in the sense that if you try to hit a child with a stick on his head (god forbid.....) he or she will automatically lift their hands in defence in the correct gesture!
Later on with education we take away the natural and put a form to it - which might not always be the best, but it generates a standard that functions for the majority.

OK! one would argue that it is hard to "add" these skills when you are no longer a child. Yet - if you see action as music ! you figure out that there is counterpoint, orchestrations, lines, phrases, Form, Style, Language,  Highs and lows. All of the above can be treated as music and this is the skill that is the most dominant in an opera singer.
It all needs a sense of direction and there is where someone like myself, comes to the picture.

How is an Opera Singer able to do major stunts? Flying? Burning? Falling? Fighting ? 
All seems very scary - especially when it is an unknown territory.

It is not that one stops having fear! but just like on learn to accept it and "Love" it - as the adrenaline kicks in! yet it is all about Letting Go!  and let a professional stunt coordinator to guide you. Avoid danger lead only by a stage director , in the sense that he might have a vision but that does not make him a stunt coordinator. Why put your self in risk and end up with a basic action? when you can do much more......
I often say to people, just because you saw it in the movies, it does not make you Jackie Chan.

If you hold your voice , it will also sound bad! the same for action and stunts! 
So my suggestion is to find a way to not judge and edit the action before and as it happens! but allow the action to speak for itself. It is true in many layers and levels.

Clearly the Festivals are the places that can afford and demand also due to the scale of the stage, more dynamic action and stunts, but it has also reached the theatre stages.

In a digital world, I search for the human element also in highly demanding stunts, to rise to the occasion and deliver a breathtaking performance.  With technology developing, some of the stunts are being performed hand in hand by the riggers , just as much as the singer himself, Specially in Flying Sequences or other cable related work. 

Therefore, some of the action elements are still lying mostly on the crew! but then again......the eyes and ears are on "you".

It is the search of the team to find how to breathe together and find the "Timing" 

I would say that Stunts are Magic and Opera is the best place for it to Happen.

It is my dream to find innovative ways to further develop the relationship between Performers and Stunts and therefore, my involvement in several product developments which includes Stunt Gear, Equipment, Protection and Conceptual Design for Action Elements. So rather than limiting our work to what is possible, the challenge is to translate the directorial concept into something new and sometimes never seen before.

In big productions I am lucky enough to be involved already in the conceptual process, which basically allows everything to be prepared with in a budget, between all departments and when we actually get to work with the singers or stunt performers , it is after a long process that is there to make the impossible become doable!  

The key is to make sure that all is done safely and is well rehearsed, but also to experiment with new ideas.

Often if you dont tell an opera singer that what they are about to do is extremely difficult - they end up doing it swiftly and even better than expected! 

For Singers to be able to be ready for stunt work, my feeling? Dance!!  it will allow the body to move fluid and articulate and teach your body how to learn sequences more organically.

Hope to see you in next productions! Let's Play!

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