Cool down after a Performance

Out of my long stage experience I want to encourage you young singers to install the habit of cooling down the voice after a performance. Like in the sports world, singers also use muscles to sing. In my opinion it is not only important to exercise the voice everyday but also to cool it down after a long performance or recital.

You can use the “u“ vowel to do so only in the middle register of your voice. For example you start with quinte third tonica or you go down a five tone scale. When you sing it softly abd with your support, the vocal chords return to freedom. It just takes 5-10 minutes to do so, but the benefit is a healthy relaxation of the voice. Remember treat your voice like your best friend and acknowledge and take care of its needs.

There is another benefit of this procedure: You will build up a sensitive relationship with your voice, knowing if you have sung in the right way through your performance.
The voice will show you afterwards, if it is too tired, you definitely pushed too much, gave too much volume etc. There can be several reasons for this, but now you know you have to find out. Knowing how to keep your voice healthy and fresh is crucially important for a singers life and career.

With appreciation
Vera Wenkert

Working with Jaw Tension

I remember I worked with a professional Mezzosopran on the “Hexe” in Humperdinck’s “Hänsel und Gretel” who was having her opening night in less then 5 days. Whilst working on the whole role with her, I realised that her jaw was becoming tighter and tighter as a result of all the quick diction and musical leaps in the part. I know stage directors and conductors often ask for a lot of diction and expression, but you have to know how to do it without straining the vocal chords and without building up too much tension in the whole vocal production and support system.

What to do?

For example, I worked with her the “Hexenbann” without words and let her do the whole magic spell on “ja ja ja”. This exercise frees the jaw. We also did light and easy staccato exercises (tonica, third, quinte, third, tonica) and then legato the same.

We singers always have to remember that the jaw should be just relaxed in an open position, slightly back and in most cases not forward. (Maybe there are anatomical exceptions.) Then the breathing gets deeper into the body naturally and the support system starts to work. When a tight jaw is doing the job it is very difficult to connect the voice to the healthy body support.

With the Mezzosopran the next step was to solve the diction. It is vital that the vowel and the consonants have to be on the airflow. We worked it very slowly with patience and joy and finally the “Hexe” was really magic

?TIP: From my own experience it is helpful to gently move the jaw up and down to the right and left. If the jaw is too tight, you might have difficulties to do these gentle movements. If so, you can gently and tenderly massage the muscles around your jaw, the muscles under your chin with your thumb and your index finger. ATTENTION: never massage the area directly around the larynx.

AFFIRMATION: I find a solution for all the technical issues I am solving.

With appreciation
Vera Wenkert

Dear beautiful singers

In my career on stage and in concerts I have sung many Wagnerian roles: Elsa, Elisabeth, Venus, Senta, Sieglinde, Brünnhilde, Isolde. Out of these experiences and from the experience I have with my teaching practice in teaching dramatic voices, my number one advice is:

DO NOT RUSH INTO THIS DEMANDING REPERTOIRE AS A YOUNG SINGER

The chief characteristics of Wagnerian music are beautiful long phrases combined with a brilliant, emotional text and a big orchestration underneath the vocal line. This demanding music requires you to have a solid technique. Not only this, but I have learnt from my time on stage that it is a great help to have some stage experience beforehand. Having this, you can float on the music and orchestra and you are able to taste the German diction in this beautiful music, and you can caress the text and music together. There is also the big misunderstanding that Wagnerian music always has to be sung loud. On the contrary, if you study the orchestra part of a Wagnerian opera you will find so many piano markings and other dynamic wishes of Wagner himself. Do not to forget: Richard Wagner loved Bel Canto!

As a result of the intense emotion in Wagnerian repertoire, a singer sometimes starts to push the voice…then you can really harm yourself! Last week, a Wagnerian singer travelled to me to work on Sieglinde. During the lesson I could hear that the coaches at the opera house have put her too much in the “diction mode” in the front of her mouth in the narrative “Der Männer Sippe…” I completely understand why the coaches wanted this crystal clear diction, but it has to be produced in the RIGHT WAY.

So, my suggestion for you Wagnerian singers is: Study your roles early enough, sing it in your voice with the help of your voice teacher and then go into the theater rehearsal process. From my own experience and love affair with Wagner’s music, I can confess that this is the most efficient and joyable way to improve significantly in this repertoire whilst remaining healthy.
This is also how I work with the Wagnerian singers in my studio. If they are vocally well trained and musically ready, they can concentrate on all the other obligations they have in an opera production.

?Affirmation for the day: I allow myself to grow into my future-self of a radiant Wagnerian singer.?

With appreciation
Vera Wenkert