When the cold weather comes to town, so does cold and flu season! Because our entire bodies are our instruments, it can be extremely hard to practice, let alone sing, when we are under the weather. When singing through the sickness isn't healthy for your instrument, there are other ways to practice!
It’s always good to know what you are singing about. It's even more vital to know the overarching themes and specific nuances of your opera. When you need a break from singing, read through your entire score. Study the plot, the recurring themes (both musical and poetic), and the symbolism. Study the text and how the librettist helps the composer bring the music to life. Enhance your character study by having an in-depth knowledge of your relationships with other characters and how your character fits into the plot.
Read Source Materials
Many of our operas and art songs come from an original source or are based on another story. If you really want to dig deeper into your character or just know the real backstory, study and dissect the source material. Do a simple Google search, or check out the background of the piece on Wikipedia. Better yet, check out the publishing notes in your score! Some of these source materials are very interesting reads.
Sometimes listening to your music can help your practice just as much as physically singing. Hearing another musician perform the piece can help you internalize it while giving you a fresh look at interpretation. Make sure to listen to different performers, to avoid the temptation of becoming a carbon copy. While you may not be feeling up to phonating, you can listen to recordings to help your mental practice.
If you record your lessons and coachings, play back a recording of your most current lesson to reinforce what you've learned and to hear what you sound like on the other side of your ears!
If you don’t want to listen to your own recordings, you could listen to a professional recording of the opera you are working on. If you don't want to listen to the whole opera, find recordings of the specific pieces you are singing and listen to different singers.
If you need some vocal rest time and a little couch time as well, grab a cup of tea and watch a production of the opera you are working on. Seeing a whole opera in its entirety can help you visualize what you are going to be doing while you sing. Watching an opera can also help you get some ideas about staging. Seeing others act out the numbers can also help shape your interpretation. While watching a performance to get ideas, take note of the things you like and do not like. What works best for you? How might you have been able to interpret a particular phrase or emotion differently? If you would like to watch a performance you can check out YouTube or subscribe to the Metropolitan Opera's On Demand site to watch its extensive collection of operas. If you're still in school, make sure to check your school's library; you probably have access to DVDs and the Metropolitan Opera On Demand!
If you really need a quiet sick day, take some time to memorize your piece. Spend time with your text in whichever way helps you best: mental review, flash cards, reading the text aloud etc. Already have your text memorized? You can also memorize the translations of your text so the language can come out naturally. It is just as important to know what you are singing as it is to know your words. If you need a refresher on memorization or a great plan to learn a role, check out our article here!
These are just a few ways for you to continue your practice while you are not feeling your best, but there are other ways to keep learning and practicing while you are sick. If you are feeling under the weather, sometimes just resting can be the best medicine, and there is nothing wrong with that! Always remember to take the time you need to rest and get better, without pushing yourself too hard.