How do I take this aria or song that I have prepared for a fully staged production or scenes project and use it in a concert or vice versa? What am I supposed to do in a recital? I can’t use props and costumes, can I? These are some of the common questions young performers have as they try to negotiate the different situations they find themselves performing in. It can seem like there are unspoken rules and expectations that if they get wrong will cost them their careers. Let’s make it simple.
What Stays the Same?
The process we have been working on during Day 1 and Day to of this course stays the same. Practice it as if your song is fully staged first. Make it as big and true to life in your mind and practice as possible. Just because it is a concert doesn’t mean it has to be boring, unengaged, and devoid of meaning. You still can’t just stand and sing pretty. As long as you can be seen by the audience your body language (aka acting) is an essential part of the performance. Remember, you can’t not communicate and you are always telling a story even if you try not to.
What changes when you go from a fully stage production to a concert or recital version of a performance or song?
The size of our playing space usually shrinks. For a classical voice recital, the usual rule of thumb is that your stage or playing space is the space you outline if you put your hands out to your sides and spin in a circle. The tips of your fingers are touching the edge of your playing space.
For non-classical voice concerts you playing space is any place you can walk safely while holding your mic and while not being buried behind something else.
For classical concerts it is whatever the conductor or stage director outlines. Usually, it is similar to the voice recital. The amount you relate to the other people with you on stage is usually determined again by the conductor or stage director.
Are there times when we break these usual expectations. Yes! Break them and push the limits anytime it will make performance better for the audience, not sacrifice your ability to perform well, and not lose you a job or future jobs. If you aren’t sure, ask the person who hires you are gives you the final grade and they will tell you what your boundaries are. If there isn’t anyone who has control over your paycheck or grade then do whatever you think will make for the best performance for your audience. The audience will thank you!
Usually, you aren’t wearing costumes tailored for what you are singing. They are tailored for the kind of event you are singing at. You might have some changes but not to fit the context of the song usually. Consequently, if you have to change some of your actions to suit what you are wearing you want to work that out ahead of time. As far as your character goes you want to imagine you are wearing what the character of the song would be wearing as much as what you are wearing allows.
Usually, there are minimal to zero traditional stage props in concert or recital performances. Again, push the boundaries if it will help the performance but don’t get sucked into using props as a crutch. Props can also be a liability. How do you pick it up, put it down, store it away? Try to find a way to limit props as much as you can in concerts. That said, realize that you can reinterpret existing elements on stage as a kind of prop. The piano, your clothes, or the floor. The more you can use what you have in new and imaginative ways the more engaged the audience will be as long as it fits the world of your song and serves the story rather than being distracting just for the sake of novelty.
Trust the Process!
If you focus on telling the best story you can within the limitations given by the performance you are in you will be successful. If you would want to watch the performance then someone else would probably want to watch it too. If you wouldn’t even want to watch your performance then chances are others wouldn’t either. Remember, the less you have the more room there is for imagination!