The Opera Atelier Gets in Singers’ Heads

Written By ArtBurst Team
December 21, 2015 at 6:45 PM

It’s tough to be an opera singer. Think of an acrobat riding a unicycle across a tight-rope while juggling five knives. Instead of knives, opera singers have to juggle proper singing technique, memorized text, correct diction, and acting and stage direction, all while parading and sometimes falling to the floor in hot, heavy costumes. Traditionally, a team of experts coach opera singers on each aspect of their craft. The voice teacher works on vocal technique. The vocal coach helps with style, musical interpretation, and diction. The director consults on movement and acting. What’s not expected is for that team to include a psychoanalyst. Yet The Opera Atelier, a Miami-based organization that trains singers, has two psychoanalysts on staff. “Sometimes singers must confront a role which may cause them harm emotionally, or may be easy to get lost in,” Xiomara Ponce explains, “We work with them so they can understand their inner world.” Ponce, an anthropologist and psychologist, is the author of various articles on artists and the challenges they face. The Opera Atelier’s executive director Jacqueline Solórzano is also a psychoanalyst, specializing in theories of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. The psychoanalysts join musical director and vocal coach Daniel Daroca in preparing singers for dreaded auditions. “An audition is something that is totally artificial,” points out Daroca, who has seen his share of clients through the process as an artist manager. “You must produce a certain result in five minutes. It is very difficult.” But the audition is only the beginning of the psychological challenges of an opera role. Voice teacher, stage director, and diction coach, Jorge Arcila points out that too often, opera singers learn one or two arias from an opera role with the hope that they will be hired to sing the entire role. Even worse, some singers wait to get hired for a role before learning any of it. “We focus on role preparation,” Arcila affirms, “which takes a lot of time. Roles need to mature.” To help singers in that process, The Opera Atelier puts on a series of performances throughout the year, entitled Great Opera Moments. These programs provide a sampler for singers to try out different roles and for audiences to be exposed to several operas. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the next program feature scenes from operas based on Spanish themes, including Bizet’s Carmen, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and a fusion of Verdi’s Don Carlo and Il Trovatore. The highlight of the evening should be the Miami premiere of a comic opera by living Venezuelan composer Federico Ruiz, set to a comic text by Aquiles Nazoa, called Los Martirios de Colón (The Trials of Columbus). Too bad for the famous explorer that, unlike The Opera Atelier singers, he did not have a psychoanalyst on hand to help him sort out where he was going and where he actually landed. The Opera Atelier presents Great Opera Moments at The Roca Theater at The Ignatian Center for the Arts on October 12, at 8:00 pm. For more info and tickets go to

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