What is a choir
The profession of choir singer has existed for around 200 years. Today's opera choir is a closed ensemble within the theater of professionally trained singers. Opera choirs in Germany consist of between 24 and 120 members, whereby a minimum number of singers per vocal group is necessary in the interest of a homogeneous sound. The choir is usually divided into eight vocal groups (two each for soprano, alto, tenor and bass). In special cases, an exchange between neighboring groups can take place and employment in smaller solo parts or solo tasks within the choir (choir solos) can be provided for in the employment contract.
As with the soloist, the choir contract is limited in time; So there is no permanent position, which makes sense in the interest of the artistic performance of the theater business or a choral level that remains the same in the long term. However, the working conditions - unlike the soloists - are comprehensively regulated by collective bargaining law. There is a certain amount of social protection, particularly with regard to the termination of fixed-term employment contracts.
Due to the historical development, the job description of the (opera) choir singer results in the requirement for a singer actor with stylistic versatility, which ranges from baroque opera to contemporary music theater, from game opera to musicals. The voice should therefore be integrated into the overall sound and, depending on the requirements, can be colored lyrically, dramatically or buffon-like. A choir singer has exceptional memory skills, as he constantly has to master a large number of musically different works in different languages. The scenic representation also requires a high degree of independence and responsibility from the choir singer in the scenic design while at the same time being aware of the role of the entire choir ensemble. Unlike a soloist, he has relatively little rehearsal time in the preparation of an opera work, but he has comparatively more frequent repetitions of performances. Motivation, development and training in terms of voice and performance are therefore just as important as with the solo singer, only the degree of exposure on stage as an individual singer varies depending on the role, staging and work.
Basically, singers in opera choirs must have above-average musicality as well as solid and confident singing technique in order to meet the special requirements of the composed choral setting - including polyphony of the choral setting, the a cappella passages, soloistic insertions, the intended range and also special articulations in contemporary works - to be able to meet. The voice should be stable and sounding and, especially in the middle register, should demonstrate durability. In addition to mental and physical stability, the choir singer should also have good acting skills and a good physical condition. As a rule, this requires several years of vocal studies. In auditions at the respective opera house, you prove your suitability and productivity for the job. As a rule, a specific canon of arias ("compulsory pieces") is also specified for each vocal group, and evidence of "sight-singing" skills is required. Collective skills and social skills are also important.
It is therefore an advantage to choose the profession of choir singer at an early stage if you are interested, as singing in a choir requires different skills than solo singing. Most choirs also have an age limit for starting their career, which is between 35 (female voices) and 40 (male voices), depending on the vocal subject.
As a rule, the profession of choir singer requires several years of vocal studies. In order to clarify their general suitability for the profession of opera choir singer, interested amateur singers can gain the necessary experience in the extra choir of an opera house. The extra choir is hired if the size of the in-house choir is insufficient or if there are special requirements of the opera work.
Further education is advantageous for studying singing. Usually, after an aptitude test at a music college, there is a solo vocal training with scenic lessons and preferably music theater or opera focus from three to five years with a bachelor's or diploma degree. This can be followed by a two-year master’s degree. Some universities offer a special course in "Opera Choir", others only train to become a soloist, but this does not prevent the decision to pursue a career as a choir. The time required for the course, excluding your own practice and private literature study, is between 15 and 30 hours per week. As with the soloist, a secondary instrument (piano) is compulsory, and interest in and enjoyment of scenic design is necessary.
For entry into the profession, a repertoire of audition roles and arias is developed during the course that qualifies for audition.
See also the information on the solo singer.
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