This site is honored that Berta Calechman has agreed to answer questions relating to music,
especially one of Anthony's favorite subjects, OPERA.
Facts and figures, information and anecdotes, observations and answers to your questions
about operas, operettas, and other musical offerings.
What operas has Anthony sung in and why were the particular rolls good for
To my knowledge, Anthony's operatic roles have included Alfredo in Verdi's
"La Traviata", MacDuff in Verdi's "Macbeth", and Fenton, in Verdi's "Falstaff."
I'm sure it's a coincidence, but a happy one, that they were all Verdi roles.
Verdi wrote wonderful music for the voice. Being married to a famous soprano
himself, no doubt made him aware of the limitations of the voice, and what he
could ask it to do. The roles Anthony has done so far, were written for a lyric,
or light lyric tenor. Each role has an aria to showcase the voice, and
opportunities to do some acting, as well. They lie comfortably in the voice, and
don't cause strain to a lyric voice, as long as it's used well. I was very
disappointed that he didn't get to do Don Ottavio in "Don Giovanni" with Opera
Ireland, as it would have been the perfect role for him. It's a very well-known
tenor role, with two very famous and showy arias, and some lovely duets, trios,
and ensembles.Hopefully, the opportunity will come again, for him to sing it.
The range of a person's voice is what determines what type of voice he has.
Obviously a tenor who is operatically trained has a wider range, because he
works on his voice, to extend the range. Very simply put, the highest
normal range for a male voice is the tenor. There is a vocal phenomenon
called the "contertenor", whose voice can sing higher than a soprano. In
fact, it almost sounds like a soprano singing. Many people call it a
"freak voice." There are a few baroque operas which call for a
countertenor voice. Anthony, Finbar, Ronan, and Frank Patterson are all
classically trained. I don't know whether or not John McDermott has had
voice training, and I haven't listened much to Daniel O'Donnell, so I can't
speak of them. But our and Frank Patterson are all considered lyric
tenors. They've all sung opera, and they all have pretty much the same
vocal range. But of course, the timbre, or sound, of the voice is
individual in everyone. So they sometimes sound similar, because they're
tenors. But they sound very different, because each has a different sound.
I listen to Anthony and Finbar and find their voices appear different at times, similar
at others. Now add the Original Tenors: John McDermott, Ronan Tynan,
Daniel O'Donnell and Frank Patterson. I don't understand how they can all be
considered TENORS. What makes a person a tenor?
I've been wondering how an opera singer survives financially. Is there
sufficient opportunity for an opera singer to make a living or do they need
another type of income?
Until a singer has established himself or herself, in the music or opera
world, they frequently need a "real" job, to support themselves. You don't
sing very well, if you haven't eaten in a few days! A singer needs money
to pay for lessons, coaching, sheet music, an accompanist. Lots of extras
that the average person doesn't even think of. Plus a roof over their
heads, and maybe a piano to practice on. It's definitely not easy.
Singers have to "pay their dues." There have been some wonderful teachers
who have taken a gifted student under their wing and taught them free, or
let them live in their home and study, in return for doing errands, or
pet-sitting. My voice teacher in New York taught me twice a week, but I
only paid for one lesson. And I was a manager in a movie theatre, while
studying. The arts especially, are hard to break into, so you see many
musicians and dancers working at other jobs, while studying. But a singer
must be prepared. Because when that big break comes along, they must be
ready. And once a singer gets a few important jobs under his or her belt,
and people begin to know his or her name, it just may be possible to quit
the "real" job, and follow your dreams.
When Anthony performs at a solo concert, he seems to be standing further
from the microphone than when performing at the Irish Tenors' concerts.
Why does Anthony choose the different distances? What effect does it have
on his voice and does it change the way he sings?
There may be more than one reason for Anthony's changing his distance from
the microphone, depending on whether it's a solo concert, or an IT concert.
This is one important reason for a "sound check" before each performance.
For one thing, at a solo concert, there are just Anthony, Patrick, and the
piano, onstage. Anthony is responsible for making certain the audience can
hear him at all times, and from every seat. And we've all experienced many
occasions when we've thought he didn't really need the microphone at all.
Therefore, being the best judge of his own voice, and from the sound check,
he may know that certain notes (especially the high ones) will be too loud,
and therefore distorted, if he stands too close to the mike. So he moves
further back. At an Irish Tenor concert, on the other hand, the Tenors have
a sound man, and a sound board. The sound man can determine (also with the
help of a sound check), if all the men can be heard equally, or if one or
more of the tenors cannot be heard. But that's the sound man's job, so the
Tenors don't have to worry about that, too much. Sometimes the audience can
help. I remember one of the Tenor concerts this past November, when we
couldn't hear John McDermott well, during the first half of the concert.
Several of us told Harry Tucker during the intermission. He thanked us,
and said he'd take care of it. He told the sound man, and the second half
was much better. Of course it does help that Harry knows so many of us,
and took our word for it!
I don't mean to sound dumb, but what is considered a lyric tenor?
You don't sound dumb at all. If you've never had musical training, you
wouldn't know. Tenor is a classification of singing voice, just as Soprano,
Baritone, or Bass, for instance. But it's a big category, which needs to
narrowed down further. Within the category of tenor, there are different
types of tenor. The biggest, heaviest tenor voice is called a Heldentenor.
Held is the German word for strong. If you want to hear an example of a
Heldentenor, listen to a CD of Jon Vickers, or James McCracken. There is
also a Dramatic tenor, such as Placido Domingo, although he has sung lyric
roles as well. The Lyric Tenor is just what it sounds like. The voice is
lighter than the dramatic tenor, very lyrical in sound, and has more vocal
flexibility than all but one of the other tenor types. Anthony Kearns is a
perfect example of a lyric tenor. Listen to the sound he gets, the lyrical
quality of his voice, and the flexibility he shows in certain phrases, such
as in the phrase .... "the pipes, the pipes are calling" from "Danny Boy. "
A lyric tenor should also have ease in his high notes, such as the ending
note in "The West's Awake", or the soft high B-flat, at the end of
"Macushla." The voice that is lighter than a lyric tenor, is called a
tenore leggiero (light tenor), or tenore di grazia (tenor of grace). This
particular type of tenor has the lightest voice, with lots of flexibility.
If you want to hear what a great tenore di grazia should sound like, listen
to Cesare Valletti in "The Barber of Seville." A lyric tenor can also sing
opera roles written for a tenore leggiero, if necessary. This is what
Anthony did last summer in Montepulciano, when he sang the role of Fenton
in Verdi's "Falstaff." That role was written for a tenore di grazia, but
Anthony was able to lighten his voice sufficiently to sing it successfully.
It's a difficult role.
I understand some fans were lucky enough to attend a dress rehearsal when
they went to see Anthony in Gianni Schicchi in Dublin and may even be able to
take pictures. How were they able to arrange that?
A ticket to a Dress Rehearsal is a "hot commodity" in the music world. An
artist may get a pass for a family member, or a voice teacher. But if you
join the opera guild, in this case Opera Ireland, at the same time you buy
your ticket, or are a member already, you can be offered a dress rehearsal
ticket. That may be how those fans got passes to the dress.
As for taking photos, I can't imagine anyone being allowed to
take photos at a dress, except for the "company photographer." One of the
cardinal rules of a dress rehearsal attendee is absolute quiet. This is
very important, as it's the last time the entire cast will be together before
opening night, and the conductor and/or director will want to make sure
everything jells. At the dress rehearsals I attended at the Met Opera in NY,
there was no talking allowed, and if a particular artist was annoyed by certain
audience members, the audience was asked to leave. More recently,
applause was sometimes allowed after an artist finished an aria. But no
long ovations, or bravos. This is, after all, a working rehearsal.
I have read about Tenors, Baritones and Sopranos performing in opera but I
was wondering how many different styles of voices are needed to perform an
opera? Secondly, what is your voice style?
There are as many voices needed to perform an opera, as the composer has
called for. "Madama Butterfly", for instance was written for one soprano,
two mezzo-sopranos, a baritone, two tenors, and a chorus. I sang in an
opera by Gian-Carlo Menotti, called "The Telephone," which was written for
one soprano. To go back to "Butterfly" for a moment, it calls for two
mezzo sopranos. One is for the role of Butterfly's maid-Suzuki. The other
is for the very small role of the woman who marries the tenor. Both are
mezzo-sopranos, but their voices would be different. Suzuki's voice would
be bigger and richer. The tiny role of Kate Pinkerton would be a lighter
mezzo voice. Since Suzuki is a bigger role, you'd probably have a
better-known singer, with a bigger voice.
I am a lyric soprano.
Can training for opera darken the voice, or does maturity do this? Also,
I've read that if a tenor sings in the lower registers too much it can affect
his ability to do the higher registers. Is that correct?
The answer to the first part of your question is....both, actually. Maturity
can often darken the voice, just as a person's speaking voice may darken
as he gets older. Training can also darken the voice, if the singer and/or
the voice teacher has set out to do so. By singing certain vocal exercises,
a singer can consciously make his or her voice darker. And on certain
phrases or notes within a piece of music, a singer may darken his or her
voice. That would be "coloring" the voice. Continually singing in the lower
registers can affect a singer's (male or female) higher notes. This means
over time, if a singer concentrates on singing full voice in the lower range,
day after day, it may affect the ability to lighten the voice enough to sing
the highest notes. But with a good technique, a singer can sing all
registers which lie naturally in his or her vocal range, and successfully
jump from one range to another. A good example of a singer who wreaked
havoc on her voice by trying to sing everything, was Maria Callas. When she
first began to sing, she had the vocal agility to sing light, high pieces.
Had she worked within that window, her voice would have naturally
darkened, and she would have moved smoothly into the more lyric roles.
But she also wanted to sing the very heavy soprano roles, at the same
time. Consequently, she damaged her voice to the extent that her high
notes were very harsh, and her lower range had a tremolo, because she
pushed her voice too much. But she was a magnificent singing actress,
and her fans overlooked her faults. I hope this helps.
First of all, it would depend on who made the comment. If your
next-door neighbor made it, it might not mean as much as if a musician,
or voice teacher made it. The first thing to do is have someone hear
you, who is knowledgeable about music, has a good ear, and is a
good judge of voices. If you truly do have an excellent voice, and
are willing to do a lot of hard work to perfect the voice, and learn
your craft, you must find a good voice teacher.That's not as easy
as it sounds. Anyone can advertise herself, or himself as a voice
teacher. And a lot of promising voices have been ruined by people
claiming to be voice teachers, but who have no background, and
no clue about how to manage the voice, which is the most sensitive
of all instruments. You might listen to people who have voices you
admire, and ask them who their teacher is. Or inquire at the
local music school, about voice teachers, and if they give
auditions and/or private lessons. There would be a fee for the
audition, and unless you are the next Renee Fleming or Placido
Domingo, also a fee for the lessons. A career in music is not
inexpensive. The lessons are just the very beginning. That's
why The Anthony Kearns Music Fund is so important to Anthony.
Having gone through all this, and "paid his dues" as it were,
he knows what is involved in making a career as a singer.
If you are very good, and very diligent, a voice teacher may
take a special interest in you, and lower his or her fees. Anthony
has said all that Veronica Dunne did to help him. She recognized
the greatness in him, before anyone else did.
It's not always necessary to attend a music school, although
if you have been studying for years, and planning to make a
career, a music school, such as The Juilliard School, in New
York, can put the finishing touches on your presentation. A
good music school can teach you languages, acting, sight-
reading, operatic roles, enhance your vocal repertoire, stage
presence. But an extraordinary voice teacher can do almost
the same thing, if he or she decides you are extraordinary too,
and worth the effort. Years ago, Anthony made a statement
about "the fire in the belly." To make a career as a singer,
singing must be your passion. It must be a part of your soul,
and you must be willing and able to share that with your audience.
It's only by doing that, that you can achieve greatness.
If someone has what they've been told is an excellent voice, how
should they proceed? What if they can't afford an expensive music school?