I’m all about helping composers "up" their composing for singers game—everything from text setting to poetry permissions to range, tessitura, and voice types & more!
It’s a particularly important subject during this current renaissance of new opera. So many composers are developing new operatic works.
But there’s someone else to keep in mind as you write your vocal works. Someone who often gets overlooked, ESPECIALLY in opera writing.
If you’re writing an opera, you’ve probably heard about taking your orchestral or chamber score and creating a piano reduction—a rehearsal score that singers will use in lessons, coachings, musical, and staging rehearsals. These rehearsals are ALL done with only a rehearsal pianist—not the full ensemble—for budget reasons. The instrumental ensemble only joins for the very last few rehearsals.
My #1 tip for you:
Make sure that piano part is beautiful, idiomatic, and artistic.
Make sure that it stands ON ITS OWN.
The sad fact is that many of the piano reductions I see are simply NOT playable. They suspiciously like what notation software spits out when you use their automatic “arrange” functions. This forces your pianist to rework your reduction in real time during practice and rehearsal, crossing out notes that don’t fit in their hands, leaps that are impractical, and sometimes even cutting out that chord or motive that is supposed to be an important cue for the singers—YIKES!
Don’t let that be you. Take that extra time (and negotiate for extra money in your commissioning fee!) to make sure that the piano reduction isn’t just an automated “arrangement” of what the ensemble plays, but a thoughtfully composed piano version. A version that provides all the necessary elements for the director, designer, and singers to rehearse and stage your show AND that makes expressive, beautiful, crafted music on its own. It’s more work. But it’s worth it.