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Thread: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

  1. #1

    Default Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    Hi everyone. I work as an opera singer and have a Don Giovanni coming up next year. I’m quite accomplished on the classical guitar (more than 20yrs playing) and am wondering if you could help me out in terms of buying a mandolin for the famous Canzonetta. The director has asked me to sing and play which sounds loads of fun.

    Looking for advice on what mandolin to buy, type/make etc. Want something above just a true beginners one but not mad crazy expensive. Older looking is best...

  2. #2
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    If you are speaking of the aria with mandolin accompaniment, and you are going to be singing the aria, you will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to play the accompaniment well while you are singing. Take a good look at the mandolin part and you will see what I mean.

    I have played the mandolin part in the orchestra while the singer used a prop mandolin on stage. I used a Martin flat-top mandolin, which was miked and put through the house sound system. A bowl back mandolin would be the most appropriate looking stage instrument, but it is unlikely that such a mandolin would have the carrying power to be heard by the audience, even if you could successfully play the accompaniment while singing the aria.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    If you get an Aria (brand) mandolin, then you could sing the aria and play the Aria............

    Sorry, hard to resist a setup like that.....................

  4. #4

    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    This guy had a similar dilemma

    Click image for larger version. 

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  5. #5
    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    I played that mandolin part on two different productions about 10 years apart. The first time I actually did it on guitar (as requested by the conductor). That puts the part down an octave, but it worked to the company's satisfaction. Later I did it on mandolin and had more fun. I was in the pit and with a mic of course, though in a production of Don Pascuale I played a similar scene in costume and make-up with a small ensemble on stage. I've also done the guitar bits in Barber of Seville, but I remember a production where I didn't get the call because the singer doing the serenade was quite able to play and sing the scene. I'm not sure what was done for sound reinforcement in that case.

    But if you don't now play mandolin, I wonder if you'll really have time between now and then to learn the tuning and get used to playing a somewhat tricky part with a pick. Then again, you might find a way of using a modified guitar tuning and/or guitar finger technique.

    Good luck with whatever solution you decide on!

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    You should ask the director and production designer if they're picky about you having a mandolin that's appropriate for the setting. If they're doing a traditional Don Giovanni set in 17th-century Spain, only a bowlback is even close to appropriate because other styles of mandolin didn't exist in the 17th century. (The mandolins that did exist then often looked a lot different than modern Neapolitan bowlbacks, but let's not get too obsessed with authenticity.)

    Finding a bowlback that is properly set up to play and will project in an opera house may be a difficult task. Vintage bowlbacks are everywhere, but many of them are in poor shape. A new one from a contemporary maker might do the trick, but could cost a bit of coin. Then there is the task of actually learning the piece (lots of tricky crosspicking).

    For sound reinforcement, I wonder ... maybe a soundboard pickup and a wireless transmitter?
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

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    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    I want to be right down front! Where are you performing? Please fill us in, and good luck with your search for the right mando. I would contact Caterina Lichtenberg, who teaches Classical Mandolin at Artistworks.com, about the right mandolin for your needs. I think she would be very happy to hear from you about your project, as she has performed “world-wide”.
    Cheers, Bill

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  9. #8
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    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    You must be very talented musically speaking as there would not be any way I could accomplish what you are wanting to do by next year !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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    Jerry Cobbs jerrycobbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    Well this is not your typical "Can I use an A-style for bluegrass?" kind of discussion! Sorry I don't have anything useful to add, but I can't wait to read more...
    -- Johnson MA-100 Mando
    -- Eastman MDO-305 OM
    -- 3 Seagull Merlin dulcimers (2GDG, 1DAD)
    -- 1952 Harmony Roy Smeck guitar
    -- Ortega Lizzie Ubass
    -- Leigh Campbell electric violin
    -- Pfretzschner violin
    -- Glaesel viola
    -- Ibanez acoustic/electric guitar
    -- Misc: a cello, 2 cigarbox guitars, charango, djembe, slide dulcimer.

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  12. #10

    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    I also agree the prop bowlback mandolin with someone else playing at the backstage is the way to go. Has always been the way in all theatres.

  13. #11
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    Quote Originally Posted by vic-victor View Post
    I also agree the prop bowlback mandolin with someone else playing at the backstage is the way to go. Has always been the way in all theatres.
    Sure, but wouldn't it be fun to see someone break out of the mold?
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

    Notorious: My Celtic CD--listen & buy!

    Donaldson • Wood • Thormahlen • Andersen • Old Wave • Bacorn • Yanuziello • Fender • National • Gibson • Franke • Fuchs • Aceto • Three Hungry Pit Bulls

  14. #12

    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    Yes, but it is easier for a mandolinist to sing and play than for a singer (even with guitar background) to play and sing. If the OP succceed that would be great, of course. But if I was a show director I'd be worried...

  15. #13

    Default Re: Opera singer guitarist in need of help

    Don't worry, be happy.
    Sounds like you’re planning a big project -good luck!
    Here’s a little song that you probably already know on guitar. It’s great on mandolin.

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