Life as an opera singer is hard.
Our voices are precious instruments that can be affected by many unforeseeable factors. The pressure of performing complicated pieces of music in front of an audience can be overwhelming. Couple that with the treacherous life on the road, and you’ve been dealt a tough hand.
Anything to make this life easier and less stressful is worth every penny. So, for all my opera brothers and sisters out there, here are 21 things you should own.
These are not necessities for singing, but they’ll help a ton on the logistical side of being an opera singer and with life on the road!
DISCLAIMER: By no means should you go out and buy everything overnight! It takes years to acquire these things and I finally feel like I have everything in my arsenal that I need and wanted to share. So, start small and go big over time. Also, these are just my personal recommendations, none of which are sponsors.
Your Music-Learning Toolbox
1. These Fancy-ass Highlighters
You know when you highlight a line in your score but you can’t read what you’re actually highlighting so you don’t know when to stop? I found these highlighters do the job better than anything else. Opera singers out there will totally understand what I’m talking about. $10
Knowing where you sing next in your score is very important, especially when you’re in rehearsal. Never be in the dark, and keep your score organized. Stiff tabs that don’t curl around are the best! $7
3. Piano App
When learning music on the go, a piano is not always easily available. I use this app when I’m on an airplane or when I need a pitch before singing the anthem at a sporting event. It’s one of those things that you never think you need until you do! $4
4. Metropolitan Opera On Demand Subscription
The Met has a bank of opera recordings and when I’m learning a new role, I reference their videos and recordings to get a good sense of what the opera is like. But don’t stop there! Resources like Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and others are just as valuable. $15/month
5. Nico Castel Translations
Yes, it’s a shortcut but not a bad one. Before Castels were around, I’d spend hours in a library translating each word and creating a poetic translation. I miss that time, but once you start this career it’s hard to squeeze those long hours in. The translations and the IPA help a singer out tremendously! Start with one and build your collection over time. $50-$100
Your Medicine Cabinet
6. Emergency Travel Kit
You never know when sickness will hit, so you need to be ready for the worst-case scenario. Pack a small cosmetic bag with Mucinex, Pepto Bismol, Aleve, Strepsils, DayQuil, NyQuil, sleeping pills for jet lag, nasal spray for allergies, etc. If you can get your hands on a Z-Pac, keep that around, too.
Why is this so important for singers? Sleeping in dry climates can bring on a scratchy throat and negatively affect your singing. A humidifier will provide you with the moisture your cords crave.
Also check out the Humidiflyer for those long flights! $30-$500
8. Water Bottle
Hydration couldn’t be more important for a singer. Get yourself a reusable water bottle and load up on your water intake. You’ll stay healthy AND save the world by conserving your plastic use. $7-$40
I also pack a good amount of various teas when I travel. Nothing feels as good as some warm liquid gold going down your throat. Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea and Gypsy Cold Care are awesome. $3
Your Travel Necessities
10. Good Headphones
Those noisy airplane and subway rides can drive anyone crazy, especially when trying to listen to classical music. I cheaped out for years on a truly great set of headphones and found that Audio Technical is a good cheap brand. However, my life changed the day I bought the Bose QuietComfort 35. A good pair of noise-cancellation headphones goes a long way. $50-$350
11. Solid Luggage
With a life on the road, you need to invest in a good piece of luggage. My favorite suitcase is the Rimowa Sport Multiwheel. You don’t need anything super fancy, but a sturdy, 4-wheel bag will make your life much easier when crossing those cobblestone streets. Briggs and Riley is also a reliable brand. $70-$1,000
12. Streaming Device
To make gigs more enjoyable, I take my Roku or my Xbox with me so I can stream Netflix, Hulu, HBONow, Amazon Video, etc. Set up is very easy. I recommend the most recent Roku because it’s voice activated. $100
13. Sharp Kitchen Knife
No, this is not for the final scene of Carmen! When you’re in a different place and need to cook up a masterpiece in the kitchen, the only thing that would get in your way is a dull knife. A sharp knife like this one is the only kitchen utensil I ever need to travel with (be sure to pack it in your checked bag!). $30-$100
14. Priority Pass
This is a super nifty investment that makes those long layovers or delayed flights all the better. With an annual fee of $99 for the standard membership, $249 for standard plus, and $399 for prestige, a Priority Pass will give you access to elite lounges in airports all over the world. Meaning you get a relaxed waiting experience with free food and drinks.
15. Credit Cards
If you have good credit, I highly recommend applying for a credit card associated with the airline you want to achieve status with. Otherwise, I recommend the American Express Platinum card because it comes with so may perks such as free Priority Pass AND free Global Entry. $450/annual
16. Global Entry
This is a quick and easy way to skip the passport lines when reentering the United States. You sign up online, schedule an interview, and meet with a Global Entry agent at an airport for them to confirm your identity. You’d never think that skipping a line would feel so good! $99
17. TSA PreCheck
Getting to go to a dedicated line when entering security check-in at the airport is a game-changer. It comes free with Global Entry, so sign up for GE and you are automatically enrolled for TSA PreCheck. So, you get two for the price of one! And leaving your shoes on, your toiletries and laptop in your bag, and your coat on your shoulders when you pass through security is soooo nice. $85
18. Audition Outfit
I could write an entire blog post on wardrobe but here’s my quick version:
You should have a go-to audition outfit on hand at all times because you never know when you’re going to have to present yourself in front of a company for an opportunity. This is where you make your first impression with a new place and you need to put your best foot forward. It’s the easiest way to show respect, so make sure you’re dressed to the nines!
19. Thick Scarves
It is so cliché for singers to wear scarves, but when that gust of wind hits your throat, you’ll be regretting it if you left it at home. If it’s freezing outside, try to stay indoors as much as possible and when you brace the cold, remember what Scar says, “Be prepared”.
20. Rehearsal Attire
This is a tricky one because you want to be comfortable in a rehearsal when a director asks you to sing while doing backflips but at the same time, you want to be presentable. This means no sweats. I try to wear form-fitting stretchy pants, and I always bring an extra rehearsal shirt in case I sweat through the first one. Remember to ask for your show shoes as soon as possible and rehearse with them often.
21. Performance Clothes
I’m talking suit and tie and looking fly! Tuxes and gowns are a necessity for singers. Your audience paid good money to see a show and your appearance is one of them. Go for the glam and embrace your fancy side when hitting the stage!
What do you think? Did you find this article interesting, entertaining, or helpful? Feel free to chime in with a comment below.