Hi! I'm trying to ascertain if well-born young ladies of the Regency time period were allowed to sing operatic arias in drawing rooms. I know that a well-born lady would never be an employed opera performer but was it considered a no-no to sing arias in polite company? I know that they sang art songs and folk songs but in every Regency I've ever read or seen a movie of, the only people singing opera are paid performers. Can anyone shed some light on this?
Post by musicienne on Oct 25, 2011 16:33:55 GMT -5
Speaking as someone trained to be a professional musician, I would think that most operatic arias require a level of virtuosity that the average debutante would not possess to begin with. In addition, something that stems from earlier eras is the fact that most genteel people would become musically accomplished, but not excel as much as to be mistaken for professionals.
I don't have primary source of the period to denote whether it was "done" or not, but from what I've read around the subject, between the want for competence and the want for propriety, opera is a genre left to the pros.
As a vocalist myself, this is a subject which I've actually become quite interested in There was no social rule that barred grand opera from being performed by amateur young ladies in Good Society. Would a deb get up and sing Hölle Rache? Probably not, but only because she would likely lack the technical ability. Drawing-room virtuosos did exist, however, and many great composers (Beethoven, Mozart) paid the bills by giving lessons to noble dilettants.
The more common thing was to sing simpler arias from lesser operas, often translated into or with new words in English. Many of those art songs you mention were, in fact, originally sung on the operatic stage. Austen, for example, had arias by Purcell and Handel in her copybook.