Opera has so much gorgeous music. But the singers sound like shit.

Why is that?

While I agree with your premise, it’s not universally true; plenty of people love opera singing. They’re not wrong, they’re just into [del]horrible caterwauling[/del] that style of singing.

Do they?

Do they?

Do they?

Do they?

Yes they do, according to my tastes. Posting links to opera clips is not going to make opera haters change their minds.

I freely admit that there are people who enjoy the heck out of opera singing, but it’s just not for me. I’ll even agree that the singers are technically very good at what they do, but I do not like it. I’ve given it a good chance, and I love instrumental classic music, I just find opera singing incredibly irritating. And I’m OK with that, you enjoy what you like, I’ll enjoy what I like, and it’s all good. I’m a musician myself, I play in a couple of bands, and one thing you learn as a musician is that you’re never going to please everybody.

Isn’t part of the style a consequence of it having been developed in the days before electronic amplification? That is, they have to sing a certain way in order to be properly heard over the music in a crowded auditorium. Many modern singing styles, such as crooning, would be indistinct or even inaudible performed live without amplification.

Like any other complex art form, it’s something of an acquired taste. And like any other acquired taste, not everybody’s going to acquire it equally.

So the OP’s question is really “Why don’t some people like opera singing?” To which there’s probably no definitive answer.

NPR did a piece on “Why do people hate rap and opera?”:

I was going to say just that. The singing evolved in order to be heard over an orchestra as the latter can get really loud*. So practicality was (an remains) a major reason. With time, people get used to that type of singing and can start appreciating it for its own sake.

I started appreciating operas once I selected the ones that interested me the most for a “story” point of view. That’s how learnt to like Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, StraussElektra and Salome, Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman or Mozart’s Don Giovanni: I found a tale that grabbed me then slowly got used to the singing.

  • It also partially explains why the violin has a much bigger concertante repertoire than, say, the double-bass: it can be heard over the orchestra whereas lower instruments tend to get drowned in the noise. Composers who write cello or double-bass concertos can use various tricks to make sure the soloist is heard like having the orchestra silent while the soloist plays in the lower register or using only “soft” instruments like woodwinds to accompany in such passages. On the other hand, the soloist will either be silent or play extremely high notes when the full orchestra is playing.

If you think Western Opera is bad, don’t go searching for what Chinese Opera sounds like…

The problem with this theory is that operatic singing isn’t just *loud. *It’s an entirely different sound. And I’ve heard opera singers performing in a more intimate setting, and they still don’t sound like pop singers. Have you ever heard them actually singing pop songs? It’s truly awful; I really don’t understand why some of them insist on doing it . . . especially sopranos.

And it’s not like there wasn’t popular music before amplification was invented. There was always pop music, long before opera.

Where did I say that opera singing was only about being loud? I said it was about being heard, and understood, over an orchestra in a large hall. Sure, you need to be loud for that, but I doubt that’s the only factor.

Why do you assume that someone skilled at a particular style of music is necessarily going to be skilled at performing in a very different style? I wouldn’t expect, say, a classically trained pianist to play jazz very well.

Yes, but was this pop music played by a full orchestra in a large hall? I think that historically most folk music has been played in more intimate settings by much smaller ensembles.

There is definitely more to it than just being loud (although the technique is still designed around an ability to still be heard when singing quietly; basically resonance is king). There’s also the need to sing across a huge range with flexibility and consistency often for hours at a time.

As for opera singers singing pop, it’s fine as long as they’re not trying to sing it operatically. Most opera singers I know are perfectly capable of credible pop singing.

And as to the OP, if you’re interested in having a conversation, you might want to try actually articulating your objections. If you just want to shit on a genre and the people who perform it, I’ll give it exactly the consideration it deserves.

Are there any vocalists that perform opera in a more pop style voice, with contemporary instrumentation?

Don’t forget that Klingon shit


Opera doesn’t record well.

I think there is a tactile aspect to opera that cannot be reproduced. When I was in junior high school, I used to think it was a lot of fat people screaming…but from almost the first note of a good opera sung by professionals in a theater built for it, I was a fan. But it took that live performance to reach me.

Well, there’s this.

That is an excellent point. I love recorded opera, but I’m more or less conditioned and my perspective has undoubtedly been colored by my own experience and expectations. Live opera is a completely different animal.

I find the operatic style in female singers very unpleasant but no so much with men. Yes, I know full well that it takes tremendous talent and training and I *respect *it but to my ears it sounds like a parody of itself. Like when we were kids and sang songs with the verses in different “voices”

"Same song second, second verse
Opera style a little bit worse


To my untrained ears there’s not much difference between a serious performance and Debra Messing singing The Sound of Music on Will & Grace (sorry, couldn’t find a clip).

Porgy and Bess?

Frankly, I used to HATE the vocal style of opera singers too; in fact, it would give me a headache I hated it so much. But, as others said, it’s an acquired taste, and I love it today, in the right musical context. But really, anything out of the mainstream, which is generally going to be deliberately bland so as to be as accessible as possible, is going to have some degree of acquired taste aspect to it. What ultimately helped me appreciate it was my love of metal, where I also initially hated many of the unclean vocal styles used there, but as I got farther down the rabbit hole, my appreciation for various vocal styles increased. And then I can across symphonic and power metal, and some bands in that genre use operatic vocal styles. And then when I heard some opera after a few years gap, I really enjoy the style now. Hell, I’ve adapted my own singing style to incorporate significant aspects of that style as a result.

All of that said, there’s nothing wrong with not liking it. Maybe it’s not for you. The only point in putting in effort toward an acquired taste is if you love all the rest of that genre or aesthetic except for that component, and even then, I don’t think it’s something that can be forced so much as something for which an appreciation just develops. Again, using metal as the example since it’s a more clear delineation for me, I didn’t start to appreciate unclean vocals until I heard a band that used them in a way that made sense to me then, which expanded that enough that I was able to appreciate a few more, etc. It still took years before I came to love the harshest examples.

Other than that, all I can say is, even if you don’t enjoy their style of singing, it is technically difficult to do well, so even if you never do come to enjoy it–which, again, is fine–you may still benefit to learn to at least appreciate the technical skill and talent involved. Even for me, as much as I love music, there’s still plenty of vocal styles I don’t enjoy. For example, many hip-hop and rap vocals do nothing for me. But, of those, at least the best, I’ve at least learned to understand and appreciate the talent, even if I’m largely unmoved by the style itself. To that end, even if thoroughly unenjoyable, I think it’s unfair to say a given style sounds like shit, because that strikes me as more than a judgment of “I don’t like it” but that it is, in some way, objectively bad. And that’s not to say that in many genres, a lot of the performers aren’t of questionable, or even objectively low, skill, but the whole genre shouldn’t be condemned as bad because many who attempt to create art in it are bad at doing so.