Photo Credit: Robbie Frank, Reflections Film LLC
Recital season is always a stressful time for college musicians. I can't speak for how the instrumentalists prepare for their recitals, but, after 2 full length voice recitals of my own, I feel qualified to give some tips about voice recital preparation. Hopefully, this post will make your life easier during your recital year.
Do: start thinking about your program as soon as possible.
Do you want your recital to have a theme? What style(s) do you want your recital to contain? What are the requirements for you to pass your recital? Make sure you ask yourself those questions well before your recital date, and make sure you are consulting your teacher about your songs. Having a program that meet the requirements that you also enjoy is important to a successful recital and will make your preparations and practice sessions much easier.
Don't: pick music that is too difficult for you or not for your type.
If you're an undergraduate, the Queen of the Night aria might not be the best for you. Similarly, if you are a mezzo, maybe don't put in Glitter and Be Gay. Your teacher probably don't let you sing anything that is too difficult for you, and they definitely won't let you sing something that's not written for your voice type. Pick music that will show off YOUR voice.
Do: divide your music into sets as soon as your program is finalized.
Decide where you want your audience to clap. Generally, for a classical recital, people don't clap after every song. Note that in your program and practice your sets together. For my junior recital, I divided up my program by language. So, during my practice sessions, I'd practice my French set all together, take a break, then go into my Italian arias.
Don't: compare your program to other people's.
Programs are like tailor-made dresses. They're designed for you. Pick a program that you love and don't compare it to other people. Someone else's program might be more technically difficult or all in foreign languages, but that doesn't mean you have to cut your English set to make room for a Polish set if you don't want to. However, with that said, it is okay to get inspiration from other people's recitals. Did they sing a song that you really want to learn? Bring it to your teacher and ask if you can fit it into your program.
Do: get memorized early.
At my school, the unspoken deadline for memorization is one month before your recital date. For me, I finalized my program the summer break before my fall recital and was mostly memorized by the time school started in September. This gave me lots of time to play with the characters and the musicality of my program. I was also not as nervous when it came time to go on stage because I knew these songs so well.
Don't: let the last month freak you out.
The month before your recital is going to seem scary. You're going to feel unprepared, anxious, and have doubts about the whole thing. Don't worry. This is the month to explore and make mistakes. In my experience, you make the most progress and during the two weeks before your recital. Just relax and remind yourself why you are doing this in the first place.
Do: plan out what you want your dress rehearsal to be like.
I had open dress rehearsals for both of my recitals where I treated them as proper performances. I invited people to come so I could have an audience, and so that people who couldn't come to my actual recital got a chance to see it live. That's one way of doing it. You might decide that you want your dress rehearsal to only include you, your accompanist, and your teacher. You many want to work through things logistically or sing certain songs twice. The bottom line is: it's your time. Use it however it will benefit you most.
Don't: wait until the last minute to deal with logistics.
Logistics is half the battle. You have to book your dress rehearsal space, book your reception space, pick an outfit, pay your accompanist... Have a plan and enlist your friends to help. Make sure your parents know where to go. Girls: make sure you PRACTICE IN YOUR DRESS AND SHOES! Have a plan for everything that might go wrong way in advance so that you can focus on you the day of your recital.
Do: take your time to prepare yourself before the performance.
On your recital day, you are the most important person. You get to be a diva. Make sure you eat something that makes you feel comfortable, and don't be afraid to tell people to leave you alone or be quiet. My parents fight exclusively during times of high stress. I've had to tell them to please be quiet or fight somewhere else before both recitals. Also, once you've gotten to your performance space, think through your songs, meditate, or have some tea to calm your nerves.
Don't: kick yourself if you're not perfect.
Trust that you've prepared enough for this performance. Everyone in the audience is on your side. Strive for meaningful communication and not for perfection. And trust that whatever you are doing is good enough.
Do: enjoy performing and have a great time!
This whole day is about you and your achievements. You are giving people the gift of your talent. So enjoy, and have fun with it. You are going to do great.