27. November 2019

Burnout on Premiere-day?

How to survive the last two weeks of rehearsals without losing your voice.

We have all been there:

During the last two weeks before „the“ day, the important rehearsals accumulate:

1-2 Orchestra-Sitzprobe (Italiana)

4-6 Stage-Orchestra-Rehearsals

1 Piano-Dress-Rehearsal

1 Orchestra-Dress-Rehearsal

1 General Rehearsal

This means you have 9-11 possibilities to lose your voice due to oversinging;)

When you have a small to medium–size role to sing, no problem, but as soon as you get the chance to sing more demanding parts, the question of „How will I ever make it to the premiere?“ will get more and more urgent.

By the way: Singing Mozart can be just as exhausting as singing Wagner or Verdi!

Let’s look at what makes us tired:

  • too much singing
  • too much talking
  • not enough sleep
  • not enough food
  • not enough water (!)
  • not moving enough (!)

We, the singers, are responsible for finding the individual routine that makes us get to the premiere WITH a voice – nobody else can do this for us!

What can we do?

Things which might be helpful during this stressful time:

An evening routine

Develop an evening routine which fits you; some of these might help:

  • Allow the voice to calm down before you leave the theatre – do some humming or easy vocalizing with messa-di-voce-exercises (yes, those we already hated while still a student!)  to reassure the normal functioning of your vocal folds.
  • Avoid cold drinks right after singing (even if the thought of a cold beer might sound appealing.)
  • Only speak the minimum – we are much better at singing than at speaking
  • Take a little walk to get some fresh air if it’s not too cold outside.
  • Go home as early as possible, have a quiet moment.
  • If you have sick children at home – wear a mask when cuddling; they find this amusing, and you don’t need Kindergarten-/School-bacteria/virus right now
  • Stay off reading about other singer’s fantastic achievements on social media – we all know that almost nobody writes about the dark sides.
  • Set your alarm to 3hrs before rehearsal-start and breathe in – breathe out – breathe in – breathe out – breathe in – breathe out…                                                                                                                                                   

The next morning – another orchestra-rehearsal…

The nice version:

It happens quite often that the voice is „still fresh from last night“. If this is the case, be happy! Have a little warm-up before or after breakfast. Look forward to meeting your colleagues, also those from the orchestra and chorus. It’s early for them, too, friendliness will be highly appreciated.

The not-so-nice-version:

you feel dog-tired and the last thing you want to do is to get out of bed and sing?

  • Don’t panic! It was there last night, so it can’t be all gone. The vocal folds are usually fine;  just everything around is still sound asleep.
  • Try to turn your tongue around 25times in each direction – impressive how much mucus will be released!
  • Get out of bed and go for a run or a quick walk or move around in your apartment or your dressing-room – even jumping or running on the spot will be better than just panicking.
  • Have coffee/tea, warm-up for 10 minutes, have another coffee/tea, warm-up for 10 minutes, have another coffee/tea, warm-up for 5 minutes, have another coffee/tea…

Where can we save and when should we sing out?


We meet the orchestra for the first time, just singing, no acting yet. And of course, we want to sing out on this.

STAGE-ORCHESTRA-REHEARSALS…the ones that risk to make you tired

These rehearsals are there to find the balance and the coordination between the orchestra and the stage. There are quite a few within a short period of time. Here is my suggestion:

Make a plan and decide which rehearsal you will sing out, and when you will mark all or part of the rehearsal. You might want to sing the two first ones, take it easy on Nr. 3 and sing the last two; you might always sing in the morning and mark at night, or the other way around…Whatever your strategy might be and as long as it is compatible with the working process: stick to it!

Marking or singing out? – The eternal question…

Singing out has advantages for:

  • Yourself: you find out if you can manage to sing the role with orchestra and if there are coordination-problems to be solved. And it’s more fun!
  • The orchestra: they can hear you and get used to your sound in this particular role.
  • The conductor: She/he can really work on the balance between you and the orchestra
  • The chorus: they can hear their cues.
  • Your colleagues: the body-tension is different if you sing or mark.  

What can you do to save your energy during stage-orchestra-rehearsals?

  • The first stage-orchestra rehearsal: singing with orchestra is a different feeling than singing with piano-accompaniment. The first stage-orchestra-rehearsal needs patience from all sides, so relax, it’s difficult for everybody.
  • You can leave out some high notes and sing the rest.
  • When a place is being repeated several times during a rehearsal because things in the orchestra are not sorted out yet, sing out once and mark the repetitions.
  • Mark, i.e., sing softly „in tono“ or sing an octave lower.
  • Even if you don’t sing: keep the acting-energy up for your colleagues
  • Even if you mark: Sing the lines before the chorus comes in, they need you!

If you feel that you have no voice because your body is too tired, you might want to: 

  • Go and talk to the conductor before the rehearsal, so she/he can inform the orchestra. Nothing worse for the mood than finding out during the rehearsal that singers are marking (or not even…). Maybe the conductor or one of the Korrepetitors can sing your part, organize this early!
  • Mark or mouth your part, go home after the rehearsal and rest

If you are sick:

Stay away from your colleagues! Coming into an orchestra-rehearsal with a virus is not heroic, but it means risking to pass your illness on to the next person!


…is a dangerous one, because it is so tempting: the light, the make-up, the costume, and back to the „comfortable“ accompaniment by the pianist can lead us to have too much fun and sing out as if we were performing. We should keep in mind that this rehearsal is the main rehearsal for the technical department, the lighting, the make-up, and costume-people. Singing part of it or marking (with a good energy) plus being on the right stage spot at the right time will do.


…is the first rehearsal to find out how the part fits you with orchestra when the PAUSE is where it actually should be. Of course, you would want to sing out, but don’t overdo it – safe some voice for the general and the premiere – you can mark some stressful spots.


…is, although officially labeled as rehearsal, in many houses already with a full audience and is the test-performance, so don’t mark it, unless you are singing Götterdämmerung-Brünnhilde with only one day off before the premiere.


…is/are to shut up and rest!


Hang in there – Premiere-nights are there to survive with decency, the fun is for later!







hedwig fassbender
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