Physiologic and Acoustic Effects of Opera Performance

J Voice. 2017 Jan;31(1):117.e11-117.e16. doi: 10.1016/j.jvoice.2016.03.004. Epub 2016 May 18.


Introduction/hypothesis: Opera performance is physiological and emotional, and singing performers utilize their larynges in often strenuous ways. Historically, the training of a classical voice has been considered the paragon of healthy singing. However, the natural history of a performing larynx has not been studied systematically. There is paucity of scientific studies to guide practice patterns, particularly with regard to the course and extent of post-performance physiologic and acoustic changes.

Study design: A prospective case series was carried out.

Methods: Principal singers in the Houston Grand Opera's 2012-2013 repertory were enlisted, for a total of seven singers. Stroboscopy was performed prior to the start of rehearsals, and at the completion of the opera's run. Data points included erythema, edema, masses or lesions, mucosal waveform, supraglottic posture; acoustic measurements were also performed.

Results: There were statistically significant differences (P < 0.05) in the mucosal wave on pre- and postperformance stroboscopic examinations. Acoustical measures did not achieve statistical significance, but there was a trend toward increased harmonic-to-noise ratio in postperformance measures, as well as decreased frequency range and reading F0. Measures of intra- and inter-rater reliability indicated varying levels of intra-rater reliability, and generally poor inter-rater reliability.

Conclusions: This pilot study describes physiologic and acoustic changes that may occur over the course of a series of rehearsals and performances in the operatic larynx. In so doing, it highlights a need for larger studies with increased frequency of serial examinations to study in a systematized way what may be natural reactive changes that occur during performance.

Keywords: Acoustic measures of voice; Opera; Professional voice; Stroboscopy; Vocal performance.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Larynx / diagnostic imaging
  • Larynx / physiology*
  • Male
  • Phonation*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recovery of Function
  • Singing*
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Stroboscopy
  • Voice Quality*
  • Voice Training*