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Voice, soma, and psyche: a qualitative and quantitative study of opera singers

Maria Sandgren
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 17 Number 1: Page 11 (March 2002)

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Abstract: Specific problems in the professional life of opera singers were examined in an exploratory study with both a qualitative and quantitative approach. Semi-structured interviews involved 15 opera singers who were asked to report problems related to their professional work, coping strategies, motivational factors, and, particularly, strongly emotional singing experiences. Psychological problems were most frequent: the opera singers' preoccupation with the risk of vocal indisposition, i.e., not being able to sing and worry about others' opinions about their performance. A specific habit of singers involved testing the voice (vocalizing) regularly to prove its quality and mere existence. Concern with physical problems centered on respiratory tract symptoms that could cause vocal indisposition. Psychosocial problems concerned mostly difficulties in maintaining a family life due to travel and irregular working hours. A questionnaire was designed to collect qualitative data and sent to 36 permanently employed and 36 freelance opera singers. Response rate was 67%. Differences regarding singers' ages, genders, and occupational situations were examined. Significant positive correlations were found between worry about others' opinions and a number of variables: somatic problems, testing the voice, depression, and performance anxiety.

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