Beyond the Aria

Artistic Self-Empowerment for the Classical Singer: Why You Want It, Why You’ve Been Denied It, and How to Achieve It

Written by Neal Goren

It is no secret that the opera industry is contracting and that there are fewer professional opportunities. But what causes one singer to be in demand over another is not exclusively a special instrument or exceptional vocal technique—rather, the ability to interpret the music and portray character convincingly plays an increasingly vital role in today’s opera industry.

Beyond the Aria: Artistic Self-Empowerment for the Classical Singer provides singers with the tools to develop an inquisitive and analytical mindset about the artistic details found in scores. Neal Goren takes singers through a careful reading of clues provided by the librettist and composer, informed by performance practice, and empowers singers to make their own valid artistic choices. Sample analyses of six standard arias and songs are provided as a guide of characterization.

Chapters also address artistic collaboration and audition strategies. Also included are exclusive interviews with eight great singing actors of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including Jonas Kaufman, Christa Ludwig, Audra McDonald, and Barbara Hannigan, who share their individual methods for constructing a character.


Conductor Neal Goren was the founder and Artistic Director of Gotham Chamber Opera, which popularized and legitimized the formerly ignored genre of chamber opera, which has now attained respect equal to the pillars of the of the operatic repertoire. In its fifteen years of existence, Goren conducted all of Gotham’s 27 productions.

Goren’s other conducting credits include performances of standard operas, non-standard operas, and premieres throughout the US, Europe, and Asia. A much sought-after recital accompanist, Goren has concertized extensively with Leontyne Price, Kathleen Battle, Hei-Kyung Hong, Harolyn Blackwell, Hakan Hagegard, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Aprile Millo, Hermann Prey, among others.

He is an Associate Professor at Mannes College, The New School for Music, where has served on the faculty since 1991. He is a frequent judge of national and international vocal and composers’ competitions and is an annual featured guest on the Metropolitan Opera quiz.

A celebrated writer and lecturer on opera topics, his book, Beyond the Aria, is scheduled for publication by Rowman & Littlefied (formerly Amadeus Press) in 2020.

Goren’s next opera venture, Catapult Opera, will premiere in fall 2020 under the aegis of Peak Performances at Montclair, with a new Robert Wilson production of Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.