As both an opera director and Professor of Acting, Nicholas Muni, loves working with people pursuing their dream careers. Most singers are young when they first decide they want to become a performing artist in the world of opera. It is challenging to develop a successful opera career—and because the current demands for opera singers include an emphasis on acting skills, Nic Muni advises that singers begin getting acting training as early on as possible. To help address this recent trend in opera, Nic Muni has written a book especially for opera singers: Acting in Opera, a Contemporary Guide for the Inquisitive Young Artist. You can read chapter excerpts at his website: www.nicmuni.com
In addition to the many skills that opera singers need to develop, one of the most important assets a singer can have is a “thick skin”. People who gravitate toward the creative arts often aren’t afraid to wear their emotions on their sleeve. This is a great trait to have on stage, but because everyone who auditions for roles will face rejection, Nicholas Muni believes “a strong sense of self and unrelenting perseverance is necessary for a successful career. Rejection does not mean that someone is bad at what they do; it often just means that the casting director had a different vision for the role. Maintaining professionalism and staying calm under pressure is a great way to keep a singer on track for a successful career. How a person reacts to rejection can affect their reputation among casting professionals.”
Nicholas Muni rarely works with professional singers who don’t battle nerves before heading out on the stage. Learning how to control and direct your nervous energy can become a valuable skill for a performer as it can result in the audience being moved by the performance more readily. While fear may be natural, Nicholas Muni recommends that singers should “try to use that natural fear in a fearless manner! Embrace the natural anxiety (who is to say that your character is not nervous?). Learn to enjoy the thrill of stepping outside of your comfort zone (often the character you are playing is doing just that). Taking artistic risks will provide the best opportunity for true growth as a performer.”
Many actors are disheartened when offered small roles because their hopes and aspirations are focused on playing leading roles. Nic Muni believes very strongly that every role, no matter how small, is an opportunity to learn and gain the necessary experience to make you successful with larger roles. Also, by showing professionalism and performing smaller roles at a high level of excellence, you will make a positive impression far beyond what you can imagine. Your colleagues and your employers will remember how great you were in that small role—and you will eventually be rewarded.
As a performer, it is much easier to get into a role when there’s a connection formed with the character. For this reason, Nicholas Muni, encourages young professionals to be as open as possible to various life experiences. Meeting people who live outside of your normal way of life is a great way to learn about the vastness of the human condition. A person never knows when they will cross paths with someone whose journey may be similar to a character they will someday portray. Interacting with a wide range of people from various walks of life can, in and of itself, be an acting lesson. On the personal side, it’s also essential to live a life in which acting isn’t everything. A good work-life balance can do wonders for mental health and ensure that art never becomes so all-consuming that it is no longer enjoyable.
Nicholas Muni has had many conversations with acting professionals who lament that they didn’t take more acting risks in their auditions. One of the best things a singer can do is to treat every audition like it is a performance, leaving everything in the room. In other words, giving 100 percent effort and showing a willingness to take risks will always leave a positive impression, even if the audition does not go perfectly from a vocal perspective. Finally, Nicholas Muni recommends never giving up, despite all the rejection you may encounter. If you seek growth every day, hone your craft a little bit every day, live your life as fully as possible every day, you will achieve success. It may not necessarily come in the form that you expect, but in the theater of life, you will be a hit.