French sopranos talk about their periods

It has never been a taboo subject. Christa Ludwig used to speak frankly and with technical precision about how menstruation affected her voice.

Now, the French sopranos Elsa Dreisig and Julie Fuchs lead a discussion on France-Musique on how women cope in the course of an opera career.

Read here.


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    • How on earth do you construe that this related to #metoo? I’m asking you honestly to explain how you think this is related to issues of sexual assault and harassment.

    • Does a vasectomy affect vocal health and quality of singing? If so, then yes, it would be an important topic, and it would be reasonable to expect that male singers would seek and share information. Right?

      But a vasectomy does not affect vocal health. So why mention it, except to be snarky?

  • Since I had surgery for rectal cancer a few years ago, I’ve gotten accustomed to wearing an adult diaper under my costume while performing in operas.

    • So suppose that the article were about, oh, let’s say, how weight loss/gain affects singers’ health. Or back injuries. Or air travel. Or teaching. And some singers got together and shared information about their experiences, for the purpose of helping other singers. Is sharing a personal experience in this case “all about me”? I’m asking you honestly to explain why you dismiss this with a comment such as yours.

      As far as TMI, well then, just choose not to read it.

  • As a nurse I would be interested to know the physiology behind this, exactly how hormonal changes affect, or can affect, voice timbre.

    Do singers going through menopause have voice changes also? I always thought it was because of changes in weight, which also leads to hormonal changes since human fat contains estrogen

    • There was a very interesting article about singers and the menopause a few months ago in Opera magazine. Indeed, it seems it does affect the voice. For some women at least.

    • I expect that some menstruating singers would be more sensitive to the changes in intra-abdominal pressure which occur during singing.

  • Some really silly comments here – what a sensitive bunch of misogynists some of you are. Other affects on the voice are openly discussed – why not menstruation. Why be squeamish. It’s not about #metoo, or ‘all about me’ (ridiculous and unnecessary comparison) it’s about women finding their bodies and voices substantially different and unreliable for several days a month. It must be very disconcerting.

  • Oh, for heaven’s sake. Menstruation is a normal physiological condition.

    The qualities, timbre, and range of the human voice — both men and women — has everything to do with individual physiology (size and shape of the vocal tract) and hormones (not only at puberty but throughout the life), and anything that happens during life that affects either of those affects singing, and is therefore a topic of high relevance.

    During menstruation, most women experience physical changes that affect the whole body, including the voice. For example, it might be easier, or harder, to sing at the extremes of the range. For a singer who has to sing the same role day after day, the occurrence of a menstrual period during that time can mean that she has to modify her vocal approach to certain passages. It’s not a big deal, but it’s something to know about and anticipate, and understand how to manage it.

    Pregnancy and lactation also have significant effects on the voice. In my own experience as a high soprano, during pregnancy and lactation I lost about a half octave or more from the top of the range, because of hormonal changes. During pregnancy and full lactation, ovulation does not occur, because those particular hormones are suppressed. And this affects the range and timbre of the voice. When I stopped breastfeeding and menstruation returned, then I could work my voice back to where it was before pregnancy.

    Menopause causes a hugely significant change in the amounts and proportions of hormones. As during pregnancy and lactation, the hormones that stimulate ovulation diminish over time. The proportion of “male” hormone increases, and as is well known, the voice of an older woman is likely to become lower in pitch. Obviously this is a concern! There are many resources available to help singers navigate this change.

    In my own case, I have a naturally light voice, but as menopause approached, I sensed a wobble lurking, and potential loss of range, as the hormones began to change. During the 3-4 years that it took for my body to go through menopause, I worked every single day to keep my voice light, high, and flexible – lots of air, lots of flexibility exercises (roulades and arpeggios), lots of exercises to extend and maintain the breath and the range. For me, it worked – I came out on the other side of menopause with a nice clear wobble-free voice, and continued to sing the highest parts as a professional chorister. For women with heavier voices, I expect it could be more of a challenge, or rather, a different kind of challenge.

    The point is that this topic is relevant, important, and not a source of shame, and it is an essential topic of study for all woman singers. This is not about sex, though it has to do with the reproductive organs. And anyway, some of the hormones are produced in the brain, not elsewhere.

    And of course male singers also experience changes as hormones change over time. And it’s OK to talk about that, too!

    A vasectomy is not at all equivalent. A vasectomy does not affect hormonal production at all. It would be equivalent to a tubal ligation in a woman, which does not affect menstruation.

    Why do any of you find this shameful or embarrassing?

  • The wording of the subject can create serious misunderstanding at music agencies, since they discuss ‘periods’ all the time, by phone and by email, but then they mean availabilities. Like, a local agency discussing availability with a general management: ‘So, could you please give me mrs X’s periods?’

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