Young operatic voice -- Shafali Jalota

The operatic voice is globally renowned and revered for its incredible soaring notes, vocal complexity and emotional allure. Operatic voices can be found globally, however, I was particularly captivated by the voice of one young Opera singer: Shafali Jalota. Shafali is a sophomore at UNC majoring in music with a voice concentration. Shafali has been singing for approximately 10 years and aspires to pursue a career in opera.

Here is a full length sample of her voice as she sings Clair de Lune by Gabriel Fauré:

There are innumerable elements that make Shafali’s voice alluring. However, I can group what distinguishes her voice as captivating into four ‘categories’ so to speak: her accomplished operatic technique and skill, her age, her expression of emotion and her self-awareness.

Shafali is clearly talented, her voice is immediately distinguishable by its accomplished operatic technique and skill. Shafali has what she would define as a “light, adaptable, fast-moving and fairly high” voice. Her voice is pleasurable to listen to; recording with Shafali is akin to a private opera concert. She is able to hit incredible notes, incorporate effects such as vibrato or passaggio, move quickly between lyrics and pitches. She achieves a mature sound that reflects both her talent and intense music study and practice.

Associated with the remarkability of her talent is her age. Shafali, 20, is a very young opera singer and her talent is all the more remarkable for this. The clarity of her singing voice, the absence of age-induced strain or rasp, is a testament to her youth. You can also hear the youth in her spoken voice, though she is mature in speech. Though her youth makes her talent even more admirable, it also, according to Shafali, means that she is yet to master and perfect certain operatic techniques.

This, Shafali’s vocal self-awareness or critique, is also fascinating. Listening to Shafali describe her own voice and the vocal effects she is attempting to master provides insight into the depth of her technical training and knowledge. In listening to how Shafali understands her own voice and operatic style I am further drawn to and impressed by the complexity of her sound and Shafali’s commitment to perfection.

Though opera is renowned for its auditory beauty it is also known for its conveyance of emotion and storytelling in numerous languages. In many ways Shafali’s expression of emotion is an amalgamation and defiance of what has been previously mentioned about her captivating voice. Shafali’s technical skill and constant self-correction enables her to express through her voice a variety of different emotions that generate a response in the audience. However, in many ways this communication of sophisticated emotion defies the limitations of her age. Shafali is is yet to experience many of the situations and emotions that ground an opera. Despite this, she is able to vocalize the pain, joy or anger that each piece requires with authenticity and believability.

The following sound excerpts focus primarily on Shafali’s operatic technique and skill. She demonstrates several operatic techniques and explains the physiology and training that goes into perfecting these effects. Throughout the excerpts we are made privy to the depth of Shafali’s training and self-awareness and criticism. Shafali invites a critical ear into her performance and openly explores what skills she needs to improve and perfect as she matures as an opera singer. She workshops the whistle tone and an accompanying clip features a vocal coach explaining the physiological difficulty of this tone. In the other excerpts Shafali deconstructs and demonstrates fast-paced operatic sound, passaggio and vocalizing emotion. These excerpts provide a glimpse into the evolving, skillful and multifaceted nature of the operatic voice.  


By Tierney Marey