Sopranos scare people.
There are listeners (I used to be one as a little girl) who will listen to anything but opera because something about the high soprano sound unnerves them and makes them skittish, like the sound of fingernails on a blackboard (sorry about that image). And pretty often young and inexperienced singers get skittish about having to sing high soprano notes because the head voice is mostly uncharted territory and their own sound feels strange to them. It seems there’s an element of vulnerability and danger in singing high, whether you’re the one singing or listening. Why is that?
Consider this: the sound of a high-octane soprano hitting the money note is intended to pierce the veil of reality itself, and that’s why those notes exist in the first place.
Here’s what I mean. When you’re doing it right, when you completely open up and release on that money note and the resonance is nice and high and forward, you will experience something like a loss of consciousness for a split second. It will feel like a flash of blindness, or like you’re jumping out-of-body. You will be the everything/nothing. You will feel like you have no control.
And an inexperienced singer will not like feeling out of control for one minute! So she will choke off the note, or cover it, or do whatever is necessary to stay in the physical realm because she can’t imagine flying off into infinity.
But to touch infinity is the whole point.
Is it any coincidence that opera composers write in the money note for moments of ecstasy? Whether it be the ecstasy of anger or passion, if it’s “I love you!” or, “I’m gonna kill you!” there’s always the element of losing oneself in the moment. And that’s exactly what the singer has to do to have the note come out.
This is exactly why sopranos and their mezzo cohorts are the high priestesses of singing, and why they are called divas and seem almost untouchable. They really do catch a glimpse of the other side when they’re doing their job. And the best ones can share that vision with the rest of us, and show us what heaven and hell really look like.