The other day, my friend Katia H. told me about a website I wish I’d built, called FachMe.com. The premise is simple: you enter roles you’ve sung and found well-suited to your voice, and the website suggests other roles for you, based on its database. As the websites states: “FachMe uses a database of over 16,000 real opera singers’ careers to recommend characters which are statistically likely to suit your voice.”
Unfortunately, much like musical genres often do a poor job of defining the subtitles of music, the human body and composer’s imaginations don’t conform very tightly to our categorical constructs [of fach]. That being said, we need a vocabulary to discuss and even internally process the qualities that make a voice suit a role and, like musical genres, this is the best method we have.
When I was doing my undergraduate degree in voice, I became very frustrated with singers over-identifying with a fach and either limiting themselves, over-extending themselves, or trying to learn repertoire that would probably be in their future but was not yet healthy for their voice. To help combat that trend, I started a website that skips the system of fach pigeon-holes and helps singers find appropriate roles directly.
The website asks a singer for roles which they feel suit their voice right now, and then searches through its database of over 16,000 singers careers for singers who sang those roles. The site then lists other roles most commonly performed by those singers.
It’s not a silver bullet but it’s a useful tool for brainstorming and it has the advantage that it’s based on actual data.
Eldredge also posts a link to an episode of KALW’s VoiceBox podcast called “The Fachs of Life” which mentions FachMe.com and also features Nathan Gunn, Nicola Luisotti, and Sheri Greenwald discussing the topic of fach. (Play the episode online or download it as an MP3 file.)
I played with FachMe.com a little bit – I wasn’t familiar with all of the roles it suggested, but the ones I knew seemed reasonable. I’ve heard that the website tries to take various factors into account in order to make sane recommendations – for example, if you enter a role that a singer in the database did very early in her career as a young singer, it will not necessarily recommend roles performed late in that singer’s life. I am interested to hear others’ opinions on the quality of the recommendations they get. This is the sort of tool that I would approach with the standard disclaimers (your mileage may vary, take it with a grain of salt, each singer is individual, etc. etc.) but it might be fun to play with and at least glean a few interesting role suggestions.