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Meryl Streep explains how her opera training helps vocal control

February 7, 2012 | 10:52 am

  Streep

Among the many pleasures of Meryl Streep's "Fresh Air" interview that aired Monday on NPR is the actress' discussion of her operatic training during her youth. Streep studied with Estelle Liebling, a highly respected voice teacher whose students included Beverly Sills.

Streep's voice has been much analyzed by critics for its versatile qualities, especially her facility with accents and her vocally uncanny impersonations of Margaret Thatcher and Julia Child. In the NPR  interview, Streep spoke about the importance of voice in her training and subsequent career.

"I loved singing and I had a very good coloratura voice," Streep told "Fresh Air" host Terry Gross. But it's a "voice I don't have anymore."

The actress acknowledged that as a teenager, she hated opera. "I liked cheerleading and boys," she said.

When asked if anything from her opera training has stayed with her, Streep replied: "I learned the importance of breath. There was a thing I learned in my lessons from Estelle -- to breathe from your back. She would always say, there's room in the back -- that you expand three dimensionally. ... I use it all."

Streep also said that she didn't feel comfortable performing opera because it was often in a language she didn't understand and couldn't "feel through."

The actress said she performed "The Music Man" in a high school staging and that she had seen Barbara Cook in the original Broadway production of the musical. (Streep was honored alongside Cook at the most recent Kennedy Center Honors.)

To date, Streep has starred in only one movie musical -- "Mamma Mia!" in 2008. However, she was called on to sing in the films "Postcards From the Edge" and "A Prairie Home Companion."

You can listen to the entire Streep interview on the NPR site.

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-- David Ng

Photo: Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady." Credit: Alex Bailey / The Weinstein Co.

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