You’ve spent hours practicing, perfecting every measure, analyzing every character, picking the perfect performance outfit, planning every moment of the week before, all in preparation for the big performance(s)… Hours before you’re set to sing, it hits you: What do I EAT?! In my experience, it seems that many performers have strong opinions on what NOT to eat, but don’t always detail what one should eat before a performance.
Perhaps this is for good reason, as what works for one singer’s pre-performance meal would be an absolute nightmare for another performer. It may do a singer well to ‘practice’ their pre-performance meal a few times by experimenting with recipes, then run through an aria or two to see how their instrument reacts. Believe it or not, dairy won’t kill every singer before a performance! It’s YOUR job as the professional musician to experiment and discover what foods will fuel you, versus what foods will hinder your instrument’s optimal performance–ideally, well before the big moment.
The goal of this compilation of “mini-interviews” is to give operathletes some pre-performance meal inspiration. One thing that struck me about every response is the presence of whole, home-cooked, healthy foods. Nowhere in sight is there a Whopper with a side of fries, or fried chicken with a slice of pecan pie! Although unhealthier choices are immediately rewarding to our tastebuds, they lack the power that whole foods have to truly fuel a performance. So channel your inner chef, and come up with a deliciously simple meal with balanced portions of macronutrients that will get you through an opera–and the after-party! 😉
“My favorite pre-performance meal is a large green salad that has young spring greens or spinach and arugula, kale, or whatever leafies are on hand. Then I massage with a ripe avocado for that creamy goodness without the added oil, sprinkle with a bit of salt to help soften the greens, and then add my favorite toppings: cranberries, walnuts, and some spiralized zucchini, baby tomatoes, and the star ingredient, quinoa!!
This is a great, fresh, cooling meal that gives long lasting energy and some protein, but not so much that you feel heavy. It can be enjoyed with sprouted quinoa for an excellent fully raw alternative.
If you need a mid-performance snack, or a pick me up, I like a few slices of pineapple. Does me great!”
“For my favorite pre-performance meal, I like to have a healthy dose of protein and fiber and a bit of carbs. Because I am a vegetarian, I lean towards eggs! So, I usually prepare 3 eggs, either fried or scrambled, with a big pile of sautéed mixed vegetables, including broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, carrot and mushroom, seasoned with a bit of vegetarian bullion powder or herbs and spices. I usually mix in a bit of cheddar or mozzarella, and I will enjoy this with gluten free crackers or bread, a few olives, and a handful of mixed nuts. I like to eat this meal about four hours before curtain so that my stomach is relatively empty and settled by the time I get ready to sing. As an energy booster, I will have green tea with Matcha powder between my meal and curtain. During the intermission, I like to enjoy a couple spoonfuls of Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter!!“
“Three to four hours before I sing, I prepare ground turkey and peas sautéed in a little bit of olive oil with light salt and pepper.”
“They say Pavarotti ate a big plate of pasta prior to every opera he sang. My take is a bit more health-conscious, but just as satisfying. It’s a big energy booster that gets me ready for anything: spiralized veggie noodles with a rich avocado pesto sauce. The meal requires about 15 minutes prep time, but it travels well and tastes great served hot or cold. I follow that up with apple slices and a big spoonful of almond butter, which makes for a great snack in between scenes. No sugar crash, no tummy troubles. Just good carbs, good fats, and veggie-based energy to last you through even the most demanding performance.”
“[My pre-performance meal is] usually pasta, with chicken, mushrooms, and usually whatever veggies are on hand. I usually prefer red peppers, or peas. We use a cream/white wine sauce. Perfect for preventing reflux caused by red sauces.
I always eat pasta before a performance, and I add on fruit, and tons of water. And coffee….lots of it.”
“My pre-performance meal consists of low acid protein and carbs. I usually go for a chicken breast and plain whole wheat pasta or a potato with green beans or carrots. If it is a matinee, I like eggs and whole wheat toast. Usually I like to drink water and apple juice. I keep it very simple on performance day (which is unlike me on a normal day).”
“Chicken breast and legs (12 oz)
Two handful mushrooms
Herbs de Provence
White wine (6 oz or just pour it on)
Cook the above ingredients in large pan
Mashed sweet potatoes with butter and salt
Lots of broccoli with lemon
Pan fried Brussel sprouts with olive oil and pancetta, well cooked
1 liter water
A big nice coffee
During the show:
Banana, apple, and almonds
“I like to keep my nutrition and macro nutrients as balanced as possible during the day by fueling my body every 3 hours, therefore I don’t necessarily have a specific pre- or post-performance meal. However, a typical meal before a heavy or long workout would be a smoothie with whey protein (slow releasing), casein protein (fast releasing) about 3oz of fruit and 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter. I like the two types of protein so my muscles are fueled immediately and for the entire length of the workout. And even though I keep my eyes on the clock to make sure I am prepared for my next meal, my body often tells me exactly when it’s time to re-fuel. I will grab real food like chicken breast, a small apple and a handful of almonds.”