We like hearing you sing; we know auditioning is hard and we want you to do well. Don't try to second guess what I want you to sing, or wear, or say. Just be true to yourself. Every panel wants something different- every MEMBER of every panel wants something different!
Your Aria List
Make sure you choose your starting piece carefully. Don't choose something long just because you think you're only going get to sing one aria - that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Know how to get from your first piece to every other item on your list. Don't presume you know what the panel are going to ask for second. Do provide contrast, as otherwise why would we choose a second aria? If on the day you don't feel up to your stretch piece, take it off your list.
Send music / repertoire info in advance if it's not standard, especially if you're planning to start with that aria. Take 20 seconds to talk to your pianist before you start. Make sure you sing at your tempo, not his or hers. Don't take your own pianist unless you're sure they're better than the one provided!
Don't presume there is somewhere to warm up / change at the venue without checking. If you're running late, phone!
Have an Opinion
Have an opinion; have many opinions, and bring them to the table. Nothing is deadlier than music managed rather than lived, performance designed not to offend. Avoid asking for permission in the moment of performance. Sometimes I feel like auditioners are painting themselves white, like apartments that could be rented by anyone. Believe that we truly want to know who you are.
In the service of the above - work religiously and scrupulously to inform yourself of everything, from how Italian vowels sound, to where the orchestra can and can't allow you to take time, to the areas in which your own voice and body are most and least capable. That work will last the rest of your life, so it won't be finished when you audition - but we can tell if you are doing it or not.
And finally, I just ran across this terrific audition advice blog from Bill Florescu of Florentine Opera Company: The Opera Audition.
What Makes a Fabulous Audition Pianist?
We realize that the audition pianist is a variable that changes from company to company, from day to day, from location to location. Safest to let go of whatever expectation you may have. Control the variables you can. The pianist is not one of them. So, best to think slightly conservatively.
If you're kind of new at this audition stuff, you don't need a lot of curves thrown at you. Bring a pianist (preferably a good one, please...) if some of your rep is non-standard. But be sure that your pianist can play your rep better than a typical company-provided pianist. I've seen too many singers undone by their own colleagues.If you're getting a bit more experienced and comfortable, you can always take a chance, though. Here's the most important thing: Be able to sing your aria without getting rattled even if the piano isn't helping you. Give your aria to a pianist friend who isn't good at sight-reading. See if you can prevail while s/he accompanies you. It is possible. We recognize when there is a singer/pianist problem, and generally, unless you allow it to hamstring you, it doesn't end up being a huge liability. It's a sliding scale, to be sure.
Don’t snap your fingers at the pianist to indicate tempo. Aside from being slightly irritating (don't ask me why, it just is... I've been on the receiving end myself), it's rarely functional. I have yet to see a singer indicate a tempo (by clapping, snapping, conducting, etc) that bears a real resemblance to the actual speed of the aria.
Take a look back at this post in Week 3 for practical considerations when prepping your music for the audition pianist.
First of all, there's no reason to walk to the opposite end of the room to shake hands. I know panel members who are firmly against this and others who are mildly irritated by it. Almost no one thinks it's a great idea, and it's almost never not awkward. I have no strong opinion, but these kinds of formalities do slow things down terribly. You get a limited amount of time allotted, and you want to use it to sing, not to work the room.If the panel is paying attention when you enter, it's perfectly appropriate to greet us with "Good afternoon" etc. We try to greet everyone before they have a chance to wonder what to say/do, but sometimes we get caught up in paperwork. The niceties aren't compulsory, though - it's just fine to say nary a word, give your music to the pianist, position yourself by the piano, and then speak.
Most of the time, the panel has your materials. If you need to submit a rep list change (where allowed), often the monitor can handle it. If not, deliver it to the panel with a smile, then get right to the main event.
It is always helpful for the panel to hear your name. If our system is working well, we'll know who you are; but sometimes things get out of sequence and we get confused. "Good afternoon. My name is Kim Witman" should do it.If you know for sure that you are to choose your own first selection, announce it. But don't over-announce it. "I'd like to sing Aria Name" should be plenty. If it's a rare piece, then expand into "I'd like to sing Aria Name from Opera Name." But no need to turn it into an exercise in public speaking (as in "I'd like to sing Aria Name, Character's third act aria in Opera Name by Composer Name). We either have a rep list, and/or we're smart enough to fill in most of those blanks if we know the name of the aria. You'll probably just end up getting tongue-tied even if you've practiced it to within an inch of its life.
Be efficient and pleasant. Then sing.
1. The Bathroom/Stairwell Acoustic
Singers initially love the fact that everyone sounds huge in such a space. But quickly, some grapple with the fact that once the sound gets rolling around, it's very difficult to zero in on pitch. Simply, hard to hear. What’s surprising is that a live acoustic actually picks up and magnifies certain troublesome aspects of certain kinds of voices.For us, this kind of environment is the aural equivalent of squinting for 2 days, trying to zero in on the core of the sound and ignore the noise around it. All of the upper partials are exaggerated, and although this can flatter the occasional muted, dark voice, anyone with any natural squillo in the sound can peel the paper off the walls.
2. Singing Into a Sock
If forced into either end of the spectrum, this is what we often choose. And I'm here to try to convince you that you actually have a better chance in this kind of environment. For in a dry acoustic, we know that we have to mentally add a certain amount of bloom and resonance to everyone's sound, and that tends to make us charitable. (As opposed to the hyper-live acoustic, where the mental exercise is one of subtraction.) We actually tend to deliberately overlook (or minimize) some things because we know how naked the sound is.But singers have to have the technical foundation and discipline to resist the urge to push and drive the voice because of a too-dry acoustic. The biggest mistake that inexperienced singers make is to react to dry acoustics by pushing for volume because they don’t hear much sound coming back at them.
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