Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Opera Center

I have not been posting for a few days, and that's because we're about to open the Wayne & Kristine Lueders Florentine Opera Center later today. We are very excited about the fact that we will be holding rehearsals, AUDITIONS (I guess that's how I can tie it into this blog!) and other activities in this space (as well as renting it to other arts groups. I will post some photos on here - we are very excited about what this will do for our company. I should also mention how grateful we are to my Board President Wayne Lueders, and his wife Kris, for helping to make this happen!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The party's over.....or is it?

When do I say "I'm done trying" or should I even think like that?

This is perhaps the most personal question there is. And I guess to begin, I think it depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If your inwardly stated goal is making a living as professional classical singer, and you are not getting at least some movement in that direction, and you are in your forties (this will of course vary greatly depending on your voice type, etc.) then you may want to take a look at whether to continue. On the other hand, if you have made peace with keeping a "hand in the game" singing an occasional gig, teaching, and generally feeling a part of the singing world, there is no reason to not continue. What will be important to know is what auditions to pursue or not pursue, depending on what decision you have come to. In my next posts, I will break this down further, but suffice it to say, that I come down squarely on the side of "chasing your dream". I just hate to see it when people put themselves in audition situations that are not appropriate for where they have landed - in other words - "know thyself".

Friday, August 14, 2009

on a break....

I will be on vacation, but will be back on Wednesday!
Do I make a mistake switching rep, because I think it fits me better (looks, age, body type, etc.) even though my voice still is more appropriate for different (lighter) rep.?

Since we are still talking opera here, at the end of the day, you can't be untrue to what you are vocally. this can be tough if you're body type doesn't exactly fit your voice, particularly in today's world of casting visually as well as aurally. If the issue is weight, that is of course, something can be addressed, but if it is height or age, this becomes trickier. It is important that you continually get feedback to see if your self-perception is correct. A trusted coach, director, or someone in a similar position whose opinion you trust cam make sure you are pointed in a realistic direction.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

a slight pause

Do I make a mistake switching rep, because I think it fits me better (looks, age, body type, etc.) even though my voice still is more appropriate for different (lighter) rep.?

Today has been a bit crazy, but I will tackle this one tomorrow....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The other side of age.....

When is "too young" for certain roles, etc.
This is the other side of the age question....What if vocally and dramatically you feel like Marcellina, Katisha, Berta, Quickly, etc. but people want to cast you as Cherubino, Pitti-Sing, Rosina, and Meg Page? Well, you may have to face that fact that you are those lighter roles, or, you may have to hope that a perceptive director, conductor, etc. will see that you really are that character singer, and the fact that you are 30 shouldn't be an issue. You will notice that I gave a female example. It does seem like there are more examples of young tenors and bass-baritones doing "older" character roles than women. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, and unfortunately this can be a steep hill to climb. Unfortunately, it seems like the only people who can make this work are those who are considered to have a "quirky" look, or are of stouter build. This is unfortunate, because make-up and costuming can create the same effect.
An amusing counter-point to this is running into (particularly male) singers who are having incredibly busy careers that most people would kill to have, but who are nonetheless unhappy because they've been pigeonholed in character parts!
To get back to my original point here, if your interest lies in character parts, and you don't fit the classic profile, you will need to do some PR and promotion work to be seen in that light. However, if you can pull it off, you may find a rich career path that many don't consider.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Should I lie about my age?

In a word - no. But.....you also don't have to advertise it. Obviously for some programs and competitions, you have to provide proof of age. But for most auditions, if you look 25, but you're 40.....let them think you're 25. Don't put your date of birth OR weight on a resume. Different topic, but - people carry weight differently, and if you leave a number on a piece of paper for people to ponder, that's what they will remember.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So, when?

At what age should I leave pay to sings, Young artist programs, graduate programs behind?
This is a complex question, because before it is answered, you have to have a pretty clear road map of how you got to the point of asking the question. For instance, if you are a soprano singing soubrette roles, and you started vocal study seriously right out of high school, and you are now 35 years old, and still trying to get established, most young artist programs will be not possible, and a pay to sing will not help your resume a bit. On the other hand, if your are a budding lyric tenor, who didn't discover you had a voice until you were 30, and just started study at 32, you may find yourself answering this question differently. Graduate programs are a different story. We should also dilineate here between Master of Music, Doctor of Musical Arts, and Artist Diploma programs. Age will not be a big factor in M.M. or D.M.A. programs. while with Artist Diploma programs you might have to do a bit more research to find the correct answer. However, it should be noted that entering a D.M.A. program at an older age may help you with securing higher education employment, but will probably have no impact on you getting hired for professional work (unless you have the good fortune to get associated with a graduate program, where one of the artist faculty also has hiring responsibility with a professional company).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Men vs. Women in "age" parts

This may not seem like an audition topic on the face of it (sorry, couldn't resist a small pun), but in fact, it is. This is from the first bullet point I mentioned yesterday. If you are a young singer, will you be considered for Quickly, Berta, Marcellina? Conversely, if you are more mature, will you still be considered for Susanna, Norina, Pamina, etc. I think this is a fair question, particularly in light of the fact that we regularly see male singers in their 30s and early 40s cast as Bartolo, Falstaff, the Sacristan, etc, and also see male singers in their 50s and 60s even, singing Rodolfo, Nemorino, etc.
One could argue this problem exists in the world of film as well - Jack Nicholson, Harrison Ford and others are often still cast as leading men with actresses in their 20s and 30s, whereas an older woman with a younger man is usually seen as "quirky". I think there is some bias in this regard, but like anything else, try to get good advice from people who know, before "putting it out there". In theory, there is no reason, a young singer with good acting chops, and the right vocal quality cannot pull off Marcellina or Berta, or Quickly. And if you truly still look and sound the part, why not Susanna?
Of course, another element here is the theatre itself. In this case, I'm not talking acoustics, I'm talking visuals. A 2500 seat house makes make up much more effective at producing the desired effect as opposed to a 350 seat house.. A General or Artistic Director will certainly take this into account when hearing auditions.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


This is an interesting, and sometimes contentious topic, that has many facets- to whit:
  • Do men have an unfair advantage (i.e. - they get to play old when they're younger, and play young when they're older easier than their female counterparts)
  • At what age should I leave pay to sings, Young artist programs, graduate programs behind
  • Should I lie about my age?
  • When is "too young" for certain roles, etc.
  • Do I make a mistake switching rep, because I think it fits me better (looks, age, body type, etc.) even though my voice still is more appropriate for different (lighter) rep.
  • When do I say "I'm done trying" (or should I even think like that?)
All of these bullet points are worthy of their own post, and over the next couple of days, I will comment on each.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A blast from the past

There's a fun little book called Caruso and Tetrazzini on the Art of Singing, and I have no idea whether it's still in print. But it's fun to see how ideas about singing have changed (or not?) over the years -

Here's a little nugget from Signor Caruso's section:

"Others, who have keen and alert minds and voices of fine quality, yet lack that certain esprit and broadness of musical outlook required in a great artist. This lack is often so apparent in the person's manner or bearing that I am tempted to tell him it is no use before he utters a note. Yet it would not do to refuse a hearing to all these misfits, for there is always the chance of encountering the unknown genius, however rare a bird he may be".

Interesting take, don't you think?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How obscure can I get with audition rep?

This is a fascinating question, and one worth discussing. There is no doubt that what is "standard" for auditions has expanded greatly over the last several years. I think there are several reasons for this. All opera companies are doing more adventurous repertoire, the opera anthologies contain a broader spectrum of arias, and new work is quickly available (We just completed our local/chorus auditions, and one of our singers came in and did a very credible job on an excerpt from Elmer Gantry, a new opera we are doing next season). I think, and I would love to hear my colleagues weigh in on this. that it is almost always a good idea to have some well known standard rep from your fach, or voice category, to show how you handle that. There can sometimes be the sneaking suspicion that out of the way rep is an artful way to cover up some vocal or musical deficiency. While I don't necessarily think this is always the case, I think it's safe to cover all of your bases. There will of course be exceptions - if you are being asked for something specific, or if you are singing for a company or festival that specializes in non-traditional or new repertoire. Perhaps the most germane question of all is: What constitutes standard rep today, and there is no doubt that this is an ever broadening category. I will weigh in with some specific ideas on this in another post, but in the meantime, please feel free to share your thoughts on this.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Should I stop?

This is a common question that is based on a common occurrence. Things grinding to a halt during an audition can be the result of a variety of factors. Your pianist takes off an a tempo that is extremely difficult for you to navigate. You blank out in the middle of an aria you've done 500 times before. Something throws you off (a person barges in the room by mistake for example). You get the idea. My take on this is that there is nothing wrong with stopping, and either resetting either to the beginning of the piece, or to a logical starting point if you're already mid-stream. In my listening experience, this almost always yields superior results to forging ahead and hoping for the best. It also gives you an opportunity to show poise and control in difficult circumstances, which, after all, is a subtext of your audition.