Monday, December 20, 2010

Carve out the pie

No, this isn't a holiday greeting, though of course, I do send those as well!
I'm talking about strategically putting together your rep for your auditions, that gives an AD or GD an easy way to "sample" your repertoire. I want to preface this by saying that your first criteria must always remain singing what suits you best and what you feel most comfortable singing. But assuming you have multiple choices in that regard, it might be good to think strategically about how to "help" your listener out.
I will give some examples of what I mean.
Stephano's aria from Romeo et Juliette is great because it's strophic, and if time is an issue, I can ask for the second verse, and you will be able to show everything in one that you could in two.
Figaro's fourth act aria from Figaro is great, because even if I don't have time to hear you sing the aria, the recit is fantastic, has a wide emotional range, and allows me to hear you handle that very important part of that rep.
Beppe's aria from Pagliacci is great because even if you are moving toward character tenor territory it allows me to hear that your singing chops are there as well.

These are just three examples of pieces that are either short or are segmentable that gives an interested listener the opportunity to quickly choose something, even if your first selection is longer, and the company's time is limited.

Another way of saying this is that presenting five arias for audition is a strategic process, not just a case of finding five arias in three or four languages and hoping for the best.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mapping it out!

I mentioned in my previous post that no matter where you end up in terms of presenting your audition repertoire, you need to stage it out in preparation for your auditions.
A simple test you can give yourself to prove this: Think about the comfort level you have in presenting arias in audition that come from operas where you have either performed the complete role, or scenes from that opera that contain that aria. I think you will agree that when you sing those arias, you feel more physically connected than you do with arias where you have not done this.
The way to create the same effect for those arias that you have not performed on stage, is to stage them completely, either with a coach/director, or perhaps in a swap with a colleague where you do the same for them. After staging the aria, you will find that you will keep elements of the staging for the "audition version" of it, but perhaps more importantly, you will have locked in mental intent, which will allow your body energy to be connected to your voice.
In addition to allowing you to feel more comfortable in the audition, you will also undoubtedly sing better because of this connection.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What do I do?

Working with our Studio Artists this week has produced some interesting questions around knowing "how much to do" in an audition dramatically.
The question, arises of course, from the notion that some artistic/general directors like a very acted out, active audition, while others prefer a more low key, purely vocally based presentation.
This is a somewhat tough question to answer, but as I've said in a different context, your best chance for being hired lies in you being true to who you are as a performer, as opposed to chasing down what a particular director might like.
Regardless of how much actually histrionics you do in an audition, you must absolutely have the dramatic arc of your aria mapped out, so that there is a dramatic through line that matches the vocal through line.
I believe this begins by doing a full blown staging while preparing the aria for audition.
I will expand on this in my next post.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Erie Mills

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to have Erie Mills, renowned soprano, and now renowned master teacher, with us for a masterclass with our Studio Artists. She had wonderful insights on so many aspects of singing and presentation, and she was able to walk the thin line of focusing on the singers, while also engaging the audience. Her energy, insight, and enthusiasm was infectious. Often in masterclasses, you get either one or the other!
What was really great was to have some high school singers, who are just starting out, there to hear Ms. Mills' insights. Gosh, I wish I had had an opportunity like that when I was starting out!

If you get an opportunity to either work with Erie, or hear one of her masterclasses, do not miss it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Question about Apprentince Auditions

I got this question just the other day - "What do you think I should sing for Company X - what do you think they want to hear?"
I have said this before, but it bears repeating - Unless an audition or competition asks for specific repertoire, sing what you best! In a world where you can't control how people perceive you, the odds will most definitely improve for you, if you sing repertoire that you sing best and most comfortably. In addition to sounding your best, you will probably be more relaxed and sell your piece better.
Sing within your comfort zone, and let the person hearing you make the jump in his or her mind about where you can be stretched.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rio de Sangre

We have just started rehearsals for the company's first world premiere, Don Davis' Rio de Sangre. What I was struck by, at the first day of music rehearsal, is how prepared all of the artists (including our Studio Artists) were for this tough, but rewarding, score.
It is an obvious reminder, of course, but when you have a successful audition, two very important steps that need to be followed once you get the job are:

1. Be prepared when rehearsals commence
2. Be a great colleague

Follow these two obvious, but all too often not followed, rules, and you will find yourself not having to worry about auditioning for that particular company again - believe me - they will want you back!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Alright then!

Well, no suggestions for topics yet (you must all still be in end of summer mode!)

So, the first topic I want to tackle for the Fall audition season is:

Knowing when I am ready.

This is a broad topic, but generally what I want to cover is:

What criteria do I use, and wo can give me the best advice on when to audition for the following various categories:

A. Apprentice Programs

B. Competitions

C. Graduate School

D. Pay to Sing programs
1. domestic
2. abroad

E. Other

In the days ahead, I will start to break this down, but in the meantime, I invite you to weigh in with your own thoughts.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

That old "school's about to start" feeling

I taught in higher ed. for 12+ years, and whenever August rolls around, I still feel that anticipation of the new school year beginning. I can almost smell the eraser shavings!

Our new season beginning has me feeling that same anticipation, particularly this year-
Our season is beginning earlier, in October, so our Studio Artists are arriving earlier, and chorus rehearsals have already begun! It is particularly exciting, as this will be the company's first world premiere in its 77 year history - Don Davis' Rio de Sangre (Mr. Davis is best known for writing the music for all three of The Matrix films).

Many of you, I'm sure, are also feeling the anticipation of a "new" season, whether it's returning to undergraduate or graduate school, joining a year long apprentice program, or getting your ducks in a row for the upcoming audition season.

Whatever it is you are getting ready for, please feel free to post ideas for us to tackle here on the Blog. I have some ideas lined up, but I would love to hear what's on your mind for the season ahead!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Good addition!

There was an excellent suggestion made below about making connections for coachings, feedback, etc. with music staff, artistic or general directors of companies you are wanting to sing for - this is an excellent way to "help" them remember you - of course, make sure you are well prepared for it, so that the memory they have is a good one!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to make the connection?

This is a topic I'm still formulating, so I will just put it out there right now, and then expand upon it as we move forward.

Here it is: How do you concretely make the connection between your studio lessons/coaching/practice and the actual audition?

Do you:

A. Hope that it happens "organically" - in other words - practice, take lessons, coaching, etc. and then go into the audition, and hope that it translates into the audition you want?


B. Do you take what you have gathered from the preliminary activities, and in fact, "dress rehearse" your audition? - and by this, I don't mean just the singing part, but also the walking into the room, staging, testing how you will introduce yourself, etc.....

I will be curious to hear what some of you are doing.....

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Taking inventory

You may be right now doing one of the following things:

a: taking part in a summer vocal program/apprenticeship

b: getting ready to start an undergraduate/graduate/performer diploma program

c: taking lessons or coaching and contemplating what comes next

d: some combination of the above

While you are taking part in any of the above activities, I would suggest taking an inventory of all parts of that which will make up your "audition arsenal".

Some suggestions to consider:

a: head shot - is it up to date? enough copies?

b: music in your audition folder - marked correctly for accompanists? any worn pages need to be replaced?

c: wardrobe - do you have appropriate outfits ready for auditions that will be coming up this fall?

d: list of contacts - this is connected to my last post - do you have a plan and the contact information you will need for upcoming auditions?

e: is newer repertoire on the way to being ready in all phases? - technique, memorization, language, translation, and dramatic presentation (try finding a time to try out new rep on a small group of friends or family - this will help get it ready)

This is just a short list - you may have other ideas about an audition inventory that you would like to add here - please do!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Get a Plan!

Something that I have been meaning to say here for a while has been driven to the front burner by a recent conversation - GET A PLAN!

As always, that may sound obvious and simplistic, but it is nonetheless true. Whether or not you have representation, you need to map out a strategy (in writing) for where you are headed, even if you don't think you have tangible results yet to support it.

What I mean is, if you have an idea of what roles, what operas, etc. you want to do (and you have that written down), that will allow you (and your agent) to think in ways that you may not now be thinking. In addition, make use of things like google alerts to keep you apprised of things that can be germane to your plan.

While part of this may seem like a futile exercise if you're not getting the auditions you want, the fact is every activity you commit to in support of your goal will give you a better shot at achieving it.

It has undoubtedly always been true, but in this environment, taking voice lessons, coaching, and hoping for the best is a recipe for no result!

And, the tools at your disposal, Classical Singer, NFCS, Yap Tracker, are so far beyond what we had in "my day", that there is no excuse for not thinking strategically every day!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What next?

Stop!! Think about where you are right this second in your career plan (hopefully you have a "plan" - if not, this is a good time to think about that).
Once you've assessed where you are, ask yourself if you have the next right audition for that timeline.
Two scenarios:
1. You've got some good Young Artist Program experience under your belt, a few regional roles, but no management - is this the time to contact or recontact a manager to hear you?
Perhaps so - if you don't have that audition lined up, look into it.

2. You've hit a bit of a wall with auditions, and you feel like some technical work out of the pressure of the professional audition circuit makes sense, and you've considered looking into an artist diploma program to help make that next step happen. Have you explored this? If not, now is the time to do it!

You see my point - don't let too much time elapse between taking "snapshots" of where you are, so that you can take the proactive steps that are needed.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Know when to say yes....

I know it's been a while, and I have a backlog of things to say purely audition related, but I've come across a couple of situations lately, that move me to write on this now.
I know that many people reading this will say, "gee, I'd love to have the possibility of knowing when to say yes".
But the scenario I've run into in a couple different contexts is, generally, this:

A singer is offered a contract, either YAP or main stage, that either on their own counsel or others, he or she turns down, because:
a. doesn't pay enough
b. keeps them out of the mainstream
c. something better might come along while he or she is doing the particular job being offered.

While I understand that sometimes money is absolutely the bottom line, I would encourage you to consider the following before turning down an offer that may, on the surface, look underpowered.

a. Will the offer give you main stage experience and a role for your resume that will be remembered long after the perceived paltry paycheck is forgotten?
b. Will performing the small part of chorus role create a connection with the company or director that will lead to more lucrative and satisfying employment in the future?
c. Is turning down this offer in effect a bridge burning?
d. Does the person offering you employment have connections with other companies that can open doors that you probably cannot open yourself?

Please answer the above questions for yourself before you make any decision on a job offer, whatever its attraction at first sight.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Back at last!

Well, Rigoletto is over, my masterclass at the Classical Singer Convention went very well, and added some ideas to my head, and now I'm headed out to LA in two days for the Opera America Convention!
However, by tomorrow, I will be adding some food for thought here!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I haven't been able to post for a while - I'm in the middle of directing Rigoletto for the Florentine with a wonderful cast - Luis Ledesma and Peter Castaldi sharing the title role, Arturo Chacon-Cruz as the Duke, Georgia Jarman as Gilda, Stephen Morscheck as Sparafucile, Audrey Babcock as Maddalena, and Kelly Anderson as Monterone. They have made the process a real joy, and are all fine singing actors. If you're in this neck of the woods the weekend of May 21, I invite you to see the show.
Some more post ideas are percolating, particularly since I will be presenting a Masterclass at the Classical Singer Convention in New York City the end of May! I look forward to adding more posts over the next week.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's been busy

I have not been on for a while, but I have been busy doing things that will bear fruit for this blog. Over the last couple of weeks:
  • I conducted a masterclass for our High School Masterclass program. 6 Young singers presented a variety of repertoire. I am amazed at how fearless these young singers are, and how poised they are already! I think back to me at that age doing something similar, and all I think is - No Way!
  • Our Scenes Program with our Studio Artists - I directed 14 Scenes from a variety of repertoire, including selections from our upcoming world premiere, Rio de Sangre.
  • We held auditions for our 2010-2011 Opera Studio program.
  • Maestro Joe Mechavich, newly named music director for Kentucky Opera did a wonderful masterclass and private coachings with our Studio Artists.
  • Next week, I start rehearsals on our Rigoletto, which I'm directing. I'm sure all of this activity will generate some posts!!

Friday, April 16, 2010


Here at the Florentine, we just completed our Studio Artist auditions, and I have to say we heard some really fine auditions - I am always rejuvenated by hearing the next generation of artists. It helps remind me why we do this.
I am also looking forward to presenting a masterclass and serving on a couple of different panels at the Classical Singer Convention at the end of May - perhaps I will see some of you who follow this blog there.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Another earlier question

As far as requests go, I'd love to see a list of arias that you never want to hear in an audition again (overdone, too long, whatever), and a list of arias that are deal makers or breakers (i.e., if you can sing the pants off of Ach, ich fuhls, you've got the job.) Obviously, this would be subjective, but informative, nonetheless.

This is a tough question, because truly, the audition is not about me. So, for instance, I don't love Nun eilt herbei from Merry Wives, but if that's what you sing best, you should sing it!! I will still listen in the same way, and I've certainly hired people, or awarded prize money after hearing it - I hope that makes sense.
What I do think is important is to say that if you put certain arias on your list, there's a good chance we're going to ask for it - so make sure you can sing it!
Soprano - Queen of the Night, (at least a portion of) Zerbinetta
mezzo - Non piu mesta, Komponist
tenor - Tonio - Daughter of the Regiment, Boheme, Faust
baritone - Largo, Il Balen, Credo
bass-baritone - Blitch, Basilio
bass - a pretty wide open field, but certainly Filippo, Osmin

This is my own list, but you see where I'm going with this - if you have these on your list, make sure that you not only can get through them, but that you can shine. This is a case of no points for effort. Keep in mind that people who audition you want to know that you make good choices too - that's part of the audition.
For instance, if you're working on Cenerentola, but you're not quite ready to sing it, sing your Dorabella instead - I won't judge on what you DON'T sing, only what you DO sing.

But, whatever else you worry about, don't worry about whether I like the aria, or I'm tired of it, etc.

Expansion on earlier question

Yes I do, in Canada. But I moved to Paris a few months ago, and although I've improved technically through lessons and coachings, made a contacts and auditioned for a few directors, I haven't make significant professional steps. I've ruled out the YAP's, and have accepted that I might have to gain my experience through professional gigs, which is fine, but how do I get there? I have tried to contact ensembles and directors and proposed to sing for them, but haven't had many responses. Maybe I should be more persistent. But might there be another way? I should mention that I have a strong interest in contemporary and baroque music, although I don't restrict myself to these styles. I'm not interested in the Germany fest circuit; I really think Paris is exciting, and it's where I want to be right now. Your response will be helpful to many, as I've encountered many "expat" singers in my situation, here in Paris.

Persistence is always good - it will depend on the company, either here or in Europe, what kind of result you get. Your comment about Baroque and contemporary might also yield results, whether you approach a specialist company, a standard company who is incorporating that rep (like ours for instance), or even an agent who specializes in niche artists. In the meantime, trying to sign up for masterclasses or courses that are being led by people who have a significant level of decision making is also a good course to take. For instance, while a masterclass with a teacher or working artist will undoubtedly add to your artistry and technique, a class or course with stage director, conductor or coach who has the ability to hire or make recommendation to those who do can pay more pragmatic dividends.
I hope this at least gives some ideas to work with.

A response to the mezzo vs. soprano question!

Another question:
Hi - I have a difficult situation...I have been told by my voice teachers that I am a high mezzo-soprano, yet when i've been auditioning around for mezzo roles in small, local opera companies, I have been given feedback regarding my voice as a soprano. (I'm 27.) My teachers are professionals and scoff at this feedback. I feel that I am "in-between"...what types of roles (if any?) should I be auditioning for? It seems I should sing what shows my voice off...and maybe wait for the lower range to keep developing? My low range is fairly solid, but I always get comments on how clear and high the top is. Any advice would be appreciated!

This is always a problem for lyric mezzos - at this point, since your teachers and coaches are hearing you every day, I would stick to your guns. Here's the reality that a lot of people do not want to admit: "Voice type" is not really a physiological reality but rather a label designator that isn't written in stone. Sometimes it's determined by comfort level with tessitura, sometimes it is color, sometimes it's choice and sometimes it changes. But there is plenty of zwischenfach (in between) rep out there - so, if you're singing Cherubino, Stephano, Siebel, etc. you are certainly not hurting yourself even if you ultimately move up.
If you continue to sing a lot of auditions where the feedback is always that folks think you're more of a soprano than a mezzo, it might be worth revisiting at that point.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A response to another question

Here is the question:
One more request: I get this question from singers all the time: "Should I sing something from the company's upcoming season, or will they be tired of hearing these particular arias? Will they know to consider me for a particular role if I don't sing something from that show?"

My answer to this question is: Unless you have been requested to sing something specifically from an upcoming show that the company is doing, you should sing what you sing best!
The reasons for this are twofold:

1. Those who hear you have the ability to extrapolate what they need to know from the rep you have, and you should always show the best of you - it gives you the most realistic shot at getting hired.
2. Most companies have their seasons nailed down and cast at least a couple of years ahead.

The conundrum

Here is a reader's note copied:
I'm one of "those": I started seriously studying voice when I was 26, after many years of studying piano and completing an undergraduate degree in music performance. I certainly do not look my age: most people would give me 25 or 26 instead of my 32. Yet, I'm a bit stuck; I'm too old for YAPs and most competitions (and frankly, I don't feel like the competition-type... and most of them do not cater to my musical tastes and abilities), but I have limited operatic experience. I've been wondering a lot these days about the best course of action for someone in my situation; I look forward to your comments.

My answer (the beginning of an answer, anyway): First, I don't think 32 is necessarily too old. Before saying too much more, I would ask: Do you have any pre-existing professional relationships with conductors, directors, or opera companies that can serve as some sort of entree for you? If you do, that is an important avenue to exploit (indeed it is for all level of singer). If you don't, that requires a different type of action. Let me know, and I will expand this post!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More Responses

Mr. Johns has requested a compilation of Milwaukee area voice teachers - I will look into that - that will of course, be of use to a small radius of people, but nevertheless....
In the meantime, I'm compiling my list of never want to hear arias and my "home run" arias - I will get back pronto with that!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Well, I've had two comments so far - I will answer the easier one first - there are many fine teachers for all voice types in Milwaukee, but in this setting in particular, I prefer to not make recommendations for something such as that.
The other question is a little tougher - what is the maximum age to undertake a singing career - any time one makes a blanket statement about something like that, many exceptions to the rule pop up. If you start later than your 20's, you will probably not find many young artist programs that will be available to you. In addition, big competitions like the Met Auditions, have age limits that top out in the low 30s. So, if you do start late you are going to be in a position of creating your own opportunities, and that can be difficult. I will give this some more thought, and comment further in another post.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Taking Requests!

I would like to hear from some of you who are reading this blog.....
what topic would you like to see addressed???

Let me know, and we'll see how we can tackle it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Does it really make all that much difference?

To end this "series", we have the summation question - does it make a difference? The easy answer is yes. Of course, every person you sing for will have different priorities in their listening, but I think being physically and dramatically involved will never be a negative. And, as I've said in other posts, being involved in your character keeps you from being "too" involved with your voice. In other words, you can get out of your own way!!
I will explore this idea of getting out of your own way some more in upcoming posts.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Should I stay fairly close to a "concert presentation"?

I know that there are some people who hear auditions who like a very neutral presentation so that they can concentrate on the voice, but I, and I think many of my colleagues, prefer to see how you inhabit your character, not just vocally, but also dramatically. Of course, some of my previous posts deal with what I think you should consider as far as limiting your histrionics. In addition, you will probably learn over time whether you are one of the lucky few who is so vocally gifted, that success is almost assured just by the vocal performance. The reality for most of us is that a "complete package" needs to be presented for the best chance at success - and how you physically present your audition is an important part of that.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Should I sit, lie down, or stay standing the whole time?

You might think I'm kidding on this one, but I'm not. I've had people lie down in auditions - let's just say, I don't recommend it. I suppose using a chair and using a combination of standing and sitting is appropriate, and does not become distracting, but if you get to the point of lying down, I think the person hearing you may become distracted to the point of not actually listening to you! Any aria that is sometimes done lying down in performance (i.e. Vissi d'Arte) can be done very successfully standing up in an audition.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Should I use props?

I am a big non-fan of props in auditions. I want to see that you can create a character just by the use of your voice, face and body. If you can do that, I have no fear of how you will do in costume with props and a set. If you are doing an aria that calls for a book, or a sword, or a flower, either pantomime it, or create a staging that works around it. I know that some people don't mind the use of small hand props in auditions. but I don't think you can go wrong if you learn to be a very effective and convincing auditionee without them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Should I use a personal director?

I addressed this to some extent in the previous post. I think this is an excellent idea - one that many people don't put on the same plane as a voice teacher or musical coach. A dramatic coach or personal director can help you flesh out what you want to do presentationally. However, you should use the work you do with that person as a basis for trusting yourself moving forward for both auditions and performances. You need to become secure in your dramatic presentation to truly grow. As a side note, this will undoubtedly be useful down the road when you find yourself in a role, where either time or the director's inclination leave you in a situation of having to do blocking and staging on your own!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Should I stage it on my own?

So, to the first point of my previous post - should you?
Indeed you should, but that doesn't mean it has to be you alone. In other words, having a dramatic coach or stage director work with you on staging is a great idea. However, it's important to develop a trust in yourself that will allow you come up with action that suits the character. This will also help ensure that you can still deliver vocally and musically. As with other parts of the audition, good preparation translates into confident performance. The more experience you have, the more you will trust your own instincts (particularly with arias where you have had the chance to sing the entire role on stage).
So, yes - stage it on your own, but also have people you trust critique and fine tune, just as you do with a voice teacher and coach.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

How do you practice "staging" your audition arias?

I have been thinking about a number of points about staging auditions:

  • Should I stage it on my own?
  • Should I use a personal director?
  • Should I use props?
  • Should I sit, lie down, or stay standing the whole time?
  • Should I stay fairly close to a "concert presentation"?
  • Does it really make all that much difference?

I will be addressing each of these points over the next several days, but in the meantime, feel free to weigh in on any or all of the above points.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I saw this and had to add it - no earthly connection to auditions (except you might find it fairly zen!! Click or place your cursor in the "fish tank", and they will "feed".

Social Media

We live in an exploding time of having lots of different ways to publicly state how you feel about any subject - (this blog for instance??)
Almost all of us now have the ability to instantly post what we feel about anything!!
So, as an aspiring singer, if you facebook, twitter, or blog, or if you post to NFCS or Classical Singer, it is very easy to immediately let your friends and colleagues know how you feel about any of your auditions, concerts, or opera performances.
It is also quite easy to vent your frustration with any part of those events.
To bring this to bear on the subject at hand - if you have an audition, you can share what you feel about the whole experience - good or bad.
The interesting thing about this is, that while it may be intended only for your friends and colleagues, the fact is that it often becomes possible for anyone to read it.
So, the moral dilemna I am putting out there is (and please respond, I'd love to know your thoughts):
  • Is it a good idea to comment on an audition (how you did, how the person hearing you reacted, etc.) on any or all of the social media platforms?
  • Is it right/wrong for someone who may be commented on in these media to react either directly or indirectly to those posts?
  • Has this been discussed enough in any forum for any of us to wrap our minds around the subject?
I look forward to discussing this more!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Continuing Thoughts

I've just finished writing an article for the April issue of Classical Singer magazine, which has brought some new topics to mind to post here. After giving my fingers some un-cramp time, I will do so.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Find the Moment

Not to be overly esoteric about what you need to accomplish in an audition, but having just directed a show (Aida), I notice that what is often missing in a singer's audition vs. a singer's performance is something one could describe as organic - the focus of "the moment" - that point in a scene or aria or ensemble that clarifies for the audience what that scene is. It is not always the high note, or the coloratura passage, or the death scene - sometimes it is a moment of silence. The point I am thinking of in Aida is in the Aida/Amonasro duet, right before he says "you are not my daughter" and then flings her to the floor. The power of that scene was the moment of silence before that phrase. Our conductor, Joe Mechavich, our Aida Kristin Lewis, and our Amonasro Kevin Short, all worked beautifully on making that moment pivotal.
I am aware that sometimes "the moment" is spontaneous, and not planned - but in the case I just mentioned, that moment was worked out ahead of time, and was very powerful.
To get us back to the subject of auditions, I think it is worth your time to discover what those "moments" are in your audition repertoire. I think this goes beyond staging, singing and languages. I think it has more to do with you finding that point of utter focus within a piece that will cause those listening to stop writing, and fully enter your world. Believe me, that's what those of us hearing you want to experience!
There of course, may be more than one moment in a piece that constitutes "the moment", but certainly it is worth exploring to find at least one. You may find that it's not the e flat in Traviata, or the repeated Figaro phrase in Barber, but instead a place that resonates deeply within you that will speak profoundly to us.
Something to think about.......

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Inside out, outside in, or a combination?

One of the fascinating things about auditioning (and indeed performing) is whether you build the physical (dramatic) side of your performance internally or externally or through a combination of the two.
Here's what I mean: Does your arm go up in measure 32 of an aria because you staged it that way, or by contrast, does it go up as a result of building your character internally, and that movement is a natural extension of that character's thought process.
I think there could be general agreement that it can be both. In addition, in the world of opera, we have an element that the world of straight theatre, and to some extent, musical theatre don't have: difficult singing passages. This element can sometimes trump all other considerations, though one could argue that being internally and externally connected to the character will make that difficult passage easier, because you won't be focusing on it so much vocally.
I think at the end of the day, you will have to decide how you want to build a "real" character for any performance or audition you do. Some people need to have the tangible first, and that outward manifestation seeps inward creating the character. Some people will argue that this is safer for opera singing, because the danger of letting emotion becoming too strong and disrupting the singing process is eliminated. On the other hand, other people do better with an "organic" process because it mimics real life. For instance, in real life you raise your hand due to an internal message to your arm, not the other way around.
As you can see, there are arguments for both sides, and I think you will find that, over time, you will access both ways as a performer.
Perhaps the real point that I want to make here is that the danger is not in choosing outside/in or inside/out, but rather in making no choice at all. This happens all too often - a singer is well prepared vocally, musically, linguistically, but the character part of the performance/audition is left to the inspiration of the moment. This results in meaningless gestures, a general feeling of discomfort physically, and a performance that leaves the audience/auditoner unsatisfied.
Make a point of deciding how you will approach this part of your performance - it will help your cause, and I think you will find, it makes the singing easier too!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Take risks!!

I have been musing on this for a while, and it is perhaps a repetition of things said in the past, but is worth saying again. When I say take risks in your audition, what I actually mean is - allow yourself to actually express yourself - the reason (I believe) anyone does this is singing thing is because at some distant (or not so distant) point in the past, he/she felt a desire to express themselves through the use of the voice. This is a very basic, primordial instinct, and is a completely individual expression. One of the unfortunate side effects of voice lessons, coaching, diction classes, staging classes, etc. is a certain homogenizing of this very unique urge. Of course, that is not the intent of any these things. Rather, they are intended to refine and bring out in the most beautiful way, the voice that is inside (rather like the way a diamond is processed),
It seems to me the most successful auditions and performances I hear are those where training has not blurred the very personal expression and talent of the singer, but rather the opposite - it is enhanced and highlighted.
I think this is an important thing to hold onto as you plan any audition - and performance.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Greetings from Birmingham

I have not posted for a while, but am working on some thoughts to share. I am in Birmingham, Alabama, directing Aida. In addition to a fine cast, I'm getting to work with an old friend, conductor Joe Mechavich. Opera Birmingham is run by General Director John Jones.