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.