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.