Monday, January 31, 2011


OK, here is the deal - I am appealing to any of you who might not be Pittsburgh Steelers fans to go to the Florentine Opera's facebook page, and become a new friend and help us support the Green Bay Packers. We have a little wager going with our friends at Pittsburgh Opera, and the company that has fewer new friends by Friday has to take a group photo in the opposing team's jerseys.
Can you imagine the humiliation????????

If you are a Steelers fan, I do understand..........

Who are you singing to?

I know, I know, it's to the 1 to 3 people on the panel who are there to perhaps hire you or award you money, but that's not what I mean.

I mean, in the specific aria who are you singing to?

Depending on the aria, it could be yourself, your lover, your sibling, the crowd (onstage), the crowd (in the audience), or some combination of the above.

The point is to remember where your character's is when you are auditioning - it will make it feel more like the performance you want it to be, and less like a gymnastics competition, which you definitely don't want it to be!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

What you do matters

I am well aware that our profession is one that can that can be soul and ego defeating at times. I have lived through those moments where I have asked myself "why do I keep trying to do this?"

All of us at various times experience the following:

1. Explaining to relatives, family, and friends what it is you do (i.e. no, Josh Groban is not an opera singer Aunt Mildred, what I do is different).
2. You scratch your head and say, how did I live on that much money last year?
3. An adjudicator or artistic director makes you feel two inches tall after hearing you sing, thus rendering, with a single phrase, the last 10 years of your life, futile.

I could go and on, but I'm sure you get the idea.

I completely support when someone says to me that they are getting out, because they can't live through that anymore. There is no shame in having fought the good fight and moving on.

If you decide to stick with it, and continue to try to make a living with your voice, that is also OK.

No, as singers we don't cure disease, end war, or feed the hungry......


Opera Singers do add a glittering bit of light to the world as we know it. That is a noble endeavor - we visit museums today to view the creativity of human kind over the centuries - there is no more cherished footprint of any civilization than its creativity. Luckily, since the invention of the phonograph, the human voice can now be captured in the same way a Renoir is captured.

So, when you are in that practice room trying to spin out a phrase of Mozart, Monteverdi, Rorem or Puccini, know that perhaps you will end up inspiring one person or millions....and that's a good thing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ask yourself this question....

When you are in the midst of auditioning, do you feel like you are in a performance or in some hybrid situation that isn't really the same as being on stage in an opera, concert or recital?

I think many of us feel the latter.

When I think back to my most successful auditions that I sang (and alas, there were not enough!!), they were the ones that felt the closest to a stage performance. Perhaps you have had that same experience.

The question of course, is how to capture that feeling so that you can unleash it in every audition and competition.

I will try to lay out some ideas over the next several days, and I would love to hear any ideas that some of you may have come up with in this regard.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The next time you are getting ready to audition, and you are nervous, and you are asking yourself why you are putting yourself out there to be judged, picked apart, and potentially humiliated, remember:
  • you are singing because at some point back in high school or before, there was something inside of you that had to come out, and your vocal chords let you do that.
  • the first time you heard an opera or an opera singer live, and how you felt transported and changed by the experience.
  • the person at a free concert or a retirement home who came up to you and told you that hearing that much beloved aria or song again made their day (or perhaps week or month).
  • that success in this business is all about the journey, not the destination. Every recital, supporting role, church gig, chorus part, leading role, etc. is a moment in time that you have been given to share the very special gift that is singing. Whether it's the Met or an outdoor free park concert, it is a special privilege to share what we do.
If you can keep at least a couple of those bullet points in your head before you go out there to be picked apart by someone like me, perhaps it will make it just a touch easier.......

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A busy January

It has been a busy January of hearing auditions in a variety of circumstances:
Auditions for my own company in New York City (40)
District Met Auditions in Buffalo (56)
Shreveport Opera Singer of the Year Competition (36)

It is one of the real pleasures of my job to hear young singers, and I heard some wonderful voices this month.

Hearing these auditions has produced a lot of food for thought, but before I post any of those thoughts, I just want to say that I am reminded each time I hear an audition, how much perseverance and drive it takes to pursue this career! But if previous generations hadn't produced young artists who went after their dream, we wouldn't have the Pavarottis, Sills, Merrills, Flemings, and others.

It is heartening to know that it is still happening.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Driving home a previous point - and a new one!!

I've just heard a number of auditions (somewhere around 100 total), and the first thing I would say, is that I heard some wonderful singing and performances.
The other thing I would say is that for me a piece that is still often missing is inhabiting the character that is being portrayed. This doesn't mean a completely staged out performance, but what it does mean is: singing with intent, and knowing what you want to do with your body throughout the audition.
As I mentioned to one singer this means spending as much time physically rehearsing your entrance into the room, your exit out of the room, and everything else in between.

My new point is, rehearse pronouncing the names of your arias and the operas they come from!
I heard some mistakes on that front, and that is part of the impression you are making.