Kerry was finally getting her technique down and started looking at arias to audition with. Her teacher was helping her with the selection, but Kerry felt it was important to only present arias from operas where she knew the complete role. Her thinking was that she might be hired right away to perform the role, and if she didn’t know it cold, they would think she was less than professional. She was determined to be prepared and kept putting off auditioning until she had each aria along with the role from that opera learned and perfected.

Jack couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting any jobs. He had been told that both his voice and interpretation were great. So that he would be remembered, he had decided to set himself apart from the crowd by only using arias that were not in the main stream. He didn’t seem to be getting jobs. Why weren’t those hiring responding like his teacher, coaches and friends? He couldn’t figure it out.

Eric was very proud of the fact that he could sing both high baritone and tenor arias. His aria list was impressive ranging from Mozart and Rossini to Verdi and Strauss. However, it didn’t seem that he impressed anyone with his amazing range and abilities. Where was he going wrong?

Getting the whole auditioning package together can be complicated and challenging. The goal is to represent and present yourself, your brand with consistency and confidence. The goal is to present materials that will make the biggest impression thereby getting the job or winning the competition. But how does one do that?

“In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.”
~ Louis Pasteur

TIP #1: Choose your fach and stick with it.
First and foremost, and I’m sure most of you have heard this many times before, but I will say it again, stay within your voice category or fach. While it seemed impressive to “Eric” to present himself as both a high baritone and a tenor, it is confusing to those listening. You need to make a firm decision before you step into the professional arena concerning your fach. Those hiring or adjudicating don’t have the time, interest or energy to help you figure it out. Don’t leave them with the impression that you are not focused and professional. They may love your voice and performance skills, but will pass you over.

Also know that just because you can sing the arias doesn’t mean you will be able to sustain the tessitura of the entire role. Do your homework. Read through an entire role. Listen to a recording. As you listen, sing along to figure out if the tessitura is something you can sustain throughout the entire opera. For example, if you are a high baritone and feel you can also sing the lyric tenor arias as well; ask yourself if you could sustain the tessitura of Tamino in “The Magic Flute”? If you are a lyric coloratura soprano looking at the Queen of the Night, ask yourself if you can sustain the entire role? Ultimately make your choice of fach with your voice teacher and/or coach.

TIP #2: Select a diverse group of arias within your fach.
Remember that variety is the spice of life and it is true in selecting arias as well. Don’t just settle on one composer, or style of music. Singing arias from just one composer doesn’t show the range of what your voice can do within your fach. Pick composers from different time periods; for example, a Rossini and a Puccini aria make a nice pairing. Pick arias that show your language skills, your knowledge of differing styles, your capacity for playing different characters, etc. For example, if you are a Lyric Soprano, find an “up tune” to contrast the slower lyric, bel canto pieces.

You must have at least 5 arias polished and performance ready for auditioning and they should represent operas sung in Italian, German, French and English. You might want to eventually expand your repertoire to include other languages such as Spanish, Czech, Russian, etc. There are exceptions, but most operas performed today in D, C and B houses are sung in Italian and English.

It is advisable that the majority of those five arias be from the standard repertoire, while it is permissible to add an obscure aria if you feel it shows a particular strength you have. But don’t fall into the trap of choosing an obscure aria just to be different, as was the case with “Jack”. Choose it because it shows off your voice, technique, style, and most importantly, because you love it. That being said there are well known arias that are not considered to be from the standard repertoire, that do make wonderful audition pieces. Some examples are: for soprano – Doretta’s Aria from “La Rondine” by Puccini; for tenor – “O Paradis sorti de L’onde” from “L’Africaine” by Meyerbeer; for baritone – “Lo vedremo, veglio audace” from “Ernani” by Verdi; or for mezzo – “Adieu, forets” from “Jeanne d’Arc” by Tchaikovsky.

TIP #3: Always start your audition with the aria that is the most solid in your voice and heart.

Don’t think that just because someone right before you sang Mimi’s aria, you should start with something different. Always start your audition with the aria that you know and perform the best. It’s the one that if someone woke you up at 2 AM you could sing unbelievably well with great panache standing on your head. It’s the one that you simply love to sing because you instinctually feel the music, empathize with the character, and can express the words because you recognize what is being said. It’s the one that feels the most comfortable because it is not only in your voice, but in your whole body as well; it’s the one you thrill yourself with when you sing it and the one you’ve sung most often with great success.

Starting with this aria gives you confidence because you know it inside out no matter what the distractions are or what the internal Brat in your head is telling you, and you love singing it, which gives you time to settle down and get your feet under you. Sometimes you only get to sing one aria, so you want it to show you off at your best.

Do not waver from this aria – it is your friend. Even if someone right before you has sung the aria that you usually do first it is not a great catastrophe to sing the same aria. On the contrary, it gives those listening an opportunity to evaluate voices and interpretation. Future employers, or adjudicators, as the case may be, like to compare voices. It allows them to better select singers for rounding out the needs of their casting. If it is a competition, it enables the judges to more clearly see, hear and experience the differences of each singer.

There is one exception to this rule. If you have been asked to audition for a specific role, then you start with one of the arias from that piece. Otherwise, always start with the aria that is most in your voice and heart.

TIP #4: Unlike Kerry, knowing an entire role for each aria you are presenting for auditions is not necessary. Most auditions, even for smaller companies, are held at least 2 to 3 months in advance of a production. The bigger and better the opera company, the further into the future they do their hiring. So it could be 3-5 years before you actually get to sing your role. By then you may have done it other places so it is under your belt and more polished

When all is said and done, remember that our industry is a very subjective one. It’s not so much about you, but what those listening, hiring and adjudicating like – their personal taste. So no matter how well you do, or how great your teacher, coach and friends think you are, you simply might not be what they as looking for at that moment. However, Opera Companies like knowing what new singers are entering the arena of performance; they like being introduced to new talent through the auditioning process. Just because you didn’t get the job or move ahead or win an audition, doesn’t mean you should quit. It often times means you have just had the occasion to introduce yourself to someone new who might use you in the future. It means you need to continue working to hone your talent, find the next job and continue to thrill yourself each and every time you sing. It means, continuing to explore and find new and exciting bits and pieces to your arias. You will eventually find someone who loves what you have to say about an aria and how you say it.

“Your brand is a gateway to your true work. You know you are here to do something – to create something or help others in some way. The question is, how can you set up your life and work so that you can do it? The answer lies in your brand. When you create a compelling brand you attract people who want the promise of your brand – which you deliver.”
~ Dave Buck

TIP #5: Always present and represent your Personal Brand.
Your Personal Brand says it all whether you are preparing for, presenting, or singing your audition. It allows you to be congruent on the inside which shows as consistency to the world on the outside. It means you respect yourself enough to take the time necessary to:

  • Get centered and into the right zone as you prepare for the audition. You might feel rushed because you are going from work to an audition and don’t have the time to change gears before you have to sing. That is simply a story you are telling yourself, a thought in your head. Instead of taking the time to tell yourself that story, sit quietly for just a few minutes. Close your eyes, feel your breath, release the tension in your tongue. Let the listening go out to include everything in the room and beyond without naming anything. Simply rest here for a few minutes. If thoughts do come into your head, let them drift in and out, like clouds. Don’t become attached to them; simply return to listening and resting. This process only takes a few minutes, and you could do it upon arrival at your audition destination. When you open your eyes notice that you feel rested, renewed, alert, and focused on yourself – ready to thrill yourself with something you love to do.
  • Dress for the occasion. Make sure the night before your audition, you have all the parts of the outfit you are planning to wear together, ironed, polished and clean. You are then free to focus the following morning on what comes next in your life.
  • Prepare your music folder the day before your audition. Make sure it is clean and clearly marked with cuts, embellishments, and breaths that you will be taking so the accompanist can do a better job of working with you as a team. Each aria should be tabbed so the accompanist can easily find the next piece you will be singing.
  • Have a PR folder to present to those listening, if they should need it. Your folder should include letters of recommendation (if you have them), reviews, short bio, resume, and photo. It should also include a list of the arias you have ready to present. If they don’t need the PR folder, present them with just the list of arias. (Be sure to check and double check all spelling.)
  • Bring business cards in case you meet someone before or after your audition that might be a good future contact – including the accompanist if it is not someone you have already worked with or know by reputation.
  • Maintain your focus and composure. Don’t run off at the mouth before or after your audition with those waiting to audition. If they compliment you, simply say, “thank you” – even if you felt you sucked. You might have done a better job than you imagined and they don’t want to hear you whine and complain. It is very poor etiquette and makes you look weak and unprofessional.
  • When you have left the audition space, (not in the coffee shop around the corner where every one else auditioning has gone) give yourself the time to wallow in self pity if the audition didn’t go as you had anticipated. Often after an audition, whether it was really great or not, we tend to spend some time beating ourselves up a little or a lot. Here is a great tip. Look at your watch and give yourself 10 to 30 minutes to get down and dirty letting your internal Brat, you know that voice in your head that usually only tells you what you have done wrong, run amuck. Really roll around at the lowest level you can, and when the time you have allotted yourself is up, stop. Be done with it and don’t allow yourself to go there again. Remind yourself that it is finished and move on to what comes next which includes writing a hand written note thanking them for the opportunity to audition.

“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”
~ Buddha

The memory of your audition has only become a story you can either retell yourself as a bad memory, (remember last months newsletter about NLP) or simply let it be the truth of that particular moment in time. You can store that recollection however you wish. You can even establish a more positive story in your memory banks. If you are going to embellish your story, why not make it better than it was, instead of worse, because that is what we tend to do. Remember that our mind-body connection doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is not anyway.

“If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
~ Mary Pickford

If you receive unfavorable results from your audition, take the time to “sleep on it” before taking any action. Often your first impulse is only a knee jerk reaction; our 5 year old “Brat” wanting to get even with them for not picking you. Be positive and professional; represent your Brand. Anything other than that will only hurt your chances of working with that person or company in the future. The opera world is a small community and word travels fast. Don’t burn your bridges. It is a law of human nature that stories that go from one person, company, agency to the next, get embellished as they get retold – likely for the worse – as it travels throughout the singing community. Even if you were to go back and try to fix what you have done, you will appear unprofessional at best and childish/petty at worse. Running a company, summer program or competition is a business; they don’t have the time or the inclination to deal with a temperamental artist. Before you respond to a situation “sleep on it” and then take conscious action. Make re-acting a thing of the past.

“One who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; one who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”
~ Chinese Proverb

So in this crazy world of opera, take the time to figure out what the game is, what the rules are and most importantly, how the game is played, which is almost always different than what the rules would lead you to believe. Then you can choose to play the game or not. That means keeping your eyes and ears open, learning from example and experience, and asking lots of questions from those you respect and admire in your world who know about our industry. Always remain curious, trust your own gut level feelings, truth and set of values. Make it a habit to only take action and stop just re-acting. “Sleeping on it” before you make a big decision gives you time to disassociate from your emotions and look at a situation for what it is. It gives you the time to contact someone or several someones’ whose opinions you respect and trust to talk over the choices you have come up with. Through their own experiences they may help you see the situation in a different light by pointing out things you may not have considered.

In the end, it’s ultimately about business; it’s not personal. It’s about presenting and representing your Personal Brand. Go that extra mile and experience for yourself the outcome of being true to who you are. Take the time, energy and patience to find out who that is, not only on the surface, but deep within where it counts. Continue to learn about the business of opera and life every day. I do.

This is your journey so enjoy it. Most things are not life or death situations. Live your life and stay well balanced. Get out in nature. Give your thinking mind a break and instead once in awhile, think and sing with your heart.

Ciao, until next time. Carol

“Human life is a most difficult classroom until you learn the simple fact that your truth is your power, your salvation, your fulfillment, your purpose and your way. Once you can truly believe that, life becomes the joyous and abundant garden that it was meant to be..”
~ from Emmanuel’s Book

Discuss this topic in The Forums »