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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Audition Tactics for Emerging Opera Singers?

Are there such things as audition tactics for Emerging Opera Singers to use to their advantage in order to be the one chosen for an engagement?  That's exactly what I've been asking myself these past few months in order to figure out how I can improve my number of successful auditions completed, and in this case, successful means that I got chosen to sing the role.  So, I've read a LOT of industry publications, Classical Singer, for example, and every interview I could get my hands on with someone who is right beyond where I currently am (a.k.a. working consistently at reputable opera houeses and not just intermittently) and, I have come to the sad, but perhaps logical conclusion in this very fickle business of mine and yours, that there is no straight forward way to systematically improve yourself in order to get hired.  Everyone is looking for something different (in terms of things that you can change outside of having a good voice and being a believeable actress/actor).

Though, along the way I have definitely learned a few things which help me, and which I would now like to share with you below (it's a short list of things, actually).

1. Always get there at least an hour early.  It ensures that you can find a place to warm up (especially if you have to share rooms with the other singers who are also auditioning) and that you won't be stressed running around the opera house looking for a bathroom, a place to change clothes, the pianist, the audition location, etc.

2. Wear something in which you feel comfortable AND fancy.  I know that may seem like a contradictory statement, but, let's face it, all auditioning committees want to see someone who is clean-looking, wearing something that fits adequately (not too tight, too short, or too baggy), who can project self-confidence (a.k.a. don't wear something that you don't like the way it makes you feel or how it looks on you), and who can perform in their outfit as if they were 100% at ease.  It should be that the clothing you're wearing doesn't draw any attention away from your wonderful performance, but only adds to your success when the audition committee notices what you're wearing when you walk into the room, and when you leave (in the middle they should be mesmerized by your singing if all goes according to plan).

3. Bring extra copies of your press materials (headshots, resumes, repertoire lists, press reviews) and have them paperclipped together in organized packets- approximately 3-5 sets- so that in case they have people on the jury who didn't see your materials, you can provide them with a copy.

4. Make sure to greet the members of the jury upon entering the room AS WELL AS the pianist!  Most people forget them, and you know, they're important- perhaps that's the assistant conductor who's playing for you, or the main coach.  Don't forget- the first impression is an important one- so make sure to be relaxed, be confident and be cheerful in how you greet everyone.

5. Begin your audition with your most secure piece (aria or art song- whatever's required) and if there is anything to talk about with the pianist beforehand make sure to do that and take your time explaining any musical changes or tempo changes or dynamic changes, etc...  They will appreciate you pointing it out, it looks professional to the jury, and you will be able to perform better and feel more secure.  Then, make sure that the pieces that you brought to the audition (regardless of whether or not they're the arias from the pieces the company will be doing in the coming season) are things which you feel vocally comfortable with and which you could also sing at a moment's notice well.

6. Be kind to your colleagues who are also there to audition- you would be surprised who knows whom, and if you aren't nice, it could get around and might hurt your chances of being hired for a future gig, or hey...maybe one of those singers already knows the conductor, or whoever, and anyway....you see where I'm going with this.  It ALWAYS pays to be nice.  So, get over your psychological issues (or your shyness!) and try to open yourself up to meeting new people and being friendly to them.  I mean, if everyone is sitting in the room staring at the wall until they sing and looking nervous it's not going to make it any easier for anyone if that environment continues that way.  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is thankful when they receive a compliment or can talk about something to get their minds off of the audition coming up, or at least break up their negative self-talk going on in their minds.

7. Make sure to honestly evaluate the circumstances of the audition and what happened after you've sung.  If you really did your best, then you should let it be and hope for the best.  If there were things that you could have improved which you want to do better int he next audition- take note of them and work on them in the practice room in the coming days/weeks/months.  It rarely pays to berate yourself (unless that sort of thing is necessary to get your butt in motion but...considering you're even trying to make it in such a difficult profession I highly doubt this possitility) and the main result you'll get from doing that is depression and frustration.  So, let's not go down that road, shall we?

8.  This is really the most important thing for me and which I make sure to do EVERY time I sing somewhere- is: perform and communicate to your audience!!!!!!!  I don't care if it's a group of hard-of-hearing old folks at a senior citizens home, your Aunt Nellie, your dog, three famous jury members who aren't even looking at you, sportsfans in the audience at the Superbowl, etc....  The most important thing you can do is to always communicate your characters' story (and also YOUR story) every time that you sing.  If you don't....you're not doing your job- plain and simple.  So, don't let those jury members psych you out who don't look at you- then tell the wall behind their heads your story- but tell it truthfully and well.  And you know, you'd be surprised how that makes them look at you after a few well-sung bars.  Trust me!

Okay, so.....I guess that all there is left to say now is: GO OUT THERE AND NAIL THOSE AUDITIONS!!! :)

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