William Florescu became the General Director of Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera Company in May of 2005. From 1999 until early 2005, he was the General Director of Lake George Opera in Saratoga Springs, New York. Previously, he served as General Director of the Columbus Light Opera. While in Ohio, he was also Associate Dean and Director of Opera/Musical Theatre at the Capital University Conservatory of Music, and served a season as Assistant Artistic Director for Iowa’s Dorian Opera Theatre. He has worked frequently as a stage director and has appeared on the operatic and concert stages, so his perspective on the audition and career process comes from a multi-faceted background with many years of experience. He is also a frequent judge of vocal competitions and presenter of masterclasses, and he is currently working on a book about auditioning in opera for young singers. Bill keeps a blog entitled the Opera Audition, in which he regularly shares his insights on auditioning and the opera landscape.
We are featuring Bill's presentation: "A Holistic Approach to Preparing for YAP Auditions" over the course of several weeks. Parts III through V cover the all important audition process. You can view Parts I and II here. If you have any questions on these topics, please share them on our Facebook page.
Part III: Applying
- Pay to Sing or not Pay to Sing? – this is a question I receive perhaps more than any other.
- Research pay to sings carefully – some are worthwhile, while others are strictly money takers. Some will enhance your resume, others will simply take up empty space (see the filler comment under resumes).
- Year round programs – when you are done with grad school or when you take a hiatus. Think about this carefully, because your technique, your psyche, relationships, etc. are all tested by this long period “on your own”
- Summer programs – some are tiered for different level singers, so these are often good choices while still in school. The better pay to sings can often be good during the latter part of undergraduate education, while the paid programs are often more directed toward graduate and diploma level students.
- Age? – this varies from program to program but you can reasonably expect that 35 will be the upper end of eligibility, with some programs having lower limits. With competitions, particularly the Met Auditions, these limits can be as low as 30, so be aware of this as you map out your strategy for the future.
- Delivery system – more and more companies are using YAP tracker, but check to see - many resources are available now – Classical Singer, Opera America Career Guide, etc. In short, leave no stone unturned!
Part IV: Auditioning
- Dress – please give this one thoughtful consideration!
- Classy, but don’t draw attention to the outfit – it’s you that should be remembered! Think neutral – you won’t go wrong. And remember, you don’t need jodhpurs and a riding crop to sell a pants role if you’re a mezzo. You want to be able to sell a variety of characters through the strength of your singing, acting and presentation, no matter what outfit you are in. All of this being said, how you dress should show respect for the audition in which you are taking part. Obviously for competitions, this will be a different ball game. But you will often get specific instructions for those situations.
- Keep your hair out of your face! – this goes for men and women. Next to your voice, your face and your eyes are the most expressive tool you have – don’t take that advantage away from yourself.
- Scores – have your scores accompanist ready with cuts, page turns, etc. – this is a problem OFTEN! Having your pieces ready to go (even to the point of having different copies of the same aria with different cuts) will save valuable time for your singing, perhaps giving you a chance at a second piece.
- Entering the Room – be confident, be friendly, and make eye contact – are you aware that the audition has already begun?? The bookend is how you act as you leave the room. Be friendly, confident and professional as you leave. You make think you sang an awful audition, but we don’t need to know you think that. (and often, you are wrong about that anyway!)
- Pronounce the titles of your pieces correctly – again, this is an issue far more often than you might imagine. It may sound silly, but practice introducing each of your pieces, saying the title, so that when you are in your audition (and nervous), you won’t trip up. On such small things, auditions have been won or lost!
- Assume you will only get to sing one piece – pick one that gives the most complete snapshot of you as a performer. This, of course, assumes that you will get to choose (which is often the case).
Part IV: What we (or at least I) are/am looking for - simply - The complete package!
- Yes, first and front and center, a fine voice, but…
- Confident delivery, dramatically true
- An “individual” artistry – not a sense of mimicry
- A desire to communicate – not a “defensive” audition – which is all about not making mistakes, but really saying something through your performance – it is not important whether or not I agree with your interpretation, but that I see that you are using your own creative voice, and taking that risk.
- Command of linguistics – diction, pronunciation, inflection. This has been covered earlier, but it is a very important point,
- A sense of preparedness and professionalism – in performance, dress, speaking, the quality of your resume and photo etc. – these are all harbingers of whether or not you will be a good colleague.
Part V: After the Audition – feedback?
- Try to find out the company’s policy before approaching – some companies, and here I really mean the artistic or general director, are positive or negative about this, so do your homework.
- Begin any written request for feedback by thanking the auditioner for taking the time to respond.
- Don’t overweight any advice you are given, but rather add it to other advice you are given, and try to find commonalities that can help you in your development – the way I describe this is: If you hear something once, ponder it, but don’t lose sleep over it, but if you hear it multiple times from multiple sources, then it could be worth heeding. Remember though, feedback doesn’t just teach how to take advice, it also teaches to have confidence in what you think as well.
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