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 will feature Bill's presentation: "A Holistic Approach to Preparing for YAP Auditions" over the next few weeks. Part I covers the Building Blocks, or the fundamentals of what it takes to prepare for a career in singing; Part II covers the Hard Goods: your submissions materials. If you have any questions on these two topics, please share them on our Facebook page.
Part I: What are the “Building Blocks”?
- Vocal technique – this may seem self-evident, but nothing else that follows will mean much if this isn’t in place. This doesn’t mean that you should not audition if you are still working on things (of course, this is a career long process!), but it does mean choosing repertoire that matches where you are technically.
- Languages – having solid singing pronunciation skills, as well as understanding what you are singing, is crucial. A beautifully sung audition that lacks this element can sink that audition.
- Correct repertoire – this relates back to a. Make sure your audition shows who you are as a singer, actor, and musician NOW. An audition is NOT the place to show where you think you might be headed. It is better to have the person hearing you sing think you are being conservative, than to think you are reckless!
- Musicality/musical accuracy - these are not the same thing, but you need both! – this again, is one of those things that seem obvious, but something that is often lacking in auditions I hear. Being musical is natural for some people, others develop it. Of course, your technique needs to be up to the task of supporting that musicality, but being expressive, feeling the flow of language, dynamics, tempo, etc. all will allow you to put across your distinct artistic voice. BUT, don’t let any of that of that happen at the expense of musical accuracy. Being musical doesn’t excuse sloppiness – Musicality and musical accuracy are allies, not enemies.
- Selling the piece – this is perhaps hard to pin down, hence the sub-points below.
- A sense of your body – far too many singers don’t have an awareness of their limbs, posture, relationship of their body to the piano, etc. These body building blocks will help sell the piece.
- Dramatic intent – far too many singers don’t follow the dramatic arc of a piece. Every aria involves a journey for the character singing it. Every singer has to let us see that journey. Far too many auditions involve a static dramatic experience.
- A sense of the room – this is closely related to point #1, but is larger in context. How you fill the room where you are auditioning is crucial, and this will change depending on whether you are in a small studio or in a recital hall or main hall of an opera house. Tailoring your audition in all aspects to the space you are in, can be a winner for the singer who is aware of it.
- Knowing when you are ready to audition, knowing who can give you the best advice – this is tricky because each person listed below is helpful for certain aspects of giving advice, and each of these people may be more or less helpful depending on their professional experience and connection to the business.
- Teacher? – this is of course, the main person who can tell you if you are technically ready to sing the audition. Beyond that, the strength of a voice teacher’s advice will be dependent upon their knowledge of the professional world TODAY. That last word is important, because knowledge based on how things were in the past will only have partial relevance.
- Coach? – this is a variation on point #1, the difference being your coach will be person who can let you know how solidly prepared you are musically, and to some extent dramatically for your audition. Other than that, the points apply as with your voice teacher.
- Director? – a director is an excellent person to coach your arias dramatically with, and if he or she is working in the business, can also be a great source of advice. (The parallel musically to this of course, is a conductor, and the same points apply).
- Administrator? - this is an excellent resource, particularly if the administrator in question is actively involved in the artistic process of the company that he or she is a part. Keep in mind, each company is unique in what they are looking for, but you can still gain excellent general advice through this resource.
- Peer group? – this is an excellent resource to give perspective on the singer’s side of the equation. Knowing what others have been through can help you prepare for the experience.
- All or some combination of the above? – I think the answer here is yes. Getting the perspective and advice of the key people listed above can help you avoid pitfalls as you go into auditions. Remember that some advice will be general (usable at all times), while other advice may be usable for only specific auditions.
Part II. The “Hard Goods”
- The resume – one of the very helpful things for young singers is the ability to do on-demand self published resumes that can be uniquely tailored to each situation. In today’s world, there is no excuse to not have the right resume for the right situation.
- What to put on? – what’s relevant – this will change and evolve as your career develops – just make sure everything you put on is accurate – many auditioners will follow up on this.
- What to leave off? – what’s “filler” – if you’re a young singer, it’s not a sin to not have a full resume. Don’t try to fill it up with irrelevant things – i.e. high school musical roles, roles you’re studying on your own. I would rather see a half page resume with solid information, than a full-page resume that only has a half page of relevant information.
- The photo – one word – IMPORTANT!
- Many more and less expensive options than there used to be – there is no reason not to have a good photo that supports your audition – it doesn’t have to be a Christian Steiner bank account draining shot. It should be well lit, and should present you as you are now.
- Cardinal rule – make sure it looks like you, so the person hiring has another aid in remembering you! – after hearing perhaps hundreds of auditions, an accurate photo can either help or hinder the auditioner in remembering you.
- The recording – your foot in the door!
- Mp3s are becoming more popular (i.e. YAP Tracker) – this is becoming a popular way of delivering your voice to the gatekeepers. If you are not well versed in using and transmitting this technology, make sure you have access to someone who does.
- CDs– if you burn a cd make sure that it works in all machines – a common problem are cd s that only play on a computer.
- Make sure the acoustics on different pieces don’t drastically change the quality of your voice – it is surprising how often I hear recordings where, from piece to piece, it sounds like I am listening to different singers. When possible, all recordings should be done in the same space. When this isn’t the case, make sure that each recording presents your voice similarly.
- Particularly early in your career, there should not be large lapses in time between recordings, because the voice can change quickly – make sure you are giving a snapshot of you now. This is a companion to the previous point.
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