Portland Opera will be holding auditions this Fall in Portland and in New York for their 2013-14 program. The deadline to apply is Monday, September 24th, but audition slots are filling up quickly, so don't wait until the last day to apply. Applications can be submitted through YAP Tracker's online application process here.
Clare Burovac, Portland Opera's Director of Artistic Operations, generously agreed to give us her insider view on what can help singers stand out on paper and in the audition room. Many thanks, Clare, for sharing your thoughts with our members!
Please describe your role at Portland Opera.
My title is Director of Artistic Operations, and as such, I'm responsible for all aspects of that part of Portland Opera, including guest artists, orchestra, chorus, our education tour, and the singers in our Resident Artist Program.
How should singers assess whether they are ready to apply to Portland Opera specifically or a program of similar caliber?
If at all possible, take a look at the biographies of the singers who are currently in the Young Artist program at the company you're considering. Portland Opera provides that information here: http://www.portlandopera.org/current-resident-artists If your experience is similar to these artists, then our program might be a good fit for you. In addition, online forums such as the New Forum for Classical Singers are good places to pose questions to your fellow singers regarding a specific program.
Any tips on what you are looking for in an application or what a singer can do to make their application more likely to be accepted for an audition?
I always start with the audio clip. The first phrase of your selection is a very important first impression. Most of the singers who apply for our program have a similar amount of education and experience, and a good audio selection can make the difference between an audition granted or not. I listen for solid technique, good intonation, musicality, and facility with languages.
What is the most important thing you want to hear from a singer in their first (and perhaps only) aria, or see in the audition room in general?
My recommendation to every singer is the same, whether that singer is a college student or a professional: start with what you sing best. If you're comfortable with an aria, it translates into confidence and maturity as a performer. Your audition attire should also be chosen with that in mind - don't wear something that you feel uncomfortable wearing.
If a singer has applied in the past and either not been heard or not been hired, what’s your advice in terms of knowing when to apply again?
I am always happy to provide feedback, both from those who have not been granted an audition, or from those who sing for us but are not offered a position. Take advantage of that, and share the feedback with your teacher. When you feel that you've mastered those things that gave you trouble, apply again. We keep an extensive database of the singers we've heard, and frequently invite singers to return and audition for us again if we feel that they weren't quite ready for our program when they first sang for us.
If I am offered a place your company, how should I prepare beforehand and comport myself during the summer to take the best advantage of the opportunity?
Portland Opera informs our Resident Artists which roles they'll be performing and/or covering during the upcoming year. Familiarizing yourself with these roles is always a good idea. Continue working with your teacher, study a language, and take advantage of any performing opportunities that might become available. If you don't have a summer YAP to attend, audition for a role in your local community theatre, either in a musical or in straight theatre. Artistic Directors are looking for complete performers, not just great voices, and all stage experience can be beneficial.
Once the program has been completed, how can I best use the experience to further my career?
Portland Opera maintains a relationship with all of our former Resident Artists, and I take that relationship very seriously. I am always happy to write a letter of reference or an email, and I work with our former Resident Artists to help them move from the YAP world to the professional world, connecting them with managers, engaging them to return to Portland Opera when possible, and assisting in their career progress however I can.
Any additional advice you'd like to share with singers in the midst of this this young artist program application/audition season?
Those of us on the other side of the table are well aware of how nerve-wracking auditioning can be. Know that we want you to succeed - every singer who's doing lead roles at the Met, Chicago, and San Francisco was once exactly where you are, and there's nothing more satisfying than finding that singer at the beginning of his or her career and helping with the creation of that career. I'm always hopeful that the next person who walks into our audition room (you!) will be that singer.
Clare Burovac was appointed Portland Opera’s Director of Artistic Operations in 2008. Her wide-ranging responsibilities include oversight of the Portland Opera Resident Artist program, negotiating artists’ contracts, researching and recommending artists, acting as primary liaison between the Company and its chorus and orchestra, and negotiating performance rights, among many other activities.
Ms. Burovac, who has 23 years of experience producing and managing opera, received her Bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Bowling Green State University. As a violinist she performed with the Toledo Symphony, Ohio Light Opera Orchestra, and other groups in the Cleveland area, in addition to teaching violin and viola. A recipient of an OPERA America Fellowship in Opera Production in 1993, she has been a guest stage manager for San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera, among many others. She joined Seattle Opera in 1994 as an Assistant Stage Manager, taking on a variety of increasingly demanding positions, including Production Stage Manager and Ring Production Coordinator.
Ms. Burovac has served as a guest lecturer for Seattle Opera’s Ring Symposia and for the National Association of Teachers of Singing.