Last night after getting out of costume and makeup, I walked out through the back hallway on my way to the parking lot. I stopped to hug a few folks, and then I noticed that there was an abnormally large group backstage. (Usually, access is limited after a show, to assure the performers as much privacy as they’d like.) And this group was not your average crowd of opera fans. There were lots of good-looking, well-groomed men in suits, many of them milling around the stars of the evening, Kelley (Lorca) and Jessica (Nuria); Dawn hadn’t yet emerged from her dressing room. And these weren’t your average suits, either; think more hip, artsy New York suits over stiff, boardroom New York suits. Lots of color, great fabrics, and even better hair.
Who are they, you ask? This handsome group is the reason many young singers dream of coming to Santa Fe Opera. General Directors, Artistic Administrators and artist managers from companies across the country are in Santa Fe this week to check out the young talent. Today and tomorrow, each Apprentice Singer will have a five minute timeslot in which to sing one (extremely well-prepared) aria for this group. It’s an incredible opportunity to get your name, face, and voice in front of the people you hope will hire you someday. But it’s five minutes. One shot to make the best impression possible. No pressure, right?! Everyone has a bad day now and then; we’re all hoping that it’s not today or tomorrow!
I will be singing tomorrow, as will all the cast members of Ainadamar. It’s nice to have a day to ease the voice back into opera mode after singing in the quasi-flemenco, straight tone style of Osvaldo’s music. My voice, being naturally light and with a higher placement than a lot of the other women, makes the move fairly easily. But the darker lyric sopranos and the mezzos really feel the effects. The scheduling office was very understanding, and put all of us in tomorrow’s session.
It took me a while to pick my aria. Imagine looking for one aria that a) will present you in the best light, b) will show off your “specialty,” and c) will give the panel an idea of both what they could hire you for today and where your voice is going and growing. Not an easy task! Nina, who’s opinion I have come to value more and more, felt from the beginning that Nannetta’s aria from Verdi’s Falstaff was going to be the best bet for me. I was unsure, as I hadn’t worked on the piece since undergrad and felt that it still had a lot of “student” habits. I was leaning towards “Caro nome,” which I’m very comfortable with and feel that I can really “sell.” Also, “Caro” shows everything: legato lines, coloratura, high notes, and middle voice. Perfect, right? Well, maybe not.
LOTS of sopranos sing “Caro nome,” and many of them sing it very well. That doesn’t mean that I sing it any less well, but I might need to show another side of me in order to stand out from the pack. (No other soprano is singing “Caro nome” for these auditions; I’m just thinking of the bigger picture.) I was reminded of Nina’s fantastic advice to me: “You will never out-shout anyone (with high notes), you will never out-power anyone (with volume), but you can out-beauty them.” What does Nannetta’s aria show? Beautiful singing. And, after a month of coaching it with several outstanding people here, many (most) of the student habits are gone. If I can avoid being precious (holding on to my sound, rather than just letting the voice flow), I have a chance to really stand out. And this group is knowledgable enough to know that if I sing Nanetta beautifully, if my high A is floated easily, if I am truly comfortable on stage, then chances are I can sing other things as well (including Gilda). I don’t have to show all my cards to win the hand.
The only question left: What to wear?!