Friday, December 15, 2006

Audition Season Recap

**I wrote this last night, but was unable to post due to the wind storm. It's dry and fairly calm here today; I think Washington got the worst of it. I'll check in with Seattle folks later today and see that they're all accounted for.**

Some thoughts from my first full audition season in New York:

It was nice to have a representative from the office at every audition (except the few that I traveled to). They would come into the room with me and sit near the auditors, at the ready to answer any questions. They also provided materials, a bio and headshot, and take care to follow up. The office always has a pretty good idea of what roles the company is looking to cast, so they can speak in specifics rather than generalities. Now the waiting game begins. I don’t really have any idea what kind of timeline I’m dealing with for these sorts of casting auditions. I try not to pester the office with emails and calls (and visits, since they are just five blocks up the street!), but I do wonder every day: Has anybody made an offer?

By far the most popular requests from my aria list were Nannetta and Baby Doe. Except for the two auditions when I started with “Regnava” (NYCO and the last minute audition) these two were always my starters. How did I decide, on any given day, what to start with? Different ways on different days. I’d occasionally feel like my “float” wasn’t working, so I’d start with Baby Doe. Some days, I felt that I was dressed more like one or the other, or that I had more of the attitude of one more than the other. What’s ironic about all of these reasonings is that, on most days, I ended up singing both arias anyway! Even though the arias are, to my way of thinking, very similar, when I started with Nannetta they’d most often ask for Baby Doe, and vice versa. The characters are very different, one very girlish and one very womanly, so that was fun to contrast. But I did wonder what the panel’s logic was in asking for the second aria. (Assuming there is logic…)

I had great pianist karma. I worked with JD most of the time, and with CK for almost all of the times JD couldn’t be there. CK and I found an easy rapport very quickly, and I’ll gladly call him for anything. For my last audition of the year, I ended up with somebody new, with very little rehearsal, and it ended up being great. I’ll use him again, too, whenever I can. It’s nice to have such a solid “bullpen” of pianists from which to pull!

I felt very good about all of my auditions. The one audition I walked out of feeling just kind of ok about – it was fine, it was ok, but I wasn’t jazzed about it so I didn’t expect the auditors to be – I ended up getting an offer! I think I mentioned it a while ago; I’m not available, but it’s always great to know that they were interested. Hopefully they’ll ask again! But it just goes to show that you can never predict how you will be received. Just go do your best, and the rest is out of your hands.

In one audition, I was asked how tall I was. When I replied (5’7”), he said, “Oh, you look much taller.” I was also asked a few times, in warm-up rooms and such, if I was a mezzo. When I said no, one person said, “But you’re so tall!” Ah, physical stereotypes! Hopefully no one would pass me over for a role based solely on the fact that I’m tall(er), but I guess if they have a 5’8” tenor in mind, they might want a shorter soprano. Every time I meet a tall tenor, I think, “there’s hope for me yet!”

One company was casting a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, so I got to do some dry reading, which was great. I did straight theater for years in school, so it was wonderfully familiar to get a sheet of text I’d never seen before, read it over once, then do my best to deliver it as if I’d been studying it for weeks! That’s part of an audition process opera singers don’t often have to deal with, but I love it.

Several times, as I was leaving the audition, or between arias, an auditor would mention that he had seen Cendrillon or the Golijov St. Mark Passion earlier this year. Fun! Since there is only so much you can show in an audition setting, knowing that the folks behind the table have seen you “in action” is reassuring. If they saw Cendrillon, they know I can be funny and silly; if they saw the Golijov, they have a sense of my concert work. And, since work begets work, I have to think that these connections are just as important as any audition. Every performance an audition; every audition a performance.

Which takes us up to today: At the dress rehearsal was a conductor with whom I worked earlier this year. As he was leaving, he mentioned that he was conducting a Messiah next year, and that he would be in touch. Today’s rehearsal was not just a rehearsal! It was an audition.


... said...

Dear ACB,

I have been meaning to thank you for being so kind to blog your very helpful thoughts, but this post, particularly with its closing sentiment, finally feels like the right place to put a comment.

Not being in the business (with a very tentative "yet" appended), I can only imagine that while in some respects, musical performance is a whole 'nother breed of work, in many ways, the parallels between this kind of work and any other seem to run parallel in many important ways. I think that a lot of the mystique of performing has come from how vague the road to success appears, which, in my opinion, is somewhat receding with the advent of more visible pathways like Young Artist Programs and the like springing up.

But what I really wanted to make a comment on (in strong agreement) is your last statement: that you rehearsal wasn't just a rehearsal, it's an audition. Because auditions (like job interviews as well as musical performance or stage performance ones) have such formalized, almost ritual aspects, it's really easy to think of them as unconnected to reality. Obviously, they are unconnected in that the ritual of it all is generally not repeated outside of an audition, but the basic idea of making judgments about other people happens constantly.

I can't remember where I read it, but in one of those hopeless "how to be a star at work" type of books that my father is forever leaving around the house, this point is emphasized: that as long as you are with other people, you are being judged. Interaction with people is an endless, ongoing audition.

You're auditioned on whether or not to be invited to next week's party, whether or not so-and-so asks you to help me shop for a dress, whether or not so-and-so #2 asks you for career advice, etc.

And I know that sounds clinical, but maybe what's needed is a re-adjustment of what springs to mind when the word "audition" comes up.

In any event, that's something that's always gotten me to think.

Congratulations on your audition season, the rehearsal, and the prospect of even more work!

avamara said...

this was fascinating to read - thanks for writing it!

Happy MESSIAH-ing!

ACB said...

Ellipsis - You are very welcome! And welcome, too, to the business, however cursory your current involvement. There's nothing like it!

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