I have an audition today, the first of the season!
In a funny twist of audition repertoire, I’m offering both Susanna and Susannah! The heroines of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah share a name, but not much else. One is a feisty Italian who is always at the head of the action, either manipulating it or cleaning up the messes, literal and figurative, and who ends the day in the arms of her beloved. The other is a young Appalachian girl, pure and sensual, who is desired and misunderstood and shunned by her town in such a way that it leads to her ruin. You know my long love affair with Susanna, but I’ve also had a place in my heart for Susannah (keep your eye out for that H in this post!) over the years. It is a wonderful opera, with a great heroine with a great character arc. I sang several scenes throughout my schooling, but was never sure my voice would gain the required heft to make it through so dramatic a role. Well, here we are!
As I was warming up this morning, I was thinking about which aria to start with, and I’ve decided to go with Susanna. I know the aria very well, I have two great productions on my resume, and I have another already booked for the 2010-11 season. It should be a good introduction to the panel! (Although technically I think I’ve sung for them about ten times over the years...) If they ask for Susannah after that, I’ll have some things to watch out for.
First, character. Gone will be the crafty yet dreamy lover hoping for a good end to a crazy day, and in her place will need to be an innocent, wide-eyed, hopeful girl, longing to see the world. The Floyd aria needs to start without a trace of guile or desperation. In fact, I think the whole aria (“Ain’t it a pretty night”) should be sung with hope and innocence; the outside world hasn’t yet become real to Susannah.
Second, vocal style. Well-sung Mozart is all about line, line, line. Legato for days. With the American aria, I need to get back to truly speaking the text, similar to how I would sing a Mozart recitative. There are moments in the Floyd where I will pour on the legato, but not on every phrase. There are several chunks of phrases (that’s the technical term, “chunks”) that come back at the end of the aria. I need to remember to sing them the first time as if the words are just pouring out of my mouth as quickly as I think them up, without schmaltzy embellishments. Those can come in at the end, tastefully, of course.
It’s exciting to think about rep like this, to take two arias that are so different and remind myself of the potential areas for danger. Too much legato in Susannah will lead me to sing too heavily which will lead me to blowing the high notes. Too much Susanna sass won’t allow the purity of Susannah’s character to come through. A great challenge.
I’ve got more thinking to do about purity and innocence this season, as my three new roles are all wide-eyed wonder girls: Genovieffe, Micaela, Marguerite. The approach to these ladies will be very different from that of Susanna, Rosina, and Zerlina!