Monday, December 06, 2004

The Average Audition

Usually, the Average Audition goes something like this:

Singer walks in, exchanges greetings with the panel. Panel says, “What would you like to sing?” Singer tells them, and they say ok. First aria. If they would like to hear another, they look over the singer’s repertoire list and ask for the aria of their choice. Second aria. When it is finished, the Panel says, “Ok, thank you.” Singer says, “Oh no, thank YOU!” and leaves the room with a smile. End of audition.

Ok, so I was being a little silly at the end there, but you get the idea. Very cut and dried. I think I like it that way, too, after having two auditions go very differently this year. With the Average Audition, there are no comments or conversations to give you false hope that the Panel is going to hire you. You just walk in, do your best, and leave, forgetting about the audition until the offer – or rejection letter – comes in.

My first audition this season started out like an Average Audition. But I was on my way out the door when a member of the Panel said, “You’ll have to tell us about [an obscure opera that is on my Upcoming Performances list].” I stopped, of course, and I said some things and she said some things (all pertaining to the opera in question), and that was it. I see now, looking back, that that little exchange was probably all she had in mind. But at the time, I thought, “She said ‘you’ll have to tell us,’ which indicates a conversation in the future. That must mean she’s going to hire me!” Alas, a week later, I got the email. “It was a pleasure to hear your recent audition for the [our company]. I am sorry to inform you that you have not been chosen as a finalist for this year’s company.”

The second audition was a two-parter: a five minute initial audition and a fifteen minute callback. (A few more numbers here: 550 singers in the first round, 100 in the call backs, 25 spots. So, just getting a callback is a good start.) At the first audition, I sang a four-minute aria (O zittre nicht from Die Zauberflöte); at the end, a member of the Panel said, “Wow, pretty impressive for 11:00 in the morning!” I’d sung for these people before, and had a very Average Audition, so I knew this was unusual. That night I learned that I got a callback, so I went to sing for them again the next day. After my second aria (the Fire aria from L’Enfant et les Sortileges), the other member of the Panel said, “Well that’s it! Next time I do L’Enfant I’m hiring you to be my Fire!” This was extremely out of the ordinary! I left the audition in shock, practically certain I was in.

But it was not to be. Offers were made that weekend, and I didn’t get one.

I’m a pretty realistic person when it comes to auditions. I know the game. But when you sing well and there is conversation, you start to hope. You start to think that you have made an impression, have managed to stand out from the crowd. And the thing is, you have. It’s just that the crowd is large enough that several other coloratura sopranos will make an impression and stand out, too. And they only need one of you.

Last week I was back in New York for a few more auditions. All of them were delightfully Average: no conversation, no compliments. Just a friendly “Thank you!” I think I like it better that way. Now the waiting begins. I’ll keep you posted.

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