The Young Person's Guide to the Opera Audition

I have an upcoming lesson with this woman and listening to this interview only makes me realize what an informed person she is. She is opinionated, but deserves to be after all of her success. I can’t wait to see what she’s like in an actual lesson situation. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!

The Audition Binder: Keeping Everything in One Place

It’s the big day and you’ve arrived at the audition. You’ve just been told by the door monitor or stage manager that it is time to enter the auditioning room. You’ve grabbed your binder to go in, but do you have absolutely everything as you’re entering the room? It would probably be a good idea to check out the following list to make sure. As I have said in the past, this is not an exhaustive list. If anyone has an interest in extending it, please drop me a line and I’d love to add more. One can never be too prepared.

First of all, the binder needs to be prepared at least a few days before the audition. If you’re on the road, it’s much better to get everything prepared and be able to relax then be worrying that something was forgotten.

The Audition Binder - Traditionally, the binder is black and 1”-1.5”. When I audition in New York City, I typically use a black binder, but when I’m on the road I always use a brightly colored binder. I picked up this idea from a course I took in college about Stage Management. Stage Managers typically use a colored binder as “The Book” so that it may be easily found and recognized in misplaced. When moving around between hotels and lodgings, I do everything in my power to keep all the possessions I bring in the same general area, but things happen. When it’s time to leave for the audition or start traveling to the next one, you’ll be happy knowing that your binder is neon green or florescent pink if you can’t find it in your bag and you know it’s somewhere in your room.

Head Shots - Note the plural. It is always important to bring several copies of everything to an audition. It doesn’t matter how detailed that email or phone call might have been, you might have missed something or misread it. It’s better to have extra than have to apologize for not having enough. The importance of the quality concerning a head shot is beyond the scope of this blog post, but it is always important to have the best quality in relation to what you can afford.

Resumes - Again, always keep multiple copies in the binder. The resume should always be current and formatted in a coherent manner. I’ve started printing my resume on legitimate “resume paper” that I bought at Staples. I’ve been told in various seminars (and by my girlfriend, who is a print expert at Staples) that the quality of one’s resume is a reflection of how seriously they take themselves. As far as multiple copies, I had an experience recently where the email was not clear on how many copies of a resume to bring. I brought five and then learned they needed 3 copies for their panel. Seeing as the panel consisted of the music director, stage director, and director of the young artist program, I was very happy that I hadn’t forgotten to bring multiple copies.

Repertoire Sheet - I have made the mistake of forgetting to print up a repertoire sheet with all the last minute preparations for auditions and let me tell you how embarrassing it can be when the panel asks you for it, you don’t have it, and you have to stand there announcing every piece you brought and then what you want to start with. There’s that awkward moment where you have to wait because they’re writing the pieces down on their pad (along with possible comments about disorganization,who knows…). Long and short, don’t forget and make sure you know what repertoire you’re supposed to have prepared. I suggest using the same header that is at the top of your resume on your repertoire sheet. I feel it helps me look more “put together” for the panel. I always make sure that I have a thumbnail of my head shot in the upper right hand corner of both my resume and rep list. You never know when materials might get misplaced and the panel forgets your face when the big decision is made. Again, make multiple copies, you’ll be happy you did.

Audition Music - The preparation of the audition music is a whole other post, but it’s good to remember to make sure it turns well in a three-hole punch binder. The easier it is for the pianist to turn the more a pianist can play and not have to worry about page turns. It’s also a good idea to put the piece you want to sing first as the first selection in the binder. You would think this is assumed, but sometimes, in the rush of getting everything ready, little things are forgotten.

Copy of the Directions - If your binder has a plastic sleeve over the cover, it’s always a great idea to slip a copy of the directions in for easy reference. I know that when I’m in NYC I get turned around if I’m anywhere other than Manhattan. It’s easier to take a quick glance at a binder cover than dig around in a bag in a less than desirable area.

Copy of the Instructions Email - Sometimes there are very specific instructions that it’s possible to forget about in the throws of traveling to the audition. It’s also possible that the door monitor might have misplaced information or forgotten something important from the instructions for another person. It looks good when you are on top of everything including the specifics of the audition.

Business Cards - You never know who will be at the audition or who you might meet. Never be afraid to make friends with the people waiting to audition. Not only does it help to calm the nerves (if you’re the type that likes to socialize before an audition), but you will always see these people from audition to audition. The “Opera World” is a very small place and it’s easier to work the system than to fight it.

Pen - From experience, pens can be at a premium in the audition space. The faster you can fill out the audition form and be ready to get in the room, the more time you will have to unwind, warm up, relax, etc.

I was just granted an audition for Butterfly that’s coming up at the end of October and it made me think of this very famous, very beautiful aria. Again, Callas proves her insights and taste for detail are unparalleled. I hope you enjoy!

Since registering for the competition also means getting a pass to the convention, this event is invaluable. The last few conventions have been instrumental in my own development as a singer and artist. This year’s Classical Singer Convention will be in New York City and I hope to see all of you there!!

I know it seems that I’m on a Boheme streak, but I can never get over the beauty of this opera or the talks that this wonderfully intelligent woman gave to these young singers. I hope you enjoy!

This is more for the opera enthusiast than the young student, but I think it’s necessary that young students are schooled about what is going on in the world internationally and not just the typical happenings at the Met. This magazine will also acquaint students with the opera houses and programs that are necessary to start a career. Everyone says they want to be at the Met, but what about La Scala, Bayreuth, the Fest System in general, and important summer programs that are reviewed quite critically, shaping young singers careers or breaking them. This magazine can easily renew a singer’s interest in the world of classical music or prove the inevitable truth that the size of the “Opera World” can be very small, yet vast and daunting at the same time. I have held a subscription on and off due to the price to renew, but a  subscription is easily obtained through websites like www.magazines.com. Happy Reading!!

In his own right, he’s a fantastic Russian baritone. He has produced the most authoritative texts on Russian of which I’m aware. My own teacher, Dr. Boris Loushin, a native Russian baritone himself, uses his IPA transcriptions when teaching Russian diction. Of the other Russian diction teachers with which I have studied (including Violetta Zabbi and William Hobbs), they all agree across the board of Mr. Belov’s expertise. The system of IPA symbols used are a little different than standard systems with the addition of little things such as an unstressed, miniature [a] and symbols for the softened consonants. I performed in a production of Eugene Onegin recently that used the score that he transcribed underneath the cyrillic and it was fantastic. His publications may seem pricey, similar to the Nico Castel Libretto series, but every item is worth the price stated. Everything he sells on his website is not necessarily for the beginner singer in Russian, but with basic instruction in the diction and symbols, these reference tools are invaluable. I would definitely recommend the baritone and soprano anthologies as standards within anyone’s music library. Enjoy searching through this incredible man’s website! 

This is definitely a must see for any soprano in the audience. Her thoughts are invaluable considering this was one of her roles during her unfortunately shortened career. Enjoy!

Some may get this and then get mad because it’s completely written in German, but the part that’s really needed is the back. If you have a basic knowledge of German, it is easy enough to navigate the book, but I use it all the time to see exactly what fach a role is considered. The Aria Database is incomplete, but is based on the fach system presented in this standard of the opera world. Sadly, this book is no longer in print, but it is possible to find a cheap copy from time to time around the internet. Have fun wading through the info!!

To me, this is the king of all Baritone arias. I pray that I might be able to sing this aria one day and to hear Callas’s thoughts on this is only more inspiring. I hope you can see why I believe all of this! Enjoy!