A young(ish) opera singer's random thoughts and observations.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Auditions - a rant

It's been a busy term in college. Not only the standard workload of classes, ensembles to learn and assessments to complete, but several additional projects: Orpheus in the Underworld, concerts, collaborations with composers, managing Opera'r Ddraig's finances... but despite all that going on, what defined the term for me were the auditions. It seemed relentless, there always being an audition on the horizon, but now that I look back, I realise there were only 4 of them! Still, spaced out every 2 weeks or so, it was a pretty full-on 2 months worth.

I have to say, while they are in no way a pleasant experience, I do feel I'm doing better at them than last year (regardless of the outcomes - I'm still waiting for responses from all of them). I suppose it's mainly down to 3 things. Firstly, for the first time in my life I feel reasonably secure in my technique. There's plenty to improve, but at least these days it's consistent. Secondly, I have found much better audition repertoire for myself since I 'discovered' the top of my voice. Last year I was auditioning for opera courses with arias I had been singing for years, back when a top G was a feat (and not a guaranteed one at that!). I sang them fine, but they didn't show off any of the aspects of my voice that could be considered 'selling-points'. I couldn't have honestly said that I felt I sang them better than anyone else in at least some way (and if you don't feel you're bringing something exceptional to the table, then I'm pretty sure the panel won't feel it either). Finally, the amount of experience I've accumulated this past year (and let's face it, it's been a busy one: 6 operas, with substantial roles in 3 of them; first professional engagement with an opera company; vocal boot camp in the Rockies...) has significantly changed my outlook on the whole thing. I know I'm unlikely to succeed in any given audition, but I'm also able to think that I'm good enough to stand a fighting chance, and not to let the hopelessness of this profession get me down.

Why is it hopeless? I suppose that is putting it a bit harshly. It's just hard. These past months have given me a glimpse of the future, the dreaded 'year of fear', out of college, looking for work, living from audition to audition, probably working part-time to get the money for train fares... Then what is an audition? It's a day of stress, travel, preparation, all for a 5-15 minute window of opportunity. Before you get that opportunity however, you sit (or pace) in the waiting-room, surrounded by countless other singers, some of whom will (probably unknowingly) say things that intimidate or put you off. That is if there is even a waiting-room! I recently did an audition where there was only a freezing corridor. Then you enter a room, and your first glimpse of it is always a surprise. It's never what you expect it to be (listening through the door to the 3 or 4 singers before you, all of whom are of course amazing!), and neither is the panel. Even though they spent 10 minutes chatting to the person before you, they barely give you a single glance. Or maybe they're so far away you can't make out their faces. Or maybe they're so friendly you're taken aback. Hopefully you've had some time for a chat with the accompanist about tempi, odd corners, etc, but it's only now that you'll hear him play your intro (always a scary moment, especially if it goes horribly wrong). Fingers crossed that you won't be constantly worrying about the piano. The singing bit is the easiest part, it always seems to be just a bit worse than in practice, which is fine. Then a short chat with the panel, hoping they won't ask off-putting questions like 'So what are you doing about the middle of your voice?' (and I thought I had sung quite well at that one!). Or perhaps no chat, just a 'Thank you, bye!' (what did I do wrong?). Then back on the Tube, train, hours to run the whole thing back in your mind (even though it all goes fuzzy the moment you step out of the audition room) and try and think why the panel behaved the way they did and what to change for the next audition.

And how many of these will it take before you get a break? How much will you end up spending on travel? How much is the stress going to ruin your health? Why are you even doing this in the first place?

Well, the answer to that is: Because once you start rehearsing, you will be reminded that this is the best job in the world, and when you step onto the stage, it just gets better!

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