Three often forgotten things that will rocket your chances at opera auditions.
Get there a while before your audition...aim for about 15 minutes or so, UNLESS they have specified particular time for you to arrive to work with the accompanist or pick up a sight reading test. Getting there early gives you a chance to breathe, to relax, and to get acquainted with the venue. There may be a room available for a little pre-audition warm up, but just as often there isn't. A cardinal rule is, always come to the venue warmed up already. If you are staying somewhere where you can't, then do gentle pianissimo warm ups as you travel to the venue, imagining you are singing full voice. Even these can be remarkably efficient at getting you warmed up and will engage all the correct muscles.
Being friendly is something most singers realise they have to do as they enter the audition room, but many forget due to over-thinking the formality of the occasion. Have a little mantra that you say to yourself: “smile, warm, friendly” or something similar. These things can be difficult when the nerves kick in, but every company wants to cast people who they see will be fun and easy to work with.
Equally important is how you are with the person manning the audition desk outside. This person may just be standing in for the day, but they MAY be one of the panel taking a break from listening to singing for an hour or so, or someone from the company involved in decision making. It is also very likely that the greeter will be asked for feedback from the panel at the end of the day about who they felt was pleasant and light-hearted, and if anyone was particularly rude, obnoxious or otherwise unpleasant.
To be friendly and communicative with the pianist also goes without saying too. They are often also asked for their impressions, and if you brusquely just hand them your music without so much as acknowledging them as a human being, you already have one person against you in the room. I've heard horror stories of pianists playing stuff at deliberately impossible tempi to rile a singer who was unfriendly with them. This is unlikely to happen at bigger houses but you have been warned!
Being informed isn't just about looking at the BBC News website every morning. Before you go to audition check up a little bit about the company. Even if it is a small company, get a feel for the repertoire they have put on in the last few years. Do they have a leaning towards big grand opera, or more towards refined baroque and classical? Are they modernist and daring in their approach, or conservative and traditional? Find out whatever you can about what they have coming up.
Also, if the audition panel's names have been supplied, check up on who they are, their roles within the company, and their experience in opera. This will give you a feeling of knowing who you're signing for. They won't feel quite so much like strangers. When choosing your rep you can gear it towards both the company's and the panel's leanings. Some singers offer up totally the wrong rep, going to a small, experimental company and offering Handel and bel canto rep. Look at this and plan it well in advance and you can get your preparation done.
So, think of these three things for your coming auditions and you will already be giving yourself a substantial leg-up.
Post written by Stephen Svanholm for The Opera Stage