Monday, October 31, 2011

Opera University: Auditions 101 (week 2)

To see last week's lesson - click here

Week 2
Self-Promotion
"Reflections on Awful Superheroes"

Imagine that you are in the fictional world of Gotham and Kryptonite, and you are the person in charge of finding another superhero for the Justice League of America.  The Justice League of America has been featured in many comics since the 1960s and it is the superteam of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and (believe it or not) the Martian Manhunter. So, let's assume that Martian Manhunter was kicked out and they had to find a new superhero. These contestants walk into the audition screening, show their super powers, and walk out.  Which one would you choose?

Matter Eater Lad
Matter Eater Lad - That's right, he can eat through anything. Don't mind digging, he'll eat a hole through the mountain.  You won't drown, because he'll eat the whole ocean! The obvious question is how he gets rid of the bad guys.  Is he a cannibal?

Cypher
Cypher - Obviously, this guy's superhero talent is that he can decipher anything like codes or languages.  As one blogger stated "he's pretty much a translator".  He doesn't have any fighting capabilities though, just a mind like Data from Star Trek.

Dogwelder
Dogwelder - As odd as it sounds, this guy welds dead stray dogs to villains' faces.  Believe it or not, that's about it.  He must be a little crazy, and certainly this would not qualify as a superpower.  But it would certainly be effective crime fighting.  As one person describes it, "You try to rob a bank and you end up with a Lhasa Apso welded to your face, yapping for eternity. *shudder* "

Skateman

And finally, Skateman - This is pretty lame!  In short, he's an ex-Vietnam War vet and roller derby star that goes mad after a Mexican gang kills his friend in a roller derby crash by loosening his roller skate wheel.  He goes around in a ridiculous costume only to get beaten up by the gang...didn't see that coming!  His only apparent superpowers are bad luck and a quick-curing drink, an herbal shake, that his girlfriend made called (pause five seconds to keep from laughing) Skater-aid.

 Now, which one of these would you choose to be in the same group of Superman, Batman, and the like?  Probably none.  And why?  Well, they aren't superhero-like.  They don't advertise themselves well - who wants a dogwelder? a skateman?

Opera is a lot like the "BAM!, KAPOW!" world of superhero comic strips. To be an opera singer, you must obviously audition for roles. The very first thing that any opera singer must do to have a successful audition, is to be granted an audition in the first place.

This usually requires you to submit several things:

1. A Headshot (this is a picture of yourself from the neck up - of course the sexier...I mean, more professional you look, the better this will play to your advantage.)

It is understood, that because this is a visual art, there is some strength in being a good-looking person.  Also, it should look like yourself; they will remember you by this photo.  If you look like James Bond in the picture, but Mr. Magoo in real life, they will certainly have doubts about you.

2. A Resume (keep in mind that this is opera - Companies want to know what performance experience that you have.)

This could be divided up in several ways.  I devote the first section to opera roles, and include the role, opera, company/school, and year - the most recent at the top.  The next section is other performance experience, including concerts featuring me as a soloist.  The third section, I include my teacher and past teachers, coaches (there's a difference between coaches and teachers; we'll talk about it another time), and any masterclasses that I have been the soloist for, obviously including the masterclass teacher. Then, I list my education: degree, school, and year graduated. Finally, I list my recent and major awards.  Another good thing to add is a small picture of yourself in the upper corner of the resume.  This helps the reader immediately put your information to a face.

Now, if this whole resume thing is overwhelming because you don't have much experience, it is ok.  There are many programs out there that want to hear new singers.  Many new singers first go to a pay-to-sing program and are able to fill up a resume with the names of many teachers and coaches, and perhaps several roles to add to their resume.  Companies want to know that you are a singer; nothing else is as important as that.  So, the more performing that you do, the more attractive you are to people out there.

3. Several Recordings (you MUST be able to sing your butt off, and sing these arias as perfectly as you can)  This is primarily what companies will be interested in when you apply.  Make sure you are as perfect as you can be, and find a good accompanist to record with you.  This can be expensive for some, paying hundreds of dollars in accompanist fees, but if the recording is great and lands you some good gigs, then it is worth it.  With that said, I personally try to find friends or professors to accompany me for free first, before I go out to find someone that I have to pay an arm and a leg to.  If you don't have the means already, you can buy simple recording equipment at Best Buy.  Don't think you have to spend thousands of dollars on this...it can be done for cheap, and still result in a great recording.

4.  References (you'll acquire these over time - but many times you will have to submit one or several names and contact email) It is often debated how useful these are, but sure enough, it is always a good thing to make connections in this small industry.

5. Pay an Application Fee (unfortunately, many companies require this typically between $35-$50 each)  These companies have to be able to pay people to listen to all the live auditions, and fly them to New York, and put them up in a New York hotel.  It's a small price to pay, especially if it is for a great opportunity.  It is important to budget this, especially if you are planning on applying to many places.

This submission process is very important, in that it is your way to self-promote your talent.  You have to give them your best:  an awesome recording, a professional (sexy but not too sexy) picture, and a resume with great things and accomplishments on it.  If you don't have these yet, take the time to get a good promotional package together first.

Superman is awesome.  Batman is cool.  Aquaman is lame (talks to fish? seriously!?). The Powerpuff Girls are...well...you get it.  It's all about how you advertise yourself.  This even applies to the audition itself.  You have to look the part, and look professional, and attractive (but not too attractive), and of course display your awesome super talent of operatic singing.

Next time

The Audition
"Nerves and Uncontrollable Shaking, Fainting, Peeing, and Vomiting"


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