Welcome to Auditions 101!
The class of fearful opera singers, leisurely talking, is interrupted by my grand entrance into the classroom. Taking long broad strides, chest and nose properly raised to its correct smugness level, making sure as to never face away (upstage) of my pupils, I inhale with great intensity, as though I could change the future of the earth upon the uttering of my next words. "Good morning class," speaking with rude contempt towards consonants - angrily forcing them out, raining a shower of spit across the desks in the front row. "Please open your text books to page (with great pause and theatrical anticipation) one", I proclaim. The class, awkwardly looking slightly above me, pauses, and then obeys, once the supertitles on the power-point screen catch up. These were opera singers after all. And finally having the gravitas of Mephistopheles, I summon the lights to dim towards a deep blood-red, saturating the room. "Attention class, your assignment today is to (smoke billowing, drums and bugles blasting in the distance, lightning and thunder clash, only to suddenly diminish to silence....the lights flickering back to blue-white...and in a mundane, Ben Stein-like voice I continue) read through chapter one." The students, in total shock and confusion, slowly open their books.
(This is great, as a tenor, I never get to play the bad guy)
A Concise Survival Guide to Opera Auditions - First Edition
Chapter 1: The Most Dangerous Game
One of the most loved short stories in American History is Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game - a story about a man invited to go on a safari hunting expedition, but having lost his way, ends up finding refuge at a small inhabited island, where a wealthy aristocrat set up a private hunting colony. Unfortunately, he would find out, that he wasn't going to be hunting, but was to be hunted! That's right, The Most Dangerous Game, are people! (in the end, the hunted killed the hunter!)
Fortunate or unfortunate as it may be, you are a person. Once you get over that concept, you will be on your way to a great career in opera!
That's right, to be successful, you must embrace everything that it is to be a person - failure, stupidity, nerves, allergies...the whole package. Also, you must acknowledge that you always are competing against other people in normal life - competing for attention, looks, praise, love, etc. Whether you like it or not, that is how humans work. You might as well embrace it.
But, how does opera fit in to this? Well, to be successful in opera, you must be your best self to be able to successfully compete against other people for gigs at an audition.
Assuming you have had some great schooling, and can correctly sing, without any major technical issues, and that you naturally have a large enough voice to be competitive in the professional opera world, you should begin to consider auditioning for some opera companies.
One great resource is, yaptracker.com. You should apply, pay the annual fee, and start reading through the several thousand auditions that are posted on their site. If you are just beginning, you should seriously consider some pay-to-sings. Obviously, you must pay to be a part of those programs, but eventually you will work your way up to apprentice programs and eventually to the professional world of mainstage productions. Read my previous blog post on Young Artist Programs if you would like more information on how the process works.
But, that is for another time. For now, you must consider what it takes to live this opera lifestyle. Opera is rough and tough. No one is perfect, but you are always, always, always measured against perfection. This is why it is good to remember who you are...a person. It's ok to lose. It's ok to fail. It's ok not to be perfect. On the other hand, you are "the most dangerous game." And you, despite your deficiencies, can still win people's attention, love, and praise, and win an audition for the biggest roles out there.
So first thing is first: you must have a good ego! Some egos are more dominating than others...like Miss Piggy. But, for all who love the Muppets, who is the real hero?...that's right, Kermit!
See, you don't have to have a nasty, humanity-crushing ego that tramples over everyone's mother and dog. No, you just have to keep one that will help you shrug off all those negative things, and keep you in a fighting spirit. You can only do your best...nothing more. Sorry, but you will not be the greatest singer of all time. However, you can still dream of the big time at the Met or La Scala, because thousands of singers who aren't the greatest of all time have sang there.
So if you are just beginning (still assuming that you have a pristine voice), get out there and apply to places. Apply to everything! Don't think it takes luck to make it big; you have to put yourself in the position to be lucky. You will learn the most simply from experience. And, like anyone who has cheated in a drawing before knows, if you apply a bunch of times, the chances are better that you will win one of those times.
With that said, and I can't say it enough, this is all assuming that you are an educated and hard working singer. You first must know technique, music fundamentals, and several languages (in other words, go to school!). Then you must learn opera rep. Then you must practice it until you can sing it as perfectly as you possibly can. And then you should you go out and show the world what you've got.
Keep in mind, there are thousands of other singers out there with big egos that are trying to be the most perfect and dangerous singer that they can be. What are you going to do to compete with them?
Self-Promotion - Reflections on Awful Superheroes