Monday, December 03, 2007

More Aria Data

For the newly posted comprehensive list of arias heard during the 2008 tour, go to

The comprehensive list also gives you the panel's choices for second arias. I hesitated to do this, not wanting to feed into the wasted effort that singers tend to expend on worrying about and projecting what the panel will ask for. I decided to go for it, though, for the biggest thing that the data demonstrates is that it's silly to try to guess. When you churn it all out, it looks rather random. Not that there isn't logic - there's surprising agreement about second choices across many of the panels I've sat on. It's just that the choice is very specific to each individual singer in a particular situation. There are no magic equations. And that's a good thing.

This is a geeky singer entry, so if you're in search of a chatty post, you might want to check back later:)


The most-favored soprano aria was Norina's "Quel guardo / So anch’io" (5X), edging out the dozen or so arias that were listed more frequently on singers' 4-aria packages. "Deh vieni" was predictably popular (offered 4 times), and Manon's two scenes ("Je suis encore" and the Gavotte) were also right at the top.

The biggest surprise? Pamina's aria was on the lists of 30 sopranos. How many times was it offered? Once. (Note: this is a good thing. It takes a really precocious and persuasive artist to escape with her life in this aria.)

Other items of note: Emily's Aria from Our Town was popular, no doubt owing to recent conservatory productions of that Rorem opera. A few other popular items from the Aria Frequency list didn't make it into the audition room very often; "Caro nome" (thank heaven), "Come scoglio", "Ain't it a Pretty Night" and Micaela's aria.


Tied for first place as openers were the Composer's Aria, "Parto parto" and "Smanie implacabili." Close behind were "Que fais-tu" and "Svegliatevi" (the latter climbing way up the ladder compared to its presence on only 5 complete lists.)

"Va, laisse couler mes larmes" was listed frequently in aria packages (14 times) but was only used as an opener twice. Some of the popular arias from the comprehensive lists weren't heard at all this year (including "Wie du warst").


The big winner from the Aria Frequency list - Tamino's "Dies Bildnis" at 16 times - was only offered once. Hmmm... kind of like Pamina was with the sopranos...

The top choices that tenors made for openers were "Che gelida manina" and "Un’aura amorosa." Pretty crazy, huh?

"Una furtiva lagrima" retained its popularity from the list to the audition room, but the other runners-up - "O wie ängstlich" and "Il mio tesoro" fell quite a bit.


You can always count on baritones for consistency. Salt of the earth, those guys are.

The Count's Aria topped the lists of 29 baritones, and it also ended up at the top of the heap as an opening aria. It was joined in popularity during the tour by Harlekin's Aria (a popular choice for those singers who want to ease into the audition and guarantee a meaty second aria choice).

With the exception of Pierrot's Tanzlied, the runners-up on the aria package lists were poorly represented, though. We didn't hear a single Billy Budd scene (this saddens me for purely selfish reasons), Papageno's suicide scene was only offered twice, and Silvio only started off once.


A wild and wonderful amount of variety in this Fach. The original aria lists were weighted heavily toward "Se vuol ballare," both of Blitch's scenes, "Madamina" and "Vecchia zimarra." But the actual openers were all over the map, with only Madamina retaining an edge (3 times). Blitch's "Hear Me" did make it into the room, but "I'm a Lonely Man" wasn't heard at all.

What Does It Mean?

In general, a refreshing degree of variety this year. I received a recent email inquiry regarding the timeless question of standard rep vs. innovative arias. I often advocate for mixing up the contents of the aria package, for various reasons. Selfishly, of course, I like to hear new music. But I also like the presence of perhaps just one aria that shows artistic curiosity and a sense that the singer in question has a good enough feel for his particular strengths to make a strong unique choice.

That said, the standard rep is essential. Just like those compulsories in gymnastics. It enables the panel to take stock of what you have in your technical and musical toolkit. And we're so accustomed to using this standard repertoire to make inferences about how a singer might attack other works in those same idioms that the warhorse arias are a prism through which much else is refracted.

I have my challenges with them, though. The number of student-level Count's Arias and Smanie implacabili that I've heard over the years has begun to completely obscure my enjoyment of those scenes and any clarity I may have had about what it takes to sing them at the highest professional level.

So go ahead and fine something that will pique our curiosity. But be careful that it's not too difficult for a pianist to sightread. And realize that if you offer it in a situation where a second aria isn't guaranteed, you might (wrongly) be written off as someone who's trying to avoid those good old-fashioned challenges in the warhorses. Treat those new works like fine piquant spices, while retaining the integrity of those beautiful and powerful standard arias. Make those "compulsories" also sound as if they're new, fresh, exciting, and written just for you. Then you're really on your way.

1 comment:

Ann said...

You know its funny you posted this today, I was running auditions today and having discussions with singers about their rep lists, and what they expect the panels to pick and three out of five in a certain period of time all came out saying "Wow, I did NOT expect them to pick that" - and most were pleased. I suppose the panels today picked the unexpected - with good reason, I'm sure.

I did mention your blog to more than one of them, who did not read it already.

Go you for compiling all this data. If it helps just one singer, than you've been more than paid back in karma, or otherwise!