Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Day 1: Houston

And so it begins. In another rehearsal room in a series of towns that all begin to look the same. Friends are jealous when I tell them that November means Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York and Philadelphia. But it's really an unbroken series of the insides of airplanes, taxicabs, rehearsal rooms and hotels.

We had a bit of a slow start today, in Rehearsal Room #1 of the Houston Grand Opera's home at the Wortham Center. We reserved a few hours this afternoon to sort of remember how it goes. After having done this for 15 years, it's surprising that it always takes me a few hours to remember how to do this. Merging the database versions, documenting the auditions, backing up the data, falling into the routine. After the first day it's subconscious. But those first few hours really keep us stepping.

Today was a Studio day - auditioning 20 singers who were college juniors, seniors, recent graduates, and first-year masters students. Rahree says that it's tough for her not to fall back into teaching mode with these younger singers. And it's undeniably hard for me not to slip into the coaching groove - to see and hear mostly potential; to accept what comes at us as a starting point for improvement. Although that may be charitable, it hardly helps us figure out who's in the best position to be hired. So we check our alter egos at the door and try to comment objectively on what's being presented.

First day thoughts:

Attacking the pitch monster is essential. I know that we're hearing voices in development, and that there will inevitably be rough patches, but if you are singing entire arias below or around the pitch, you should really be aware of it. Find someone who will be truthful with you, then figure out what to do about it. I know you can't fix everything at once, and in spite of the fact that something like intonation seems simple, it's often quite difficult to figure out cause and effect. But don't put it off, thinking it will just go away.

Contrast is your friend. Since Studio auditions start with the aria of your choice, which is usually followed by the monologue (chosen by you), you are often in complete control of what you present. Play to your personal strengths to be sure, but consider a monologue that might display a slightly different facet of your personality and energy than your aria did. Two very serious ponderous choices or two glib and perky options leave us with more unanswered questions than you'd like.

Progress is a beautiful thing. Hearing singers who are so much more assured, musical, vivid, and grounded than they were at this same time last year is almost enough to keep us going. It's an amazing and gratifying thing.

Tonight, Savitri at Rice University. Then a full day of Filene Young Artist auditions tomorrow.

I brought my "real" camera along this year, so I'll periodically torture you with photos from the road. (My brother is a professional photographer, but he doesn't read the blog, so I'm not embarrassed to share them:)

These, from yesterday's plane ride. Fall foliage in Atlanta, sunset over the gulf, and the Houston skyline.


Anonymous said...


I auditioned for you in Houston on Wednesday. I want to say how gratifying an experience it was to come back and audition for Wolf Trap again - I really did not perform well at my audition last year and, while I'm obviously a work in progress, my audition last year was an anomaly.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to hear me again. Furthermore, I was in the audition of Savitri and I was so impressed to see you all turn out to support Richard and Sarah Larsen.

And thank you, thank you for keeping this blog (and to Rahree, too!) it is soooo interesting and helpful.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kim, I have a repertoire question.

I'd love to sing Salut a la France for auditions. I'd really like to do Par le rang first and then go into the aria in order to show contrast. However, with the recit and the repeat... well, it goes too long. I was planning on doing Par le rang and then going into the aria and taking the cut. However, this means I don't get to go back and sing the aria with lots of fun, showy stuff.

Should I include some fun stuff in my cut version of the aria? How would auditors like to hear this aria and recit?


Anonymous said...

Kim, I know that the question and answer section is over! But ... I was wondering, can you give some examples of what you heard in these auditions, and what you, as a coach, might have told these students? For those who don't know, do you allow emails to be sent to request feedback?

Katherine said...

I saw some familiar smiling faces around that dinner table... I can't wait to see you guys in Cincy!