On our final expert Friday, some combined advice from Kathleen Kelly and Laura Canning of the Houston Grand Opera Studio:
We like hearing you sing; we know auditioning is hard and we want you to do well. Don't try to second guess what I want you to sing, or wear, or say. Just be true to yourself. Every panel wants something different- every MEMBER of every panel wants something different!
Your Aria List
Make sure you choose your starting piece carefully. Don't choose something long just because you think you're only going get to sing one aria - that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Know how to get from your first piece to every other item on your list. Don't presume you know what the panel are going to ask for second. Do provide contrast, as otherwise why would we choose a second aria? If on the day you don't feel up to your stretch piece, take it off your list.
Send music / repertoire info in advance if it's not standard, especially if you're planning to start with that aria. Take 20 seconds to talk to your pianist before you start. Make sure you sing at your tempo, not his or hers. Don't take your own pianist unless you're sure they're better than the one provided!
Don't presume there is somewhere to warm up / change at the venue without checking. If you're running late, phone!
Have an Opinion
Have an opinion; have many opinions, and bring them to the table. Nothing is deadlier than music managed rather than lived, performance designed not to offend. Avoid asking for permission in the moment of performance. Sometimes I feel like auditioners are painting themselves white, like apartments that could be rented by anyone. Believe that we truly want to know who you are.
In the service of the above - work religiously and scrupulously to inform yourself of everything, from how Italian vowels sound, to where the orchestra can and can't allow you to take time, to the areas in which your own voice and body are most and least capable. That work will last the rest of your life, so it won't be finished when you audition - but we can tell if you are doing it or not.
And finally, I just ran across this terrific audition advice blog from Bill Florescu of Florentine Opera Company: The Opera Audition.