Wednesday, November 09, 2005

New York Day 3

Report from the Road

Getting into the rhythm. Every 10-minute interval is filled with about 7 -8 minutes of singing, a minute of chatting/welcoming, and a minute of documentation. The database is an amazingly helpful thing, for it allows us to hear singers’ performances in context.

What’s on the database? This is a simplification, of course, but we’re able to access the following information on one screen:

  • How many times the singer has auditioned for us before. (Comments from previous years are also available, but we tend not to look at them until the current audition has passed. Keeps the memory of a previous bad sing from influencing our responses.)
  • Graduate schools, conservatories, and young artist programs attended. (The more opportunity an artist has had to participate high-level training programs, the more we expect of him/her. Someone who hasn’t had access to top-flight instruction can have a successful audition on the strength of natural talent. But a singer who has had a high level of experience and professional exposure can’t get away with sloppy skills.)
  • Teachers, coaches, colleagues. We know who to call if we have questions about your past engagements. (Often this works in an artist’s favor, especially those who don’t do stellar auditions but are dynamite onstage.)
  • Roles sung and awards won.

The database is a conscientious singer’s friend. It allows us to make informed, considered responses to the whole artist, not just 7.5 minutes of singing out of context.

Shop Talk

First impressions, continued. For sopranos.

If you begin with Juliette’s waltz or “Chacun le sait” from La fille du regiment, be sure that under any circumstances (a cold, too much or too little caffeine, a sleepless night, a drop in barometric pressure…) you can sing those initial cadenzas in tune and without any casualties. If you end up in a different key than you started in, you’re faced with re-winning our confidence. The same thing happens at the ends of arias (long cadenzas that stray), but then we’re likely to chalk it up to fatigue. Troubles at the beginning can be caused by nerves, I know. But if the cadenza makes you nervous, start with something else.

News from Yale

This is old news, but I keep forgetting to put it in the blog. Yale has received an endowment that will pay tuition for all School of Music degree candidates. Curtis Institute is the only conservatory that currently does this. If you haven't heard about this yet, go here.

Opera by Day (The Little Prince)…

Ran upstairs at lunchtime to catch the dress rehearsal of Act II of The Little Prince – it opens here at City Opera on Saturday. Wolf-Trappers Keith Phares, Josh Winograde (in costume pajamas at right, demonstrating how not to behave when on an audition panel), and Hanan Alattar in the cast. A dress rehearsal audience full of rabidly enthusiastic New York City schoolchildren.

…Chamber Music by Night (Borromeo Quartet)

Another facet of my job involves bringing artists to The Barns at Wolf Trap for our chamber music series. We're hoping to feature the Borromeo String Quartet next season, so I took the opportunity to hear them tonight at Alice Tully Hall.

I didn’t have a chance to do my intermission eavesdropping, for I had some phone business to take care of. But an evening of chamber music was just what the doctor ordered. Even though 45 minutes of it was Schoenberg. An early work (Quartet #1), but still a bit of a difficult sit in a few stretches. Truly rewarding, though, for the patient.

And chamber music audiences are (for the large part) nothing if not patient. A great 'flip-side' to opera audiences. The latter are loud, opinionated, and usually engage in love-hate relationships with their artists and their repertoire. But chamber music audiences abound in equanimity and sheer love of music. Many of them were or are amateur players themselves. You can imagine them doing Tai Chi and drinking chai. I’m a chamber music personality trapped in an opera world. :)

"Il est très simple : on ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux."

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