Friday, September 29, 2006

Autumn and the Music

So happy to be entering the part of our annual cycle that's all about the music. Well, with a little paperwork, airplanes, and hotels thrown in. As willing as I am to deal with marketing, fundraising, box office, and other similar demons, I am always deliriously happy to find myself in October and November. There's a reason I'm not a general director at a mainstream opera company, and this is it. I may be proven wrong someday, but there's no amount of extra money and faux prestige that could equal the satisfaction of spending at least a few months of the year dealing with (almost) nothing but singers and repertoire.

Speaking of PR...

As often as I talk tough about not caring what the critics (official and otherwise) say about our season, I have to admit that by the end of every summer I'm exhausted by the whole subject. Truth is, when the press is good, we all have to use it as one of the public faces of our organizations. Who of us is above sprinkling annual reports and brochures with quotes from favorable reviews? (The same goes for individual performers - press packers, websites, bios...) And if all our press turned bad, we'd be in serious trouble with all our stakeholders. So we persist in caring. Or at least paying attention. Yet it's essential not to truly believe any of it, good or bad. Face it. Any of us worth our salt knows when something works and when it doesn't.

There was a mini-firestorm this summer in response to ionarts' entry on our Figaro. I do appreciate the first reader comment that does the math in regards to the audience numbers. (Two performances that are half-full in a theatre whose capacity is 7,000 is still a pretty healthy calculation.) But the comments go on in a totally different direction from there. I'm faint enough of heart that I simply can't invest much in either side of such a discussion. I appreciate that there are people who love us and what we do (thank you!!!), but I somehow can't get fired up enough to protest.

More important to me are the discussions I've had at the grocery store, at church, and last night at my son's high school. (Back-to-school night. A truly sadistic thing. But that's another story.) Friends and neighbors who hardly ever go to the opera make a point of telling me what a beautiful evening they had at Figaro. Would we rather have 10,000 of those people instead of 7,000? Of course. And that's why, even though it keeps me awake some nights, I persist in fussing with the damn marketing.


And, while I'm at it, for heaven's sake, we're a young artist training company. If you want multi-million dollar productions by an international-level company, then pay your money and go to WNO or the Met. If you want to hear some terrific music and be entertained by energetic and prodigiously talented young professional singers, by all means, give us a whirl.

OK, back to the music. Tidying up my aria playlist on my iPod this week. About 1,500 tracks that represent about 650 arias in the repertoire. (Including multiple interpretations of the most popular ones.) The aria playlist will be set on shuffle mode for the next 2 months, reminding me of the goal.

In October and November I will hear somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200 arias, both in live audition and on CDs that are submitted with applications. And while I do, I have to keep my ears fresh. Before I can hear a few dozen versions of "Dei miei bollenti spiriti" by aspiring tenors, I have to go back to Bergonzi, Gigli, and Wunderlich. In order for my ears and my mind to sort out the relative merits of 50 versions of Pamina's aria from Magic Flute, I need to go to Schwarzkopf, Janowitz, and Lear (and more recently, Dorothea Röschmann).

Did I tell you how much better this is than spreadsheets and ad copy?

Sorry. We keep telling all those aspiring arts administrators that our work days aren't spent listening to music and devising dream casts and productions. And that's true. There's satisfaction in a water-tight budget and a well-received grant proposal. But for now, we're on the verge of October. Let the music commence!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Post-Season Ruminations

This is the time of year when the idea of balance seeps back into my consciousness. As exciting as the summer season can be, it's rarely a time for anything approaching a healthy lifestyle. Of course, we in the performing arts are not alone in this sickness, but we're pretty good at it. I do know lots of workaholics in other businesses who don't enjoy the benefits of a career in music. But despite their type-A lifestyles, they don't seem to be as adept as we are at throwing our entire souls on the line on a regular basis.

A lot is written about the fact that singers' bodies are their instruments, and therefore the peaks and valleys of a performing career are almost inextricable from their mental and physical health. I adore singers, but I'm thankful almost daily that I'm not one. (Sorry!) I have a difficult enough time separating my psyche from my work as it is. I know performers who remain pretty detached, but I'm not sure that their music is as compelling as it could be. Ergo, does throwing ourselves on the line doom us to a life of neurosis? Fortunately not.


I've watched performers of all stripes - professionals and amateurs, those who are spellbinding and others who are merely competent, some who are well-adjusted and many who are desperately unhappy - for most of my professional life. Regardless of the level of their natural gift, their work ethic, or their chosen career path, those who run the race well and happily are those who balance the craziness of what they do for a living with a sense of connection and traction with the rest of the world. What the "rest of the world" constitutes is as different as they are, but they always have something outside of the rehearsal room and off the stage.

And even though I'm not a singer, during the periods of my year that consume too much of my life (the summer production season and the fall audition season), I can rarely find this balance. And here I am, near the end of the 6-week period that separates those two seasons, and I've just caught a glimpse of it. Wish me luck.

2007 Begins in Cyberspace

Our beta version of the online application marches bravely into the future. A few hiccups, but generally, it's working. If you're applying, and you're having any trouble, you can let us know at But if you're having any trouble and you're approaching a deadline (which, for Philadelphia and New York, is October 6), don't fight with the website. Send a hard copy. Our goal is to make this much easier on singers (and comments so far show that we're doing just that), but we're doing it on a wing and a prayer (meaning with no money), and there are hurdles to overcome. I know more about PHP scripts and SMTP programs that I hoped I ever would, but it seems to be paying off.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Technical Difficulties

If you're searching for the online audition application overnight Monday (9/18) into early Tuesday (9/19), you may be having difficulty. We're reformatting and rebooting our server. Check back later or Tuesday or early Wednesday morning.

The printable application is still available at

If you submitted an application prior to this afternoon, and you received a confirmation email, there's no reason to be concerned. We've gotten over 60 online applications already, and until tonight, all was working smoothly.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Apologies for the paucity of new entries. The post-season fatigue was significant, and right now I seem to only have enough energy to take care of essentials. But the blog is still getting about 5,000 readers a month ("unique" visitors as they're called in the world of internet statistics.... but then again, you opera folks are nothing if not unique...), so I'd better get back with the program.

Yes, this means that I'm not giving up, even though I fully expected to. Enough folks have urged me to consider continuing the blog, so I'll give it a go. Look for frequent and reasonably substantive posts during the height of the audition season (mid-October through Thanksgiving). Until then, I'll write weekly. There are a few entries that I began during this past season that I'd like to finish and post - important stuff that I hesitated to publish at the time for various reasons.

The photo above is from my mom's garden. She died suddenly last week, far too soon. Spend time today with someone you love.

I'll be back next week.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Looking for Audition Information?

Information on our fall auditions will be available soon (I promise!) at

Our new online application process is up and running at

The basic information, including audition tour dates and sites, may be found below.


Philadelphia - November 6 (Application Deadline October 6)
New York - November 8 through 12 (Application Deadline October 6)
Houston - November 13 (Application Deadline October 16)
San Francisco - November 15 (Application Deadline October 16)
Cincinnati - November 16 & 17 (Application Deadline October 16)
Chicago - November 18 (Application Deadline October 20)
Vienna, VA - November 20 & 21 (Application Deadline October 20)


The online application must be completed in a single browser session, so before you
begin, be sure that you have the following information:

  • Which audition site you’d like to request.
  • A list of young artist training programs in which you’ve participated.
  • A list of any awards, grant or prizes you may have received.
  • A list of up to 5 complete roles you’ve performed.
  • Your 4 audition arias. (Comprising varied styles and languages, including one aria
    by either Mozart or Handel and one aria in English.)
  • Credit card information in order to pay the non-refundable $25 application fee.
  • Your résumé and headshot as files to upload. (You do have the option of sending
    the résumé and/or headshot by mail.)
  • IMPORTANT: Even if you meet the online submission deadline, any
    accompanying materials sent by regular mail must meet the postmark

If you’d like to apply online, click go here to begin the online application process.


If you’d like to apply by mail, go to to navigate to the printable PDF application.



  • We do not automatically confirm receipt of applications sent by mail.
  • Applications that do not meet the deadline will not be considered.
  • If you apply online, you will receive a confirmation email when you complete the
    application process.


  • All applicants will be notified as to whether or not they have been scheduled for an
    audition approximately 2 weeks before the requested audition date.
  • If you do not hear from us, and it is less than 2 weeks before your requested date,
    please contact us at


  • An accompanist will be provided, but you may bring your own accompanist if you prefer.
  • Singers may change audition repertoire. Please bring an updated list to the audition.
  • Singers will begin their auditions with the aria of their choice. An additional aria may be


Applicants may increase their chances of being scheduled for an audition by submitting an
audio CD. Please label your CD clearly with your name and the selections it contains. Include at least two arias, one of which must be in Italian.


  • Fill out all fields except “Awards”, “Complete Roles” and “Audition Repertoire.”
  • We will contact you to determine mutually agreeable audition repertoire.
  • You must submit a résumé, but no headshot is necessary.
  • In addition, apprentice coach and apprentice director candidates must submit two letters of recommendation.
  • Repertoire for the 2007 season has not been chosen and will be determined based on the strengths of the various voice types heard during the audition tour.
  • Approximate season dates for 2007 residencies are May 14 through August 18.
  • Filene Young Artists receive a bi-weekly stipend, including the terms of a standard AGMA soloist contract for those artists cast in the opera presented at the Filene Center.
  • Although housing expenses are not included in the compensation package, Wolf Trap Opera assists all incoming artists in locating housing with volunteer hosts within reasonable commuting distance. Access to a car is necessary since there is no public transportation convenient to Wolf Trap.
  • The Wolf Trap Opera Company summer residency is intended for aspiring singers, coaches, and directors who are at an interim point between academic training and full-time professional careers.
  • Exceptional talent and operatic career potential are the most important criteria for selection.
  • Applicants should be able to present a secure technique, evidence of solid training, a distinctive vocal quality, a high level of personal artistry, and readiness to perform carefully selected solo roles.
  • Most successful candidates are currently enrolled in or have recently completed graduate or professional degrees, and/or are not more than 2-3 years past completion of academic training.