Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Naked Toes and Aria Advice

More recent audition season questions (from the comments section of previous posts) - with completely subjective and non-authoritative answers brought to you by the entire WTOC audition panel: KPW, Rahree, and CameraMan. Read on at your peril.

If you're a colleague who disagrees with our advice, please say so. One of the most important things that I'd love to get across to singers is that the folks on the other side of the table don't always agree. Ergo, it's often futile to try to second-guess us.

Slavic Skepticism

How do you feel about singers including a Russian or Czech aria in their package, if they are proficient in those languages? Is it useful to hear, or should we just stick with standard languages?

CameraMan: Sometimes these arias can fill a void in appropriate rep for young singers or show an area of expertise you may want to highlight. I'm in favor of anything that's both appropriate and spotlights an interesting part of your music-making.

Rahree: Sometimes it’s really nice to hear something other than Pamina or Figaro…

KPW: You're always safe with me because my Russian stinks and my Czech is worse. (Not for lack of trying during those years when I coached, but I never solved the puzzle.) Granted, over the years, I've developed a decent ear for the standard arias, but you can still get away with a lot more. Seriously, a fair amount of this stuff is too mature (Fach-wise and artistically) for a lot of emerging artists, but there is a small swath of perfectly appropriate rep.

To Wagner or Not to Wagner

I've been getting conflicting opinions, so I figured I'd ask for another to throw in the mix! I've been singing "Einsam in truben Tagen" from "Lohengrin" recently and have gotten mixed opinions about adding it to my aria package as a young singer (early 20's) - some coaches tell me to use it as my German aria and that those on the audition panels will know that I don't intend to sing Elsa any time soon but that I just happen to sing this aria well, while others tell me to avoid it completely until I am older. Any thoughts?

KPW: Always tough to judge without hearing you, because it's not impossible for someone your age to sing Elsa;s aria. But it is quite unlikely, and you will engender a certain amount of skepticism (I'd even say criticism) before you open your mouth. At the very least, you'll begin the aria with a lot to prove.

CameraMan: Red flags often go up when some people see Wagner on a young singer's rep list. I always recommend singers have 4 out of 5 arias that represent roles that they can sing tomorrow. Including one that shows which direction you think you're going can be helpful, but I wouldn't start with it.

French Filling

I'd really appreciate some help finalizing my audition repertoire. I'm in need of a French aria, and would also appreciate your thoughts on the rest of my package. Here's my list: "Se il padre perdei" (Idomeneo), "Klange der Heimat" (Die Fledermaus), "Ain't it a pretty night" (Susannah), "Caro nome" (Rigoletto)

CameraMan: Based on your rep, the Manon arias seem a logical choice.

KPW: In your existing list, Susannah & Rosalinde are more lyric, but Ilia & Gilda certainly lean higher and lighter. Manon does strike a nice balance if you have the top for it. Perhaps Juliette? She's much like Gilda in the first act, and certainly needs more midvoice substance in the last act. Either way, you should be after something that sparkles and bubbles a bit more than any of the arias currently on the list - show a little spunk and flair if it suits your personality.

This Little Piggy

A question about audition attire. I know some people are positively rabid about open-toed vs. closed-toed shoes on women. What's your take?

CameraMan: I'm soooo the wrong person to answer this. Sing and dress well, and we probably won't spend time debating it. Unless they're super cute, then Rahree will talk about them until we get to the next city.

Rahree: Cute shoes are always worth extra points. But closed OR open toed shoes worn WITHOUT foundation garments during a coloratura aria? Unforgiveable. Worry less about the shoes, more about nipples and jiggles, ladies…

KPW: Can we tell we were scarred last year by a lack of appropriate support? (And not the vocal kind.) But back to the shoes... I have heard a lot about this and get asked this question a lot. And I'm bumfuzzled. Who cares about this? I'm not sure I can even see your toes from where I sit. If anyone out there disagrees, please write and tell me why.

Making Yourself Crazy

I'm a young tenor, on the fuller side of lyric, and I'm beginning to know my strengths in the audition room, and to focus on them. My question is in regards to Tom Rakewell's aria, which I've been doing as long as I've been auditioning. I feel that I sing it well, and my coaches agree, but in last season's auditions, it was asked for only twice in 13 auditions, and neither time I did get an offer (though both times, I received encouragement). Is this the best measure of whether an aria should be sung?

CameraMan: Trust your teachers and coaches. If you and they both think it's a strong aria in your package, then don't spend your time trying to second guess audition panels. If you think it's one of your stronger arias and WANT to sing it, consider starting with it.

Rahree: If you sing it well, and the hands-in-pockets English [crossover/Broadway] tunes don’t show you off as well, I’d say it’s fine.

KPW: Yeah, this is one of those cases where you're coming to conclusions that may have nothing to do with this aria or the way you sing it. It may depend on what else is in your package, and for what kinds of audition situations (YAPs? schools? companies?) you feel it didn't work. Or there may be no discernable pattern. Or (less likely), you don't sing it as well as you think you do. Do continue to solicit some specific feedback on its effectiveness in demonstrating your strengths, but don't give it up on the basis of what you described above.

Keep 'em coming if you dare.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to give your insights!

I also have a question about filling in the French hole in my audition package. My current rep is: Dove sono (Le Nozze di Figaro), Father I beg you (Tartuffe), Tu che di gel sei cinta (Turandot), and Klange der Heimat (Die Fledermaus).

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that you don't pay much attention to shoes! I know you've posted about this before, but I get confused about how much moving and gesturing I should be doing and whether it's ever okay to just be simple and still. I do pretty well when I'm acting on stage, but auditions are so weird and artificial. I know this is something I need to work on on my own, but I'd love guidelines or warnings.

Anonymous said...

I cannot thank you enough for taking the time out of your buys schedule to answer these questions. It really is refreshing to read honest and straight-forward answers from the other side of the table.

I do hope you don't get sick of people asking about their audition packages, but it's just such a fine line to assemble a good one.

Recently in an audition (where I offered Tu che di gel, Je veux vivre, Ach ich fuhl's, and Sul fil d'un soffio etesio), I was chastised for offering both the Juliette and the Pamina arias because "everybody sings those [pieces]."

I realize that these arias (esp. Pamina's) are sung very often, but I wouldn't categorize either of them as easy and I put a lot of thought and work into picking arias that really show me off.

What is your take on this matter? Are you so sick of Ach, ich fuhl's that if someone really sang and acted it well - it still would be an unwise choice? I'm so curious.

Thank you again for your time.

Anonymous said...

This is such a wonderful post! Thank you for the opportunity to ask questions!

As a lyric mezzo, my struggle is in finding an excellent piece in English. "When I am Laid in Earth" is currently my English selection, but I feel I could benefit from something more modern. I just haven't found an aria that speaks to me.

The rest of my audition package looks like this:
-Una voce poco fa (Il Barbiere di Siviglia)
-Fatime's Aria (Oberon)
-Ah! mon fils! (Le Prophete)
-Ombra mai fu (Serse) OR Ah, se a morir mi chiama (Lucio Silla)

Thank you again for your help!

Anonymous said...

If the audition panel is "rabid" about your shoes you've got bigger problems....dress decently and appropriate to the time of day or the round of the competition. Cleavage down to there at 11am is not my thing. Maybe for others. I am also not fond of the wrinkled, "I slept in it" look.

Kristin said...

I was at Wolf Trap this past summer to do a workshop/masterclass type afternoon and somehow managed to have five people comment (positively!) on my shoes (and I was the presenter!). One of my singers even found me in a photo Kim posted to the blog by my shoes when my back was facing the camera.

I love shoes and think they are fun. Unless you're auditioning in the summer somewhere really warm, I would stay away from sandals. However, I am a huge fan of the peeptoe pump (The aforementioned shoes of mine were Stuart Weitzmann, red quasar peeptoe pumps that I got on a crazy sale). They are classy and show a bit of sexy toe.

However, they do show toes. if you're going to show toe, make sure you have a fresh pedicure. No, in an audition, I won't stare, but my mother did teach me as much. And since the front of the shoe has been cut out, you can't wear pantyhose. So, it's only logical that you be clean shaven and moisturized to get away with such. However, as one of Kim's colleagues mentioned, for many of us, even the best-groomed legs don't mean that we shouldn't wear support garments (especially if you're singing and breathing all over the place). I recommend Spanx for all your support garment needs, ladies (and many of my clients and friends do too).

Cute shoes don't mean that you get to be sloppy.