Last week Deanna Hoying listened to over 80 singers vie for the four postions in Kentucky Opera's Studio Artists Program.
I sat down with her to talk about how it was going...
Me: So, how are the auditions going?
Deanna Hoying: "I've been really happy about this year's auditions. We have more artists audtioning and from all over the country even the west coast. I think the program has been gaining attention within the young artist circles. Our program offers great opportunity for a young singer to directly work with mainstage artists and conductors while performing compromario roles as well as attending master classes. More than that, I think the Composer Workshop gives Kentucky Opera more crediblity with young singers because it offers a valuable and unique opportunity for these students to work directly with living composers, which isn't available anywhere else.
Me: What advice would you give someone who is about to sing for you?
DH: Your audition starts before you arrive. Your headshot should actually look like you. If you change your hair dramatically, get a new head shot. If you headshot is 10 years old, get a new headshot. We need to know what you look like because we are actually casting for real roles on stage.
ME Interjecting: (This is advice not just for those new to auditioning. I can't tell you how often we get a black and white headshot thats 25 years old from mainstage artists. It's pretty rediculous and we often joke about it. Who looks least like their headshots. And one more thing. You can always take the color out but you can't add it in. Don't do black and white!)
DH: If you are on time, you are late. If you are 30 minues early, you are on time. If we finish someone 4 minutes early and you are not there, it does count against you and you will have to work harder when you get in the room. Allow for traffic, parking and accidents. No one will fault you for being early, but you will always be at fault for being late.
Don't make excuses when you walk in the door. If you have a cold, we will be able to hear it. It's a part of the deal, people get sick and still have to sing.
Moc auditions are a great idea. Get your friends together and sing for eachother, sing for your family, strangers, who ever you can get to listen to you and take the criticism. Have them tell you how you look, how you're standing, if you are too stiff. The entire presentation is the package, and the more feedback you get, the more confident you will feel when you get in the room.
Sing something that you do well. That is the most important thing. You only have 10 minutes. You have to wow us in that 10 minutes and if you don't get it in the first three, it's not going to happen. I can tell in the first breath or the first two notes if this is going to be sublime or a bomb, so I would rather hear a brilliant Sempre Libre than an awful attempt at Sarah's Aria from Jake Heggie's The End of the Affair. Don't bring in something you're working on, bring in something you have.
Don't be afraid to get into character. When someone stands static and stiff it makes them look nervous (whether they are or not)and it doesn't tell us anything about them. If you can get into character a bit but not over do it, it will tell us that you know the plot, who you are supposed to be, how you are feeling and that you can ACT. Opera is a lot about the voice but it's also acting. Those who are animated always get noticed.
Have a couple of unique pieces on your rep list. Somthing that's not done all the time but something you do well. We don't want an entire day of Carmen, Figaro or Flute. If it's unusual we will probably ask you to do it, so don't put it on the list unless you can actually sing it well. We also will look for modern pieces by American composers. So many singers can't sing in english, and with the Composers Workshop, it will be a part of the program regardless of what the Kentucky Opera puts on the mainstage. We will also look for works by our friends, Carslile Floyd, Jake Heggie or Ben Moore. These gentlemen have been to our house and have worked with our kids and we love them and love to hear them. Again, only if you can actually sing it and sing it well. You've got to know it like you know your name.
In any way you can make yourself stand out in the best way possible, do so.
We will be announcing the new Studio Artists in January. Check back to see who wins!