|Every opera singer knows the feeling. You’re standing on a stage, getting ready to sing to a panel of judges who will determine your fate. Tenor Miguel Rodriguez lived that life for many years around the world before moving stateside and building a 20-year career as an executive for some of the country’s most acclaimed cultural organizations. Miguel has sat on those very panels choosing singers for opera, oratorio and concert work and understands the situation well from both sides of the judges’ table. Now the founder and president of Athlone Artists, Miguel wants to impart some of what he has learned as a singer and cultivated through years on the business side. |
Nowhere else do artistic instincts and crafty entrepreneurship merge as on that lonely audition stage. And when it comes to closing the sale on that next role or symphonic gig, the arias you prepare are just as crucial to success or as your voice itself, Miguel believes. Here are his five keys to help you make the right choices in what to bring to the audition.
|1. Know your voice. Each singer typically selects the first of five arias offered to the panel. Judges may ask to hear a second or a third at their discretion. “When I am on the panel, I want to quickly understand who you are as a singer,” Miguel says. “I want to know if this is a spinto tenor or a lyric tenor. Or is it a heldentenor? Is this a bass-baritone, a baritone or a bass? Is it a big Verdi mezzo or a lyric mezzo? Is it a mezzo that has coloratura or not? There are many different types of sopranos.” The choice of arias you offer, he says, is “almost like a calling card that you offer to someone getting to know you.” |
2. Lead with your best. “The first aria you sing is the most important. It grabs their attention and will determine whether they want to hear a different aria. Always sing the best piece that you can sing, the one you can sing in your sleep, through nerves or whatever, your best showpiece. If there is an earthquake, you can sing it through. And the first few bars are very important, so make sure they are clean and musical.” However…
3. Try to align your first aria choice with the opera being cast. “If you have an audition for someone who is looking for a Figaro and that’s part of your repertoire, sing that first! They don’t want to hear a Britten piece to start, even though you may think your Britten is fantastic and out of this world and they’ve got to hear it. No. It is confusing. I think, ‘Why doesn’t he want us to hear the Figaro?’” Also, if they are running behind in their audition schedule, which happens often, you may miss the opportunity to sing a second aria.
4. Use contrast to tell a story. “If you have contrasting arias in your repertory list, then show the contrast within the styles that define your voice. If you offer a Mozart aria, a bel canto, maybe one Verdi, a French aria and then a new work in English, then I know who you are.” But stay true to yourself as a singer, who you are, what your voice can do. They should all align within your own instrument. Do not undersell or oversell.”
5. Throw in a Mozart. “If you have any Mozart aria listed, chances are they will ask for it. And there’s a reason for that. Mozart is a chestnut. But even the simplest of arias by Mozart will show every aspect of your voice. It will show the best parts, the best qualities, and at the same time any technical deficiencies in a singer‘s voice. So, if you have Mozart in your repertoire, great. But make sure that you sing it clean and flawlessly because that is what they’re going to be listening for.”
— Andrew Meacham