|As opera professionals, you are in business for yourself. |
“You need to be entrepreneurial and in charge of your own career,” says Miguel Rodriguez, founder and president of Athlone Artists. A former professional tenor and arts administrator himself, Rodriguez knows the hiring landscape for singers from every angle. Here are the top items on his must-do list.
|Know where you want to go. Rodriguez is big on establishing a sense of shared vision with artists. “I am always evaluating: Will this person and I be in sync in terms of who they are as singers and what their goals are?”, he says. “To me, the most exciting part of this work is establishing a strategy and saying, where are you today? Where do you want to be in five years? In ten? What ratio of concert vs opera work are you striving for?” Goals can change. But it helps to spend some time thinking about them so that the people you trust can help you get there.|
Have an up-to-date, navigable website. “If you are going to make it in this industry, you need to have a website that is filled with the materials we want to see,” he advises. “Casting staff will first survey your website for biographical information and audio/video samples, before they decide to hear you in a live-audition.” It should lead off with professional photos and link to current musical samples, your past and upcoming performances and any critical acclaim. “You need to be very savvy and aware that what you put out online should represent you at your best — that your headshot really reflects what you look like today and not 10 years ago, that the website has musical samples that are current, and that your bio and schedule are up to date.” In addition to your website, you should also maintain an artist page on social media (separate from your personal page) and keep it refreshed and always professional.
Connect regularly with your agent. “Do not be what I call the MIA (missing in action),” Rodriguez says. “Schedule update meetings and strategy meetings on a regular basis. Set benchmarks and be patient! If you don’t talk to your agent at least once a month, you’re not doing your job.” Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions: “You need to be very honest: ‘What about my presentation is not agreeable with what you’re looking for?’”
Network, network, network. Get email addresses for every artistic director or conductor you work with.
“Keep in touch, let them know what you’re doing and what your progress is,” Rodriguez says. “No one can do that better than you can. Feeding your network puts you on the forefront of the minds of casting directors and you are more likely to be cast when that’s the case.”
Always be prepared, be a good colleague, and don’t burn bridges. “There’s nothing better than working with talent that is prepared, amiable and collegial,” Rodriguez says. “There’s a lot of good talent out there. So anywhere you go, be a good colleague. Nobody wants to work with prima donnas.” This does not mean you or your agent shouldn’t ensure that you are being treated well. It does mean that a little extra effort to work smoothly with others pays off. “A few years ago, I cast a well-known singer with an amazing virtuosic voice. The singer unfortunately behaved remarkably arrogantly during rehearsals: always arguing with the conductor about tempi (rather than collaborating), staying isolated during breaks, and resisting any stage direction. At one point I even truly believed we were going to have to replace them. Afterward, in speaking with other colleagues about this experience, I learned that within the industry this person is known as ‘Johnny One Note’ because they only get to perform one time in every house where they sing.” “After a performance of one of my artists, I really enjoy getting positive, unprompted feedback from the artistic director they collaborated with. It’s a great sign when the AD says to me, ‘You know, that soprano was such a pleasure to work with, and we’d love to have her back.’ In fact, there’s nothing more rewarding for the artist and agent. It sounds so simple – but it is true: working with prepared, uncomplicated, gracious and collaborative talent is always a goal.”
— Andrew Meacham