Preparing for Auditions – Part 2

What are general directors and other administrators looking for during your audition. Florentine Opera General Director William Florescu previously discussed the voice, the body, your team, and your materials. Now he takes you further down the road of the audition process. This is the second part the Preparing for YAP Auditions article. The entire article was published in the October issue of Classical Singer magazine.
Where to Apply
Once you have all of these pieces put together, you need to make the right decision on where to apply. The biggest question you will wrestle with as a young singer is: To pay to sing or not? You will have to balance the higher probability of being accepted into a pay-to-sing program against the varying value of different pay-to-sings.
The answer here is to do your research first. The reality is that some of these programs are purely money gatherers for the people running them, while others can certainly help you move forward. By the way, that directly correlates to whether or not a pay-to-sing should go on your résumé.
When it comes to programs that pay, some of the things you will want to consider are whether the program is year-round, seasonal, or summer only and is it AGMA or non-AGMA?
In most instances, you will want to delay looking at year-round programs until you complete your academic training—unless, of course, you have a special circumstance (e.g. you’re an older student) and you want to take a hiatus so that you can get a Young Artist experience.
With summer programs, some are tiered for different level singers, so these are often good choices while still in school. The better pay-to-sings can often be good during the latter part of undergraduate education, while the paid programs are often directed more toward graduate- and diploma-level students.
Many singers ask what age limits are for Young Artist Programs, and it varies. You can reasonably expect that 35 will be the upper limit for most programs, though you will find many companies deal with age on a case-by-case basis (e.g., a singer having a later start).
Today, there are a variety of ways to deliver your audition package to its source and to find out about auditions. More and more companies are using YAP Tracker for applications. There are wonderful resources out there for finding out about auditions—Classical Singer, Opera America Career Guide, etc. In short, leave no stone unturned!
At the Audition
When you get to the actual audition, here are some things to consider.
Please give this one thoughtful consideration! You should dress classy, but don’t draw attention to the outfit—it’s you that should be remembered! Think neutral and you won’t go wrong. And remember, you don’t need jodhpurs and a riding crop to sell a pants role if you’re a mezzo. You want to be able to sell a variety of characters through the strength of your singing, acting, and presentation, no matter what outfit you are in. All of this being said, how you dress should show respect for the audition in which you are taking part. Obviously for competitions, this will be a different ball game. But you will often get specific instructions for those situations.
Keep your hair out of your face! This goes for men and women. Next to your voice, your face and your eyes are the most expressive tool you have—don’t take that advantage away from yourself.
Have your music accompanist ready, with the music easy for page turns and cuts clearly marked. This is a problem often! Having your pieces ready to go (even to the point of having different copies of the same aria with different cuts) will save valuable time for your singing, perhaps giving you a chance at a second piece.
Entering and Exiting
Be confident and friendly, and make eye contact. Before you even begin singing, are you aware that the audition has already begun? And it doesn’t end until you leave the room. Be friendly, confident, and professional as you leave. You may think you sang an awful audition, but we don’t need to know you think that. (And often, you are wrong about that anyway!)
Song Introductions
Pronounce the titles of your pieces correctly. Again, this is an issue far more often than you might imagine. It may sound silly, but practice introducing each of your pieces, saying the title, so that when you are in your audition (and nervous), you won’t trip up. Auditions have been won or lost on such small things!
First Song Selection
Assume you will get to sing only one piece and pick the one that gives the most complete snapshot of you as a performer. This, of course, assumes that you will get to choose (which actually is often the case).
Getting Feedback
You have done the audition and you would like some feedback. Is this possible? It is, but you need to find out the company’s policy before asking. Some companies—and here I really mean the artistic or general director—are positive or negative about this, so do your homework. While one can ask at the audition, or by calling the company, a singer might get the best results by checking with colleagues through Facebook or other various online forums.
Begin any written request for feedback by thanking the auditioner in advance for taking the time to respond.
Once you receive feedback, don’t overweigh any advice you receive. Rather, add it to other advice you receive and then try to find commonalities that can help you in your development. I describe this process like this: If you hear something once, ponder it, but don’t lose sleep over it. If you hear it multiple times from multiple sources, then it could be worth heeding.
Remember, though, feedback doesn’t just teach you how to take advice, it also teaches you to have confidence in what you think as well.
In Conclusion
What am I looking for in an audition? Simply the complete package! Yes, first and front and center, I want a fine voice. In addition, I want to see a command of linguistics—diction, pronunciation, inflection. I also look for a sense of preparedness and professionalism in performance, dress, speaking, and the quality of your résumé and photo. These are all harbingers of whether or not you will be a good colleague.
But we also want to hear and see a confident delivery that is dramatically true, an “individual” artistry and not a sense of mimicry, and a desire to communicate and not a “defensive” audition. This is less about not making mistakes and more about really saying something through your performance. It is not important whether I agree with your interpretation, but that I see that you are taking a risk and using your own creative voice.
So after careful preparation and attention to the details outlined here, go and take some risks this audition season!

William Florescu became the General Director of Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera Company in May of 2005. During the 2011-12 season, he judged the Metropolitan Opera Auditions in various U.S. cities, presented masterclasses for the Classical Singer Convention, judged the McCammon Vocal Competition for Fort Worth Opera, and directed Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah for the Florentine Opera. He also maintains an active blog, The Opera Audition.



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