The following post was guest written by our wonderful teacher Anne, who’s also a professional opera singer.
I am in a room filled with people who I don’t know, and some who I do but I am too nervous to talk to. I can hear everyone in the other room (again, some who I know and most who I don’t). I go through my words in my head over and over, missing syllables in my anxiety. I pace back and forth, nervously tug at my dress, try not to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and tell myself, “I love doing this, this is fun, and everyone in there wants me to do well.” I am at the Southern California Opera Network auditions, and even though I must do at least five to ten auditions a year, I am incredibly nervous.
The worst thing you can do at an audition is listen to someone else singing. Nothing makes me feel like my voice is small and insignificant like the woman going in before me who just sing “Un Bel Di” or “Tu Che Di Gel Sei Cinta,” and here I am, with my light voice trying to follow the great ladies of Puccini (whose arias I would never audition with). And then my head starts spinning. Is my voice big enough? Is it loud enough? Is it good enough? Your best bet, the one thing you can do to make auditions a little more bearable, is to not listen to the person in front of you. And that is hard, but find something else to focus on. Run your words in your head or count your steps, or run through what your character is feeling. I’ll tell you a secret: your voice will never sound like their voice. And their voice will never sound like yours. And that is totally fine.
But what about the judges? I have representatives from multiple opera companies in Southern California all looking at me, scrutinizing my singing, my resume, my performance, my dress choice. I have worked with some of these people (what if I do so badly they won’t want to work with me again) and I haven’t worked with most of them (what if I do so badly they won’t want to work with me ever). This is what I tell myself: they want me to do well. They have an opera to cast, and they have been sitting in that room for hours listening to singers. They don’t want to hear someone do poorly, they don’t want to make fun of me as soon as I leave, they want to make a note on my resume that says, “Maybe she could work out.”
And now we begin. And we get to the hardest part of the audition. The dreaded leg shake, the sweaty palms, the tight breathing that makes support difficult. I tell you what I do. I perform. I use the space. I have the character in my mind and I perform as if I were playing the character in the opera. I have thought about how the character would move, and I give them that character. After all, I love to sing. And I love to perform. So I might as well turn something I don’t like doing, auditioning, into something I do enjoy doing, which is performing.
So let’s review: First, don’t listen to the people going before you. You won’t ever sound like them, and they won’t ever sound like you, and that is a good thing. Two, pretend that the judges like you. Walk in believing that they are on your side and they want you to do well, and most of the time, they probably do. Three, perform. Don’t just get up there and sing, perform. After all, you wouldn’t be auditioning if you didn’t love to perform.
I can’t guarantee that any of these tips will help you get a part. But I can tell you that all of these tips will help make the audition, the most dreaded and necessary aspect of a performer’s life, a little bit better.