We think artists should understand our philosophy when submitting them for an audition. Maybe this information will assist you in better understanding just what the companies expect of EMBRA when considering whether they will ever audition one of our artists in the future. If even one of you sings for an inappropriate role, shows they do not have knowledge of the entire opera, or they are not vocally qualified to sing in one of the company’s auditions then you do a disservice to not only your career, but EMBRA’s reputation.
THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL
1) Your resume, and actual experience of having performed the role, dictates the level of a company that would find you appropriate to hire. You need to have performed the actual role, fully staged with orchestra previously in order to apply for almost any Level I-III company. We are finding that even more and more of the "neighborhood" companies have many more artists with some experience to draw from. Never send a resume to a company that would not consider you without more experience.
2) Displaying musicianship by either education and/or work experience is paramount in the minds of almost every quality company, no matter the size. Be prepared to stop mid aria and be asked to move to a different part of the aria or maybe even the opera! You must be familiar with the entire opera, the role you are auditioning for, and show you are the consummate musician, capable of dealing with disruption and/or unforeseen events while singing. If the panel asked for something from you that might be “open ended” (something that is open to interpretation), ask them for clarification by offering the possible choices yourself before being asked. This displays your musical knowledge and many times may be the final “tie breaker” that secures a contract offer over the competition.
3) Your fach must match the role offered as you currently sing; not from a YAP, resident, studio program, or smaller company production from 3 to 5 years ago. If you recently experienced a fach change then do not expect to secure an audition until more appropriate work appears on your resume with the new repertoire.
4) You must be able to project your voice over an orchestra in the specific opera house of the company. It does not matter how well you sing technically, or even if you have the "EMBRA sound". If you cannot vocally hit the back of the hall, and be heard over the orchestra, you should not be auditioning for this company.
5) You must display a complete knowledge about the opera by how you present an aria. You must show that you know the composer's original concept and intent for the role, the period in history when written, how the people lived during this period, what is expected when singing and acting the role, and where the role is situated in the opera.
6) You must display vocal security with an almost "indifferent concern" about who is watching you; the "Diva" affectation. Make them believe that you are the character so they will pay attention to you while on stage performing. Confidence shows just how good you will be in a production and how the audience and critics will respond.
7) You are well dressed and highly presentable when you walk out to perform. You also address the panel as you walk on stage and thank them at the end of your time no matter what happens. Emotional "toughness" is sought for any potential cast member.
8) It does not matter how you feel when on stage. Sing as though you were on top of the world singing to 2,000 of your adoring fans. If you are ill, and it will impact your singing, at least let the panel know the issue you are facing before you sing one note. If you are not 100% then cancel and explain the gravity of your illness.
9) You must be working on your voice weekly with a top level coach and not just your voice teacher. No matter how well placed technically or beautiful your voice might be, if you do not present a proper line, offer "bumpy" legato, or simply mishandle consonants and vowels, you will never be hired by higher level companies. Every great singer working today has at least one teacher and coach with some having specific coaches for each opera they appear in.
10) Take no prisoners when you sing! If you pick up any information about the panel that might give you a leg up on the competition please keep it to yourself no matter if your best friend is singing. Listen to your management, teacher, and coach while researching the company your audition is with. Show that you care enough to have sought out information on the artists they use on stage on how they stage most of their productions. Companies care that you care about the final results on stage.
11) Never crash an audition. Unless the audition panel specifically asks to hear you, do not sing! The people at the sign in desk may think filling a blank slot is fine but quite possibly the panel was more interested, when finding a bit of extra time, to take a break from the hours of listening to singers. If you were not accepted when you originally applied then do not sing.
THINGS YOU CANNOT CONTROL
1) You do not match the casting vision (look the part or dovetail with the artists that will be with you on stage) of the Stage Director. He will not cast a 5’10” soprano with a 5’4” tenor unless absolutely forced to, nor will most stage directors cast overweight artists. As they eloquently state in the business: “people many times hear with their eyes.” Age may also play a factor even though makeup can deal with most needs. You may be too young or too old for the director’s taste.
2) Your voice is not the "sound" they are looking for. Candidly EMBRA presents rich, layered, colored voices that many times do not match what is appearing on stage today. It is changing slowly back to the voice versus staging but be prepared to not be accepted because of the lack of "dramatic edge that some people think is what the audience wants, even in the traditional operas.
3) Boards of opera companies "sign off" on most casting requests at Level I-II. Unless your resume presents the appropriate on-stage time or having appeared at the higher level companies, they will deny the ED's, GD's, or AD's request for you. We obviously cannot send you out under those circumstances. Our goal is to build bridges and not burn them down with companies and sending you out without the proper credentials serves no one, especially EMBRA for future consideration when you are ready.
4) Casting balance is always in the mix. If budget constraints force certain casting decisions, including the hiring of mostly local and/or conservatory level artists, you might not be cast. Imagine a regional company casting a production with local artists and then bringing in Anna Natrebko and Placido Domingo to sing the leads.
5) The accompanist does not follow you. If the accompanist is of concern you walk over to them, run through your music quickly on each aria and explain what tempi and where they need to "breathe" with you, especially for the high voices. If they still do not follow your lead then gracefully head back to the piano (while still singing of course) and try and "force" the issue vocally if you are able. No matter how poorly they play, sing at your best and try to sing through any poor playing. Always remember that when singing with an orchestra, no matter how poorly the conductor behaves, you have to live with it and work through it. Show the panel you are a pro that can handle this misfortune.
6) The current economic reality of opera. Face it folks. There are hundreds of top singers out of work due to these economic times that are willing to work for peanuts to stay active. We are now finding MET singers at Level III companies taking the work away from those of you that could be singing the role. 2008-15 has been one of the toughest environments we have experienced in 12 years of operating and there isn't a darn thing we can do about it other than to keep talking with people on your behalf and maintaining our reputation as one of the "smart agencies" that does not waste administrative staff time and energy by submitting unqualified artists.
7) Finding that even having worked at the best studio programs does not guarantee anything other than ooohs and aaahs from your friends and improving the odds of securing auditions with certain companies. Having been to several Studio Artists recitals for various companies, many of these singers are not someone we would represent, we have turned a number of them down for management, nor do they ever have a meaningful career. The training you do receive working in these programs is useful but such work will not insure a career unless you have an exceptional voice and presence on stage.
8) Educational & Work Experience Background. Too many artists today feel that having 1, 2, or 3 college degrees entitles them to an opera career. Some consider having worked for "Ben & Bernie's Bar-B-Que Grill and Weekend Opera Company" also entitles them to a career. WRONG! You earn the right to appear on stage by hard work and using the most important organ in your body: YOUR BRAIN! 20,000+ students graduate every year with some form of vocal performance music degrees in the United States! How many opera companies and/or symphonies, are there in the US that can offer you meaningful work?