Wolf Trap Opera

The Future of Opera

September 18, 2014
by Kim

The Package…

Part Three in a series of posts containing audition season advice submitted by Wolf Trap Opera alumni.

Your Aria Package: Argh… What should I sing???

Be Yourself

Start with something that shows off something unique you can offer.  For me, this was often the aria that I was the most comfortable with anyway, and helped get me grounded and comfortable in the process.

I learned in graduate school -and having just sung an audition yesterday I am still implementing this rule -that you must not feel guilty about singing “the same old arias that they’ve heard before.” You must sing what best represents you. The audition panel is educated enough to hear your voice and hear its capabilities. Arias that you’ve sung a bunch of times and are most likely what you sing best. Every aria needs a first time out in the open and sometimes it has to be at an audition, but those circumstances should be chosen carefully.

Sing the piece you absolutely love and can sing from your soul, rather than what someone told you to sing. Taking ownership for your Art will always make an impression.

Be Ready

I am alway prepared to sing at least 3 of my 5/6 audition arias in a row, including “Der hölle Rache,” at 9 am.

Be Current

Only offer arias from roles that are appropriate for you to sing immediately.

Don’t Be Stupid

If there is an aria that you “hope they don’t pick,” ask yourself “Why is it even on my list of offerings?”

A Bit of Very Personal and Specific Advice

Make your audition package unique. In other words, I think it’s essential to find way in which you are different, unique… “marketable.” I know my career has been unlike a lot of folks and as crazy as it might sound, it’s taken me a while to embrace that. Part of the reason is that coming out of school and young artist programs, I was trying to do all the lyric mezzo stuff and have every favorite mezzo aria in my bag… but there was really no point in that. I am slowly more and more embracing how I am different and especially the fact that my ‘different-ness’ has been the means of my having a career, making a living, etc. SO I think it’s wise to encourage young people to do the same. I was working with two young (amazing) singers in the Santa Fe program who were to do a scene from Dr. Atomic in the scenes program. I told both of them to definitely offer those arias in audition – it sets them apart and makes people sit up and listen. Not everyone must be Mimi or Cherubino. What’s wrong with entering the music business as Alcina or Lulu or Dinah? It’s about finding what makes you excited and what you have to share that maybe everyone else doesn’t… I think it’s vital. I recall Matthew Epstein talking about offering songs in audition… or maybe even a concert excerpt. I, someone who does a lot of both, still haven’t ever done that in audition but for the first time this season, I’m making a point to make my package unique!

Next: Navigating the Colleague Waters

September 16, 2014
by Kim

Audition Day Strategies

Part Two in a series of posts containing audition season advice submitted by Wolf Trap Opera alumni.

Half a dozen singers responded to my call for advice with comments on how to deal with the little (and big…) things that can and will go wrong during audition season.

Audition Day StrategiesPlan Ahead

Be Ready for Anything

To prepare for auditions, I try to imagine every type of situation. Bright lights, dark lights, the pianist has never heard your piece before, there is nowhere to warm up at the audition venue. Then I mentally go through how I would deal with each of those situations. Then when or if something happens, you are calm and collected and you have a plan. This allows you to focus on your performance and connection to the piece.

Always have a spare resume, bio, head shot package, and pressed audition clothes, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

The Pianist’s Notebook

Be clear on cadenzas and cuts in well-organized scores, as you will probably not be able to work with the pianist.

If you have a new anthology, make sure the pages are creased so your pianist doesn’t have to take time out of the audition to do it for you.

On Dealing with the Inevitable

If something goes wrong musically, word slip, whatever, just keep going, and if you need to stop and restart a section, it isn’t the end of the world. We all have moments when our minds go blank. I think it is better to restart something than to continue stumbling and getting frustrated. Just take a breath and go!

Don’t be afraid to mess up!! Often, a panel learns more about you – as a person, as a musician, as a performer – by how you handle mistakes than by how perfectly you can sing your arias. At an audition this past spring, I sang an aria that ends with an ascending scale, and I sort of “fell of the rails.” I stopped and – before I knew what I was doing! – said with a smile, “That wasn’t very good. Can I try that again?” I did, I nailed it, and then walked out of the audition TOTALLY EMBARRASSED but with my head held high. I was mortified. But imagine my surprise when I got a call a few months later – and I GOT THE JOB! :)  Embrace your mistakes and show your resilience and sense of humor. You never know!

Tomorrow: Your Aria Package!

September 15, 2014
by Kim

Be Your Own CEO

Part One in a series of posts containing audition season advice submitted by Wolf Trap Opera alumni.

I had intended to kick off this series with some nuts-and-bolts advice, but the podcast I heard on this morning’s commute changed my mind.

It’s Not the Product, It’s the Person*” aired on This American Life last week. It’s full of thought-provoking reminders that no matter how we may protest that our art should speak for itself, we must accept that fact that we are its personification.

A take-away from the podcast: “People are just excited to invest in other people.” That’s why audiences love singers even more when they know their back stories. It’s why artists who telegraph a strong sense of self and a firm grasp of their strengths have an advantage over those who are less self-possessed. The dirty truth? All other things being equal (or roughly equivalent) – technical facility, vocal timbre and size, grasp of languages and style – an audition panel is more likely to throw themselves behind a performer who signals that she is serious about her career.

Be Your Own CEO: Run your company and your reputation like a business.

Professional Image

You are your own brand. You are selling yourself. Make sure you are putting product out there that companies want to buy. If you are put together professionally in your dress, appearance and preparation, you will see rewards. It’s not just about how you sing. You are the CEO of your own company.

Web Presence

Remember to clean up and revamp your websites before setting into auditioning.  It’s good to have something easy to navigate up and running in case casting directors want to follow up with website media.

Email Address

When I began auditioning for YAPs, I had a somewhat silly (punny, actually) email address.  It was actually very helpful at first, as it was eye-catching and an ice-breaker at auditions.  But, as I moved into out of the “young artist” category and more into real professional work, it became more of a setback; so I switched to a straightforward address that was essentially just my name.  Keep in mind that your image as a very young artist will be different than as a professional, and what may help you as the former may hinder as the latter.

It’s About Relationships

Be nice to everyone you come in contact with, whether it’s the doorman, the person checking people in, or the singer next to you. You don’t know who they are – their interaction with you could mean more than you think!

Tomorrow: Audition Day Strategies

* If you have time to listen to part of the podcast, go with the Prologue and Act One. But if you go for the whole thing, you won’t be sorry. Act Two will make you laugh (probably ruefully…) and Act Three will demonstrate that there are even quirkier career aspirations than that of opera singer. 

September 12, 2014
by Kim

From the Horses’ Mouth(s)

singing horseEnough of me writing audition season advice. (Well, not really… I will weigh in eventually…) This year you’re going to hear from those who have been there: working singers who have learned things the hard way. I’ve asked Wolf Trap Opera alumni to send me audition advice that they’d like to share with young artists, and so far I’ve heard from over 30 singers who were members of our roster over the last 20 years. I’ve compiled their comments and sorted them into the following loose categories, which reflect the content of blog posts to come over these next couple of weeks:

What (Not) To Wear: The way you look does matter.

Be Your Own CEO: Run your company and your reputation like a business.

Let It Go: Say the Serenity Prayer. Then just sing.

Life: The audition is only the beginning.

Express, Don’t Impress: Make music.

The Power of Positivity: The glass is way more than half full.

Your Aria Package: Argh… What should I sing???

Navigating the Colleague Waters: Don’t let the crazy bring you down.

Audition Day Strategies: Little things can make or break you.

Be True to Yourself: And be kind to yourself. If you won’t, who will?

Check back in for these posts, starting Monday. (Or sign up for email updates in the column at right.) I’ll also update this master post with links once the individual pages go up. Happy weekending!






September 4, 2014
by Kim

The Audition-Interview

P1020238If you told most young professionals that they’d have to do several dozen job interviews a year for a decade or so, you’d probably get stares of disbelief. Any serious job-hunter has to make his peace with the process of strutting his stuff for potential employers, but typically, he doesn’t have to do it a few hundred times. Professional singers know a different reality.

I’ve drawn this comparison before, mostly to point out the differences between the musician career track and other professional paths. But these days, I’ve been ruminating on the similarities.

The Compulsories

Both kinds of job-seekers must demonstrate basic competencies. Office jockeys have resumes, work samples and recommendations that demonstrate essential computer skills, writing ability, numeracy, time management and more. Singers must show language competency, technical reliability, stylistic familiarity, Fach suitability, and an understanding of dramatic arc. These are compulsories. They are deal-breakers. They are rarely able to be overlooked. There is no short-cut past them. (Can I state this more unequivocally?) You don’t get to go to the next step unless you can check these boxes.

Seriousness of Intent

OK, so you’ve established yourself as someone with the fundamental skills to get the job done. The aspiring corporate climber must illustrate why she wants to work for a particular company and how she would be an asset to its team. While the task facing the singer isn’t quite as overt, the preparatory process is the same. Know your potential employer. What kind of singers do they hire? What kinds of careers or training do their previous or current artists share? What is their aesthetic? What does it value? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not spending your money or your time wisely. it doesn’t mean that you need to change who you are in order to fit someone else’s idea of success; it just means that you should align your efforts with those companies that are most predisposed to hire you.

That Je Ne Sais Quoi

After you’ve positioned yourself well according to the two areas above, you are ready for the real test. Both the successful job interviewee and auditionee will be able to convince the potential employer that although there are hundreds of other applicants who are also competent and serious, only she can offer a distinctive  contribution that trumps the other candidates’. The interviewee will demonstrate that she can inspire colleagues, improve team performance, and offer a unique finely tuned skill set. And the singer will somehow transport the panel into a place where the music rises beyond mere technical facility, fooling them into believing that they are witnessing an inspirational performance and not an audition.

Gird your loins, dust off your audition clothes, and get ready for the fall 2014 season. I know it’s hard, but you can do it. Those of us who sit on the other side of the table have to believe that you can. Because that’s the only way forward for all of us. Coraggio!

August 29, 2014
by Kim

Hey Singers…


The first application deadline for the 2015 season is almost upon us: If you an interested in an audition in New York or Cincinnati, you need to submit an application by midnight on Monday, September 1. Full list of audition sites, dates and deadlines is over in the right column.

First, read all of the fine print about auditions on the Wolf Trap website.

Once you’ve read the official blurbage (see link above), read on for an informal interpretation of some of the finer points. (But seriously, read the actual info first.)

2015 Dates & Rep

We don’t know them yet. Seriously. Not joking. So don’t ask us. We’ll start sometime after Memorial Day and end by mid-August. But that’s about all we know. We will choose the operas and create the performance/rehearsal calendar during the audition tour this fall.

Which Program?

Once you’ve read the detailed description of the Filene Young Artist and Studio Artist programs, you may still wonder which one is for you. If you are not a natural fit for either demographic, it is entirely possible that you’re not in our target artist pool for either program. This does not reflect in any way on your talent or potential; it just means that we are structured to benefit two very specific points in singers’ careers, and you may not sit in either of those points right now.

Example 1: You are an incoming college freshman or sophomore, or you are just beginning to study voice. You won’t be competitive yet for our first tier, the Studio Artists.

Example 2: You are a grad student or have finished grad school but as yet have few roles under your belt, haven’t been at all active on the competition circuit and/or have done few young artist programs. You are past the reach of the Studio Artist demographic, and although you’re not disqualified from the Filene Young Artist demographic, you probably won’t be competitive. Think twice before you spend time and money applying.

Example 3: You have a grad degree, have been successful in competitions, have a number of roles under your belt, have done multiple young artist programs and are more than 2 years out of full-time school or YAP programs. You are likely beyond the reach of both programs and are ready to get out there and work.

Application Fee

Ah, the dreaded pay-to-apply controversy. Our fee ($20 Studio / $30 Filene) is an application fee, not an audition fee. I know that some of you think this is unfair, and I know the chat boards will be up in arms about this. Please do not think that we haven’t thought through this again and again and again. Bottom line: We spend the better part of a month and a half processing, downloading, reviewing and considering every application. I personally handle all FYA applications, and Lee Anne personally handles all Studio applications. If you apply and don’t get an audition, you can write us this winter (between January 15-February 15) to find out why. And we are committed to using the funds generated by our application process for the valuable audition aria statistics and the random audition season blog advice, both of which are generated for the benefit of the whole opera community.

Good Luck!

Whether or not you sing for us, we send good karma your way for this audition season. This annual repeated-multiple-job-interview thing that you guys do would stomp on the soul of mere mortals. Here’s hoping the rejection (it comes to all of us, in one form or another) is more than balanced out by artistic growth, new adventures, great opportunities and a job offer or two!

August 15, 2014
by Kim

Spotlight on the Studio!

2014-08-13 20.12.41

Last night’s Studio Spotlight performance for Wolf Trap Members was a rousing success. These terrific undergrad and first-year grad singers outdid themselves in a program directed by Alison Moritz, conducted by Stephanie Rhodes, and played by Emily Senturia and Michael Sherman.

They did outstanding work in a summer that included chorus assignments in three operas, an Instant Opera project, the Les Six concert of French vocal music, supporting roles in Les mamelles de Tirésias (tickets still available for tomorrow night!) and countless seminars and coachings. This morning, they were here in audition attire starting at 10:30 for auditions in front of our guest panel of VIPs from four opera companies and two management firms. They have our admiration, respect and gratitude!

Flight (Dove)
Opening Scene: “Look! Up there…Darling!”
Refugee – G. Thomas Allen
Controller – Evan Kardon
Bill – Joshua Sanders
Tina – Liv Redpath


Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky)
Act I, Scenes 5-6: “Mesdames! Ya na sebya vzyal smyelost…Kak shchastliv”
Lenski – Michael Anderson
Onegin – Harry Greenleaf
Larina – Anna Engländer
Tatiana – Nicolette Book
Olga – Megan Samarin


Zaide (Mozart)
Trio: “O selige Wonne”
Zaide – Annalise Dzwonczyk
Gomatz – Joshua Sanders
Allazim – Alex Rosen


Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini)
“Oh cielo!…All’idea di quel metallo”
Almaviva – Martin Clark
Figaro – Harry Greenleaf


Die Zauberflöte (Mozart)
Act I Quintet: “Hm! hm! hm!”
Papageno – Alex Rosen
Tamino – Eric Ferring
First Lady – Nicolette Book
Second Lady – Megan Samarin
Third Lady – Anna Engländer


Pelléas et Mélisande (Debussy)
Act II, Scene 1: “Vous ne savez pas”
Pelléas – Harry Greenleaf
Mélisande – Anna Engländer


Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
Act I Recit, Aria, Trio: “Va là…Non so più…Cosa sento!”
Susanna – Evan Kardon
Cherubino – Kara Sainz
Count – Michael Adams
Basilio – Martin Clark


Carmen (Bizet)
Quintet: “Nous avons en tête une affaire”
Dancaïro – Michael Adams
Frasquita – Liv Redpath
Mercédès – Kara Sainz
Remendado – Michael Anderson
Carmen – Megan Samarin


Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck)
Act III Recit, Aria, Finale: “Ecco un nu0vo tormento…Che farò…Trionfi Amore”
Orfeo – G. Thomas Allen
Euridice – Liv Redpath
Amore – Annalise Dzwonczyk


Tirésias & Matelot – Take a Peek!

August 6, 2014 by Kim | 0 comments

Last night’s final technical rehearsal was a true delight. Slide shows below.

The double bill is not to be missed; if you don’t have your tickets, you should really do something about that. Seriously. It’s 35 minutes of dark Cocteau drama with jazz-infused Milhaud, followed by an hour of eye-popping surrealism and fizzy Poulenc. And you’re out the door by 9:30. :)

Le pauvre matelot (If you can’t see the slideshow, go here.)

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Les mamelles de Tirésias (If you can’t see the slideshow, go here.)

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This gallery contains 45 photos