Wolf Trap Opera

The Future of Opera

Thank You for Being Nice?

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I owe the singers out there some final aria lists from the audition tour, but I need a few hours to crunch the data, and I can’t get to it for another few days. (Currently preoccupied with data of another sort, the budgetary kind…)

What I do seem to have time for, though, is this quick musing on the small flurry of thank-you notes and emails we’ve received in the wake of the audition tour.

It happens every year. A few dozen singers of the many hundreds we hear take the time to write us (some with pen and paper and a stamp!!) to thank us for the audition. Pretty standard procedure in the job interview world, but not as common in our world because of the sheer number of auditions that most singers do. (Singers please note: I am not advocating that you should all be writing to the panel after every audition. I probably speak for most of my colleagues when I say that although it is lovely to get the occasional appreciative note, we by no means expect it, and we would rather you spend your time practicing and studying:))

Receiving a small number of thank-you notes is not unusual. What is remarkable is that most of the singers don’t just thank us for hearing them; they thank us for being nice.

What?

OK, so here’s the thing. We’re not all that nice. We’re pleasant enough, I suppose. We say “Good afternoon. What would you like to sing?” And I don’t really believe that most of our colleagues aren’t at least that civil.

My first theory: Most of these comments come from singers who are just starting the audition grind, and the expectations they’ve developed of the process are something akin to torture. And that’s wrong. Advice? While auditioning will probably never be high on your list of things to do with your day, it really should not be dreaded. There are far worse things.

Second (not mutually exclusive) possibility: Singers are too empathetic to the types of energy they sense in the audition room, and they unwittingly incorporate that energy into their audition experience. The takeaway? Artists have to be sensitive and empathetic to a degree, but the audition room is a great place to learn that a performer allows the atmosphere in any space to seriously affect his performance at his peril. We love it when a receptive room adds electricity to a performance. But at the same time, if the aura is negative or even apathetic, you can’t let it get under your skin.

OK, back to my spreadsheets.

One Comment

  1. Hi Kim! Great post. To be honest, many companies are not pleasant to sing for. Often during the audition season, we get in front of a panel who ends up talking loudly to each other, texting on their phones, rustling papers, using staplers, opening and closing binders, whispering, etc – DURING THE ARIAS! It’s so disrespectful to the singer. And I’m not talking about a little bit: I mean, during the full length of the aria. Also, there are many general managers who don’t acknowledge the singer when a singer says hello or thanks them. So, while many singers are overly sensitive in general to a panel, you’d be surprised how many panels are simply rude. We singers typically pay for the audition fee and the accompanist, so all we want is for a panel to pay attention… even if they can’t hide their scowls at how bad the singing is. :)

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