Wolf Trap Opera

The Future of Opera

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.

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!

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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

July 29, 2014
by Kim

Au revoir, Carmen

Well, that happened. Personal bests from our singers, an unbelievably beautiful summer night, and 6,000 souls in the audience. Hundreds of people onstage and off pulled our little company through its biggest project of the year, and it was a night to remember.

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View from the stage at curtain time

We got a lot of press (good, bad, rarely indifferent…) for the technological elements we incorporated into the audience experience. During Carmen, we allowed lawn patrons to choose to receive supertitle translations on their personal devices (phones, tablets, Google Glass), and we captured stage-perspective (and backstage) videos and photos then downloaded them to the internet. (If you’re interested, check out the footage here.)

Opera is a venerable art form, and tinkering with it is not for the faint of heart. Truthfully, if I were reading about all of this without having experienced it firsthand, I would probably be skeptical, too. But once the noise dies down, two true things remain. First, my team and I have a deep abiding love for this art form, and we went to extraordinary lengths to see that none of these ancillary activities in any way jeopardized or trivialized the opera itself. For after all, it’s the singing and the story that are the Main Thing. Second, these extra little innovations drew attention to opera (no mean feat in this crowded information age) and attracted some new audience members. We could do worse.

I’ve been blessed with a bad memory. It delivers me from the temptation to look backward, to wax nostalgic, to yearn for the way things were. It forces me to live in the present and keep an ear to the future, and it demands always stretching toward what might be. We identify our company as “The Future of Opera,” for we exist to further the careers of the fabulously talented young singers on our roster. But this new generation of singers needs a new generation of patrons: people who are just as inquisitive, inspired, and dedicated. It’s incumbent on us to continually reinvent the culture around our art form so that the doors remain open. Once they get inside, some of them will stay for the singing. And that’s all that matters in the end.

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July 24, 2014
by Kim

Carmen, 3:54am

Producing opera is rarely a quiet endeavor. Except in overnight lighting cue sessions in outdoor theatres.

White noise from backstage fans. Modulated voices over headsets. Night sounds from the wildlife. Quiet conversations from the light-walking Assistant Stage Managers.

Tomorrow, the music continues, but for now, this is enough.

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July 20, 2014
by Kim

Carmen: Leaving the Room

We now leave the rehearsal room, that place that saw this production come to life and is now too small to hold it. It’s on to the Kennedy Center (orchestra rehearsals Tuesday and Wednesday) and the Filene Center stage (tech rehearsals Wednesday and Thursday night.)

I’ve been busier than usual in recent weeks and haven’t witnessed as many rehearsals as I would’ve liked. As a result, I was unprepared for the force of what hit me during yesterday’s final “room run.” I can’t quite find the right words to convey my enthusiasm about this production, so I’ll simply share a few photos from this weekend. If a run-through in a bare room with rehearsal props, random costume pieces and piano accompaniment was this powerful, then the implications for Friday night are wondrous.

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Bring on the National Symphony Orchestra, the projections, the costumes, the lights, the choruses… and you. See you there.