2019 Audition Tour Musings

We’re almost done… One more day of auditions at our home base in Vienna, and then it’s off to the drawing board (well, literally, a big ol’ white board) to choose some repertoire and select singers!

On today’s blog menu are some fragments of would-be posts… things that I wanted to share along the way but for which I never managed the appropriate number of minutes and/or brain cells to formulate.


Anyone who works with young artists is surrounded constantly by talented works-in-progress. And because of this, I’ve long been fascinated with the concept of liminality. As I understand it, the term comes from anthropology, but it shows up in psychology, religion, and geography. (Wikipedia)

Liminal stages are those that are betwixt and between; people in them no longer belong to the place from which they’ve come, but they aren’t yet at home in their new life. Young professionals – particularly those in the creative professions – operate in an intense liminal stage, standing at the threshold between the dutiful striving of a student and the confident mastery of a professional.

Young Artist Programs (YAPs) traffic in potential, and they often love the beautiful but blank slates of the liminal state. And so, up to a point, it’s appropriate for young artists to display their potential, warts and all. But toward the end of the YAP journey (where our program typically stands), that liminal phase has to end. Potential is no longer enough, and the professional world wants a largely cohesive picture.

The transition is more gradual than the flip of a switch, but it’s surprisingly important to exit the liminal state at the right time in a developing career. Those who cross over too soon are criticized for not being malleable enough and for cutting off their potential. But those who linger too long are seen are indecisive and unfocused.

Food for thought. And maybe for a completely thought-out blog post someday :)


(I told you this was a grab bag…)

Seriously, people, get your audition music binders sorted out. The vast majority of you are doing a fine job, but it’s still astonishing to me how many singers handicap their pianist / audition partner by delivering sub-standard printed music to them.


  • It’s gotta be legible. No 4th-generation copies. If the pianist can’t read the ledger lines, you’re gonna end up hearing things that aren’t helpful.
  • Make sure the copy isn’t cut off at the bottom… or the sides… or the top…
  • Mark the cuts clearly. Not in pencil, blending in with all of the other notes from your coachings…
  • No staples. When I was playing, I used to threaten to keep some fake blood in my pocket, so that if someone gave me music held together by staples, I could shed a little blood onto the copy to make my point.
  • Make sure your music is in the right key. You know, the one you’re used to singing in… You don’t want to be surprised during the audition.
  • Oh, and check the binder before walking in. Every audition tour, there are a few people who don’t have one page of their aria or who have the music in backwards. Just double-check it.

Random Things I Wish I Could Tell You

Stay near the piano. Opera demands that we can hear you from a distance, so you don’t need to come any closer to us. And your pianist will be so much more help to you if you can hear one another.

Don’t be so nervous. (Yeah, I know, easy for me to say…) There’s less riding on every small mistake than you might think. It’s a long game in lots of ways. Give the details their due in the studio but don’t try to control every single thing in the audition room.

Please don’t sing the hardest (or biggest) thing you know. Ambition is good, striving is laudable, but if you’re hauling out one of the most impressive things in your Fach in your mid-20’s, it may end up just demonstrating the things that aren’t ready yet. Which might be fine (see Liminality…) or more likely will just end up obscuring your assets.

Aria Frequency Lists Are Coming!

We’ve started churning the data, and for my own sanity, I want to get this fall’s lists published asap. Audition season is ramping up, so now’s the time. (And we have to get planning and casting, so there’s that…)  In the meantime, previous year’s lists are here.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Blog