Could We Hear the [Insert Name of Aria Here], Please?

Coming up this week in our Fall 2009 Audition Mini-Course:

  • Monday – The Second Aria
  • Tuesday – Musical Preparation
  • Wednesday – Physicalization
  • Thursday – Props
  • Expert Friday – Chicago-based colleagues weigh in

Do You Have Any Mozart?

Much of the time, you’ll get to choose your first audition aria. Sometimes it’ll be your only aria, but occasionally, you’ll be lucky enough to get to sing two. Or three!

You’ve gotta love that brief yet amazingly angst-filled moment after you finish your first audition aria. Waiting for the panel to say “Thank you” (translated: “We don’t need to hear another aria”) or to ask for another selection.

We try to minimize the awkwardness by being ready to ask for your second piece in fairly short order after you finish your opener. (Often, we do this by conferring with each other about the 2nd aria choice via instant message on our computers. Look for a discussion of technology in the audition room next week.) Frankly, I’d rather you take the 15-30 seconds in between to gather your thoughts and prepare yourself, rather than spend it discussing amongst ourselves while you hang out in the front of the room trying not to appear as if you’re listening to us argue.

It’s one thing to be ready to fully invest yourself, dramatically and vocally, in the first aria of your choice upon which you can focus even before you enter the room. But giving up control and allowing the panel to choose the second piece from among your list of 4 or 5 requires a different skill set.

I only have one main piece of advice: Don’t second-guess.

Given the chance, singers grill me endlessly about how we pick second arias. Yes, there is something of a system to it. If your first aria doesn’t address very specific issues like coloratura, or legato, or specific language fluency, or extremes of range, we’ll often gravitate toward a second aria that answers those questions. But often there are multiple ways to address those questions, and the choice is often less than scientific – sometimes even based on instinct.

No amount of deduction will reveal what you’ll be asked for. So stay loose and find a way to look forward to singing whatever it is that gets picked.

I do have one more suggestion: Don’t be visibly disappointed in the panel’s pick (even if you are), and don’t put anything on your list that you aren’t completely willing and able to sing. You might be surprised to know that at least a dozen times a season, our request for the second piece is met with shaking of the head, muttering under the breath, exasperated sighing, and actual expressions of disbelief. (“I can’t believe you picked that…”)

And as I mentioned before, just be glad you won’t be judged solely on your best 16 bars in a Broadway cattle call!


An Englishwoman abroad

How invaluable this all is to us singers! Thank you.

From long experience I have found that the second aria asked for is invariably the one you want to sing least on that particular day… useful in that it makes you ensure that all arias offered are as polished as can be.


Whats amazing is … some Broadway calls only allow you 8 measures to sing

And they often type (where you line up and get picked out for various, unknown reasons by the casting director) sometimes leaving you with no chance of auditioning.


I once sang a 4 bar cut in a cattle call for a popular show on broadway.

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