Day 1: Philadelphia


The first day of this year’s audition tour brings a rash of out-of-tune singing. Everyone has the occasional “off” day, and I’m well aware that a live audition isn’t going to have the pristine intonation of a recording. But I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I have to say that there was more approximate intonation going on today than any time in recent memory. Not all of it is under pitch, too. In fact, the most egregious examples were all over the map, on both sides of the pitches, and across the entire range.

I realize that developing a technique is a process, and occasionally you may be in transition, or working through something that wreaks temporary havoc with tuning. And I also understand that a developing technique may not yet have conquered intonation in the most difficult places in the tessitura – at the top, through the passaggio, etc. But singers must realize that even if we appreciate everything else about your artistry – dramatic depth, musical instincts, exquisite phrasing, impeccable language – if you can’t sing on pitch, we can’t hire you. Blunt, but unavoidable.

Name That Opera

The black box theatre at the Curtis Institute of Music was our home for the first day of the audition tour. Rehearsal prop table for the current opera production may be seen at left. What could it be?…


Today, a few words for mezzos. If you sing the Composer’s Aria from Ariadne or “Smanie implacabili” from Cosi, spend some time getting familiar with the sound of the actual orchestration.

Too many pianists attack the Composer’s Aria as if it were scored for a 90-piece Wagner orchestrata. Strauss wrote Ariadne for a chamber orchestra, and it’s really rather transparent. Too often, mezzos strive for power and volume above all else in this piece. It needs color, line, and clarity.

As for “Smanie”, those overwhelming triplet eighth-notes in the piano part are really just a murmur in the orchestration. The larger architecture of the wind chords and the long phrases are far more important. Understand this keeps you from singing the aria in too vertical a fashion.

Tell Us About It

If you’re auditioning for us this year, we want to hear from you. Write (put “blog” in the subject line) or post an anonymous comment (see link below).

A blog contribution today from recent WTOC alum Weston Hurt, who says embarrassingly kind things about us, but who also has some very to-the-point advice in paragraph 2.

Kim Witman — Friend or Foe?

Upon entering the dreaded Wolf Trap audition room everyone already assumes that Kim Witman, the General Director of the company is already writing your rejection letter before you begin to sing and certainly once she heard you mess up that word, right? WRONG!! Kim is a lovely woman and actually wants you to sing really really well! Kim is a lap-top-a-holic. She does EVERYTHING on her laptop…so, no worries, she is not writing your rejection letter, she is just taking notes about your audition.

So, what can you do? Sing well and have fun. Realize that auditions is just a part of what we do. We aren’t really singers, we’re professional auditioners. Whether that is taking place in a room with a piano or on stage in front of an audience, we are always auditioning, so get used to it, and get good at it!

Kim and the rest of the Wolf trap gang understand this better then most and truly want your audition for Wolf Trap to be the best ever. So, come prepared and sing well! There is a reason that there are alumni dinners and why alumni pop in from time to time during the summers in Vienna….its because we all love Kim and everyone at the trap.

Sing purrrdy!
-Weston Hurt
alumnus ’05, ’06

Brief walk in Riverside Park this morning, clearing my head for 5 days’ of singing in New York. See you tomorrow.



A few thoughts to share from the other side of the table…actually, from the arch of the piano.
Pre-audition prep:
1. Get to NYC and into Manhatten on Marathon Day with no issues (check)

2. Get to NYC with all of the materials that you will need for the X number of auditions that you are doing this season- headshots, resumes, bios, replists (versions one, two and three depending on the day, the time, and probably what you ate last night for dinner in midtown where you met up with college friends) (check)

3. The night before: Water, water, some Emergen-C, cough drop for some dessert and to convince yourself that you’re only coughing because the heat is on and not because you are getting a cold (check)

4. Look through aria binder to make sure no pages are missing, your markings are clear, no holes are punched through key changes, and your alternate cadenzas are legible. (check- even though you know you’ll do this tomorrow too)

5. Can’t fall asleep? Can’t stay asleep? While I personally haven’t tried any sleeping pills, waking up every hour from anticipation/nerves/new apartment acclimation/the sounds of NYC can be a sure way to not be in your best voice the next day. The remedy? Well, if you have one let me know! I’m lucky that I don’t have to sing until well into the afternoon- so even if I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I can stay in bed all morning until I feel refreshed enough to start the day in great voice and energy.

Good luck to all, and I’ll see you at the table tomorrow!

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