Judging Young Voices, More Mozart Arias, Cavatina/Cabaletta

I’m winding down on the pre-tour audition questions. Answers to recent submissions below.

You may still submit questions via the comments section of the blog for another few days. But by next Monday, we will have to turn our attention to reporting on the actual audition process.

I have a general question about the studio program – I have had a teacher recently tell me not to apply to studio programs at larger companies (such as Wolf Trap) because, in her belief, if a young singer is heard by a large company before they are ready to be considered a full-fledged professional (even in the studio artist program capacity)then the singer will be “blacklisted” in a way and remembered always by the company as having a “young” technique. Obviously, you don’t ascribe to this belief or you wouldn’t host a studio artist program. Out of curiosity, what is your response to this belief?

Personally, I don’t agree. I guess I may be kidding myself (possible), and I could be naive (likely). But companies like ours are in the business of monitoring singer growth, and we are pretty well acquainted with the general state of a young voice. We’re unlikely to forever saddle a developing singer with the characteristic rough edges of a developing technique. Do I believe that this approach is common to all panels for whom a young singer might audition? Well, I guess not. So I suppose a bit of caution is prudent.

Here’s another one. Would it be appropriate to include Tamino’s 2nd area, “Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton” on a list? I sing “Dies’ Bildnis” well, but I feel it doesn’t pair well with “Questa o Quella,” which I like to start with. Also, the 2nd aria has a nice accompanied recit attached, to show off German, which is a strength of mine.

Tamino’s “flute” aria is a great audition choice.

Hmmm… I’m surprised you didn’t mention “S’altro che lacrime” for that last question. It doesn’t show much in terms of range, but I figured it would be a great piece for a future Countess who doesn’t quite have a la Nozze in her yet. Would you have any objections to it?

I love “S’altro” but I consider Servilia to be more of an “ina/etta”, and the singer who asked the question said that she didn’t feel good about those choices. In Tito, it’s really Vitellia who aligns herself with the Countess and Fiordiligi; Servilia has a lot more in common with Susanna and Despina. That said, I do adore hearing “S’altro” – it’s a lovely short aria that demonstrates beautiful legato and sensitive phrasing.

I have a friend who wants to offer only the cavatina portion of what would otherwise be a long bel canto piece. A) Is this kosher? and B) how should she list it? (i.e. “Cavatina only”)For myself, I know in an audition situation it’s only polite to start with something short or ask the panel if they’d only like to hear one verse of something, but is it also considered conversely impolite (or useless) to list any super-long pieces on your list? A friend and I have a long-standing debate about the usefulness of “Ombre leggiere” and this often is the point we get stuck debating.

Offering the cavatina only (or the cabaletta only, for that matter) is not only defensible, it’s a wonderful choice. If you really feel good about the whole scene, list it and indicate that you are willing to excerpt. (“Ah non creadea / Ah non giunge – aria only, cabaletta only, or entire scene”) Depending on what you start with, the panel may have very specific reasons for asking for either the aria/cavatina or the cabaletta.

As for listing long pieces, you take your chances. There’s absolutely no problem with listing them if you do them well. But be prepared for them to be sampled in chunks, even if you don’t offer it. If it throws you off to have to start in the middle or to be stopped before the ornamented repeat in the cabaletta, then don’t set yourself up for heartache. And (you alluded to this, so I’m just reiterating), for most purposes, please don’t start with a 6+ minute scene.

Remind me, does WT accept Canadian singers or do they need a student visa or greencard?

We are unable to assist our young artists in obtaining visas. All singers being considered for Wolf Trap need to be able to work in the US – either as extra-curricular practical training on a student visa, or with a green card.



Kim, thanks so much for your guidance in this forum. It is so refreshing and encouraging to hear such positive things from the other side of the table!

I’m wondering about what repertoire choices show about “holes” in a singer’s package. For example, I often sing “Come un’ape” from La Cenerentola (it fits me really well both musically and dramatically), but a colleague told me, “The panel will wonder what’s wrong with ‘Largo al factotum.'” Likewise I avoided “Hai gia vinta la causa” for years because I knew I didn’t sing it as well as other baritones (now I do, HA!), so I listed any of the other main Mozart baritone arias. Will a panel draw conclusions based on exclusions from a rep list, or will they pay attention to the assets of the arias listed?

Secondly, like many singers I’ve only just recently come into my full voice in my early 30s and know a stellar young artist program could really boost my career, but I wonder if it’s still appropriate to be auditioning for young artist programs. Obviously, some programs are more appropriate than others — ones that only focus solely on masterclasses and scenes and don’t afford roles or at least covers won’t be terribly helpful to me now. If I feel I have something to gain from a program and a company doesn’t list an age limit, how can you tell if you’re too old? I feel one is NEVER too old to learn, especially from the best, but I know I’m reaching a point of “If you don’t have a career by this point, you probably won’t” and that most programs are targeted to singers in their 20s. Thoughts?


Ah yes. My concession to autumn. Perhaps not a successful one. But the white background was feeling a little stark somehow.

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