Today, a few interpretations of audition tour statistics.
Numbers can tell stories. Important stories. But a single set of statistics can sometimes tell stories that seem at odds with one another. First, the raw numbers:
Audition Tour 2019
1,134 applications – a 300% increase from just a couple of decades ago.
444 auditions scheduled
3% expected to be offered a spot on the 2019 WTO roster
Over 8,000 miles to travel, about 800 arias to be heard.
Next, the stories: One for the stakeholders on each side of the curtain, and the final one for all of us.
Story # 1 – Selectivity
This is a oft-told tale, and it’s important to the people who believe in and support our company: Only the top ~3% of applicants will be featured on our stages next summer. As a member of our Board of Directors says, it’s harder to get into WTO than it is to get into Harvard.
The essential truth behind this story? WTO is privileged that so many exciting emerging artists are applying to be considered for our roster. Our patrons and supporters can rest assured that the most promising emerging talent in the next generation will be part of the Wolf Trap story, and that our resources will be smartly put to use in service of developing that talent. And the singers who spend time here will develop important colleague relationships that will last their entire careers.
But if you’re an aspiring opera singer, this is not your story. Keep reading.
Story #2 – There’s a Place For You
This one is for you singers out there.
There’s been a 300% increase in the number of candidates since I started doing this in mid-1990’s. And our company isn’t the only one seeing over 1,000 applicants each year; it’s becoming the norm. And because many of you are applying to a series of programs, these numbers tell a slightly different story.
You will all find your place if you want it and are ready for it. There is a wealth of opportunities out there – far more than a generation ago. And if you point yourself and your current level of development in the right direction, you will be welcomed, and you will continue to grow.
Story #3 – Vitality
And this story is for all of us. The patrons, the artists, those of us behind the audition table.
I don’t know exactly where opera is going, and I’m sure that the state of the art in a few decades will be something that will surprise us all. For the sheer number of smart, expressive, committed, and exciting young artists bodes extremely well for the future of opera.
To be sure, some of our institutional baggage is crumbling, and some is painfully morphing under the strain of change. But new models are emerging, new audiences are learning that our brand of storytelling is uniquely valuable, and the next generation of artists is finding the bravery and stamina it needs to catapult us forward.
The next time that someone tells you opera is dead, imagine that you are with us on the annual audition odyssey. That almost every day for a month you sit in the back of a large room, and every ten minutes, a new talented singer with a story to tell walks in and gives you hope.