The "Off" Season…

I’ve been silent for too many days, trying to dig myself out of what appears to be a bottomless well of administrative tasks. I’m afraid I’m surfacing mostly to whine. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

What Do You Do in the Winter?

Q: Where do you work?
A: Wolf Trap.
Q. That must be a great job. What do you do all winter?

Grrrrrrr. I must admit that before I started working here full time (I worked here on a seasonal basis for 13 years before signing on year-round), I didn’t have a really clear grasp of what in the world could consume the September-April months. Sometimes, even now, I find it inconceivable that this midwinter period can be so busy.

For my own amusement and amazement, and to explain why we are going full tilt every day, I make lists. I’m tremendously glad I’m not a lawyer, but if I were, I’d be flawless at billing clients for my time:)

Skip over the list unless you’re curious how we spend our time. I’m making the list for cathartic purposes.

This week (probably spilling over into next…)

  • Schedule grid and contract drafts for music and production staff
  • Ticket scales and pricing research
  • Documentation for new WT Music library
  • Send rental scores for first opera to singers and staff
  • Review chorus needs for all 3 operas; make draft chorus rehearsal schedule
  • Identify and engage lighting and wigs/makeup designers
  • Choose from among apprentice coach and apprentice director candidates
  • Draft orchestra rehearsal schedule
  • Send email notice about Kennedy Center Chamber Players concert this Friday
  • Make inquiries for Boston Brass school outreach locations in March
  • Notes for pre-show talk presentation on February 3 (Alan Held’s recital)
  • Opera and symphony performance descriptions for summer brochure
  • Practice…

I never intended to spend my days sitting at a desk, and although this work is very rewarding, there are days when the paperwork just seems to mock me. Months ago I pulled a quote from the Artful Manager blog – the source was Peter F. Drucker’s essay on ”Management as Social Function and Liberal Art”. It has helped me regain respective more than once:

“Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant. This is what organization is all about.”

Unedited Audition Comments – First Installment

As I’m preparing to send some audition feedback emails, I’m revisiting all of our remarks from the live auditions. Here’s the first in a series of unedited comments – they were exported in random order from our database. They’re totally anonymous, excerpted and shuffled in such a way that if you think you see yourself in any segment, you’re just being paranoid.

Read this list if you are a singer who wonders what kind of responses a panel might have to your audition. Read it if you aren’t a singer but are just curious about how all of this works. Don’t be needlessly offended by the bluntness of some of the observations. There’s a line between clarity and cruelty, and we have a mandate not to cross it.

  • She’s either terrified or extremely introverted
  • This fits her well, plays to her strengths
  • Doubt that there’s much versatility at the top
  • His pianist is mangling this aria
  • Very musical, good sense of text and line
  • Flat. A quarter tone.
  • He’s a confident artist; the voice isn’t top flight, but he uses it well
  • There’s a limit to the beauty and squillo in the voice, and that would probably keep him out of serious contention at the highest level
  • She’s able to command some legit sounds in specific registers; it’s not consistent, though
  • The basic sound is not unattractive at all. But it seems as if there’s huge unrealized potential.
  • I do wonder if this is the right rep; there just doesn’t seem to be enough steel and core in the sound
  • Her temperament is dramatic, and the voice has a few of those qualities, but the essential size doesn’t add up
  • He looks right to left every 3 seconds; like he’s watching a tennis match; terribly frenetic
  • Some major textual errors. Making this up.
  • Facing an uphill battle in his Fach. Limited in size, scope, color and impact.
  • There’s something scary about the appearance of the technique toward the top; the whole mechanism shakes; tough to watch
  • This is so obviously effortful; visually and audibly apparent
  • Brought a pianist who can’t play this. Not a good idea.
  • Stage presence is underwhelming.
  • The voice is still decidedly not mainstream, but he may just figure out a way to have a career; already the rep list shows that he kind of has this figured out
  • In order to be competitive she needs a lot more flair, charm, spirit
  • The coloratura at the end of the A section derails, and it’s totally devoid of intention
  • Very restrained and almost awkward physical presence.
  • Takes lots of musical chances, and most of them pay off
  • There’s a significant flutter and it’s not always under control; there are some go-for-broke moments that end up being variable in pitch and placement
  • Ascending scalar coloratura is spot-on, but the gestures at the top are shrill and flat
  • The whole thing is under-performed; very little fire there
  • I don’t find enough opulence in it across the board to justify all of the lyric rep on the list
  • Steely top. With a bit of a wobble. It’s not pretty per se, but interesting.
  • Some humor in the characterizaton, but ignores the value of forward momentum
  • He works very hard, but the performance doesn’t fully take off. My response is one of respect, but not one of wanting to hire him
  • This is a soprano [not a mezzo], I’m afraid; the voice just doesn’t have the right heft in the right places; seems most clear when she sings less than forte; at forte the darkening of the voice gives it some depth, but at piano, it’s all gone
  • I’m struck by a level of activity in the sound that gets in the way; I guess it’s an incipient wobble, but that sounds a little harsh.
  • Very stylish. The quiet singing is very elegant, but floated high notes are rather breathy. Once she pushes on the top it becomes more brittle.
  • Intense, and thoroughly committed
  • Big empty expanses near the beginning that encourage mugging; appreciate the effort, but the effect is off the mark
  • The sound has a flutter and a certain unsteadiness to it. Top is strong but a little tight. Is it nerves, or is this the voice? There is a distinct tension.
  • pitch pitch pitch
  • Tuning problems. Deteriorating – pitch getting worse and worse.
  • Some amazing sounds at the top of the staff; some real clarion quality
  • She is making choices – don’t always agree, but she is shaping her phrases.
  • Hanging in there with this dry acoustic; the voice probably travels well in a hall, and it stands up under scrutiny
  • Big voice. Very messy vocalism. Clarion voice on the top.
  • Sort of a textbook example of preternatural physical calm; he doesn’t move a muscle; is he frozen?
  • Singing himself out by the end of this; it’s entirely too heavy for him
  • I think the move to the heavier Fach is probably a good one; the midvoice isn’t quite there yet, tho
  • The voice is certainly promising, just somehow a little anonymous; maybe it’s still growing
  • Trouble expressing different characters/ideas, it all sounds the same.
  • The instrument has potential, but she’s not using it for any clear purpose right now
  • It’s also very monochromatic; I think she’s only capable of forte in the top half of the voice
  • This aria is only about vocal athletics for her
  • The top extension is really coming into focus
  • She is a totally different person away from singing. More active and aware.
  • Insecure. As if she had given up before the audition.
  • He put the Mozart aria on the new rep list and seems dismayed that we asked for it..
  • Closes his eyes and goes to a faraway place too often; the gaze is worried and indiscriminate
  • She’s earnest, focused, and the voice is of an acceptable size and footprint; coloratura is fine and the extension is reliable and versatile
  • The voice is larger than some, but it’s relentlessly driven and artificially darkened
  • Doesn’t sing a single clear vowel
  • The high Bb is terrifying
  • Never laugh at the pianist

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