Wednesday, September 7, 2005

my five

It’s coming to the beginning of audition season. There are lots of applications to be filled out, some on-line, and some by hand; recordings to be made; travel plans to be arranged; and most importantly, arias to prepare. Some companies want to hear just one, most ask for a list of four or five and choose from that. Some have specific language or stylistic requirements, others just want to hear what you think you sing best. Five carefully chosen, meticulously prepared arias, and maybe a couple of art songs and/or musical theater selections on the back burner just in case, will prepare you for almost any audition. Those five arias should show your vocal quality, stage presence, personality, musicality, and technique in the best possible light. You can imagine the agonizing that goes in to these decisions.

In years past I’ve never been totally happy with my list. There was always one aria that I would rather the adjudicators didn’t ask for, or one that I didn’t think really fit in my fach (probably because I wasn’t totally sure what my fach was – something that many young singers struggle with as our voices continue to change and develop). Also, for the companies that do have specific language requirements, there are some languages that really don’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of audition arias for a young mezzo like myself. Take German, for example. While there are several roles that I might sing in German in my career most of those (even Hansel) do not have an aria that is exerptable, and there are really only two audition arias that lyric mezzos sing on a regular basis. One is just slightly too heavy for my voice, especially in bigger houses, and one is pretty silly and really doesn’t show much except the fact that I can sing in German. I lean toward the heavier one (the composer’s aria from Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos), as it shows my musicianship well, and I’ve sung it at many auditions, but this year it’s going in the “back burner” category, to be brought out only when German is specifically requested.

This has been a huge year of growth and change for me musically and vocally. I have been studying with a new teacher who has given me what is perhaps the most powerful tool I can possess as a singer: the feeling that I have total control over the sounds that are coming out of my mouth. For the first time, I feel like I have a technique that works for me in every way, and I’m able to sculpt my voice in ways I could never have done a year ago. This has opened up new repertoire to me, and also has helped to clarify the type of repertoire which is best for my voice at this point, and I’m really excited to audition for people this year. I also have new confidence in my acting abilities, which I hope will come across when I’m auditioning. One of the most fun changes so far is that my voice seems to be well suited to the higher Rossini mezzo roles, including the title role in La Cenerentola (Cindarella). Rossini is one of the only composers where mezzos get to be the lead female character (well, other than Carmen, obviously), and the arias are full of showy coloratura passages. I had been told by several people in years past that I should be singing Rossini arias, many coaches seemed to think that they would be good in my voice, but I never had a firm grasp on the technique and stamina that I needed to get through one of the arias, which tend to be a little on the long side. That is no longer the case, and they even feel easy to me now. I’ve also found some Mozart that I think works well for me, and a French piece that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. So, my “five,” as it stands now (subject to change between now and December, of course) are:
  1. “Non più mesta,” from La Cenerentola, by Rossini
  2. “Parto, Parto,” from La Clemenza di Tito by Mozart
  3. The Muse’s aria (“Vois sous l’archet frémissant”), from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, by Offenbach
  4. “Things change, Jo,” from Little Women, by Mark Adamo
  5. Either “Smanie Implaccabili” from Così fan Tutte by Mozart or the Composer if German is required.

It feels good to have five arias that I love and feel good about. We’ll see what happens!


N said...

I envy the satisfaction you expressed for "your five". I know what a challenge it is to find that perfect combination of five arias and can't wait to be there myself. This is the first time I've come to "Les Histoires de Moi", but I'll be back. Thanks for letting us in on your world of singing. It is nice to see someone facing and working through the same kinds of challenges that I am. Good luck in everything that you do.

Melissa said...

Welcome! I'm glad you stopped by! Yes, it's a good feeling to finally be satisfied with my list. I'm interested to see what kind of effect that will have on my audition season. Good luck to you as well!