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Come On In!
While most others are enjoying the changing colors and crisp air, to those in the opera industry Autumn means something else: audition season. Throughout the summer travelling to festivals and meeting and speaking with young artists we are asked again and again, “What is missing from my presentation? What do I need to get to the next level?” The answer I find myself giving a lot of the time surprises many of these singers, because it is not a more polished technique, greater attention to languages, or even musicianship. The answer very simply is – you. You are the missing element.
Think about this: we have all heard the statistics of the number of singers who are competing for the relatively small amount of work. When you reach the point where you are actually doing main stage auditions most everyone who walks in the door is an excellent singer and musician and has a good understanding of the languages. If that were not the case, they should not have gotten this far (though there are exceptions!). The only absolute thing that you have to offer that will make you stand apart from everyone else is yourself. What you have to say through this music, because your story is different than anyone else’s. The ability to fearlessly tell that story is what makes a great artist.
I get a pretty wide range of reactions to this theory, but for the most part I am met with understanding nods of recognition. Because deep down we know this is part of why singing artists are drawn to what they do. But somewhere in the journey from being someone who loves singing and for whom which singing is their best and clearest form of communicating the human condition, to that of a professional singer, their unique personal stamp is lost. And instead of a vibrant individual with a story to tell, a singing machine walks through the door, announces its name and what it would like to sing, and proceeds to hit all the notes with great accuracy. And that’s great. But it is not enough. And after the first few measures, frankly, it gets a bit dull. If you don’t have something to say, your audience will lose interest. And while there are some aficionados who may be at the opera to hear the sheer mechanics of a trained voice (which can indeed be very impressive), the majority of people are there for another experience. They want to be moved. They want to feel. As we have become more connected through technology and the Internet, we become less connected from one another. We would rather text someone than have real human contact. People go to the theater to experience humanity, and it is your job as an artist to provide this experience. But if you are cut off from yourself, you cannot hope to take them on a transformative journey.
Why does it happen? Why do we become disconnected from our true selves? The reasons are as varied as the individuals who leave themselves in the hallway! But in my next couple of entries I would like to explore a couple of common experiences which I hope will speak to some of you who may be reading this. In the meantime, remember why it is you got into this in the first place. Remember who you are and that we are excited to meet you. Come on in! We’ll be glad you did.