Anyway, the week leading up to the audition was very odd. In the past, I have lost my voice twice during this time in February. I don't know if it is because of allergies or perhaps it is just a fluke, but I was worried earlier in the week that my voice would not hold up until Saturday. I took all the opportunities that I could to rest and drink water. By Friday, I still was pretty tired and had a rough voice, but I prepared throughout the day on Friday as best as I could. I got plenty of rest, sang just a little, and drank tons of water. By Saturday, I felt very well. After my morning pot of coffee (yes, that's right - a whole pot) and allergy medicine, I had several hours of opera rehearsal before my audition.
I was in opera rehearsal for several hours, singing sotto voce (meaning "under voice") - we call it marking as well, but it is just light singing compared to full voice operatic singing. Then I headed downtown for my audition. The audition was at the opera center which doesn't look very impressive on the outside, but is actually a large building designed for all the rehearsing and set building (I'm assuming) etc. The room I sang in was very large, kind of like a basketball arena, or an indoor football practice facility. It was VERY live (to put it another way, my voice echoed profoundly). As the singers left the "arena", many were complaining about their tendency to oversing, and saying that it sounded like they were all in a giant shower. I don't think that this changed the way I approached singing one bit, since I rely a lot on how my voice feels instead of how it sounds.
I was one of the last singers of the day, and one of only a few tenors. After the singer before me finished (and she was SPECTACULAR) I took the long walk to the piano at "mid field". They were still debating about the previous singer, so I just stood until they welcomed me. I said, "Hello", and then waited awkwardly long for a response that never came, so I then said, "I would like to begin with Lenski's Aria", and we immediately began.
This is one of my favorite and most successful arias. I thought it went really well. Perhaps it was hard to tell in such a live space (many small details can be lost or muddled in an echo-y room...this is also why karaoke machines have lots of reverb - it can cover a myriad of singing sins, which you can blame for why your Aunts feel like their tipsy rendition of INSERT COUNTRY SONG TITLE HERE is the best thing since sliced bread), but many of the technical issues I have been working on went so well during this aria. The notes past the passaggio rang true with ease (these are the highest notes that I sing). I was very proud about the lower resonance as well, which is one of the great attributes of my voice (it is a more mature sound than many other light tenor voices). This aria brought out many of the things that I do best and I thought it was one of the best times that I have performed it.
After that aria was over, they asked what other arias I brought with me. All the arias that I bring to auditions are generally in different styles and languages. The one I began with is in Russian. So the other four I brought were Dies Bildnis (German), Il mio tesoro (Italian), En fermant les yeux (French), and Here I Stand (English). They chose to listen to Here I Stand from The Rake's Progress. I am always surprised when they pick it, because it is kind of weird. It premiered in 1951, so it isn't that old, but it just requires a good mind to stay on track and it lies in an interesting part of a tenor's range. It also is full of speech-like patterns and sounds, a far cry from any classic romantic aria. Some people love it, and some hate it. Actually, the company that gave me the gig in Chicago this summer also chose to hear this aria. Take a listen and make your own conclusions (the aria begins at 5:25 - if you are already annoyed and want to fast forward)
How interesting, isn't it? Actually, this staging really is distracting...the music is really ingenious and this opera is considered one of the most important pieces of Neoclassical music ever. Neoclassicism developed in the early 20th century and was a new approach towards the old classical era structures of music. In other words, they wanted new sounds, but they kept it simple and uniform.
I don't speak/yell as much as this performer did, but I will tell you that my performance was certainly not my best. Fortunately, the large and reverberant room was probably somewhat kind to me - but I laid some big fat eggs. In my personal critique, I was too choppy, I wasn't precise enough on my entrances, I rushed the aria - and for that I offer my most sincere apologies to my accompanist, I am SO sorry I put you through that - and the last note was poorly placed. I manage the tone and vibrancy of my voice by feeling the resonance (or the vibrating air) crashing through all the sinuses and cavities in my face, mouth, and the rest of the skull. I am very technical about this, but this resonance can be moved around to vibrate in any of these spaces. So when I say that the last note was poorly placed, it means that I didn't use the right resonating space in my face and mouth so it sounded closer to Bette Midler than an opera singer. On the bright side (pun intended), I had a good high A right before it. But, I could have looked like I was passing a kidney stone - I'm not sure.
After the aria, the artistic directors called me to their table on the "side line" to talk. They asked me a very interesting question. Why do I have a Master's with two emphases? I explained to them the situation and my studies at K-State and what I am doing now with my Doctorate, which is just in Voice Performance. They thanked me for singing, and now I am just sitting back and waiting to hear from them. Hopefully, it will be an opportunity to perform. Afterward, I went right back to opera rehearsal without dinner and we practiced until 9:30 or 10. It was a very long day for sure!
I also had a concert last week with the Conservatory Singers, which went well. This Saturday, I have another one where I will be the tenor soloist for Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass. It should be amazing! There will be a 200 person choir, with orchestra, and it will be held at the Community of Christ Temple - one of the most amazing churches you'll ever see.
Also, last week I had a private coaching with the great American opera singer Diana Soviero. It went great and she was so kind and encouraging as we worked with many of my release issues with my highest notes. There are other technical things that we tried to do, that do not seem to fit right with my voice and technique, but it is always great to learn from the best and to hear their stories. She talked about singing with many of the greatest tenors of the past generation like Alfredo Kraus and Franco Corelli. I am so thankful for UMKC for providing us with these opportunities at the Conservatory.
State Senators in Kansas are getting close to voting on rescinding the Governor's executive order to end public arts funding, however it may be a close vote. I have tried very diligently to not make political statements here. I am just standing up for my profession and passion in life. I do hope that this era of political antagonizing ends soon. The "American Dream" for many artists and educators are on the line in many states now. I hope there is an understandable way to resolve a fight we shouldn't even be fighting.
One more addition to my schedule - I will be singing the National Anthem (the correct way) at the US Department of Energy's 12th Annual Small Business Conference & Expo, which will be here in Kansas City this year. And in case you are wondering (and "I honestly don't know" is my answer) but the agenda for the opening address includes "Startup America" - the White House's Small Business Initiative to Promote Entrepreneurship. I am hoping for a very special guest speaker.
- Tenor Soloist - Lord Nelson Mass by Haydn - Operation Breakthrough Benefit Concert at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence (where Jan Kraybill is the Principal Musician - she's one of my favorite people in the whole world) - 3/5 7:30pm
- Don Giovanni - Conservatory Opera - 3/17-20
- Wichita Symphony Orchestra Naftzger Young Artist Auditions - 4/2-3
- Conservatory Finale - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23
- National Anthem - DOE Small Business Conference & Expo - Kansas City Convention Center - 5/10
- Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
- Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: tba, opera: Daughter of the Regiment, maybe Little Women as well - 7/20-8/7
- Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba