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Singers: How to Research Producing Opera Companies
Megan Young
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Original Content10/11/2011

Editor's Note:
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There are hundreds, if not thousands, of opera producers in North America. So, how do you know which are appropriate for you at your current level of career achievement? Do you send out 100 headshots and resumes and hope for the best? We think not! Do your research ahead of time to find the opportunities that are appropriate for you. You'll cut down on the volume of materials you send out and you'll be less likely to be put on the "do not hear" list. To start your research, use OPERA America’s Career Guide for Opera. Read on for a comprehensive list of qualities to examine before you choose to audition…

Budget Size
A company's budget — along with information about venues, number of productions and performances per season, and types of singers engaged — can be another indicator of what is or is not appropriate for you.

Repertoire
If you're a countertenor, chances are you won't have any luck sending your materials to a company that specializes is Wagner, Puccini and Verdi. Conversely, if you're a great sightreader and love new works, by all means audition for new works laboratory companies. Do your homework and make sure your rep gels with the rep of the company.

Venue Capacity
Does the theater seat 300 or 3,000? If your Batti, batti is perfectly suited for a 300-seat jewel box theater, great! Audition for companies that perform in more intimate venues. If you're considering auditioning for a company with a larger house, ask yourself this: Can I fill this theater with sound? If the answer is no, save yourself the trouble.

Accompaniment

Similar issue here — if your experience includes only piano or reduced orchestra, you may not be ready to sing over 80 musicians in the pit. However, if you have reached an advanced level of your career, you may wish to avoid those that use chamber orchestra or piano for standard repertoire.

Hiring Practices
Some companies have strict policies regarding whether they will or will not hire managed singers, local artists, U.S. singers, Canadian singers or international singers. Read the application guidelines thoroughly.

Rehearsal Period
Many singers find extended rehearsal periods essential preparation for performance, particularly when learning a new role. Others are comfortable with fewer rehearsals. Consider whether a company's schedule will allow you to present your best performance.

Languages
If the company presents in original languages, are your foreign language skill at a professional level? If a company presents in English without titles, are your diction skills up to par? If the answer is "maybe," then is the rehearsal period of sufficient length for you to meet these challenges? If necessary, are you willing to invest adequate time and money in coachings before rehearsals begin?

Casting Policies
Every so often, a singer's talent is so extraordinary that he or she is engaged by a major house with little or no prior experience. But in general, many companies are looking for a certain level of experience: they want to know that you not only can sing, but also can be professional throughout rehearsals and an extended performance period. Target companies for which you are qualified; your experience with them may, in turn, qualify you for other experiences.

Audition Procedures
If the preceding information describes a company that seems appropriate for you, take note of the preferred method for auditioning singers. If they would like to be contacted by e-mail, don't pick up the phone. If they request a recording, be sure to include one. Some companies get hundreds of audition requests, and may not even consider those that do not follow directions.

Audition Location
When planning an audition tour, don't just consider the time it will take to travel from one site to the next; consider the time it will take for you to be ready to sing in a new place. (Will you perform better if you arrive the night before?) Note, too, that some regional companies hear auditions on an ongoing basis. If you know you will be spending time in a city whose opera company interests you, investigate the possibility of scheduling an audition while you're there. (At the same time, while it can be tempting to sign up for an audition simply because it's geographically convenient, remember that your first impression may be the only impression you're allowed to make. Never sing for a company — even your local company — until you're ready to be heard by them.

Audition Fee
Obviously, it's nice when there is no audition fee. But beware of hidden costs. What will it cost you to travel to the audition location? Does the organization provide an accompanist? Expenses for auditions can mount quickly, so don't waste your money and time on organization for which you are not suited.

Accompanist Provided
When accompanists are provided for auditions, it's a savings to you. However, it can be risky to use a pianist other than one with whom you regularly work, particularly if you are performing unusual repertoire. Increase your chances of performing a successful audition by providing a clean, clearly marked score, or by using your own accompanist.

Union Contract
Does the organization provide a union contract? Research this, and research the particulars on the appropriate union website.

Sponsored Program
Many companies sponsor a training program, competition or chorus which can be a useful way of becoming involved if you are not yet ready for mainstage roles.

Company Contact
Make sure you use the correct name — and correct spelling — when contacting a company. Attention to detail is a mark of professionalism.

Still Not Sure?
Read the current artist bios on the company website. If they sound like they're right around your skill and achievement level, then it's probably safe to send in your materials.
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