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Monday, April 7, 2014

End of Year Wrap Up: Opera McGill 2013-2014

It's been a huge year at Opera McGill. A Season celebrating many things, mostly Shakespeare (450th birthday year is 2014) but also Britten (100 year celebration was 2013), and of course celebrating the amazing, talented, fantastic students who populate the halls of the Schulich School of Music!

After a brilliant start with the "Shakespeare Serenade", and a wonderful fall production of Handel's Giulio Cesare (directed by Tom Diamond and conducted by Jordan de Souza), we did a low-budget but intensely exciting double-bill of The Telephone and La Voix Humaine that ended the first semester. January brought a culminating production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream (directed by me, conducted by Andrew Bisantz, and choreographed by Nicola Bowie) followed by a terrific mostly-staged collaboration with the McGill Chamber Orchestra (Boris Brott, artistic director and conductor) of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi (directed by Nicola Bowie) with a huge Shakespeare Scenes program tucked in between those performances. Whew! So much opera in two semesters.

I couldn't have done all of this without the terrific support of my three Opera McGill office assistants: Robert Parr, Michaela Dickey, and Caitlin Hammon. They were simply amazing and kept things humming along, all the while performing in the aforementioned productions and finishing up their own degrees at McGill.

Additionally, there were nights of arias (Death By Aria), nights previewing the season at various venues, and hundreds and hundreds of hours of rehearsals, coachings, and stagings.

That's where the actual work is done - in rehearsal. And it's where you either develop a love of the art form or not. If you don't like rehearsing, or find it boring, or think it might be a waste of your time, you really truly need to think of something else to do with your life. Opera is rehearsal.

Opera is not performing for adoring audiences. It is thousands of hours doing research - into scores, recordings, videos - and learning and practicing and coaching and then collaborating with dozens of others; most of that collaboration happens in the rehearsal process.

That's why I think it's so important for young singers studying opera to get LOTS of rehearsal time - whether it's as a walk-on, a supporting role, a lead role, or as a cover.  One must love rehearsing in order to be loved as a performer.

With that thought, here are my nominations for outstanding achievement in various categories:

Most Hours Spent in Rehearsals:
Russell Wustenberg (Serenade, Giulio, Midsummer, Capuleti, Shakespeare scenes)
Samantha Pickett (Voix, Midsummer, Shakespeare scenes)
Sara Casey (Giulio, Midsummer, Capuleti, Shakespeare scenes)
Rebecca Robinson (Serenade, Giulio, Midsummer, Capuleti)

Best Use of a Prop:
Lee Clapp (fingering the hilt of Pyramus' sword)
Brent Calis (breaking any rehearsal prop he touched)
Samantha Pickett (the pictures in Voix)
Collin Shay (standing on a grand piano)

Best Trip:
Vanessa Oude-Reimerink (Tytania and the fog)
My five days in D.C. directing at the Kennedy Center
Bottom's Dream

Best Use of Text:
Sara Ptak (Sigh No More)
Geoffrey Penar (It was a lover)
Katrina Westin (Merry Wives scene)
Chelsea Mahan (Shakespeare sessions as Tytania)
Caitlin Hammon (Sonnet)

Best Tear To The Eye:
Tytania/Oberon/Fairies (Final chorus of Midsummer)
Geoffrey Penar (Sonnet reading)
Kevin Delaney (Come Away)
Robert Parr (Be Not Afeard)
Rebecca Robinson (tomb scene in Capuleti)

Best Loudest Moment:
Kevin Myers (in the tree as Lysander)
Elyse Charlebois (Death by aria)
Samantha Pickett (Desdemona)
Ensemble (Serenade to Music)

Funniest moment:
Pyramus and Thisbe, the opera

Scariest moment:
Michaela Dickey and the FOG
Almost every musical rehearsal with the Lovers on Act 3
Our guests barely getting through customs

Most Memorable Moment:
Me giving notes in the tree after Midsummer
Running the Shakespeare Serenade in Redpath
Seeing Oberon up in that tree with lights and fog for the first time

Hearing the final moments of Midsummer echo in my memory still gives me chills. Thanks for that!

I'm sure I missed tons of memories, these were just those that came to me as I typed this blog!!

Thanks for such a terrific season everyone!
Thanks to Ginette Grenier, Vincent Lefevre, Serge Filiatrault, and Florence Cornet our amazing designers.
Thanks to our videographer, Anne Kostalas and our photographer Adam Scotti.
Thanks to everyone in the Concerts and Publicity Office at the Schulich School of Music as well as to all of you who continue to support the Schulich School of Music!
Thanks to our amazing guest artists: Tom Diamond, Jordan de Souza, Nicola Bowie, Boris Brott, Andrew Bisantz, Paul Hopkins, and Paul Yachnin.
And -- A special thanks to my wife and family for their support and understanding. Sirius is so happy to have me back!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rating Music Schools

Note of Warning: The following post contains opinions. Crazy, I know, but true. Opinions. Hopefully, someone will not agree with these opinions, or agree. I don't care. That's how things work, or used to work.

Also, please note: The following post is supposed to be humorous. I warn you in advance, as much of it is not funny, it is just trying to be so...

There's been flurry of postings on Facebook about a recent blog - that some mistook for an article - rating Music Schools. This wasn't done via a newspaper or some magazine, it was so far as I can tell, one man's research into music schools in the United States (I don't know if he knew there were music schools outside of the U.S. - say Guildhall in England, for instance, or if it was decidedly just a U.S. list.) His top ten list generated few surprises, and I can't say I disagree with most of those choices. Many people were thrilled to see that their alma mater was rated above Juilliard (sorry, THE Juilliard) and posted excited exclamations about it all.

But I think there are some flaws in the logic behind these ratings.

For one, rating music schools based on the number of operas that get produced seems like an odd way of determining whether it's a good school or not for studying music. If a small school produces one opera and maybe a scenes program, that does not mean it is less of a school than, say, Indiana University, that produces upwards of 6 productions a year. Why? Well, there are hundreds and hundreds of singers at I.U. and even with 6 productions (even double cast) there are still only a certain number of roles available for students. Plus, most undergraduate students don't get cast onto the stage in roles at the bigger schools with huge graduate populations. At a smaller school, say Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, there is a very small population of students (all undergraduate) and usually two opera productions plus scenes. In their four years, students have a much higher chance of getting cast in a role than, say, at a big graduate school like I.U.

Full disclosure -- I went to Simpson College for my undergraduate piano performance degree...

These ratings weren't just about opera, though. Rating a music school is quite a difficult task. One needs to look at the overall population of students, the ratio of full-time professors and instructors to students attending, the facilities (some of the great schools are located in facilities where there isn't running water in certain parts of the building... Not speaking about anywhere in particular, it's just that it'd be nice if one didn't have to climb a flight of stairs and walk down a long hallway to use the restroom), the resources (human and financial), the cost of tuition and room/board, the diversity of subject matter taught (improv? jazz? business? stagecraft?), etc. The list is huge. I have to wonder what went into the decision to rate MSM above or below another school, like Eastman for instance.

Now, many of these schools rated as "Top Ten" are lovely schools and have churned out some wonderful musicians, but many parents of high school students, and the students themselves, are way too worried about getting into a "top" school. That's why these sorts of lists need to be taken lightly. As Malcolm's recent book "Goliath" aptly demonstrates, sometimes going to a smaller school or - god forbid - heading to a non-Ivy league school, or take-my-hand-I-might-faint, enrolling in an off the map school can actually lead to a higher success rate. In the opera world, there are tons of singers making it professionally who did not attend a CCM, a MSM, or a Juilliard (sorry THE Juilliard) but came from terrific schools in the midwest or in the south. (Are there music schools in California? Oh, that's right, there's USC and some conservatory in San Fran.)

I believe that what Malcolm (we are on a first name basis obviously) has to say about the Ivy Leagues is also true with music schools.  Not all schools are for all students, and sometimes it can make a great deal of sense to study music at a school that makes the student feel like they are a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Why? Read the book.

So, in light of the recent Music School Ratings list that made the FB rounds, I'd like to provide my own. Please do so knowing I'm making no endorsements for any school, nor am I criticizing any school. It's MY list.

Here It Goes:

#1 McGill's Schulich School of Music. Why? Cause the guy that runs the opera program there grows the best facial hair of anyone running any opera program in North America. Plus they do at least three operas a year, with orchestra and usually a few more with piano. And the fromage in Quebec is the best substance known to man!

#2 Simpson College in Indianola Iowa. Why? Cause RLL's a genius and created the most unique music department filled with singers singing all the time, all the repertoire (from madrigals to Floyd operas) and I went there, along with a few other rather talented folk, back in the 80s.

#3 UMKC. Why? Cause that's where I got my masters degree (do you see the trend yet?) And KC BBQ is almost as good as one finds in Memphis. But don't study in Memphis, too many distractions on Beale Street, you'd never practice and then you'd start singing the blues, and then your parents would get upset.

#4 Juilliard (sorry - THE Juilliard School.) Why? Cause it's fricken Juilliard, (sorry THE Juilliard School) and I was a fellow there at the JOC way back in the 90s. Best coaches anywhere, have to say.

#5 FSU. Why? Because Read Gainsford, Valerie Trujillo, and Timothy Hoekman work there and they are brilliant.

#6 USC. Why? Cause Buffy the Vampire shot some episodes on that campus and Ken Cazan is there and he's a terrific director. It's also sunny all the time, never rains, and everyone is beautiful.

#7 Ithaca College. Why? Cause they can belt musical theatre tunes and perform Gluck equally well. Their secret weapon? Boy Wonder runs the opera program and he's REALLY a genius. Truly.

#8 Northwestern University. Why? No idea why, just popped into my head. Everybody loves Northwestern. 

#9 Oberlin College. Why? Sydney Mancasola went there and she's as good as it gets. Plus David Gately went there back in 1935 or something like that.

#10 Anyplace that costs under $25,000 a year. Good luck finding one. That's a whole other topic.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April is National Poetry Month!

Last time I checked, opera was filled with poetry.

Text? Poetic most of the time
Composition? Poetry to the ear
Singers? Poetry made human
Staging? Poetry in motion

Well, the last might not be true in many Koncept productions...

The composer begins with poetry. Begins with a text. Opera composers, at least the good ones I imagine, would have sat, thought, and spoke the texts they were going to set. Many rewrote the texts provided to them, or often times would write the librettists asking for changes. Then there are the great ones who wrote their own poetry and set it to music: Wagner, Sondheim, Cole Porter. George had Ira, Giuseppe had Arrigo. Music and Text.

Much of the text gets lost, either because of the composer's setting of it (difficult tessitura, over orchestrated moments, ensembles where everyone is singing different text) or because a singer might not quite say all the parts of all the words all the time (it's called either being lazy, or making choices.) So a lot of the text, the poetry, of an opera is absolutely lost on the ear of the listeners. It's up to the many operatic collaborators to try to make sure as much of it gets past the orchestra pit (i.e. is heard) and to the minds of the audience (i.e. it is understood).

The most important collaborator in this adventure? For me, it is the stage director. So much text gets lost because a stage director blocks a singer to turn upstage, or face sideways, while delivering text. It's like they are staging a musical on Broadway with body microphones or something. What part of their craft didn't they learn?  Is the physicality that important? Is showing attention to a partner (actor speak, sorry) more important than allowing text to travel out to the audience? Do they not understand the acoustic nature of the art form they are collaborating with on a daily basis?

No, for the most part.

So singers - particularly savvy ones with stage experience - have to decide if they'll adjust their positions slightly to get their text (via their voice) out to the audiences. It used to be called "cheating out". Now it's called rebelling against what the director wants.

Or does the director actually want that? Do they actually say "I want you to sing sideways into the wings at all times?"  No, they don't say these things. It's how their direction gets misinterpreted (believe me, I've stopped being surprised by singers saying things to me like "OH! You want me to pick up the glass with my UPSTAGE hand? OKAY, sorry, you just needed to tell me!" after I've showed them a dozen times how to pick up the glass with the upstage hand.) In their defence, they are thinking about a dozen things, particularly if it's a new role, and sometimes don't have the wherewithal to focus on details of staging.

Yet, in their coachings there's a great deal of lip-service to the text. Lots of thought and struggle about its meaning, its correct pronunciation, its subtext, etc., go into a coaching. How the text sounds in the voice is an important part of any voice lesson or coaching. Then, it seems, it all goes out the window once a director says "cross stage right and sing that line to Emily".

And the line gets sung directly to Emily, who is a young singer too and is upstage of the other singer and doesn't know enough to come a bit downstage so as not to "upstage" her colleague. That's just one simple example of how text can get lost. It happens on a daily basis all over the world.

So during April, I'll be posting some blogs about text. Hopefully a few will be poetic. Heck, maybe I'll write some poetry and subject y'all to it. Let's go wild.

In the meantime, if you are headed into a staging, or into a performance (either as a listener or a performer) let's give our operatic texts a helping hand -- connect to them, think about them, enjoy them, judge them, love them. Our composers did!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March Madness #12: What was I thinking?

Don't worry, I'll talk about opera in a few paragraphs, but before that...

I shaved the beard off. Those of you left following me on Instagram have seen the pics by now - I should rephrase, those of you left who haven't un-followed me because I shaved.  A few liked it, some said it was "shocking", some were nonplussed, my family was disappointed as were a few friends who thought the beard was sticking around for good. I did, though, receive a few too many comments and IMs from some of the more rabid beard lovers that went along certain verbiage I don't type into my blog!

I didn't know a clean-shaven man was a woman, for instance. Here I'd been one for 48 years, wow.

What was I thinking?

I started out thinking to trim, then it took a turn for the worse, then it became evident I was going to head back down to that stubble stuff, so I just shaved. I kept the stache.  I had no idea my chin was so weak and fragile!

What was I thinking trying to blog every day for 31 days in March?  It's Madness, sheer madness.

And it was Shear Madness that obviously took its toll on my beard!

Doing too much is a problem of mine. It's a problem for many of us in this crazy field called opera. We are sometimes "gig whores" - never saying NO for fear that ask might be the last one to ever come our way. We are definitely procrastinators on certain levels and in parts of our private lives, I'm certain. We are also passionate and passionately devoted to making music, creating productions, and living via our chosen artistic endeavours. That does take a toll sometimes when too much gets scheduled into too little time.

That certainly happened for me these past six weeks. Between a gig with the Washington Chorus in DC at the Kennedy Center, I was trying to juggle a few too many scenes, a few too many production details, while putting out a few too many, always unlooked for, operatic fires that crop up from time to time.

It's when the Perfect Storm arises, that we see our days all too clearly. I remember two days ago needing to urinate around 3pm. Finally at the break in an act, during a dress rehearsal, I got round to it sometime after 8:30pm. It was like I was on one of those long trips from Iowa to Texas with my dad driving the station wagon and I had to go, but was told to "wait until we're in Arkansas!" Yet, I was the one driving and still... bladder bursting.

I also forget to drink liquids (I guess that's the running theme here...) and find myself parched after going an entire day without water, or tea, or juice. I just go from meeting to meeting to class to rehearsal to meeting to returning email to running to another whatever.

What am I thinking?  Life didn't use to be this hectic. I blame email. Really blame it.

I plan on spending a significant amount of time researching ways to NOT email.  Please send me any thoughts or ideas you might have on the subject.

I'm also going to put up a ticker on this blog to vote for the return of the beard or keeping the stache or going to that, gulp, clean-shaven look. Please make your voice heard -- this is an opera blog!

Friday, March 14, 2014

March Madness #11: I'm totally behind!

It's March 14th and this should be March Madness #14.

But it's not!  Terribly behind. But what isn't new, really?

Part of this crazy opera business seems to be a constant state of feeling that your To Do list just continues to grow, even though you might be getting tons of things done on a daily basis. There's always something...

A scheduling snafu, a problem with communication, a long report to prepare, a program to proof, a poster to design, an aria to transpose, ornaments to write out, music to xerox, a board meeting spreadsheet to look over, letters of recommendation to write, phone calls to return, email, email, email, and then there's those blogs to read.

Plus your private life issues and needs and pressures to take care of and prioritize.

I'm not sure email is helping us; I believe it is hindering me.

Just getting a request to send a photo to someone turned into 9 emails this morning. A phone call would have been easier, quicker and much more efficient. Why aren't people phoning each other anymore?

Are we going to start sending our stage directions via email? (Oh wait, just had to do that a few weeks ago...)

Are we going to start coaching via the internet... (Oh wait, I know people who actually charge to do that and I know people who pay them...)

Are we going to give up being with others?

Are operatic performances going to happen via HD cameras while the audiences sit at home and watch while texting on their smart phones, snacking on apples, petting their dogs, and not listening to their children? (Been there, done that...)

So I can't really go on about this evil, cause I partake in it and I know good, wonderful people who do so to.

But there is no - NO - substitute for person to person contact, preferably in the same room and face to face, when it comes time to solve problems or ask questions. And it's precisely that -- asking questions and solving problems -- that happen in coachings and rehearsals everyday all around the world.

Opera can offer today's world a solution to its tech-isolationist attitude. Opera can keep humans human.

So, a mini-blog on trying to stay human by drowning in operatic activities. Well, drowning's not the best word...

That is all, I must MUST get back to my To Do List or else some emergency of operatic proportions will absolutely do me in!

Here's hoping tomorrow is a better day!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March Madness #10: One Quote from Shakespeare

From Hamlet:

“We shall, by indirections, find the directions out.” 

It is a great quote. Polonius', actually.

A perfect thought, piece of advice, and strategy for artistic creation. Certainly it is my method of finding the "key" or the "hook" or the "path" for any opera I might be trying to direct. It is absolutely quite useful in coachings and rehearsals.

It's about process; process is vital. It is the essential thing.


One can look at this from a Laban perspective -- moving indirectly is extremely powerful and contains elements of improvisation and experimentation sometimes forgotten onstage.

Indirect emotions can be exceedingly playful, extremely spontaneous, or sometimes frightening and destructive.

Indirect conducting is an actual useful technique that I've used often, particularly in contemporary opera.

So, indirectness is a way into the forest. A path that can't necessarily be followed. It's the way one enters into many conversations, it's the way one enters into understanding difficult subjects. It's how one encounters paintings or other pieces of art, particularly sculpture.

So it is probably true that its opposite - directness - can lead one into the forest as well. Paths are usually safe and well-worn. Directness makes a statement, is usually crystal clear, and hopefully a concise way to understand a solution.

Thinking that a musical score is a direct, objective, concrete set of "directions", however, isn't a good thing, at least in my playbook.

I think back to my masters degree and my amazing piano teacher, Joanne Baker. She didn't teach her students the traditional way - by allowing the music to be looked at. Whatever we'd work on with her HAD to be memorized. Whether it was a bar, a page, a section, a movement, or an entire sonata, you had to walk into your lesson with it memorized. This meant digesting large quantities of notes and musical markings as quickly as possible, committing them to memory while reading the music and practicing the passages, and then spending the rest of the time listening and thinking and experimenting with your sounds. She believed that if you were looking into a score for the answers, all you'd find were "black notes on white pages" that had no meaning. They were just a blueprint for the actual building that existed - a building that each pianist had to create for themselves.

It taught me that scores were a leaping off point. Yes, they needed to be referred to and studied, but certainly not revered or held up as some sort of biblical, definitive, musical word of God.

Treating an operatic score (and especially, an operatic piano/vocal reduction) as critical, particularly when it is actually described or labeled "critical", sets up an illusion. Even the autographs do not encapsulate the real point of the composer's labor. The score is just a set recipe of sorts to the musicians and the singers (and the producers, conductors, directors, etc.), something that isn't in any way, shape, or form representative of actual art. If it was, we'd just hand the audience a score when they entered the theatre and we'd say "Here's the opera!"

No one would think that would be a good idea.

Yet, too many musicians, too many teachers and coaches, too many students, think that if one just does what's on the page, one has fulfilled their duty. Or even worse, they think that perhaps they've done something correct or good or noble.

The wondrous thing about opera is that it is never the same. It's like that old adage "You can never step into the same river twice"; the operatic river moves and flows constantly. Tastes change, ornamental treatises are written, then forgotten, then discovered, trends shift. These things we know. But the scores basically stay the same, on their shelves all around the world. That's why they aren't real, or at least not the real deal.

It's the scores that live in the minds of the performers that are the real scores. They can't be touched or copied or pdf'd; they are as indirect as the billions of mental connections that create our sense of self. Each time one hears a Verdi aria in their head, hums a tune by Mozart, listens to a rehearsal of Bellini, or spends time reciting text, one is making a thousand indirect connections that ultimately leads them to a destination of sorts.

Indirectly finding the Direct.

And that's just one line from one Shakespeare play...

Monday, March 10, 2014

March Madness #9: My Most Popular Post...

So -- My most popular blog, viewed over 1000 times. Who knew?

Talents of Christmas Past ossia Audition advice

I know, odd title for October.
Okay, so maybe not Christmas Past. I'm writing about talent I've come across in the past. Once you get through that, there's a few thoughts on auditioning (for those out there getting ready for the Fall Audition Season!)

Talent - hard to define. For me, it's certainly not "God Given", as my sainted mother used to say. She'd yell from the kitchen, "Pat, are you going to practice today or waste your GOD GIVEN TALENT?"! I've been around enough to have heard that phrase used by way too many.

Frankly, we all have talent. Some find the ability to access it easier than others. Many simply allow their talent to unfold, unfurl, or become present with little to no effort. Others strive, work, seek, follow, build, force, or pray their talent into existence with a great deal of blood, sweat and tears. The majority of those I think of as "talented" singers seemed to have opened their mouths one day and tone was released with very little thought or effort. They might disagree with me.

During my time running the young artist program at Glimmerglass, a very talented singer once asked me (through copious tears) why they were "still a young artist" while a peer of theirs (and a good friend, which made it even harder) was a "guest artist" complete with a leading role, guest housing, a new agent, and invites to the exclusive parties. I sat in silence for a minute because, actually I thought the young artist quite talented (the American use of that word...), perhaps more "talented" than their peer. Obviously I didn't want to give a flippant answer because the emotions were running high, plus I'd never considered the question so specifically.

My answer? I think I said something like "they aren't trying to fix themselves, they release." My meaning? The singer with the leading role "released" their voice, not caring what others thought. More importantly, not trying to FIX their voice while singing. The young artist still thought something was wrong with their voice and kept it close to themselves in order to be able to FIX it somehow - through the right teacher, the right role, the right repertoire, the right coach, etc.  In other words, one was bent on being Effective, the other one on being Correct.

Too many programs, I'm thinking both academic and professional ones, focus on Correctness with an impossibly huge capital C. I tend to focus on Effectiveness because, after my many years working with young singers, it's the most empowering way to go about being successful. We want CPAs to be correct, we want the "best before" labels on our food to be correct, we want our tax forms to be correct. However, I don't want ART to be CORRECT.

All of the great art out there is imperfect on some level, and usually on many levels. All of the great performances I've witnessed were imperfect in some way as well. The great "perfect" building, the Parthenon in Athens, was made to look perfect by building in some major imperfections into its design.  Singing is the same. Being a singing artist requires a great deal of flexibility and creativity - two things that can be suffocated in an attempt to be CORRECT.

Recently, a former student I worked with at Ithaca College was nominated for a Tony Award as a Lead Actor in a Musical (Newsies). He was an extremely talented young man when he arrived at IC to start his studies in musical theatre. I remember his first audition; being taken aback by the sheer force of his presence onstage. Other students had the same effect on me, from the very first moment they opened their mouths to sing; some have had some huge recent successes on Broadway and I often wonder if it's because they allowed themselves some kind of freedom where letting their talent "release" was concerned. I know they all worked really hard on their vocal technique, their acting, their dancing, etc., but I, at least, never questioned their ability to be sensational from the get go.

Some of the talent I came into contact with at Glimmerglass around the turn of this century was beyond extraordinary. Often times when I think of those I considered to be the most talented singers, I have to go and google them to find out what's happened. For you see, more often than not, those uber-talents never ended up being the biggest stars - and oftentimes they ended up not singing professionally at all.

Now I am all about finding alternative careers to singing opera! I have been so pleased that many former students and young artists of mine are no longer either pursuing a singing career or are happily and gainfully employed doing something they love and are fulfilled by doing. Don't get me wrong here - this blog is not about why people stop singing.

The Glimmerglass young artists that I worked with who are now out and about singing all over the world - from Strasbourg to Covent Garden to the Met to San Fran to Fort Worth to Virginia Opera to Lyric Opera of Chicago - all do have something in common: they were open to working with others, on all sorts of music, and with little to no judgement - beyond looking for their version of truth.

Truth -- that's an interesting word. It can get caught in the net of correctness for sure. The word "Correct" is often defined as the removal of errors, or punishing so as to improve; certainly something that is correct can be thought of as free from mistakes. Well, the human voice - and especially the talented ones I've known - is certainly full of errors. Those with perfect pitch can attest that most of our great singers from the last 100 years sang out of tune. If you simply listen to the "greats" (Sutherland, Callas, Sills, Domingo, Pavarotti, Freni, Fleming, Ramey, Horne, can I stop now?!) you hear their foibles, their vocal problems and imperfections. Yet, each had/has something special and unique to offer - their artistry and humanity blended and conveyed through those fragile vocal folds.

So -- for those young singers out there entering into the operatic audition season: A word or two of advice:

1) You can't fix your voice in an audition, so don't try. Let it out and who gives a damn?!
2) Those panelists are human beings you have no control over. They're not there to punish your imperfections, they are sitting there because they love opera and opera singers AND they are hoping you are the solution to their problem: i.e. they need to cast singers!
3) Stop judging yourself like you are a problem. Try, TRY to allow yourself to be as wonderful as you possibly can be given your current process.
4) Breathe before, during and after your audition (I know, this one gets said often but really -- BREATHE!
5) Give yourself another goal for the day beyond your audition. Perhaps it'll be nabbing a TKTS discount price on a Broadway show, or meeting up with friends for a dinner or movie. The day can't JUST be about your audition.

That's what I've got for now. Sorry it's been awhile since I last wrote. The past 6 weeks have been from Hell and I'm hoping the rest of the Fall gets a bit better SOON!