Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How to pick your five arias?

A big part of completing your application to the National Council Auditions is deciding what five arias you wish to perform.  I get a lot of questions asked about this, and the thing is, there is no right or wrong answer here.  There are no right or wrong arias to perform at an audition.

The first thing to keep in mind are the individual rules for the specific competition you are participating in.  For the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, keep the following in mind with regards to aria choice:
  • Select five arias you feel comfortable performing.  The application asks for a mix of contrasting styles and languages so you can show diversity to the judges.  They can be in any language, including English.
  • You will not be asked to sing all five arias, but be prepared to sing any one of them.  The judges will let you pick your first aria and they may then ask you to perform a second one.
  • If you are not 100% convinced yet on what arias you want to perform, you can change them at any time after you have send in your application.  Just shoot us an email and we will take care of it.  If you change your mind at the last minute, you can just inform the judges of your substitute on stage.
  • If you move on to the Region Finals and the Semi-Finals, you will have an opportunity to change your aria choices if you want to.
I myself am not a music expert, but in the December 2011 issue of Opera News there was a very interesting article for anyone who is deciding what arias to sing at their next competition.  The article was written by William R. Braun and was called "You came here to win, didn't you?"

You can read the full article on the Opera News website, but if you just want a few pointers, here they are:
  • Mozart is always appropriate
  • Explore Handel
  • Ladies, go easy on the Waltz songs
  • Be able to do what the aria does
  • Know the subtext, play the subtext
  • There's no need to worry about vocal categories
  • Know what is special about your voice
  • Have a strategy for longer arias
  • Your special enthusiasms may not be the judges enthusiasms 
At the competition you will also be working with a new pianist (unless you bring your own), so here are some more tips to keep in mind:
  • Know what markings are in your music
  • Be sure the music is usable
  • Know how to indicate your tempo
  • Know when the piano can't give you a lot of support
In the end, the best advice is to listen to your teacher and his/her recommendations.  There are no arias that will score you pointers with the judges, and it certainly doesn't matter if it is a mainstream aria or not.  There is no perfect aria, but the best aria is the one you connect with, which is well prepared and which showcases the best you have to offer musically, dramatically and vocally.