Sharin Apostolou, former Portland Opera Studio Artist (POSA), writes about her POSA audition:
I’ll never forget my auditions for POSA program. It was a little over 5 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was April and I was thiiiis close to getting my master’s degree. I (unlike a few of my luckier classmates) had not succeeded in getting a job for the next year. I saw the listing for the POSA audition and was determined. Portland? Singing? Yes! THIS GIG WILL BE MINE.
The day of the audition, I spent extra time curling my hair and making sure my makeup was fabulous. My green silk audition dress was perfect from the dry cleaners. Extra pairs of stockings? Check. Ridiculous number of résumés and headshots? Check. Throat coat tea in a thermos? Check! Anything else I could possibly need in packed into massive bag? Check! I was ready. Looked outside- bright sunshine. Who needs an umbrella? I got off of the 1 train at 116th Street and nearly screamed when I resurfaced. SNOW. In April. Big, fat, wet, horrible, hair-flattening, silk dress ruining SNOW. Riverside church was a mere 4 blocks away, but still. There was no way around it. I was going to look awful. EPIC FAIL. I covered as much of my dress as my little trench coat could and ran like a tiger was chasing me.
My pianist met me in the lobby. “Oh, wow. You’re all wet.” Thanks. I had no idea. We went up the tower to the audition room where I checked in and was shown the way to the bathroom to try to paper towel myself dry. My hair was wet and undone. The entire dress was wrinkled and damp. I looked like a hot mess. I walked in the room to sing. “Good Afternoon. My name is Sharin and I swear that I looked a lot better 20 minutes ago. Did you know its snowing out?” Sara Jane looked outside at the freak spring snow shower and we all got a good laugh. I sang my two arias and before I left she told me to come back the next day to sing for The Boss. I promised her I’d bring an umbrella.
The rest of the audition experience was, thankfully, less eventful. I came the next day (dried and coiffed, might I add), sang the other three arias I had on my list, and played what seemed like a meaningless game of Jersey Geography with The Boss. It went something like this: “Where are you from?” “Originally? New Jersey.” “Oh? Where?” “Bergen County.” “What town?” “Oakland. You?” “I’m from Montclair.” Along with ‘What exit?’ (165). This is a very common game played by those of us from the Garden State.
I was thrilled with that audition! 3 arias! And chatting! This was all very good. I tried really hard to not get excited. I waited. And waited. And waited… I did not get the job that year and was very sad. SJ sent me a very kind email asking me to sing again in the fall. I applied and was granted an audition again.
Now, I really really wanted this gig. This time around the roles were fantastic- Frasquita, Clorinda, and the High Priestess on the mainstage, Miss Wordsworth in the studio show, and covering Micaela and the title role of Rodelinda. Could it be anymore AWESOME? I walked in the room and SJ remembered me. “Hello, Miss New Jersey.” I sang my *new* starting aria and she told me that’s all she needed to hear. I was told to arrange a call back time to sing for The Boss again and to bring an aria with coloratura. *Phew* Made it through!
I was so nervous the next day. The girl before me sang three arias, just like I had the year before and she was good- REALLY good. I tried to put on my game face. Here we go. I walked in the room and tried to be calm and cheerful, without looking like a total lunatic. I announced my first piece and added “unless there is something else you’d like to hear.” I’ve done this before and every single time the option has been rejected. Of course, The Boss took me up on the offer. “Actually, can we hear the Donizetti?” Oh, the one piece I have with coloratura that I’ve only sung once in an audition before and still scares the bejesus out of me? “Of course!”
It’s always really hard to not pay attention to the panel while you sing, especially for a young singer who is still desperately looking for approval. We try our best to ignore them and be in the moment, but often times we look for a sign to see how we’re doing.
I got no signs. The Boss had his head on the table and didn’t look up once -- neither during the aria nor the cabaletta. Not even the high C at the end of the aria got a blip of recognition. I was dying. “Thank you so much for singing for us again. Good luck with everything.” I reciprocated their thanks and left. I must have been awful. I blew it. One aria?! He didn’t even look up once! “Good luck with everything”?!? What does that even mean!?!? Oh, well. Not getting that job.
A week later SJ called me with the offer. I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe that he actually hired me after hardly looking at me. I, of course, accepted. The rest is kind of history.
One rainy night in Portland, SJ and I were having dinner with the rest of the POSAs and chatting about our auditions. I had to ask about mine. I remember her laughing at me. “The Boss had the flu. He was sick as a dog and had to sit through the auditions. He just wanted to make sure your voice could move. The job was yours.”
I learned one thing from that audition -- you can never tell what’s actually going on over there on the other side of that table. All of that chatter could be the auditors discussing casting ideas or possible lunch places. The silence could be awe or utter horror. We might never know.
- Sharin Apostolou
Sharin (second from left) performing the role of Frasquita in Portland Opera's 2007 production of Carmen. She is joined by fellow Studio Artists (l-r) Hannah Penn, Brendan Tuohy and Christopher Clayton, along with Jossie Pérez (center) performing the title role.
In Portland Opera's 2008 production of Rodelinda, Sharin had the chance to perform the title role - and save the day for Portland Opera - when the original singer got sick.
Sharin in the title role of Portland Opera's 2009 Studio Artist production, La Calisto. She is joined by fellow Studio Artists (l-r) Jonathan Kimple and José Rubio.