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PDX OPERAbeat | A Company Blog is the blog for all things Portland Opera, featuring a variety of guest contributors who will provide insider's tidbits on all we do to celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera.

All About Auditions

Last week, our Artistic Staff traveled to New York City, to hear more than 50 young singers audition for our Studio Artist program.  Read thoughts on this process from Clare Burovac, Director of Artistic Operations.


We've now heard about 50 preliminary auditions, and at the end of the day on Tuesday, Rob Ainsley and I had the unenviable task of trying to choose about 10 singers to invite for a callback audition on Wednesday morning.  The level of singing this year was very high, and there were many singers who could easily be considered for a position with our POSA program.  How to choose?  There were a couple of factors that went into the process:

1.  We know that after a year without a POSA tenor, we definitely want to engage a tenor for the 2012-13 season.  Therefore, the majority of the callbacks were tenors, traditionally the most difficult voice type for us to cast.

2.  Of the remaining spots, we tried to divide them evenly among the other three voice types:  soprano, mezzo, and baritone.  This meant choosing just two or three of each of these categories, and for each voice type, there were many singers that we'd be interested in hearing again.  In some instances, we bypassed singers who had sung for us in previous years, so that we could have a second chance to hear some voices that were new to us.  In other instances, we called back singers who had shown great improvement over the course of the past year.

3.  We did hear a couple of singers who were very talented and gave great auditions, but we felt that they would not be appropriate for our program.  In a couple of instances, there were singers who had done a number of young artist programs and were quite accomplished; in these cases, I'll encourage them to take the plunge into a mainstage career.  Others, while quite talented, might not be suitable for our program.  For instance, we heard a great future Wagnerian tenor who has a ton of potential.  Many of the opportunities we offer our Studio Artists aren't suitable for someone of that voice type; a tenor of that type would not be successful singing Beppe in Pagliacci, for example, and both the company and the singer would be frustrated if we tried to force that kind of match.  One of the great advantages to Portland Opera's Studio program is the amount of stage time we're able to offer our young singers, and we try to avoid engaging a singer who would have a year-long residency without a mainstage role.

As a side note, it's a great frustration to me that there aren't more opportunities for the big-voiced singers.  Young Artist programs in many companies, including Portland Opera, are geared towards the lighter voices which mature faster; while many a young soprano can be a successful Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, it's a rare soprano under the age of 30 who can sing Verdi or Puccini, as these voices take more time to mature.  But by the time a soprano is 30, frequently she is "aged out" of the business if she hasn't successfully completed a young artist program.  It's a vicious cycle which is ultimately hurting the profession, since we're seeing a shortage of great Verdi and Wagner singers as compared to the large number of talented Mozartians, precisely because those who could have been successful in the larger roles quit singing when they were turned down again and again for young artist programs.  When my lotto ticket hits, it's my dream to begin a program geared towards these young singers - to give them the time, education and nurturing that they need to grow into the next generation of great singers.

A few photos for your enjoyment:

All About Auditions blog
Clare Burovac with board member, Matt Baines, standing in front of the Metropolitan Opera.

All About Auditions blog
General Director, Christopher Mattaliano, getting ready for the start of auditions.