I said in a previous blog that i didn't think I could get professional (paid) opera work being a young soprano with only a bachelor degree to my name. I'm happy to say I was very VERY wrong! I applied for an audition for a paid production with Northern Opera Group after seeing their advertisement on Opera Talk Facebook page. I received an audition however it was scheduled on the same day as one of my regular teaching jobs which is never ideal.
While planning my year out I've had to balance how much regular work to accept while keeping in mind leaving time for practice and scheduling auditions/performance projects. I've decided to have two full days of teaching which is enough to sustain myself and then I have options of other more flexible work such as one off performance gigs, being a Party Princess (best job in the world... in my opinion) and other work through friends. I've always loved teaching but my god is it tiring! I've often been in situations where I've had to teach for a few hours and then go to an audition. It's so important to look after your own voice when teaching/crowd controlling especially if you have to sing for someone in the same day.
I think having to fit in everyday life around auditions has meant that I am less worried about what I eat on a day of an audition or how stuffy the tube or train is. Instead of my whole day being about the audition, which usually only lasts about 10 minutes, they become just another thing to do, another performance (as I often see teaching as a performance). In a way I think it makes the audition seem equally as important as the teaching and therefore I am less nervous for them. Doing auditions is becoming more and more a big element of my performance life. I am often preparing last minute for them because I am busy doing something else. However I feel like I am beginning to learn a strategy of learning music quickly, to compensate for this.
For the audition with Northern Opera Group you had to learn an excerpt from Stanford's 'Much Ado About Nothing'. I received the excerpt while I was in London after getting back from Poland with the Gabrieli's. I had a little look over it but as I had no access to a piano and there were no recordings, I had to wait to get back to Manchester where I had just three days to learn it. I immediately booked an hour with a local coach. I was really struggling during the coaching to hear how the piano and vocal line fitted together and learning the extract in a few days seemed an impossible job. Anyway over night somehow it had sunk into my brain and it only took a few run-throughs the next day and I had learnt it off copy. It was in English which was helpful but I still had to translate the Shakespearean so I really understood it. I went to the audition and they said I could have the music in-front of me, which I obviously did, despite learning it off copy. Long story short it all went well and I got the part... Yay!
I've always been one of these people that needs to hear where the music is going in order to make my learning effective. As enlisting the help of a coach worked for the audition I decided to do it again with the view to run through all of my scenes. I wasn't being paid a massive amount for the role but for the sake of £30 i felt it would make my home learning more efficient. I wanted to make sure I was prepared for rehearsals as they were only a week long and I wanted to really get something out of the experience.
Considering the last opera I performed in was rehearsed over a term (3 months), a week wasn't very long at all. The performance consisted of excerpts from the opera which lasted an hour long so it turned out a week was enough time to block it and feel reasonably comfortable performing it. Of course I could've performed better with longer to get the part sung in and to really cement the blocking but paying for more rehearsal time and space would've lessened the wage we were all given at the end.
I have found one of the best skills you can learn in this business is knowing yourself and how you learn things quickly. You don't have to be a great sight reader and you don't have to be the most musical but knowing what is effective for you is a really powerful tool and will save your reputation many more times than just having a good technique and lots of stage experience.
My first experience of a professional opera production couldn't be more positive. The production team were wonderful and the cast were the loveliest and that support is so important especially under the pressure of a short rehearsal period. The difference between a music college opera and an external opera company is that there is no room for being under prepared and nobody is going to provide you with extra coachings to compensate for this. You also don't have all the vocal staff giving you advice on your every move. You are expected to remind yourself about posture and technique, and that you sometimes walk like a builder...