News & Views

NAILING AUDITIONS: Tough Love from The Opera Cabbie

Audition OracleFri 24 Mar 2017 @ 12:22

Exclusive Guest Post from @OperaCabbie on Auditions

Opera Cabbie

Ya shudnt be readin' this. I dunt mean yer not allowed simply that it wuz never meant t' be. Like Enzo Dara in serious roles.

Fact iz the luvvly folk at Audition Oracle messidged me finkin' I wuz sumwun else and arksed me t' do a blog post. We awl 'ad a gud larf abaht that. Imagine. And then I fort abaht auditions. I dun a few. Sum very successful, sum perficky acceptable and some right drongos. Quite a lot of those.
An' I sat on the ovvur side ov the table too. I bin on Audition panels. So I'm givin' ya, giftin' ya az ahr American cousins say, sum tips. Not tips fer sumwun at the top ov thier game but fer an ordinary, jobbing singer. Who probably has to do something else to put food on the table. Maybe sumwun startin' aht. Life is tough at the top but it's tougher at the bottom.
T' 'elp ya aht I stuck me comments through Google Translate. I'm no toff! 

Some of these may come under the heading "Tough Love"  

* Be nice. To everyone.

The person signing you in, the other auditionees, the pianist, the panel, the cleaner, everyone. You are on show as soon as you walk through the door. Or as soon as you've phoned/emailed asking for info. 
Be nice. To Everyone. 

* Be prepared.

Don't say "I've only just learnt this" as (a) they don't care (b) you're making excuses before you've sung so shut up, (c) they don't care (d) it comes across as though you don't care enough to get your head down & just sing it & (e) they don't care. Get on with it. 
Be Prepared!

* You know that clever thing you do when you choose a lesser known aria for an audition? Don't.

Sing something standard, unless asked otherwise. I've done it. They know. It looks like you're hiding. And you probably are. I standardly trotted out a lovely aria from Alzira. I should've sung Eri Tu. 
Stick to known repertoire

* Don't complain about your journey. They don't care.

It's your job to get there in sufficient time. As it would be to get yourself to the rehearsals and shows. And if something major and out of your control happens let the person signing you in know and politely ask if you could have a few minutes to gather yourself. Because you know what, those unexpected things will happen at any time. You need to be able to focus on the job and get on with it. 
Deal with it

* Don't waste time being nervous.

The panel want you to be the answer to their prayers. You are you. You are unique. Don't try and be the next Callas/Baltsa/Domingo/Allen. Be the best you you can be. 
Can you remind me to breathe?

* Have your music in a presentable form.

Cuts, pauses, tempi etc clearly marked. In folders if not using the score. Can you turn the pages easily? Could a pianist without any preparation? Put yourself in the pianists shoes. Or gloves.  
Sheet Music 

* It is ok to give a tempo to a pianist.

If your score is sufficiently marked up then everything else should go relatively smoothly. Do not roll your eyes or pull faces if the pianist goes wonky. Life goes wonky. If you just get on with it the panel will notice. If you grimace the panel will notice. One is positive notice. The other isn't. 
 Be Gracious

* Don't complain - either there or publicly - about travelling 250 miles and then only singing for 4 minutes.

You accepted the audition. You probably knew where it was. An audition is generally an aria or part of an aria. Be thankful you're not a dancer. They often get rejected on looks before they've even shown their dance.
Not Complaining

* Warm up before you get there.

You might (might) get a warm up room when you're there but you equally might not. Ask beforehand. I can tell you that, back in the day, I've warmed up in the toilets at ENO before auditioning in a bar; ROH gave a warm up room; Opera North didn't. And smaller companies almost always have no warm up facilities at all. Do not complain about this. The panel will know there's no warm up room.
Warm up before you get there

* If you do warm up at the venue, do so considerately.

If you're yowelling sirens loudly throughout someone else's audition, this will not present you in a good light. 
Keep it down in there!

* Be aware of your social media profile.

They may very well look at what you post. And, frankly, some people come across as very high maintenance. Don't slag people off and be modest. If you present yourself as the best thing since sliced Bread then you'd better blooming be amazing. And if you come across as a mess of lack of confidence and inspirational posters that won't do you any favours. If inspirational posters, unicorns, cats and Maria Callas quotes are part of your process and help you, that's great. But consider a personal and a professional account.
Does the world need to know!?

* Dress appropriately.

And ladies that sadly means if you audition for Cherubino/Octavian/Romeo/Joe Cocker, you shouldn't wear a skirt/dress. Don't expect a panel to have imagination. Ripped jeans are a no-no. Smart casual. Maybe a suit for a bigger audition. Be comfortable. Be professional. 
Dress Code 

* You might not get it.

They may be matching people up and you don't fit with who they've already cast. Your voice may not be what they're looking for. This does not mean you're not good enough. The directors boyfriend/girlfriend/potential flirtation may get it. That's out of your control. It doesn't mean you're not good enough. Did you choose an aria that is within your capabilities and shows what you can do? You did? Great. I am genuinely pleased. They might remember you for something in the future. 

* You might get it.

And when you do, when it feels like you've reached the top of that hill and are twirling around like Julie Andrews on acid, be a good colleague. Getting a job is easy (hahahahahahahaha).
Excited Being asked back is hard.

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7 top tips for nailing Mozart recitatives

Audition OracleTue 21 Mar 2017 @ 9:36

7 top tips for nailing Mozart recitatives by Marcio da Silva.

Marcio di Silva

Recitative can often be a stumbling block for singers. Here are Marcio da Silva's top 7 tips to help you!

1.    Learn the text first and find out the inflection points of the text.

Singers tend to  put too many inflection points in one phrase. For latin language speakers, speak the same text naturally in your own language and see how many points you put instinctively. For everyone else listen to many versions of the same recit preferably by native speakers and look for the topography of the phrases.

2.    The inflection points should be shown through LENGTH, don't add artificial accents to the text.

It usually has more to do with lightening everything else and using direction rather than adding weight to where the inflection points are. 


3.    A down beat doesn't necessarily mean that it is a strong syllable.

There are no beats in Mozart recits. The rhythm is literally just an adaptation of the spoken rhythm in order for it to fit 4/4 bars. The priority is to follow the spoken rhythm and not the written one.


4.    Written rests don't mean much.

They are used so that a soft/short syllable isn't written with a longer note avoiding confusion. Don't breathe because you see a rest. Follow the text.

5.    Know what you are saying word by word.

Try to find several different ways of saying the same thing. 

6.    Pronounce ALL your "R"s however don't roll the ones between vowels in a word.

A common mistake is to either not pronounce or under pronounce ending "R"s. Really role every starting "R", ending "R", double "R"s and "R"s before consonants. 

7.    Latin languages' harder consonants (t,s,g,p,d) shouldn't be pronounced as hard as in English or German.

When you see a double consonant in Italian generally that means a longer consonant, not a harder one.  The "sung consonants" (n,m,v,r) should always be sung through and shouldn't stop the voice. 

Woodhouse Opera
The 2017 Ensemble OrQuesta/Music at Woodhouse Opera Academies will kick off this April with La Calisto by Cavalli in London. Take a look at the roles for which we are still accepting applications for our next academies. Have the opportunity to sing a full role in a fully staged production with orchestral accompaniment while being coached by our team of specialists. There are scholarships available for some of the roles. 

Don Giovanni (W.A.Mozart) - May 25th to June 4th at St Mary in the Castle (Hastings)

Don Giovanni - Baritone
Masetto - Baritone
Don Ottavio - Tenor
Leporello - Bass-baritone
Commendatore - Bass

Hippolyte et Aricie (J-P. Rameau) - June 24th to July 2nd at Woodhouse Copse (Holmbury St Mary)

Phedre - Soprano/Mezzo-Soprano
Thesee - Baritone/Bass
Pluton - Baritone/Bass
Pretresse - Soprano 
Tisiphone/Mercure - Low tenor/Baritone

L'Incoronazione di Poppea (C.Monteverdi) - July 22nd to 30th at McIntosh Theatre (London)

Poppea - Soprano
Nerone - Soprano/Mezzo-Soprano
Drusilla - Soprano
Amore - Soprano 
Ottone - Countertenor/Baritone
Seneca - Bass
Ottavia - Soprano/Mezzo-Soprano

For all information please visit or

To apply please send a cv with recording to [email protected]


8 must-have audition tips for opera singers

Audition OracleThu 16 Mar 2017 @ 9:00

8 must-have audition tips for opera singers

Audition Oracle are delighted to present a guest blog post from Acting for Opera. Here Norman Cooley shares some of his Tips and Suggestions for auditioning.


Normal Cooley - Acting for opera singers

Ask yourself what sets you apart from other singers?  Do you know deep down what makes you special, different and therefore enables you to stand out and capture the interest of the panel and auditors?  Soul-searching may be required but it is worth it.

1. Be yourself 

  • Be your best self, but be yourself.  Don’t try to be someone else or something you are not.  Try not to sing like anyone else.  (see above!)  This means you have to be prepared for some to love you and some to be indifferent to your talent and skills.  If you are just a bland blank page no one will feel anything for you.

2. Be prepared for the logisitics

  • Make sure you are fully prepared for the practicalities of the audition.  
  • What do you know about the people and the company you are singing for?  
  • Do you know exactly where the audition is and how long it will take to get there?

3. Be prepared for the audition

  • Plan and rehearse your aria carefully.  Don’t experiment during an audition.  Not a good idea.

4. Be early

  • Arrive 15 to 20 minutes early and do not be late.  Don’t give your auditors a reason not to hire you and tardiness is one of those reasons.  Late just once could be enough to lose the job and any other opportunity to sing for that panel or company again.

5. Be in charge

  • This is Your audition so take charge of it.  
  • You are not a victim being sacrificed on a slab before a group of wizards.  
  • If they have asked you to attend an audition, you have the right to be there.  
  • Take charge of your audition by being a professional colleague with artistry and skills you are ready to share.

6. Be in the moment

  • When you are singing, focus 100% of your energy on the aria.  
  • Don’t sing with 60% and put 40% of yourself sitting on the panel judging your every note.  
  • It’s not your job to judge yourself during your audition.  
  • Focus on the job at hand.  The execution and delivery of your aria.  100%. 

7. Be generous

  • Share your love of singing your aria to the entire audience space.
  • Give out and communicate.  
  • Don’t just sing to one spot on the opposite wall.  (And try not to sing directly to the auditors, which can make them uncomfortable).

8. Be courageous 

  • Face your audition issues head on.  
  • If the same unhelpful things keep happening then sit down and work out what is going wrong and sort them out.  
  • Why keep making the same mistakes? 


Norman has been involved in the area of performance for over 40 years.  He has a BA in Theatre from UCLA in California and trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.  He has taught at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, the Royal Northern College of Music and currently teaches at the Wales International Academy of Voice in Cardiff.  He has trained hundreds of opera singers in his story-based approach and also uses his 23 years of experience as a professional actor to teach audition skills to singers. He has prepared a very large number of singers for opera auditions as well as applicants to music colleges and young artist programmes with considerable success.  He feels that with right approach, every singer can be taught that the audition experience can and should be fun, exciting and not an experience to dread. 

Norman Cooley - Audition tips for Opera Singers

[email protected]  - 




How to manage an opera

Audition OracleTue 14 Mar 2017 @ 8:09

Earlier this year Audition Oracle played a part in helping University Collage Opera source professional opera singers for thier forthcoming production 'Aroldo'. Here Florentina Harris talks of her transition from the student chorus to producer of this successful semi-professional company. UCOpera incorporates a cast and crew of both students and professionals. Impressively this will be thier 66th production.

Aroldo - UCOpera

How to manage an opera

It's hardly simple!

Managing a semi-professional production which incorporates both professionals and students is not a piece of cake. There's always a weekly drama involving me in the middle of a dispute between 2 members, both trying to do their job the best they can. I’m never without my phone. There’s constantly an issue or a question to be answered. Opera is such a complex art form. It never goes without complications. 

Firstly the difficulty was getting the professionals on board.

I remember meeting the professional production manager. The first question I asked her: 'so what does your job involve?' She stared at me for a second and then laughed. The transformation from being a member of the student chorus to managing this enormous project has been staggering.

Design: Camilla Clarke

Once all the cast and crew were in place, it was time to meet with the designer for the first model meeting. This was really fun. I then got a sense of how the production will be set and from that could start creating promoting for the production. Whilst we're doing a Verdi opera set at the time of the crusades, the production is far from traditional. 

Director: Pia Furtado

Everybody was there. Everybody had met. Room bookings and the rehearsal schedule was in place. Finally things seemed to be coming together. It was an absolute pleasure to introduce the student chorus to the professional principals. The look on their faces when they heard the principal soprano hit a top B for example! Below a quick snap shot of our student chorus throwing themselves into the rehearsal process.


Student chorus for UCOpera

Logistics in the theatre

How many vans will be needed to get everything in the theatre? Will the keyboard need to be amplified for the stage and piano? Who’s going to coordinate the surtitles? After countless production meetings I think we have it all worked out!

Now having done parts 1 to 4, there's 2 weeks to go

Scary thought! The one thing I need to do now is publicise. That’s the last and only thing that lies within my remit. We’re not just relying on students to be seduced by the opera production. So it’s time to print 5000 flyers and distribute them all. It's time to do a big thunderclap on social media. It will be an amazing production: we have a fantastic cast- Céline Forrest (soprano), Anthony Flaum (tenor), Richard Morrison (baritone) and Julian Debreuil (bass-baritone) have utterly massive vocal machines. Furthermore we have a UCL-alumnus who has come to direct. She has been overly enthusiastic to come back and work with us again. Fingers crossed it will be a sell out!

UCOpera is proud to present Aroldo

by Giuseppe Verdi

20, 22, 24, 25 March 2017
Theatre Royal Stratford East


Director: Pia Furtado
Musical Director: Charles Peebles
Designer: Camilla Clarke
Producer: Florentina Harris

Cast includes: Anthony Flaum (tenor), Céline Forrest (soprano), Anthony Colasanto, Richard Morrison (baritone) and Julian Debreuil (bass-baritone)


Preparing ‘Jane’: from cover to cast recording and performance

Audition OracleThu 9 Mar 2017 @ 9:35

Preparing 'Jane': from cover to cast recording and performance

 Jane Eyre

This week's guest blog post comes from emerging artist soprano April Fredrick. Here she talks about her experience of going from cover to cast. Sharing her lessons learned from recording and premiering a new work all in one day!


It all began over coffee at Fortnum and Mason’s. I was meeting Mark Bebbington, a wonderful pianist collaborator of mine, and as he’d caught wind of the epic project to do a live concert performance and premiere recording of John Joubert’s Jane Eyre, he suggested I get in touch with SOMM producer Siva Oke to ask about the title role. I’d worked with Siva for two recordings already, so I followed up on Mark’s suggestion directly.

I was gutted to find that they’d already cast ‘Jane’, but I was still thrilled to have the chance to cover the part, as Jane is one of my favourite literary heroines. As I continued to work on the project, I became increasingly thrilled as I discovered just what a worthy setting, what an incredible labour of love this opera is. What a privilege to be the first to give it voice!

I was asked to step into the role in full in late August, leaving just over two months till the performance. This was lesson one for me: never despise covers, as they may well lead to full performances. Lesson two: always prepare covers as though you will have to go on. And not just a ‘skin-of-teeth’ performance if possible: do the character work, and bring as much depth as possible. If this is your big moment to step unexpectedly into the spotlight, then bring as well-developed an offering as you can. Let them see what they’ve been missing!

The experience of premiering ‘Jane’ will remain one of the shining musical moments of my career. The privilege of premiering what I firmly feel will someday become standard repertoire for English-language operas is difficult to over-estimate, and I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity. Below are my ‘top tips’ for preparing a new role, garnered from my experience as ‘Jane’.

1. With a well-known literary character, don’t cut corners on context.

Engage with the original, notice the differences (what is omitted, added, differences of portrayal) in the libretto and stage portrayal. Such preparation adds complexity and nuance to interpretation which far exceeds the mere vocal delivery.

2. Start early in your score learning.

Give yourself time to get to know the motivic and harmonic structure of the whole work, not just your bits. In the instance of Jane Eyre, there is a heavy use of leitmotif, so the underlying psychology of my passages was interwoven with other material that didn’t involve me. The more you study, the more you will see. And the more you see, the more the audience will see that ‘three-dimensional’ aspect in your delivery.

3. Rehearse in 'real time'.

If possible, either work with a Sibelius MIDI file of the full score or find a pianist to record the score for you so you can rehearse in ‘real time’ with connecting material. Where possible, write in the orchestrations, identifying where you’ll get your note and from what instrument. Also rehearse the links by intervals only so your body knows the feeling of the joins even if you can’t hear the note in the orchestral texture.

4. Know the music inside out!

Know the music inside and out, and start ‘singing it in’ as early as possible. Remember, you may end up being ill in the immediate run-up to the performance, so don’t ‘cram’. You may also have minimal rehearsal time, so prepare as thoroughly as possible, leaving as little as possible to chance or to be worked out in rehearsal.

5. Spending your own time with the score.

Lessons and coachings are essential, but they are no substitute for spending your own time with the score, often in ‘silent practice’, absorbing the material and putting your own stamp of both the music and character.

6. Pace yourself.

Have someone in the hall to give feedback on balance, and if you’re feeling covered or overwhelmed by the orchestra, don’t be afraid to let the conductor know, though kindly! There also is no shame in ‘marking’, and in orchestral recordings, even if you are not singing full, or ‘lay out’ entirely, the engineers can probably use the orchestral track. Do let rip whenever you can, but always keep the whole project in perspective, especially if you have an evening performance after recording. What sense is there in blowing yourself out on rehearsal or recording and having nothing left of voice or energy when the critics and audience are actually present?

7. Watch and learn.

Notice how the ensemble does publicity. Watch how the conductor rehearses the orchestra, how other cast members handle passages, especially where they have motivic or thematic links to your own material. I was so fortunate to sing opposite a world-class artist like baritone David Stout. I feel that I learned a tremendous amount by watching and listening to how he handled cadences and colours, taking such care with every detail. I could then better match him in our duo sections.

8. Characterise even in a concert performance.

Even for a semi-staged performance, make the most of everything: sideways looks, developing a body language for your character, finding the right shoes (the classic ‘way in’ to a character) and getting comfortable in your costume to get into the character’s skin, all of which I did with ‘Jane’. It might be a ‘concert’ performance, but the audience need to have the potential for a staged version ever-present in their minds. In our case, we were there to whet their appetite for the full whack, and I wanted to make it nearly impossible for them to envision anyone else in the role going forward.

8. Be kind and patient to everyone.

The collective stamina required for such projects is incredible, and smiles and words of encouragement to your colleagues—both cast members and the orchestra—go a long way. You will find that you can spur each other on when one of the other is flagging. Such an attitude can turn an intense project from an ordeal into an adventure, into an unforgettable achievement for the cast and ensemble as a whole. 


To read more about April Fredrick please visit

For further information on the recording of Jane Eyre, please visit SOMM website

April Frederick - soprano

April Fredrick, Soprano