“Your biggest audition is the last job that you did” – Audition Oracle at OperaWorks

By Audition Oracle – Fri 3 Nov 2023 @ 15:46

Your biggest audition

“Your biggest audition is the last job that you did” – Audition Oracle at OperaWorks

Working with seasonal, smaller opera companies - Bill Bankes-Jones and Guy Verrall-Withers

On Tuesday 24th October, Audition Oracle attended OperaWorks at Chelsea Theatre in London, a conference and professional development day created by Opera Prelude for emerging young artists. Guy Verrall-Withers, Artistic Director & CEO of Waterperry Opera Festival co-hosted a seminar with Bill Bankes-Jones, Artistic Director of Tête à Tête discussing smaller seasonal opera companies and how they provide early career singers with opportunities to grow and learn, as well as some do’s and don’ts to help emerging artists embark on a successful and fulfilling career.


Waterperry Opera Festival

Waterperry Opera Festival is located in Oxfordshire and, deliberately, is active in August, traditionally the dead time in the opera industry where most performances pause. The panel explained that it is no secret that a career as a singer is difficult and most cannot expect a career where they are working all the time, however, they both advised to consider and plan for a portfolio career, for which seasonal opportunities (especially those which don't clash with other festivals) work perfectly!

However, having a varied portfolio career needs research! “Every company you work with will offer you a different type of opportunity” explains Guy, and each company will be looking for a different specification, for instance, smaller companies might be more attracted to a more diverse CV with more unusual skills, for instance, circus skills, dance abilities, clowning, stage combat. Guy continues to explain that in his audition process, “I am looking for the best person for each project, rather than just the best singer out there!” Do your research and make sure you know what the company is aiming to achieve when you audition, it is not just about having a superb voice, “Just Google the company!” says Guy. And likewise, Guy urges the audience to make sure their online presence reflects who they are, as companies do Google singers too. If you don’t have a website, it is likely that the searcher will resort to social media, so make sure both reflect who you are and be careful about what you say

Best person for the job!


Tête à Tête

Tête à Tête is an opera company based in Cornwall but operating in North Tyneside, London and online as well as Cornwall. Committed to new operas and creating work, Tête à Tête has premiered over 100 operas and helped others in the creation of their works (almost 600 of them) in the annual Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival. Not only that but Tête à Tête also hosts the largest archive of new operas in the world, which are available to watch online, free of charge! Bill Bankes-Jones, Artistic Director of Tête à Tête, talks about the importance of knowing your market, not only knowing what you like and what suits you, but then presenting the right image to the right person. Don’t sing a Verdi aria in an audition for a new opera, whilst it might be fantastic and wonderfully sung, it doesn’t show any interest or commitment to new works, or the ability to handle the musical challenges that often come with new works. However, only by experimenting and trying new ways and methods of creating opera will you find out what suits you, and Bill advises in your formative years to simply “try everything you can.”

Know your market


It takes a lot to be a successful singer

The panel empathise with emerging singers, finding work isn’t easy, and we all know that determination and resilience are key components to be a successful singer, alongside the actual singing. However, the best advice for finding work was getting re-employed and sustaining those connections you have already forged. Bill states, “Your biggest audition is the last job that you did. Did you turn up on time? Were you well prepared?” Being a good colleague, organised, kind etc. has been a constant theme of all of today’s discussion and Guy reiterates the importance of a good reputation, I will speak to those people who run companies that are present on your CV and ask what you were like, and if that answer is negative, it is likely that will be enough information to give the opportunity to another person. 

It takes a lot to be a successful singer, and there is a huge amount of empathy for just how demanding it is. It can feel an enormous amount to take in and be constantly focussing on, however, Bill summarised and condensed it beautifully, by stating “pay attention! And be hungry to be a better artist.”