The excitement is in the air, a ray of sunshine is shining brightly upon you, and some people may even think you’re glowing. Could it be … you’ve accepted a role with a young artist program, new company or, better still, a compramario or main stage role with a professional company? Now the ball is in your court; someone has taken an interest in what you could bring to the table, but do you know what that means you’ve agreed to?
Performance fees are low, and young artist training programs are expensive. The expectations of those who have put their faith in you to bring their audiences an amazing production now lie in your ability to commit fully to doing just that. Think about this for a minute: The people, who have hired you or invited you to perform for them, trust you to be outstanding. Their jobs and reputation depend on you holding up your end of the bargain.
So what’s expected? First of all, you must be prepared. This word may mean many different things to different people, depending on where you are in your life experience, so let me lay it out for you. Being prepared musically means having the score memorized. Not just your notes, but the rhythms, tempos, style, technique, language and interpretation. In order to achieve this type of preparation you must have the drive to work with those who can help you reach this goal. Train with the best. School is only the beginning of your training as an opera singer. Practice everyday and record yourself. Be intensely and constructively critical so that you can fix what needs to be fixed. Practice smarter, not harder.
Every minute you’re not doing these things to prepare, someone else is. Someone else in the very minute that I am writing this article is practicing with intense focus and determination to be the best. It takes extreme dedication and sacrifice to really give it everything you have and be the most prepared that you can be, and this is what is expected. Becoming prepared will inevitably cost money. Scores, recordings and coaches are not cheap, but they are necessary in helping you achieve these goals.
Sing because you love it, not because you can afford it. Once you’ve memorized the score, test yourself. Opera singers need more than dedication in order to perform a role. Your brain has to be able to no longer think about the music, but concentrate on the staging, props, costumes and other performers. Singers are expected to come with the skill set that allows them to adapt to change quickly. It is necessary to have thought about your character and have your own ideas about how you would like to play that role, but it is expected that you can, and will, adjust quickly to match and collaborate with the director’s vision. Musically, you need to be able to receive a note from the conductor and make a change to your ornamentation or other style choices in the very instance they’ve asked for the change. That brings us to the next point.
Be a good colleague. Read your emails and respond in a timely manner. Be ready to provide headshots, bios, costume measurements, shoes, costume pieces, hairpins and your own make-up — whatever is required to make the show a success. If you’ve agreed to sing a role, then you’ve agreed to do whatever is necessary to make it the best show the audience has ever seen.
Show up on time; be courteous and grateful for the opportunity. Opportunities are few and far between. If someone has crawled out on a limb for you and handed you a branch, be grateful and mindful of the people behind the scenes making everything possible for you to live out your dream as an opera singer.
It is a gift and a responsibility to ensure that you show up fulfilling your end of the agreement. Do you want to be re-hired or recommended for other work? This business is too small and too demanding not to make sure you do everything in your power to be the best you can be.