My Practice Diary – Preparing for an Opera Audition & Dealing with Rejection
So, I did something recently that I haven’t done in a very long time and that I wasn’t sure I would ever do given my age and where I am in life. But something about turning 51 and the constant support and encouragement from my voice teacher and hubby motivated me to just do it!
I auditioned for the female lead in an upcoming (local) production of Puccini’s La bohème. At first, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to but after lots of “go for it’s” from friends and family members, I decided to just do it. It would be a good learning experience, it would get my voice in the ears of local opera peeps and if I were to get the part it would be a dream come true.
But first, I needed to make sure I was even eligible to audition – usually there is an age limit so I wanted to check to see if that was the case with this production. There wasn’t. But singers auditioning did need to be fully vaccinated (which now includes the booster), which I had not had my booster at the time of auditions. However, they were accepting video recordings with the same criteria expected of those singing for them live.
To have my audition be acceptable, I needed to update my résumé, have a headshot taken and prepare and video record two contrasting arias. I had about two weeks to put all of this together, which is less time than I would have liked!
But I did it. I pulled it all together at the last minute, but I got it all done!
My first attempt at recording my arias (which I did 2 days before they were to be sent in) was not good. And I was not about to send in subpar work for something this important. So, I decided to try again the next day. And this time, I treated it as if I were live auditioning. Which meant that whatever came out was it. You only get one chance at a live audition – there are no re-do’s, so I pretended I was in front of the casting panel and I only had one chance to get it right!
I won’t lie – what came out was not bad, in fact I was pretty happy. And anyone who knows me, knows that I am super, hyper-critical of my voice and that I have a love/hate relationship with it. This time, though, I was proud of what I did. Was it perfect? Hell no! There were mistakes with both pieces, and in one of the arias my voice cracked 3 times! But I knew that these were the best recordings I was going to get at that time. At that point, I was just exhausted – physically, mentally, emotionally and vocally.
After reviewing the videos and feeling pretty good about them, I tried to edit them the best I could to make them look more “professional”. And by editing, I mean add a fade in and fade out at the beginning and end of the video and crop it so that some of the background wasn’t visible and you couldn’t see my hands gesturing and “conducting” like I always seem to unconsciously do. Not that that is terrible, but it can be distracting. In fact, I did another, separate edit and extracted the audio to share on my SoundCloud page (below).
After everything was completed and I was satisfied, I emailed it all in. It was done, there was no turning back now. I put myself out there for professionals to see and judge. And then it was just wait to see if I hear back. To be honest, I tried to convince myself and everyone else that it wasn’t a big deal if I wasn’t cast in the role. That I have tons of other things musically to work on, so it wouldn’t really matter. I’d be disappointed, I told everyone, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
I lied. To everyone and to myself. It was easy to say “it’s no big deal” until I got the email telling me someone else was chosen for the part.
I think I had to read the email a few times before it actually sunk in. And then my mind started to go where it usually does when I am rejected and ask the usual questions. Why wasn’t I good enough? What could I have done better? Should I have chosen different pieces? Should I have tried for another recording? Why couldn’t I have a better voice? Why couldn’t I be younger or prettier or thinner? The why’s, should have’s and could have’s filled my brain, drowning out any semblance of logic or reason.
The truth is, they never gave a reason, which I didn’t expect. For all I know, they already had someone in mind and the audition was just a formality. This happens a lot in the performing arts world – it sucks, but it’s not uncommon. It doesn’t make being rejected any easier, in fact it can be more frustrating because you feel as if all of the hard work and preparation you did was for nothing. Or perhaps they just felt my voice wasn’t right for the part, which also happens a lot. Just because you are the right “fach” for a role doesn’t mean that you are right for the role in the eyes of the casting team. Personally, I think I would have made a pretty decent Mimi, but obviously, they didn’t agree.
So, how does one deal with this kind of rejection? I think every singer has their way to cope, but mine is to shut down & shut the world out for a few days, retreat, regroup and focus on some other things – because I sure as hell did not feel like singing! I’m also grateful that I have a great support system – my husband and my voice teacher have been there to keep me from getting too depressed and beating myself up too hard.
I know that this is part of life for other singers, especially ones that audition for roles or vocal competitions regularly. So, it’s not like I am the only one who has gone through this. And I know it’s much more devastating for singers whose livelihood depends on them getting cast in shows. By no means am I trying to devalue what others go through in the performing/operatic world, I’m just saying being rejected sucks. Period.
So, where do I go from here? Well, I put my focus back to where it was before I was preparing for this audition. I continue working on my recital series – selecting and learning the pieces, coming up with themes and titles, designing the programs and art work, recording, editing and sharing. I continue working on my other website (Sabrina Zimmerman, Soprano). I work on getting students to teach beginning voice to and then I see what else comes along. If I ever choose to audition again, at least I have an idea of what to expect.
How do you deal with rejection?
Until next time,
- All recordings are property of Sabrina Zimmerman, Soprano – please do not re-use without permission.
The below isn’t a full recording – just the recitative, which was the only salvageable part of this piece! This was my second aria I performed in the audition from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro.