It’s not an audition. It’s a performance.
My mom was a professional opera singer for over 20 years.
As a seven-year-old kidlet, I dawdled backstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, playing with super-saturated stage makeup, waiting for mom to “get off work.”
When mom’s colleagues came over for dinner, they’d often burst into song, belting out arias by Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini till 2 AM, pounding on the piano amidst bites of chilled tiramisu and raucous cries of “Bravo!”
My childhood was decidedly un-normal.
I didn’t quite get it, then.
I do now.
And I’m infinitely grateful.
My mom retired from full-time performing in 1991. She spent a few years shape-shifting through different vocational arenas — voice lessons, indie films, educational DVDs, and eventually, fundraising & artistic direction.
And lately, I’m seeing a new facet emerge. My mom might not know it yet — but she’s a mentor.
My mom adores young performers — she surrounds herself with them, like duchesses of yore used to curate their courts. She coaches them, polishes them, and presents them to the right people. Under her tutelage, they bloom. Not surprisingly, they adore her back.
A few weeks ago, I eavesdropped as my mom prepped a young mezzo-soprano for a potentially life-changing audition. I felt like I was observing a Master Class on transmuting fear into fierceness.
It could be my DNA coding, but damn. The following gems of operatic wisdom are Yoda-esque action points — and just like my mom, they work equally well backstage, onstage, and in the boardroom.
“It’s not an audition. It’s a performance.”
Flip your mindset from desperation (“I really need this gig. Jesus Christ, I hope they choose me”) to exaltation (“Hell YES! A chance to bring down the house, and dazzle my peers? Bring it”).
This is not the preamble. This is opening night.
“Wear the red dress.”
If you’re auditioning for Carmen, the tempestuous gypsy girl, don’t wear a prim pantsuit. Wear the red dress. Embody the role, from the moment you walk in the door. If you carry yourself as if you’ve already been cast, nobody’ll be able to visualize anyone else playing the part.
“Expand your repertoire.”
If every other girl at the cattle-call is auditioning with “O Mio Babbino Caro,” why fold into the majority? Bust out some ragtime. Try a Gospel hymn. Or a romantic, evocative Lieder. Play not only to your strengths, but to your quirks. Be a walking, talking wake-up call.
“Stop. Once more, from the top.”
If you’ve launched into an aria — or started a business, venture or project — and it’s floundering, STOP. Rewind. Re-start. Once more, from the top — and this time, with feeling.
“Sing as if you’re never going to sing again. Don’t hold back.”
With auditions — and job interviews & presentations — the universal tendency is to hold back. Contract. Overthink. Be “perfect.” That’s a withering strategy. Take the stage as if this is it. The end of the road. Out with a supernova bang. Are you gonna make them remember you, or what?