Acting in the Audition - Opera Singers Beware!

Acting in the Audition - Opera Singers Beware!
The opera audition season is revving up...

As I wear several hats in the studio - one being character development for auditions - this is always an interesting one!

I am often asked the question "do I need to "feel" what the character feels, cause if I start feeling, my throat closes up."

Listen,  I have studied many avenues of acting.  I do not believe acting is feeling.

I believe acting is DOING.

I have done the feeling thing too - and the method and and and...sure, it was often exciting and on the edge but it was never reliable,  and frankly put me at great risk.

At a certain point,  I had an 'aha' moment and had to re-evaluate what I was doing and why.

As I have said before,  we are required as actors who sing/singers who act - to allow the AUDIENCE to experience the emotion.  If we feel, or if we pretend to be a character, we have dismissed the audience.  We need to move PAST ourselves to allow the audience to get it and FEEL it.  We just have to DO IT.

This doesn't just "happen".  This takes time and study and thought and practice.  It is another set of muscles and needs nurturing, just like your singing technique.

However,  the feeling isn't gonna cut it;  nor is the pretending;  nor is the "put on and look away" school of acting that my colleague Jagger Kaye and I giggle about:  think bad soap opera acting!

If you TRY to act, that's what it is going to look like.  If you TRY to feel, that's going to fall flat too.

Engaging a reason to DO something is crucial in acting, and when you are auditioning and pulling an aria out of context to stand alone,  the ACTION is crucial to the reality in the moment.

When I say "action" I do not mean miming,  pretending to be in the scene, blocking,  gesturing with no props or other characters.  That is a HUGE NO-NO for an audition.  You are not in the scene.  You are in an audition.  The cheese stands alone.  You must embody the reality of the character and allow that character's motivation to physicalize.

So, what DO you do?

Can you deliver the text without the music?  Can you discover the musical line within the text and the motivation behind that text?  What is the character really saying?  Use your own language, don't try to get poetic! Just say what it means!  GET REAL!

Who is this character?  How does he/she move? Stand? Breathe?  WHY???

What is this character's reaction time to the space he/she inhabits?  To the characters around him/her?

Can you find the character's subtext in his/her breath?

This should all begin with the text first - no music yet!

Then - can you simply find the physicality of the character in the music?  Can you find the subtext of the character's responses in the MUSICAL LINE and REACT AND RESPOND to it physicality without singing or speaking?  Can you give a reason for each response?  Can you give a reason to each reaction?

This is the beginning...

Then what is the character DOING with his/her textural language and musical language?  Not what are they feeling, what are they DOING?  HOW do they DO that?  WHY?

Each phrase,  each sentence, each breath needs ACTION and REACTION.

If you have something to do - an ACTION - it allows the audience an opportunity to FEEL and EXPERIENCE.   It moves from action to feeling - from you to the audience.

The action needs a verb and then can have more depth by giving the action an adverb.  HOW becomes part of the DOING.

This allows the reality of a character to emerge,  and then all of the outer motivations are real - from moving to gesturing to being still.  Movement or gesture is only real if it is motivated through action.

Are you willing to pursue the truth of your characterization in the audition?

Or are you simply going to park and bark,  or pretend?

Singing isn't pretending!  Singing isn't feeling!  Singing is ACTION and BEHAVIOR and TECHNIQUE!  So is acting!  As an opera singer - you are a creature of the theatre, and theatre is about ACTION.  Don't cut off a very necessary part of your presentation by not investing in that technical behavior too.

Act because you MUST.  Learn and inhabit it.  Invest in it.

When acting and singing behavior inhabit the same artist at the same time - magic happens and the reality of the artistry begins to breathe!

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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