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Diary of an Audition Trip

It's the day after my four-week long opera program has ended, with a triumphant production of The Magic Flute and a giant season strike which involves clearing every dirty costume, prop, set piece, and bit of equipment we have used for four weeks of classes, concerts, scenes programs, and three operas; loading most of them into my van; cleaning up the site; and taking all this stuff to my house and depositing it where it's supposed to go. It's about 107 degrees in Austin and the only thing that has kept me from gaining weight during this period of Whataburger dinners (no time to cook or even make a sandwich) is all the running around, schlepping, and the never-ending buckets of sweat sluicing off my body in this ridiculous heat. I think I actually lost a few pounds.

Auditions are a funny thing --- you really have to take them when they come. Ironically, if you're having a really good season and working a lot, sometimes you miss out on auditions for the next season, which can mean big, scary holes in the schedule. Basically, they are job interviews and you can't afford to skip them. That's why, the day after four weeks of existing on two to six hours of sleep and fueling twelve-hour days with extra espresso shots and determination, I am on an early flight to New York City.

Travel -- such an integral part of life as a singer --- is almost never easy, and can often be exhausting and frustrating. My first flight of the day is seriously delayed due to the necessity of cleaning bird parts out of the engine (I know, ewwwww) and I barely make my connection. My seatmate is a wiggly young teen who I have to eject ---politely but with some effort, as she doesn't speak English --- from my aisle seat, and who jiggles her leg nonstop and pokes me relentlessly with her elbows as she plays video games on her phone. Finally, she leans forward for a moment and I grab a safety card to insert between our seats. Relief is found only when she falls asleep.

New York is almost as hot as Texas and it has just rained, making it steamy. I'm staying at the apartment of friends who are currently overseas. The roommate is not home. Exhausted and dripping sweat, I retreat to the bedroom, turn on the AC and the fan, and strip down to the bare essentials for a brief nap before my evening coaching. I'm just about to drift off when the door bursts open and Former Roommate, who is apparently visiting as well, enters without knocking and is treated to a stunning view of the full moon, as I am sprawled across the bed with my ass facing the door. Strangely, he is unfazed by this and instead of excusing himself and closing the door, he stands in the doorway chatting as I struggle to pull my tank top down far enough to cover my undies without completely exposing my boobs. Awkward.

The subway is stifling and even the cars are humid --- the AC is sluggish at best. The stairs are a challenge, as my left leg is horrendously swollen from a blood clot that formed a few weeks ago (while I was performing --- but that's a story for another day) and doesn't bend well. I drag myself to my coaching, a haven of cool air and musical rejuvenation. I often make red-eye trips to New York and have coachings or voice lessons on very little sleep, but this is a whole new level of exhaustion, plus I haven't really sung in about three weeks.  I'm worried that my voice may not be there. I need to run my audition arias and I am not sure I have the juice to get through them. My coach reassures me that my voice does not sound tired (yaaay!) although I find a few places in each piece where I am compensating for a lack of energy --- nothing a good night's sleep and a little mindfulness won't fix --- and he reminds me of things I need to be reminded of. If I can sing five arias in a row, one of them the Judgement Scene, everything's going to be fine tomorrow. I treat myself to a really nice dinner (crostini topped with pate and caponata, risotto frutti di mare, and fig gelato, with a couple of glasses of a really delicious cabernet sauvignon) and stumble off to the relief of a shower and bed.

The next morning, I awake refreshed, having slept a whole eight hours for the first time in a month, and since my audition is at 12:30 I don't have to rush. 12:30 is the PERFECT audition time. Not too early, not too late. Plenty of time for a leisurely warm-up and attention to the beauty routine. I plan to leave in plenty of time to get to the National Opera Center and have my coffee before the audition. I can't face the stifling subway in my audition duds --- who wants to arrive at their audition a sweaty mess? --- so I splurge on Uber. 

My driver's English is as rudimentary as my Spanish. I can't figure out why he's taking the FDR when we're going to Seventh Avenue. Turns out that, despite his asking and my telling him three separate times where we are going, he takes me to Third Avenue instead of Seventh. "Siete, siete!" I tell him, and finally he understands. He takes me two blocks south of where I need to be, and I finally just ask him to pull over. At this point, it's easier to walk. No coffee for me --- I'll get it after.

I love auditioning at the National Opera Center. You always see people you know, and often the work of friends is on display in the lobby. I am thrilled to see costume designer Jessica Jahn's beautiful work featured. She designed the most gorgeous costumes for the Fille du Regiment I just finished at Mill City  Summer Opera, plus she is a beautiful, sunny person, inside and out. 


Jessica Jahn's designs for Mill City Summer Opera's Fille du Regiment. Photo by Rich Ryan.

I stop off in the restroom, as one does, to primp and change into audition shoes. There is a gorgeous tall blonde woman already there --- and she knows me. Crap. I don't know her name, which makes me feel horrible. We have a nice chat anyway and I learn that they ARE hearing for Dead Man Walking. Crap. That was the one aria I didn't run with my coach, because in my exhaustion I misread the list of season possibilities and missed it. Crap. Do I know it well enough to wing it? I run through it in my head. I think so, and besides, Craig Ketter is playing and Craig can play anything. It's a risk, but it should be okay. 

Both my agents are at the audition --- a pleasant surprise! And many roster mates. I realize that the tall gorgeous blonde is none other than Catherine Martin (well, we've only met once, at auditions, but I am embarrassed that I failed to recognize her). There's a gap and the panel is ready for me, so I take a deep breath and go in right away. I am very happy with my starter. Top and bottom are both there, in good shape. I've sung this aria a million times, but that does not always guarantee something will go well --- you can never get complacent and you have to try new things, to keep it from getting stale. They ask what else I brought and --- big surprise --- they want to hear Dead Man. I really, really love this role and this aria, "Don't Say a Word", a bluesy, heart-breaking Southern lullaby the mother sings to Joe just before he's taken off to execution. In the hall, Craig tells me I did well. Whew. If Craig says it, I believe it. He's one of the best musicians I know.

My agent is also happy, which is always a relief. Do we ever stop looking for approval? I am never settled after an audition until I hear whether my agents thought it was good; I trust their judgment implicitly. Another whew. I enjoy chatting with my pleasant roster maters, some of whom I've performed with; some who I know only from these little meet-ups at auditions. But it's time to grab some lunch and then head to the airport. Thanks to notifications, I already know that my 5 p.m. flight is delayed to the point that I will miss the connection; and I hope to get on an earlier one.

At LaGuardia, I learn that there are no earlier flights available but they can book me on a nonstop out of Newark and will pay for the car service to get me there. There's still plenty of time --- I think. But I clearly have no understanding of New  York traffic. At 3 p.m. it's bumper to bumper for a good half hour; and then we finally start moving again and I realize we're going through lower Manhattan. Then we get stuck on Broome inching our way to the Holland Tunnel. I swear it takes 45 minutes to go three blocks. I'm thinking I could walk faster.

At last, we're at the airport, in time for me to check my bag and grab some dinner before heading to the plane. Again, I'm unlucky with the seatmate, a bulky guy with a serious manspreading problem. Although  he is otherwise nice, I do not enjoy spending three hours with his sweaty thigh pressed against mine, even though I have curled as far into my window seat as I can manage. This strategy proves fruitless because if I give an inch, he'll take a mile. 

But, we get home in one piece, my sweetie is waiting for me with a bottle of cold water, and a little over 24 hours from when I departed, I'm home, showered,and cuddling in my own bed with my hubby and two furbabies. 

All that for a ten-minute performance, y'all --- ten important, necessary minutes. And yes, I would --- and will -- do it again, without reservation. 

Hi-ho the glamourous life!