When selecting repertoire for your auditions and professional engagements, it is vitally important that what you select is appropriate for you vocally, physically, and temperamentally; you must be able to sing your material with ease, understanding, and love in order to be completely convincing to your listeners. I have witnessed many singers vainly attempting to please their auditioners with the hope of getting hired by singing inappropriate repertoire. It is also extremely important to select pieces for general auditions that produce a "WOW!" effect in the first eight to sixteen bars of music, and that also are no longer than three minutes in duration. Consider: the people listening to auditions have no doubt been sitting there for long hours just waiting to be impressed, and making a stellar first impression is key; always leave them wanting to hear more, with the good chance they will ask for a second selection. If you go in and sing an aria that is long and takes a long time to get to the impressive parts, they "tune out;" having sat on the other side of the table for many years, I can attest to the veracity of this. They are looking for technical finish, high notes, personality, musicality, and charismatic presence, and you must show these attributes right away. Now, of course, if you are auditioning for a specific role in a specific opera, by all means have the arias from that opera ready to sing, but make sure the role suits you to a "t!" For general auditions, I recommend five to six arias which you have prepared extremely well; I also believe that one does not need a sampling of every language if one is weak in that language or style or if the repertoire in a particular language offers nothing for you; for example, unless you're a Wagnerian or conversant with Operetta, German repertoire is very challenging to find anything appropriate for most voice types, so why bother? It's also important for general auditions to select repertoire from the most performed operas, e.g., LA TRAVIATA, LA BOHEME, etc. Most people who are hiring do not have a vast knowledge of operatic repertoire, so if you sing something off the beaten path it will only confuse them; they need to hear what they know. There are exceptions, of course, which is why you need to know for whom you are singing, their level of expertise, and what they like to hear; I wouldn't have more than one rarely performed piece in my catalog of audition arias, and that one probably in English. As always, please leave a comment including your thoughts and questions.
All music, with the exception of recitative, is based on dance movement, i.e. each piece of music has a way that it uniquely moves. The composers are most of the time generous in giving a singer a few bars of musical introduction so that this movement becomes immediately apparent; one then takes a breath within the flow of this movement. However, a singer sometimes has to start the movement without benefit of an introduction; then it is imperative for the singer to feel the movement before taking the breath and then to take the breath, as always, within this movement.
Some piece of music maintain the same movement within the entire piece; others vary the movements within. Ask yourself: does the music of the piece I am performing move in two gestures within one bar? One movement per bar? One movement every two bars? The answer becomes immediately apparent when the movement exactly matches the mood and intention of the text being performed.
As an example, take the Neapolitan song 'O sole mio': try moving on each each eighth note; then, each quarter note; then one movement per bar; then one movement every two bars. Which is the appropriate movement? Feel the movement for each of these example by gently swaying back and forth. It's interesting how sometimes performers adopt the wrong movement for a piece, for example turning a lullaby into a march!
Questions? Discussion? Other examples?