Tuesday, 23 October 2012

On auditioning...

Auditions, auditions.  Can't live with them, can't live without them.

Well obviously you can't live without them.  No auditions means no work.  But living WITH them?  Good God.  I'm pretty sure we can all agree that auditions are terrible ordeals.  (I mean, if you do actually enjoy auditioning, please write to me.  I would be most fascinated to hear about your extremely bizarre take on life.)

I'm pretty sure it's safe to say, the vast majority of us dread auditions.

And oh, the hoops that we jump through!  The fees we pay, the train and plane and bus tickets we buy, the long journeys we make, and the many hours of practising and nail-biting we spend in anticipation of those fifteen minutes of adrenaline-soaked horror. 

Also, sometimes the hoops we jump through are very high and on fire.

For instance, there's the audition trip I went on recently.

Gather 'round my friends, and listen to the tale of what I shall henceforth dub The Most Ridiculous Audition Trip Ever.  (Well, at least, I shall dub it thusly for the time being, until some other audition surpasses it in ridiculousness and usurps the title).

It all started when I saw the auditions advertised for an opera festival in Italy.  It just so happens that their upcoming season includes two operas with roles I'm very interested in singing.  In fact, I've been working on arias from these roles, which means I'd have the perfect pieces to sing for them.  They asked for an audition fee which was a bit higher than reasonable, but I thought it could be a good opportunity and it was worth a shot.  I sent them an email with my CV.  They promptly replied - in Italian - asking if I could come and audition on such-and-such a day.  So with the help of Google Translate and my basic grasp of Italian, I responded that yes, I could.  They gave me an audition appointment and that was that.

Next I had to book my travel.

Before I go on, let me explain something: because I come from a gigantic country where everything is really far apart, I tend to delight in the novelty of how CLOSE everything is in Europe.  It's almost as if - please forgive me - I think of Europe as a smallish country.  In my defence, the entirety of Europe IS less than a third the size of Canada.

No really!  I googled it.

Travelling from Belgium to Italy for an audition?  No problem!  It would probably take about the same time as it used to take my mom to commute to work from the suburbs.  And it wouldn't cost too much either.  After all, there are all these brilliant cheap airlines here.  It should be a piece of cake!

Well.  First of all there's no such thing as a cheap flight and if you don't believe me, ask Fascinating Aida.  It might seem cheap at first, but that's before you factor in all of the hidden extra costs.  And as for not taking too long, let's not forget that the airports for these cheap flights are always in the middle of nowhere.  You always have to take a train and two buses, bare minimum, just to get to the airport.  So already you have more time and money added into the mix.

This airport is probably not even in the same COUNTRY as the city it claims to belong to.
My audition happened to also be in the middle of nowhere, but NOT the same middle-of-nowhere as the airport.  I would have to take a couple of trains to get to a station "near" the town where the auditions were held (remember those quotation marks).  Then I would need to stay overnight in a bed-and-breakfast before the audition, and make the same trip all the way back to Belgium.

All-in-all, it was beginning to look like a very long and expensive trip just for one audition.  I began to have my doubts about the whole thing.  But after all, I had gone as far as buying the "cheap" plane tickets, and as they say, nothing ventured nothing gained.  What if this opera festival actually liked me and cast me in something?  What would be cooler than singing Italian opera in Italy?

So I set off on the morning of my flight.  First mistake: I forgot to factor in that it was a Sunday morning.  Which meant there wasn't an early bus to the train station.  So I missed the first train and had to catch the next one.  For some reason the next train decided to be The Slowest Train In The World, and it took twice as long as it should have to get into the city.

It was the Little Engine that Couldn't.
At this point I had missed the bus to the airport, and my gate would close in 20 minutes.  My only option was to grab a taxi.  Yes, it would be very expensive, but I had come this far and my bags were packed, and dammit, I was going to make it to this audition.  So I jumped into a taxi and asked him to get me to the airport as soon as humanly possible.

I had one bad-ass taxi driver - only slightly less scary than Robert De Niro.  He just stared intensely into the road and drove on at full speed.  As the metre clicked upwards to ever more astronomical costs, my stomach began to twist with anxiety.  I briefly considered flinging myself out of the speeding taxi onto the motorway, then decided it would be slightly less painful to pay the fare.

I am not even going to tell you how much I paid for that taxi.  I never want to speak about it again.  Just the thought of it makes me sick.  But I did make it to the gate just in time and managed to board my flight.

Next came the train journey, which was painless enough.  There were two stations which, according to Googlemaps, were close to the town.  I chose to get off at the second one.

Unfortunately, in all my panic to catch the flight, I had forgotten to bring a map.  And so I found myself lost in the heart of Tuscan countryside.  On a Sunday evening.  Which meant there were no shops open that could sell me a map.  And internet cafes?  Forget it.

Yeah sure, Tuscany's all nice and idyllic.  Until it's a Sunday and EVERYTHING IS CLOSED.

I thought the town must be close though, because Googlemaps had told me so.  So I set off down the side of the road (there was no pavement) with my wheelie suitcase, trying to follow the street signs and praying not to get run over by the cars whizzing by me.

An hour later, I still had no idea where I was.  See, what Googlemaps had failed to mention was that this town was on top of a giant hill, and not at all near the so-called "nearby" train stations.  Getting there would involve an uphill trek of several miles.

After a panicked phone-call to my boyfriend trying to see if he could look up where I was online (I don't even want to think about how much it costs to phone Sweden from Italy on a Belgian phone) I managed to catch a bus into the town and get directions to my bed-and-breakfast.  It was an old convent, and my room was more than a little austere, but by the time I arrived I didn't care.  I collapsed into the tiny narrow bed and was asleep by 9.

The following day, I arrived very early for my audition.  I just barely managed to understand the nice lady who explained everything in Italian and showed me to my warm-up room.  I had plenty of time to warm up and relax.  Finally I ventured out ten minutes before my audition was scheduled, only to find that they were running at least an hour behind.

I waited, paced around, did some stretches, waited, sang a bit more, waited, did more stretches, waited more, chatted to the other singers, sang a bit more, waited more... You get the picture.  In the end my audition was almost 2 hours later than it was meant to be.

And?  After all that?

Well, the director seemed to like me.  I say "seemed" because you never can tell in these situations. Sometimes a director will shower you with compliments only to send a brush-off email a week later.  And sometimes they'll say nothing and then inexplicably hire you.  In any case, he seemed to like me  He complimented the colour of my voice and asked who I'd studied with, and - here's the best part - he said that my voice was very free!  Now, if you know anything about my singing you'll know that that's a Hay-UGE compliment.  Nobody EVER says that my voice is free.  Except maybe at the end of a long lesson, when my teacher might say something like "See?  It sounds a bit more free when you do that".

After complimenting my voice the director said that I looked good for my age.  Which I thought was nice of him to say, until he pointed to my email.  Instead of 1985, I'd typed that I was born in 1895.  Oh.

Apparently I am a contemporary of J. Edgar Hoover.
My trip back to Belgium was uneventful, except for a rather heated discussion with a vending machine (I paid 2 euros for those M&Ms and they never came down!).  However, as one of the other singers gave me a lift to the "nearby" train station he informed me that the financial situation there was bad and in fact they weren't even sure they'd have the funding to do this festival.  So even if the director really did genuinely like me, and was able to overlook my bout of dyslexia, there's a chance this festival won't even happen!

As I sit here, completely exhausted from the two-day voyage and a few hundred euros out of pocket, I have to ask myself: was it worth it?

Let's see here.  At best, I will get offered some singing work in Italy.  And at worst?  I sang in a beautiful old theatre, performed two new audition arias, and got a nice compliment from the director.  And let's not forget having a magnificent cappuccino in the Tuscan sunshine and collecting some fantastic travel stories.

Like I said, nothing ventured nothing gained.  We jump through all kinds of hoops for auditions.  Because aside from the possibility of work, there's always something to be learned from doing an audition.  Even if it's something simple.  For instance?  Always check your emails for typos.  Also, make sure to bring a map with you.

Was I crazy to do this audition?  Probably.  But there's no time to think about that - I have another audition tomorrow.

Thank goodness, this one's in Belgium!

1 comment:

  1. Heya gorgeous! Such great adventures. I suppose with all my travelling sometimes I would forget to stop and admire the scenery that was before me, the lovely sunlight, etc. i'm glad that despite the stress you've been able to do just that!

    Sure, staying in your jammies at home sounds cozy and comfortable, but all these experiences make life more interesting, rich, exquisite!

    To many more crazy, wild, extraordinary experiences :)