Long before urban singles started getting to know each other in six-minute increments, the makers of grand opera had perfected the art of speed-dating. Except, when impresarios and conductors are adjudicating new singers, they don’t get a complimentary cocktail to take the sting off.
I got a taste of what their job must be like when I went speed-dating the other night. That’s when about a dozen men and about a dozen women convene for a game of adult musical chairs, so to speak. You sit across from your potential date and try to leave some sort of impression within the span of six minutes, after which time a bell is rung, and everyone shifts over until everybody has met everyone. Then you check the names of those who you’d like to meet again. If a person whose name you’ve checked has also checked yours, then you theoretically go on a date. A slow date.
Six minutes seems a bit quick, doesn’t it? Actually, I’d venture to say that most common audition arias are no longer than that on average. In that span of time, one can judge your vocal technique, your musical expression, as well as your sense of judgement by what you have chosen to sing, what you have chosen to wear; your character can be assessed by how you introduce yourself and what you find necessary to say.
Apart from the vocal technique, the same applies to speed-dating. Of course, the first thing we look at is, well, looks. I’ll admit, I got a bit gussied up and even buffed my finger nails with my new Seacret™ nail care kit (let’s hope I get a little revenue for that plug). Although, under the dim lights of the cocktail bar, so much attention to detail was surely not necessary. I discovered at the end of the night that there was a big hole in my stockings, too, but no harm done. At any rate, I figure if I make an effort to look my best and just be myself, I’ve done all I can do. The rest is up to them.
Oops, wait a minute. That’s the only difference between speed-dating and auditioning. At an audition, it really is up to them. In speed-dating, I also get a say.
In most cases, I knew when they walked in the door which men I would potentially give a ‘yes’ to, and which were going to get a definite ‘no’. This was not based on physique, height or hair color, but rather by their style and the charisma they exuded. There were no definite ‘yesses,’ to be honest - none of the men won me over solely on their looks. In fact, at the end of the night, I had only checked one name on my list. (One more thing the two occasions have in common is, by the time it’s over, I’ve met a lot of fabulous new female acquaintances -- see previous blog: Operatics Anonymous). Still, I find the concept intriguing - no matter what impression the person makes on me in the first few seconds, he’s got about five more minutes to show me what he’s really made of.
I wish the same were true of opera auditions. In fact, I think there should be a rule that you get to start with any aria you choose, and then be guaranteed the chance to sing at least a portion of a second aria of their choice. Even if they have to politely sit there while secretly pondering what they’ll have for lunch, at least I don’t get the feeling that I’m being stifled.
Actually, maybe I ought to treat speed-dating like an audition -- let the guy sit there and yap for six minutes until I say “Danke” -- and go about auditions as if they were speed dates. Maybe I have more of a say in them than I yet realize.
To all my potential dates and employers out there, if you’re not gettin’ lucky with me within six minutes, it’s probably not gonna happen.
Better luck next time with the Grahamophone!