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In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

Backstage at the Opera at the Movies

May 4, 2011 7:12:00 AM
By BLO Staff

The Audition is a documentary
about the Met National Council Auditions—absolutely required viewing for opera
lovers.
Competing
in the Met Auditions is the ultimate way for a singer to get noticed. Nadine Sierra,
who stars as Tytania in the upcoming BLO production of Britten’s  A
Midsummer Night’s Dream,
won the
competition in 2009.  Her fellow
finalist Anthony Roth Costanzo also recently graced the BLO stage as Ottone in Agrippina.
(The two of them were featured in
an article about the Met auditions, check it out.
In
other words, this competition is It. A list of past winners of the Met
auditions reads like a Who’s Who of opera. This documentary, made by Susan
Froemke, follows the finalists of the 2007 auditions as they prepare for their
final performance onstage at the Met. The pressure the singers are under is
enough to radiate from your TV and make your hair stand on end. (And, O BLO
Bunch-ers, some of the singers are no older than we are.) 
This
documentary usually prompts comparisons to American
Idol
, or other talent-based reality shows, and it’s true that the format is
similar—the contestants and their idiosyncrasies are introduced, and some
potential sources of trouble are set up—for instance, tenor Alek Shrader’s
choice to sing “Ah! mes amis,” an aria famous for nine high Cs, and Pavarotti’s
signature piece. However, this choice does not bring trouble. Just glory. My
only complaint is that the movie doesn’t show the whole aria. 
The
film focuses on the three tenor finalists: Shrader, Michael Fabiano, a volatile
and thrilling-voiced twenty-two year-old, and Ryan Smith, who is thirty and
giving an operatic career a last shot. He interviews that if it doesn’t work
out, he’ll finish his doctorate. Even at the height of the tension, there is no
drama between the contestants—everyone is very professional, if intensely
focused. It defies expectation to see a taut, engaging film about a group of
young people who will do anything to win—not American Idol at all, but an opera competition. 
The
contestants speak frankly about everything from the pressures on singers
concerning age and weight, to the giddiness and terror of getting their one big
shot on the Met stage, all of ten minutes long. However, by just making it to
the finals, the contestants are singing in front of a pre-eminent group of opera
directors and agents, and chances are they won’t go home empty-handed. 
The
film itself is very well put together, and a fascinating look at what it’s like
to be a young singer on the verge of a dazzling career in opera. For the rest
of us, I’ll see you at A Midsummer Night’s Dream!
(The
2007 finalists. What are the odds that three out of five of the women are
wearing identical shades of red?)
- Audrey Chait, Brown University

Topics: Student Posts, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Student Night at the Opera

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