Translation, pronunciation guide and interpretation tips on “Bist du bei mir” by Johann Sebastian Bach / Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel
Text and translation
Bist du bei mir, geh‘ ich mit Freuden If you are with me, I will go with joy
zum Sterben und zu meiner Ruh'! To death and to my rest!
Ach, wie vergnügt wär' so mein Ende: Ah, how cheerful were my end:
Es drückten Deine schönen Hände your beautiful hands would press shut
mir die getreuen Augen zu. my faithful eyes.
This song was included in Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous collection of pieces in the “Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach” of 1725. For that reason, it was thought of as having been composed by Bach and was assigned the BWV number 508.
Today, however, we assume that this song was not written by Bach but by the German composer Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1690 – 1749). It is assumed to be an aria from Stölzel’s opera “Diomedes” which – sadly enough – seems to be lost.
How “Bist du bei mir” came into the Bach household we do not know. Bach and Stölzel were in the same places but at different times; they shared acquaintances but if they met personally we also do not know.
What we do know, however, is that Bach’s second wife Anna Magdalena was an accomplished singer and Johann Sebastian gathered songs for her in his “Notenbüchlein” (notebooks).
One stress of this line (supported by the music) lies on “du”, the second one lies on “mir”.
Geh ich mit Freunden – I will go with joy
Make the E in „geh“ a closed sound, but both I in “ich” and “mit” open.
Be very strict with yourself to pronounce the CH-sound in “ich” correctly by letting the tongue rest in the position of the I and exhaling in this same position (if you want to learn more on German CH-sounds, you might be interested in this blog post).
Normally, between the E of “geh” and the I of “ich” there would be a tiny glottal onset. In this case, however, I recommend binding together (but not slurring!) both vowels so that the legato is not interrupted. In order to do that you have to articulate each vowel 100 % correct!
When this line is sung the third time, the melody changes and “geh” starts relatively high. The challenge here is to make the G a pure sound without adding a shadow vowel before.
The diphthong EU in “Freuden”, where this line’s emphasis lies (trill!), is pronounced [ɔø] and you must be aware of the length of each vowel:
hold the first vowel (in this case the [ɔ]) for approximately three quarters of the note and then transition smoothly to the second vowel (here an [ø]).
(Here you will find a detailed description on how to sing German diphthongs correctly.)
Roll the R in “Freuden”.
Zum Sterben und zu meiner Ruh – to death and to my rest
The German Z is a so-called affricate or combination consonant indicating that despite only one letter is spelled, it is pronounced with two (consonant) sounds. Here it is a T and S in short succession and both must be audible. (More information on the German Z can be found in this article).
The U in “zum” is open whereas the one in “zu” is closed.
Also, pronounce the T in “Sterben” very clearly as one tends to slur it into a D after the initial ʃ-sound.
Both E in this word are open but differ slightly from each other: the first one (“Ster-“) should be an [Ɛ] whereas the second one (“-ben”) is a a schwa [ə].
Roll the R of “sterben” crisply.
Unlike the first line where I recommended combining the words “bist du” by imploding/exploding the D/T-sounds, you should make a short break between the words “und” and “zu” which – as you certainly remember – starts with a T-sound.
While both, “Sterben“ and „Ruh” are stressed in this line, the musical focus lies more on the latter.
Ach, wie vergnügt – Ah, how cheerful
The CH of „Ach“ is different from the one in „ich“, a bit throatier but be very careful that it does not become a K-sound.
You could make a short break after “Ach” as the comma afterwards indicates. Additionally, as I said earlier, “ach” can be interpreted in many differnt ways (joy, languish, sigh etc.) and you are invited to use different versions with each line.
The I in “wie” is closed and the W is voiced; use it to your advantage.
Whether you pronounce the R in “vergnügt” or make it a vocalic R is up to you. However, if you choose the latter version make sure that the colouring of the preceding vowel is absolutely correct! If you are unsure, carry out a one-flap R as this will help you with the vowel.
The Ü in “vergnügt” is closed. (Here you will find tips on how to say a proper German Ü).
Although it might be tempting to omit one ore more consonants of the second syllable (“-gnügt”), this would be wrong. Please make sure that your audience hears every single sound. If you practice this word by speaking it very slowly at first and than add tempo, I am sure you will manage perfectly.
Wär so mein Ende – would my end be
In this line we have only voiced consonants: W (“wär”), S (“so”), M (“mein”) and D and N (“Ende”).
They make it a lot easier to sing this phrase legato-like.
The Ä in “wär” is the same sound as the first E in “Ende”.
Also, “Ende” must be sung with an audible glottal onset.
Sing the O in “so” closed and remember that the S is voiced.
Es drückten Deine schönen Hände – Your beautiful hands would press shut
Despite many false recommendations, the Ü in “drückte” must be open! I know this is a bit of a challenge but if you think (only think!) of an Ö while singing the Ü you will get the correct sound.
“Drücken” (or “drückten” here) means shut with a certain amount of pressure which in this context I find a bit disturbing. Do not overstress but head over to “schönen Hände”.
Pronounce the plosive sounds (C)K and T in this word clearly.
Apart from the Ö in “schönen” (and the [a] in “deinen”) every vowel in this line is open.
Mir die getreuen Augen zu – my faithful eyes
Both I in „mir“ and “die” are closed as is the U in “zu”.
Roll the R in “getreuen” and make sure you get the diphthongs in this word as in “Augen” right (see above).
“Bist du bei mir” is considered “Hausmusik” (house-music) which means it was played in the family circle, i.e. in rather intimate surroundings.
It is a very light, simple song, communicating intense love in a simple, joyful manner.
The challenge is to sing it with a very even vocal line. All eight notes, especially when they are sung on one syllable (“Sterben”, “meiner” “du”,…) must be of exactly the same length.
However, what you can do to add your own interpretation is use the language to make tiny breaks between the words/notes. Legato in baroque music is not to be observed as strictly as for example in a Romantic art song.
In fact, the music here is very close to a dance. You might want to try experimenting with contrasting the dotted notes against the even sections.
In addition, when word phrases are repeated on different melodies, you might play with vowel colourings (all within the correct framework of course) and different emphases.
Take the phrase “Ach, wie vergnügt” for example: “ach” can be an expression of excitement as well as longing (and many other things). Play with the phrases, try out different ways of interpretation or use a different version with every line.
All in all, this is a very simple song – which does not mean it is easy to sing. It combines passionate love, calm serenity and joy.
Below, I have attached two recordings of this aria.
Translation, pronunciation guide and interpretation tips onW. A. Mozart’s aria “In diesen heil’gen Hallen” from the opera “Die Zauberflöte”
Text and translation
In diesen heil’gen Hallen Within these hallowed halls
Kennt man die Rache nicht one does not know revenge.
Und ist ein Mensch gefallen and if a human has fallen
führt Liebe ihn zur Pflicht love will guide them to duty.
Dann wandelt er an Freundes Hand Then he wanders on a friend’s hand
vergnügt und froh ins bessre Land merry and happy into the better land.
In diesen heil’gen Mauern Within these hallowed walls
wo Mensch den Menschen liebt. Where human loves human,
kann kein Verräter lauern, no traiter can lurk
weil man dem Feind vergibt. Because one forgives the enemy.
Wen solche Lehren nicht erfreun, Who these lessons do not please
verdienet nicht ein Mensch zu sein. Does not deserve to be a human.
The aria is sung by Sarastro, high priest of the temple of wisdom in the second act of Mozart’s best-known opera, “Die Zauberflöte”.
Sarastro had kidnapped Pamina, the queen of the night’s daughter and she is know in his hands. Tamino, a young prince is sent to rescue and is promised her hand when he succeeds.
When Tamino is granted access to Sarastro’s temple he learns that Sarastro is good and he chooses to become part of Sarastro’s community.
The aria is written in E major, a key slightly unusual for Mozart. It shows a contrast (also in content) to the bleak D minor of the preceeding aria of the Queen of the Night (“Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen”). Here, calmness and peace are dominant, supported, of course, by the bass voice.
“In diesen heil’gen Hallen”
The beginning with the two different I sounds might be challenging: you have to start with a glottal onset and on a vowel that for some of us shows some difficulties.
The I of “in” is open, the one of “diesen” is closed; It may help you to hold the jaw position of “in” while speaking the N and go on with exactly this position to “diesen”.
I love the alliteration of “heil’gen Hallen”. However, some singers are unsure how the H at the beginning of a word is pronounced. The answer is: voiceless and not too sharp (NOT like CH), an English example for this sound would be the H in “home”.
The E sharp in “Hallen” tends to be flat, so make sure that you support enough during the phrase.
“kennt man die Rache nicht”
This is the essence of Sarastro’s brotherhood in a nutshell: they do not hold the common belief of “eye by eye, tooth by tooth” valid and do not “know revenge”.
Make sure to articulate the K of “kennt” clearly.
Furthermore, pay attention to the open vowels here: “kennt”, “man”, “nicht”. In case of “kennt” and “nicht” it may help you to think (only think!) of an Ö, respectively an Ü to produce the correct sound.
The verb „gefallen“ – like „fallen“ – does not only mean a physical but also a moral or spiritual downfall.
Again, we have a glottal onset starting the phrase. Fortunately, this time it is an U (if an open one) which makes it easier. Nevertheless, avoid overdoing the glottal onset as it could otherwise harm your vocal cords.
Pronounce the D in “und” as T.
You might be tempted to guide the open E in “Mensch” towards an Ä-sound but I would recommend to (again) think (!) of an Ö.
The only closed vowel in this phrase is the [a] in “ein.
“führt Liebe ihn zur Pflicht”
Not rules, nor the fear of punishment, i.e. nothing imposed from the outside world guides the human but only their morality deriving from love.
Now “Pflicht” consists almost solely of consonants. I cannot give you a shortcut here, but recommend to practice it slowly at first while making sure that all consonants are articulated well.
“Dann wandelt er an Freundes Hand”
„Wandeln“ is quite an unsual word to use here; neither “wander” nor “stroll” fully describe its overall meaning. In fact, it is sometimes used in connection with angels, describing their way of movement – strolling peacefully through Paradise.
In Sarastro’s world, your “opponent” will reach out for you and you will wander side by side. What a wonderful world!
The accumulation of the sound AN is remarkable here: we have it in “dann”, “wandelt”, “an” and “Hand”. In combination with the melody, this gives the phrase an easy, almost dance-like touch. After all, it shows us paradise. Who wouldn’t want to dance into it?
The H in “Hand” is the same as the H in “heil’gen” and “Hallen”: make it audible but not too harsh.
“vergnügt und froh ins bess’re Land”
Here we have the joy and happiness we spoke of in the last phrase of the text. The “better land” meaning no physical place but a world with the values of Sarastro’s community, a world based on wisdom and love.
“Vergnügt” might be a challenge for some of you:
? Bear in mind, that the R of the prefix “ver” is not pronounced (it is rather [ə]).
? Make the first G (“gnügt”) a soft G and the second one (“gnügt”) a K.
? Pronounce the Ü closed, articulate the Ts clearly and you are well set.
In the word “bess’re”, an E has been omitted, it’s common spelling being “bessere”. You cannot leave out the R here but must roll it. Just in case you missed the link above on the different pronounciation of the German R, click here.
The first stanza is done, the second of course is on the same melody. Let’s have a look at what to expect:
“In diesen heil’gen Mauern”
Here we have almost the same words and vowels as in the aria’s first line, only “Hallen” (halls) was substituted with “Mauern” (walls).
When a diphthong is to be sung on a long note, the first sound (in this case an open A) should last for roughly three quarters of the note. Then make a smooth transition to the second vowel (here: [ɔ]) and finish with the final consonant.
In this case the situation is slightly different as we have a third “vowel”, the schwa of “-ern”. So again, prolong the [a] for approximately three quarters of the melody line and instead of doing one, you just say two vowels at the end, making sure that they transition smoothly.
Attention: Do not dwell on the middle vowel but head towards the schwa.
“wo Mensch den Menschen liebt”
Everybody is guided by both, self-love and “love to thy neighbour” . A perfect world where the vibes are so high that bad feelings cannot exist.
The rapid succession of the words “Mensch” and “Menschen” can be challenging, especially if you have trouble with the [nʃ]. Practice it very slowly at first and don’t let the eighth notes stress you.
Bear in mind, that the E here are open, whereas the I in “liebt” is a closed vowel.
“kann kein Verräter lauern”
The alliteration of „kann kein“ is a powerful way to express Sarastro’s side blow towards the Queen and Monostatos. Use the K to make your statement.
The same goes for the R in “Verräter”: it supports you in sounding thunderous but without frightening Pamina away again.
The “-er” of Verräter as well as the “-ern” in “lauern”, however, are pronounced as vocalic r [ɐ].
For the correct use of the diphthong AU in “lauern”, see my notes on that topic two lines above (“Mauern”).
“weil man dem Feind vergibt.”
“Feind” is a strong and negatively occupied word – like “Verräter” in the line above. I believe they were chosen to state that despite Sarastro’s (and his community’s) belief that love is the base for peaceful coexistence, they do not close their eyes from the reality outside their walls.
This line dwells on the A-sounds of “weil” ([ae]), “man” (open) and “Feind” ([ae]). You could even add the “ver-“ of “vergibt” to this list ([Ɛɐ]) if you do not choose to pronounce a one-tap R here.
Although “-gibt” in “vergibt” is spelled with a b, it must be pronounced as P ([gi:pt]).
“Wen solche Lehren nicht erfreu’n”
The E in “wen” and “Lehren“ is closed, the H in “Lehren” must not be pronounced.
You can (and should) combine the N at the end of “Lehren” and at the beginning of “nicht” and make use of this voiced consonant.
The [ɔ] in “erfreun” ([ɔø]) must be held over both quarter notes. Do not give in to the temptation to sing [frɔ-øn] but sing [frɔ-ɔøn].
“verdienet nicht ein Mensch zu sein.”
Contrasting to the enemies and traitors in the two preceeding lines, Sarastro summarizes that in his opinion love resides in every human’s heart and if someone does not like these thoughts (or lessons) they cannot be considered human (any more). He tells Pamina that in his opinion she – unlike her mother – is still human!
Again, you can either use a one-tap r or a [Ɛɐ]-sound for “ver-“.
The I in “-dienet” is closed, the one in “nicht” is open. Make sure to make an audible distinction between both sounds.
Pay attention to the Z in “zu” (see Line 4) and remember that it stands for two sounds ([ts]) in rapid succession.
The challenge with this aria, in my opinion, is that despite being sung with this full, sonorous bass voice it has to be very gentle. Think of it: Pamina is scared to death! She fears revenge for what her mother demanded from her. And she has been brought up thinking that Sarastro is one of the bad guys who want to harm her and her mother, maybe might even force her to marry him.
Now you as Sarastro have to make sure that you calm the frightened young lady. Be kind, be generous, show her the path to this wonderful world where only love rules and no one has to fear anything.
Below I have attached two recordings of this aria.
Translation, pronunciation and interpretation guide on W. A. Mozart’s aria “Ach, ich fühl’s” from the opera “Die Zauberflöte”
Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden, Ah, I feel it, it has disappeared
Ewig hin der Liebe Glück! Forever gone love’s happiness!
Nimmer kommt ihr Wonnestunden Never will the hours of bliss come
Meinem Herzen mehr zurück! Back to my heart!
Sieh’, Tamino, diese Tränen, See, Tamino, these tears,
Fließen, Trauter, dir allein! Flowing, beloved, for you alone!
Fühlst du nicht der Liebe Sehnen, If you don’t feel the longing of love
So wird Ruh’ im Tode sein! Then there will be peace in death!
This aria is sung by Pamina, the Queen of the Night’s daughter in the second act of Mozart’s best-known opera “Die Zauberflöte”.
Pamina was kidnapped by evil Sarastro, the Queen’s enemy. The Queen sends Tamino, a young prince, to rescue her daughter; he sets out, accompanied by Papageno a bird-trader and “strange bird” (himself).
When Tamino reaches Sarastro’s temple he learns that Sarastro is not evil but good; he enters the temple to find Pamina (and eventually become a member of Sarastro’s crew). (For a detailed description of the plot, click here)
When Tamino and Pamina see each other for the first time they both fall in love with each other. The more bitter it is for Pamina when she meets Tamino for the second time and he does not talk to her! Not knowing that he has taken a vow of silence , she, of course, thinks that he does not love her (anymore)
In the aria “Ach ich fühl’s”, Pamina expresses her sadness and despair over Tamino’s silence and rejection, announcing suicide at the end.
“Ach, ich fühl’s…”
The aria is written in a deeply-sad G minor key and begins with a very short orchestral foreplay, resembling a funeral march before the soprano (Pamina) sings – or rather sighs – her first words “Ach, ich fühl’s”.
These three words already bear three difficulties for non-German singers: the two different CH-sounds of “ach” and “ich” and the Umlaut “Ü”.
In this blog post here, you can read about the ach/ich-sounds and here you will find more about the formation of a correct German Ü.
Although there is a break after “ach”, the phrase should be sung in one breath leading towards “fühl’s” where the emphasis lies.
“…es ist entschwunden…”
(In some versions: „es ist verschwunden“): make sure the „es“ is a pure open German „e“ not an „ö“. Keep your mouth position for the “ist”, it will make the leap to the G sharp much easier. Also, pay attention to the two “t”s in “ist” and “entschwunden”: they must be audibly articulated but not over-exaggerated.
The consonant cluster in “entschwunden” may seem difficult at first. Practice it slowly and support very well. If you then keep in mind that both the “n” and the “w” are voiced consonants and that the “sch” represents only one sound, the perceived three million consonants have melted down to two. ? The emphasis in this phrase lies on the “schwund” of “entschwunden”, not on “ist”.
“…ewig hin der Liebe Glück.”
As here we have almost only two vocals in different facettes (“e:” and “i:/y:”), keep the position of your mouth in nearly the same position throughout the whole phrase. On “ewig” we have the first small coloratura. Sing it as legato as possible and make sure to have perfect pitch of the D in “ewig” which sometimes tends to be flat.
The repetition of this phrase is very tricky regarding vowel colouring. Especially the leap from “der” to “Liebe” (B flat) can only be managed with a lot of support on the letter “d” of “der” and an adjustment of the [i:] vowel in “Liebe”. It may help you to think an [a:] while singing the [i:].
The [y:] of “Glück”, however, must not be changed. “Glick” is not right.
“Nimmer kommt ihr Wonnestunden…”
In my opinion, this short phrase in major key is the saddest part of the aria. Bittersweet, it is both reminiscence of the “Wonnestunden” and the realization that these hourse of joy and bliss will never come back again. Notice that we have three consonant pairs which make the preceding vowel short and open: “nimmer”, “kommt” and “Wonne”.
The [i:] in “ihr” is the only long and closed vowel here.
“…meinem Herzen mehr zurück.”
The first phrase is sung slightly pushing forward as realization sinks in. Its repetition, with this beautiful but tricky legato line may resemble some inward (!) sobbing. Take a good breath before “meinem” to sing through to the staccatti and maybe even to the end of the phrase. Make the “k”-sound of “Glück” very pronounced.
“Sieh, Tamino”: For the first time in the whole aria Pamina addresses Tamino directly, i.e. going from inward contemplation to actual speaking. Sing it on one breath and make sure to keep the support during the break between “sieh” and “Tamino”. Some singers do this part in a more dramatic way, thus expressing the outward communication (or the attempt of it); others make it a very tender approach, impersonating the woman traumatized by rejection. How you interpret this passage is up to you (and the conductor) but make sure that it stays Mozart and does not become a Wagner or Puccini.
“…diese Tränen fließen, Trauter, dir allein.”
The phrase moves forward as Pamina shows her tears: “diese Tränen fließen, Trauter, dir allein”, appealing to Tamino’s compassion. Take note of the following diction issues:
⫸ Pronounce the “t”s of “Tränen” and “trauter” clearly;
⫸ The “s” of diese” is voiced, the “ß” in “fließen” is unvoiced.
⫸ The only sure [r]-sound is the one in “Tränen”. The “r” in Trauter is a [ə], “dir” is usually pronounced as [di:a], followed by a glottal onset of “allein”. It may be pronounced with a one-flap “r” to avoid this onset. In the latter case, the “r” must not be more than a hint.
“Fühlst du nicht der Liebe sehnen,…”
“Fühlst du nicht der Liebe Sehnen”: The combination of the “t” at the end of “fühlst” and the “d” at the beginning of “du” is a bit difficult. With the rhythm, it is impossible to pronounce both expressly so we make a short stop at the “s” of fühlst, prolonging it slightly (!) and pronouncing the “d” of “du” a bit more articulate than usual. The “I”s of “nicht” and “Liebe” have once more to be adjusted towards an “a” as both lie on an A flat and B flat and are sung very piano, resembling an almost soundless cry.
“…so wird Ruh im Tode sein.”
“So wird Ruh im Tode sein“. Here we have only dark, dull vowels (o, u, a [zaen], determining the bleak atmosphere of Pamina’s last words in this aria where she announces suicide. Make sure to make the “m” of “im Tode” audible, its nasal characteristic will help you.
A further challenge in this phrase is the octave leap of the second “so wird Ruh”; it may help you to make a breathy, unvoiced “r” sound (one-tap flap) and set the “u” of “Ruh” onto the G sharp, i.e. not start on the G sharp with an audible rolled “r”.
“Im Tode sein” is repeated three times. It seems to me (but again, this is only my interpretation) that the first time Pamina sings these words, she is just speaking (or rather: singing) her first thoughts out loudly, frightening back when she actually hears herself say it (pay attention to the dissonant chord). She then tries again the taste of the words “im Tode sein”, culminating in a very quiet, yet determined, last repetition.
I think the most difficult aspect of this aria is that Mozart’s “Zauberflöte” is the most frequently played opera in the world and a large part of your audience will know the arias by heart and in manifold interpretations. Despite its deceptive simplicity it is not easy to perform (a characteristic that is a rule with all Mozart’s music), not only for pronunciation reasons but also because it is sung almost throughout in piano and with difficult legato lines, accompanied quite sparsely.
Below I have attached two recordings of this aria.
One is sung by Tiana Lemnitz (a recording of 1937 )
Congratulations! You have been invited to an audition. A first goal is achieved!
But what to do now? What to take with you? Which arias to chose? What to wear?
In this guide I have summed up topics that often come up in preparation for an audition.
Although this list is not exhaustive, it can be a helpful resource for you when you are attending an audition, independent from your level of experience.
Confirm the audition date immediately, send your resume and all required files and then make sure you are prepared as good as possible.
This means not only that you have a packing list ready with the things you should take with you, but it also includes general preparations and mindset issues that will help you to give a memorable performance.
Let’s look at it step by step:
1) Your Repertoire
A prerequisite for every audition is a clearly defined audition repertoire of (opera) arias that is appropriate for your voice. It should contain at least five pieces that are well known.
Only take those arias that you are able to master perfectly and which you are comfortable to sing. Make a well-considered choice that lets you show all aspects of artistic singing: the quality of your voice, your vocal technique, an elevated level of difficulty (height!), musicality, interpretation, virtuosity, articulation etc.
Furthermore, your selection should consist of arias in at least two, better three different languages and show some contrast in terms of style, mood, character and period.
Always sing your repertoire in its original language and take coaching lessons well in advance to make sure your pronunciation is immaculate!
Know which aria you will sing first if you are given the choice (which is often the case).
In my opinion, it is smart to make that first aria short and fabulous; this will leave time for a second aria.
Do not at any cost let yourself be persuaded to sing something you have not prepared well enough for a perfect performance. Auditions are a game to be played on the safe side.
2) Travel Organisation
Often an audition takes place not near your home town but at a place far off so that you will have to travel. If possible, make sure that you travel with enough time buffer, so that you are relaxed and fit for the audition.
Needless to say, that an unbalanced bio rhythm will have a very negative impact on your performance. I have often seen singers who had departed at 4.00 a.m. to perform at 12.00 a.m.
This means: try to travel with as little stress as possible; if necessary, arrive one day before and stay overnight. AirBnB offers cheap accommodation or you might want to ask in various Facebook groups for recommendations or opportunities to stay with a fellow singer. Check out if there are any Facebook groups for the city where your audition takes place or close to it.
People are usually very helpful.
On audition day, do not plan your departure time (or any appointment) too close to your time of performance. Sometimes, auditions are very short, but they may also be delayed and thus may become excessively long. Knowing that you have to leave at a certain time to catch your train or flight or that you have an appointment shortly after your scheduled time, will add further pressure to an already stressful event.
The question of clothing is often posed and must not be neglected. Your outer appearance is the first impression your audience gets and, as is so often the case, first impressions last.
You already know that an audition is not a “come-as-you-are-party”. In general, I would say, that you should feel comfortable with what you wear without being slouchy or overdressed. Torn jeans, jogging pants or flip flops are as inappropriate for a routine audition as tailcoats, tuxedos or full-length evening gowns.
Both men’s and women’s hair should always be out of the face. It needn’t be pulled back, but you should be able to make eye contact.
For men – as often ? – the question of clothing is a relatively uncomplicated one:
Smart/casual clothes tending towards the elegant side always look good.
Wear a shirt that is relatively loose around the throat and either a jacket or a tie or both.
If you choose a tie, however, be careful that its fit is not too tight and chokes you.
You can go for colour but avoid busy prints which divert the audience’s attention.
Better set an accent by wearing a bold tie, funny socks or an amazing suit that will make you memorable apart from your voice.
If you wear your hair long, make sure its out of your face. You should be able to establish eye contact.
Women’s clothing on the other hand is a much more differentiated subject:
I would recommend wearing comfortable, unobtrusively elegant clothing that highlights your physical appearance without showing too muchskin. Although it should go without saying, I cannot emphasize enough that strapless dresses showing off your cleavage down to your navel or skirts so short they could be just broad belts are a no-go and will not help you to get the job.
Talking of skirt lengths: always bear in mind that you stand on the stage and the audience looks up (!) to you. If in doubt, choose a longer skirt or dress.
Pants are equally fine as long as they look classy and fit you.
Be careful about shawls and scarfs and other things that are not stabilized.
If you want to remain in the judges’ memory (apart from your singing), go for a vibrant
touch of colour (no sequins or über-glitzy stuff and again: no busy prints) or some
interesting detail (a pin, a necklace, etc.) that does not overwhelm.
Black is always an option though hardly memorable
One word on women’s shoes: I know that many vocal teachers recommend wearing rather flat shoes in order to being “connected with the floor” and being able to stand upright which enables you to adopt the perfect posture for singing. However, in many roles on stage you will have to wear high heels so why not wear them to an audition? Always provided, of course, that they suit you, that you are comfortable with them and – most important of all – that you are able to walk in them confidently and gracefully.
4) Audition Day
Get up in time, do your morning routine and have a healthy breakfast. I know, stress can affect your nerves to such an extent that you can hardly eat anything. However, you will need some nutritious basis in order to not only cope with the day but rock it.If you are a bit like me and have a very stress-sensitive stomach you might want to try some oatmeal porridge with nuts and berries or bananas. It soothes the belly, is very nutritious and will keep your energy level constantly high.
Avoid dairy products as they will generate mucus; also, citrus fruit and overly spicy food are not recommendable.
Do not excess on coffee as it will dehydrate you. Instead, drink enough water or tea before leaving the house.
Carry out some light body warm-ups and stretching to smoothen your muscles and become flexible. Singing is so much more than just using your diaphragm and moving your vocal cords. Your whole body is your instrument so take good care of it!
If you have the opportunity, you should do a little vocal warm-up before you go.
Be careful and do not overdo it. Lip trills and glissandi will be enough. The “real” warm-up will take place at the audition venue.
Check carefully that you have packed everything you need (see No. 5)
Leave the house in time. If you are travelling to the venue by public transport you will hopefully have planned out your travelling schedule well before, always keeping in mind that Murphy’s law could kick in and there could be some delay.
5) Package list
First of all: your note sheets!
Nothing more shocking than to arrive at the place of the audition to realize you have forgotten your notes at home! And believe me: this has happened before and more than once.
Your ticket for public transport and/or ticket for your journey back
If you have one, take your audition plan with you.
Water or unsweetened tea. Make sure to drink plenty, starting already at the day before, in order to keep your throat hydrated.
(Sugar-free) lozenges or pastilles, if you want and/or need them to hydrate your throat.
Something to eat, at best something that additionally provides you with moisture, like fruits or vegetables and something nutritious like muesli bars or nuts. However, some people have a very sensitive digestion, especially under pressure. Make sure you choose your food wisely in order to avoid any inconveniences.
Also do not eat too much or too close to your performance. If your belly is overstuffed,you will have trouble with breathing and breath support. Additionally, gases might form and… well, you know…
If you get cold easily, take a sweater or a coat with you to keep you warm.
No need to shiver from anything else than nerves…
A pair of extra shoes. This is not a must but especially the ladies will know what I am talking about: running around in high-heels the whole day can be extremely stressful for the body and lead to muscle tension which leads to bad posture which leads to decreased breath support which leads to voice problems ….
Deodorant or body spray. Have mercy on your competitors and colleagues and have something to freshen up at hand.
First aid supplies like (blister) plasters and a disinfection spray. Again, this is optional, and chances are that you will hardly need it, but again: Murphy’s Law might kick in just when you do not have anything with you.
It is also advisable to have a mini sewing kit with you. A loose button or a ripped seam will not be a drama but something you can control and confidently cope with. Also, if one of your competitors has a clothing issue you can fix with your sewing kit, stay human and help them.
Noise cancelling headphones. You might want to take them to the audition venue in order to shut out the noise and calm down and concentrate.
Your lucky penny or whatever good-luck charm you have and need.
After having arrived at the venue and having carried out all the administrative stuff, you usually have the opportunity to warm up your voice. However, you are not the only one to do so and you will certainly have no room for yourself. This is the time to mentally shut out the world and focus solely on your voice. Exercise your warm-ups carefully, try out those high (or low) notes but please: do not exaggerate, neither in height nor in volume. With many people around you who warm up their voices you might be tempted
to sing louder than is healthy.
However, sometimes there will be no official room for warming up. Be inventive then: do your exercises in the cloak room, in the toilet compartment or any niche you can find. A friend of mine even stepped into a large closet and did his vocal warm-up there. We still have a good laugh when we imagine that anybody had casually strolled by – to be frightened nearly to death by a booming voice coming out of the closet.
When it comes to a winning mindset, athletes are pros.
As a lot of their techniques are applicable for singers, as well, I have listed some of them here:
According to research it does not make any difference to the brain whether you really experience something or whether you just imagine it. Use this technique by imagining how you want the audition to be.
Picture yourself entering the stage calmly and composedly. You start to sing and are totally absorbed in the music and the lyrics and you do a stunning and convincing performance.
Imagine not only what you see but also what you hear and feel. Use as many senses as you can to make the image real in your mind.
Remember your best performance.
The task here is to re-create the mindset that led to your success. Again, remember how you felt, what you saw and so on. When you have found this successful mindset, try to find a word or feeling for it that you can repeat when you feel negative thoughts creeping up.
Create a ritual that helps you to stay in control.
Do some breathing, meditate or carry out exercises and movements that will help you to calm down. Use the minutes before you enter the stage to focus completely on your upcoming performance. Try to enjoy this feeling of tension and excitement! It is normal to feel nervous.
Get the right attitude.
You cannot expect to be perfect every time. After all, it is more important how we react to what happens than what happens itself. Define personal goals to measure your progress and success and commit to them. Distinguish between the things you can control and those you have no control about and accept that.
“One play at a time” Do not fret about a badly intoned note or a flounder but go on.
Don’t let one tiny part of your performance throw you off for the rest of the aria. What’s done is over and you cannot bring it back. Concentrate on the task at hand and give your best now.
Keep up a positive mindset.
“Whether you think you can, or you can’t – you are right” is a saying by Henry Ford, which shows the power of your thoughts.
So make sure you think that you can!
No, I don’t mean: bring your own accompanist. ?
But he or she definitely plays (hihi, get it?) an important role in your performance.
This is why it is always advisable to at least not disgruntle him/her and at best make his/her work easy so that he/she will support you in return by accompanying you perfectly.
It is a matter of politeness to take special care of your note sheets! I think there is no accompanist who could not tell you his or her hair-raising experiences with crumpled scraps of paper, unreadable scribbles and instable sheets that collapsed or fluttered to the
ground. Be considerate and either tape the sheets together in the right (!) order or put them into a folder where the pages can easily be turned.
Also, inform your accompanist beforehand about any specialties in your performance, for example fermatas, cadenzas or any omissions you intend to do.
As far as tempo is concerned, you usually can rely upon an experienced accompanist to play in the appropriate pace. However, to err is human and it could happen that he or she plays your aria either way too fast or too slow.
In that case – and only if you really cannot cope with it or if it would distort your performance – I would recommend trying to make eye contact first and stubbornly sing in the tempo you want to have. If nothing helps, you have no other choice but to stop singing and explain shortly how fast or slow you want the piece to be played.
Enter the stage with confidence.
Do not carry anything with you except your note sheets.
Leave your bags or coats in the wardrobe. Also, do not fall into the bad habit of bringing up a water bottle onto the stage and then trying to hide it (unsuccessfully) under the piano.
Normally, the audience room is partially dark, and you will not be able to see anyone.
Nevertheless, introduce yourself with your full name and explain shortly what aria you are going to sing first. Remember: you are on stage. So, make sure you are clearly understood even at the last seat.
Stand up straight without touching the piano (it can support itself ?), take some seconds to concentrate and let the accompanist know (for example by nodding slightly towards him/her) that you are ready to start.
Connect with the words and music and perform as if you were singing alone and just for yourself.
You may use your hands and arms to emphasize your words and do facial expressions, but you are not supposed to wander around or act excessively. Close your eyes if you want, yet do not keep them shut for too long. After all, your eyes are an important factor in your performance.
As far as pronunciation is concerned: spit out your words!
If you think you are overdoing it, this is when you have reached the point to articulate understandably.
When your part is over, do not relax to soon but hold the tension for a few seconds longer to keep up the energy.
Maybe you will be asked to sing a second aria. Then go ahead and do what is requested!
Maybe you receive a “Thank you, you will hear from us.” In that case stay polite, bow, say “Thank you” and leave the stage with your head held high.
Never, ever excuse yourself!
No one is interested in your personal matters, your sore throat or your lack of sleep due to nerves. Always act professionally.
10) And now?
When we break it down, there are four possible outcomes:
A)You were not satisfied, and the director was not satisfied.
In that case you go back, lick your wounds and analyse ruthlessly your mistakes or flaws. Make a plan of all the issues you want to work on and the steps you will be taking in order to achieve what you intend to. Then put your plan into action:
Work with your teacher on your vocal challenges or look for a teacher if you haven’t got one.
Hire an excellent pronunciation coach who helps you to improve your diction and to understand every word of your arias so that your performance will reach a new level.
And then try it again. There is always a next audition.
B) You were satisfied, but the director was not satisfied
Be very honest with yourself: was your performance the best you could do and were you really satisfied with it?
If your answer is yes and you still did not get therole then maybe you did not fit into it for other reasons but your voice. As you know very well there are various factors that lead a director to cast a role with a certain person, for example your appearance, your height (and weight) or maybe you reminded him of his first-grade teacher which he loathed.
If, however, after thinking hard about it, you did find some flaws in your performance, go back to A), make a plan and put it into action.
C)You were not satisfied but the director was satisfied
Congrats, you got the role!
Even if you were not satisfied, the most important thing at this moment is: you nailed it. However, as discussed under #B) you could have been chosen for various reasons apart from your voice and thus, if you had some points you were not satisfied with, go back to #A) and make a plan and put it into action.
D) You were satisfied and the director was satisfied
Again: congrats you got the role and you didn’t find any flaws in your performance. Very well done!
Continue the good work and constantly strive to improving your art. Every new role will bring up some new challenges you will have to tackle. Singing is a life-long process of learning and improving. So, take stock from time to time and work with a teacher or a coach when the need arises, even if – or better: especially when – you are doing well in business.
If you have read to this point, I want to say a big “Thank you!”
I hope this list will help you to prepare your next audition perfectly or at least cut down the stress a bit.
As stressful as these events can be, they are only one part of your profession and
should neither freak you out nor ruin your pleasure in singing.
So, if there is only one thing you take with you from this post, I would love it to be:
Have joy and fun in singing! Love what you do and strive to do it perfectly!
Contribute your art to the world! We need it.