We’ve been receiving a welter of complaints from young singers, complaining that opera companies are ripping them off at audition:
Here’s one, concealing the singer’s identity for obvious reasons:
It’s a struggle for a young singer to pay for lessons, travel costs and coaching for auditions but a new expense has been creeping in: audition charges.
An administration or processing fee for a young artist programme or master classeses has ften been imposed, opera companies have now taken to charging singers for the honour of auditioning for a role.
“When mounting an opera costs thousands of pounds, it seems odd that they can’t afford to absorb the cost of a church hall and a pianist’s daily wage,” says one young singer.
Charging to audition is nothing new. In Germany paying 20 Euros to audition for an agent covers the pianist’s fee. However, when state-subsidised companies such as ENO Baylis Opera Works charge £40 to audition and clearly state that they will not give feedback, something is out of balance. One young singer had a dreadful experience as her pianist was not familiar with standard operatic repertoire. “He made so many mistakes. It was so bad that the people on the panel were giggling. I felt cheated.”
Approximately 187 auditioned this year for one of the 20 places at ENO’s Opera Works (that’s £7,480 in revenue). Successful participants pay £1,900 to attend the course. That’s another £38,000.
The National Opera Studio also charges £75 to audition and an additional £25 for the pianist. Given the auditions take place on site and employ a staff pianist, one wonders what this fee is for. As with ENO, you are not guaranteed feedback, something a young singer sees as absolutely vital. Co Opera charges £12 to audition and BYO charges £18. BYO gives little or no feedback, around 400 singers apply each year.
One can forgive administrative charges but to not give feedback is simply deplorable when young singers need all the constructive feedback they can get, particularly when they have paid to audition.
We await creative responses from the opera companies concerned.