Written by David Ward (Artistic Director)
Casting is always one of the highlights of the production process. We primarily cast through three channels
Singers we’ve previously worked with
Singers we’ve seen on stage with other companies
One of the added benefits of performing rare operas is that artists are able to create work that audiences are unlikely to have preconceived notions of. Singers are not having to conform to an audiences’ idea of a role, and are not inhibited by previous performers they may have seen or heard.
With Sherlock we have the further advantage of this being a world premiere (literally no one has heard or performed this opera before!); however at the same time we know that audiences will have their own ideas as to what the characters (particularly Sherlock and Watson) should be like.
For this production we’re mindful of the relationships across the characters, and ensuring that we’re casting pairings that will work both musically and physically on stage – Sherlock and Watson, for example, or Mary and Watson.
We always hold general auditions, which means that whilst the singers we hear may not necessarily be suitable for projects in the immediate term, it’s an opportunity for us to hear them – and for them to meet us – and keep them in mind for the future. I think our current record is five years between audition and being offered a role (!). We also invite freelance directors and conductors to join our audition panels to make the experience as worthwhile as possible for singers.
It goes without saying that there is tremendous competition from many brilliant performers for limited roles. We have many more people apply than we can see, and this often means having to reject some very talented and experienced performers. In general, here are some reasons why we might choose to invite some singers over others to audition:
Programming – our ultimate priority for auditions is ensuring that we are seeing singers who may be suitable for our upcoming repertoire. We don’t want to waste singers’ time, energy and money by attending an audition where there’s little potential of us having a suitable role for them
Geography – we don’t ask singers based outside England, Scotland or Wales to audition in person due to the excessive travel time, money and carbon involved. We are also more likely to prioritise singers based in or near Leeds as this can be useful for some of our smaller scale projects, or if we have last-minute opportunities that come up
Videos – we don’t need to see beautifully produced and expensive videos (!) but having some recording to base a decision on is really important. When it is so competitive, it’s unlikely we can invite someone to audition when we haven’t heard them in advance. I personally enjoy seeing videos of singers on stage, in performance, and a video is always preferred to an audio recording. When assessing an application we will start by reviewing videos / recordings ahead of reading CV’s, to ensure that singers with more limited experience are not excluded
Audition materials – bluntly, we have limited time to assess singers for auditions given the overwhelming number of applications we receive (we DO always listen to the recordings you send!). This means that we’re unlikely to persevere with CV’s which are poorly formatted and difficult to read, or links that go to non-existent videos, for example
I appreciate that it’s not always easy to accept, but it truly is the case that however brilliant an application, or wonderful an audition, another performer may just be more suited to a particular project. We’re always really grateful for all singers who audition for us, and perhaps it might be that it takes a year (or five) before the perfect opportunity to work together arises …