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My most embarrassing auditions

Pippa Goss on stage playing the role of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro. Pippa is wearing a white, lace wedding dress costume and holding a glass whilst singing.

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I auditioned for something a couple of weeks ago, which was the first audition I’d done for, well, let’s just say a decade or so.  (You can read about my performing career in this article.) It put me in mind of some of the most embarrassing auditions that I’ve done over the years as a performer.  

There’s a saying in the classical singing world that if you get asked for your Mozart, it means they didn’t like the first piece you sang and are giving you a fighting chance. “Did they ask for your Mozart?” means “Did you mess it up?”

Flying High

Picture me, mid-twenties, just out of training at the Royal Academy of Music, blissfully naive, newly signed up to an artist agency, flying high on being a new soprano on the block and of interest to casting agents for my high, agile voice, energetic stage presence, and ability to get the job done and be a good colleague at the same time. I am smashing it.

…Or am I?

For all the great auditions I do, there are a couple of howlers. Real stinkers. The most embarrassing auditions I’ve done are the ones etched in my memory.

Pippa playing Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro. Pippa is on a darkened stage under blue/green light. She is holding an empty bottle and looks despondent.

The Maria Audition

Auditioning for Maria in West Side Story when I know full well it is, ahem, a massive misjudgment in so many ways. Why do I do it? Because I want to please my new agent.

Me: “I’m not really sure West Side Story is my bag.”
Agent: “Oh, well, go anyway. They are casting their nets wider hearing classical sopranos, and you could pass for a Puerto Rican with your dark hair and olive-y-ish skin. And I’m sure you can dance a little bit, can’t you?” (Not an exact quote.)

Erm….no, and NO!

It isn’t the singing – I can sing the socks off “I Feel Pretty” – but the whole thing is wrong on so many levels, especially through the lens of 2024. The audition panel gives me that polite smile and “Thank you, that’s all we need to see.” at the end. They don’t even ask for my Mozart.

The “Read The Brief” Audition

I go for an audition where I haven’t been given (or maybe I haven’t asked) for the brief. I’m pretty sure all they’ve said is that it’s for some kind of play that needs singers. They want a folk song. Great! I can do folk songs.

I sing the folk song (which is an excellent rendition of Sweet Polly Oliver, even if I do say so myself), and then they are like “Fabulousssss – now we’re going to do a scene. You’re having an argument on the phone with your mum, who has slept with your boyfriend…” (or something like that) ”…aaaand GO!”

“WAIT, WHAT?!”

I end up having to improvise a solo phone argument scene. It is awful. It was like one of those outer-body experiences where I’m watching in horror but also laughing at myself. I haven’t done much improv since my local Youth Theatre days, but like a true pro I muster every muscle memory. It hits the buffers as I run out of ideas. Things end with me doing an apologetic, pathetic sort of giggle. Don’t do that, kids.

Do I get a call-back? Nooo.

The “I’m sorry, and you are..?” Audition

Back in the opera world, which is more familiar territory for me, I am in the swing of things professionally, and go to audition for a well-known summer opera festival company. It isn’t an open audition as far as I remember – they want to hear me, me specifically.

Anyway, I get there and the casting director comes out, barely acknowledges my expectant face and quite rudely bustles past me to take a phone call. Once she finishes, they usher me in hurriedly (it is the end of the day) and I set to work on my Mozart.

I could be singing Nelly The Elephant for all they care. Casting director talks through most of the aria, stirs her coffee and clearly isn’t the least bit interested in me or my singing. They were giving clear “We’ve cast this already but still have to hear you out.” vibes. “Er, thank you, we’ll call you”.

It isn’t so much one of the most embarrassing auditions, but I wander away feeling pretty despondent.

What are the lessons learnt?

Don’t audition for something that you know in your bones isn’t right for you, even if your agent tells you to go. Get the audition brief. Read the audition brief. Don’t let the casting directors grind you down. Start with your Mozart.

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