OPERA America. www.operaamerica.org (Accessed December 2008). [Requires a Web browser and an Internet connection. Sound and video features may require a media player].
The purpose of OPERA America is to support the "creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera." Founded in New York City in 1970, the organization sponsors a variety of activities, including workshops and an annual meeting, as well as several publications. Their Web site contains a wide range of material about the contemporary opera scene in the United States, some of which is available for free, while other sections are available only to members. A number of different membership levels are offered, ranging from individuals ($75.00 a year) to professional opera companies (the price of which depends on the company's budget). The membership level determines which features and functions of the Web site are available. Unfortunately for libraries, access is by username and password, not by IP address. My institution's subscription is based on the "Educational Producing Associate Membership" category ($350.00 per year). In the discussion that follows, many of the sections cited are available for free, but I will indicate when a section is available only to members.
Given the dozens of Web pages contained on the site, it would be impossible to cover each one within the confines of this review. I will concentrate instead on a few of the most significant resources. One of the most useful portions of the Web site is "Opera Source" (available only to members), which provides a searchable database of jobs and training opportunities for people working in a number of areas, including administration, coaching, conducting, and singing. Searches can be narrowed either by specifying a deadline for auditions and applications, or by location, which covers venues not only in America but throughout the world. The only search feature that may confuse users is the term "Mainstage" among the types of opportunities, one of which must be chosen to perform the search (the other possibilities are self-explanatory: Academic/Degree Granting, Administrative/Technical Production, Chorus, Competition/Grant, Management, and Training). After doing several searches, it became apparent that "Mainstage" simply referred to auditions for roles on stage (not for choruses). Combining the terms "Mainstage" and "Singer" with audition deadlines between January 2009 and June 2010 yielded eight results ranging from regional companies in the United States to opera houses in Göteborg and Rome. This list provides basic information about each audition: the fee required (if any), deadline, and a brief description. Clicking on the heading for any item usually yields a page with greater detail, including a person to contact about the audition. Another helpful feature is given on the main page for "Opera Source": a brief list of the ten most recently added entries, each of which has a link for more information. Obviously this database will be a useful tool for anyone seeking employment in the field of opera.
Many other parts of OPERA America's Web site are likewise designed to assist aspiring performers. Available to members only are examples of a singer's resume and cover letter as well as a "Singer Self- Assessment" form, which presents an extensive list of desirable traits not only in the areas of vocal, musical, and dramatic skills, but also business and personal. The latter includes, among other things, discipline, perseverance, ability to live with rejection, spiritual fortitude, willingness to travel, and an ability to identify problems rationally. Reading the entire list is a sobering reminder of how demanding a profession singing can be.
It is natural that developing the careers of singers is accorded a prominent place within OPERA America's mission. Yet singers can draw on other materials for guidance (the periodicals Classical Singer, Opera News, and the Journal of Singing come to mind), but for those entering other areas of operatic work, the resources may not be so plentiful. …