So, Maestro, with 2 or 3 equal singers, who do you choose?

So, Maestro, with 2 or 3 equal singers, who do you choose?


norman lebrecht

May 01, 2016

Stephen Lord, the veteran music director of the Opera Theatre of St Louis, has been talking candidly to Kristina Driskill about the singers he looks for when casting an opera and how they should present themselves for audition (no piercings, please).

His reply to the headline question veers towards favouring young singers of apparent versatility rather than, necessarily, the best one for the role at hand. Here’s the reply:

While we don’t discriminate on age, race, size, etc., when all things are equal, and since we tend to promote people from within so often, I try to look toward the potential for future casting. In addition, after the covers have been assigned, we have a huge concert with the St. Louis Symphony where the singers are all featured on stage with the orchestra. I like to be sure the singers will make a good showing. We also try very hard to have a ‘wild card’ singer or two. These are people who are not quite ready but display something different and worth watching. In the end, truth to tell, it is all a shot in the dark but based on experience. Mistakes get made, but mostly things are on the positive side.

The interview as a whole is a must-read for singers. Click here.

stephen lord


  • Hans-Dieter Glaubke says:

    Whom do you choose? Grammatically, please make sure you distinguish between the subject and the object. Such primal incorrect usage is inexcusable!

    • Harold Lewis says:

      No, Herr Glaubke, what is inexcusable is pompous pedantry of the sort displayed by your comment. Though formally correct, “Whom do you choose?” would be quite unidiomatic.

      • Bruce says:

        [insert Churchill’s(?) remark about “certain rules of grammar, up with which we need not put” here]

    • May says:

      There is a particularly amusing disorder among certain German speakers who feel they are in a position to inform English speakers about proper grammar. An Herrn Glaubke: “whom” in this context is just as wrong as Ella Fitzgerald singing “Cry to me a river.”

    • saxom broken says:

      The use of “whom” is rapidly becoming obsolete. Using “who” rather than “whom” is considered to correct (the reverse is not true).

  • John says:

    As the premise you have established is that all the possible candidates are equally suited to the role how is Stephen favouring “apparent versatility” over being “the best one for the role at hand”? “All things are equal ” means all these possible singers could do the role but they can’t all do it at the same time!!

    • Kristina Driskill says:

      John the question is taken a bit out of context here. This wasn’t asked about 2-3 singers being equal in suitability for a role, but rather as seen in an audition for the company’s young artist program. This is clearer in the context of the full article.