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Fargo Moorhead Opera is looking for song-stealers as it holds chorus auditions

The opera company is inviting singers of all ages to audition for its 2022-23 mainstage productions of Mozart's “Marriage of Figaro” and Puccini's “La Boheme.”

Pirates of Penzance Women with Frederick.jpg
Longtime Fargo Moorhead Opera chorister Martha Moore, seated on the sofa second from right, performs in “Pirates of Penzance.” On the floor are, from left, Sadie Cheslak, Claire Bias, Joshua Kohl, Zoe Mischtian and Tessa Larson. On the sofa, from left, Berit Johnson, 2017 Gate City Bank Young Artist Elizabeth Lewis, Kellani Arnold, Emily Neer, Madeleine Peterson, Moore and Michelle Fischer.
Contributed / Special to The Arts Partnership
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FARGO — In search of your next big act? Fargo Moorhead Opera just might have the “operatunity” you’ve been looking for.

The opera company is inviting singers of all ages to audition Aug. 28 for its 2022-23 mainstage productions of Mozart's “Marriage of Figaro” and Puccini's “La Boheme.”

Singers don’t need to carry a degree in theater, music or any of the Romance languages, but they do need to know how to carry a tune, said FM Opera General Director David Hamilton. Many chorus members come from church choir backgrounds or sang in college, for example. Choristers are paid an honorarium for their participation and they’re considered one of the most important parts of many opera productions.

“Chorus members help create the beauty and power of the music and the storytelling for each opera. We have a wide range of age groups from high school through to older adults,” he said. “I think people want to be a part of the chorus because they love singing and want to be on the stage.”

Aside from a love of singing and the stage, singers who want to audition are required to perform one classical piece (it doesn’t need to be memorized). A pianist will be provided unless applicants prefer to bring their own.


Hamilton said the chorus typically rehearses once a week for up to eight weeks prior to a live show. The intensity ramps up two weeks prior to curtain call when the chorus attends staging and production rehearsals, which take up about 15 hours a week. But there’s plenty of fun, too.

“We have so much fun as we create a production that chorus members come back year after year,” Hamilton said. “You get to sing with an orchestra. How cool is that? And, you get to know and work with singers, conductors and stage directors from all over the country.”

A chorus member for 44 years

To be certain, being a chorus member can be hard work, but it truly can be fun, which is part of what keeps longtime chorister and alto Martha Moore coming back since her first audition in 1978.

“I've been singing since I was very small,” Moore said. “My mother and my grandmother were really into singing. When we sing Christmas carols, we do it in four-part harmony.”

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Fargo Moorhead Opera chorister Martha Moore, in the back row, second-to-left, performs in “Cinderella” alongside chorus members (from left) Emily Paulson, Jessica Livdahl, Julie Ly, Moore, Judi Cushing, Svea Hagen and 2022 Gate City Bank Young Artist Zachary Brown.
Contributed / Special to The Arts Partnership

Moore, whose family moved to the area from Minneapolis when she was 12, chose the community partially because of the vibrant arts scene.

“My parents, who love opera and symphony and all of that thought, ‘Oh, this is a great community for that.’ And it really has, in my opinion, stayed that way and gotten better,” she said. “I love all the fun things that you can do here.”

In all, Moore has performed in 55 FM Opera productions. She’s also active in the choir at Faith United Methodist Church in north Fargo.

“I guess it's one of my favorite hobbies to do,” she said. “I kind of call it a hobby because I don't consider myself really a professional opera singer. As a chorister, I think of myself more as a, you know, a community member who's having a great deal of fun up there.”


In Moore’s experience, being a chorus member in an opera is perhaps a little more than just being able to carry a tune, so we asked her for advice ahead of upcoming auditions. Here’s what she had to say.

Steal a song, but don’t steal a show

Sing well, but not that well. Act the part, but don’t steal the scene. Basically, be good, but not totally awesome.

“We are all trying to blend together, and nobody should be noticed,” because chorus members shouldn’t outshine the star performers, she said. “So you have to have a personality, you've got to interact, watch what's going on, move around, react and sing like you're the only person there. But you also don't overpower the stars.”

Don’t get lost in translation

Moore added that there’s quite a fair amount of acting and memorization required, which can get a little tricky when the production isn’t in English.

“There is a translation kind of, usually, so you're going to have to learn what you're saying, even if you don't know what the specific word means. Get to know what they're saying to you, and what you're saying back.

It can be intimidating at first, too, especially for those used to singing in choir, but Moore offered some advice: “Listen to what you're saying and react to it.”

Keep your cool

Moore said it’s easy for any cast member to get nervous onstage, even during rehearsals, but it’s important to try to be as real as possible.

“I think character matters as well as your ability to sing. You want to look like a real person up there,” she said. “And if you’re auditioning, don’t pick something too hard for your voice.”


Once live onstage, Moore said it’s equally important to be real and keep things cool, calm and collected. Also: concentrate.

“They don't like you to stare at the conductor, but you've got to be able to out of the corner of your eye be watching him because you've got to be in the right spot,” Moore said. “So there is a lot going on. You have to really concentrate.”

Dress the part

Every great actor steps into character — literally. And it’s not just to get better at the part. There are logistics, safety and modesty considerations.

For example, if choristers are rehearsing in tennis shoes but they’ll be onstage in heels, they may be setting themselves up for a long, strange trip.

“How you move in your tennis shoes is completely different than how you move in whatever kind of high heels. And you really need to know, like, ‘How long is it going to take me to walk across the stage in my high heels compared to... sneakers? And how am I going to sit in this chair if I'm in a dress?’” she said.

Dresses are an important consideration, too. Stages are usually higher up than the audience, so if, say, a character in a miniskirt has a scene where they sit down in a chair, well, things can get a little too revealing.

“Those are some fun things that you get to think about,” she said.

Have a good time

Feed off each others’ energy, Moore added, because getting into whatever part is assigned to a chorus member is truly an essential and very deliberate part of the entire show.

“Feed off one another. Especially if you've got a principal who's singing an absolutely gorgeous aria,” she said. “There’s usually so much going on, so much concentration and interaction that I sort of kind of forget that the audience is out there. It’s a great deal of fun up there.”

Audition info

Visit https://www.fmopera.org/auditions for more information about chorus auditions, which will take place Sunday, Aug. 28. To sign up for an audition time, call 701-239-4558 or email zeapoem@fmopera.org.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.
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