As we reported earlier this week, Aretha Franklin is searching for the next great opera singer. If you're 18-40 years old and classically trained, the Queen of Soul wants to hear from you:
"Some of the older classical singers like Jessye Norman, and Leontyne [Price], Barbara Hendricks...they are retiring, they’re not singing anymore, and I’d like to see some younger singers come along and take their place," explains Franklin.
If she likes what she hears, Franklin will sign one, two, maybe even three performers to her label, Aretha’s Records and help those singers get established in the world of classical music.
The audition process
Aretha Franklin says she currently has no interest in doing a televised competition like American Idol. (She says she would like to be guest judge on the show, though no one has asked her.) Franklin's competition has no studio audience, no toll free number where you can call in or text your vote. It's much more private. All you do is send in your demo CD or cassette, headshot and resume to this address:
c/o Thav, Gross, Steinway & Bennett
30150 Telegraph Road
Bingham Farms, MI 48012
As for what to sing?
"I’d like to hear them sing the classics," says Franklin, "things like [Giacomo Puccini's] Nessun Dorma, things from [Giacomo Puccini's] Madama Butterfly, just various, you know, the classics."
Franklin says she's look for a singer who is "very close to being accomplished," and she plans to listen cassette or CD that comes through the mail:
"If they’re a new artist who’s really got it, I’d like to hear them," says Franklin.
Peer Review vs. Pop Review
Brian Carter is wrapping up his doctorate degree in vocal performance at the University of Michigan. He says he's a little wary about the Queen of Soul judging the opera singers who send in their audition tapes.
"If someone asked me to judge who was going to be the next big R&B person, I’d be equally wary," says Carter.
Carter says the singers should be “peer reviewed” by real opera professionals, not “pop reviewed” like they do on popular singing competition shows like American Idol and Britain's Got Talent.
"My hope is, if she’s going to do this right, that she’s going to get good people who are going to help her make the right decision, and that the person they get really is a serious opera singer and not a pop culture-version of a good opera singer," explains Carter.
Aretha Franklin as "pop music chaperone"
Mezzo soprano Sarah Nisbett says she definitely plans to audition for Aretha's Records, regardless of who judges. She thinks the blending of pure classical with something a little more funky, a little more mainstream is exciting:
"Anything that can bring opera into a more mainstream world I think is great. I think it could be good to have a “pop music” chaperone to say 'Hi everybody, I’m Pop Music. You might enjoy my friend, Opera!'"