I direct a number of choirs at various levels, and I also teach at the university level. So I spend a fair amount of my time (usually in seasonal cycles) auditioning prospective performers and students. I get the same sorts of questions a lot, so I thought I would answer them here, and maybe make everyone feel a little better.
The most common question I hear is “what do you want me to sing” (or “is Name Of Song a good choice?”). This question was recently asked on a forum of which I am a member; the OP was asking whether Caro Mio Ben was an appropriate song choice for a choral audition, and they were informed by several respondents that it was “way over done”, and that they should choose something else instead.
Here’s the thing: I need to hear your voice at its best. If my audition process is well-conceived, it will tell me the things that I need to know – in my case, I check for range, for preparation, for understanding of musical genre, era, and style, and for ability to read music. The role that your musical choice plays is very simple: it shows me what you can do. You need to choose the piece that you can sing really, really well, to show me the absolute best that you can do. Don’t worry about entertaining or surprising me – that’s not why I’m there. Auditions are not like regular performances, and I am not a regular audience member.
Don’t try to anticipate my needs: maybe I need someone with high notes, but sometimes I need a lower voice that can cut through the texture. Or the reverse – sometimes I need that lovely light voice that will keep everyone soaring. Knowing my needs is my job, not yours, so just do yours, which is showing yourself off.
See? Easy. Now go practice.
(It’s worth noting that you should choose a piece that suits the voice type with which you identify – if you tell me that you are a bass and then sing Una Furtiva Lagrima in the original key…I may question your judgement. Just saying.)