Classical Opera Singer: Everyday Life & Constitution

Classical Opera Singer: Everyday Life & Constitution

Years ago, I was asked at a party, "You are an opera singer, how interesting and extraordinary! But tell me: You usually work in the evening - what do you actually do during the day?"

A funny, naive question for a professional singer who has to cope with a very precisely clocked, labor-intensive everyday life - but understandable from the point of view of the opera fan, who is pleased and impressed by the result without knowing the laborious effort that leads to a successful performance (which is probably only good in terms of artistic effect).

So let's take a look at the everyday life of professional singers* in the classical field, for all those, who want to become professional singers or want to know out of pure interest what reality actually looks like.

Although in this context you first have to distinguish between artists with and those without commitment, there are job-specific similarities in both groups. The everyday life of all includes:

  • Daily vocalisation and voice/breathing training
  • Voice technical development/training of difficult parts of an aria, a song, an ensemble.
  • New studies and/or repetition of subject-specific repertoire
  • Reflections on the interpretation and search for vocal expressivity colours
  • Memorize what has been developed and repetition of what has already been learned

In the initial phase, more time must naturally be spent on this basic work than later in full professional assignment. In this phase of life, there are other indispensable tasks that still require time later, but are of the utmost importance in vocational preparation. Here are:

  • Compiling an application folder with good photos, a carefully written CV and a convincing repertoire list
  • Well-prepared recording of an application DVD or CD with 3 opera arias ( Mozart should be there), 1 operetta aria, 1 oratorio aria, 2 songs. Equally fast virtuoso and slow sonorous legato pieces should be selected.
  • Contacting agents and planning auditions appointments at theaters
  • Application to competitions
  • Auditions with cantors and concert organizers in the immediate vicinity

Highly recommended is the regular cooperation with a pianist/coach and the frequent voice control and repertoire - advice from an experienced singing teacher.

Busy days already in the career development phase - diligence and labor intensity are prerequisites for early as well as later success. 30% talent, 70% hard work is a coherent equation in this context.

What does the everyday life of professional singers* look like when they are engaged for a stage role as a guest or permanently at an opera house?

As a rule, musical and scenic rehearsals are scheduled daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Depending on the size of the roll, you will almost always or quite often be on the sample plan. The trial plan for the next day will not be published until 2 p.m., so that reliable private planning in production phases is hardly possible. If you rehearse for an upcoming premiere, but also have evening performances to sing, you are sometimes completely rehearsal- free or only have morning rehearsals. Then all the attention is paid to rest, concentration and preparation for the performance - no time for shopping or office transactions.

In case of sudden sick leave from colleagues*, however, rehearsals can also be scheduled in the afternoon as a briefing for a guest singer. Stage rehearsals, especially the main rehearsals with piano and orchestra in costume and mask, are unlimited in time and can last 6-8 hours in extreme cases. Rehearsal exemption is only possible if you have agreed on an irrevocable holiday ticket with the director and musical director and also received it as a signed document.

For permanent engagements, the number of vacation days guaranteed per season is at least as important as the amount of the fee - the possibility of guesting depends on it and thus the chance to present your own name and artistic business card in an extended network.

Here is a virtual daily routine (a wide variety of variants are conceivable):

Get up
Warm-up / Vocalise / Journey to the theatre
First Rehearsal
Part Study
Email / Phone Calls / Travel Planning
5:00pm-6:00pm Short warmup / Journey to the theatre
Second Rehearsal
Light Dinner, Listening to Music, Reading, Time with friends and family


It becomes clear how little private time remains during a production, at least for important roles. In these usually 4-6 weeks, the rehearsal and main stage is your home, the colleagues are your family.

At the same time this means, that after single productions or performance series a time- out must be taken in order to find the way back into one's own life and to allow the voice to relax. Even in firm commitment, you should refuse to sing more than 4 times a week; if this is not accepted, you absolutely have to demand a week of protection after three weeks of stress.

If a singer is known enough, he should think about freelance work. Freer time scheduling, freer choice of roles, international flair and higher fees are a significant gain. On the other hand, there is less protection, especially in the event of illness or temporary disposition, an increase in work (more new roles in a short time), more complex logistics (scheduling, travel planning, intensive travel activity) and greater flexibility, linguistically and culturally.

Career does not primarily mean getting richer, but being able to make music with increasingly talented and creative colleagues at an ever higher level. You can't really expect time savings - travel alone is very time-consuming and exhausting; it must not be underestimated. Tamino every 2nd day would certainly be possible to organize - but not if this would happen on 4 different opera stages.

What else belongs to the everyday life of professional singers*? Of course, the sporting fitness, which absolutely must be preserved or increased, the right nutrition, similar to competitive athletes, the right rhythm of sleeping and waking up in the run-up to performances, achieving the maximum performance at performance time, feeling the right time alternating tension and relaxation. A singer must know himself, his soul as well as his body, and master techniques of balancing.

Equally important, however, are the social skills of professional singers*, the frequently cited soft skills that cannot be developed early enough.

Theaters are hierarchically structured, some directors or chief conductors make full use of their powers. Staying calm here, but not giving up your own position, requires a lot of self-discipline and skill. Negotiations with theater directors and agents also require tact, sometimes cunning and tactics. In relation to the singer colleagues, team readiness is required, empathy, but also natural self-confidence without doubt for the performance. Honest criticism should be thoroughly considered, evil or even hurtful has to to be ignored. A warm relationship with inspectors, requisites, make-up artists and dresses makes everyday stage life much easier. It is recommended to deal well with the management of the Artistic Operations Office - just because of the favorable rehearsal scheduling and the holiday tickets.

Competitive feelings on stage are absolutely foolish: The better my stage partners are, the more my performance increases and the good overall impression makes my own performance appear more radiant. Less one's own profiling than the interaction of everyone in the service of the overall project will inspire the audience. Envy of successes of colleagues should definitely be avoided. The incorruptible self-control at every performance, the continuous further work on one's own possibilities of expression is the only valid standard that makes the professional singer independent of chance and fortune. Criticizing the others does not bring any progress, criticism of oneself with increased technical and artistic work does.

So far a small idea of the classical opera singer, his everyday life and his  - perhaps he is no longer quite "the unknown being".