An opera singer’s life is really freakin’ busy. And I won’t lie – it’s tough. I’ve been in a few different professions and I can say that musicians work harder than almost any other profession I know of. In fact, there’s nothing I’ve ever done in my entire life that was as difficult as learning how to sing classical music, and I’m not even anywhere NEAR true mastery. That can take a lifetime — several lifetimes. The reasons for this are simple: competition and complexity.
The music biz is super competitive and everybody has to practice for hours each day to stay on top of their game and stay sharp. The average opera singer spends about 10 years teaching (for mediocre money), gigging, building up their voice, expanding their repertoire, making connections in the biz and many other things, long before they make their official debut on the operatic stage. Even after that, most singers still continue to teach because making a decent living in opera is tough, even if you’re really good.
You have to be an exceptional singer, a decent dancer and a passable actor. You’ve got to be smart and easy to get along with. There are divas and divos but you need so much talent that it’s coming out of your butt to get away with acting like a jerk in this business. Otherwise, people just won’t hire you or give you recommendations and then your career will fall apart.
Of course there are many exceptions to a rule but generally, this is how it works. Opera singers are typically paid better in Europe than in the States or Canada simply because Europe takes opera more seriously and so opera houses can afford better salaries for their singers. So if you’ve ever dreamed about going to live in Europe, it’s a very attainable goal and a lot of singers do it. What next..?
If you’re willing to deal with the long journey ahead, where do you begin and how do you get momentum going? The first step is to consult a professional opera singer about singing opera professionally. You need to determine if this career would be a good fit with your personality. Ask whoever you consult with to be brutally honest with you because the fact is that singing opera requires certain characteristics. From there, figure out if you should take lessons, enter a music school or think about something more practical.
Now let me be clear here. If you want to sing opera, that’s beautiful. I’m not discouraging you. But if you spend countless years trying to compensate for your weaknesses instead of playing to your strengths, you may wind up very unhappy. And indeed, I know several opera singers who STRUGGLE very arduously to get by because they’re just not cut out for this business. Think it over well, consult a professional and best of luck!