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How to Build More Home Grown Opera-tunities

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

Are you already tired of auditions, but audition season hasn't started yet? The application grind can be disheartening, and even booked jobs still leave you with holes in your schedule where you want to be performing more. The good news is there are plenty of ways to perform beyond auditioning for YAPs and hoping for good news.

Produce Your Own Opera

Don't get it twisted: self-producing is a massive headache. It’s difficult to track all of the moving parts of an opera and makes you appreciate all of the work that goes into even the smallest production beyond learning your part. However, producing your own opera can also be immensely rewarding. You aren’t waiting for someone to hire you to sing the role you want to sing. You get to make a production the way you want to make it. You can also cast a show the way you want it to be cast and have control over how the show is made. It is very satisfying to see a project of this scale through from start to finish. Even if the project is a concert version, you still will have sung a role you love and worked with a new creative team. Also, remember, there are ways to put up an opera that do not involve 18th century costumes and a 2,000-seat house. Find creative venues for your project, like a cabaret space or even a restaurant. Experiment with modern settings or put your opera into the future. There's no limit to what you can do. Where fundraising stops, creativity and innovation deliver. Have fun with your project!

Start a Recital Series

If your passion is art song, or if you would rather work on a smaller scale, then putting on a recital is a simple way to increase your performance opportunities. If you are looking for an ongoing opportunity, consider starting a recital series! See if a local church is willing to let you perform there regularly, or if there is a small theater you can use. Again, be creative with your venue. Opera on Tap chapters around the world perform in bars with great success. A recital series is also an excellent way for groups of singers to work together. You can build the series around a specific theme to unify the programming. Maybe you want to explore the works of female composers, or maybe you want to do four recitals a year focusing on the seasons. Perhaps the series has no theme at all and the appeal is that it's a constantly changing mystery show! If you have an entertaining show and promote it successfully, you will have an audience that comes back to you regularly. This article from Modern Singer outlines the steps for putting on a studio recital, but the same principals can be applied to any recital series.

Get Those Concert Gigs

Oratorio gets overshadowed by opera in most schools, but it is an important and lucrative part of being a working singer. Many choral groups hire outside professionals to sing solos in the works they perform. Make sure your local groups know who you are! Contact the director of your local choral society and tell them that you are interested in performing with them. Provide a clip of a recent performance and link to your website. If you know what they are considering for their upcoming season, let them know if you have performed any of the solos or have studied the work. Concert work is less of a time commitment than full opera rehearsals and often pays very well. Performing isn't just about getting your Verdi dream role; it's also about singing the heck out of The Messiah and taking home that paycheck.

Weddings and Funerals and Parties, Oh My!

People want classical singers for all sorts of one-off events. Weddings are an obvious venue for singers, as are funerals. If you have a church job or know a church music director, make sure they know that you are interested in wedding and funeral gigs if they come up. Even if you aren't the full-time singer at the church, sometimes they will need a singer last minute and may call you in to sub at one of these events. Being able to quickly jump into events like this when they come up is a useful skill and will put you on the director's radar for future work. Post yourself on GigSalad or a similar site, and make sure your own website is kept up to date with an easy way to contact you. Reach out to local event planning companies and tell them who you are and that you are available for event work. Weddings and funerals aren't the only jobs like this. I've sung duets at a very wealthy house party, performed at a tech company's masked ball, and even shocked an opera lover on his birthday with Puccini at a Mexican restaurant. Keep yourself open to unusual requests for music, and you will leave with crazy stories and some extra cash.

Share your Knowledge

If you have a special skill or knowledge that other singers would find valuable, put it to good use! Maybe you are a natural at social media promotion, or maybe you speak another language and can coach diction in rarely performed arias. It isn't wrong to charge for these services. Exposure dollars are not real money; you have something valuable, and you should be paid for your work. Open up your own shop and schedule some coachings or consultations. If you have an amazing method you've developed for learning your roles, write up a workbook and put it out into the world! There is always a market for unique skills, so explore what you have to offer.

It is hard waiting for someone else to allow you to shine. Fortunately, your music career is in your hands, not the hands of a small group of casting directors. Find ways to make the music you want to make by any means necessary. It will be a lot of hustling, but you will feel incredible ownership over your success.

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