News & Views

And there I was in a room full of industry heavyweights

Audition OracleThu 19 May 2022 @ 6:14

We caught up with soprano Chloë Morgan, By Voice Alone’s Emerging Artist Prize winner, to find out about her exciting journey and singing career since entering the competition.

In this interview she discusses how By Voice Alone’s pioneering audition method allowed her an unbiased and equal platform; and also tells us a little more about her exciting career journey to date – all interwoven with some exquisite clips of her dazzling voice.

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"Do the groundwork" - An interview with mezzo-soprano Emma Roberts

Audition OracleFri 6 May 2022 @ 7:00

Following the 2022 Kathleen Ferrier Competition, we were delighted to grab a quick chat with Emma Roberts, mezzo-soprano and recipient of the second prize as well as the Loveday Song Prize winner for her performance of Debussy’s Colloque sentimental.

We first encountered Emma nearly three years ago, back in 2019 as a semi-finalist in our competition By Voice Alone. We were completely blown away by her poised and elegant performance when we saw her at the semi-final of the Kathleen Ferrier awards, and we were interested to hear more about her journey and progression from one competition to the next.

Emma Roberts - Mezzo soprano

Firstly, massive congratulations! What does winning the Kathleen Ferrier Second Prize and also the Loveday Song Prize mean to you?

There are two sides to it really. On the one hand, I am completely overwhelmed and can’t quite believe it, I am definitely pinching myself! But on the other hand, in perhaps a more realistic way, I acknowledge that I have worked really really hard, I have tried and tested many things that have failed, and it has been my third attempt at the competition, so I also feel like perhaps, finally, I am doing something right.

 

It is really wonderful to hear you say that. We often only hear about people’s success, but never the journey which leads to it. So, we are grateful to you for sharing that. It is also interesting for us, especially as we were impressed by you three years ago. In By Voice Alone, there were more than 400 people and you made it to the top 28.

By Voice Alone was a pioneer of blind auditions, and we wanted to make the process as fair as possible, and only about the voice. We are now seeing this approach adopted across the industry. However, I understand that you also felt additional benefits from having the screen. Can you tell us more about that?

Singing behind a screen felt totally liberating! There was no feeling of judgement and it felt like ‘play time’. I felt as though I was inventing things on the spot because I couldn’t feel any judgement.

Funnily enough, if I connect the dots, I felt like at the Kathleen Ferrier Awards, I was finally able to harness that freedom, but without needing a screen there. Over the three years, I have slowly managed to transfer that freedom that comes from being behind a screen to feeling like that in front of people.

 

So, what inspired you to take place in the By Voice Alone competition in the first place?

My main intrigue stemmed from my experiences of closing up when I felt judgement and feeling that the panel were really scary, and consequently not being able to do what I know I am capable of doing both musically and vocally, which, of course, leads to feeling disappointed in myself.


But when I sang with a screen, everything loosened up and I was able to do what I would in a singing lesson or rehearsal room.

 

You were very young when you took part in By Voice Alone, and early on in your training. Therefore, how was it walking out to the semi-final of the By Voice Alone competition knowing that there was a large panel, which consisted of all the most influential opera casting directors?

I remember walking into the room and my mouth drying up completely, thinking ‘Ah, this isn’t as fun as last time!’ and just getting through it. I think I was suffering from a bit of imposter syndrome, comparing myself to other people who had made the semi-final and thinking they were further on with their training than I was. I think I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the final, but I just aimed to get through the pieces and not embarrass myself!

 

Ah imposter syndrome, I am sure everyone can relate there! So, tell us how have you kept motivated these last three years? We understand you have been training during that time, but also through a pandemic, which must have been incredibly isolating?

At the beginning of the pandemic, the change of pace really helped me. At college (Emma currently attends the International Opera School at the Royal College of Music) everything is really fast-paced, and I sometimes feel there is not enough time to truly get under the surface of a piece or a character. So, I enjoyed having time to really delve into the arias and songs I was learning. Although after a few months, it did get a little bit old! And, like the rest of the music world, I was craving performing to real people, not at a screen. But as a student, I was fortunate to have a schedule and structure. It’s hard to remember now, the pandemic seems like a weird bad dream! But I am really grateful to have been part of an institution that was helping me and having goals also really helped.

 

Yes, having a goal really helped people through the pandemic. Would you say that is your general approach in life? Having a goal and then working towards it systematically?

I wouldn’t say that comes to me naturally, but opera singing has definitely brought that out in me. I am naturally quite disorganised and lazy.

 

We find that really hard to believe!! You have clearly worked so hard!

No, no, I definitely worked hard. I know, as it’s a real contrast to previously being lazy (she says laughing).

 

How did you realise you had this voice inside of you?

I think I knew when I was about three years old! I have basically sung ever since I could talk, which must have been so annoying because as a child I would just sing at people! There was this one song that had ten verses, and I remember I would sing all of the verses and then start all over again! And my parents, I don’t know why, would encourage it. But, as a child, I liked singing pop.

 

What sort of things would you sing?

Well, it depends on the age, but when I was about eight it would have been The Spice Girls, Shania Twain, Britney Spears and, to be quite honest, I wanted to be Christina Aguilera! But my Dad sang both folk and classical music, so I suppose I did have early exposure to both of those genres.

 

And fast-forward to now, what would you say your favourite piece you performed in the Kathleen Ferrier competition was?

That’s so hard to say! My favourite programme was my semis I think, as I enjoyed the journey it had. But my favourite piece was the Mendelssohn (Die Liebende schreibt), it’s a bit of an underdog that song, but I love it!

Semi-Final Programme:
Handel – Di speranza un bel raggio… Venti turbini (Rinaldo)
Mendelssohn – Die Liebende schreibt
Debussy – Colloque sentimental
Mark-Anthony Turnage – No Way Out (Twice Through the Heart) – 1997
Mahler – Urlicht (Symphony No. 2)

Final Programme:
Mascagni – Io qui potrei forse restare (Zanetto)
Bizet – Près des remparts de Seville (­Carmen)
Nadia Boulanger – J’ai frappé
Brahms – Unbewegte laue Luft
Britten - O tell me the truth about love (Four Cabaret Songs)

 

Ah, that’s what matters. If you love it, you will interpret it very sincerely. That’s something I particularly loved about watching you perform, I find you very sincere as a performer.

Thank you! That is basically the greatest compliment I could receive.

 

You talked of your father performing folk and classical music, but what was it that inspired you to pursue a career in opera? Once you had finally let go of The Spice Girls?!

My school was quite musical and had a good music department, which is really lucky as I know a lot of schools don’t. We also had a choir. Admittedly at the time I didn’t think classical music was very cool, and I wasn’t really interested in it, but I did it anyway because I could and I had a voice. I started to like the odd thing at first, I remember doing some Britten arrangements and liking those. But I knew I wanted to sing in some capacity, so I did a music degree at university. Maybe also because it was the only thing I was good at! Whilst I was at uni, I sang in the choir, and we did a Mozart Requiem, (granted it’s not opera) but that was a huge light bulb moment for me. I think it was in the Lacrimosa movement that I just thought ‘this is the best thing ever'. I remember saying to my friend ‘You know what, I think I am going to try opera’. And that was it! And then it got really tough because I had no idea how hard it was going to be!

 

We couldn’t agree more with Lacrimosa being the most amazing bit of music. We find a lot of people go straight from school to music college, so what was your journey like from then onwards having chosen a university degree pathway?

After my second year at Manchester University I dropped out and I decided I wanted to go to a singing teacher in London that I knew who worked at the London College of Music, which is part of the University of West London. But that wasn’t actually for me at all! So, I also dropped out of that. I thought I wanted to go back to Manchester Uni but it was too late in the year. So, I spend the rest of the year doing a Musical Theatre Diploma at the Central School of Speech and Drama, which was part-time, and then I worked as a nanny as well.


After that year was over, I knew I didn’t want to be a musical theatre singer, I definitely wanted to be an opera singer, so I went back to university and finished my third year. In that year, I also auditioned for all the London conservatoires, and didn’t get into any and had a bit of a meltdown. I realised there are lots of really good singers out there! However, my Mum had a good idea, as I was beginning to feel like maybe this wasn’t for me, but she advised me to go and talk to a professional and see what their opinion was. So, I emailed the Royal College of Music, and I paid to have a consultation. At the time I didn’t know who Nick Sears was (as you will remember I said I was quite lazy and I didn’t do my research). For those who don’t know, Nick Sears is the head of the vocal department!

So, I went and sang Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix from Samson and Delilah, which was way too big for me at the time. And he initially told me that I was doing some rather strange things, but we ironed some things out within the hour. But at the end, he said he really loved my voice (!!) and how he was sorry he wasn’t on the panel as he would have given me a place. And that he was going to try and pull some strings!!

The next day I got an email offering me a place on the Graduate Diploma course! And, of course, I lost it with excitement and ran up and down the street screaming with joy! And that is how my journey at RCM began. From there I got into the masters course, and from there into the opera school. So, it has been five years, but it was much-needed work as I had a lot to do.

 

Well, you have certainly worked hard, and I think the proof was in the pudding last week having heard you in the competition.

Do you think you have come across any obstacles in your journey that you think industry leaders could help to mitigate?

The cost of applying for things is really tough. There are times when I am at the very bottom of my bank balance and I need to apply for something and it's fifty pounds, but that’s also my week of food. I know that they need to pay for people to be on panels and such like, but sometimes the cost is so high. Spending money to get rejected is really tough.

What else? This is a really personal one, I wish that so many places didn’t require a Mozart aria. Mozart is not for everyone, that’s all.

Also, there are a lot of things about age limits as well, especially in Europe, where the limit is often 32 for men and 30 for women, which is totally nonsensical to me.

 

Because you didn’t go to conservatoire straight out of school, have you felt that you were slightly older than other singers at times?

I am 28 now. But I think there’s a different timeline for every different type of voice. And I think being 28 is okay for my voice. But some young artist programmes just look at my age and don’t consider me, so I think that should be changed.

 

If you had your time again, is there any advice you would give your younger self?

This advice is tailored to the type of person I am, but I am going to say do the groundwork. Learn the translation of each word for every single song, for a long time I used to get away with it, but it only gets you so far. And research, I think that’s where the sincerity comes from.

Do you have a dream role? Now or in the future, and you can have any voice type.

In an imaginary world, I would love to sing Isolde, from Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde. But if I am sticking to being a mezzo, I would probably choose Delilah from Samson and Delilah.

 

Well, there have been many a mezzo who have transformed into a dramatic soprano, so you never know! What can we come and see you in next?

I will be in Flight by Jonathan Dove in the summer term at RCM, for which I am playing Minsk woman, which I am really excited to do. Then, I am going to take a bit of the summer off, as I haven’t had a break in a while. And, after that, I am going to be better at updating my website, as I am terrible at that but there is definitely more to come!

 

One final question, what are the next steps in your singing career?

I think in practical terms, I’d like to get more work in the real professional world (she laughs). Perhaps that means having an agent. And then, also keep working on my technique and never let it slip.

 

Yes, please never let it slip because we adore hearing and watching you! And who knows, hopefully, we will see you as Delilah one day. Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us, but also enormous congratulations once again on the Kathleen Ferrier competition, and we are so thrilled that By Voice Alone helped you in that journey.

To keep up-to-date with Emma's latest news please visit https://www.emmarobertsmezzosoprano.com.

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“You Get Out What You Put In” – Audition Oracle meets baritone Alaric Green

Audition OracleWed 4 May 2022 @ 8:00

Alaric Green singing with accompanist Claire Habbershaw

Having attended this year’s semi-final of the Kathleen Ferrier awards, we were absolutely captivated by baritone Alaric Green, both by his fantastic instrument, and also his energy and on-stage presence. Those amongst you that are fans of BBC One’s The Voice, may recognise Alaric from his appearance in the 2016 series. Since then, Alaric has made the switch to the opera world, and although, not successful in making the final of the Kathleen Ferrier competition, we couldn’t be surer that a wonderful career lies ahead for him. From The Voice to working as a bouncer and backstage, Alaric has a fascinating story and unconventional path into opera, therefore we wanted to catch up with the young singer to find out a little bit more about his journey so far. 

Can we briefly ask about your wonderful name, Alaric?

I believe it's of German origin, but I don’t have any German routes. My Mum just met somebody called Alaric once and really liked the name (he says laughing). Other than English, my Grandma is from Jamaica, so I’m a quarter Jamaican. 

How did you discover singing and that you had a wonderful voice naturally? 

I always loved singing, but a pivotal moment in my adolescence was in Year 10 when I auditioned for Les Misérables, and got given the role of Javert. Admittedly, I wasn’t really suited to school, so after GCSEs, I went on to Canterbury College (I’m from the Ramsgate area so it was nearby), and I studied Music Theatre between the ages of 16 and 18. I met some really great people and made lifelong friends, however again, I wasn’t so suited to the academic side of things, at that age anyway.  

From there, at the age of 17, I auditioned for the London School of Musical Theatre, and believe I am still the youngest person to have been accepted there, graduating at the age of 18. This was another pivotal moment as it meant moving to London.  

And what happened after that? 

So still in London, I fell into bouncer work as a way of making a living and worked mostly in Camden, which suited me well as I also had (and still have) a blues/rock band. I then ended up working backstage in theatres for quite a while and then went travelling and to Australia with my girlfriend. I came back to the UK as my mother was sadly diagnosed with breast cancer, and although okay now, I couldn’t be on the literal other side of the world at that time. I went back to working backstage and then landed a job as Deputy Master Carpenter at The Criterion Theatre. It was a great time, and I really loved the people I worked with, but by this point I had been doing backstage work for about four years and missed singing. I knew working backstage wasn’t my real passion and the reason I moved to London. So, I decided to audition for Guildhall, and see what happened. And I got in! A real factor in my not auditioning sooner was the issue of finance, and the thought of all the debt was enormously worrisome. But I have been so very lucky not to have had to pay for the course fees.

With such a voice, we are truly delighted that you are back on the stage. What made you switch from musical theatre to opera? 

I always had an aptitude for opera I suppose, as within musical theatre, I was always more suited to the older repertoire, like Rodgers & Hammerstein, or repertoire that is more operatic, like Sondheim or Les Misérables for example. The whole time I was studying music theatre, I was always told I should sing opera, but (I laugh now) I wasn’t interested at the time. I did sing ‘Oh ruddier than the cherry’ from Handel’s Acis and Galatea, but it just wasn’t what I wanted to be doing at that time in my life, musical theatre was where my interest was. 

I suppose whilst travelling I started to consider opera, and also rock, a little more seriously. Everyone I am working with has been enthused by my singing alternative genres alongside opera. And, I do still love music theatre and haven’t entirely turned my back on it. I would absolutely love to do both in my career, as well as play big stages with my rock band. Simply put, I just love singing and I can find a connection to each of those genres. But opera allows me to really liberate my voice, whilst my own music (in my band) allows me to express myself in my own words.

How was the transition vocally between music theatre and rock to opera?

It was definitely a learning curve! And there’s a lot to learn! And I am still learning! I think a lot of elements from my rock singing had seeped in. But you get what you put in, and I put a lot of work in. I have to say working with Robert Dean and Stephan Loges at Guildhall is an absolute dream team. They just know how to talk to me, as my brain won’t work if you tell me to tilt my larynx by four degrees to the west! But they seem to have the perfect metaphors which work for me. Also, a lot of it is just getting out of my own way! 

We have to ask! What would be your dream role?

There are so many! But for music theatre, my top role would be Sweeney Todd, simply for the epiphany moment. And then for opera, there are two. In terms of what I could sing now, Figaro, I love the character and would jump at the chance to play him. But in the future, my dream role would most definitely be Scarpia from Tosca.

So, what’s next for you?

Whilst I didn’t make it through on the Kathleen Ferrier final, I accept it and am just so happy to have been there and involved. I always go into these things with the intention of making myself proud. My journey so far has certainly thickened my skin and I feel like everything that has happened has allowed me to realise the importance of every opportunity I get and really give it what it’s worth. 

So, this summer I will be joining Garsington Opera in their chorus. After that, I am staying on at Guildhall for their opera course. And, after that, I aspire to have a global guesting opera singer career and dig into as many interesting roles as I can. I want to move people and give myself to it. And, well, to get paid for doing that would be a marvel!

Training and living in London is expensive, have you received help from your family financially?  

Unfortunately, both of my parents are disabled and live on the Disability Living Allowance, which isn’t a lot. I am so enormously grateful that my undergraduate studies tuition fees were completely funded by Richard Oldfield and Amicia de Moubray with the Henry Oldfield Trust. And then, I took out a student loan to cover living expenses. I also recently found out that Richard Oldfield and Amicia de Moubray will continue to play a huge role in supporting me throughout the opera course too! For which, words can’t really begin to express my gratitude! I have also managed to secure some funding to assist with living expenses, for which there are still other funds are yet to audition, so that is on my horizon. 

Have you got any advice for those looking to follow in your footsteps?

Just give everything. If you love it, then that is why you’re doing it. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, because you (and everyone else) are unique, there are no two voices exactly the same. 

Alaric Green Headshot


We want to thank Alaric for taking the time out to chat to us about his career thus far. Not only were we struck by his incredible voice and presence on stage but also his down to earth nature and humility off the stage. Alaric, we wish you the very best of luck for this summer and your further studies. We will be watching your career, which we know will flourish, with great interest and want to wish you the very best.

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Working in Germany: Finding the right opera house and repertoire for you

Audition OracleThu 28 Apr 2022 @ 9:00

Soprano Laura Curry joins us once more with her top tips for finding work in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Vienna State Opera

Working in Germany: Finding the right opera house and repertoire for you

So, you’ve completed Duolingo’s German course, researched post-Brexit visas and decided to book your Ryanair flight to Berlin… but what the heck do you next?

 
Germany is a haven for opera singers looking for jobs, and with over eighty dedicated theatres, it’s not hard to see why! 

So, where do I apply?

Just like in the UK, all chorus jobs are auditioned (which you can find on Audition Oracle). Solo opportunities will also be auditioned, however are more likely to be by internal invitation. Unlike England, Germany has a state-funded agency whose only job is to help find you work and it doesn’t cost the singers a penny! The Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung (or ZAV as everyone calls it!) have offices in several areas of Germany and help to guide singers to appropriate auditions for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They often know theatres and solo agents personally, and are very helpful with advice on where and what to sing. To audition for ZAV, simply write to the office in the area where you would like to live! The offices are all interconnected so even if you audition in Berlin, you may be offered something in Stuttgart!

Types of opera houses:

Unfortunately, just like London, Germany has a lot of excellent musicians living in the capital, and with only three full-time companies, competition for available jobs is fierce. It’s worth looking outside of Berlin and at smaller houses to start. The German theatre system (including Austrian and Swiss theatres) has a simple categorisation plan for Opera houses, which officially correlates to the size of the company, but unofficially how hard it is to get in! 
 
There are three categories of Opera house: A, B, C. 

A House

These are the biggest and traditionally the best! They attract international stars and can be the busiest houses. The chorus can be 120 with extra chorus and the orchestras are large eough to routinely perform Wagner and Verdi without extra staff. The ensemble can be made predominantly of guests with a few young artists and the guest-list can be extensive. These houses tend to be the oldest and most established and will share productions with other A houses allowing stars to fly between them and keep their same costume!
 
Examples: Think Deutsche Oper, Wiener Staatsoper, Opernhaus Zürich 

B House

The next size houses are normally in cities, and can sometimes be the second theatre in town. They are a little smaller with up to 50 chorus members with extra chorus, however their ensembles tend to have less guests and more house singers. They don’t always have young artists, therefore allowing small roles to be sung by either house ensemble or chorus members. Productions are often new but can be shared and many have a second stage for chamber operas.
 
Examples: Oper Graz, Theater Bonn, Theater Freiburg

C House

If you prefer to work in small groups and enjoy interesting projects, (or even touring!) then a C house may be the right fit for you! They can have very small ensembles and chorus with one to a part. The quality is still professional and these theatres can work a lot with the city, giving you opportunities to improve your German quickly! These theatres tend to be in smaller towns but many are much more international than you’d think!
 
Examples: Theater Ulm, Landesbühne Sächsen, Theater Görlitz 
 
When applying for houses, it’s a good idea to consider the house categorisation, as this will give you some indication as to style. Theatres that sing a lot of Wagner will be looking for voices which are naturally bigger, whereas smaller theatres may perform more Baroque works. 
 
As well as the size, the location of a theatre can make a big difference to your life as a singer in Germany. You may be a perfect fit for a touring theatre, but if you don’t think you’d be happy in a tiny German town without an airport, the chances are you won’t stay too long… You can always leave a theatre for another, and many singers work at several places before finding their perfect fit.

So, what should I sing? 

In Germany, there is a big emphasis on singing in the correct ‘Fach’ for your voice. The best persons to decide what Fach you should settle on are, of course, your trusted teachers or coaches. The Fach system helps agents and houses assign you roles which you can sing now. They are very busy and it helps them to not need to re-audition singers continuously but simply offer roles in your voice Fach. The Fach categories can be broad however, and singers can very often find they fit in more than one… 
 
Annoyingly, not everyone will agree on what Fach they think you are, even in Germany, and it helps to feel confident you know yourself before starting to audition. I have known several singers argue their opinions successfully and have excellent careers, as well as some who felt pushed too far in the wrong Fach by their theatre. My personal advice here is to always sing a Fach lighter than you think and do it well! Sadly, nobody has time to hear you more than once, and if you sing a beautiful Susannah now, you can start working straight away – even if you may end up as a Countess!

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Singing in Germany post-Brexit

Audition OracleTue 12 Apr 2022 @ 6:51

Working in Germany – The Paperwork

Yes, yes, we know; there is loads of work for opera singers in Germany. The trouble is, for British citizens and residents, working in Germany can be more than a little complicated.
 
Brexit rules were vague enough. This was before a global pandemic and the biggest land war since World War II. Now British opera singers are left without a clue about how to live and work in the land of ‘operatunity’.
 
Well, have no fear! Today I have compiled a list of everything you need to know for living and working in Germany. If you are a British-based opera singer, this is your essential reading for the day!
 
 Joshua Spink Tenor

Singing in Germany post-Brexit. Yes, it is possible!

90 Days Visa Free

If you are a British Citizen, you do not need a visa to visit Germany or any of the Schengen States. You can stay in Germany for a period of up to 90 days, visa free, as long as you are not earning money there (and are fully vaccinated).
 
This is great news for auditioning. British opera singers can fly to Germany and audition ad libitum, as long as they don’t earn any money for auditioning (wouldn’t that be nice?). 
 
German opera houses do not reimburse singers for travel expenses. However, they do provide each auditionee with a letter that allows us to claim back these expenses when filing our tax return.
 

Travel for Non-British Citizens

If you are living in Britain, but you’re not a British or European citizen, you will likely have to apply for a short-stay Schengen visa to audition in Germany.
 
Nationals from Europe or the countries of Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland can travel with their families throughout Germany, visa free.
 

D Visa: Working in Germany

So, you have auditioned successfully in Germany and you got a job. Now what do you do?
 
To work in Germany as a British citizen, you need to apply for a long-stay national visa, otherwise known as a D visa. You can apply for this visa before or after you arrive in Germany. This is also true for citizens from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Korea (Republic), and the United States of America.
 
If you already have a job in Germany, your employer can fill out a pre-approval form before you travel to Germany. This will greatly streamline the visa application process. Your employer can find out more information about that in German or English here
 

Registration of Residence

If you are working in Germany at all, you will need to register as a resident of Germany. You do this at the local immigration office, or ‘Ausländerbehörde’. This must be done within two weeks of moving to Germany. 
 
After your work in Germany has finished, you will also need to de-register in the same way. 
 

Social Security and Health Insurance

If you just have temporary employment in Germany (e.g. you have a guest contract), you are classified as a seasonal worker and you are not required to have social security or health insurance in Germany (if you have insurance elsewhere).
 
You can apply for a certificate in your country of origin called the A1 certificate. This exempts you from having to get insurance in Germany. More information about seasonal work can be found here.
 

Cut Through the Red Tape

And that’s it guys. In reality, Brexit means paperwork and a headache. However, there is no need for it to stand in the way of potential contracts in Germany - as long as you can navigate the red tape!
 
Cutting the red tape to work as a singer in Germany

About Me

My name is Josh, and I am a German-based opera singer and writer. I run a platform called Singing and Sauerkraut, where I help opera singers to live and work in Germany. To find out more, or to book a free consultation with me, please check out Singing and Sauerkraut.
 
Singing and Sauerkraut
 

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