News & Views

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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