Considering testing out the german speaking market? Below are a number of Frequently Asked Questions and answers that will help you decide if the timing is right for you.
Q. DO I NEED TO SPEAK GERMAN?
A. The simple answer is YES. You should have at least a basic grasp of the language before you even consider auditioning for agents and houses. If you are a beginner, we highly recommend investing in a trip to Germany to study the language for a couple of months before embarking on an audition tour.
Q. WHEN IS AUDITION SEASON?
A. The typical audition seasons are Fall (mid-September to mid-December) and Winter/Spring (mid-January to April), so sending out your materials in advance of these dates is important and can end up saving you a lot of money if you don’t garner any interest.
Q. DO I NEED TO LIVE IN GERMANY?
A. If you are already an EU citizen living in Europe it is enough to provide your contact information for your home and travel in for auditions. If you are from North America, Australia, New Zealand, South America (etc.) you should consider a longer stay (2 to 3 months at minimum). When you send out your materials you will need to provide your “local” address and telephone number so you are reachable, along with the approximate dates of your stay, so you can be invited to auditions during the time you are actually in the country.
Q. ARE THERE AUDITION FEES?
A. Yes, most private agents are charging audition fees to cover their expenses and the accompanist. Typical fees seem to run anywhere from 25 to 65 Euro and we’ve seen some as high as 100 Euro. There is a lot of debate as to whether agents who charge such fees are actually working for the artists or living off the money they make from holding auditions. You will have to use your own judgement but our rule of thumb is… if they want more than 40 Euro, it is probably not legit.
Q. GUEST OR FEST?
A. A Guest Contract (Gastvertrag) is a contract for a single role in one production whereas a Fest Contract (Festvertrag) is where you are employed directly by a theater, typically for 1 or 2 seasons. In a “Festvertrag” you will be engaged in your “Fach” (if you don’t know what that is, see the next question) and you will be expected to sing several roles throughout the season. Fest singers are full time employees and are paid a monthly fee. They are expected to reside in the city where they are working.
Q. WHAT IS MY FACH?
A. The Germans, in all their wisdom, have created a system of categorizing Voice Types. For each Voice Type (Fach) there is a list of roles that one is expected to be able to perform if hired under a Festvertrag. For example there are several different categories of soprano: Soubrette, Lyrischer Koloratursopran (Kolouratursoubrette), Lyrischer Sopran, Dramatischer Koloratursopran, Jugendlich-dramatischer Sopran, Dramatischer Sopran, Charaktersopran. Each has their own list of corresponding roles. These lists can be found in the “HANDBUCH DER OPER” often referred to as Kloiber (ISBN 978-3-423-34132-5) and retails for approximately 20 Euro. We will provide detailed information on the Fach system to our clients.
Q. CAN I SEND MY MATERIALS VIA EMAIL?
A. Yes, absolutely you can, to both houses and agents. In fact, sending your materials (cover letter, resume, bio, photo and repertoire list) in advance of your arrival in Europe is a good idea. If you have sound or video clips you can include, even better! This will allow you to ascertain if there is interest from houses and agents in your particular Fach and potentially save you a lot of money. We have an up-to-date and extensive database of houses and agents. If you’d like us to do the work for you, contact us today! There are a few agents who will only accept packages via snail-mail. We keep track of this too!
Q. DO MY MATERIALS NEED TO BE IN GERMAN?
A. Yes, you will need your materials translated into German. We offer translation services and can also provide you with a personalized cover letter.
Q. CAN I MAKE A LIVING?
A. You are not going to get rich as a Fest singer. Beginner contracts start around 2000 Euro per month, sometimes less depending on the size of the house. Chorus members often make more than Fest singers. After taxes and deductions (health insurance etc.) you can expect to take home a little more than half of your gross income. Most singers make ends meet by having supplementary work (i.e. teaching, guesting at other houses).
Q. ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS FOR AUDITIONS?
A. You should always have your 5 to 8 arias ready for auditions. In Germany, you definitely need at least one German piece (opera or operetta), and if your spoken German is not up to snuff, we recommend finding a dialogue that you can coach to perfection (without accent or dialect). And, unless you are a dramatic Fach, you must have Mozart on your repertoire list!
Q. I’M GOING TO BE A DRAMATIC VOICE ONE DAY… WHAT SHOULD I SING FOR MY AUDITION?
A. How your voice, may or may not develop is of no consequence here. There is a tendency for North Americans to sing a Fach higher than what they would in Europe. You need to sing well and sing what you can get hired for today. Be realistic about your Fach and your capabilities!