Increasingly, young opera singers from all over the world are moving to Germany, drawn by the prospect of steady work—even full-time employment.
In 2013 Germany saw 7230 opera performances, one-third of the world’s total. German opera houses employ 1270 soloists and 2870 chorus members on full-time contracts.
An American soprano who will be joining the Deutsche Oper in Berlin next year says “There aren’t as many opportunities as there used to be for up-and-coming singers in the U.S. If you’re a lesser-known name, American opera houses often don’t take a chance on you because they need to sell tickets. When I return to the U.S., people will say ‘She must be good, she’s sung at the Deutsche Oper.’”
This according to “If you want to sing opera, learn German” by Elisabeth Braw (Newsweek 17 July 2014; online only).
Above and below, a recent German opera production that provided numerous employment opportunities.
In 1760 the Swedish diplomat Count Ulrich zu Lynar reported on an ingenious system for Tafelmusik at the court of Ludwig VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt (above, 1691–1768):
“Next [to the palace] is a small garden and in it a Lusthaus where the Landgravial family dines during the summer, and in the middle of which, where the table is set up, there is a small round hole that leads to a basement, out of which music is meant to sound very beautifully. To that end, in each of the four corners there is also an opening from which the sound can come.”
This pavillion, built in the early eighteenth century and apparently used during Ludwig’s reign as a special entertainment for visitors, was demolished in the nineteenth century. A surviving architectural plan, however, indicates an underground passageway to it from the palace’s main building, presumably intended for the serenading musicians.
This according to “The court of Hesse-Darmstadt” by Ursula Kramer, an essay included in Music at German courts, 1715–1760: Changing artistic priorities (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2001, pp. 333–363).