Singing with dinosaurs: Confessions of a young US artist in Germany

Singing with dinosaurs: Confessions of a young US artist in Germany


norman lebrecht

July 04, 2016

A frustrated young opera singer has been spilling the beans to our friends Shawn E Milnes and Elizabeth Frayer. Sample:


If there is a silver lining to all the rampant Regie directing going on in Germany, it’s that you could show up the day of the show with your part learned, and simply walk on stage without a clue to what’s going on.  And you will be hailed for your bold artistic choice of bashful innocence and ignorance as long as the show goes on and they don’t have to refund tickets.

I’m often trading stories back and forth with my colleagues about disasters happening on stage due to fatigue, stress, or just dumb luck.  But it would take a serious calamity to jar an audience out of their seats.

The issue of Kammersängers is also something that I’m trying to wrap my head around.  These are dinosaurs that have been with the company for such a long time that they have accrued a sort of tenure..

More here.


  • Peter says:

    well, partly entertaining, but maybe if he hadn’t been so ill prepared by his “prestigious North American school” and got to actually work in real world opera already during his student years, and if he wasn’t ridden with this ridiculous debt no German student ever accrues because higher education is state sponsored, maybe he would have been able to a) choose his gigs less desperately and b) be not so surprised by the difference between the real world and academia. Good luck to him. He can always go back to the US in order to work in one of the hundreds of opera houses there…

  • May says:

    After skimming through the linked article, I get the feeling that said singer doesn’t speak German well enough to understand half of what is going on around him, and that many of the frustrations and misunderstandings have more to do with his lack of language skills. It’s easy to make fun of situations if you feel like you are always behind the eight ball. I’ve seen more than a fair share of American singers in Germany who completely underestimate the level of German necessary to function well in an opera environment. Why does slipped disc have to link every blog by every frustrated singer?

  • martha hart says:

    I thought it was an interesting rant, but simply one person’s opinion. For my book research, I’ve interviewed several tenors who hold feste positions in major German houses and their experiences are quite the opposite.

  • Student says:

    The cultural arrogance of this singer is appalling. Apparently he wasn’t in Germany long enough to rid himself of it. Yes, in the U.S. if you are old and worn out you are relegated to the dustbin. Germany affords its older artists a certain amount of protection and often honors them with the Kammersänger title despite a possible drop in performance niveau–unthinkable to an American still brainwashed to think winning is everything!

    As to Regietheater, one should keep in mind that despite some cutbacks, opera is flourishing in Germany. Obviously, German society finds ithe art-form worth supporting at least in part due to engaging, thought-provoking and often inspiring stagings from German directors, who are definitely not, with few exceptions, the bumbling idiots the singer suggests in his blog.