Being an opera singer will cost you $1 million

Being an opera singer will cost you $1 million


norman lebrecht

December 15, 2019

New York tenor Zach Finkelstein has been running the numbers on his chosen career.

And all the indicators are turning red.

For full-time performers, the game is rigged. There is simply no chance of making it given the start-up costs of building an arts business and maintaining it over time in a high cost of living city. The best-case scenario is you walk away early and have time to rebuild. The worst-case scenario is you have a middling career, strung along with a few opportunities every year, just enough to keep you going, and you are staring down the barrel of 40 at a mountain of debt with no other skills.

Below I’ll show you four case studies demonstrating that the inability to continue in a performing career and support yourself financially has very little to do with the expenses of running an opera business, although they are onerous. Or your abilities as a performer, although it is a necessary condition to be best-in-class. Success has to do with two major decisions you make when you are most vulnerable and know the least about the business….

Read on here.

Yes, you’d better read on.



  • Paul Dawson says:

    This looks most interesting. I shall dig deeper when I have some more spare time.

  • Ravi Narasimhan says:

    Move out of the eastern seaboard then.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    New York is not the place to start trying to establish yourself as an opera singer.It is only after some experience & success elsewhere one could consider trying one’s luck in that city. Unless one has a phenomenal talent, one cannot expect to be an opera singer without moving around a bit.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed. And then: NY’s reputation as a cultural centre may be greatly exaggerated, after all it is the hub of a certain vision of modernity which is quite restricted.

  • Caranome says:

    What’s the difference between a 14′ pizza and a classical musician? A: the pizza can feed a family of 4.

  • We privatize your value says:

    Very interesting indeed, but he is only ever analysing conditions in New York City! It’s a microcosm unlike all the others. What about being an opera singer in Berlin, London, Paris, Madrid, or, for that matter, Tokyo? And what about the non-capitals, such as Dresden, Munich, Salzburg, Milan, Barcelona, Los Angeles? Before I go on dropping further names of towns, just one question to sum it all up: Is Mr. Finkelstein’s analysis global or local?

  • MWnyc says:

    Norman, he’s no longer a New York tenor. The bio on his website says he lives in Seattle.