Germans agree huge increase in opera house minimum wage

Germans agree huge increase in opera house minimum wage


norman lebrecht

June 30, 2022

German unions and employers have agreed a two-step wage increase for opera house employees, it was announced last night.

The minimum wage for stage technicians on public stages will rise from 2,000 euros to 2,550 on September 1, and to 2,715 euros on January 1, 2023.

The rate applies both to fulltime and freelance employees.

It’s a 35 percent wage hike.




  • Martin Snell says:

    Given the already high and continually-rising cost of living, particularly in centres such as Berlin, Hamburg, and München, the increase is very welcome but manifestly inadequate.

    A single person earning such a salary is subject to ca. 46% deductions in Germany, including taxes, pension, health insurance, etc. There is not a great deal leftover for rent, if one can find any affordable accommodation, let alone save anything and/or retire accummulated student debt; it is the elephant in the room for many graduates, particularly for those from overseas, including the UK.

    There is also an increasing gulf between theatre salaries and performance fees paid to guests. Often a guest may earn multiples of such a monthly salary for one performance.

    It is no wonder that there is such a huge attrition rate within the first few years of graduation, which all points to, in my opinion, a vast misallocation, if not wastage, of resources and contributes to overall declining standards.

    • Singeril says:

      Guests do have expenses that others do not. They are paying for their housing, their agents, and are also the “face” of the productions. They are living life on the road and in many locales, not being paid during rehearsal periods (although, in some instances, they earn some smaller amounts during rehearsal periods). If they don’t sing performances, they aren’t paid. They also don’t get all of the “benefits” that the stage hands receive. They also have put years into developing their craft, paying for their training, and are taking risks in every engagement that the stagehand does not. I am a STRONG supporter of stagehands and am glad to hear of this wage increase (it should be larger). But, to compare them to the guests…well, that’s not wise.

      • Martin Snell says:

        I wonder who you mean by ‘stage hands‘ and ‘benefits’? House singers are as integral to a performance as any guest singer as are the stage crew working behind the scenes. No group is mutually exclusive. They all work for the collective result.

        Your comment smacks of complete ignorance of the profession.

        • Singeril says:

          And your comments is absolutely unwise and unlearned. I can assure you, as a professional in this business for over 3 decades, I know well what happens on and backstage (and even in the administrative offices). I’ll put my knowledge concerning this business up against anybody’s. Stage hands and benefits..they get all kinds of “benefits” in their contract that singers don’t…health insurance and paid vacation for starters. Soloists don’t get these things and pay for them out of their pockets. They also, when on the road, are paying for their housing at home as well as on the road (the companies don’t pay that for them). They are also paying agent commissions (stage hands don’t pay that). The singers are not regularly employed and have zero job security (unlike the stagehands). I could go on and on. All of this is to say that I support stage hands and all working behind the scenes (been there, done that)…but, they are not the face of the performances. People do not go to the opera to watch the stage hands (valuable as they are). Companies don’t sell performances on the reputation and strength of the stagehand (necessary as they are). But, when all is said and done, what the singers are making and having to pay out does result in a net that is as vast above what a stage hand makes as some might think. And, again, the singers aren’t guaranteed their funds…it’s pay to sing (no umbrella to help them out if they get sick and have to miss a night) unlike the stagehands.

    • TishaDoll says:

      We should all be happy if we had such a pension and health insurance, not to mention the expensive public infrastructure that is so well maintained. I marvel daily at what the Berliners take for granted

  • Allardyce Mallon says:

    These low wages are why I stopped being a répétiteur in the German opera house system. It just wasn’t worth the slave labour. Got offered a conservatoire job in Switzerland, but do miss my times in Meiningen and Weimar

  • Dom says:

    The ridiculous wages in German theatre/opera have been the reason I moved to the UK, now more than happy living a better life in London than Düsseldorf. One’s loss is another’s gain…

  • Andreas B. says:

    This minimum wage or ‘Mindestgage’ in fact is not only paid to stage technicians, but also to actors, dancers and singers as well as ‘Regieassistent*innen’ and ‘Korrepititeur*innen’, who all are subject to the collective bargaining agreement ‘NV Bühne’.

    “The rate applies both to fulltime and freelance employees” – I don’t think that’s quite accurate.
    Freelancers’ fees have been raised by the same percentage, but of course the exact amount depends on how many days/weeks they were contracted.

    Also worth noting: after two years at the same house, there will be an additional 200€.

    see press release:

    BTW, these figures do NOT apply to orchestra musicians and their bargaining agreement ‘TVK’ (which has, generally speaking, higher wages).

    @Martin Snell: “46% deductions”
    AFAIK, a gross salary of 2.700€ will result in a net figure of around 1.850€ – that’s around 32% deductions.

    • Martin Snell says:

      The 46% in deductions is on a progressional scale and may include additional charges, such as Church Tax, also calculated on one’s Brutto/Groos income, which increase the total. It is not universal. I wrote from personal ezpereince. I accept that 32% may be the applicable on the stated Brutto. It is, however, manifestly insufficient to live in a major German centre.