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Careers in the Opera

So you want to be an opera singer?

Men and women who are professional opera singers study music, performing arts, and vocal performance. Their on-stage performance is the culmination of years of work with private vocal coaches, musicians, and directors.

The best route leading to a professional career in opera is academically based. A young singer should apply to colleges or universities with strong vocal music departments. It is crucial for a young person to work with a voice teacher with whom they can progress artistically, academically, and professionally.

Area colleges/universities with vocal music/opera theater departments:

There are other colleges and universities that have vocal music departments. Consult your high school choral director or music teacher for additional information.

There are also lots of other jobs with an opera company. To prepare for these, several universities offer programs in arts administration. At the graduate level, these programs are highly selective. Undergraduate programs are offered at the University of Kentucky and Bellarmine College. Graduate programs are offered at Indiana University and the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. Other universities that offer graduate arts administrative studies are New York University, University of Wisconsin, and UCLA.

With any career in the performing arts, a young person should get involved with the company of his or her choice. Volunteer!

Following are descriptions of jobs within an opera company. With any career in the arts, an understanding of the artistic process and a dedication to the arts is necessary for success.

General Director: The general director is responsible for the administrative and production aspects of an opera company. Responsibilities include selecting and casting operas for upcoming seasons, and budgeting for all aspects of the opera company.

  • Skills needed: leaderships; an understanding of arts marketing, budgeting and finance; and an understanding of performing arts production
  • Academic major: arts administration or performing arts

Director of Finance: The finance director oversees the administrative and production budgets for the opera company, monitors the company's income-expenditures and is responsible for reporting all financial aspects of the organization.

  • Skills needed: accounting
  • Academic major: accounting or business

Director of Public Relations: The public relations director communicates with the local and national media publicizing the programs and productions of the opera company. Responsible for the public relations stories in print and electronic media.

  • Skills needed: oral and written communication skills
  • Academic major: communications or journalism

Director of Marketing: The marketing director is responsible for all media "buys" used in the advertisement of programs and productions offered by the company. This person also oversees the box office function, subscriber relations and ticket sales.

  • Skills needed: oral and written communication skills
  • Academic major: communications or marketing

Director of Development: The Development Department is the fundraising arm of an opera company. All income that is not made through ticket sales and subscriptions must be granted or given to the opera company. It is the development director's responsibility to make the requests for these gifts or grants. This person works closely with the company's board of directors.

  • Skills needed: public speaking, presentation skills, and budgeting
  • Academic major: communications or visual/performing arts

Tickets Services Manager: Ticket services include subscription sales, single ticket sales, maintaining reports of tickets sold, and customer service. The tickets services manager works with other in setting the price of subscriptions and single tickets.

  • Skills needed: an ability to talk with the public, sales
  • Academic Major: communications, or visual/performing arts

Director of Music: Oversees the artistic aspects of the productions. Works closely with the general director in the selection and casting of opera produced by the company.

  • Skills needed: music, vocal coaching, an understanding of the artistic process
  • Academic Major: music

Production Manager: This person works with all elements of the technical side of an opera production. The production manager is responsible for communication between the stage director, orchestra conductor, and technical staff.

  • Skills needed: Leadership and budgeting; also a technical arts background
  • Academic major: a technical arts degree

Costumer: Responsible for the maintenance of each costume worn in an opera. The costumer often needs to make alterations to costumes to achieve a perfect fit for the singers.

  • Skills needed: excellent tailoring and sewing skills; organizational skills
  • Academic major: a technical arts degree

Stage Manager: Coordinates the cast, chorus, and technical staff in production. During the show the stage manager is responsible for all lighting, staging, and set cues.

  • Skills needed: communication; leadership
  • Academic major: stage management or a technical arts degree



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Last Updated: Monday, 01-Dec-2008 15:28:23 EST