• Living Opera

Updated: 4 days ago

Instagram is 10 years old, and it's changing the face of commerce and marketing worldwide. So why should singers (or anyone) care?

A lot has changed in social media in the last ten years.


Instagram, (which was acquired by Mark Zuckerburg in 2012), started as a social network and a way to see the world through the eyes and experiences of other people. I think we all know it has evolved past that into a commercial hybrid, with Instagram set to make 12 billion dollars in ad revenue in 2020, and millions of people earning hefty paychecks as "influencers" worldwide.


It would be naive to think this doesn't affect the art world in any way, because we clearly see social media trends already affecting casting decisions in TV, movies, and Broadway. To ignore social media would be to eliminate yourself from the running at some point. I realize that might be a bold statement and many may disagree, but I admit that even I have used social media to recommend potential singers to my casting director friends for the sake of expediency, and the ones who a) weren't online, or b) didn't have a good sound clip, simply didn't make the the cut.


I think we are a long way from theaters making casting choices ONLY based on numbers, but I know for a FACT this is already happening on Broadway.


Truth time


In the world of “influencers”, there are very few accounts held by opera singers that would even break out of the micro influencer category.


One source I found broke this down into the following stats - they are from May 2019:

Nano influencers: 500-5k followers

Micro influencers: 5k-30k followers

Power influencers: 30k-500k followers

Celebrity influencers: over 500K followers


These numbers affect the amount of money brands will pay for a sponsored post. It's probably an obvious statement, but brands only want to partner with people/personalities that will convert to sales for them. I mean, why else would they dedicate part of their marketing budget to this kind of advertising?


In our industry nobody is really breaking these stats so we don’t see a lot of brands working with opera singers. I think there is some resistance to such kinds of brand deals, though hopefully that is changing. I think it's good for freelance artists to make money wherever they can, because this career is long, hard, and EXPENSIVE. Why should Rihanna be the only one who gets to sell make up??


Furthermore, brand deals have always existed in the opera industry and always will exist.

Rolex, Chopard, Mercedes, and other high end luxury brands have always partnered with our industry in some form or another. One soprano even had a deal with the Austrian water brand Vöslauer.


What the instagram movement does is move these kinds of partnerships into a more flexible, smaller arena where the personal preference of the artist might have more sway than say a big corporate sponsor.


We have entered into a time where personal brands and tastes are actually dictating a lot of spending trends and businesses are VERY well aware of that.


What we are going to see happening is the rise of micro-entrepreneurs who have a loyal following, who are able to establish strong, small, personal brands, rather than waiting for a large corporate sponsor to define them. You heard it here.


The real thing


I think this is why our project has gained some momentum in the last year - we are all understanding that its not enough any more just to be a great singer - we have to create a narrative that people want to be part of.


Instagram at it’s most annoying is a home for sleazy sales, flex culture, and MLM's posing as business. At it's BEST, however, its' a rich STORYTELLING platform where one can literally learn about ANYTHING! From how to cook authentic pasta from Nino's grandma, to climbing in a remote village in Switzerland, to flamenco dancing in Spain, or how Soula sings a high note in Vienna, there is almost NOTHING we can't engage with, and that makes this moment in time ABSOLUTELY amazing!


So I think it's our job to use these platforms to tell REAL stories that harness the desires of others for something authentic. New opera audiences are out there for us to CAPTURE. We need to learn how to inspire and engage them to the point where they are compelled to attend a show by making the whole opera going experience fun, exciting, inclusive, intuitive, and relatable.


If I have to get in the door by singing on a Coke commercial and then posting about it on Instagram, you better believe I WILL! I don't really care anymore about "looking" like a serious artist, because I am one. Nobody can take that from me. Nobody can take that from you! We are highly skilled craftspeople, and we know that. We also live in this time and space, and we deal with all the same junk as our contemporaries.


Nobody wants to engage with or FUND what they perceive to be a stuffy, stuck up, expensive art form with untouchable people made of gold or marble or something. They want FLESH AND BLOOD! So embrace your quirky, unique, and talented self, and go create a NEW audience for our beloved art form. You are part of the solution.


"Ich will meine Bühne mit Menschen bevölkern! Mit Menschen, die uns gleichen, die unsere Sprache sprechen! Ihre Leiden sollen uns rühren und ihre Freuden uns tief bewegen!"

- La Roche, the director in Richard Strauss's opera Capriccio, 1943


(Translation: "I want my stage populated by PEOPLE! By people like us, who speak our language, whose passion stirs us, and whose joy moves us!")


The discussion continues on Youtube. Hope you enjoy it!


  • Living Opera

Yesterday we had a lovely meeting with a colleague, (and supporter of Living Opera!), where we discussed many topics, including travel, performing, agents, and yes, burnout.

Norman has been working really hard on some other projects, so sorry I've been going solo the last 2 weeks! I know you guys miss him! He'll be back soon, I promise.


So burnout is one of those tricky subjects nobody really likes to talk about because they are worried about how they will be perceived by people in the business, and they do not want any adverse effects to their careers.


This fear makes many singers live with anxiety and stress that is destructive and toxic, and as we have seen with many fine, young singers, it cuts their careers short and robs us of incredible talents we should be enjoying for another 20 years at least.


One of our main goals with Living Opera is to promote transparency, mental health, and longevity in our industry, and it just seemed like time to revisit the topic of burnout, unpleasant as it can be.


In this short video, I give you 3 early warning signs of burnout, and what we can do about it. (If you don't have time to watch the video, I'll tell you the solution now, because I care more about you getting well than how many hits I get on Youtube: talk about it with someone you trust, and be HONEST with yourself. Then seek help.)


I really hope we will ALL go into 2020 healthy, happy, and fulfilled. That is my wish for myself, and each and every one of YOU.


Tomorrow on Living Opera Live, we will go deeper and share some of the personal experiences I allude to in this brief video. Enjoy, and be WELL my friends!



  • Living Opera

In the course of your career you will (hopefully!) sing many exciting roles! But what do you do when you are asked to go back and revisit something you've probably grown out of?

In this short video, I give you a couple of things I look for when examining old repertoire. I also take you on a quick tour of Vienna, all the way to the State Opera, where I have my coaching. (Although I don't show you the actual coaching, because I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I have a degree of vanity you know!)




It's important to remember that YOU are the boss of your career, and at the end of the day, even if the money is great, even if you think you can "manage" the role, or if your agent is pressuring you, the choice to delve into old repertoire is yours and yours ALONE.


There are many pitfalls that come with singing old rep - falling into old bad technical habits because of muscle memory, pulling your voice out of the vocal track you've been on, (in my case, my voice is much larger now than when I studied this role, so I had to artificially "lighten" my voice to make it fit), and it can also send a "signal" to the industry that you are not sure of your voice and the direction of development. Of course the latter is quite extreme - I'm thinking more if you sing Tosca and you suddenly jumped over to sing Zerlina. Might make a few people scratch their heads....


On the other hand, if you have had a period of major technical growth, you may find MORE repertoire is suddenly available to you than before.




When my voice started to become more dramatic, most people said I should concentrate on German music, so I did. This was partly due to the very laser-like nature of my voice - it was very narrow and pointy and lacked roundness - and less to do with the color of my voice, which is very naturally dark and suited to versimo operas like Andrea Chenier or Manon Lescaut.


As my voice and technique matured and more warmth and body came into my voice, I found many more roles were available to me, even ones I had put away for years and years.


The main thing to examine when visiting old repertoire, is the present weight and color of your voice. This often determines the volume and carry of the instrument as well. If the weight and color suits a role, most times you can sing it. We have a great video explaining more about this process here, especially as it pertains to choosing audition arias.


As for me, I've decided not to pursue this role in the future, I think that time is firmly over if we use this criteria. If you have a guess as to what it is, I'd be glad to hear it. I let the cat out of the bag on Instagram a couple days ago...mwah haha!!!


Hint: it's Italian and very mainstream. DOUBLE HINT: it's not in my biography. I've never sung the full role on stage, only excerpts. (And I actually sang it with Norman! TRIPLE hint!)


Here's the video! Hope you enjoy it!


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