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Opera/Pursuing opera career


I've seen a quite similar question here, but still I'd like to ask about my particular case. I'm Brazilian and just turned 20, I sing since I was a little girl, I want to be a singer but I'm finishing the second of five years in law school.

Law is not what I want, is what my family wants, and my mother says music is a hobby and that I should finish law school "just to be safe" financially in case I don't succeed singing, but I think that dividing my time with this and thinking about not succeeding is already half step to failure (I think her real wish is for me to focus on becoming a lawyer). Secondly, and more importantly, it would take me some more precious years, and maybe I'd be too old by when I get to start a career.

I'm also not sure where I should go to get a singing degree, for there are good universities and conservatories here (I'd have to go live in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, I live in a mid sized town), but the classical field is not that developed in my country, and there are some difficulties for a foreign student to get a place in a European or north American school. Yet, I intend to get at least a master's abroad.
My concern is particularly with the money (for surviving, not getting rich), since I would have to move to another city on my own anyway and I can't count on my parents forever, this considering their support is already slim. I mean, if I were sure I had money enough to keep me for years of study, I wouldn't even blink before leaving law school.

And I'm really willing to work my fingers to the bone to achieve this, it's about everything I like to do; besides music and opera itself,  I like historical things and I'm a real linguistics enthusiast, so learning languages is a big pleasure. I've already started with Italian and French (along with already speaking English and my native Portuguese). I've engaged on an acting studies group of the Cinema and Audiovisual course of my university, and I'm reading books on the matter. I'm also studying music theory and learning to play piano.

Besides all this, I'd like your opinion on if I truly have potential (after all, if I don't, there's no point). These are three samples of slightly different styles, recorded before I had any vocal training (I had my first lesson at 18).

I'd like a honest opinion on this whole situation, for I'm really uncertain because of my family's advice, mainly on the paying studies side, and what to do/where to go, but I know in my heart what I want to do with my life is to become (or at least know I tried all I could to become) a professional opera singer, even not knowing too well how it would be in this difficult path.

Hi Helen!,

I really appreciate how much thought and careful consideration you've given to pursuing your dream of becoming a professional opera singer.  I would like to address some of your concerns as much as I can here in my answer to you, and then perhaps direct you to some other sources where you can find more information which will hopefully help you in making your decision as to how to proceed with your future.

First off, I have listened to your youtube videos and you have a good sense of pitch and musicality.  I must say however, that that is not even half of what it takes to become an opera singer.  There are many books to be read on the subject, but what I would urge you to do, since it's possible nowadays with the internet, is to read as much as you can online on reputable websites of opera organizations (like opera america, conservatories in the usa and europe- in germany the musikhochschulen, and italy the conservatories and opera studios) and perhaps also on the websites of singers like Joyce Di Donato, and Laura Claycomb (a soprano who has a particularly GREAT portion on her website dedicated to the questions that a young singer has and advice for singers just starting out to study and perform in a professional way).  Then, once you've found out about opera (and that it takes lots of money for a career- like you're realizing- to pay for your living costs as well as coachings with pianists, lessons with teachers, tickets to see operas, memberships to classical singing magazines (classical singer, opera america, opernwelt---these are good references- you can get an online subscription to classical singer relatively cheaply and then read all their back issues and it will give you much more information about the business than I can provide you here) and that it also takes lots of time, lots of practice, lots of talent and personality and a certain amount of poise on stage and off, as well as a good agent and publicist, manager etc...

Honestly, the list could go on and on.  So, the first piece of advice is that you need to get more practical information about what is required to create an opera career and how you do that.  That way, you can decide if you want to sacrifice all the things you have to in order to pursue your career. (For example, you can't spend as much time with friends and family as you might want because concerts will normally fall on holidays, and rehearsals are usually many hours and require stamina which means getting enough sleep, and you have to make sure not to get sick so you might have to avoid things which you'd otherwise do, etc.)

Here's something that I'd suggest for you considering your background and the possibilities that you've outlined for me in your message.  You know that opera singing is something which takes a long time (many years) to develop and become proficient in, and therefore since you are studying for your law degree- why not finish your degree, make money practicing law and study opera in your spare time?  That way, you can provide yourself with the necessary money that it takes to study opera singing by working in law, and you can decide in perhaps 5-10 years if you'd like to make a career switch.

The truth is, you are quite young at 20 to make any sort of decision about a singing career (since you haven't even discovered your full vocal potential at this point) and therefore, if I were you and I could do it all over again, I'd jump at the opportunity to earn some real money doing something that I like (in your case, law) and then just do as much as I can during the time I'm working my 'day-job' to learn about opera and opera singing and take as many voice lessons and practice as much as I can in my free time.  Because, when you're working on being a singer and getting your career off the ground, there is a lot of time, believe it or not, where you aren't singing (you can't sing for 8 hours a day anyway) and you would probably be surprised how often I've had to look for part-time jobs doing whatever I can find just to make money in the time that I'm not spending singing or working on my career.

So, sorry for that being so long, but I really do know where you're coming from (in that you would give anything to have an opera career) but, you can trust me that I speak from experience, this is not a fast-burn career.  It's a long-haul career-- and it takes many years to get it going- no matter how much 'talent' a person has.  So, while you're working on your voice and waiting for it to fully mature- you might as well have a job that you enjoy and which you can make money doing in order to save it up for the times when you might not have so much once you decide to concentrate fully on singing.

Furthermore, a last thought- you know, there are quite a LOT of jobs that are in the music business which have to do with law---I know that nearly every musical organization needs legal counsel  at some point or another, so perhaps you could still work within the opera business as a lawyer, or doing something with law in a musical organization.  That way, you'd still be using what you've studied but also somehow learning more about your ultimate career goal along the way. :)

Okay, wishing you LOTS of luck and trust me--- you have a lot of time- just work a little bit at it every day alongside everything else you're doing, and it will come.  If there is one thing in this business of opera that everyone has to learn sooner or later- it's patience (in waiting for the voice to be ready, in waiting for auditions to arrive, in waiting for gigs to come, etc.) so it's perhaps better that you learn that now.  And, most importantly- SING as much and as often as you can for fun (even if it's other types of music)--- practice being in front of an audience (even if it's a small one) is invaluable.

Yours truly,


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Julia Katherine Walsh


I can answer all questions relating to studying Operatic singing, the female voice, acting for singing, attending music conservatories for college, voice competitions, studying voice in New York City, and the lifestyle of an opera singer.


I am an Opera singer who is beginning her Professional Career.

Professional Women Singers Association

Westminster Choir College Music Journal, Hunter College Newspaper,

B.M. in Voice Performance, Westminster Choir College M.A. in Voice Performance, Hunter College

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