An Australian Opera Singer Moves to Germany: Part 2


This has been a long time coming. Joseph and I actually left Germany for Belgium in September 2021, but I haven’t had a moment to put these thoughts on paper. Moving countries, undertaking a degree again for the first time in nearly ten years and off the back of a pandemic will do that to you.

Part one: A recap

There are some silver linings to the world being forced to lock down. In March 2020 Joseph and I decided to stay in Germany and wait out the first wave of COVID. We assumed, like pretty much everyone else, that we would be out of the woods and back on track by June or July the same year. We knew that neither of us were ‘done’ with our time overseas, and that there was still much to be achieved by staying in Europe. I had just had the time of my life singing at the Glyndebourne Opera Cup Semi-Finals and I knew it was a great burst of momentum worth riding. Of course the pandemic developed everyone’s lives in a very different direction, which brought with it terrible things; but like I said, there was also a silver lining or two.

At the same time, I was waiting on the decision for my next visa, having just finished my working holiday. I was applying for a visa to teach English as a second language, as I was working for one of the companies based in Dresden. It should have been awesome, with the flexible hours to allow me to attend any and all auditions and performance opportunities I so desired until I scored a soloist contract somewhere in Germany. Of course, however, I ran into a bureaucracy snag.

Despite the contracts of employment that I could provide for the future teaching I would be doing, I was not granted a visa as I do not hold a degree in teaching. You need both, my friends, or at least, the degree to count as a ‘skilled worker’.

In my naïveté I assumed I’d be able to cobble together a living as I had always done in Australia, by working several jobs flexibly around gigs and auditions and working it out somehow until I was picked up by an opera house. Turns out this doesn’t fly in any country if you’re not a citizen or a permanent resident.

‘What about the fancy German artist visa?’ I hear you ask. Well, my darlings, that one is available exclusively in Berlin, and not in other German cities or states, so was not an option for me.

In any normal year my ‘lack of skill’ would mean packing up and going home, but because we were all neck deep in the pandemic, Germany was kind enough to extend my bridging visa THREE TIMES (so I was allowed to stay an additional 18 months). I had no working rights or rights to public funding or anything, but they did let me stay with Joseph in a very reasonably priced apartment and avoid the $46,000.00 non-binding economy ticket back to Australia that was the reality for most of 2020. They also vaccinated me for freesies. Thank you Germany, I will always love you eternally.

I wouldn’t recommend the ‘turning up and assuming it will be fine’ course of action, even though I was very lucky to have had three extensions on my visa. That, my friends, was a pandemic related fluke. If you can’t get a job or don’t have the credentials to stay, you need to leave the EU for 3 months minimum. If you’re in an established and stable relationship, good renting agreement, and getting to your home country is made impossible, it leaves you in a stressful situation. I can safely say I’ve lost at least 5 years of my life to worrying about my immigration status. Happily it turned out well for me, but given how much luck is needed to break into this industry even without a pandemic in tow I’d say on balance that it’s not worth the risk to come without a really solid plan.

Thankfully I learned an enormous amount of music over this time, spent many hours at our local gym (except for the six months when it was closed) and was even able to attend a handful of auditions and competitions as well. One of these auditions in 2020 is what led me to having a guest soloist contract in a fabulous opera house for a show that will premiere mere weeks from time of writing.

From this side of the situation, all the heartache, distress and existential terror feels like it was worth it.

It became clear that the only way to stay in Germany or Europe would be to go back to studying. Honestly, this was a fine idea anyway, as I was getting as bored as the rest of the world. Having some genuine structure is always a delight. Joseph started his cello Master at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp in September 2020, so I had a look at postgraduate studies there and at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden.

Antwerp won of the two. Not only is my teacher here amazing, but Joseph and I really love and prefer our analogue relationship as opposed to the digital one we had for a while there. A long distance relationship (even over just one land border) is a particular bore during a pandemic when movement is very limited and VERY expensive.

So things have turned out unbelievably well for me. I am extremely fortunate, as is anyone who happens to be working at this time. You bet your bottom dollar I’m not taking it for granted and I never will.

So, now we come to part two of this blog:

Dot points. We all love some dot points.

The observations about moving to Germany:


  1. Do it. It’s awesome. Of course, not without its challenges, but really, really awesome.
  2. If I had my time over, I would come to Germany to do a Masters degree immediately.
  3. If you want to do a smaller trip to dip your toe in the water, I would recommend finding a few coaches, doing a super intensive German course at a Goethe Institut (5 hours a day) and having maybe three coachings a week if you can afford them. This is a great way to pow wow a role or an audition pack, or have a trial lesson with teachers you’re interested in at any given institution. Australians have 3 months schengen time and an additional three months visa waver time in Germany specifically, so you could technically stay there for a full six months if you’re clever about it. You’ll also work out whether or not you have the gumption to do the international thing, before committing to a degree and all that jazz.
  4. If you have a second string to your bow, such as Speech Pathology, get your degree in order before you leave so you can work in your side hustle field on a long stay visa while you’re auditioning. You will not achieve much, if anything, in 3 months, or the 9-12 on your working holiday visa if you’re in Germany to find work, as opposed to studying. Making the right contacts and getting invited to auditions takes more time than you’d think.
  5. Competitions are extremely useful.
  6. The right summer schools are also extremely useful.
  7. This is not for the faint of heart. If there is anything else at all that you feel you could do with your life, I would do that.

A bit more detail about degrees in Germany:

  • You will have incredible access to YAPS and opera studios, as many opera houses are teaming up with conservatories now. Essentially the model more and more is that of someone doing their Masters while working in tandem at the local opera house. You get roles and teaching and all the good stuff rolled into one.
  • Another benefit, which I would argue is the greatest one and will save you enormous amounts of heartache, is that if you do a Bachelor or Master degree in Germany you are granted a visa for the period of study, but then an additional 18 months of ‘Arbeitssuche’ (looking for work) which allows you to take full advantage of the contacts you will have made at your institution. I cannot begin to tell you how useful this time could be for you.
  • Hot tip: come in your mid to late twenties. The ageism is real and it’s gross.
  • Further benefit of studying in Germany in particular is that you are made to study in German, and to get a B1 minimum language certificate to progress to your second semester of the Masters degree. If you are taking your journey to being a classical singer seriously, you MUST take language learning equally seriously. Not only is your language command essential to text interpretation, you will not be hired in Germany (or Austria, or parts of Switzerland) if you don’t speak enough German.
    • Case in point: I am currently working at the Semperoper, which is an international ‘A’ house. We speak half German half English in the rehearsal room, as the cast and creative team covers pretty much every continent, but in the canteen, costume, makeup etc. it’s aaaaaalll German baby.
  • Next to doing a Masters in Australia, the UK or America, it feels like free education. As an international student with no EU citizenship you pay a nominal fee of roughly 900-1500 euros a year. If you’re one of those extraordinarily lucky people with an EU passport, it’s something like 300 euros.

A few more details about competing in Europe:

  • Apply for and enter as many competitions as you can afford/ that you qualify for.
  • That being said, make sure you ask other singers about competitions because there is literally a cornucopia of them out here. Some of them are conducted fairly and with music making at the heart of the matter. Some of them are a cooked money-making circus. You MUST do your research. You MUST consult other singers.
  • A lot of the European comps have international panels. I have sung for representatives of anywhere from 4 to 12 top opera houses at a time several times in live rounds and semi-finals. You only have to go to one city and you are auditioning for plenty of houses at one time. Honestly, it’s just really damn fiscally and temporally efficient if you ask me.
  • I have had offers of work from auditioning and progressing in competitions, regardless of whether I made the finals or won a prize. I didn’t think that sort of thing happened for soprani, but I have happily been proven wrong. As I said, it’s a really useful audition.
  • Make sure you sing music that fits you and that you can sing if you feel dreadful on the day. This goes for auditions as much as comps. War horses only, my dears.

Some tips and gossip about Summer Schools:

  • As per my note about the legitimacy of competitions, the legitimacy of MANY summer schools is questionable. Reach out to singers on social media and ask them about their experiences if you’re considering doing a programme. So many of them are just out there to extort aspiring singers. A lot of them have incredible marketing but the experience itself is severely lacking.
  • I know someone who did one where the singers were promised proper accommodation and continental breakfast each day, but were housed in a filthy hostel and given no food at all. The faculty, on the other hand, were put up in a local castle… and the singers had barely any tuition. Do your research before parting with your hard earned money.
  • I’ve also heard stories where people get quadruple cast, even when there are only two shows happening at the end of the program. The singers find out that they are one of four only upon arrival at the summer school, and are then made to battle it out. Casts are announced in the final week before the shows go on stage. Appalling.
  • There have also been stories from one particular summer school that makes younger singers pay full fees to sing a smaller role like Barbarina, but bring in and pay an alumnus or friend of the staff to sing big roles like Conte or Figaro. This particular summer school advertises scholarships for all participants… but they only mean the select boys club, or maybe all the boys and even the mezzos if they’re lucky. So like I said, DO YOUR RESEARCH. If something feels off, go with your gut!
  • I’d recommend following the blogs and newsletters from Ema Katrovas AKA Soprano on the Verge, as she has written about this at length. Think of it as the YouTube review of opera summer schools. Niche, but we need it.

Final tidbits:

The sad truth is that the industry (not only in Europe) is just as decimated from the pandemic as we all thought it was. The job market for professional classical singers was already saturated before 2020, but now it’s even more so. There are approximately the same amount of singers with even fewer opportunities on offer, and a traffic jam of contracts and agreements that had to be postponed from 2020.

So if you know in your heart that you don’t want to do this career exclusively, that’s absolutely fine. You must listen to that. My hope is that you will have had the light bulb moment during the pandemic anyway. Another silver lining there – perspective.

But if this is all you can do with your life, and you have enough backing from your mentors, and you’re prepared for the lifetime of work and honest self reflection ahead of you, then GO FOR IT.

That’s it for now my loves, and thank you for being here!

An Australian Opera Singer Moves to Germany


Ok friends, this is a long one. Strap yourselves in.


This is a more or less autobiographical account of what I’ve done and the challenges faced/ observations made while living in Germany for a year as an Australian opera singer. There’ll be some cold hard numbers, because I believe sharing information is much more useful than not, and I hope this will help anyone considering moving to the other side of the world.


So – congratulations if you’re considering moving over to Europe to get some life experience! Further congratulations if you’ve actually gone and bought yourself a plane ticket. It’s a wonderful time, all in all. As with any enormous undertaking, there will be challenges, but know that you’re making the right decision in the long run, and I’m certainly proud of you *insert squeezy mum-esque cuddle*


The first thing that struck me about being here is that the Europeans completely understand the arts and artists. You’d be hard pressed to find someone out here who looks at you funny when you tell them you’re a musician, only to ask you ‘yeah, ok, but what’s your real job?’ pretty much immediately. No doubt my artistic Australian comrades know this feeling all too well. The relief of not having to constantly back up your ‘decision’ to be an artist is palpable.


The second thing that struck me about being here in Europe is that it’s really easy to get to other countries to do auditions. Get on a bus from Dresden and you can be in Vienna in 7 hours, having gone through an entire country (Czech Republic hey gurl!) in the process. Do that from Sydney and you might get to the other end of New South Wales…. If you’re speeding…





Let’s get to some real talk: how much does this all cost, at the end of the day (or the year):


In my experience, this has more or less been the cost of everything (Note: I have always travelled on the most affordable option available and pretty much never eat out, so factor that in if it’s something you value):


Part 1: Applications for auditions – vary from €30 – €150 per audition, or sometimes there isn’t a fee, so I’m going with a ballpark figure of €1,000.00 for the whole year, for around 60 applications.


Of these 60 odd applications, I was sometimes successful and sometimes not:


Breakdown of auditions/competitions:

  • Applied for: 60
  • Successfully invited to audition: 19
  • Successfully through to semis: 8
  • Successfully through to finals: 5
  • Prize(s) won: 2


Rough breakdown of costs:


Application and audition fees €1,000.00
Accompanist fees (depends on the comp – some are paid for by the organisation in charge) €500.00


Travel to auditions €1,000.00


Accommodation (I made a point of selecting cities to audition in where I knew I could stay with a friend/ family member, and repay them with cooking etc) €700.00
Incidental costs (you’ll typically spend more on food, for example) €600.00


Total €3,800.00 ($5,500.00 AUD)



What these numbers look like will differ from singer to singer. Some auditions are looking for specific voice types, for example. This is more or less what my year looked like, with most auditions being in Europe, and three being in Australia.

Part 2: Cost of living in a European city:


This one is the most variable, for sure. Joseph and I ended up settling in Dresden because his cello teacher is here very often. One of the benefits of living here is that the rent is very, VERY affordable. It’s also super easy to get a bus to Prague or Berlin to catch a plane somewhere (there are even direct busses from Dresden to both Berlin airports and Prague’s airport). We have also flown from Dresden airport, and well-priced flights can be found there occasionally.


For me, personally, I also found a terrific coach at the Semperoper, so I’ve basically got all I need and want in life living in Dresden. Yay!


As a ballpark figure, you’re probably going to pay €600.00 a month in Dresden for a two room, fully furnished apartment (a further explanation of furnished vs. unfurnished apartments in Germany will be found a couple of paragraphs down). If you’re living in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne, the rent is more like €900.00 – €1,200.00 per month (or so I’m told). The benefit of living in a larger city, though, is of course more opera houses and agents.


I’ve found living in Dresden to be awesome, as I needed a break from big city life after Sydney. The fact that we don’t have to financially cripple ourselves just to have a roof over our head and feed ourselves is a big plus, and I can walk to the opera house in a leisurely 20 minutes for coachings and performance watching (Anja Harteros and Wolfram Reiger in recital at the Semperoper for only €14.00 per ticket? YES PLEASE), and get very useful public transport out into the suburbs when I have English students to teach.


When you’re deciding where to live, do your research and google the quality of life etc. For lots of people, having some expat mates around will be really helpful, so work out where lots of your fellow singing compatriots have moved to (if you’re Australian, it’s Berlin, btw) and maybe start there.


Part 3: Visa


My visa experience in Germany is that of an Australian human with no other citizenship. It turns out I’m eligible for the ancestry visa in the UK, but that costs $3,000.00 AUD and, as of literally today, not helpful for the EU, so definitely not a priority right now.


I arrived in Germany on 4th Feb 2019 and hung around on Schengen time for a couple of months (Note: The ‘Schengen’ agreement means that Australians can stay in the Schengen zone for up to 90 days in a 180 period), then I applied for the working holiday visa because I wanted to stay in Germany for longer.


You’ll need to bring your university degree certificate for this, so pack it before you leave so you don’t have to ask your mum to post it to you (thanks mamma! <3). There are plenty of articles on this topic, so I won’t prattle on too much. Basically it’s very easy, once you collate all the things you need, and the application/visa fee is only €100.00 or something. If you’re an Australian citizen, it’s almost too easy to get this visa. Make sure you have some cash saved up (at least €4,000.00) and you’ll be fine.


Some of the Ausländebehörde (Foreigner’s Offices) are less helpful than others, and sometimes they don’t send you the correct forms etc, so make sure you do lots of research on exactly what you need before you go to your appointment. You’ll bring a stack of papers with you, and they’ll want all of it, or they’ll only want half of it. Depends on the day, who you’re talking to, and how chill they’re feeling. Good luck.


My Working Holiday Visa will expire on 4th Feb 2020 (yes Schengen time counts in your 12 months, unfortunately), and I’ve very recently applied for my Freiberufler Visum (Freelance Visa). I won’t get an answer about this one until April, but the man at the visa office very kindly gave me a Fiktionsbescheinigung that lets me stay in fair Deutschland until July 2020. I can’t work with this bridging visa, but it does let me stay here and continue coachings and auditions, which is awesome.

Conclusion: You’ll burn through about €10,000.00 – €15,000.00 ($16,000.00 – $25,000.00 AUD) in a year with all of your rent, coachings, competing and auditions (a conservative estimate), but it could be more or less depending on your living arrangement.


Tidbits, and some things I’ve found:



  1. A lot of the time, especially in this period of limbo after university and before becoming the new Maria Callas, this career is like being in an abusive relationship. Sometimes you do an audition and feel like a fire princess slaying all the things, and you still don’t get the gig. Sometimes you do an audition and feel like it was relatively average, come away expecting nothing, and then you do get the gig (to your surprise). The randomness of much of our success as singers will make you feel very out of control of your furture.


Keep in mind, however, that the panel will like you or they won’t, and you don’t actually have a say in that. Most of the time you have no control over that fact. Just go into your audition and tell stories to the best of your ability. If you can walk out of an audition knowing that you did your best, then you’ve won that audition. I know you want to punch me in the face for saying this, but it’s true.


  1. Just back on the topic of financial strains; doing courses of private study rarely get a look in with grant applications, or so I’ve found. Unfortunately, even if you’ve put in months/years of effort finding contacts and setting up opportunities for yourself (and have the references to back them up), the odds of you getting a large grant to do your studies are extremely low, so factor this into your budgeting. I received a couple of smaller grants for specific things (like German lessons at the Goethe Institut, for example), so that can be a good place to start if you’re really keen to get your B2 German, or something equally as specific.


  1. One of the difficulties with starting afresh overseas is the constant need to ask for help, and how that makes you feel pretty… helpless… (pun intended). We live in a world where everyone is constantly too busy to do anything at all. What this means is you will have to contact and re-contact people most of the time. As in, a good 40% of every day of your life will be you sending follow up messages and emails to people asking if you can have a coaching. You feel like you’re harassing them, which sucks. It works, though, and you will get that coaching, you just have to put in the time. Sometimes there is the odd unicorn who will reply to you and give you all the information you need, which is wonderful.
  2.  Finding an apartment in Germany can be incredibly difficult. There are two options – furnished, or unfurnished. Furnished places tend to be a little more expensive per month, but if you can afford it, I’d recommend this option. Unfurnished apartments do genuinely mean unfurnished. When we moved into our current place, we didn’t have a functioning sink or a tap in the kitchen, for example. A friend of mine knows someone who moved into an unfurnished place in Berlin that didn’t have a floor. Prepare yourself for this possibility.


You need several months to find somewhere to live, unless you get EXTREMELY lucky. It’s time consuming and all in German, so factor that into your temporal budget.


  1. Wifi is a complete joke in Germany. I paid for the contract nearly two months ago, and the wifi still doesn’t work at home. It took five weeks for a technician from Vodafone to come and set up the router, and then the wifi didn’t work anyway. Unfortunately data packages for your mobile phone are also very expensive, which isn’t that weird for an Australian, but it is when you compare the lightning speed and cheap cost of the same thing in France, England, India, literally anywhere else… The good news is, this is generally already set up for you if you go for a furnished place, or start at an Air BnB.


Remember, too, that you’re having to deal with all of these things in not your Muttersprache, so that’s an added stress. That said, battling it out over contracts with sales people is a really good way to improve your languages.


  1. Regardless of where you end up, make sure you work with a teacher and a coach who work for you. The greatest blessing for me when I left Sydney was that I had so much TIME all of a sudden, which meant that I had the psychological space to work out what I wanted from my singing, and really spend the time finding what felt the healthiest, and what sounded the healthiest for me and my voice. I’ve had a lot of input and opinions given to me about my sound (and I’m truly grateful about this), but when I left Australia I was in a bit of a muddle. To have had the time to sort everything out and really work out what works for me is something I will always treasure. You won’t always have teachers and mentors around you who care about you, so make sure you know how to look after yourself as well.


  1. Even if you do well, the ups and downs of rejections will get on top of you some of the time. The emotional yoyo of wondering if you’ll actually make it is completely exhausting (some days it’s not, but some days it is). Make sure you have some key people and mentors you can call when you’re feeling down. Someone I love dearly was kind enough to offer to get on a plane to Europe and slap me in the face in person if I gave up – which at the time was exactly what I needed to hear.


  1. It can happen that you realise that you don’t actually want the career you thought you wanted, or you’re not actually going to have the career you thought you would. Either of these scenarios might make you feel like you’re a failure, because you’ve done all this work. You’re not. Don’t worry. The fact that you’ve taken the leap to go to another country and really stretch yourself is so damn commendable. *gives reader another mum-esque squishy cuddle*. It’s never too late to start something different in your life, so go and chase that rainbow if it will make you happy.


  1. Everything takes longer than you think it will. I applied for the same number of auditions in 2018 (for 2019), and made it through to ONE only. The 2019 (for 2020) applications were much more fruitful. You need to be on the ground for a little while, as it were, unless you’re INCREDIBLY LUCKY.


  1. Keeping up with calling your family and friends back home can be tricky, as well as missing births, deaths and marriages. Once again: mentors and supportive people make all the difference.





I wouldn’t change the fact that I moved to Europe for anything. I had been saving for this jump for about seven years, and I’ll never regret having done it. The plan is to stay for as long as possible, and hopefully get a few more languages under my belt (and all possible work as an opera singer, obviously).


So all I can say is, if you’re wondering what it might be like, the only way to really know is to try for yourself, so BOOK A TICKET (and come and say hi if you’re in Dresden!).


Jess xxx

What Happens When You Hustle Too Hard

Let’s talk about Burnout, baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that can be.


It’s the plague of our times, it seems, and particularly bad in Sydney, where I have lived most of my life. Perhaps it’s rife the world over? Perhaps it’s just rife for Millennials? Who knows. I can only reflect on my own experience, and that is one of a 20 something year old Australian opera singer, so here we go.


It would be fair to say that my career really started to ‘take off’ in 2017. This was when I started to do really well in competitions (stupidly, hysterically well. I still can’t believe it) and I had a lot of (albeit unpaid) work to do with smaller companies – three main roles, actually, in the space of six months. As none of this was able to be paid (Strayaaaaaa) I was still only making money through retail and teaching. So that’s a rather full schedule, wouldn’t you say?


Don’t get me wrong, it really was extraordinary fun, and there was something very simple about that period in my work/life because I just didn’t have time to even consider having an existential crisis because I was far too busy making art (and I hope it was good art? I think it was…). Things were going so amazingly well, I thought that pace was normal and necessary to keep up my momentum.


Then it all stopped.


Right after two huge comp finals in July, it was all over.


I got really sick. REALLY. SICK. The sickest I had been for many, many years, and I could barely sing anymore, let along get up and do human stuff on any given day. As I’m sure you can understand, when that happens to someone who had been defining herself by her singing (and the quality of her singing – remember that old saying about how you’re only as good as your last performance?) I became completely lost. I was unwell for six full weeks – way too long for anyone, not least a robust young woman.


So why had this happened?


We can all agree, I think, that it was a particularly bad case of burnout. Burnout at it’s very worst; and epitomising why it has been so aptly named. So much of me was totally ‘burnt’ to the quick, there was barely anything left. I struggled through some auditions and performances in August, but I hated what I was producing the whole time because my poor instrument was under so much strain, it was only performing to 30% of it’s capabilities. I kept my appointments and did all those things because I thought I had to – that saying no would fling me into oblivion forever and I would NEVER EVER have opportunities like that again.


Ridiculous, in hindsight.


Understandable, on the other hand. Because there is so precious little work in Australia for classical singers (and, I believe for all classical musicians, but I can only speak from my own experience). We are therefore all expected to jump at every possibility of stage time, and god knows we will be judged harshly in the courtroom of the populus if we don’t take these opportunities, or complain about ‘exposure’ not being an adequate means of payment, or god forbid we don’t IMMEDIATELY succeed because of the prize money you’ve won. Guilty as charged – I used to perceive better artists than me in this way, because I desperately wanted the opportunities and backing that they had.


One can only actually earn these successes, of course. My jealousy of better artists than me is actually what bolstered me to working very hard and very effectively for many years. This paid off in spades, but I had never worked out how to balance myself when success did actually come. There are plenty of terrific articles by Olympic athletes about this on the internet and the crux of most of them is to make sure you don’t lose sight of what is actually important – which in my case is making great art. Producing beauty for others to enjoy. Planting little seeds of joy and catharsis in this dark, difficult (but also fiercely wonderful and absolutely extraordinary) world.


It’s also important to make sure you don’t stop entirely after something gargantuan – like a big competition or the Olympics, for example – so you have something to put your mind to once you’ve finished. Even if it’s a smaller project, like having tea with a mate and working on some secco recits every Tuesday evening, you’ll be doing yourself a favour.


Once I had recovered from my drop into oblivion, the momentum started again. 2018 was a wonderful year, which set me up to (FINALLY) move countries. In 2019 I made the move (another blog is coming soon on this topic, stay tuned!) and much of my life changed… as you might imagine.


So there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and if you’re burned out take some time to relax. Even if it’s an hour of phone off, lying on the beach, the world ain’t gonna end mate. Take some time to consider if there are some gigs you can pass on to your friend who’s looking to build up their network in your area. Yes, we all need the stage time (and the money, when it’s an option), but consider the rehearsal time and the company you will be keeping. If they’re people who you know will be awesome to work with, then go for it! Go make great art!


Nicole Car was quoted once as saying ‘What you say ‘no’ to in your career is just as important as what you say ‘yes’ to’, so with that in mind, I encourage you to do all the things, by all means, but make sure you have recovery time, and keep an even keel with your days off.


If you’re seriously struggling with time management, I’d recommend a little educational afternoon on YouTube with Matt d’Avella and from there, by all means go down the self help rabbit hole. Some of it’s quite entertaining.


Jess xx


Ruminations on moving to Europe, Minimalism etc.



I’ve spent the last, say, three weeks selling all my stuff because I am moving to the other side of the world in a month’s time. I knew that downsizing was going to be a great time anyway because (like most people from the ages of 20-30) I had accrued way too much stuff thinking that I needed it. To no-one’s surprise it turns out I really didn’t.

The biggest offender for me was undoubtedly makeup. I mean, who can blame me? It’s awesome! There’s something almost pornographic in the act of applying lipstick (Tim Minchin – lipstick is for making your lips look more like the lips of a happy vagina, am I right?). It happened towards the end of last year when I purchased one of those holiday season gift set doobies from M.A.C. Cosmetics. I love the brand and the quality of those products – they perform very well on stage as well as in normal life – but I felt so physically sick after I had purchased them. I realised it had to stop there. I knew there was a Colourpop order of about 16 lipsticks coming to me soon as well. Way too much. Who the hell needs that much lipstick? I thought I did, but after a year of not buying makeup at all I realised that I really don’t.

So the first thing worth noting is that I have saved $1,289.00 in 2018 not buying makeup. Thats the cost of my one way ticket overseas. Incredible. The second thing worth noting is that I still have a total over supply of everything makeup related. I’m not going to need anything new any time soon. The only thing I purchased was cream concealer when I ran out. I damn well purchased two of them because they were half price, and then of course I got home and found both my Kryolan and my Ben Nye colour wheels… I mean really! This particular concealer can double as foundation though so that’s good. I’ll forgive myself that one mistake.

The next thing I observed in this purge was how much plastic I was wasting. Of course I recycle all of my containers when they’re used up, and am faithfully enjoying the ‘back to M.A.C.’ campaign, but so much of my makeup was recycled before I had finished it because I had opened it, swatched it, worn it a couple of times and then not continued to do so for whatever reason. It sat on my vanity and wasted away. Literally. Wasted. A crying shame, actually, when I think about it too hard. That’s me contributing to the plastic pollution problem by succumbing to capitalism and vanity. Sigh.

Needless to say I will not be letting myself get back to that state ever again. I’d say it will take about 3 years to get through all my stuff, as long as it doesn’t expire first.

I’d always thought I needed this much makeup because of the stage. WRONG. Probably to no-one’s surprise, I realised that once I found a look I liked I just recreated it every time. The act of putting on makeup before performing is something I enjoy enormously. It centres me and helps me to become zen. While focussing on my words etc I don’t have the brain space to also try a new look/ attempt that cut crease I’ve always wanted to. This lead me to creating a custom palette, which was such a spectacular move. It also started my minimalism journey – but I shall elaborate on that later.

So while in Florence this July, I wandered into a Wycon store. It’s. A brand of makeup which is very affordable, and I have thus far only come across it in Italy. I had time on my hands and I still love swatching red lipstick, even though I am not allowed to buy any. What I found there, though, was an empty palette that I could buy for €5. I grabbed it immediately, knowing this was the answer to many of my desires in terms of downsizing my makeup. (Does anyone else find that packing a face palette as well as an eye palette along with heels and what not is just way too much to face when you’re already going to an audition?) I had this beaten up, much loved Kat von D shade and light face contour palette which I LOVED, but had totally used up all of the lighter setting powders, and only used one pan of the contour shades, so why was I lugging around this A5 sized thing everywhere with me?

The Wycon palette changed my life. I de-potted my contour shade and chucked/ recycled the rest (mere scrapings left, don’t worry), and proceeded to de-pot my Limecrime Venus palette as well, my NARS ‘orgasm’ blush and a couple of single shadows I had from around the place. Placing all of that in the one palette and re designing the layout was one of the most satisfying things, and I felt so liberated afterwards. I will never, ever buy a palette again (unless I know I will use ABSOLUTELY EVERY SINGLE SHADOW IN THERE). The beauty of using the ‘build your own’ system is that when I run out of my any shade I can replace it with the same or similar without having to purchase an entire palette. I cannot begin to tell you how much joy this gives me – eternally surprising given how delighted and inspired I used to be with buying new makeup. If you want to get in on this idea the clear winner according to the YouTube beauty community is the ‘Z Palette’, but INGLOT also do one, and obviously Wycon too.

So now let me address part two, or perhaps the crux of this essay: Minimalism. I never, ever thought I would become this person, but I am rushing towards this lifestyle with every fibre of my being. Everything changed for me when I was in Europe for 2 months this year, living out of a suitcase (doing the opera singer thing, yo). I thought, initially, that it would be a really difficult time not having all my clothes and my STUFF with me, but it was the easiest thing ever. I took five lipsticks with me and I finished two while I was away. Recycling those containers felt like such an achievement! The only thing I missed was my laptop, but I managed to do all I needed with the iPad (but I had to pay for microsoft word for a couple of months and stuff – so will be avoiding that this time around).

When I moved house at the beginning of this year I had to downsize by two thirds – an enormous job. It literally took me weeks. I thought I would never recover. Did I miss my stuff? Not even a little bit. I couldn’t even tell you what I used to own and why I had it.

Never. Again.

I’m downsizing again at the moment because I’m moving to Germany soon, and I can’t take all my stuff with me, obviously. A friend of mine came to pick up some books from me the other day and he said “You have so much stuff! What are you going to do with all your stuff?!” And I realised he was absolutely on the money. So I have been donating and selling pretty much everything I own, or don’t think will be useful for me in the next three years or so. I had a pretty fab collection of second hand classics in my bookshelf, but someone else is going to now be able to buy them for $2 a pop at Vinnies, and enjoy their wonders. That is a fantastic thing. Likewise I am donating my musical instruments to the ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ project – so a child somewhere in this vast country will have a guitar to play on. That’s awesome. Absolutely awesome.

I’m keeping my Bärenreiter editions of the Mozart/Da Ponte operas, Zauberflöte, Trovatore, Traviata and Maria Stuarda because these are things I need to study, and I know I’ll sing all of these roles in my career (obviously waiting a couple more years for the Verdi, but we all knew that). Everything else is going to dear friends who I know will love and use them. This makes me incandescently happy.

Three boxes only will be going to storage. Three 52 litre containers, and that’s it.

The goal is to get all my stuff down to one large suitcase if I can manage it (might be hard given I invested in two couture dresses this year – no regrets, by the way). I’ll have to wear my ski jacket to the airport, but that’s gonna be ok. Totally worth it, I reckon.

My other goals are:

  • Gradually making my tax a paperless affair and entirely digital.
  • When I need (and only when I NEED) a new dress or piece of clothing I will make an effort to invest in something tailored beautifully which will last ages. Fast fashion and I have never really been friends, but I think I owe it to the planet I get to live on and make art on to do my part. I also owe it to myself to dress properly, you know?
  • Never buying things on a whim. Sometimes I think about how people during WWII couldn’t even have butter, and they managed fine. I think I’ll be right without mountains of stationary and lipstick, you know?

So this whole exercise has been more than worth it. It has been life changing, actually, and I am so thrilled to have done it. I feel much lighter as a human being and so excited to not have to think about all of my stuff everywhere. What a joy. Funny how this sort of sifting process totally frees up your creativity too… you’ll be interested to know that my practicing is much more focussed. Thank goodness.

Contact me if you would like some ideas on de-cluttering, but if you want something you can watch while you chop your vegetables just type ‘minimalism and decluttering’ into YouTube. There’s a plethora of interesting advice there.


Jess xx

Performance Anxiety

Performance Anxiety


Ahhh old mate Performance Anxiety… That little voice in the back of our heads that tells us we aren’t good enough…

I thought it was time to pen a little something on this topic, because I seem to be at a point in my career where performance anxiety doesn’t affect me as much as it used to. Suffice to say I am certain there will be moments to come in my life when anxiety rears its ugly head and becomes unbearable again, as these things come in waves, but perhaps future Jess will find some comfort in these ideas, so that’s something.

Anxiety has always manifested itself as an evil little voice in my head, telling me I am not good enough. Super helpful, right? As soon as I approach that top note or that long, melismatic phrase, the voice says “Oh yes, this is the bit you’re going to screw up cos you actually suck. Ok well have fun then bye.” Cool. Thanks anxiety. Thanks brain. Super grateful. ❤

I had a mentor at Uni by the name of Tessa Bremner, whose input on this particular subject I really appreciated. She used to talk about that little voice, and called it something along the lines of ‘the parrot on your shoulder’, which is obviously an awesome metaphor. Whenever I had a brain block and the anxiety took over (usually to the point of me not even physically being able to sing anymore) she would tell me to “knock the parrot off”, and keep going. At first, doing exactly that was impossible; but I kept at it and succeeded eventually.

So I found myself in a place where, if I yelled inwardly at myself, I would be able to perform. Marginally better, yes, but there was a long way to go.

So much of what we do depends on a positive self-image and self love. I started to realise that when I focussed on what I was doing well, I started improving much faster (instead of damning myself whenever I got something wrong). To this day the performance recap I do with myself usually goes a little something like this:

‘OK so that particular section needs some work, but you nailed this bit and I loved the following things about that performance blah blah blah’

This manner of thinking has helped me no end. When I approach a performance now, I don’t panic about it (as long I have done the work – and I ALWAYS do the work). There will eternally be that rush of adrenaline before you walk out onto the stage – but that of course comes under the umbrella of ‘good stress’, and we need that energy to get through our performance.

Positive self talk, and acknowledgement of how far we have come is an incredibly helpful thing. Find yourself a teacher/ mentor who will encourage you positively, but know that it’s pretty much exclusively up to you to talk yourself up in a positive way. Know that you have something special and you have stories to tell. Keep going. Be kind to yourself.

It’s so hard to do, but practise (haha) and it will get easier. You will reap the rewards and see yourself improve much more. Go you good thing! I believe in you!

Auditioning for Schools in the UK

Blog Post.

The fist one.


It’s a bit exciting.

Having travelled recently I thought it might be worth recording my experience for all the other young opera singers trying to break through the good old glass ceiling and get some exposure in that Mecca of Opportunity: the Northern Hemisphere.

Now let me get to the question you’re all thinking: How much will it cost? Will I be broke forever if I go? Are there special cooties overseas that I need to worry about? Well there are many different things to consider when going on this trip – here’s a breakdown for ya:

Part One: Of Budgets and Suchlike

  1. Return plane ticket: $2,500
  2. Cost of auditions at the Colleges and Schools: $1,100
  3. Accommodation: $2,000
  4. Extra travel: $1,000
  5. Singing lessons $1,000
  6. Amenities: $700
  7. Contingency: $2,000

So the total comes to a bit over $10,000. Ahhhh the exchange rate. Such fun.

Now, let me mention a disclaimer; I am the luckiest person alive and managed to stay with family and friends (therefore not paying rent) for the entire two month period I was away. So that was pretty fantastic, not gonna lie.

As to those of you who do not have this spectacular luxury, do not despair! There were several other Aussie song birds in the motherland while I was there as well and the general consensus was that staying in an Air B’n’B was the best thing. You can make your own food and practice etc. Staying in a hotel and eating out all the time gets very boring very quickly, and staying in a noisy hostel with backpackers is going to suck when you think about all the sleep and focus you need to audition well.

Next disclaimer; As to auditions, I could have done the bulk of them in one month. I was overseas for the extra month to have a wee sabbatical and meet many of my extended family. This extra month was made all the more worth it because I was invited to audition for the Opéra National du Paris Young Artist Program. Which brings me to the next part of the blog: The actual auditions.

Part Two: The Auditions Themselves

While overseas I auditioned for five post-graduate programs: The Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester), Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (Cardiff), Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Royal College of Music and The Royal Academy of Music (London). The experiences at each of these places were varied. Some were extremely positive, and others were not. As they are all musical institutions (and therefore extremely necessary for humanity) I will not elaborate on which were good and which were bad out here on the internet… so buy me a drink and I’ll tell you in person if you really want to know!

Some of the auditions were held in a small room with a two person panel, and some were held on a stage with a three – to – five person panel. Most of the auditions in the CUKAS system are in two parts. You go in and sing an aria or two and have a chatette with the panel, and then they ask you back for round two if they like you. Yours truly had a mixed bag with all of them, and two offers by the end of the tour. Sensational.

The audition at the Opéra National du Paris was the first of it’s kind I had ever experienced. Never have I been so privileged as to be able to audition for a contracted position. I waited behind the stage and then was introduced to the panel, went on, sang my aria… and that was that, really. It is my understanding that panels at this level always have a poker face – so prepare yourselves for that inevitability and don’t be thrown off your game because of it.

Part Three: CUKAS

Ah CUKAS…. So much of my life was spent on that online world of enrolment. Seriously, set aside about a month to get it sorted. You’ll need at least that long.

  1. You have to write a personal statement and list a whole lot of references as well (one academic and one character FOR EVERY APPLICATION).
  2. The cost of each audition ranges from £40-£100 With the exchange rate I ended up paying about $1000 AUD for all mine.
  3. (At time of writing) The CUKAS website is absolutely terrible to navigate. Possibly the worst and most confusing university website I have ever come across. Thankfully they have extremely helpful chat/online help… which almost makes up for the site.

Part Four: Practical Audition Stuff

  1. A few truths; you will ALWAYS WITHOUT FAIL wakeup with razorblades in your throat and a big pimple on your face the day of the audition. That said; neither of these things will impact your ability to perform, if you’ve done the work. So go out there AND BE AWESOME COS YOU ARE.
  2. Arrive early. I cannot emphasise this enough. If your audition advice letter asks you to arrive 30 mins before your audition, make sure you are there 40 mins before your audition. If you’re travelling around London, the tube is awesome but there is a lot of ground to cover. Also, the District and Circle lines are VERY slow so leave plenty of time to get where you need to go! You also have no reception on the tube as you are underground, so you can’t generally call someone to say you’re running late.
  3. The metro in Paris is pretty fantastic. I found it very easy to get around while I was there. Yay Paris!
  4. Take your time with your makeup. Steady hands make for even wings and blending skills. Slow breaths people, slow breaths.
  5. Remember that the result of the audition has very little to do with you. Get in there and tell a story – that is the best you can do. Then buy yourself a beer or an icecream. You did good : – )
  6. If you don’t get selected for the audition, send an email asking for feedback. Panels are usually happy to give you something constructive if they have the time.

Part Five: Useful Tidbits

  1. I took a QANTAS cash card over with me, which was AWESOME. You can load AUD, pounds, Euro and other currencies onto it. You can also withdraw cash in the local currency (even if you only have AUD on your card – the exchange rate is automatically calculated… ah the joys of modern technology) from ATMs with this card. It made the money side of things very easy, especially as I had a pay cycle from my normal job come through after I had left.
  2. I purchased a British sim card when I arrived in London from Three. It cost £40 for the month and came with UNLIMITED DATA. This meant that I could call whomever I so pleased on Facebook/Viber/Facetime/any other data based app, and it didn’t cost me anything extra. I mean, COME ON.
  3. If you’re seeing coaches while away, take cash to them. The going rate in London is £60 – £80 for a session.
  4. Banlangen Granules are the best immunity boosting thing ever. It’s worth buying some from an Asian apothecary (I got mine at the one in Haymarket, Sydney). The advice I was given by some wonderful mentors was that it was likely I would fall ill while there (especially after the flight and drastic change of season), and would be extra susceptible to the germs, as they would be foreign. I didn’t get sick while there, and I had a Banlangen tea every day. Coincidence? I don’t know… and I never will.