Understanding the Germany Agencies & Agents
High Roads & Low Roads
A word from our founder Larry Bakst on getting started auditioning in Germany
“I won the Grand Prizes at Barcelona, Toulouse and Vercelli and was a Met Natioal Winner, yet when I went to Germany I had to sing for the agents like anyone else. Most of you will have to do that as well, so this advice is primarily for you. There are other avenues into the German system including Opera Studios, and associate artist programs, some of which have auditons in the US, but agents are not generally involved, so read and absorb the information provided below before you begin your audition tour…”
- German agents are different from American agents, in that they usually don’t require exclusivity.
- They make their money strictly by getting singers hired in theaters or concerts. Anybody who asks for a retainer, monthly fee, money for help with a webpage, audition classes or the like is NOT getting singers hired and making a living from that.
- Most serious agents have stronger contacts in one region than another and understand that singers will work with other agents.
- In the last decade Germany has significantly eased the restrictions on agents and there are now a plethora of agents working at all levels.
Who to contact?
- Click Here to a list of agents on operabase.com and it’s list of German agents. On this invaluable website, you can obtain contact information and website information to check individual artist’s performance schedule so you can see IF and WHERE they’re working.
- Agents today tell us your first and best step is to look at the websites of all the agents you can find. Does it look professional? Who are their singers and where are they working? You can even find out what roles they are singing and where by going to operabase.com and putting in the artist’s name.
- Our German List
German Contact Lists
Our Austrian List
Austrian Contact Lists
How to make contact?
- Once you have taken our 8 question survey, determined you are ready to #MakeTheDive into Germany, have put together your digital materials & determined your best repertoire, you are ready to start writing agents!
- Contacting agents in the 21st century is done by email. Therefore you want to write a SHORT & CONCISE email IN GERMAN, introducing yourself with your digital materials attached. We have put together a sample email for you to get started: Sample Agent Contact Email Link.
- The audition ‘season’ now covers most of the year.
– October-November, stretching to mid December.
– Mid January through May, except for the time before and shortly afterEaster.
- Be aware that German life and business slows down considerably around major and even minor holidays. Furthermore these holidays can
be different depending which Bundesland, or State, you’re in. If it’s an official holiday, schools are out, and you can find a listing of all
“Schulferien” (school vacations) and thus all holiday times at: https://www.schulferien.org/. When planning your audition tour keep these holidays in mind!
- What is Spielzeit? Like theaters here, German theater life is organized around a “season”, which goes from Fall to Summer of the next year. Theaters almost always close during the SOMMERFERIEN, which is exactly when schools are out in that Bundesland. You can find this inf the above SCHULFERIEN links. YOU’LL NEED SEVERAL MONTHS, OR TWO BLOCKS OF SIX WEEKS TO AUDITION-FIRST FOR AGENTS, THEN FOR THEATERS.
- Diving in with a US AGENT: For those who have agent and/or theater auditions arranged by US connections by all means use them. Direct introductions are always good and often lead to higher level entry positions. Keep in mind that unless hired for a role in a particular production (STÜCKVERTRAG) a higher level theaters will probably provide you with less performance & rehearsal experience in major roles. Often the best alternative is a FESTVERTRAG in a quality mid level theater where you will get much more experience and exposure. It depends on your needs and how you want to develop.
What To Expect?
- Be patient. It can take some agents a few months to reply back about scheduling auditions. We suggest that you write to agencies AT LEAST 3 MONTHS in ADVANCE of the dates that you want to travel and remain in Germany for Auditions.
- Once you have an audition confirmed and scheduled, BUY YOUR TRAIN TICKETS. They can sell out if you wait to the last minute. Also, leave yourself a few hours of cushion time the day of BEFORE THE AUDITION, incase your train is running late (which happens often!)
- You will be asked to pay €15-20 for the pianist at an audition and perhaps something similar to defray room/venue rental, but in the words of one very good agent, anything else “is a scam”.
- If they are interested, usually agents will not “sign you” right away. A good agent will want to see how you do on the audition circuit and if together, you can get you jobs…if so, a formal agreement will follow.
- Exclusivity is probably worth saying ‘yes’ to immediately if one of the top agencies like Hilbert or Lewin (in Vienna) offer to sign you and ask it, and you feel that you are really ready to begin at the top. BUT if you are really new and want to sing first for some others it is certainly
acceptable to say so and talk it over with the people. You may have to work a long
time with them so you should be sure you are comfortable with the relationship.
- Agents also want to see how how a singer does both onstage and as a member of a theater. They have a reputation and relationship to maintain with their theaters, and how you do reflects on them.
ZAV (Zentrale Auslands und Fachvermittlung)
- ZAV (tsed-a-fa:u), the government run agency for performing artisits, is not to be sneered at. They tend to work but are not limited to, smaller and middle leve theaters, but they get a lot of people jobs! They were a mainstay of our Founder Larry Bakst’s freelance career.
- Depending on where you decide to base yourself, you should sing for 2 or maximum 3 of them.
– They are in Berlin, München, Köln, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Hamburg/Hannover/Rostock
– Each one primarily serves their nearby geographic region.
– They are closely interconnected and all the agents share audition notes and information. They primarily work with mid-level and smaller theaters, but as one international agent said to me, “Don’t be a snob, a job is a job!”
- ZAV has particular requirements for it’s audition process…be aware that E-MAILS AND ATTACHMENTS ARE LIMITED TO 4MB!!! When you send your materials be sure to use lower resolutions for your pdf’s and jpg’s. As with all agents, use links to your clips.
- The ZAV will run the audition in German and will want you to speak German. Don’t bother auditioning for the ZAV if you don’t have at least some intermediate German under your belt. We would suggest studying German intensively for at least a couple of weeks before auditioning at ZAV. The Volkhochschule is inexpensive and in many cities. There are also many private tutors and the Goethe Institute. You don’t have to be fluent, but do have to understand basic questions.
- There is a 2-3 month wait for audition times, so write well in advance when you are making your plans.
Final Notes on Agents
- After doing your research, write as many as you can or “cast a wide net” so hopefully you will get a handful of auditions.
- Don’t be snooty. By all means write the top agents, but realize that they are much less likely to hear you. It’s nice to start out at the top, but you goal is to GET A JOB. Any agent who is getting people work and has connections in some theaters is worth singing for.