- Has excellent communication skills. The ability to present and sell, a young opera singer must come from a strong belief in that individual’s ability.
- Has excellent contacts in her territory. That may be one country, an entire continent or a group of countries with the same language – Germany Austria and Switzerland, for example. These contacts and her networking abilities will ensure that she gets contacted whenever new opportunities arise, a season gets cast or last-minute replacements are looked for.
- Be trusted by the opera and classical music community as a person that can be depended on to find good new talents, be professionally responsible and reliable in dealing with the artist be as well as being reasonable in negotiating contracts.
- Have a good relationship with the artist and be able to advise her/him on which roles to study, career strategy, career potentials, etc.
- Be organised and able to keep records in a professional manner.
- Follows up on leads supplied by the artist.
- Has experience and knowledge of opera repertoire, maybe even has some training either as a singer or musician.
- Be able to recognize his limits of influence or knowledge and give advice on where to go for better service.
All of the above facets are equally important. In our opinion, the most important is the professional network within the industry and the trust built between agent and opera company and agent and opera singer.
Having noted the above list, it is important to realize that agents, no matter how dedicated they are and how much they travel to keep up with their artists and networks, also only have 24 hours a day at their disposal. Meaning that most agents will have a well definied territory where they have their greatest area of influence. There are only a very few agents who are as powerful in the United States as they are in Germany and Korea, for example. Very simply because of the language, cultural and time zone differences.
Agents are often ambivalent about taking on opera singers at the beginning of their careers. On the one hand, agents get the opportunity to sign-on a great talent early on and build them up from the very beginning, maybe even making them “flavor of the month” for a few years and therefore assuring the singer and the agent a profitable relationship. On the other hand, it takes so much more work on the agent’s part to make the young singer known and there is absolutely no guarantee that success will come as planned or that the singer will “up and leave” the agent in a year’s time or so, making all the work for nought.
Most importantly, the chemistry between the agent and the singer has to work. You have to like one another. You have to trust one another completely.
There are many other facets to this topic – how do I know if an agent is the right one for me, the financial relationship between artist and agent, what if two agents claim to have gotten you an engagement, etc.
We cover these topics and many others to help you kickstart your opera career in the course. We invite you to sign up and get more actionable material to help you with your career strategy.