30. November 2022


Do we really want to sing until we die?

When it stops

I wanted to wait with this BLOG until the issue of CORONA was a thing of the past; but the longer the crisis lasts, the more critical the STOPPING issue will probably become for some of us. If you are „unkündbar“, you don’t have to read this…

Singing until you drop dead?

There is the story of the grandiose Martha Mödl, who had no time to celebrate her 80th birthday because she had too many performances. That’s how I always saw myself: singing until I dropped! Well, life has taught me otherwise:
Most of the „cool“ roles for old ladies are written for lower and, above all, louder voices than mine. After years as Isolde and Küsterin, however, I am far too vain to bow as one of the first voluntarily – so I preferred to stop doing grand opera altogether (waiting for the Countess in Pique Dame;). However, I know several colleagues who like to sing more minor roles and thus have less stress than with the prominent roles and can still earn good money and be part of the theatre life. Everyone has to know who they are and where they stand as a singer, and then make the right decision for themselves.

Who are we singing for?

It is nice when the audience is happy and goes home, touched and inspired. But honestly: the ones who need singing the most are us, the singers: the physical and mental energy that singing releases are addictive, and all the fuss around it is usually fun. The decision to give it up and no longer be part of it is tricky; there has to be a good alternative!

Speaking of decisions: is it the singers‘ decision when to quit?

For women, „it“ starts at menopause. If you don’t „just sail through without noticing anything“, that was definitely NOT my case. For many female singers, it might be like this described in a monologue in the family play „KunstReGen“, which I developed together with my daughters:

..You’ve been thinking about how to celebrate your self-determined stage farewell on Facebook; you get lots of hearts, likes and „oh, what a shame, do you really think you should stop?“ comments. But before you get any further with your thoughts on the perfectly placed farewell point, you realise that you’re not quitting at all – you ARE being quitted…

You are quitting because there just aren’t any more requests coming in.

One thing we should be clear about:

Even if we are clever about lying about our age or even hiding it all together: Most people can put 2 and 2 together, and anyone who has lasted 30+ years on the job is hardly going to be in their early 40s! You might be able to cheat 3-4 years, but even that is very exhausting because innocent questions like „when did you actually start your first engagement?“ make you sweat. Let’s not kid ourselves: people know roughly how old we are, and, quite honestly, life is more relaxed with the truth!

Now the other theatre truth comes into play: It makes a difference whether you are a freelancer or an ensemble member!

In the ensemble, as a mezzo, you can perhaps sing Hansel again at 45, but in the wild freelance world, you either sing the mother, the witch, or you no longer have any work opportunities in this piece. Even a high tenor who CAN still sing Ramiro and Lindoro or Nemorino at 50 will hardly find work as a freelancer in these roles because there are younger singers who may not have the experience but who embody these roles of young lovers more credibly. It may not suit us, but that’s the way it is!

As a light lyrical voice, it’s hardest: if your voice doesn’t move up/down or into the dramatic, you’re not a bad person for it, but you need an alternative sooner! If your voice develops into the dramatic from your late 30s/early 40s, you are lucky and can enjoy your career for quite a long time. with good vocal coaching.

Prevention is better than failure.

Talk to your agency from time to time about adapting your repertoire… Nowadays, it is more system-compatible to be a little too young for a role than to enter it a little too old. This may seem exaggerated and unfair, but as long as we can’t change the system, we should try to survive in it. Keep fit as long as possible but be realistic.

The lower voices have a little more time. This is the compensatory justice for having to wait for years before they can/are allowed to sing the „right“ roles.

Beat the agency/business to the punch: suggest parts yourself that are developmentally and age-appropriate, and don’t sit like a rabbit in front of the snake in front of the next decade-zero!

What do you do now? – First things first:

You MUST (I rarely write that you MUST, but here it is appropriate) have the question of an alternative in the back of your mind even in your early 30s: what else can you do? What do you want to do AFTER singing? If you can sing until 65+ and then have enough years/time together, you will get a pension – In Germany, the DRV and the Bayerische Versicherungskammer will send you an overview about your expected pension every year from about 55; if you were a freelancer, this might not be enough. Find out in good time about your pension, social security, KSK and all the things that artists don’t feel like doing. Please become a member of krea[K]tiv.art; they can help you.

It is inexcusable to drive into the wall with your eyes wide open in Internet times!

New doors can open.

If you’re earning a lot of money right now, you can invest some. (In other words: don’t spend it all:)) If you can count on rental income later, life is a bit friendlier than if you HAVE to sing.


You can teach for quite a long time, but it will only work well if you love it. In that case, start early and gradually and slowly build up a name for yourself. If you really, really like teaching, try to teach at a university in addition to singing. Even though teaching jobs are very modestly paid, if you want to become a professor, it is wise and sometimes even indispensable to have teaching experience at the university level.

Some singers then switch to cultural management. Programmes like the one in Zurich are ideal for this. My friend Susanne Petridis studied there and now builds websites for artists and helps them to position themselves in the market. (die.mARkTfrau)

You can also use your theatre experience to work in an agency, theatre, and cultural policy. Sören Fenner from Theapolis, for example, was a musical singer for a long time, had a great idea, implemented it, struggled for years and now has a business that helps artists and makes good money.

The tenor Marc Haffner has been brewing his own beer and is quite successful with it: Brotonia

The main thing is to find something that excites you.

Our profession is a dream as long as everything goes well – I can’t think of anything more beautiful than that unexplainable energy that flows through us and fills us up when a performance goes well! BUT it is a profession that requires good planning to feed us (solo) long enough and allow us to live with dignity in our old age.

Be prepared and take precautions!

See you soon on this BLOG,

Take care!



hedwig fassbender
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