Your Career: Just One Click Away (Part Two)

Melanie Lodge advises: Find your passion, sharpen your skill, and trust a friend’s faith in you.

In part two of this interview, Melanie Lodge, founder of the London-based digital casting-book Audition Oracle, tells her own story and gives advice to singers who want to make it in the opera world.



AIF: When you started Audition Oracle, you were a singer yourself?

Melanie Lodge: Yes, but when I first started this venture four years ago, my outlook was bleak. I was heavily in the grip of whooping cough. As a result, I had to axe engagements from my diary left, right and centre, not knowing if I would be left with a voice at the end of it. I started to panic even more than usual about how to make ends meet if I were to maintain a career in the world of opera. Several years ago the idea came to me to start Audition Oracle but a similar successful service already existed in K-AA. When the news came that this was closing, I knew that the time was right to establish a service of my own.


AIF: How did you get the money to start Audition Oracle?

Melanie Lodge

Melanie Lodge, Audition Oracle

Melanie Lodge: A very special singer-friend had been nagging me to do this for a while. She took me out for dinner and offered to lend me the money to get started. Although blown away by her offer I thought the best way forward was for her to pay for her first year’s subscription in advance. Her faith in me was inspiring and I immediately went home to start building a basic WordPress website. I then posted this website on Facebook and Twitter, sat back and waited, and chewed my nails.

AIF: What was the reaction of the singer community?

Melanie Lodge: Having come into opera via other areas of the performing arts, I had to be creative and think outside the box to find out about work. Without realising it, I had developed a reputation for knowing about auditions before the panel knew they were happening! It turned out this was a very valuable skill. People began signing up at a rate that far exceeded my hopes. Even so the last four years have been a learning curve, and a very enjoyable one.

AIF: Looking at the experience your clients make with Audition Oracle, what advice do you give how to get to an audition?

Melanie Lodge: To get the Audition be selective. Don’t carpet-bomb every opportunity as you can do yourself more harm than good. Read and research each opportunity thoroughly. Are you honestly who they are looking for? If not, save your energy. Apply in the manner the company asks you to.

AIF: If a singer is writing a cover letter or email to a casting director, what should it look like?

Melanie Lodge: Thoughtful but concise. Employers only have time to skim read one page so make sure your important relevant experience is clearly displayed and leave out the fillers for both covering letters and CVs. Make an administrator’s life easy. If they have asked for a one page CV saved in your name, voice type and PDF format, do it. Google can tell you how and it takes seconds. (For more details see the links below. AIF)

AIF: Singers might be surprised if they get an offer that is not what they aimed for. What should they to do?

Melanie Lodge: Be willing to explore, uncover, accept and revel in your niche. If people can’t see you as the big dramatic lead but are falling over themselves to get you on-board as the character tenor, why fight it? Embrace it and enjoy a world class (and potentially very long!) career with a list of contacts that could come in very handy when your voice and repertoire adjust in the future. Don’t forget: Having an excellent career is not all about having the greatest voice.







Look at the resources of Audition Oracle about creating your covering letter or email:











Your Career: Just One Click Away (Part I)

A web service in the UK can lead you to opera auditions throughout Europe.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an oracle was a female priest in ancient Greece who gave people “wise advice.” Nowadays, advice for singers comes from the London-based digital casting-book Audition Oracle. Its programming system is designed to offer the wisest help that can be given to singers: connecting them with organisers of musical events. In a two-part interview with AIF, Melanie Lodge, founder of Audition Oracle, lays out the benefits of a membership and gives advice to aspiring singers who want to make it in the opera world.

Melanie Lodge

Melanie Lodge, founder Audition Oracle

AIF: How do singers and the organisers of music events use Audition Oracle to come together?

Melanie Lodge: There are several ways that Audition Oracle connects people. Organisers can post a vacancy and professional singers who meet the criteria can apply with our one click application process. Organisers can then offer a job directly or select which candidates they would like to invite for audition. Alternatively, organisers can browse our database of professional artists and offer work directly, or invite to audition, any artist(s) that they feel might be suitable.

AIF: What is the benefit for professional singers?

Melanie Lodge: Membership of Adition Oracle gives professional singers access to the latest vocal auditions and opportunities in the industry. We are the largest source of professional opera, classical and choral auditions in Europe. Artists can upload their CV, publicity materials and media to enable employers to find and view them based on their experience, voice type and more.

AIF: How much does the membership cost?

Melanie Lodge: Student professional membership costs £54/year and professional, £99/year. Audition Oracle offers a free 30-day trial to singers so they can experience directly how beneficial the service is before becoming a full member. Membership to the service includes access to a mobile friendly work and auditions board that keeps them up to date with hundreds of auditions, work and Young Artists Program opportunities throughout the UK, Europe and North America every day.


AIF: Presenting a centuries old art form, Opera houses and agencies might be hesitant to embrace the use of digital technology. How do you convince opera houses and agencies to change their habits of recruiting singers the traditional way?

Melanie Lodge: We find that once we have helped a company or an individual employer out, they have been swift to embrace our system and continue to use it without prompting in the future. Many companies have registered their own account and choose to receive applications for their opportunities exclusively via Audition Oracle.

AIF: What happen when singers apply?

Melanie Lodge: When singers apply via the website for an opportunity, they can do so at a click of a button as their CV’s, media files and experience are automatically attached to the application. This saves companies precious admin time, protects their email inbox and organises applications into one format in one designated space. Here companies can clearly view individuals name, head shot, voice type, cover letter, CV and all associated media from their applications and sort them to follow up as required.

More information can be found at

Soon: Read part 2 of this interview – Melanie Lodge’s advice for auditions and how to get hired again.



Tosca Writes Poems and Sings Them, Too

For London-based soprano Katerina Mina, generosity of emotions is the most important trait on stage.

This blog continues its series of profiles of young American, Canadian, and British singers who sing German repertoire. Their answers to a small set of questions show what it takes to pursue the career of their dreams. Katerina Mina’s singing ranges between Wagner and Puccini, Barber and music to her own poetry.


Photo: Shantha Delaundy Photography

From where?
I was born in Cyprus to a Greek father and a Cypriot mother.

Your Fach?
Spinto Soprano

Your favourite role:
My absolute favourite role has to be Tosca! I’m so looking forward to performing this role next year in a tour in the USA with the American National Opera Company.

Your hero in opera:
Joyce DiDonato

Your hero in real life:
My beloved mother Anastasia

Your recent performance:
Dvorak’s “Stabat Mater” & “Te Deum” in Bishop’s Castle, England.

Best opera production you saw in Germany:
“La Forza del Destino” at Bayerische Staatsoper.

Craziest opera production you saw in Germany:
“Faust” at Deutsche Oper Berlin.

The biggest challenge in singing German opera or Lieder:
Organising and forming the consonants in such a way that they are prominent, yet part of the legato line.

The latest opera production you’ve put on stage:
Santuzza from Mascagni’s opera “Cavalleria Rusticana”, one of my favourite characters of verismo opera.

And the reaction of the audience was …
It was such a great feeling to experience the love and warmth of the audience, something I am very thankful for. After I changed fach recently from the lyric to the more dramatic soprano repertoire, it is also very encouraging for me to receive the positive reaction of the audience, colleagues and my mentors.


As Elle in Francis Poulenc’s “La Voix Humaine”

Your next project or performance, and where:
Next week I am recording a new CD Album with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, with Maestro Grzegorz Nowak. The recording will consist of many beautiful arias from the Spinto Soprano repertoire including two German pieces, Leonore’s aria from Beethoven’s “Fidelio” and Elsa’s Dream from Wagner’s “Lohengrin”. There will also be arias by Puccini, Verdi, Cilea, Giordano; Samuel Barber’s “Andromache’s Farewell” and two world-premiere pieces written by Swiss composer Stephan Hodel on two of my poems with titles “Love” and “Angel of Fire” . It is the first time my poetry is set into music!

Your favourite quality in a singer:
I love sincere singers who possess an individual sound in their voice and who are emotionally generous on stage.

Your favourite German word:


Find more information about Katerina Mina at

Watch and listen to her performance of “Vier Lieder” by Alma Mahler-Werfel.






Schade, mein Idol!

The British soprano Kirstin Sharpin on favorite singers and favorite words.

This blog continues its series of profiles of young American, Canadian, and British singers who sing German repertoire. Their answers to a small set of questions show what it takes to pursue the career of their dreams. For soprano Kirstin Sharpin it means also to find her home in Berlin.

From where?
Scottish Kiwi or Kiwi Scot, depending on your point of view! Born in New Zealand, huge Scottish ties and family, moved there in 2001 and eventually gained British citizenship. My family is scattered all over the world, though.



Photo: Axel Michel

Your Fach?
Jugendlich Dramatisch Soprano

Since when in Berlin?
January 2015

Your favorite role:
That’s tricky! I’ve enjoyed different aspects of all my roles – Elettra, Tatyana, Suor Angelica, Vitellia, Leonore (Beethoven) are some of my favourites to date. Valkyries are fun, too.

Your hero in opera:
I grew up idolising Dame Joan Sutherland. Then she was replaced by Jessye Norman, Régine Crespin, Birgit Nilsson…. Sorry, Joan!

Your hero in real life:
I admire people who don’t choose the easy road, who break the mould and go for what they believe in. I’m very lucky to have a number of people like that in my life, and they are my heroes.

Best opera production you saw in Germany:
Lohengrin at the Deutsche Oper Berlin or Elektra at the Staatsoper – I can’t choose!

Idomeneo - Mozart - Blackheath Halls Community Opera - 14th July 2015Musical Director - Nicholas Jenkins
Director - James Hurley
Designer - Rachel Szmukler
Lighting Designer - Ben Pickersgill

Idomeneo - Mark Wilde
Idamante - Sam Furness
Ilia - Rebecca Bottone
Electra - Kirstin Sharpin
Arbace - William Johnston Davies

Pupils from Charlton Park Academy, Greenvale School, Year 5 from Beecroft Garden Primary School and Year 5 from Mulgrave Primary School

Blackheath Halls Chorus and Blackheath Halls Orchestra

As Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo. Photo: Robert Workman

Craziest opera production you saw in Germany:
There was a Fliegende Holländer I really couldn’t find the key to. Still puzzling over that one!

Your recent performance:
I had the huge privilege and pleasure of singing at a benefit for ‘Pulse of Europe’ recently. It was organised by Alban Gerhardt, and I sang a special arrangement of Wagner’s ‘Träume’ with some of the best musicians in Europe, if not the world. When you struggle to sing because the playing is so beautiful… that’s a real treat.

A thing or habit of Germans you find funny:
It’s very unfair of me, but I do find the use of “oder?” at the every second sentence amusing, especially when it gets translated literally into English!

A thing or habit of Germans you find annoying:
I’m not a big fan of the high specificity of much of German bureaucracy/rule-following behaviour – a little room to improvise/adapt/use your own judgement is sometimes necessary.

A story in which you were glad that you spoke German:
Every day! I started with almost none, and can now have reasonable conversations in most circumstances. I love being able to build pleasant relationships with the people I encounter regularly, and having a language in common helps hugely with that! You also get to find out how many Germans are huge opera fans (and often, why – the assistant at my local Apotheke has very strong opinions on Tristan & Isolde!)

Your favorite quality in a singer:
I love hearing singers who take risks to convey the emotion of their characters. Even if it doesn’t quite work out, or isn’t the most beautiful sound, there’s a truth in it I can’t get past.

Your favorite German word:
Schade! So useful to have an all-purpose, non-rude exclamation.

Listen to Kirstin Sharpin singing “Einsam in trüben Tagen” from Wagner’s Lohengrin.

More information at

Great Voice Loves Small Talk

What London-based soprano Danae Eleni misses and appreciates when she visits Berlin

This blog continues its series of profiles of young American, Canadian, and British singers who visit or live in Germany to sing. Their answers to a small set of questions show what it takes to pursue the career of their dreams. London-based soprano and educator Danae Eleni travels throughout the world to sing and perform, but likes to return to the Berlin area for recitals and inspiration.


Photo: Maximilian Van London

From where?
Born in Bahrain to Greek and English parents. (Bahraini-born Anglo-Greek Soprano)

Your Fach?
Lyric Soprano

Your favorite role:
I have so many… Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro); but in German repertoire I love Pamina, and Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier); Anne Trulove in English… I also love creating roles with/for composers…

Your hero in opera:
Anne Trulove – she follows her heart.

Your recent performance:
Song cycle “The Gift of Life” by Chet Biscardi, for the Sarah Lawrence Programme at Oxford University.

Your recent performance in Germany, Austria or Switzerland:
Recital of Summer Songs in Jüterbog*; and a recital tour of solos for soprano and organ in Berlin and Brandenburg.

The biggest challenge in singing German opera or Lieder:
Remembering not to over darken the second schwa sound.


Photo: Fabien Chareix

A thing or habit of Germans you find funny:
Love how “to-the-point” conversations can be, without the need for small talk.

A thing or habit of Germans you find annoying:
Sometimes I miss the small talk…

A story in which you were glad that you spoke German:
My train was delayed from Hannover to Köln, so I missed the last connection to Brussels. I think that being able to speak some German (through tears), helped me negotiate the (free) overnight taxi from Aachen straight to my digs. Deutsche Bahn’s customer service is amazing!

Your next project or performance, and where:
Poulenc’s “Gloria” at LSO St Luke’s in London, then Sophie excerpts from “Der Rosenkavalier” with Fulham Opera.
(More info here:

Your favorite quality in a singer:
The ability to be completely in the character of a song or role as soon as they enter the stage. I love singers who have a variety of colours in their pianissimi also, they can be used to heartbreaking effect.

Your favorite German words:
außergewöhnlich, relativ.

* Jüterbog is a historic village, around 70 kilometers from Berlin. [AIF]

Watch and listen to Danae Eleni’s performance of Franz Lehar’s “Warum hast du mich wachgeküsst?” accompanied by Naomi Woo; Recorded by Svanholm Productions in London 2016

Find more information about Danae Eleni at:
twitter: @danaeeleni

Listen to her audio recordings at:



Soon in London: German for Opera Singers


Opera singers in Berlin find it at their door step at any time; Vienna’s singers indulged in it in March, and soon it will be brought to the singers’ community in London:

German for Opera Singers.

The Berlin-based German language consultant, writer and tutor Bernd Hendricks will conduct his renowned workshop for the first time in the British capital.

The date will be announced in a few weeks, but it will be most likely in late August, early September.

Several locations are currently under consideration. It will be a place convenient to the participants to reach.

The workshop will be open for everyone who sings, conducts, or directs, seeking insight into the linguistics of German libretti and Lieder or wishes to request an audition at an agency or an opera house in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.

Are you interested in participating in the London Workshop? Drop me a line at


The workshop series German for Opera Singers draws singers from all around the world who live and sing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. These are some of the themes of previous workshops:


Shakespeare statue across the Berlin opera house

– Ich komme. Haben Sie Zeit? How to write an audition request to agencies in German
– Seien wir wieder gut – The Linguistics of Ariadne auf Naxos
– O namenlose Freude – The Linguistics of Fidelio
– Du heller, wilder Fluss – Understanding the Poetry in Schubert’s songs
– Die Frist ist um – Common Traits in Wagner’s Libretti

In addition, the so-called open workshops are customized for the language needs of the singers who want to discuss aria texts of their upcoming singing engagements.

Read articles series about previous workshops, for example …

The Vienna Workshop: Click.

The Ariane auf Naxos Workshop: Click.

Video: Watch and listen what singers have to say about the Ariadne workshop.


Vienna Workshop: Heine’s Grammar Lovefest

At my Vienna workshop “German for Opera Singers,” we examined Wagner arias, and songs from Wolf and Schumann, one of them “Ich wandelte unter den Bäumen.”



View from the Domgasse

This poem appeared in 1827 in “Buch der Lieder” by the German poet Heinrich Heine, a compilation of 237 poems, which were groundbreaking in German poetry because of their clear and simple style, a style of folk songs everybody could understand. More than half of these poems are about broken hearts and unanswered love, and therefore source for many works by some of the greatest composers. In this poem, Heine draws us into a grammar lovefest, which Robert Schumann has put into beautiful music. Verbs sparkle in all forms, in past tense (Präteritum), perfect tense (needing an extra verb, haben or sein), perfect tense, and the imperative. That’s why it is called das Gedicht (poem). It comes from dicht (dense). The art to densify thoughts, observations, or emotions to few words with all language tools at one’s disposal is called dichten (to write poetry).


wandeln = to stroll, to promenade
der Gram = (old) grief
wehtun, es tut weh = to ache
schleichen = to creep, to sneak
lehren = to teach
erzählen = to tell
immerfort = (old) constantly
wunderschlau = (Heine’s compound noun) super smart
trauen = to trust

What it says:

Broken-hearted, the narrator strolls under the trees when birds appear in the skies and sing. His heart aches even more. Talking to them he demands to be quiet and to refrain from that Wörtlein (diminuitive for word = das Wort; das Wörtchen or, prefered in the South of Germany, and in Austria, das Wörtlein). He never speaks out that word, neither do the birds who respond by telling him that they caught it from a young woman (Jungfräulein). He suspects they tell this story only to cheer him up, and concludes that it is best to trust no one anymore.

We at the workshop, looking out of the window at the Viennese trees that lined the street and had started to blossom, thought the word might be Liebe.


Text and grammar:

In the first stanza, the narrator reminisces in simple past which provides some verbs in a short, one-vowel version: Ich komme (present tense) turns into ich kam, ich schleiche into ich schlich.

Ich wandelte unter den Bäumen
mit meinem Gram allein;
da kam das alte Träumen
und schlich mir ins Herz hinein.

Now, he speaks to the birds, using the perfect tense of lehren with the auxiliary verb haben: Wer hat gelehrt? It follows the imperative of schweigen, a command to the birds to be silent: Schweigt still! After that, he explains his order with a conditional: wenn … dann.

Wer hat euch dies Wörtlein gelehret,
ihr Vöglein in luftiger Höh’?
Schweigt still! wenn mein Herz es höret,
dann tut es noch einmal so weh.

The birds respond, beginning with the simple past of kommen (Die Jungfrau kam), and adding the participle of gehen (gegangen):Die Jungfrau kam gegangen. By today’s use of the language, the combination of kommen and gegangen sounds strange and outmoded. In Heine’s times it meant neither kommen nor gehen, but coming unexpectedly and passing by.
Past tense of sie singt = sie sang.
The birds continue with the perfect tense of fangen = Wir haben gefangen.

Es kam ein Jungfräulein gegangen,
die sang es immerfort,
da haben wir Vöglein gefangen
das hübsche, goldne Wort.“

In the last stanza, the narrator speaks in present tense, adding the modalverb sollen to erzählen, which basically means, “Don’t tell me that!”

Das sollt ihr mir nicht mehr erzählen,
Ihr Vöglein wunderschlau;
ihr wollt meinem Kummer mir stehlen,
ich aber niemandem trau’.

Below you find a recording of this song by the German baritone Stephan Genz, accompanied by pianist Claar Ter Horst.