Opera Singer Salary ( The Honest Truth )

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Most people think that singers make a lot of money, which is true in some cases but these are the minority. One of the hardest jobs to land in the singing scene is to be an opera singer, mostly because you will need to have a degree in music. Most opera houses are extremely picky about who they hire, and this also reflects in the salary.

Opera singers can expect a salary range of $50,000 to $250,000, depending on various factors such as experience, reputation, and the nature of the engagement. Typically, opera singers are paid on a per-project basis, with payment varying depending on the specific role and production. Singers participating in Young Artists Programs or serving as artists-in-residency may receive weekly compensation. 

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The main problem is that there are way too many singers who want to become opera singers, and there are only a few select opera houses that do hire regularly. Usually, once you are hired by an opera house you are set for life. The problem is that due to this high competition between the singers the opera houses do not even have to attract new singers with a decent salary. Every opera house’s main goal is to make a profit, although some would say that their goal is to bring culture into people’s lives.

If you are a singer and you want to become an opera singer then this is probably the worst time for it, you missed the high point of operatic singing by 100 years. In the past century, opera singers were like modern-day celebrities, and they made a lot of money. Today, however, most opera singers are relatively unknown by the general public, and a lot of opera houses struggle to stay afloat and they are increasingly relying on donations rather than just selling opera tickets.

There are some opera singers that make over $100k per year, but the truth is that most opera singers can barely scrape by and some of them also have a second job. One of my close friends who was an opera singer for around 13 years had to take up another job as a firefighter, and after the first year of having two jobs, he had to quit singing opera. Only a handful of opera singers make it big, and the barrier of entry is way too high for such a low salary.

Generally speaking, the highest paying opera house is the Metropolitan Opera, this is where 90% of the richest opera singers can be found or have started. The barrier to entry into the Metropolitan Opera is extremely high, as this is only one of the few opera houses which do pay a nice salary. If you want to become an opera singer then check out my recent article How to become a professional opera singer? ( In 10 Easy Steps ).

Opera Singer Salary

Opera singer salaries can vary significantly depending on factors such as experience, reputation, the opera company or production they work with, and the roles they perform. Generally, established and highly sought-after opera singers have the potential to earn substantial incomes. They may receive fees per performance, which can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars or more for leading roles in major productions.

In addition to performance fees, opera singers may also receive additional income from recordings, endorsements, and concert appearances. However, it is important to note that the opera industry can be highly competitive, and many singers may start their careers with lower-paying or unpaid opportunities to gain experience and exposure. As with any profession, an opera singer’s salary can vary widely, and success in the field often requires a combination of talent, training, dedication, and networking.

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The main thing which will determine an opera singer’s salary is competition. The problem is that way too many singers who have a bachelor’s degree in music want to become opera singers. Simply put the offer on the opera singer market is way too high for the demand. This is why some opera houses manage to get extremely good opera singers without paying for their true worth. Year by year the demand for opera singers is going down and the number of singers who want to be opera singers is only going up.

What you need to understand is that the opera house is a business, and every year a new budget is calculated based on the previous year’s earnings. If the next year’s projections are not the best then the opera house might even let go of some singers. The truth is that most opera houses do not let go of singers so easily if the earnings of the opera house are going down then everybody who works at the opera house will have a portion of their salary cut, they do this so they don’t have to fire anybody. There is something that a lot of opera singers tend to forget, which is the cost of a bachelor’s degree in the field of music or even a master of music degree.

You will have to spend a couple of years studying, and once you get all the necessary degrees to get hired by an opera house you are still not guaranteed that you will be hired. The truth is that most people who have a bachelor’s degree in the field of music do not actually work in that industry. At any college or university, every teacher will tell you how talented you are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are and a lot of singers face a harsh reality with no talent but with a useless degree in their hands. If you are a singer and you want to get better then check out my recent article How to sing better ( Top 47 Tips and Industry Secrets ).


Opera singing is seasonal, there are only a few months a year when the opera house is open to the public. The rest of the time the opera singers tend to practice for the next season. This limits how much the opera house can actually make. There are some opera houses that charge hundreds and thousands of dollars per ticket, but these are extremely few. Most opera houses struggle to fill the seats, and things are not looking brighter for the future.

The opera season starts in September and ends in May, basically out of 12 months only 9 months can be used to set up shows and make a profit. In Europe, this isn’t a big problem as some local governments do help out opera houses, but this is hardly the case in the US.

Opera Singer Apprentice Salary

Most opera houses do have some kind of apprentice program, which is a program meant for students who have not graduated yet. Some opera houses do not offer a salary or compensation for apprentices, the few that offer a salary only pay between $2000 and $3000 per month. Basically, as an opera apprentice in the best case, you would earn around $36k per year, which you will most likely be able to get almost anywhere else.

Generally speaking, the apprentice program is an investment, as you will increase your chances of getting hired by the opera house after you have graduated. Although there is no guarantee that you will be hired, but you can still use the experience to get hired at some other opera house. Opera singers need to learn a lot of musical terminologies, if you want to take a look at these then check out my recent article ( All 256 ) Musical terms explained in plain English.

The Size And Prestige Of The Opera House

The size and the prestige of the opera house do determine how much money they can offer to the opera singers and the rest of the staff. For example at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the average salary of an opera singer is around $80k. In the southern states, you will not even come close to this number. New York has a fairly high cost of living, and trust me $80k per year isn’t that big of a salary.

The more prestige the opera house has the more they can charge for their tickets, thus allowing them to give a higher cut to the opera singers. Maintaining an opera house is a lot of money, and most of the buildings are fairly old and in need of renovations. Usually, opera houses would rather invest in the building itself than give a raise to the opera singer, it’s just normal business practice.

Earnings Per Performance For Opera Singers

Generally speaking, most opera houses do pay per performance, although there are some that only offer a base salary. The amount that an opera singer can make per performance varies a lot, it can be anything between $150 and $20 000. Only a few opera singers make above $10k per performance, these are usually the most famous ones of which almost everybody has heard. The main reason why they can earn so much is that their name doesn’t attract the crowd. The richest opera singer is Renée Fleming, who has a net worth of 12M she started as an opera singer at the Metropolitan Opera in NY in 1988.

This doesn’t mean that they are the best opera singers, as far too often there are a lot of opera singers who for some reason do not achieve celebrity status and thus they are not able to attract the crowds. There are a lot of extremely good opera singers who are well known in operatic circles, but outside this circle, almost nobody has heard from them.

Number Of Performances

Simply put the more an opera singer performs the more they can earn. Generally speaking, most opera singers have anything between 20-60 performances per year. The number of performances depends on both the opera house and the opera singers’ ability to sing. The highest-paid performances are the private performances, this usually happens at certain celebrations like a birthday, but an extremely classy one.


Opera houses make a significant amount from sponsorships and donations. Usually, this money comes from extremely rich people and in some cases, they are recurring sponsors to a specific opera house. The more sponsorships or donations can an opera house get the higher salaries they can pay to the opera singers. On some occasions, an opera house can get a big enough sponsorship to last them the entire season.

Level Of Education

In order to be an opera singer, you will need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in the field of music. The problem is that everybody who works as an opera singer has one, and this degree is needed for the base or the lowest salary in the opera singing scene. If you also have a Master of Music degree then your base salary will go up around 15-25% more. The problem is that getting this degree is not only hard but extremely expensive. Simply put the more degrees you have the higher your salary will be.

Type Of Voice

The type of voice you have is also a contributing factor to how much money you can make as an opera singer. There is not one certain type of voice that is getting the highest salary in an opera. The type of voice needed will be different from one opera house to another. Some opera houses might be looking for bass, soprano, alto and so on, you will have to ask them what kind of opera singer they actually need.

Key Takeaways

  • Opera singer salaries can vary greatly depending on factors such as experience, reputation, the size and prestige of the opera house, and the specific role or production.
  • On average, established opera singers can earn a substantial income ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
  • However, it’s important to note that the opera industry is highly competitive, and many aspiring singers may initially earn lower salaries or work on a freelance basis before establishing themselves and commanding higher pay.


Who is the highest paid opera singer in the world?

The highest paid opera singer in the world can vary over time, as it depends on factors such as their level of fame, reputation, and the specific productions they are involved in. However, some notable opera singers who have achieved significant financial success include Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and Anna Netrebko.

Are opera singers in high demand?

Opera singers are highly skilled artists who perform in a specialized genre of music. While the demand for opera singers may vary depending on the region and specific productions, there is a continuous need for talented opera singers in opera houses, concert halls, and festivals worldwide.

Is opera singer a profession?

Yes, being an opera singer is a recognized profession. Opera singers undergo extensive training, develop their vocal technique, and often pursue formal education in music or opera. They perform in professional opera productions, concerts, and other musical events, dedicating their careers to mastering and showcasing their vocal talents.

How much does opera make a year?

The income of opera singers can vary widely depending on factors such as their level of experience, reputation, the size of the opera company, and the number of performances they are involved in. While some opera singers may earn substantial incomes, it is important to note that the financial stability of a career in opera can vary, and many singers rely on a combination of performance fees, contracts, and other sources of income.