Jennifer Porto

U.S. Ode to State-Supported German Opera

Jen Porto backstage 4
Jennifer Porto, an American Singer in Leipzig.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Generous funding of music in Germany gives artists job security and audiences a broader range of music to listen to.

  • Facts


    • In Germany, arts funding is among the highest in the world and music is one of the biggest and most important fields in the country’s cultural sector.
    • According to a new report, France, Germany, Italy, China, South Korea and Brazil are investing heavily in their creative economies.
    • One third of all the opera performances in the world took place in Germany in the 2011/2012 season.
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Soprano Jennifer Porto practices as she cleans, hums as she walks, learning her songs for a children’s show to run in Leipzig this season.

She’s working on several pieces for shows at the eastern German city’s opera house. Alongside “Sleeping Beauty,” the children’s opera, she is playing in “Secretaries,” a musical about eight women working in an open-plan office. “It’s full of great hits for people who grew up in Germany in the 1980s – and for people who grew up in America in the ’70s and ’80s,” Ms. Porto said.

She is also singing in “Trouble in Tahiti,” “La Cenerentola,” and in “Hänsel und Gretel mobil.”

Working on several pieces at once is typical for an ensemble singer, Ms. Porto said.

It’s busy, but she isn’t complaining. Working in Germany’s state-supported opera system means there’s more support for artists and that means more variety for audiences, too.

Ms. Porto has spent a decade living and working in Leipzig and joined the city’s opera house ensemble in 2008.

For singers, she said, working in Germany is like nowhere else in the world.

It’s partly because opera is so popular in Germany. According to Operabase, one third of all opera performances in the world took place in Germany in 2012. Music is an important part of the country’s cultural sector. Opera houses and orchestras often employ staff on full-time contracts – currently, German opera houses employ 1,270 soloists and 2,870 choir members on full-time contracts.

Playing many different roles in a single season is just one way life is different than it is in the United States, Ms. Porto explained.

Another advantage of working for a single institution, as is common for artists in Germany, is that life isn’t spent on the road. For many opera singers, that’s rare. “Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling, but it’s also great to come home and sleep in your own bed,” she said.

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