39th Post: Earnings in Music

This post deals with comparing singer’s earnings in pop versus opera. Specific examples show Taylor Swift and Beyonce Knowles in relationship to 11 of the best all-time opera singers (several of which have successfully crossed over into pop which is rare):

Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Placido Domingo, Melena Ernman, Renee Fleming, Vitterio Grigolo, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Anna Netrebko, Luciano Pavarotti, Patricia Racette, and Kesenia Varela.

Ksenia Varela – 9 Years Old
Photo credit: osidenews.com
August 7, 2020

A gifted 9 yr-old singer’s career heading??

I have come to realize that there are many gifted singers in all age groups. Although, a handful of these singers have so much “God-given” ability that they can end up with earning a tremendous amount of money through their recording studio contracts, record sales, etc.

Earnings in opera vs pop

This brings me to wondering about why some young and extremely talented singers choose opera versus “pop” career paths. According to Careers in Music, an opera singer can expect to make between $60-200K per year (with an average salary of $70K).

According to Rupert Christiansen of The Telegraph, Joyce DiDonato could net as much as E40,000 over a six week timeframe “Lascia ch’io pianga” (https://youtu.be/PrJTmpt43hg) (RQ 10). Luciano Pavarotti, considered to be the best tenor of all time “Ave Maria” (https://youtu.be/XpYGgtrMTYs) (RQ 10+), it is said that he was paid as much as $300,000 per performance in his prime. He passed away in 2007 from pancreatic cancer. Of course, Joyce and Luciano represent the “ cream of the crop.” In contrast to the earnings potential of the best opera singers, the highest 2019 earnings for pop singers are: Taylor Swift $185,000,000 “You Belong to Me” (https://youtu.be/VuNIsY6JdUw) (RQ 10) and Beyonce Knowles $81,000,000 “Single Ladies” (https://youtu.be/4m1EFMoRFvY) (RQ 10+).

So, you take a look and listen to Ksenia Verala at age 9, you wonder what career path you would choose if you were her.

Ksenia Melania Varela, age 9, is now residing in Oceanside CA. Ksenia was born in Hayward California and began singing at age 5. Ksenia is currently learning classical and opera vocals under the International performing artist and music educator Rebecca Steinke in San Diego.

Ksenia’s Recent accomplishments:

  • Vocals Gold medalist Team USA in the 2020 World Championship of Performing Arts in the 15 and under age group. “Competition Practice session.”
  • Vocals First place winner in the 2020 International Grande Music Competition in New York in the 7 to 9 age group.
  • Vocals First place winner in the American Protégé International Vocals 2020 competition in the 12 and under age group. Scheduled to play in Carnegie Hall May 2021.

Examples of Opera Greats Crossing Over into Other Genres…

Luciano Pavarotti
Photo credit: britannica.com
October 20, 2020

Besides Pavarotti (“I Hate You Then I Love You” Duet with Celine Dion (https://youtu.be/otAu5twqDpk) (RQ 10+), other opera greats successfully crossed over into a variety of musical genres according to Operawire. Some of which I will highlight in this post include: Anna Netrebko, Placido Domingo, Renee Fleming, Malena Ernman, Vittorio Grigolo, Patricia Racette, Diana Damrau and Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

Anna Netrebko
Photo credit: The Metropolitan Opera

Anna has stepped outside of typical opera settings in recent years. She performed “O mio babibdo caro” (https://youtu.be/g0Kcg7WEJME) (RQ 10) at Martin Scorsese’s 30th annual Kennedy Center Honors program in 2006. She also performed the Olympic Anthem at the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies.

Placido Domingo
Photo credit: bach-cantatas.com

Placido has worked outside of the opera stage with many outstanding Pop artists including John Denver “Perhaps Love” (https://youtu.be/dDra-5DG3JE) (RQ 10+), Ana Gabriel, Pandora, II Vole, and Julio Iglesias.

Renee Fleming
Known as the “Peoples Diva”
Photo credit: C.A.A. Speakers

Renee has done a wide variety of singing outside of the operetic opera genre. She has done “Living on Love” on Broadway. She recently sang the National Anthem before the Super Bowl. And, she recorded a rock album called “Dark Hope.” One song was “Oxygen” (https://youtu.be/mJC8LB_9mG0) (10+) which she did not use her operetic voice at all. In case you’d like to enjoy Renee’s classical opera-style voice, check this out: “Casta Diva” (https://youtu.be/Rg4L5tcxFcA). (RQ 10+). Enjoy!

Melena Ernman
Photo credit: 2009 Eurovision Song Contest

Melena has built her singing career around working with fabulous conductors including Daniel Bavenboom, William Christie and Daniel Harding. She has a very unique ability to easily switch between using her operetic style and pop voice within the same song! She recently competed in Eurovision stretching into the pop genre by singing “LaVoix” (https://youtu.be/xE9Pl3mqRbo) (10+) which has become a huge hit in Sweden.

Vittorio Grigolo
1977 – Present
Photo credit: operadeparis.fr

It is noteworthy to mention that Vittorio was a pop superstar before becoming an opera singer! An example of his earlier works is “Bedshaped” (https://youtu.be/UqVQ4ABIbSs) (RQ 10+) that he performed during the Miss Universe Pagent in 2006. He and Lionel Richie sang a duet “Prom in the Park.” He also has been nominated for a Grammy for singing “Maria” (https://youtu.be/QLTvv8YRONE) (RQ 8) from West Side Story.

There are three other opera singers who would fall into “The Best of the Rest” in terms of crossing over into other genres of music. Patricia Racette, recorded a cabaret album “Diva on Detour” (https://youtu.be/kX1nczK1ciA) (RQ 10). Diana Damrau recorded an album “Forever” (https://youtu.be/fFhukDpQOW8) (10) which is from the Little Mermaid and the Sound of Music. Last, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, from Russia, participates in new wave concerts with Adia Garifullina singing “Deja Vu” (https://youtu.be/NRSuJljjEHw) (RQ 9).

After reading and listening to all of these wonderful singers, it reinforces the thought that, when the time comes, Ksenia Vareia will have plenty of options to choose from to go along with her operetic voice she is now developing!