Two years after landing in Austria straight out of university with little more than a desire to immerse herself in her craft, Soula Parassidis is a lyric soprano with salary and benefits singing at the Leipzig Opera. She's performed at Berlin's Jewish Museum as well as on the stages of the world's most famous Opera festival in Aix-en-Provence in France.
Where do you live now?
Where are you from originally?
What did you do before coming to Germany?
I was working towards my bachelor of music from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver as well as training at the Vancouver Academy of Music.
What brought you here?
As a Canadian opera singer new to the craft, you either move to the US or Europe, so I followed my boyfriend, Misha, to Austria. We started in Austria, then moved to Berlin together. Even though I was done with school, my training wasn't complete. I needed to immerse myself in the arts, in music and in opera. Berlin was the obvious choice for that because not only is the cost of living low, young people can go to classic events five times a week with the Classic Card.
What was your first job here?
As part of my continued training, I began working with a pianist to train myself not just as a singer, but a musician as well. A few months into our working together, he asked me to take part in a recital with him at his friend's fantastic Charlottenburg apartment. That led to an agent, which led to my first auditions and eventually, my first job, which was actually in Prague with the Prague Philharmonic at the Rudolfinum. After that, I started getting more jobs as a freelancer. This summer, I got my first regular engagement with Festival d'Aix-en-Provence in France.
What do you do now?
I have a fixed engagement at the Leipzig Opera for the next two years. That means I'll be there as a lead until at least 2011 as a lyric soprano. It's great because not only do I get to perform regularly, but they also take on your training and education, which allows me to increase my repertoire as a professional singer.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when you came here?
I had nothing. I had my boyfriend and a suitcase of clothes. I had no contacts, no teachers, no coach. I was being supported by a Canadian foundation, but that still left me with very limited funds and making friends was difficult too. I had very little command of the German language and it was hard to break into the industry with so little.
What is your life like as a lyric soprano?
It's extremely exciting and I know I'm really, really lucky. What I do is completely superfluous and I know that I'm lucky to have this chance. It's also very different to be in a fixed engagement. I am constantly running around like a lab rat and the only time I'm calm is when I'm in rehearsal, because then I know I'm not late to something. You have to be really well organised.
How was it coming to terms with the German culture and language?
I like the practicality of Germany and that you can reason with Germans. I didn't find it such a huge culture shock coming here from Canada. I was lucky in that Misha spoke excellent German and he had German friends who would come over and have very serious discussions in German. I would just sit and listen. Also, going to all the operas helped. I already knew what they were singing so well that I could read the subtitles there and start piecing together some of the language that way.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
People here really appreciate musicianship. To have this chance: a regular salary, a job that supports my life doing what I want to do, is fantastic. You really get a chance to focus on learning your craft. To have stability in the arts is just crazy.
What is your advice to someone who wants to 'make it' in Germany?
This may seem obvious, but learn the language. It's really important to have a little bit of fluency just for yourself — it can be really frustrating feeling like a foreigner. I also think it's really important to immerse yourself in the opportunities in front of you. There are so many of them here and it can be really inspiring.