Imogen has been awarded a fest contract with Meininger Staatstheater as a soprano in the chorus with soloist commitments. For the remainder of the 2017/2018 season, Imogen performs in productions of Cosi fan tutteTosca, Carmina BuranaTannhäuser performed on-site at Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Evita, and the June premiere of Piraten von Penzance.

The upcoming 2018/19 season includes 88 performances across nine different productions encompassing opera, operetta and musical theater. Premieres include CarmenSchwarzwaldmädelDie Entführung aus dem Serail, and the newly revised 2018 version of Das Schloß Dürande, which premiered in 1943 with strong nationalist ideologies.  Imogen is delighted to lead regular voice lessons with the Theater’s Extrachor.

Meininger Staatstheater is the Thüringen State Theater in Germany and has a rich history, particularly thriving under the direction and patronage of Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen (1826-1914). It has been credited with the development of modern acting and stage design principles, and legends such as Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss and Max Reger were conductors of the Meininger Hofkapelle. Incoming Chief Conductor for the Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko, was the General Musical Director earlier in his career, conducting Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen over four consecutive days in 2001. Since 2011, the General Music Director position has been held by Philippe Bach with Ansgar Haag as Intendanz since 2005. The theater has 300 employees, realising more than 450 performances a year across opera and musical theater, theater, concert, education and youth, and puppetry. 



Behind The Scenes was originally published by the Goethe-Institut. This article was commissioned by the Goethe-Institut and first appeared on

Over the past six months, I’ve had the pleasure of auditioning in Germany and Austria for agents, project work, an opera studio, and several full-time roles with opera houses. From singing in a tiny carpeted studio to the mainstage of an opera house, auditions come in all shapes and sizes.

There are many stories, shared between performers as badges of honour. You might travel ten hours by train to sing for five minutes. A panel of creatives, administrators and colleagues judging your performance will, at best, look bored. At worst, eat an apple loudly. And the inevitable “vielen Dank” – don’t call us, we’ll call you.


Moving halfway across the world and attempting to find work in a highly-saturated, competitive market has been an incredible experience.  How do you find jobs to apply for, let alone win auditions?

Job advertisements are primarily posted online; various subscription services collate job postings into online platforms, such as “The Opera Stage”. To apply for work, singers submit a CV and cover letter outlining professional experience alongside audio and video recordings. Opera companies will then pre-screen from hundreds of applicants to select who they want to hear for live auditions.

To prepare, it’s standard practice to have an “audition package” ready to go – that is, five or six arias (songs from operas) reflecting stylistic and emotional variety that showcase your vocal qualities and artistic personality while being an appropriate and commercially viable fit for your age, vocal weight, physical appearance and so forth – the list goes on!

Depending on the audition, there are any number of additional components in German: dialogue to memorise, excerpts from opera choruses or choral pieces, compulsory arias, sight-reading tests, and interviews.


Auditions are a test in your ability to hold your own. You will be thrown into some level of pre-audition chaos. It’s likely you’ll spend three hours sitting on the floor in a hallway with every other soprano called to be heard that day. There will be big personalities, a lot of noise, and often no pre-performance luxuries, such as meeting your pianist in advance, or having a quiet space to warm to up your voice or gather your thoughts.  

There is a lot about the lead-up to an audition that is very isolating. It is lonely working individually in a practice room on repertoire. It takes extreme resourcefulness to be able to afford precious hours of vocal tuition and fund audition travel costs. I deeply miss the sociability of classroom learning now that I continue my German tuition with a private tutor. All in all, it takes significant individual work to prepare for every audition.  

There is a feast of emotion that plays out behind the scenes. No matter how hard we try to play it cool, every singer hopes that this next audition will be “the one” to provide the foot in the door. It all boils down to that wonderful reason we put ourselves through it: for the chance to collaborate with others in making and sharing music.

Going into an audition room is scary; you’re entirely vulnerable. But then you get to sing your guts out. And that’s the best part.  

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Working closely with the New Zealand Embassy, Imogen is honoured to sing for the 2018 ANZAC Day Commemorative Service (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) at the Commonwealth War Graves in Grunewald, Berlin.

To bring a special New Zealand quality, the service features “Poppy & Pohutuakwa”, composed by members of the New Zealand Army Band Dave Fiu and Dwayne Bloomfield. The words by Vietnam veteran Chris Mullane are cast in bronze in the New Zealand Memorial & Garden Nga Pua Mahara or The Petals of Remembrance, a poppy-shaped garden near Passchendaele, which opened in October 2017. 10am / 25.04.2018 / Commonwealth War Graves, Berlin. 

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Run in parallel with the Berlin Art Song Festival, Imogen joins a five-day masterclass for nine promising up-and-coming artists led by Caroline Dowdle (Royal Opera House; Samling Foundation). Partnered with pianist Marianna Abrahamyan, Imogen joins the 2018 Berlin Art Song Festival Masterclass Artists to present a concert at Knutson Studios, a beautiful art-laden converted loft and home to the piano of the late lieder legend Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. 3pm / 22.04.18 / Knutson Studios, Berlin.  



Imogen is delighted to make her debut as Musetta in a concert version of La bohème with new opera company, Berlin Italian Opera, under the direction of Philip Headlam (Royal College of Music) and Nina Brazier (Frankfurt Oper). 7.30pm / 22.02.18 / Theater Morgenstern, Berlin.



Festive Times, Festive Spaces was originally published by the Goethe-Institut. This article was commissioned by the Goethe-Institut and first appeared on

The festive season is a time for music making. Performances often explore themes of reflection and celebration during this time of thankfulness. To welcome 2018, I had the opportunity to perform at the Kammermusiksaal der Berliner Symphoniker.


“New Year’s Gospel Gala: Donna Brown and Friends” showcased the Golden Gospel Pearls performing gospel standards in the first half. I joined the Soul of Berlin Jazz Orchestra and Singers led by Donna Brown in the second half.

The programme featured “The Abyssinian Mass”, a 2008 jazz mass by trumpet player and composer Wynton Marsalis. The piece was commissioned to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church – you can find out more in this short video. 

For the New Year’s Gala, musical director Donna Brown formed an ensemble of twenty professional singers to perform seven movements of the larger work with the Soul of Berlin Jazz Orchestra.

For a taste, check out this live recording of the movement “Recessional: The Glory Train” performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and Chorale Le Chateau. 


Playing trumpet from a young age and through university, I was involved in Wellington’s jazz hive and became a member of the Rodger Fox Big Band. Seeing Wynton Marsalis perform with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as part of the 2016 NZ Festival was an exhilarating moment. The featured work, “Swing Symphony”, was commissioned by four major orchestras - one of the partners being the Berliner Philharmonie.

Inspired, I began to explore jazz vocals - specifically, works that required stylistic knowledge of jazz with the vocal range afforded to classically trained singers. I went on to perform the soprano solo for Will Todd’s “Mass in Blue” in both Tauranga and Wellington.

During my first month in Berlin, I saw a post on a Facebook group and jumped at the chance to audition to perform a composition by Marsalis. I did not yet realise the cultural weight of the Berlin Philharmonie as a venue, or foresee how many incredible singers and musicians I would meet through the rehearsal process.

It was an experience I will never forget. Beyond the thrill of performing joyous and difficult music, this opportunity shaped those first few challenging months where I was finding my feet in a new country.

And with the words from the mass, “In this great land of ours, everyone has a place”. This first festive season away from home was one to be supremely thankful for.

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As a featured writer Living Language writer for the Goethe Instiut, Imogen explores how learning a new language opens up a world of possibilities. TUNING IN is an eight instalment monthly blog from a Kiwi singer in Berlin (Imogen Thirlwall) and a rhythm researcher from Germany in the New Zealand capital (Katie Rochow). 

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Awarded a language scholarship from the Goethe-Institut New Zealand to study Deutsch in Berlin, "Imogen & Friends" is a farewell concert featuring Wellington’s most promising operatic talent. All funds raised will used for vocal tuition in Europe. To share more about her career pathway, Imogen spoke on Upbeat for Radio New Zealand Concert

Imogen gratefully acknowledges Catherine Norton, Barbara Graham, Cameron Barclay, Daniel O'Connor, Declan Cudd, Elisabeth Harris, Jess Segal and Stuart Coats. Join us: 7pm / 21.07.17 / St Andrew's on The Terrace, Wellington. 

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Photo credit Mary Sylvia Photography

Copyright © 2019 Imogen Thirlwall

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