Specialized Music Performance – Opera

Our MA in Opera focuses not only on opera singing but on the music, the staging and on other related areas, providing intensive and comprehensive preparation for your professional career.

This degree programme:

  • is aimed at students who have a BA or an MA in Vocal Studies or a comparable degree. Students need to be highly independent and demonstrate the potential to work on developing the whole range of stage-relevant skills simultaneously. We are looking for a high standard of singing, solid musical skills, confidence, stage presence, expressive potential and the ability to cope with physical and mental pressure;
  • includes regular taught sessions that are designed to help you expand and develop your personal stage skills;
  • aims to increase your vocal, musical and acting abilities and expand your theoretical background knowledge;
  • enables you to build on what you learn by gaining experience of opera productions and performances in a lively and inspiring university environment and in musical theatres; the focus is on the opera repertoire with some interesting additions.
  • reflects your personal development as you take part in real artistic performances and experience the challenges involved in staged opera productions;
  • offers you the opportunity to work on your own projects and try out your own artistic ideas;
  • offers a distinctive combination of continuous teaching and stage work.


  • Title/Degree Master of Arts (MA)
  • Specialisations Opera
  • Mode of study Full-time (4 semesters)
  • Start date Mon, 16.9.2024
  • Application deadline Mon, 15.4.2024
  • ECTS credits 90 or 120 ECTS credits
  • Teaching language German, French, English
  • Location Biel and Bern
  • School Bern Academy of the Arts

Structure + Content

Our MA in Opera is a full-time degree and comprises 4 semesters (90 or 120 ECTS credits). The programme, including the thesis, is divided into seven module groups.


The MA in Opera focuses on the following subjects:

  • Scene work – opera/musical theatre
  • Solo vocal coaching/role study
  • Ensemble vocal coaching
  • Opera singing

and the central stage productions and opera stagings that take place each semester.

The programme also includes other elements that are relevant to opera:

  • Drama training
  • Stage movement
  • Diction/Voice coaching
  • Intensive performance weeks
  • Theory of musical theatre
  • Production-specific dramaturgy
  • Musical preparation of opera projects
  • Production-specific theme days

Audition training, auditioning for agencies and opera houses, artistic work placements in musical theatre and the opportunity to meet guest speakers in the «Getting into the business» module and our lecturer in residence (an annually changing guest lecturer from the current musical theatre scene) round off the programme by offering you the chance to network with the professional world.

Curriculum + Modules

The programme is divided into seven module groups, each focusing on different content and methods:

The Core Subject module group focuses on the central acting, musical and vocal skills required in opera. These three areas combine to form your core subject. The focus is on developing an awareness of your own unique creative potential and on learning the craft of musical theatre and singing.

Here, we focus on developing your awareness of, and training, the physical and vocal tools of expression available to you in the following areas: theatre, stage movement, scene improvisation, diction/voice coaching.

The knowledge taught in the Musicology/Theory module group enables you to reflect on, and communicate about, opera and musical theatre, both in a historical context and in relation to the current opera scene.

This module group forms the heart of the degree programme. Each semester, public opera performances and artistic work placements allow students to experience the realities of the musical theatre world. The complexity builds over the semesters as follows:

Semester 1

Opera sketches: students sing, play and act in excerpts from a range of operas and eras. These are linked by a theme and/or a title and performed with keyboard accompaniment or as a collaboration with musical support from other study areas at HKB.

Semester 2

Opera workshop: here, students bring to life a creative musical theatre project and produce related literature. This project, which is based around a theme, is developed, staged and accompanied by an instrumental ensemble or an orchestra.

Semester 3

Artistic work placements (prestigious roles in musical theatre productions, after successful audition) and a project of your own (musical realisation and staging of a work you have selected yourself/an idea of your own).

Semester 4

Opera production: production of a complex operatic work, with musical interpretation of the full opera role and staging with an orchestra. The opera production includes the artistic part of the master’s thesis that concludes the degree programme.

This module group includes meetings, exchanges and workshops with prominent personalities and looks at trends in the current musical theatre landscape. Central elements include regular audition training and auditioning with opera agencies and opera houses.

The Elective module group allows you to specialise in different academic fields and/or in gaining practical experience. It also creates bridges to other areas of study at HKB.

The thesis consists of an artistic part (backstage work and role in the opera production) and a written thematic specialisation and reflection (thesis paper).

Learning outcomes

The objective of the MA in Opera is to equip you to work in today’s opera and musical theatre world. The programme focuses on developing your acting, musical and singing abilities. One important area of focus is the development of your own artistic imagination, creativity and initiative as we delve deeper into the worlds of performance and interpretation. We also encourage your ability to engage actively and independently with the broad spectrum of artistic challenges, different directing approaches and diverse musical styles you are likely to encounter in the future. We give our students the tools to develop and realise their own artistic projects, preparing them for the demands of the professional world.


HKB maintains close ties to a number of partner universities, both in Switzerland and abroad, and collaborates with international partners on numerous projects. HKB is also a member of several international networks.

As part of a framework agreement, Opera Studies is networked with all higher education music institutions in Switzerland. We collaborate with various theatres in Switzerland and with operatic agencies. International partnership with different academic institutions will gain in importance in the future.

Qualification + Career prospects

Your career prospects on completing the MA are wide and varied. They extend from a permanent engagement with an opera house to taking part in free musical theatre projects, in festivals and working in a contemporary context. Our focus on individual and transdisciplinary skills will also allow you to move into other forms of artistic expression and to initiate your own projects.

Title + Degree

At the end of the programme, you will graduate with the title Master of Arts (MA) in «Specialised Music Performance Opera» ab.

Career prospects

The MA in Opera is an important artistic qualification, a milestone on your journey to the operatic stage. The degree provides graduates with the stage skills they need to work in musical theatre.

Your career prospects are wide and varied. They extend from a permanent engagement with an opera house to taking part in free musical theatre projects and working in a contemporary context.

Auditioning for operatic agencies and/or opera houses is almost always the first step. To prepare you for this important step, the MA in Opera features regular audition training and auditions with operatic agencies and opera houses.

Our focus on individual and transdisciplinary skills will also allow you to move into other forms of artistic expression and to initiate your own musical theatre projects.



Accompaniment + rehearsal coaching

Francesco Addabbo (pianist, harpsichordist)

Opera/musical theatre staging + stage project supervision

Mathias Behrends (opera and musical theatre director)

Vocal coaching + music project supervision

Riccardo Bovino (pianist)

Diction/voice coaching

Anna Magdalena Fitzi (actor, voice artist)

Opera singing

Tanja Ariane Baumgartner (mezzo-soprano, lecturer in singing at HKB)
Claude Eichenberger (mezzo-soprano, lecturer in singing at HKB)
Malin Hartelius (soprano, lecturer in singing at HKB)
Marcus Niedermeyr, baritone (lecturer in singing at HKB)
Daniel Gloger, countertenor (lecturer in singing Opera, audition training, contemporary musical theater)

As a result of our collaborations and partnerships, students may also choose a lecturer for the opera singing part of the programme from a pool of singing teachers at all higher education music institutions in Switzerland. You will need the approval of the music institution in question.

Stage movement

Franziska Meyer (lecturer Music and Movement/Rhythmics)

Dramaturgy + theory

Maren Rieger (theatre and musical theatre dramaturge)

Drama, stage improvisation

Stefan Saborowski (theatre and film actor)

Solo rehearsal/Role study + Ensemble accompaniment + Musical project management

Franco Trinca (conductor, Deputy Director of Opera at Theater Orchester Biel Solothurn)

Guest lecturers

Guest lecturers in recent years have included professor of singing Marga Schiml, the musical theatre directors Johannes Schaaf, Peter Schweiger and Wolfram Mehring and Olivier Tambosi; conductors Stefan Lano, Mladen Tarbuk and Christoph Campestrini; the dramaturge Wolfgang Willaschek and the dancer, choreographer and director Joachim Schloemer. Moreover the performer, pop-, folk- und jazzsinger Marena Whitcher and german-syrian action artist Manaf Halbouni.


Eligibility + Entry

The Master of Arts in Specialised Music Performance – Opera at the HKB generally takes 4 semesters and comprises 90 or 120 ECTS credits, depending on your previous qualifications. It builds on a BA or an MA in Vocal Studies, offering a significantly broader programme that encompasses the skills required for musical theatre: You will develop your acting and musical skills. At the same time, we will work on vocal training. In these three core areas, we will challenge your artistic imagination, creativity and initiative as we delve deeper into the worlds of performance and interpretation. The Opera degree programme enables students to engage actively and independently with the broad spectrum of artistic challenges, different directing approaches and diverse musical styles they are likely to encounter in their future professional lives. We help our students to develop their own artistic personality and give them the tools to cultivate and realise their own artistic ideas.

Entry requirements

Candidates for the MA in Opera need to be highly independent and demonstrate the potential to work on developing the whole range of stage-relevant skills simultaneously. We are looking for: a high standard of singing, solid musical skills, confidence, stage presence and expressive potential. This is a demanding programme, and you must be able to cope with both mental and physical pressure.

Academic requirements

Applicants for this programme require a BA or an MA in Vocal Studies or a comparable degree.

Professional prerequisites

Professional experience is not required.

Knowledge + Abilities

To be accepted onto the programme, you will need the following:

  • High standard of singing
  • Solid musical skills
  • Confidence and stage presence
  • Expressive potential in your singing, acting and musicianship
  • Original and individual creativity
  • Ability to transform musical texts into characters, plots and stagings
  • Artistic imagination
  • Creative curiosity that looks beyond the vocals to examine the operatic context
  • Flair for the main languages of opera
  • Ability to discuss and critique
  • Ability to cope with mental and physical pressure

Language skills

Entire works and excerpts (repertoire) will be taught in the relevant opera languages (primarily Italian, German, French and English). The study languages are: English, German, French.

Applying from abroad

Foreign nationals require valid travel documents recognised by the Swiss government. A visa is often required. Exchange students must also apply for a residency permit and purchase health insurance before their studies begin. Please research your specific entry requirements carefully.

The aptitude assessment for the MA in Opera comprises two parts:

  • To allow us to assess your vocal and personal abilities, we will ask you to prepare four arias in a range of styles from your own repertoire. One aria must include recitative or you must prepare a separate recitative. The judging panel will decide which pieces you perform. You will also be asked to present a short piece of spoken text that you have learned by heart (a poem or monologue in German or French or in a language of your choice).
  • In the second part of the exam, we may ask you to perform a dramatic scene and/or musical work based on the arias you have prepared or to improvise a scene.
  • There will also be an individual interview, based on the personal statement you submitted. We will focus on your career aspirations, your background knowledge of opera production and your performance in the first part of the aptitude assessment.

Aptitude test/Audition: Thu, 25.4.2024 & Mon–Tue, 29.–30.4.2024

Practicalities + Application

Please note the dates and deadlines below, plus the documentation and information required.

Application (per application) and aptitude assessment*  

CHF 250


CHF 100

Tuition fees (per semester) 

CHF 750

Tuition fees for international students*** (per semester)

CHF 950

Examination fee (per semester)  

CHF 80

Fee for social, cultural and sport offerings (per semester)  

CHF 24

Membership fee for the Bern University of Applied Sciences Student Association (VSBFH) (per semester)

CHF 15

Leave of absence fee (per semester) 

CHF 100

* The application fee can be paid by credit card or by deposit slip / paper invoice (+ CHF 10.– processing fee). There are no waivers or refunds for withdrawn or abandoned applications. The application is processed after payment has been received.
** If the application leads to matriculation, the matriculation fee is covered by the application fee.
*** International students are defined as persons of foreign citizenship who at the time of obtaining their university entrance qualification were domiciled under civil law neither in Switzerland nor the Principality of Liechtenstein.

There is also a fixed fee for materials whose amount depends on the degree programme as well as additional costs for teaching materials, specialist literature, supplies, etc.

Financial aid is available through grants and loans. Grants are one-off or ongoing payments that don’t usually have to be paid back provided you complete your course. Loans are one-off or ongoing payments that must be paid back after you finish your course. There are also numerous private foundations and funds that offer financial support to students. The electronic foundation directory administered by the Federal Department of Home Affairs offers a comprehensive summary of these organisations and can be searched by keywords (e.g. student, research, financial aid, etc.).

HKB scholarship fund

Many HKB students live in precarious financial circumstances. The opportunities to earn money while undertaking demanding and time-consuming studies are limited. And the cost of living in Switzerland is one of the highest in all of Europe. A doctor’s bill, a healthy diet, and paying the rent or semester and examination fees can become pressing problems. To help in such cases, the HKB scholarship fund provides targeted support by covering the tuition fees from CHF 750 up to CHF 950. To apply for support, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Fill out the online application form in full and print it out
  2. Send the application online
  3. Submit the printed form to the secretariat for your degree programme

The deadline for applications for a semester fee waiver is 15 May to 15 June (for the following autumn semester), or 15 November to 15 December (for the following spring semester).

Applications for a waiver of the semester fees will only be considered and included in the selection process once the course offer has been.

Application form (link valid as of May 15 2024)

Other grants

Cantonal grants

Grants and loans for Swiss students and overseas students are generally paid out by the canton where the students’ parents are tax residents. Students who have been tax residents in the Canton of Bern for at least two years are able to apply for cantonal grants and loans. Applications should be submitted to the Financial Aid Office at the Department of Education.

Other grants

Further information

The websites EDK – Stipendien, stipendium.ch and European Funding Guide cover all the key information about grants in Switzerland and overseas.

Your contact persons for questions about scholarships and loans


If you have any questions regarding scholarships and loans please contact Claire Brawand.

At Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH, we promote balance between study, work and family.

A limited number of nursery places are available to BFH staff and students. If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, the relevant documents can be found on the BFH Intranet. The fees are income-based and in line with the cantonal rates described in the Verordnung über die Angebote der sozialen Integration (Decree on Social Integration Offer ASIV) issued by the Canton of Bern. You can apply for a nursery place using the online form on the BFH Intranet. If you’re a new student or member of staff and don’t have access to the Intranet, please contact Sarah Gross. There is no legal entitlement to a nursery place.

Swiss students have to complete compulsory service while studying too. Make sure you start planning and coordinating your studies and compulsory service early.

We strongly encourage you to complete basic military training and your first block of civilian service before starting your studies. If you complete these activities during your studies, you may miss classes. As a result, the duration of your programme may increase.


You can get help with coordinating your studies and your compulsory service from our team of advisers.

Start date: Mon, 16.9.2024
Application deadline: Mon, 15.4.2024
Dates for aptitude test/audition: Thu, 25.4.2024 & Mon–Tue, 29.–30.4.2024

Online Application

You should have the following documents available in electronic form
(passport photo: JPG / remaining documents: PDF). No document should exceed 1 MB. 

  • ID card or passport
  • Passport photo
  • Bachelor`s diploma or equivalent university degree
  • Transcript of records of current and/or terminated studies
  • A diploma qualifying you for university studies (such as A-Levels, Matura from a Gymnasium, "Berufsmaturität", "Fachmaturität", Abitur)
  • A CV in tabular form
  • A personal statement about your motivation for these studies and for your professional aspirations
  • A confirmation of your exmatriculation (If you were already matriculated at another university)

For foreigners, in addition:

  • Residence permit (if available)

If you do not yet have one or more of the required documents, please state why in the Comments section. 

Bern University of the Arts
Schweizer Opernstudio
Jakob-Rosius-Strasse 16
2502 Biel

Location(s) + Facilities

If you have any questions about the degree programme, please contact Karin Richter at the secretariat.

The home of the MA in Opera is the Swiss Opera Studio in the bilingual town of Biel/Bienne. Teaching and day-to-day communication are in German and French. Because of the international nature of our student intake, we also teach in English. Facilities include outstanding teaching and practice rooms; rehearsal stages and rehearsal studios for drama and stage training; good keyboard instruments, including harpsichords, for accompaniment and a collection of props and costumes. You will also have the option of working with video and sound. Along with the Music and Movement (Rhythmics) programme, Opera Studies is based in the ‘Burg’ in the heart of Biel/Bienne’s old town. We are very close to the Theater Orchester Biel Solothurn, with whom we regularly collaborate. Collaborations and projects with other fields of study, particularly within the Music Division, take our students to other university sites in Bern, all of which are professionally equipped. Students have the opportunity to use the Music Division’s cutting-edge sound studios for their own projects. The staff there provide expert assistance, ensuring professional sound productions. HKB’s Music Library is a specialised academic library. It is available to all students and staff at HKB and to members of the public with an interest in music.

Jakob-Rosius-Strasse 16, Biel/Bienne and locations of the HKB in Bern