Rainelle Krause: Setting Up a Life You Love

Rainelle Krause: Setting Up a Life You Love

Coloratura Rainelle Krause shares her experience of her early years as a singer while building her career. She is forthcoming about her breaking point and finding a marketable authenticity in her art—and how aerial work helped her balance, literally and figuratively, her career as a singer.


Opera is not an easy career to break into. Ask any opera singers. They spend thousands of dollars, decades of training, years of life auditioning and traveling, missing family, missing holidays, and watching life pass by. So, then, why do it? It’s simple. . . for the love of it. 

I sat with coloratura soprano and aerial artist Rainelle Krause, who spoke candidly about her difficult journey to operatic stardom. A decade before this explosive and engaging star jumped into the role of Die Königin der Nacht in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at Staatsoper Berlin, she found herself in the position most students do: jobless, trying to find her way, and wondering how to move forward. She learned that two things could be true at once and that if you build the life you love, everything else will fall into place. That’s what matters, anyway.


What advice would you give young singers starting out about the business side of opera? 

You need to ask for things. You need good records and to be your own PR and marketing team. You need professional photos and archival footage. Places don’t volunteer that media, but you need to ask. You need to be your own advocate.


Can we talk about your aerial work? How long have you done aerial work? Was that something you’ve always done?

I started aerial work in 2013. I did a pay-to-sing program called OperaWorks in L.A., run by Ann Baltz, and it was an incredible program. I met this Alexander technician/coach named Kate Conklin, whom I still work with very intensively today. She had sung for Cirque du Soleil for two years and was very plugged into both the operatic and the general music scene, but then also the aerial world.  

We were talking after class one day, and she said, “You know, you guys ought to go take an aerial class with my friend, who is an amazing teacher.” I was like [she laughs] yeah. . .OK. . . sure. Are you kidding me?

And the weekend went by, and I didn’t [take the class]. I was in a program. I had a whole bunch of information I was processing. And I thought, I don’t have time. On Monday, Kate came back and asked, “Rainelle, did you take the class?” “No.” She said, “I really think you should.” I said, “All right, I’ll go.”

And, so, I went with a little group of people. The aerial instructor knew we were all singers, and we had so much fun. In the first class, I was luckily strong enough to climb up to the top of the silks. I got up there and felt [her demeanor changes from laughing to calm, almost reverent] “Oh, yeah, I love this. I want to be up here all the time. This is what I want to do. OK, great, glad we figured that out!”

At that point, I needed something in my life that would give me big, exponential gains because I was kind of fresh out of school. I had started a performing diploma after my master’s and elected not to complete it. I was hanging out in Texas. My husband had gotten a job at TCU [Texas Christian University], so that’s why we were there—and there’s a great airport, so I figured, “I guess I’ll audition a lot and see what happens.”

It was the beginning of the worst part. It’s right when you get out of school. No one knows you and no one trusts you. You’re young and you’re green and you need all the experience that no one is really willing to give unless you’re very lucky or you get on a specific track in school. I didn’t have that. So, I thought, “I need something that I can do that will take up brain space and give me forward progress.” Because every week, I can go back to the silks gym and do something I couldn’t do the week before. 

Rainelle Krause

I love it. And I love that you’re talking so openly about that, because that’s the feeling that I don’t think people anticipate. You’re in school. You’re thinking, if I do this, this, and this—if, I do everything they tell me to do. . . if I get into a program, easy peasy, everyone will know me.



Very few people have a career that skyrockets—and let’s be clear about what a skyrocketing career is in opera. What does that look like? In a skyrocketing career in opera, you still spend a lot of time sitting around thinking, “OK, what’s the next thing?” I love that you said you needed a win and a goal outside of opera, because that’s very important for young singers to know. Are there levels to aerial work?

Of course. You have Cirque de Soleil, which is basically The Met. They are the top of the field. And I talk to people too. They say, “Oh, my God, have you performed with Cirque?” And I’m surprised: “No!” I came to this when I was 25 and was also trying to be an opera singer. I didn’t dedicate my everything to circus because I really wanted to build my voice and make that the focus. My focus is making good consistent art and working with my technique to a place where I trust it implicitly. That was the focus of my work. 

Krause as the Queen of the Night in Opera Orchestré national Montpellier’s production of Die Zauberflöte, 2023

But I also love to do aerial work. It gets me into my body in a way that I never really experienced before, but it comes with its difficulties too. Much of my aerial journey has included getting injured, trying to fix it, and then trying to find instructors, physical therapists, and doctors who can help me not make the same mistakes. 

As I was really starting to get going with aerial, I remember people would ask me, “What’s your goal with this? What is it that you want to do?”

I would say, “Look, I think that because of the kind of music I sing, it makes sense to make something fantastical, put it in the air, and really make a spectacle out of it, but I don’t want it to just be flash.” I don’t want it to be something like “Oh, I’m going to go up and do splits and sing.” I want to be working. I want to have clean lines. I want to have interesting choreography. I want to be making art so that other aerialists will say, “Yeah, she’s really up there working.” And I want to make art so that singers are going say, “She sounds really good.” There’s nothing being lost. I want them to come together and make more out of each other.


But you do it so well. Opera is about storytelling—you just described how you tell your story. Really, who can tell you how you tell your story appropriately? I love that you said you want it to be the best of both things. That’s beautiful and hard and vulnerable all at the same time.

[Laughing] Yeah, it is!

Krause in Bergen Nasjonale Opera’s production of Tryllefløyten, 2022

I have a snapshot of what your personality was in school.

[Laughing] Probably.


Is there something in your personality that you could look back on, some non-operatic or non-aerial thing that you can say, “OK, this is the little ember that started this whole thing?”

That’s an interesting question. I had a long gap between getting out of school and getting any regular singing work. It was a good seven years of constant auditioning and rejection and auditioning and rejection and taking lessons and taking coachings. Getting better at aerial work, getting injured, being set back, and trying again. It was a slog, but I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Why do you even like this?”

It can’t be all sum cost: I’ve always done this and spent all this money on a college degree, so I have to. No. You don’t have to do anything. What is it about this that I like? 

If it was just putting aerial and singing together, I could do that in a studio. I can do that for myself. If I like singing, I can take lessons for the rest of my life and enjoy singing, which would be fine. But the thing that I love is rehearsal. I love coming together with other people at the top of the game, and we get to play in the most serious way. It’s that sharing. It’s that collaboration. I want to go deep with this. Do you want to go deep with this? Can we really dig into this? Craft something in the rehearsal room and go too far and figure out what too far is. How do we scale it back, put it on a stage, and make it replicable, make it professional?

It’s that work that I like, and I can’t do it by myself. Part of what kept me going was the desire to share that environment. That has always been present in my life, the desire to see others and be seen myself, to come together and make something greater than we could on our own.

Rainelle Krause

You said it took you seven years. What about mentorship and connection?

It’s an eternity when you’re in that position at 22 or 23. That is a long time to look ahead and think, I don’t know. . . let’s see what happens. 

Who needs to eat?

Right! And that’s a lot of it, too. Let me be very frank. I was in a privileged position. I don’t come from money, but my husband had a salary. I didn’t have to worry about eating. I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to live. I was able to take auditions whenever I could. I didn’t have to juggle a job. My job was being fully focused. I’m going to get better, make connections, take as many auditions as possible, and try to figure this out myself. But that is a full-time job.

A lot of people ask, “How did you do it?” I had support. That made a difference. Maybe I would have figured it out otherwise, but I met a lot of wonderful colleagues who, after many years, went in another direction because the instability was unsustainable.

Rainelle Krause

I’m happy that you’re talking about having a husband and other experiences. How important do you think having a life is? Singers were at one point strictly pushed not to have that, especially women.

I feel now that things are shifting for opera singers in the middle of their studies, which is good. They need to. I know for me, as someone who is so Type A and dedicated, hearing that was really discouraging and a one-way path to burnout. I would take it seriously when people said you have to work harder than everybody else, be more prepared than everybody else, and work every single day.

You need to work hard and be prepared. Show up and know what you’re doing. Study. Do your work, but do it in a way that is sustainable and enriching for you. That will look different for different people, especially those who want to have kids, because of potential setbacks.

That’s a question that everyone has to answer for themselves. I would say for me, one of the biggest shifts from student to artist, which was a hard shift, was realizing that I couldn’t keep waiting for my life to start. Because I was living my life. 

Krause as the Queen of the Night in Opera Orchestré national Montpellier’s production of Die Zauberflöte, 2023.

There’s so much truth to that. You’re waiting for your life to start, not realizing your life is passing you by.

Exactly, and that was huge. I talked to colleagues, those in the “stuck,” horrible period. And I’d talk to people who’d gotten out of it, who had the kind of career I was hoping to have, and ask, “How did you do it? What was that like for you?” And they would reply, “I essentially reached a breaking point and decided I could do without it. I could walk away, and that’s when something really changed.”

Then I reached my own breaking point. It was two days before I had an agent audition in New York. I was 29 years old, just about to turn 30, and I remember thinking, “OK, this is it. You’re going go to New York and sing the best you’ve ever sung. And if you don’t get a shred of positive encouragement, you don’t have to be signed and get a big gig, but if you don’t have any momentum, find something else to do with your life. This is miserable. This is making you miserable, wanting so badly to do this thing with your life and your voice and yourself and not be able to do it. You can go find something else to do. You are a smart lady. You can figure it out.”

I went and sang a great audition, and the agent said, “Yeah, we have a spot on our roster for a Queen [of the Night].” This is another thing, too, because I’m a niche voice type. She happened to have an opening like that on the roster. Opera is art, but opera is business. Am I marketable for your roster? Students would do well to look at themselves and ask, “What do I bring to a business?”

Everyone has something to bring. I remember being a young coloratura and being told, “Oh, there are like a million of you.” No, there’s not. There’s one of me, just like there’s one of everyone else out there, and we all bring something specific. Your job as an artist is to dig so deeply for the authenticity only you can bring because of your experiences and thoughts, who you are, and what you have to say. That is what’s going to make you marketable to someone. Maybe not to everyone—probably not to everyone—because if you’re marketable to everyone, you’re probably not making authentic art.

I want to say I am cognizant of my survivorship bias. I have an exciting career and I hope it goes further. Who knows? Things in the business can change on a dime. I’m very excited about the direction I’m going in, but I am also very aware that it easily could have gone another way. I feel like many people who have success will often look back with rose-tinted glasses and say, “If you work hard enough, believe in yourself, and if you just. . .”

No, you also have to eat and take care of your physical and mental health and your family. Whatever your priorities are, you need to have those in place for a congruent life and hopefully make art around that. But if you’re setting up a life you love, you always have that.


Please check out www.rainellekrause.com and ask yourself what your requirements are for setting up a life you love.

Tara Melvin

  Dr. Tara A. Melvin is the director of community partnerships and education for New Orleans Opera. She is an accomplished soprano with extensive worldwide experience in operatic and art song repertoire as well as a passionate educator and researcher who has taught privately for over 10 years. She has held masterclasses in universities across the South, including week-long artist-in-residence stints that highlighted the interpretation of songs and operatic works of composers of African descent. Dr. Melvin holds a bachelor’s in classical voice from the University of New Orleans, a master’s in vocal performance and pedagogy from Southeastern Louisiana University, and a doctorate in musical arts from Texas Tech University.