After six months of struggling to find work during the Covid-19 lockdown, a young singer from Northern Ireland is about to embark on a European career after landing a sought-after role with a top German opera company.
Rebecca Murphy is heading to Cologne to reignite her on-stage career and said the first thing she needs to do is brush up on the German language.
"This year anyone in my industry has been caught in a bit of a whirlwind," said Rebecca (26), from Magherafelt in Co Londonderry.
"Before the pandemic I was living in Edinburgh with my boyfriend, who is a professional violinist. Both of us had huge chunks of work cancelled.
"I was supposed to be spending the summer in Finland, singing at Savonlinna Opera Festival for six weeks, and my boyfriend had almost a full year's work cancelled with Scottish Ballet Orchestra.
"We both took the difficult decision to move home for a while and see where the next few months would take our careers. Fortunately, the Cairnryan to Belfast ferry has been keeping our relationship afloat! We've also been very fortunate that we're both music tutors and have been able to continue teaching online to bring in an income."
But after a chance spot on a website, soprano singer Rebecca thought she had nothing to lose when she saw that a top children's opera company in Cologne were looking for a solo performer.
She explained: "Job postings totally dried up during the past six months. When I saw this role come up I was a bit surprised as I assumed everything was on hold.
"I knew there would be plenty of interest, but I decided to apply for it anyway, not really expecting even as much as an audition as German Opera Houses are extremely competitive, even during normal times.
"I didn't think much more of it, but I was surprised to be offered an audition in June. I was able to travel just as the German borders were opening. Everything just fell into place for me. It was all a bit stressful, but I'm so glad I got to go and it has clearly paid off."
Rebecca is now on her way to Germany and starts her new role with Oper Köln (Cologne) today.
"The season will be slow to start because of the pandemic and precautions everywhere, but that will give me a bit of time to study for my first role," she said.
"I'm expecting things to be a bit overwhelming to begin with," she admitted. "Being able to speak in the German language is really important when working for an opera company in Germany, and at the moment, my German is pretty basic.
"I will be getting lessons as part of the job, so I'm hopeful that things will improve as quickly as they need to.
"I always loved languages at school and the study of language for singers is really important. If I could turn back the clock, I may have studied a language degree, and gone into singing after, but it's never too late."
After completing her studies at Queen's University Belfast and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Rebecca landed a place on the Northern Ireland Opera Studio, a one-year professional programme for young singers and the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland.
Rebecca is also passionate about music education which fits in perfectly with her new role.