Standing tall and slender with a gregarious smile and gentle demeanor, opera singer Jeffery Krueger is no stranger to the stage.
But unless he told you, you might never believe such a fairy tale-like story to be true.
Master of his social presence yet open in a cool and calming manner, Jeffery makes his way to the piano along the backdrop of tall ceilings in the foyer at Villa Meyer. He begins to share his story with the audience at Club International’s English Lounge – a story of humble beginnings, from a dairy farm in the American Midwest to the hallowed stages of Europe.
Not unlike many talented people that end up making a career in the performing arts, Jeffery started taking music seriously upon encouragement from a high school music teacher who recognized his talents early on.
He decided to pursue a vocal studies Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Iowa and upon its completion in 2000, began a search for where exactly in music his passion and abilities would take him. Some friendly guidance suggested he consider a career overseas in Europe.
Jeffery took the leap and, in 2002, enrolled in the Hochschule der Künste in Bern. He studied opera and graduated from the Swiss institution in 2004.
After 2 years as a member of Opernhaus Zürich’s International Opera Studio, he landed his first job on the German stage: From 2006-13, as resident artist at the Hagen Theater in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Then, craving a change of pace, Jeffery moved to Leipzig. Here, he auditioned for and got a competitive position at the beloved Musikalische Komödie (MuKo), where he is a resident artist to this day.
Amazing, yes. But smooth, not so much.
Jeffery made it clear that like all great adventures, there were trials along the way that tested him. As with many others from humble beginnings, money wasn’t always readily available for the things that come with building yourself as an artist, such as travel to auditions.
He also mentioned that he spent a lot of his time in trial and error scenarios. Though part of the nature of the business, this was exacerbated by professional development missing from university. An all too common factor which I believe many of us can also relate to. Still, he looks back on it as a time of great character building, learning self-reliance, and being imbued with a healthy sense of “cynicism and pragmatism.”
Borrowing from classic philosophical tradition, he expressed the importance of “knowing yourself,” and being aware of your limitations, as on par in importance with developing your craft and skill. This, he said, allowed him to arrive at a point of great contentment in his life, because he was free to stretch toward positions he felt he could achieve.
Jeffery said this sincere joy is further fueled by his beloved life partner (present at piano in the English Lounge) and his diverse group of friends outside of theater, who continue to enrich his life every day.
Understanding the value of what someone with Jeffery’s experience might give to prospective performing artists, I asked him if he was ever completely blind-sided by something in the industry. He kindly and honestly responded:
There are mediocre artists who have amazing careers and amazing artists with mediocre careers or no career at all.
He further reflected that “much depends on ambition, endurance, connections, and being in the right place at the right time.”
I also asked him what his favorite role to sing was, to which he said: “I like to sing pretty much any music that I feel I can sing well and that I feel is well written. I feel that Tony (West Side Story) is the role I sing the best, and I have had success performing it.”
Finally, he gave us a playlist that’s near and dear to his heart.
1. “Dalla sua pace” from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni
2. “Lagunenwalzer” from Strauss’s operetta Eine Nacht in Venedig
3. “Something’s Coming” and “Maria” from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story
Jeffery Krueger has recently been seen performing in MuKo’s Count of Monte Cristo.
Jeffery’s next performance is in Michael Chu’s song cycle Never give up on love – Sat 23 June @ 3 pm, Oper Leipzig’s Musikalischer Salon.
Keep up with the singer’s performance calendar via his Oper Leipzig profile.
A version of this text was first published on Medium.
Cover shot: Die Piraten (MuKo), featuring Jeffery Krueger in 2016-17. Photo © Tom Schulze