GGS and Ensemble Studio graduate Wallis Giunta will be returning to Toronto in early February for Tapestry Opera’s New Opera 101 program and the two concerts of Tapestry Songbook VI. Basically, she will be working with Jordan de Souza and a group of emerging artists on a three day series of workshops in contemporary opera which will include two concerts open to the public on February 5th and 6th. I spoke to her via Skype yesterday at her current digs in Leipzig.
We covered a lot of ground so let’s start with the material most relevant to the Tapestry gig. I don’t really associate Wallis with contemporary music or Tapestry, who for the most part have a fairly predictable stable of regulars, and it turned out that this was, indeed, Wallis’ first engagement with them but by no means her first crack at contemporary music. In fact, between all the Cherubinos and Mercedes she has done a lot of new work. Most recently she took part in a production of John Adams’ I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky at Opera di Roma; a work she has also performed in Paris. There’s also R. Murray Schafer’s Children’s Crusade and the American premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies’ Kommilitonen! at the Juilliard where she played the Chinese language role of Wu. A Dean Burry premiere and several engagements with Soundstreams are just a few more of the modern/contemporary projects she’s been involved with. So “new blood” for Tapestry but not at all new to the genre. The teaching aspect though will be a first.
Of course not every singer is comfortable in complex, atonal music and some who could sing it just prefer to stick with, as Wallis put it, “the melodies”. So naturally I had to ask what made her comfortable in this space and she put it down to learning to be a musician from a very early age (as in five). A lot of singers don’t come to opera or classical music until their late teens or twenties and find some contemporary scores very intimidating.
I also wanted to know about a singer’s life in Germany. So many young Canadian singers seem to choose now to go the Fest route. It’s hardly a surprise given the competition for a limited amount of solo work in Canada and the barriers for Canadians trying to work in the US (more AGMA than Homeland Security). There’s security and healthcare and the ability to try out many different roles in a German ensemble though it’s balanced by less than stellar remuneration. If, like Wallis though, one is sufficiently established to get a reasonable number of guest and concert gigs it can work out. In any event she’s in Leipzig through the 2016/17 season. I was curious to learn about the performance scheduling practice there. Apparently it’s common to have a long rehearsal period then a few performances spread out over the course of a year. Very different from the concentrated two or three production campaigns that are the norm in North America.
We talked about a lot of other things including kittens and bunnies but that really doesn’t belong here and all the juicy stuff about directors and future plans stays under wraps for now. Tickets are on sale for Songbook VI. There aren’t so many chances to see Wallis in Toronto these days so you might want to consider it.