‘The Why’ with Singer and Actress Eve Gigliotti

Eve Gigliotti is a versatile singing actress whose powerful voice and riveting stage presence have earned her a place on the greatest stages of the world, including The Metropolitan Opera, LA Philharmonic, San Francisco Opera and many other famous opera houses and concert halls. She is now making waves in her new role of creative producer, dramaturg and performer in “Untitled (Inspired by Film Stills)”, an original work currently being produced by National Sawdust and created with several well known collaborators including Royce Vavrek (libretto), RB Schlather (director), and composers Nico Muhly, Missy Mazzoli, Paola Prestini and Ellen Reid.

Through various triumphs and a few trials along her professional singing career, Gigliotti has discovered the deeper meaning of ‘finding her voice,’ and she has important lessons to pass along to any singing artist who is looking for innovation and new ways to share their talents.

photo by Arielle Doneson

I sing both traditional and modern rep, and have no issue in a 4,000 seat house or a 200 seat black box.  Even though my obsession has always been achieving the best technical expression I can execute (to varying degrees of success throughout the years- admittedly), the reason has always been driven by the message of the text – the why.  The technique is the facility in which to express, but the expression comes from the dramatic exploration of character through text and musical language. If the why is not strong, I have a hard time connecting. But when it’s all there, it’s like there’s no stopping me. Jackpot! I think that’s why Wagner has affected me so strongly.  The text is so important to the psychology of the music. It is so rich and layered both in music and in language. Every time I get to do a Ring, it’s a new excavation of earth; you keep on discovering new depths and brighter gems.  

I always approach a new project from the standpoint of the why.  Why are we telling this story? Why is this character here in this scene?  Why has this composer set this text in this way? Opera has the power to ask these questions in powerful ways.  We have the ability to tell great stories and possibly change the way people think and feel- or at least remind them that they are capable of thinking and feeling.  Opera moves people, if we have a clear reason to do so.  

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I had early success as a singer, and then kind of fell through the cracks.  I was singing as a soprano through my late twenties, when after my voice settled it just wasn’t working anymore and I wasn’t working anymore!  It took a while, and a few teachers, and a leap of faith to realize that I might actually be a mezzo. And then a little bit longer for the size of my voice to develop, and for me to understand how to sing supporting the full range of my instrument.  So here I am after all of these years and a ton of hard work and dedicated teachers and mentors, and I feel like I’m just at the beginning of something. Because that’s singing for me- a constant discovery. A constant renewal. I’m now poised to dive into all that the dramatic mezzo fach has to offer- but there always has to be a reason why

So I want to continue to move people, to remind people that opera is of the people, made by and for the collective us.  Through building ‘Untitled’ I was able to use my personal experiences and imagination to contribute in creating stories that I believe speak to many.  I am collaborating with some of the most brilliant composers; it’s pretty unbelievable. We have the most talented, articulate and sensitive librettist (Vavrek) and a director I want to play in the sandbox with all day long (Schlather) – not to mention producing team (National Sawdust Projects)- to make something new that challenges me as an artist and pushes the boundaries of what opera can be, in my opinion.  It’s unbelievably meaningful to me and empowering. I have so much to say – ha! What a privilege it is to have a platform in which to say it. What an incredible privilege it is to have composers write for you.  

So where do I fit in? Who knows…! I never saw myself as a diva in a gown singing the greatest hits. For me, that wasn’t what opera was.  For me, opera was Renee Fleming sitting on that rooftop singing ‘Ain’t it a Pretty Night’ with the most heartbreaking and vulnerable pianissimo, while I stood on my feet in the upper upper balcony of the Met, transformed.  In that moment I finally saw myself. Every one of us needs that ‘aha’ moment in opera where they too see themselves and where they truly connect with their hearts. Otherwise it’s all artifice. That’s why we need to continue telling all of the stories.  There is so much room in our art form to expand and continue exploring the why for all of us.  I want to be a part of that.  

I guess the bottom line is that I love the work.  I love it so much- every time I get to go to work, I’m happy.  Every time I get to wake up and collaborate with other artists to create a place where people can be moved by music, I’m happy.  When it’s something I’ve had a hand in creating, maybe I’m the happiest.  

For more information on Eve and her upcoming projects, visit evegigliotti.com

Jonathan Blalock

Jonathan Blalock is represented by Encompass Arts. He has sung with The Santa Fe Opera, The Dallas Opera, Washington National Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, The Pacific Symphony, Memphis Symphony, PROTOTYPE Festival and Opera Hong Kong.