Praised by the Observer as having a voice with 'rich, dramatic potential' and for her clarity of diction as well as her ‘vibrant and bright tones’ by Opera Now, Gráinne Gillis is an Irish-American contralto. She read Music at UCC and graduated from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Career highlights have included singing Madame Flora in Menotti’s The Medium, the Mother in Hansel and Gretel, and Pierrot Lunaire, all at Grimeborn, working with Sir Peter Hall on a sold-out US tour of As You Like It, and three seasons with Pavilion Opera on Die Zauberflöte, Macbeth and La Traviata respectively.
In 2018/19 she sang Flora in the Olivier award-winning King’s Head Theatre’s production of La Traviata and opened the London Song Festival. This season also included her one-woman show Mezzo Sings The Bard (which she will reprise at WAF 2022) Hélène in Faust et Hélène, the Old Woman in Candide and La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. That summer she also studied with Dolora Zajick and organised a 100-strong chorus for the Women’s March London as part of their ‘Bring The Noise’ event.
In 2019/20 she made her Irish debut as Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance at Cork Opera House, and Vampyrmeister/Suse in Der Vampyr for Gothic Opera (Offie-nominated).
COVID cancellations in 2020 included a national tour of Ireland with Sea Trilogy as well as 1st Magd/cover Klytemnestra in Elektra. During the pandemic, Gráinne has been involved in a number of online projects including No Room No Room No Room for Opera Harmony, aired on Operavision, Last Party on Earth on film and at Tête-à-Tête 2020, Bread and Circuses (Tête-à-Tête 2020), Random Opera’s Gianni Schicchi (Zita) and La Femme Lunatique’s Elizabeth Bishop project.
Roles in 2022 included working on a new opera called Morrigan at the Cork Opera House, as well as singing the She-Ancient for Regent’s Opera in Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage in April 2022. She narrated, co-composed and sang on a soundscape project, Utterances I, commemorating the women who founded the Irish Free State. In 2022, Gráinne also performed at WAF 2022 in London with two shows (Mezzo Sings the Bard and The Contralto Cabaret) under the umbrella term Process: Dress.
In 2023 Gráinne has sung the role of Schwertleite in Regent’s Opera Die Walküre (this will continue in 2024 with a full Ring Cycle). She worked with soprano Laure Meloy and Femme Lunatique on a concert project called Disturbing the Peace and sang Emilia to Nadine Benjamin MBE’s Desdemona in a recital about Shakespeare in music in London. In October 2023, she reprised her role as Baba in The Medium with conductor Matthew Toogood (Komische Oper) and performed her one-woman show 'The Contralto Cabaret' twice in the past year in Berlin.
Work in the 2023/24 also includes Margret in Wozzeck as part of Regent’s Opera’s Orchestral Study weekends and devising a show about Richard Wagner’s influence on Augusta Holmès, which is part of Zeitgeist Irland 2024, kindly supported by Culture Ireland and the Irish Embassy in Berlin. She will also take part in the Engender Mentoring Programme at the Royal Opera House, London. In addition to her opera work, Gráinne is also a highly experienced voiceover artist.