Mezzo Sings The Bard
Irish-American dramatic contralto Gráinne Gillis studied at University College Cork, the CIT Cork School of Music, after which she studied at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. A classically trained actress with a voice described by the Observer as having 'rich, dramatic potential', Gráinne is particularly suited to the works of Verdi, Wagner and Strauss, and works that call for a strong singing actress.
2018/19 has seen Gráinne performing Flora in the Olivier award-winning King's Head Theatre's production of La Traviata (nominated for an Offie), as well as performing Bernstein's Songfest for the London Song Festival. She also attended private workshops with the legendary dramatic mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick in August 2018 (one of only 5 singers invited to participate at her home in Reno). In 2017/18 she played the part of Annina in Pavilion Opera's La Traviata; Helene in Faust et Helene by Lili Boulanger, the Old Woman in Candide, and Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica at Llangollen International Eisteddfod; and produced her own one-woman show on Shakespeare and opera for the Wandsworth Arts Fringe, Mezzo Sings the Bard. Future plans involve performing Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance at the Cork Opera House; singing Aksinya in Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk for Fulham Opera Orchestral Study Days; and singing Zia Principessa and Lucia in Suor Angelica and Cavalleria Rusticana respectively, for the newly formed North Wales Opera Company.
She also enjoys championing new work, especially that which is female-centric: she has originated the role of Ella in Clem Ishmael's Looking at the Sun and played the Transvestite in the second performance of Marion Ingoldsby's Hot Food for Strangers. Her particular interest is in celebrating women sidelined by history: to that end she has played Annie-Jump Cannon in The Observatory (a BSL multi-sensory opera) by Stephen Bentley-Klein and Sarah Grange, supported by Improbable; and created the role of Captain Flora Sandes in the original production of Dead Equal by Rose Miranda Hall and Lila Palmer, supported by ENO and the IOA as part of Formations 2016. This interest stemmed from a self-taught seminar in her final year at UCC about female composers, which was later made into a critically acclaimed radio series on RTÉ Lyric FM, written and presented by Gráinne herself.