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Process: Dress

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'Process: Dress' is an opportunity for an audience to become a part of the creative process of two shows that are the brain-children of opera singer

Gráinne Gillis.

The first of the two is Mezzo Sings the Bard, a development of a show created for WAF 2018. The second, The Contralto Cabaret, is a newly-devised show based on an idea by Gráinne and written by Susan Cullen.

Be part of the thrills and spills of an actual working dress rehearsal in the intimate setting of the Blackburn Hall at the National Opera Studio. Interaction, feedback, a sense of fun, and a vote are the only requirements as we collaborate with one of the crucial elements of live performance - you, our audience.

*Note that this performance will be filmed

Mezzo Sings The Bard

  • One Charming Night- A Midsummer Night's Dream  - Henry Purcell

  • SURPRISE excerpt - audience participation!

  • Una Macchia (excerpt) - Macbeth - Giuseppe Verdi

  • Lady Macbeth - a scena - Joseph Horowitz

  • SURPRISE aria - audience participation!

  • I hate men - Kiss Me Kate - Cole Porter

  • Ah se tu dormi - Romeo e Giulietta - Nicolà Vaccai

  • J'ai versé le poison - Cleopatre - Jules Massenet

  • Dove mai riedo?... S'é ascolti - Amleto - Saverio Mercadante

  • The Compleat Works - Clea Laine & John Dankworth


The Contralto Cabaret

  • Stride la vampa! - Il Trovatore - Giuseppe Verdi

  • The Contralto Cabaret - Lyrics by Susan Cullen, Music by Adler & Ross

  • Song of a Nightclub Proprietress - Madeleine Dring

  • Pour une femme - La Fille du Régiment - Gaetano Donizetti

  • Afraid, am I afraid? - The Medium - Giancarlo Menotti

  • I am easily assimilated - Candide - Leonard Bernstein

  • Il Segreto d'esser felici - Gaetano Donizetti, English lyrics by Susan Cullen:

In a world that is fraught with emotion

We must seize every moment of gladness;

I will tell you, if you have a notion,

How to chase away sorrow and sadness:

Never let a kind thought go unspoken,

Or do something you'll live to regret;

Bonds of friendship must never be broken

That's a lesson we must not forget!


Bonds of friendship must never be broken

That's a lesson we must not forget!

We'll must never forget, not forget! x 2

We must never forget!

Gráinne Gillis

Praised by the Observer as having a voice with 'rich, dramatic potential', Gráinne Gillis is an Irish-American contralto. She read Music at UCC and graduated from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.


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.  Other highlights included her one-woman show Mezzo Sings The Bard, Hélène in Faust et Hélène, the Old Woman in Candide and La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.


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.


Future roles include Erda (Siegfried) and Klytemnestra (Elektra) in Germany, Schwertleite with Regent's Opera, and working on a new opera called Morrigan at the Cork Opera House. She also narrated, co-composed and sang on a soundscape project, Utterances I, commemorating the women who founded the Irish Free State. In addition to her opera work, Gráinne is also a voiceover artist and activist.


Susan began her professional career with English National Opera and a featured performance in the award -winning Rigoletto directed by Jonathan Miller   A freelance career took her all over the world. Operatic work was combined with appearances in London’s WestEend, TV and Radio.  Founder and Artistic Director of The Opera Express! she translated and adapted several operas to create workshop/performances for children throughout the UK. Susan recently formed Camaraderie,a performers' co-operative raising money for a variety of charities and balances performing with a career as  voice coach, writer and director. 

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Panaretos Kyriatzidis

A Britten Pears young artist, Panaretos Kyriatzidis is in high demand as a collaborative performer, vocal coach and musical director. He has won the Gerald Moore Award, Oxford Lieder Young Artist Platform, Emmy Destinn Awards accompanist prize and London Song Festival duo prize.


Panaretos (aka Pan) is the Musical Director of St Paul’s Opera and co-founder of The Opera Makers. He has performed extensively across the UK and abroad, has broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and has musically directed award-winning opera productions, one of which received an Olivier Award nomination.


A native of the Greek island of Thasos, Panaretos holds a BA in law and is an avid food lover. He is a member of staff at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and at Morley College.

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A few words: 

A show is a journey, a process, and there are so many people to thank. If I forget anyone, I beg your indulgence:

Wandsworth Arts Fringe, the National Opera Studio, Morag McLaren, Dotty Lawrence, Panaretos Kyriatzidis, LVL/UP, Julie Balloo, Rosina Zoppi & Oper Im Knopfloch, John Roussety, all the friends who've cheered me on and supported me, and last, but by no means least, my dear friend and mentor, Susan Cullen, who wrote The Contralto Cabaret based on an idea I had, made costumes and props and who constantly believes in me. 

For the 2018 production: Provence Maydew, Lois, Leon Berger (who supplied Yorick), Neil Baker, Sarah Agha at Killer Showreels, and Indra & Louis Bhose who made my promo. 

Thank you all for your support and belief - it takes a village to make a show! 

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