Sound Bites spotlights up-and-coming singers and conductors in the world of opera.
Sound Bites: Wallis Giunta
This month, the mezzo sings Tiffany in Adams’s I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky for her Rome debut. by Maria Mazzaro
Photograph by Dario Acosta
Makeup and hair: Affan Malik
Wallis Giunta’s mezzo boasts a silvery top and a hearty midrange, both deployed with crisp diction in an ever-growing repertoire of modern and classic roles. In November, she makes her German debut as Cherubino at Oper Leipzig, where her other assignments through June are Rossini’s Angelina, Siébel in Faust and even a Valkyrie. A July debut in Frankfurt, as Mercédès in Carmen, follows.
An alum of the Met’s Lindemann Program, which she completed in 2013, the Canadian began her studies in Ottawa and Toronto, where her first undergrad assignments were quintessential soprano roles — Mozart’s Queen of the Night and Susanna. Now, she says, “I have high notes, but I can’t live there. It’s not that I have a bad technique and I’m actually a soprano in hiding. The most colorful part of my voice is the middle. So if anyone ever says to me, ‘I think you’re a soprano,’ I say, ‘Well, yes, I am. A mezzo-soprano is just a different kind of soprano, and that’s the kind I am.’”
Mozart continues to hold an important place in Giunta’s repertoire. “I am very, very satisfied singing Mozart operas, but I have to work harder — as opposed to Britten or Rossini, which tends to lie pretty low and then go up, then come back down again,
Mozart is non-relenting passaggio singing. So for me, it’s a challenge. It’s a good challenge.”
Alongside traditional gems, Giunta likes to sing twentieth- and twenty-first-century music. In April, her first Naxos recording was released — a new song suite for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, Silent Film Heroines, by William Perry. She has also sung world premieres in Canada by Dean Burry and Andrew Ager, as well as R. Murray Schafer’s Children’s Crusade, in which “the audience and the performers were all just mingling around willy-nilly in a warehouse, and the scenes in the show would evolve organically out of the crowd. It was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever been a part of. And it was opera.”
Because of the “unbelievable” expanding definition of opera, Giunta never worries about the future of her art form. “I think it’s very easy to say it’s bad right now and the future is precarious, but when in history has there not been some sword hanging over the head of opera? Whether it’s a war, or a great depression, or an industrial revolution, there’s always something. So we say now it’s worse than it’s ever been, but we don’t know. We didn’t live a hundred years ago!”
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