Gabriella Reyes Q&A
We caught up with Gabriella Reyes who is playing Mimì in La bohème for our autumn Tour...
Photo: © Suzanne Vinnik. Header image © Dario Acosta
Hi Gabriella, could you give us a short introduction to yourself and your career so far?
I’m a Nicaraguan-American soprano based in New York City. I’ve been singing all my life in my father’s church. My Abuelita [grandmother] had an affinity for classical music and would play the Met Opera radio broadcasts as she would take care of me as a child. Ultimately she inspired me to play the saxophone and tuba in the school band, which led me to opera. My career so far has taken me places 8-year-old Gabi would have never imagined. I did the Met competition at 24, and upon making the finals, Michael Heaston, who was then the head of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera invited me to join the programme. There I trained with incredible coaches, conductors, colleagues, and voice teachers. The program opened so many doors for my budding career, so when the pandemic hit upon completing the program and entering my first freelance year, opportunities were waiting for me when everything opened back up.
Could you talk us through what a cover artist does during the Festival?
As a cover, I must be prepared to jump in to perform. Thankfully the staff at Glyndebourne help prepare us by giving the covers our staging rehearsals and a run-through of our own to be sure we are ready. When the show opens, it’s our job to review our music and staging and to stay healthy and conditioned every day so that we can be ready to go if our colleagues get sick. Recently, I got the call at 9.30am to perform for Yaritza Véliz, and with a quick music rehearsal with Maestro, and a quick staging rehearsal with our assistant director, I made my Glyndebourne debut and role debut! It was a whirlwind since I had yet to rehearse with the orchestra, or on the set for that matter, however, I felt so supported by the cast, orchestra, and the whole team!
How will your work on the Festival help you to prepare for playing Mimì on Tour 2022?
Working on Mimì this way has been such a lovely way to debut this role for the tour. This is my first time singing this iconic role, and being able to watch Yaritza bring her to life has been so helpful and inspiring to my interpretation of Mimì. By watching the production as an audience member as many times as I have, I can pick up the nuances in storytelling that she brings as well as find my own that I want to incorporate in my portrayal.
Could you tell us a little about this production of La bohème, and how it is different from other productions of the opera you have been in?
In this production, director Floris Visser takes a non-traditional approach to this timeless story we all know. Death is a part of the retelling of this story, and he makes it clear by employing Parpignol as the undertaker who stalks Mimì throughout the entire opera. The addition of Death as a character shifts the audience’s perspective from that of a sweet love story to the harsh reality of how a woman from a low socioeconomic status copes with illness. I have never been a part of a production that has employed this type of storytelling by using a silent character, and it’s quite impactful as an actress. To be able to see death straight in the eye raises the stakes for my portrayal, helping me dive deep into the psyche of a woman so close both physically and figuratively to death.
The Festival 2022 production of La bohème. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith
Do you have a dream opera role?
My dream opera role hasn’t been written yet. I dream of telling the stories of my Latin American and Indigenous heritage through this art form. I dream of promoting the stories of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people for the rest of my career.
What’s next for you after Glyndebourne Tour?
After this, I have the privilege of premiering the role of Rose in my beloved partner King Rico’s opera The Factotum. He co-wrote this opera with baritone Will Liverman and we are premiering it at Chicago Lyric Opera. They took musical inspiration from The Barber of Seville and set it in a Black barbershop in Southside Chicago. I’m so proud of my partner and feel so honoured to be a part of sharing more stories of Black joy and excellence!
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