Hailed by The Observer as a voice with ‘great dramatic potential’ and praised by Opera Now for her ‘vibrant, bright tones’ and clarity of diction, Gráinne Gillis is an Irish-American dramatic contralto based in Europe, specialising as a Spielalt. She gained a First in Music at University College Cork, were she was the recipient of many awards, including two Italian Government Scholarships, the Donal ‘Doc’ Gleeson award and the Capriccio Composition Prize. She then went on to study at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and graduated with distinction.
Since re-training as an opera singer, she has worked as an Emerging Artist for Opera della Luna in The Gondoliers, and performed La Nourrice in Ariane et Barbe-Bleu, Zita in Gianni Schicchi, and the Mother in Hansel & Gretel; La Zia Principessa and La Badessa in Suor Angelica; Dryad in Ariadne auf Naxos; Baba in The Medium; Annie Jump-Cannon in The Observatory for Improbable; 3rd Witch in Macbeth for English Pocket Opera Company; Madame Popova in The Bear; Dritte Dame in Die Zauberflöte, Dama/3rd Witch in Macbeth and Annina in La Traviata for Pavilion Opera; Frugola & Lucia in Il Tabarro and Cavalleria Rusticana respectively; The Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas, Formations 2016 for The Helios Collective, creating the role of Flora Sandes in Dead Equal at ENO Baylis, supported by ENO and the IOA.
In 2018/19 she worked with the legendary mezzo Dolora Zajick as one of only 5 selected participants in intensive vocal workshops in Reno, Nevada in 2018; sang the role of Flora in the Olivier award-winning King’s Head Theatre’s autumn production of La Traviata (nominated for an Offie) and also sang a concert of Bernstein songs in the opening recital for the London Song Festival. Other highlights in the 2018/19 saw her performing her own one-woman show Mezzo Sings The Bard, a show about Shakespeare and opera; and singing Hélène in Faust et Hélène, the Old Woman in Candide and La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod 2018.
In 2019/20 roles include Aksinya in Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk for Fulham Opera; Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica and Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana for North Wales Opera Company; Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance at the Cork Opera House, and Vampyrmeister/Suse in Der Vampyr for Gothic Opera (nominated for an Offie).
This season she was due to return to her native Cork as part of the ensemble for 'Sea Trilogy', a three-opera show touring Ireland, and to perform the role of 1st Magd in a production of Elektra. Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic neither show happened. However, Gráinne was involved with several online projects, including 'No Room No Room No Room' on OperaVision, a 'Walkuerenritt' and a film of Edward Lambert's 'Last Party On Earth', which she later performed at the Cockpit Theatre in London as part of Tête à Tête 2020. She also created the role of Ada Vance in Liam Wade's new opera, Bread and Circuses, set in the world of wrestling, in September 2020 in London. Gráinne was grateful to be supported in 2019/20 by Help Musicians UK.
Post-pandemic, Gráinne returned to the Cork Opera House as part of the cast for the critically-acclaimed new opera by John O'Brien and Éadaoin O'Donoghue, Morrigan in July 2022. She also performed her two one-woman shows, Mezzo Sings The Bard and The Contralto Cabaret under the umbrella of Process:Dress at the National Opera Studio in London. She was also awarded scholarships for the Dramatic Voices Program Berlin and the renowned Lotte Lehmann Akademie in Perleberg, Germany. Roles in the 2022/23 season include Erda in Siegfried with the Berlin Wagner Gruppe and Schwertleite in Die Walküre with Regent's Opera in London.
© Gráinne Gillis