David Eliakis–Queers Crash the Opera

Tapestry:  In our marketing for the Tap This series we said that it was important to us to produce this series because “While there are a lot of gays in opera, there are very few gay operas”.  So, that being said, how did you go about programming the repertoire for Queers Crash the Opera?

David Eliakis:  I was incredibly advantaged as a vocal coach because I have a huge network to ask and also an extensive collection of my own.  When I put out the call, I was really surprised at the response because it far exceeded the number of works we are able to do in one program.  But that’s great because I really hope this will turn into an annual event.  I was also surprised at the number of works I had never encountered before.  One was a work by composer Rodney Sharman, and when I contacted him, he sent along 10 other pieces that I’d love to include on future programs.  Who knew?

David Eliakis at work
David Eliakis at work

Tapestry:  Given that you uncovered such rich resources, how did you choose the works?

David:  Well we wanted it to be varied so we chose works that were traditional, modern, sad, funny, experimental, and of course, suited the incredible voices on the program.

Tapestry:  What has been your own experience working as a queer artist in opera?

David:  We sometimes forget that it is so recently that things have opened up, that it has been acceptable to speak about sexual orientation publicly.  I am a traditionalist when it comes to my own taste in singers.  I love listening to the greats from the 1950’s and 1960’s and I realize it was a very different world for them.  I can only imagine what it was like to audition and perform as a gay artist in that era.   Not to mention everything that has happened in the intervening years that has changed the landscape for good and bad, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic that changed lives and the community so drastically.

Tapestry:  How do you think opera has to change to be inclusive of queer experience, lives and identity?

David:  There are some works that are being composed now but too often they are second-stage, small works or they are being performed once.  We need a greater number of large, fully staged works produced by major companies that will become part of the international opera canon.  We also need to see a more open-mind on casting  traditional opera roles so that talented people with great voices are not ruled out of roles because their appearance doesn’t conform to a stereotype of “male” or “female” binary gender roles.


Learn more about David Eliakis at: https://www.davideliakis.com

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Teiya Kasahara, coloratura soprano