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?
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.