2014 Best Leading Actress in a Musical or Opera: Aliana de la Guardia as The Shopper/Mother in Guerilla Opera's "Gallo"

Although we have announced our 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award Winners, we continue our Nominee Interview Series.

NOTE: If you or your production was nominated for a 2014 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in a Nominee Interview, please email us here.

Aliana de la Guardia showcases an impressive acting and vocal range, embodying her characters with the necessary physicality and vocal dexterity to meet even the most demanding of roles.  Her operatic training combined with experience in television and film make her a truly one-of-a-kind talent in the Greater Boston theatre community and within the opera community.  In her Interview, Aliana talks about Guerilla Opera and its unique mission and works, her (not-so) hidden talent, and why Gallo was such a successful production.

Photo by Alicia Packard Photography

Photo by Alicia Packard Photography

Hi, Aliana! So wonderful for you to join us.  Can you tell us who you are and what you do?

I am a Boston based soprano vocalist specializing in extended vocal techniques, and avant-garde and experimental music.

What was Gallo?

Gallo was the brain-child of composer Ken Ueno, written for Guerilla Opera. It was routed in some basic human histories, but really was about experiencing our own human nature through the ideas of relationships, creation, consumption and re-birth.

Talk to us about Guerilla Opera.  How is it similar to other opera companies?  How is it different?  What is its mission?  What does it do for the Greater Boston theatre scene?

Guerilla Opera is Boston’s only avant-garde and experimental opera company. It’s our mission to seek out composers that write this kind of music as well as directors and designers that produce this kind of theater. Because it’s our mission to produce this kind of opera, our audience doesn’t expect any of the standard repertoire or composers, or any kind of “safe” production choices. We fell very free because of this, and we’re thankful of the trust our audience consistently puts in us.

In addition to our visual and musical aesthetic we raise the stakes for the performance of this music by removing the conductor or any formal music director. This allows us to communicate to each other directly as well as build the music ourselves as an ensemble. We also have a roster of recurring artists, much like a repertory theater, and we take them into consideration when commissioning new works. We don’t generally like to hold open auditions.

In all of my research I haven’t come across any ensemble that’s quite like us in the country and, therefore, I think we occupy a unique niche in Boston and also nationwide.

What is the rehearsal process for a Guerilla Opera production?  Was the process different for Gallo?

Our rehearsal process tends to be intense and fast. For Gallo, from the time that music rehearsals began to the dress rehearsals, we’d been at it almost every night for about a month. We work fast and we like it that way.

The process itself was not different for Gallo, but it was the most abstract opera we’d performed at the time, so we, as performers, had to change our thought process going into rehearsals. There was very, very little spoken narrative to drive the plot forward. Our through-lines were determined by sequences of actions and interactions rather than dialogue or traditional songs or arias.

What is the hardest thing about performing for you?  Have you performed in musicals or plays?  Why did you choose to focus on opera?

The hardest thing about performing to me is balancing physicality and voice. I have always been someone to give up beauty of my voice for the drama of the scene or character. I am okay with it now and I think our audience deserves someone who will take a risk and give up something for them, if it’s right to do so.

I have performed in plays and musicals – I’ve even performed on television in 2010, but I’ve never felt more challenged or extraordinary than when I perform classical music, and, specifically, the kind of music that I currently seek out. Not many can or want to do it, but I love the challenge and the abstract thought.

In high school when looking into colleges my initial thoughts were of becoming an actor, but, the more that I took voice lessons, and the more I became able to sing classical music, I just fell in love. Opera seemed the way to go if I wanted to be an actor and a classical singer.

What is one of your (not-so) hidden talents?  Have you ever used it onstage?

I have a great horror movie scream and I got to use it in a new opera called Bovinus Rex. Opera singers never scream, but it’s so fun and liberating.

What are some of your dream roles?  Would you ever perform a pants-role?

I would love to play the title role in Lulu or Marie in Wozzek. It’s my kind of musical repertoire and such complicated characters. I would love to have a crack at them!

I would perform a pants role, although I don’t quite understand them in contemporary culture.

What makes you happy?  What are some of your pet peeves?

My cat and a good meal make me happy.

Folks who make a million excuses for themselves, for why they’re inadequate or whatever, that’s a huge pet peeve.

Why was Gallo a successful production?  What were some of its major themes or ideas?

Gallo was such a strange opera. I think the immersive, participatory nature of the production was really appealing – made folks feel like the opera was happening to them rather than a distanced experience about someone or something else.

Some themes included the destruction of the old and creating of something new, represented by the Lisbon earthquake and the 18th century gentleman. This also simultaneously explores the idea of the process of creation for the artist. The Shopper/Mother, my character, represented the general consumer’s demand and need to buy. The character of the Gallo, who was ever changing in form, represented the artist or creator’s struggle to stay relevant.

If you could give 18-year-old Alaina one piece of advice, what would it be?

Learn to play the piano!

What is your favorite breakfast food?

I love everything breakfast. It’s my favorite meal of the day! Pancakes are especially my favorite!

What is one thing that you hope to accomplish in 2015?

My main goal was that I wanted to teach more – teach voice lessons, and I’m doing that now, so I feel good about it.

Do you have any upcoming projects or productions?

Right now I’m focusing on Guerilla Opera’s 2015-2016 season, which is our 9th! We’re premiering two more new operas by incredible composers and we’re talking to some awesome directors. I can’t wait to announce what we have coming!

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Guerilla Opera is in its closing weekend of Pedr Solis by Per Bloland with stage direction by Laine Rettmer. Tickets are still available and they can visit us online for more information at www.guerillaopera.com.