Some of my best memories of childhood involve my dad holding a guitar or my mom singing me to sleep. There’s a picture of me standing up in my crib at the age of 9 months with my mouth wide open, singing along with my dad and his guitar.
I first attempted opera when I was about five. I wore a towel for a cape and sang Queen of the Night while parading around my grandma’s house.
Shakespeare was a huge influence on my early acting training. I loved to explore the nuances of the language, and I often asked my parents for historical analysis and etymology of the words. Early roles included Ariel in the Tempest, Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Maria in Twelfth Night, Macduff in Macbeth, and extensive scene study. That’s where I learned the importance of text and how poets can use word choice and inflection to reveal a character. I still use the same approach when learning an opera role.
I’ve been playing piano since I was three, and in 2016 I earned my Paderewski medal from the National Piano Teachers’ Guild of the American College of Musicians (that means 10 years of successful auditions at the national level). Piano is a great creative outlet for me outside of my “professional” musical obligations. I can enjoy the intricacies between fingers without worrying if I trip over myself. It’s also the single most valuable tool my young life gave me to be a good musician in terms of theory, sight reading, and role preparation.
I first decided to go for it and be a performer in high school. I had a teacher that told me I didn’t have what it takes. And another teacher suggested I go to college and become a successful performer far away from that first teacher. I cried, and then I did it.
I spent the first two years of college struggling to admit to myself that I really, really, really wanted to be a singer. I was afraid I wasn’t good enough, and admitting I wanted it could lead to failing at it. The best decision I ever made was acknowledging that I (1) wanted to be a singer, (2) had some really bad performance anxiety and general fear of failure to deal with, and (3) I needed to ask for help with both of those. It took a direct decision and a strong act of will to see all three of those aspects of myself and my life, and I have never been the same since. Every aspect of my life was affected, from health to romance. The world opened up, and now everything is possible.
Understanding music is important to me. I have always been passionate about knowing how and why composers choose certain patterns, words, phrases, instrumentations, etc. I got the chance to really explore the historical aspect of that with my interdisciplinary thesis in college: “Death, Resurrection, and the Power of Music.” I did extensive research into the cultural context of opera, the philosophy of composers and music theorists of the Renaissance, ancient religions, and the use of mythology in pop culture (both today and in the 1600s). The history of the Papacy and holy wars also came up.
History and theory are not separate from performance. I need to understand music in order to perform it well. The context in which the composer wrote, and the origin of the story material in an opera, and the relationships between the sonorities in the music are all part of how a character/story/emotion is expressed.
Soprano Phoebe Gildea has been praised for her vibrant voice, honest acting, and engaging stage presence. She has performed roles including Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Amalia (She Loves Me), Cathleen (Riders to the Sea), Emma (Jekyll & Hyde), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Miss Pinkerton (The Old Maid and the Thief), and Despina (Così fan tutte) with companies such as the Astoria Music Festival, Cascadia Concert Opera, and Eugene Opera, among others. An active performer in concert, Ms. Gildea has put together several successful solo programs for venues including Jaqua Concert Hall and The Wildish Theater, on such themes as music that walks the line between opera and musical theater; music based on the text and stories of Shakespeare; and songs of death and supernatural phenomena for Halloween. As a soloist, she has performed Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été, Copland’s Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, Bach's Peasant Cantata, and the Vivaldi Gloria.
Phoebe has been selected to participate in OperaWorks Intensive Programs, the Astoria Music Festival Vocal Apprentice Program, the Eugene Opera Artist Mentor Program, and the American Institute of Musical Studies (Austria). Also trained as a pianist, she has performed in auditions for ten years at the national level for the National Guild of Piano Teachers (American College of Musicians), and is a 2016 Paderewski winner.
Ms. Gildea holds a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from Chapman University. Equally passionate about understanding music as about performing it, she received a concurrent Bachelor of Arts in music, which included an interdisciplinary thesis on the history of resurrection mythology in opera. Her academic achievements include the Burghardt Award, the Music History Award, and the Award for Academic Excellence from the University Honors Program.
Phoebe is currently based in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon, where she maintains a private teaching studio and offers workshops for performers.