Rebecca Gray | Ottawa, Ontario

Rebecca Gray is a soprano, composer, improviser and violinist living in Toronto, scraping together a living singing Handel and performing and composing experimental queer opera. As a singer, she has performed with Esprit Orchestra, Tapestry Opera, OperaQ and FAWN chamber collective. As a composer, Rebecca has little interest in developing new tonal systems or creating complex palaces of musical structure. Rebecca is most excited by new ideas, and discovery new, collaborative ways to express the emotional heart of them. Her work also explores how classic narratives operate in the present day, and Ishe often reworks classic texts, particularly with a feminist perspective. Rebecca has a special love for vocal writing, and is currently obsessed with puppet opera.

Madame Bovary: The Monotony of Passion


I have developed a 20 minute suite for solo soprano, centered around the emotional lives of three female characters from classic literature: Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre, Becky Sharpe from Vanity Fair, and Emma Bovary from Madame Bovary. I seek to create an imagined space where these women can speak in ways unavailable to them in the novel, and also explore and dramatize the relationship between characters and the actresses interpreting their words. As a soprano, I often interpret roles of women who are, at best, frustrating, and, at worst, soporifically virtuous. I am familiar with the struggle to embody these characters, particularly when the work has a patriarchal male perspective. As a lesbian, there is a further layer added to my frustration and empathy. I want to dramatize the inner dialogue women have with themselves and with their characters as they interpret these roles.

I am drawn to these heroines because they are all frustrating and sympathetic in different ways: Jane is almost maddeningly principled and marries an abusive man 20 years her senior; her empathy and love make us at once admire her and want to shake her. I composed a 7 minute unaccompanied piece called WTF Jane Eyre which provided my inspiration to expand the project. Becky Sharpe is determined to rise above her low rank, and employs intelligence, wit and legendary manipulation to attain higher station; we love watching her outsmart crusty old duchesses, but she also ruins the lives of countless servants and naïve friends in her quest for wealth. Emma Bovary is a more classic femme fatale, whose romantic desires and delusions lead her down a path which results in her death. I am presenting a workshop version of her movement. I wanted to portray both the earnestness of her romantic and sexual desires and the maddening levels of sympathy, outrage and face palming her behaviour engenders in the reader.

Rebecca Gray's residency was generously supported by the T.C. Hargrave Scholarship in Voice Endowment