This Christmas season, the Edmonton Symphony is teaming up with some very talented Canadian vocalists. Wallis Giunta, a mezzo-soprano, will be performing with the ESO at three performances this season: Handel’s Messiah (Dec 4 and 5), Christmas Classics (Dec 17), and We Wish You A Merry Christmas! (Dec 19-20). Earlier this week, we touched base with Wallis and got to know her a bit better.
1. Where did you grow up and where do you currently reside?
I grew up in Ottawa and now live in Leipzig, Germany.
2. What do you like to do when you’re not performing? What are your hobbies?
I love to read! Currently working through the complete works of Dickens. I love hiking, biking, yoga and volunteering with small animal rescues wherever I am performing. John and I also collect tiny animal figurines, and I mean TINY.
3. Have you been to Edmonton before? If yes, have you performed with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in the past?
Yes, I performed Messiah with the ESO back in December of 2012. That was my first trip to Edmonton, and despite the deep freeze that year, I had a great time.
4. What is your favourite Christmas song?
That would have to be "O Come All Ye Faithful" because every year my family goes door to door caroling on our street and that is our signature song. We've worked out all the harmonies and I do the descant.
5. What’s your favourite holiday treat?
Mulled wine, for sure!
6. What was Christmas like in your family growing up? How do you celebrate the holidays now?
I have been very fortunate to have only missed one Christmas at home in Ottawa with my family (I was performing at the Met). We go caroling on Christmas Eve and party with our neighbours, then have a sleep in on the 25th, followed by Dad's oatmeal and presents around noon. Then usually dinner at either of my parents' sides of the family. I have a huge family and they are mostly all in Ottawa, so we visit half on the 25th and the other half on the 26th. This year, John and I are heading to Ottawa after the last Pops concert on the 20th. We are so excited!
7. What’s the #1 item on your Christmas wish list this year?
I'm more interested in the giving part. I make my own gifts by hand and I love watching people open them!
8. What are you most looking forward to about the Christmas concerts with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra? Is there a particular piece of music that you are excited to perform?
I really love to sing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with John. We have done it before in concert and it's always a hoot to pretend that I am trying to get away from him when, in reality, I just want to give him a big squeeze!
9. Would you share with us an embarrassing performance mishap that you experienced?
In my last production in Italy, I had to take a shot of "scotch" on stage in the middle of an aria. They substituted the scotch with ice tea, which was fine. But one day, the stagehands put ginger ale (by mistake?) and with all the bubbles I got a terrible case of hiccoughs. Let's just say, the second half of the aria was a little bumpy.
Christmas at The Winspear begins December 1, with An Irish Christmas with Eileen Ivers. www.edmontonsymphony.com