Aliana de la Guardia recently took reign as artistic director of Guerilla Opera, an artist-run troupe that performs experimental works in Boston. A former founding artist of the Opera, de la Guardia enjoys how one gets immersed in the Boston arts community. The New Jersey-born veteran of the opera world shared that she came to Boston to earn her bachelor and master of music degrees in vocal performance from the Boston Conservatory, and has loved living in Boston ever since. “It seems like a real community. We all seem to know each other,” said de la Guardia, regarding the Boston arts landscape.
De La Guardia’s love of opera singing began in high school. She credited one of her teachers who excelled at educating her students about different types of music. She also sang in the chorus, acted in plays and learned the violin, which exposed her to classical music. With all that learning came the love for opera and its inherent drama. “I discovered I could make this kind of extravagant operatic sound and it just seemed like a very natural progression to go from acting to opera where I could be a classical singer and an actor at the same time. I didn’t really have to choose one over the other.” As she entered Boston Conservatory, de la Guardia already knew she wanted to be an opera singer.
Fast-forward to her position now as artistic director. De la Guardia is looking forward to being in a creative role, and working directly with composers on new works. “I’m all about being progressive and trying to issue these controversial and traditional notions of opera that are really rooted in this sort of Western European tradition. I want to expand it. I don’t necessarily want to get rid of it, but I want to expand it and I want to push the boundaries a little bit in the same way that these contemporary experimental composers like to push boundaries of music and listening."
On the topic of being a woman in the arts, de la Guardia admitted that women do have to work twice as hard in the industry. “It’s not fair, but it’s the reality. You have to work twice as hard to be seen, and twice as hard to have your work respected. And I hope that will change,” she said. She highlighted that being a woman in the industry means that you also have to have a strong support system behind you. “Think of yourself as more than an artist; you are a business person, and you are your own business. And in order to be artistic, you also have to have the mind of an administrator.”
De la Guardia has already made a significant impact on the music industry through her accomplishments to date. She owns a private voice studio called Dirty Paloma Voice Studio in Haverhill and enjoys working with youth in their voice training. She is reminded of her own personal journey as an artist and shared that being an actress in her teenage and young adult years was both a form of release from, and preparation for, reality. “Being a performer teaches you a lot about how to interact with people, how to perform well for a job audition, and how to prepare something and feel rehearsed and prepared for a presentation of sorts.”
De la Guardia remains hopeful for the reopening of theatrical events and is excited to stage more shows as immersive experiences. Guerilla Opera won the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant based on stories from Ellis Island that de la Guardia and the Opera hope to showcase in fall 2021.