Now in her fourth year as Assitant Professor of Voice at San Jose State University, Greek-American mezzo-soprano, Layna Chianakas, has been hailed as “the type of singer that makes one remember why to go to the opera.” Her versatility as a singing-actor has aided her in the portrayal of many leading opera roles including Carmen in Carmen, Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Angelina in La Cenerentola, Sesto in Giulio Cesare, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, The Woman in Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine, the title role in La Perichole and countless Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro. She has performed with such opera companies as Cleveland Opera, Nashville Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Sarasota Opera, Virginia Opera, Dayton Opera, Festival Opera, Nevada Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Madison Opera, Sacramento Opera, Intermountain Opera, Opera San José and Richard Wagner Bayreuth Festival. She performed Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana with Chorus Pro Music in Boston, in which the Boston Globe praised her as “an audience favorite, singing with a strong, cutting voice and breathing real pathos into the character of the betrayed peasant girl.” Most recently, she performed Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with Dayton Opera and Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana with Opera Santa Barbara.
Ms Chianakas has extensive experience and much success in the recital forum. She spent three years touring with The Songs of Franz Schubert Concert Series performing over 100 recitals, accompanied by world-renowned coach and accompanist John Wustman. She was named Artistic Ambassador of the United States, performing recitals for some of the foremost diplomats of our country and giving master classes in Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, British Guyana and Jamaica. She has performed on the mid-day public radio broadcast of the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series, in Chicago, Illinois, the Krannert Center Sunday Salon Series in Champaign, Illinois, and a number of recital series throughout Germany. Ms Chianakas gave her New York Recital Debut at Christ and St. Stephen’s Church and has performed an all-Schubert program as part of the San Francisco Performances Concert Series. She appeared in a solo recital with the Old First Concerts Series in San Francisco, sang a recital and gave a master class at Simpson College, and performed a recital on the Los Gatos Community Concert. She is a frequent collaborative recitalist with tenor, Joseph Frank, classical guitarist, Steven Lin, and pianist, Daniel Lockert.
As a soloist, she has sung with numerous symphonies and choral societies. The Los Angeles Times wrote of her “Beautiful tone and control as she graced the stage in a flowing candy-apple-red dress” after hearing her performance of Maurice Ravel’s Shéhérazade with the New West Symphony. Other orchestral appearances include performances with Chorus pro Musica in Boston, MA, the Chorus of Westerly in Rhode Island, Oakland-East Bay Symphony, Peoria Symphony, San José Symphony, Santa Cruz Symphony, San Jose Chamber Orchestra, Fresno Philharmonic, Sinfonia da Camera, the Masterworks Chorale, the Choral Society of the Hamptons, New West Symphony, Vallejo Symphony, Diablo Symphony, Lake Tahoe Music Festival Orchestra, and Augustana Orchestra. Ms. Chianakas sang the world premiere of Saints written for her by Craig Bohmler, with the San José Chamber Orchestra, and also sang the world premiere of Winter Requiem with San Francisco’s Schola Cantorum, in which the mezzo-soprano solos were written for her by Alva Henderson. Most recently, she performed an encore of Saints with the San José Chamber Orchestra, along with the premiere of Sinners, with baritone, Robert Orth and Saints with the Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra. In February, she performed with the Charlottesville Symphony, and in April, she sang the premiere of Artifacts, written for her by Craig Bohmler, with Duo West in Phoenix, AZ. Recent engagements include the West Coast Premiere of Henry Mollicone’s Misa de los Inmigrantes with the San José Symohonic Choir, Jake Heggie’s The Deepest Desire with the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the world premiere of Kahea, written for her by composer Michael Touchi in honor of San José Chamber Orchestra’s 20th Anniversary Season and an appearance with the Intermountain Opera Orchestra and Chorus on their Bravo Opera! Concert. Most recently, she performed the mezzo-soprano solos in Maher’s Symphony No. 3 with the Harrisburg Symphony in Pennsylvanie. Future engagements include her directorial debut with Opera San José’s La Voix humaine by Poulenc and the title role of Orphée in Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice with Opera Santa Barbara.
After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Ms. Chianakas moved to Kassel, Germany, where she taught voice and beginning piano with the Musikschule-Ehlen for four years. While in Germany, she attended the Mozarteum Salzburg and studied Lieder with some of the foremost coaches in the world. It is there, she acquired her fluency in German. She returned to the United States and received a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Illinois. She currently lives in San José, California with her husband and two children.