AnnMarie Milazzo Brings Rock ‘n Roll to Broadway – and Vice Versa

 
 

AnnMarie Milazzo is a vocalist and composer who has arranged vocals for Broadway productions – including the acclaimed Spring Awakening – and Jonatha Brooke‘s Live in New York DVD.

An out lesbian who lives with her girlfriend in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Milazzo is also part of the East Village Opera Company, a band that mixes modern rock with classical opera music to create new contemporary pieces.

Milazzo, one of the band’s two female vocalists, joined four years ago.

"They wanted to start getting into duets," she said. "They asked me to come down and sing a couple of songs. Shortly after that, the band got signed so I kind of stayed!"

East Village Opera Company was started in 2004 by singer Tyley Ross and arranger/multi-instrumentalist Peter Kiesewalter. With the intent of fusing the genres of opera and rock, they recruited Milazzo and other members to become part of a touring band, and just this past August, they released a full-length album, Olde School, on Decca/Universal Records.

"My background in music is that I just love it," Milazzo said. "Seriously, it’s just something I’ve always done and always wanted in my life. All my friends are musicians, my mom and dad were musicians. It’s just been a part of my DNA. It’s a great way to live."

Milazzo’s addition to the group lends credibility, as she’s known in New York as a strong vocalist and vocal arranger. She’s able to tour with the East Village Opera Company while maintaining her work as an arranger because, as she puts it, she has very full days.

"I can do a lot of arranging on the road, especially vocal arranging," she said. "Whenever I commit to vocal arranging, on the road I have the CDs, and I go through a 2-week process and teach everyone on the fly. I try to fit everything in day to day."

Though most of her work is in the realm of musical theater, Milazzo said she is a rock singer at heart.

"I’ve been into rock since I was a kid," she said. "The theater thing just sort of happened. I love it so much but it came from the rock. I’m a rock singer, I’ve always been a rock singer. I loved rock and roll my whole life. Theater started swinging that way so it seemed like a natural fit."

Those who have seen Spring Awakening know that the musical features very modernized songs with a rock edge — songs that were written by musician Duncan Sheik.

Working on the vocal arranging for the Broadway hit was an organic process for Milazzo,

"I love bringing the modern world into the old world," Milazzo said. "Some of [the East Village Opera Company's] songs from days gone by are perfect – they aren’t dated because they never go out. What’s great about the medium now is there’s so much more you can draw from, sonically. You can always bring the new world into the old world, but bringing the old world into the modern world is just as exciting."

Reviving "Carmen" for a crowd of new listeners and putting it to guitar and drums can give the aria an entirely new sound, one that’s just as worthy of listening to as its original interpretation. As a self-professed "non-Opera singer," Milazzo said she wasn’t familiar with the songs when she first joined the group, so the way she sings them is all her own.

"I learned opera from Bugs Bunny cartoons, and my mom would occasionally play it on weekends, so I wasn’t familiar with the songs," she said. "But then when I heard them, I fell in love with them and wanted to sing them my way."

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