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

Milazzo’s way is definitely rock-infused, her controlled and impassioned vocals on songs like "The Ride" and "Help Me Jove in Pity" rivaling any adult-contemporary vocalist on the radio. And the end product is a pleasing mixture of the best of both worlds, a 50/50 split of opera and rock.

"We are doing rock and Puccini and Verdi, so it’s completely split down the middle," she said.

The band’s name, though, could give the wrong impression to those unfamiliar with the group’s stylings. The simple insertion of the word "opera" has initially attracted an older crowd of listeners, but Milazzo said that  has been changing over time.

"Word of mouth traveled, so now we get the older crowds, but we get the younger crowds as well," she said. "The younger generation is really excited about hearing music in many different ways, and they do come. We get from 20s to 60s coming to the show now. From three years ago to now, it’s changed so much. It’s actually really exciting to see high school and college kids singing along with kids who go to Lincoln Center."

As one of those people you might find at a rock show and Lincoln Center in the same week, Milazzo has dreams of working with her idols, which include both Bono and Stephen Sondheim. As part of East Village Opera Company, she’s already working with several well-respected musicians, including guitarist Vernon Reid, banjo master Tony Trishka and Blue Man Group music director Byron Estep.

Milazzo is not necessarily a minority as a female in her profession, but she said she is one of few lesbians she knows working in the realm of opera.

"I’ve met a lot of [lesbian] singer-songwriters, and when I worked with Jonatha Brooke, tons," she said. "But in opera, no. Maybe there are some and they’re just not out. I’m not quite sure. I’ve always been out. I don’t think it’s a big deal. It’s a non-issue for me. Maybe it’s an issue for performers, to keep their sexuality hidden. Sadly, it’s an issue for some people."

Hearing a lesbian vocalist sing the love songs from centuries past makes it all the more interesting. It gives yet another dimension to the music that the East Village Opera Company plays.

"We give audiences a chance to hear it another way," Milazzo said. "We aren’t trying to sound like opera students. We don’t even go there – we couldn’t!"

For more on Milazzo, check out the official site for East Village Opera Company, and visit them on MySpace and Facebook.

For more on opera, read our interview with out opera singers Patricia Racette and Beth Clayton.

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