Layna Chianakas

Layna Chianakas

Office: MUS 244
Email: layna.chianakas@sjsu.edu
Phone: (408) 924-4658

Now in her seventh year as Associate Professor of Voice, Voice Area Coordinator and Director of Opera Theatre 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."  She performed Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with Dayton Opera and Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana with Opera Santa Barbara.  She made  her directorial debut with Opera San José's La Voix humaine by Poulenc, performed the title role of Orphée in Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice with Opera Santa Barbara, and sang her fifth production of Madama Butterfly as Suzuki with Intermountain Opera during the 2011/12 season.  She sang the role of His Mother and directed  Amahl and the Night Visitors (in which her own son sang the title role) with San Jose State Opera Theater/San Jose State Choral Department as well as with Intermountain Opera in Montana.  Ms. Chianakas directed Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Cavalli’s L’Ormindo for the San José State Opera Theatre, Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine and Hansel & Gretel for Opera San José andshe  sang Amneris in  Aida with Dayton Opera, a role premiere in April 2014. She returns to Intermountain Opera as La Principessa in Suor Angelica and Zita in Gianni Schicchi in May 2015, and will be the stage director for SJS Opera Theatre’s Orpheus in the Underworld in April 2015 and Opera San Jose’s Carmen in February 2016.

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, IL, the Krannert Center SundaySalon Series in Champaign, IL, 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 and composer, Craig Bohmler.

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.  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.  She performed with the Charlottesville Symphony, and she sang the premiere of Artifacts, written for her by Craig Bohmler, with Duo West in Phoenix, AZ.  Other engagements included the West Coast Premiere of Henry Mollicone's Misa de los Inmigrantes with the San José Symphonic 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.  She performed the mezzo-soprano solos in Maher's Symphony No. 3 with the Harrisburg Symphony in Pennsylvania, and the alto solos in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Symphony Silicon Valley in San Jose, CA.  She sang the mezzo-soprano solos in Rossini's Stabat Mater with the Dayton Symphony Orchestra, the mezzo-soprano solos in Verdi’s Requiem with Symphony Silicon Valley, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellens with the Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra, and Ravel’s Chansons madécasses with the Alliance Français First Annual French Festival in Palo Alto, CA.  Most recently, she was heard with the Winchester Orchestra, under the baton of Michael DiGiacinto, as the soloist for Berio’s Folk Songs.  Ms. Chianakas makes her Carnegie Hall Debut in a selection of spirituals with San José State’s own Choraliers in April 2015. 

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, CA with her husband and two children; her greatest productions.