Rebekkah Hilgraves was born in Washington, D.C. and now makes her home in the Western Highlands of North Carolina. She began training seriously for a vocal career at an early age. Studies in Voice Performance at Northern Illinois University included art song and opera, early music performance practice, vocal pedagogy and stagecraft.
Her singing instructors have included Myron Myers in Chicago; Genia Las in Buffalo, New York; Edward Sayegh, a San Francisco-based instructor; Gerald Martin-Moore, Thomas Wolf, and Neal Goren in New York City.
Rebekkah has performed in numerous operas, solo recitals and as a guest concert artist in venues throughout the United States. She gave the premiere performance of a new work, Rachel Rising (text by Rebekkah, and music by Rob Deemer) in October 2008 in Tennessee, and performed it again in October 2013 at Northern Illinois University as the culmination of a week long teaching residency. Since then, Rachel Rising has seen two other iterations in the genre of experimental electronic music, and continues to be given new interpretations.
In and around New York City, she performed the roles of “Violetta” in Verdi’s La Traviata (Little Opera Company of New Jersey, 2006), “Rachel” in the world premiere of The Eglantine by Sam Belich (New York City, 2005), “Elisabetta” in Verdi’s Don Carlo (Opera Drammatica, 2004), “Gerhilde” in Wagner’s Die Walküre (The Valkyrie Project, 2005 and Opera Drammatica, 2004), the title role in Puccini’s Suor Angelica (Chelsea Opera, 2004 and American Singers Opera Project, 2003), and has performed the soprano solo in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass (Ars Musica Orchestra and Chorale, 2002). In 2003, she also received “Honorable Mention” by the Amici Vocal Competition in Connecticut.
Elsewhere around the U.S., she has appeared as soloist with the Buffalo Philharmonic (2007), Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra (1998, 1999, 2000) and with Orchestra Seattle/Seattle Chamber Singers (1999, 2000), as well as being a founding member of the women’s vocal ensemble The Sisters (1998-2000). She presents regular solo recitals in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Buffalo, and New York City.
Ms. Hilgraves’ repertoire covers a broad range of languages and styles, and includes “Lady Macbeth” in Verdi’s Macbeth, “Leonore” in Beethoven’s Fidelio, “Donna Elvira” in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the title role in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Richard Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs), Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, as well as song repertoire in French, German, Italian, English, Latin, and Czech. She prepared and performed the mélodies by French composer Charles Bordes (1863-1909), having presented many in their American premieres.
The soprano has been named “Best Actress in a Musical” by the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle for the leading role in an original work with the Lamplighters, itself an award-winning light opera company in San Francisco. Ms. Hilgraves has starred in operas and light operas, including in L’Étoile by Chabrier (Princess Laoula) with Pocket Opera (San Francisco); the title role in Princess Ida by Gilbert and Sullivan (Lamplighters); the Second Prioress (Madame Lidoine) in Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites; “Helen” in Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters by Ned Rorem.
Critics have acclaimed Ms. Hilgraves with “…an opulently effulgent tone…” (John Hammell, Mozart to Motorhead, 2005), “…a gorgeous soprano who can act.” (San Francisco Review, 1996), “…this vivacious soprano…” (John Bell Young, distinguished pianist and critic, Opera News, American Record Guide, 1999) and “…ample and ringing. Lovely! … in your ecstatic transports the grasp of the scholar is transmuted into the lyric flair—the richly nuanced aperçus–of the artist.” (Adrian Corleonis, Fanfare Magazine, Sounds of Seattle, 1999).
Jazz and Contemporary
Ms. Hilgraves has appeared as a jazz and rock vocalist in venues around North America. Her jazz career is nearly as long-lived as her classical career. Under the careful instruction of the great jazz musicians Scotty Wright (San Francisco) and Robert Murphy (North Carolina), and studying the work of jazz greats Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and others, she successfully moves from classical singing to jazz and contemporary and back again at will.
She can be heard on a recording by Los Caribes, a Buffalo-based Latin jazz group headed by Michael Colquhoun. Michael’s review of Rebekkah’s work was: “…you are currently listed as Coro under percussion – that’s gonna change to a listing under Brass considering Your VOICE girl! I can hear you from here!!”
She co-writes for and co-leads a roots rock/Americana band called Blind Phoenix, whose songs and supporting videos have won multiple awards, and is the musical director, backing vocalist, and second keyboardist for a Pink Floyd tribute band based in Asheville, North Carolina.