Born to a Bolivian mother and Italo-Argentine father, Tisera was raised in Cochabamba, a city surrounded by mountains located in the center of Bolivia. She studied at the Instituto Eduardo Laredo, in Cochabamba, and later moved to Los Angeles, CA, where she completed her Masters Degree in Opera Performance at the University of Southern California.
“I moved to New York in 2008, and I arrived here as an opera singer and with the dream of being an opera singer. That was it,” she says. “I’ve loved Latin American folk music all my life, I’ve been intrigued and inspired by jazz and I’m very socially conscious. But as a musician, my choice had always been opera and the classical stage. That was my posture for my first three years in New York and, frankly, I started to feel empty. In the opera world it’s very hard to have your own project and your own ideas. There is a repertoire, you are a performer, and that’s that.”
She worked in the United States and Bolivia, performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra of Bolivia and the Pasadena Symphony, among others, and for five years she toured with the Bolivian Baroque Project, performing 17th century music found in the Jesuit missions of the Bolivian jungle – a project that showcased her voice on the world’s greatest concert halls. But once in New York, she also started collaborating with visual artists and dipping her toes in the murky waters of jam sessions. “Of course, many looked at me like an odd duck and I would tell them: ‘Yes, I am an opera singer. No, I don’t know jazz standards, but I do know Latin American music, I sing boleros and I can improvise so, why not?’ And that’s how I met Elio.”
Fittingly, their first musical encounter was in the baroque style – the improvisatory nature of baroque being an area of contact between jazz and classical music.
As Tisera began working on the recording she chose pieces based on how they affected her vocally and for the possibilities they offered for reinvention. “I tried many, many songs and ideas. It took me a year of trial and error, to polish the arrangements, create new pieces and let them grow,” she says.
For those who see her approach as avant-garde, Tisera says she is “pushing the vanguard but to bring audiences to experience the greatness of opera as it relates to modern themes of love, politics and culture. I long to present opera not like an old, precious form but instead, as a vibrant, contemporary style that speaks to our concerns now. That’s why there are operatic moments in “Nora La Bella” – but they might include improvisation, or the musical treatment might include Bolivian or Afro-Latin rhythms, and elements of Rock or Spoken Word. I remember during the recording we were listening to the second take of ‘Ernesto in the Tomb,’ with its Afro-Cuban groove and my operatic voice soaring above the music. The musicians heard it and said ‘Wow, it works!’ and I had to laugh. ‘Yes guys, of course it works’.”
Through her music Gian-Carla Tisera strives to challenge the perceptions that separate artists, communities and nations with the greater vision of the equal and beautiful musical language of all people.