Beyond the Bio: The Language of Music – Soprano Ashley Galvani Bell

The “delightful” (Opera News) soprano Ashley Galvani Bell has been performing from an early age, debuting as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus at age nine and making her Off-Broadway debut at sixteen. Ms. Bell has since performed as a soloist in the United States, Italy, Spain, France and Russia, where she has been celebrated for her “large voice, dark in her low notes and shimmering in her upper register, with a powerful and overwhelming middle voice and furthermore with world class acting that ignite(s) her entire performance with expressiveness” (La Rioja). 

This past week, Bell returned to the role of Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, having sung the role previously with both Bohème Opera New Jersey and Daytona Beach Symphony Society. Next month, she will reprise the title character in Pedro Halffter’s Klara at the Teatro Pérez Galdos in Gran Canaria, a role she originated and has performed at Harvard University and in several venues in Spain to great acclaim, with Beckmesser citing her “well-colored timbre, full of attractive vocal substance.”

Ashley adored music from an early age. “According to my mom I was singing in the stroller,” she says. She considers herself fortunate to have grown up in New York City as part of a very close-knit family who enabled her to pursue her dreams. At age nine, Ashley was encouraged to start taking voice lessons and began to sing with the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus. She auditioned for theatrical productions throughout the city, making her Off-Broadway debut at age sixteen in the world premiere of the musical The Golden Touch. And though she had always loved musical theater, an early invitation to a summer festival in Chiari cemented her love for opera, travel, and all things Italian. 

A self-described introvert, Ashley says, “I’ve always been more of a reserved person, but singing was a way that I could connect with people better than I could with talking.” Still, she wasn’t certain that she wanted to pursue music as a career. Though she continued to enjoy life on the stage, Ashley chose to pursue a liberal arts degree, majoring in International Studies and Italian at Yale University. “I’ve always believed languages to be a window to other cultures,” says Ashley, whose study of Latin and French in High School nurtured in her a life-long passion. “I’ve found that I am more outgoing in other languages than in English,” she says. “I always feel like I can establish a deeper connection with people around the world when I attempt to speak in their native language.”

Ashley forged her own path of linguistic and operatic studies throughout college and beyond, starting with her beloved Italy. “My grandfather was Italian,” she explains. “It has always felt like a home away from home – I feel so connected to that country.” And every time she had the chance to explore – be it in Bologna, Pesaro, or Rome – she recalls, “I fell in love with opera even more.” While singing in Rome, she made a connection that led to an opportunity to perform zarzuela in La Rioja, Spain. She jumped at the chance to explore a new country and found a program in Antigua, Guatemala where she could learn and absorb the language. When she started taking on German roles, she found a course of study at the Goethe Institute. 

Recently, Ashley’s “poignant, vulnerable” performances (Opera News) have brought her to venues throughout the world. In 2023 she made her debut with ABAO Bilbao Opera as Fiordiligi in Cosi Fan Tutte where ProOpera highlighted her “superabundance of talent.” Previously, she made her debut with Seville’s Teatro Maestranza as Violetta in La Traviata, sang as soprano soloist with Milan’s Orchestra UNIMI in Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate; and performed the title role in the world premiere of Penelope’s Dream and as soprano soloist in Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony with Festival of Villafranca del Bierzo, Spain. Back in the United States, she was seen as Mimì in La Bohème with Opera Modesto. She always treasures the chance to perform one of her signature roles, Elle in La Voix Humaine, which she has sung at Spain’s Rioja Forum, the Bay Street Theatre, and with New York Opera Fest. She made her Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist in Hadyn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass and Schubert’s Mass in C with MidAmerica Productions, and has performed in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Madrid/Titular de Teatro Real, the Festival de Villafranca del Bierzo, and the Gainesville Symphony.

Adding to her artistic life, Ashley started her own opera company, Divaria Productions, with whom she has been performing and producing interdisciplinary, site-specific projects since 2011. This season, she sang the title role in their Giovanna D’Arco/Maid of Orleans at the Bay Street Theatre; during the pandemic, she produced and starred in the documentary film Rival Queens featuring music from Maria Stuarda, which has won 20 awards in international film festivals including Best Documentary at Madrid Art Film Festival and Tokyo Film Festival. 

Ashley looks forward to discovering new places, new languages, and new roles – taking comfort in the human connection that the arts can provide. “Singing is the best way I have found to rouse people’s emotions and connect with them on a deeper level.”