As a consummate crossover artist, Onalea's original work is a unique blend of music and the theatrical. As a performer she has worked in both the traditional and the avant-garde playing roles on the stage, screen, and in cartoons. An accomplished vocalist, she has sung with everything from solo piano to chamber ensembles, symphony orchestras, and big bands. She has recorded four CD's ranging from big band to jazz standards, electronica to original material.
Onalea's original pieces REQUIEM FOR A LOST GIRL: A Chamber Musical About Homelessness and BLANCHE: The Bittersweet Life Of A Wild Prairie Dame premiered in New York City as a special events of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. BLANCHE was named a top 20 show in New York in 2011 by the Huffington Post. REQUIEM was presented this May as a part of Vancouver Opera's 2018 season.
As a theatre artist Onalea has performed numerous roles across Canada, including 7 seasons as an ensemble member with the award-winning Canadian physical performance theatre company One Yellow Rabbit, creating many original characters and starring as Sylvia Plath in Sylvia Plath Must Not Die. Additionally, Onalea has co-created and performed several shows as an actor, singer and puppeteer, with symphony orchestras internationally as a part of Dandi productions - a company formed with Canadian Colleague Doug McKeag.
Select Roles include: Sleep No More (Off Broadway -Hecate); Mata Hari in 8 Bullets (NYMF) The Ballad of Weedy Peedstraw (Hazel -Caravan Farm Theatre); Into the Woods (Cinderella); The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Drood); Assassins (Squeaky Fromme); Falsettos (Cordelia); and Bernstein's MASS with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra - Hans Graf conducting (Mezzo Soprano/Blues singer).
Work in progress is TORCH SONGS FROM THE GYPSY VAN a love story with Jazz and String quartet which will be recorded as an album in the winter of 2019.
Onalea is interested in using the Arts as a tool for conversation, education and social change and has been integrating Social Justice into her artistic practice for 10 years. Projects include: Onalea’s original piece Requiem For A Lost Girl: A Chamber Musical about Homelessness ( High Performance Rodeo (Calgary), New York Musical Theatre Festival, Vancouver Opera Festival (May 2018); directing What brought us here - a new work for Calgary Opera about immigration, integrating the Sudanese, Bosnian and Iranian communities; DI wedding: The musical (curated original writings about love and relationship with the Calgary Drop In Centre), The Eviction of Stuart Block (live radio play in co-production with the Mustard seed Shelter- High Performance Rodeo, Calgary) and the Out of the Blue review (This is my city arts Society).
Onalea has taught writing & singing classes and engaged in community building with the following shelters while working on the REQUIEM PROJECT:
Calgary Drop In Centre (North America’s largest homeless shelter), Calgary Woman’s Centre, Henry Street Settlement Shelter , Fountain House (NYC); Covenant house youth crisis shelter (NYC) and The Kettle Society (Vancouver, BC). She has worked in schools as a part of the Galliano Network in Calgary and as a director through Calgary Opera’s “Let’s create on opera”.
Currently she is traveling across North America to find out what's happening in the homeless community in the areas of Arts, advocacy, outreach and activism as a member of the international organization With One Voice (a new international movement that aims to strengthen the arts and homelessness sector through exchanges in practice and policy). Onalea is also working to bring her Requiem project to as many communities as possible in order to co create theatre, writing and music workshops that lead to original material and conversations that shed light on the stigma surrounding the areas of homelessness, poverty, missing and murdered women, mental health concerns and addiction.
Onalea is working on two album projects this fall/winter 2018/2019. A solo recording project of torch, cabaret & originals and an album with her partner visual artist and creator/performer Bruce Horak supporting their new duo The Rail Birds.
“One of the most powerful performances I’ve ever experienced, this opera that is not merely watched but felt through and through. Every member of the audience was invested and fully wrenched in the anger, the despair, the wrath and the hope.” (The Vancouver arts Review -Maira Hassan RE Onalea's piece REQUIEM FOR A LOST GIRL)
"Intimate yet sweeping... haunting and powerful... you found yourself reeling from its emotional punch"
NY THEATRE.COM (RE Onalea's piece BLANCHE)
“Gilbertson's distinctive, charming voice bristles with intelligence and captures your attention effortlessly. You always sit up and pay notice when she's singing." -Michael Giltz, Huffington Post
"...an artist with a beautiful voice..." - Celia Wren, The Washington Post
“An enchanting stage presence and a silky voice” - Time out New York
PAST SHOWS 2018
Jan 26-28 2018
Onalea performs the theatre music of David Rhymer and Blake Brooker. High Performance Rodeo Calgary.
April 16-20, 2018
Onalea performs From Berlin to Hollywood with the Bergmann Duo featuring music by Hans Eisler and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht
Click on the dates below for tickets and information for each performance:
May 4 and 6 2018
Presented in partnership with The Kettle Society and SFU Woodwards Community Programs
Written and Directed by Onalea Gilbertson with writing and additional music by the Kettle Choir and Writers Guild
Composed and Conducted by Marcel Bergmann