Growing up as the only child of a musician and a Greenpeace activist, Elea learned to see the Earth as a stage where performances and demonstrations, big and small, could impact and change the world’s injustices. She spent her childhood writing and illustrating stories about fairies and atomic bombs, analysing poetry and singing her own compositions about Saint Nicholas. Her Waldorf schooling introduced her to a wide array of art forms and materials that she was yearning to try out.
When Elea found out, around the age of 9, that Saint Nicholas may not exist in the all-knowing, immortal form she always sung about, her childish acceptance of the world’s demise transformed into a rage against the status quo. From that moment on, she decided to become an artist. She spent more and more time on piano and canvas and wrote epistolary novels to her friends. She also joined a children’s choir, led by Pieter-Jan Olthof, who introduced her to the singing of classical music.
In 2005, that same conductor took the choir to the opera in Essen, Germany, to see Don Giovanni. Opera seemed to Elea like a chance to bring all her favourite art forms together: music, theatre, visual art, fashion, text. She focused her efforts on becoming an opera singer and started studying for her entrance exams with Robert Valter. Three years later, at seventeen, Elea started her classical singing study at the Utrecht Conservatory with Charlotte Margiono.
At the Utrecht Conservatory Elea’s passion for contemporary classical musical theatre became apparent. She started collaborations with the composition department and sang in several operas and performances of composition students such as Remy Alexander, Anne-Maartje Lemereis and Quinn Jacobs. Jeroen D’hoe, the composition teacher, wrote a song cycle for Elea’s voice.
Meanwhile, her fighting spirit did not falter. She committed to a HKU in which young artists can develop themselves in a more diverse, contemporary and individual way than is currently made possible. At a student conference dedicated to this cause, she met Sem Hak, a composer with whom she still collaborates under the name Staatsgreep.
Elea also discovered the power of teaching and the safe space and possibilities of self expression she could offer her students. Enthusiastically she researched the effects of singing on vulnerable groups of people such as youths with an eating disorder. As part of her research, she gave singing courses in an eating disorder clinic and at a peer support group.
Through a student project in which the Utrecht singing department directed and performed two early operas by Mozart, Elea discovered that she still had a lot to gain in the field of acting and theater making, because she was and will always be looking for the best way to tell her story and share her ideas. After graduating from the Utrecht Conservatory with honours, she went to Vienna, Austria, where she studied theatre and film acting. She took classes in role interpretation, body control, ensemble work, film acting and German speech lessons from teachers such as Frauke Steiner, Adriana Salles, Andreas Simma, Sara Livia-Krierer and Melanie Herbe. Due to her time in Vienna, Elea is fluent in the German language.
In Vienna Elea joined Theatre Open Space. They trained weekly and performed monthly, questioning the social codes of movement that belong to certain public spaces by breaking said codes, using simple tools such as walking speed, walking direction, standing up and lying down.She also worked on a number of short films by Dutch director Sandy Verhoeve and regularly modeled for photography projects.
In her autonomous work, Elea Bekkers developed as a writer and wrote various libretti and texts in Dutch and German.
In 2016, Sem Hak put one of these libretti, ‘De Man die Afdreef op de Zee’ (the man who drifted off at sea), to music and asked Elea to sing the title role – the only role – of the Man. Elea returned to the Netherlands to sing the role. In the same time, she was also a main singer in the support act for Holland Opera’s Styx; ‘Echo’ by Stef Veldhuis, and she played in the slave choir of De Vermoeide Mens by Imre van den Bosch at theatre festival Vuurol.
From 2016 to 2019, Elea Bekkers worked as a course leader and director at Workshop de Ontdekkingsreis, where she conceived, wrote, produced and produced films together with a group of primary school children. Starting in 2017, Elea teaches singing lessons and conducts a children’s choir at Fulco Muziekonderwijs.
In 2018, together with composer Anne-Maartje Lemereis, Elea wrote a song cycle for beginning piano-singing duos, Speeldoosjes, with musical and conceptual themes that match the perception of children and invite them to try out unusual rhythms, harmonies or ways of singing. The ‘Speeldoosjes’ duo also taught opera writing courses at primary schools. The children invented the story, wrote lyrics and music, and performed the mini-opera themselves.
In the summer of 2018, Elea Bekkers sang in the project opera Thijl of the Utrecht Student Concert, as a choral soloist and an understudy to Wilke ter Brummelstroete for the role of Stevenijne.
From September 2019 to September 2020 she worked as an ensemble singer at NKK NXT, the trainee program of the Nederlands Kamerkoor. With eight other singers she put together the performance: Staan en Opvallen. The assignment was to create a vision of choral music of the future and NKK NXT set this out by offering a spatial concert experience, with diverse contemporary music, using body, movement and the covering and revealing of the face to tell their story.
Also on the agenda was the opera Kaap die goeie Koop from the opera company Silbersee and theater company Gouden Haas, at Karavaan in May and at Oerol in June 2020. Due to Corona, those festivals were canceled and the planning of that opera is on hold.
Elea has an ongoing collaboration with living composers such as Christian Chamoun, Sem Hak and Gagi Petrovic. Together, they create new work in which Elea tries to find the limits of her voice, the concert space and what music could be. She questions the dogmas and boundaries that exist within and between musical genres. She does this by constantly developing her singing technique and not letting the classical definition of ‘a piece of music’, ‘a concert dress’ or ‘classical versus light technique’ limit her. Sylvia Boone helps expand Elea’s technical skills with these native to musical singing. Elea regularly sings in the Janskerk in Utrecht, accompanied by their organist Laurens de Man.
Currently, Elea lives in an idealistic residential community near Utrecht and she spends the lockdown time writing, creating and making music.