2012 Richard Tucker Award winner is first Hispanic-American to receive the “Heisman Trophy of Opera”
She was Mimi to tenor Stephen Costello’s Rodolfo in LA Opera’s revival of Puccini’s La Bohème. The opera is deeply cherished by the real-life husband-and-wife team whose own romance was kindled during their performances of La Bohème at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts where they met as fellow students in the early 2000′s. With this romantic history as genetic makeup, their portrayal of Puccini’s ill-fated lovers resonates with an authenticity certain to heighten audience experience. The couple’s ability to convincingly communicate their amorous sentiment was evident in their no-frills, offstage enactment of a scene at the LA Opera event held on April 18 to introduce the cast to members of the media.
Photo courtesy: LA Opera
WATCH VIDEO of the couple singing the duet “O soave fanciulla”
LA audiences were in for a special treat as it is not often that Ailyn and Stephen, whose careers developed and continue to blossom independently of each other, perform onstage together. Indeed when they married in 2008, their separate engagement calendars for the next several years had already been laid out in advance, as is common in opera.
Ailyn and Stephen’s anointment as opera’s fast-rising star couple is of course justified. One only has to scan the list of competitions individually won and the honors and awards separately received. The latest of Ailyn’s laurels is the 2012 Richard Tucker Award. The prestigious prize, with a cash award of $30,000, is conferred annually by the Richard Tucker Music Foundation on an American opera singer on the threshold of a major international career. She now joins her husband Stephen who won the Richard Tucker Award in 2009 and such opera luminaries as Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, David Daniels, Joyce DiDonato, Richard Leech, Patricia Racette and Dolora Zajick.
It was on her receiving the award, making them the first couple to win the same but separate honors, that they were quickly dubbed “America’s fastest-rising husband-and-wife opera stars” by the Associated Press. Ailyn is the first Hispanic singer to receive in the Foundation’s 34-year history the Award that is often called “the Heisman Trophy of opera”. Much like America’s coveted football prize, the Richard Tucker Award added a glow to Ailyn’s star. WATCH A VIDEO of Ailyn talking in Spanish about winning the 2012 Richard Tucker Award, which she concludes with “I may be the first Hispanic… but certainly not the last!”
Upon learning of the Award, the soprano said, “The Richard Tucker Music Foundation is extraordinary: it enriches American operatic culture and promotes and connects young American artists. Watching the Richard Tucker gala performance when my husband was announced the winner, and seeing international opera stars come together to honor the memory of one of America’s legendary artists at these galas are an incredible source of inspiration to me. I am truly grateful and thrilled to receive such an honor, and I am excited to be another voice to carry on his legacy.”
Acclaimed for her “inner radiance” and “vocal luster”, Ailyn has received numerous other awards, including Second Prize in the 2006 Operalia Competition in Valencia, Spain, the George London Award in the 2006 George London Foundation Competition, a Shoshana Foundation Career Grant in 2007, Second Price in the 2005 Loren L. Zachary Competition, an encouragement award from Opera Index, and a Second Place Award from the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation in 2004.
Aside from Mimi in La Bohème, Ailyn Pérez’ growing repertoire includes many of the plum lyric soprano roles, performed in the world’s major opera house, among them: Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata at Cincinnati Opera; Suzel in Mascagni’s L’Amico Fritz at the Moscow State Philharmonic Society; Juliette in Roméo et Juliette for Opera Company of Philadelphia opposite Mr. Costello; Marguerite in Faust at San Diego Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and Hamburg State Opera; Zerlina in Don Giovanni with the Dallas Opera; Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro at the Ravinia Festival, Pamina in The Magic Flute with the Deutsche Staatsoper; the title role in Massenet’s Manon for Palau de les Arts in Valencia; and Leila in Bizet’s Pearl Fishers with the Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile.
In the 2011/12 season, Ailyn Pérez sang Gilda alongside Plácido Domingo in Act 3 of Rigoletto for the Domingo Gala concerts at the Royal Opera House in October 2011, and in winter returned to Covent Garden to sing Violetta in La Traviata . Future engagements include Liu in Turandot at Covent Garden, Violetta at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper, Hamburg State Opera, Cincinnati Opera and San Francisco Opera; Desdemona Verdi’s Otello with Houston Grand Opera; Mimi for Zurich Opera, and Florida Grand Opera; Marguerite in Faust in Hamburg, The Countess in Le nozze di Figaro in Hamburg and Houston; Alice Ford in Falstaff at the Glyndebourne Festival; Norina in Don Pasquale at the Liceu Barcelona; Adina in “L’elisir de amore” at the Wiener Staatsoper and Bayerische Staatsoper and her debut at the Metropolitan Opera New York.
Ailyn Pérez first appeared with LA Opera in 2006, in the world premiere of Lee Holdridge’s multimedia concert work Concierto para Mendez. Her appearance as Mimi in La Bohème (May 12 through June 2), the final production of LA Opera’s 2011/12 season, marks her husband Stephen Costello’s company debut. LA audiences will definitely want the couple back.
In the above video, Stephen and Ailyn talk about the pros and cons of married opera stars performing together on stage at the media event moderated by Gary Murphy, LA Opera Director of Public Relations.
Ailyn Pérez was born in Chicago to first-generation Mexican immigrants. She first learned about opera while attending Elk Grove High School in a Chicago suburb. She subsequently earned degrees in vocal performance from Indiana University (2001) and Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts (2006). WATCH THE VIDEO below to hear the couple talk about how they came to opera and the role public school music education programs played in their career development.
A star in the making? That was yesterday! Today, there can be no doubt that Ailyn is on the fast track to the top of “opera heaven!” And that opera’s young star couple is incontrovertible proof that the art of opera is ALIVE and WELL.