The Soprano Ailyn Pérez Doesn’t Feel Like a Beginner Anymore

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Her career at the Met has been representative of that range, in part because she is a favorite of Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager. “Each season, she has grown and developed, and quite frankly gotten better and better,” he said. “She very convincingly becomes the characters whom she’s portraying, but above all her voice is absolutely beautiful.”

In spring 2020, Pérez was set to sing in “Simon Boccanegra” at the Met, but the season was cut short by the pandemic. “The closure really knocked me out,” she said. It helped — a lot — that by then she had met Soloman Howard.

They had been introduced in Santa Fe. In 2016, Pérez starred as Juliette in “Roméo,” and her colleagues included Howard, a bass-baritone, as the duke. “He took my breath away,” she said. “He’s such a brilliant artist and connector. Whether speaking or singing, the presence brings something that draws people in but also delivers this power. I knew that his calling in life would be big.”

It wasn’t until 2019, though, that they began dating. They attended the Vienna Opera Ball together, and traveled to see each other perform. Once the pandemic hit, they sheltered together in Chicago. Where she was despondent, he was resourceful. He rounded up equipment for them to start recording music at home.

At one point, Santa Fe Opera asked Pérez to tape herself singing “Song to the Moon” from “Rusalka,” and Howard said, “‘We are going to make a video,’” she recalled. “He cut stars out of foil and pinned them on the drapes. He got a boulder from a local Home Goods store. I was like the Little Mermaid on the rock, and that was all him.”

When live opera resumed, Pérez reopened the Met’s auditorium as the soprano soloist in Verdi’s Requiem, to observe the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. She doesn’t really remember that night — “I was out of my body” — but others do. Gelb, who said, “You can’t fake Verdi,” remembered her sounding “absolutely magnificent.” Nézet-Séguin, called it “a performance for the ages.”



POST AUTHOR: Joshua Barone

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