Named by Opera News as “one of opera’s next wave” (August 2012), soprano Ailyn Pérez, winner of the 2012 Richard Tucker Award, has been praised for her dazzling vocalism and her alluring and committed stage presence, making her one of the most engaging and exciting artists before the public today.
The soprano begins her 2012-13 season with her house debut at the Bolshoi in Moscow, performing Mimi in La bohème. Her season also includes two runs at Hamburg’s Staatsoper, first as the Countess in Mozart’s le Nozze di Figaro and then in the title role of a new production of Verdi’s timeless classic La Traviata. Returning to the US, Pérez makes her Avery Fisher Hall debut when she performs at the Richard Tucker Foundation Gala, which honors her as this year’s Richard Tucker Award winner. Read more →
In the Press
Ailyn and Steve: The new operatic power couple?
Condemned to Music | December 19, 2012
When Audra McDonald called them an opera power couple on the recent PBS broadcast of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation Gala, I broke out laughing. Not at McDonald, and not because she was inaccurate: Soprano Ailyn Perez and tenor Stephen Costello fit the definition – both are headed toward the top of the opera profession if they aren’t there already – but they don’t fit the part, which was delightfully apparent in odd, peripheral moments on the telecast (still available for streaming here).
Aren’t power couples supposed to be awe-inspiring? Bullet-proof? Untouchable?
Certainly, power couples are not sensible. They don’t go to Sears for a new flat-screen TV – which is what Costello was doing when he found out that his wife had won this year’s Tucker award. (He won it three years ago; they’re the first married couple to do so.) Perez is the one who decided that Philadelphia taxes were too high considering how little time they had come to spend there – and thus moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Is that a power-couple thing to do?
Seeing them together, one could easily envision these two in a reality show. Each puzzles over the other’s received ethnic tendencies. She ponders his Irish pessimism. (Yes, Costello is mostly Irish. And Ailyn, by the way, is pronounced “Eileen.”) He doesn’t get how her entire Mexican family can spend an evening together in a restaurant and then another 20 minutes in the parking lot saying goodbye, even though they’re all headed for the same home. She’s a Bikram yoga devotee; last time I checked, he was still fighting the idea of hiring a trainer. At the Met, he sometimes warns stagehands that he occasionally forgets to breathe, so if he passes out, just drag him offstage, give him a minute or two and he’ll be singing again. (To my knowledge, this has never actually happened.)
Their talent developed along different trajectories. Perez arrived at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts having first gone to Indiana University. I heard her first public performance at AVA – a Reynaldo Hahn song – and I swear that the talent was all there, fully formed, with a warm, natural stage presence and a Victoria de los Angeles-ish voice. She only needed to bolster her coloratura technique, since it’s the Violettas and Gildas that build great careers (even though she’s a lyric soprano at heart).
Growing up in working-class Philadelphia, Costello started out playing trumpet, discovered his tenor voice and was accepted at the AVA. Since then, he has evolved by the year. He could barely navigate a stage until he was cast as Cassio in Otello at the 2008 Salzburg Festival. I sometimes feared for his vocal health until last year’s tonsillectomy. Some critics still didn’t love his high notes in last season’s Met Anna Bolena, but I heard a turning point – so I was pleased not only to hear him singing better than ever at the Tucker gala, but also with a deeper sense of Italianate style.
If his career has gone a bit faster than hers, it’s because tenors are in greater demand. Also, for all her exterior poise, Perez can sometimes be derailed by nerves. (That was occasionally detectable, manifested as pitch problems, at the Tucker gala, though by the Traviata ensemble with her husband she was on firm ground.)
They also sang the so-called Cherry Duet from L’Amico Fritz – and their dynamic is interesting. There’s no doubt that they enjoy each other onstage, but there’s never any sense that they absolutely need each other. They’re sturdy individual talents on their own.
But wasn’t it sweet when, at the end of the duet, savvy lip-readers could see him quietly saying “I love you” to his wife? Well, don’t we all?
By David Patrick Stearns
Elk Grove grad an opera superstar? Go Figaro
The Daily Herald | December 11, 2012
Opera soprano Ailyn Perez (pronounced I-lean) remembers the pivotal moment in second grade that music — and a teacher named Mr. Jacobs — rocked her world at Salt Creek Elementary School in Elk Grove Village.
“We were sitting in the classroom,” Perez told us. “And there was clapping and shaking and students counting out loud. I realized that this was my first music class. From that moment forward, music education was a part of my public school life. I really just loved music.”
You can catch the operatic talents of Elk Grove High School graduate Ailyn Perez when PBS presents “Live From Lincoln Center: The Richard Tucker Opera Gala” at 8 p.m. Thursday. For Perez, being onstage at Lincoln Center was surrealistic.
“The first videos I ever saw of opera were the earlier Richard Tucker galas,” she said. “Since then, I’ve met some of those performers I saw on those videos.”
Perez and her tenor husband Stephen Costello, above, are the first married couple to win the prestigious $30,000 Richard Tucker Award. Costello won it in 2009.
“He’s a great tenor,” she said, “and I think he’s a ridiculously good-looking guy. He keeps me up on my game, too.”
She didn’t know it at the time, but that seemingly innocuous moment transformed Perez’s life.
“I wasn’t the obvious candidate to be an opera singer,” she said.
Maybe not. But Perez, whose parents came from Mexico, still became an international opera superstar.
Last spring, Perez, 33, became the first Latina to win the $30,000 Richard Tucker Award, given to a rising talent in the opera world. You can see her receive it when the awards show is broadcast by PBS at 8 p.m. Thursday. It’s titled “Live From Lincoln Center: The Richard Tucker Opera Gala.”
She and her opera tenor husband, Stephen Costello, will perform three works on the show. Vanity Fair dubbed them “a match made in verismo heaven.”
Perez has won enough singing awards and recognitions to decorate a kajillion mantles. (Check out her Web page at ailynperez.com.)
She is an acclaimed interpreter of the role of Violetta in “La Traviata” and has worked with such operatic luminaries as Plácido Domingo and Jose Carreras.
Last month, Perez returned home to perform in the “Notes of Thanks” concert at the Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights to honor retired District 214 music teacher Jerry Swanson, one of her many mentors.
Swanson taught Perez at Elk Grove High, where she presciently studied Italian (who knew?) along with performing in musical staples such as “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Anything Goes,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Bye, Bye, Birdie.”
“That’s what’s interesting about education,” Perez said. “I think there’s talent in every community. But it takes inspiring instructors and talented teachers to really see, hear and point out things for their students.
“Sometimes, it’s just a matter of introducing them to the subject. And suddenly, the light switches on in the student’s heart or mind. They connect!”
After high school, Perez headed to the Indiana University School of Music, then to Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts. That’s where she ran into a young man named Stephen Costello, a native Philadelphian.
“He came into the school where I was working,” she remembered. “He’s a really sharp-looking guy, but he looked so familiar. So I asked, ‘Are you on TV? Are you a TV star?’ He gave me a name, then ran away.
“Two and a half years later he took me out dancing. From point A to a marriage was a long, long road. We were just shy with one another. And he is younger than I am, so I didn’t give him the time of day, I think.”
Perez and her husband live in Tennessee, not far from where her parents now live in Chattanooga. But the singer still considers herself a Chicagoan at heart. She has the niceness to prove it.
“I think hands-down what people say about me is that I’m very kind,” she admitted after we pressed her to name her dominant personality trait. “I think it comes from growing up in Elk Grove and being from the Midwest. You try to make everybody feel welcome. That sort of warmhearted attitude, I think it sticks out in my business.”
“Because most of the sopranos and leading ladies can be temperamental and standoffish. People say I’m pretty down-to-earth, and I think that comes from growing up in Elk Grove Village. That Midwestern warmth, that politeness, I think that does set me apart.”
By Dann Gire
Opera Award for Local Native
Chicago Sun Times | August 12, 2012
A Chicago-born soprano has been chosen to receive the 2012 Richard Tucker Award, presented each year to a U.S. opera singer at the threshold of a major international career.
Ailyn Perez, the first Hispanic honoree, receives a cash award of $30,000. She now is based in Tennessee with her husband, Stephen Costello, a tenor who won the Tucker award in 2009.
Other previous recipients include Renee Fleming, Deborah Voigt and David Daniels.
Barry Tucker, president of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, said in a statement that Perez sings “with incredible beauty and heart.”
Perez sang Countess Almaviva in the Ravinia Festival’s 2010 semi-staged production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”