This season, Ailyn Pérez sings three of opera’s most captivating leading ladies at the Met—the title role of Massenet’s Thaïs, the Countess in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. As she prepared to make her role debut this November as Thaïs, the soprano spoke with the Met’s Christopher Browner about her love of French music and keeping her voice healthy.
How does it feel to return to the Met?
The Met is hands-down one of the most exciting stages to play on because it calls on all of the top talents from all over the world. Plus, I love this audience. It’s an American audience that’s very eclectic and still growing.
What draws you most to the role of Thaïs?
Well, she’s a courtesan, but her journey in the opera is much more spiritual. It’s not the type of opera that shames the courtesan for being a courtesan. She’s completely in her element and held in the highest regard in her world. Thaïs is one of those leading ladies that is not only an epitome of glamour, but she’s a dynamic, strong woman. It’s very modern.
What are some moments in the score that are especially vivid for you?
Every time I look at the end, I’m in tears. Her final lines are declaring that she now sees God, who is wiping away her tears and healing her from all of her unspoken and spoken wounds. Don’t we all long for that? She gets to see that, and we get to feel that, through a soaring line to high D that then comes tumbling down below the staff. I cry every time I think about those words she’s saying.
Do you find that the French repertoire sits especially well in your voice?
Very much. For me, the vocal writing in the French repertoire is where I am so happy. Sometimes it’s challenging to sing in French, but afterwards, I always feel better as a singer. There’s always this effervescent youthfulness to the music—it’s about the beauty and bloom of the voice.
You’ll also appear in Le Nozze di Figaro this season. Singers often say that Mozart’s music keeps them in vocal shape.
Definitely. What I love about Mozart is that you can be expressive, but your instrument needs to be clean and healthy. His music is so Classical and balanced that everything has to have elegance. It’s like stilettos and skinny jeans—you do not look hot running in them. You want to have solid ground under you and be at ease in your body.
Photos by Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera