Philadelphia has generated impressive opera singers, but few are more beloved than Pérez, the young woman from the Chicago suburbs who walked onto the AVA stage in September 2002 and who has continued winning hearts in increasingly visible places. Pérez opened last Saturday at the Metropolitan Opera in the title role of the Jules Massenet star vehicle Thais — a sign that she has arrived at that next level of recognition.
“Staying power? Definitely,” said AVA’s notoriously severe music director, Christofer Macatsoris. “She’s a great communicator. Audiences identify with her. She has something to say with her roles. Always.”
The bigger surprise is how quickly she masters uncharted territory. James Corden’s Late Late Show for example: There on a YouTube video from last year, she and baritone Luca Pisaroni literally swoop in on the talk show host, singing in Italian and hitting him with high notes, Pérez’s diaphanous cape billowing in the TV studio breeze.
How, you have to ask, does she seem to master situations from which others might shrink?
The uproarious audience reaction didn’t hurt. “The high notes happened, and they lost their minds,” she said the other day during a Manhattan lunch. “They had a ball. Opera works! You just deliver the music and people get it. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
Meanwhile, the 38-year-old Perez is adding new roles at a dizzying rate. Yet she’s fundamentally the same as she always was.