Talking with the rising soprano Ailyn Pérez is like reconnecting with a friend from high school. She is friendly, open, interesting, and completely unaffected by her current status as one of opera’s brightest young stars.

Pérez’s engagements in the last few years have included leading roles at La Scala (Mimi in La Bohème), Houston Grand Opera (Desdemona in Otello), and Covent Garden (Violetta in La traviata). In April, the soprano will appear as Marguerite in Faust at the Dresden Staatsoper, and this summer she will portray the ill-fated Juliette in Roméo and Juliette at Santa Fe Opera.  In the midst of magnificent performances in the title role of Massenet’s Manon with Dallas Opera, she took time out to chat about her life and career.

“My first musical experience was in the second grade when we learned to play the recorder,” said Pérez. “By the fourth grade, I was playing the cello.”

But that wasn’t her last instrument change. In the fifth grade, she took up the flute and piccolo and played those two wind instruments at Elk Grove High School (outside of Chicago). She joined the choir in the ninth grade and soon thereafter discovered musical comedy.

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