Ailyn Pérez, of the elegant cheekbones and soaring, spirited soprano, was born to play the bad girl. You would never know that when talking to her by phone one morning, she tells me, “in the Oak Lawn area.” Ailyn is in Dallas rehearsing Great Scott, the new opera commissioned for The Dallas Opera from Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally. It will go next to San Diego.

Ailyn plays Tatyana Bakst, a Russian émigré who is so delusionally confident she thrusts herself forward to sing the “Starry Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl when she doesn’t know a note of it, much less a word. Oblivious to the admonition that honesty is almost never the best policy, especially when it comes to unbridled ambition, she is candid to a fault, revealing without guile that “I want to be like Arden Scott [reigning diva of the piece], only bigger, better, and better paid. She tries so hard, but is not getting it,” Ailyn explained. “She is hilarious and heartbreaking…and is going to be learning a lot.”

Ailyn Perez has learned a lot since her student days at the University of Indiana, then Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts. She captivated Dallas five years ago singing Zerlina in Don Giovanni. In February she’ll make her debut at the Met as Michaela in Carmen followed by Musetta in La boheme. She’s also doing the Countess in Houston’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro. And she’ll return to Dallas as Manon. Far more of a bad girl than Tatyana, this French anti-heroine is severely compromised by her determination “to have it all.” “And for five acts,” Ailyn assesses, “she kind of gets it all. Money matters. Love matters. But not enough. She doesn’t discover the pain of it all until the last act. [In the end] you can feel her soul changing, but it’s too late. She’s the coolest cat who is clueless.”

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Patron Magazine | Lee Cullum