Meet the Artist
A conversation with La bohťmeís leading lady, Ailyn Pťrez
Enjoy Florida Grand Operaís Meet the Artist series, where we profile several artists performing onstage this season. We are proud to introduce Mexican-American soprano Ailyn Pérez, who will be singing the lead role of Mimž in La bohťme at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County from November 17, 2012, through December 2, 2012, and at Broward Center for the Performing Arts December 6 and 8, 2012.
Florida Grand Opera (FGO): Welcome to Florida Grand Opera – we’re very excited to have you join us this season!
Ailyn Pérez (AP): Thank you. I am delighted to answer any questions you have for me.
FGO: How did you become involved with music?
AP: It was in high school. I loved to participate in high school musicals and I had already been part of the band/orchestra playing the flute and the tenor sax. My voice teacher happened to be a Heldentenor, which is that Wagnerian heroic type of tenor. I learned the fundamentals of breathing and signing classical music. I never knew, though, that I would end up being a professional opera singer. So, itís been a pretty extraordinary journey.
FGO: What was your first role?
AP: In high school, I auditioned for the musical The Pirates of Penzance, and, of course, I auditioned for Mabel, the lead role. But I was also a sophomore and, thankfully, I did get the role of Edith. Then, I played Sarah in Guys and Dolls and Reno Sweeny in Anything Goes. Later, I auditioned for university with the hopes of a musical scholarship. I went to Indiana University and then went on to study opera at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia.
FGO:. Why opera?
AP: Sometimes you may think ďhow does one become an opera singer?Ē Why not pop music, maybe a salsa band or mariachi singer, or a singer-songwriter. Everybody comes across music in their own unique way. I came across music with a love of symphonic work, band, and concert band music.
Also, I knew my voice. Karaoke is my nightmare, so I knew that pop music, as much as I wish it could be me, itís just really not. I found that classical music just came kind of natural to me. There is also so much depth to the music. You can live with a piece for over 20 years and still discover something new. So thatís why I chose to become an opera singer and also because I love traveling. Opera is a wonderful way to get to see the world.
FGO: What has been the greatest influence on your career?
AP: The strongest influence in my life and career is the love of my parents and the values that they instilled in me; and my husband. My very, very close family influences my career. When I speak, I can hear my sisterís voice, my momís voice. I am carrying the stories of my family and thatís what I try to infuse in the characters I portray. Thatís who I am, thatís where I come from. The kind of people that my parents are, thatís what inspire me.
FGO: How has winning the Richard Tucker Award and recent media exposure affected your life?
AP: I am so grateful for the recent major events in my humble career - to be receiving the Richard Tucker Award, to be featured in Vanity Fair alongside my husband, and for the upcoming projects we have together. I just feel so blessed, incredibly fortunate, and inspired.
To carry on the Richard Tucker legacy is a wonderful way to go out into the world and I am just so grateful to the foundation. I just love singing and performing and itís such an honor. Itís hard to put into words.
FGO: Is there a dream role you wish to perform?
AP: You know, itís really hard to pick favorite roles. But, I would say to sing Tatiana in Eugene Onegin and Rusalka. There are so many great soprano roles. I think before I leave the opera world, I would love to sing Tosca, just to jump off that wall and take flight in that new dramatic way. I wish I could sing more Julietteís and more Manonís; more of the French repertoire. Iím really lucky. I get to play such greater characters today
FGO: What is your favorite opera?
AP: I have to say, I know I have been studying opera and voice for many years, but (trust me) I actually donít know every single opera in the repertoire. There are so many! Anyway, my favorite role thus far is Mimž in La bohťme. So I am very excited to present this character to you. Her story and the story of all the characters in the opera and the music Ö itís just my favorite. Itís a wonderful cast and I canít wait to perform for you in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
FGO: You have portrayed the character of Mimž a number of times. How has the role evolved since you first performed it and how do you see her today?
AP: The role of Mimž has evolved a bit, she is quite a simple character and, actually, playing someone who is very simple and fine is probably the most difficult things for me to do. Itís not comedy, itís not comic timing, itís very dramatic, but it canít be melodramatic. It canít be overdone. Actually, here at FGO, David Gately is the director. He directed my first Mimž when I was attending the Academy of Vocal Arts in 2005 - seven years ago. Iíve played Mimi four times recently and I realized that sometimes itís all about the props. Iím really klutzy naturally so, sometimes, I wonít get the candle and drop it where itís supposed to be dropped. In one performance, I dropped the key where the tenor had no possibility of finding it, so we kind of mimed the key. Itís still kind of a wonderful growing experience.
FGO: If you could be anything other than an opera singer what would you be?
AP: A psychic Ö just kidding! If I werenít an opera singer and I had a wish of some other thing I could do or be, I would definitely wish I could be an extraordinary chef; sample all these fantastic creations and travel the world. But thatís probably still influenced by the fact that I am an opera singer and all I can think about is food and music.
FGO: How was the Cupcake Wars experience?
AP: One of my favorite moments over this last year has been guest judging on Cupcake Wars. I hoped you tuned in to it. It was a wonderful experience. One of the funny things that happened, Iíll tell you, is they said ďMs. Perez youíll be sampling 27 different cupcakes and you donít have to eat it all. You donít have to taste them Ö.Ē And I said, ďNo, no, no Ö you donít understand. I travelled all the way to California to do this taping. Iíll taste all the cupcakes, no problem.Ē It was a lot of fun.
FGO: We hear you bake?
AP: Okay, confession! Iím a food fan. Iím still getting comfortable in the kitchen. My husband is real social, so heíll invite people over for grilling. So heís a Bobby Flay man and I like to download Gordon Ramsay videos and follow everything he says. He gives you the basic instruction, which is very doable for me. Itís fun when we come across recipes and try to out cook and out bake each other. Itís not often when we are in our own kitchen with our own tools, so I eat out a lot.
FGO: Thank you for your time today, Ailyn. We look forward to seeing you in La bohťme.