Ailyn Pérez

Introduction

Hailed by the New York Times as “a beautiful woman who commands the stage” and “a major soprano,” Ailyn Pérez is increasingly in demand at the world’s leading opera houses and cultural capitals. She has won both the 2012 Richard Tucker Award, thereby becoming the only Hispanic recipient in the award’s 35-year history, and the 15th annual Plácido Domingo Award. As Opera News observes, “The phrase ‘an embarrassment of riches’ might have been invented to describe the combination of talents that belong to Ailyn Pérez, … who truly seems to have it all.”

Already something of a calling card for Pérez, the role of Violetta in La traviata is the vehicle for five of her operatic engagements in 2013-14. She launches the new season at the Hamburg State Opera, opposite her husband and frequent co-star, tenor Stephen Costello, before revisiting Verdi’s doomed heroine at Spain’s Ópera de Oviedo and the Bavarian State Opera. Pérez and Costello reunite to reprise their portrayals at San Francisco Opera and London’s Royal Opera House, at which Pérez has already been hailed as “an ideal Violetta” (Observer, UK). She may be seen twice more at Covent Garden this season, undertaking the title part of Massenet’s Manon in Laurent Pelly’s celebrated treatment, and making her role debut as Liù in Puccini’s Turandot. Pérez closes the opera season as she began it: starring opposite Costello in Verdi at Hamburg State Opera, this time as Gilda to his Duke in Rigoletto. On the concert stage, Pérez graces a star-studded Richard Tucker Music Foundation gala event at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, where she celebrates the Brooklyn-born tenor’s centennial with fellow Tucker Award-winners including Renée Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, and Costello, who won the award in 2009. Dubbed “America’s fastest-rising husband-and-wife opera stars” (Associated Press) and praised for their “palpable chemistry”(New York Times), Pérez and Costello also team up for operatic duets, in recital at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, and on their forthcoming album, which is due for release in May. 

Roles Pérez will portray in future seasons include Norina in Don Pasquale, Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Violetta in La traviata, Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, the title role in Manon, a world premiere by composer Jake Heggie, Desdemona in Otello, The Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, Juliette in Romeo et Juliette, with which she will make her debuts at several top American and international opera houses.

 
For an up-to-date biography please contact Rachel Walters  

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Repertoire

Operatic Repertoire

BELLINI - I Capuleti e i Montechi, Giulietta

BEETHOVEN - Fidelio, Marzelline

BIZET - Les Pecheurs de Perles, Leila

BIZET - Carmen, Micaela

DONIZETTI - L'elisir d'amore, Adina

GOUNOD - Faust, Marguerite

GOUNOD - Romeo et Juliette, Juliette

MASSENET - Manon, Manon

MOZART - Don Giovanni, Zerlina + Donna Elvira

MOZART - Idomeneo, Ilia

MOZART - Le nozze di Figaro, Countess

MOZART - Die Zauberflote, Pamina

OFFENBACH - Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Four Heroines

POULENC - Les dialogues des Carmelites, Blanche

PUCCINI - La Boheme, Mimi

PUCCINI - Turandot, Liu

PUCCINI - Le Villi, Anna

VERDI - Otello, Desdemona

VERDI - Simon Boccanegra, Amelia

VERDI - La Traviata, Violetta

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Schedule

Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur , Quebec

Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez

Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur  

"They will bring a delightful mixed program to Saint-Sauveur, from loved operatic arias to Broadway favourites, demonstrating what The New York Times calls “palpable chemistry” in the FASS Big Top."

Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Highland Park

Don Giovanni 

Chicago Symphony Orchestra 

James Conlon, Conductor
Chicago Symphony Chorus (Duain Wolfe, Director)

Christopher Maltman, Don Giovanni
Tamara Wilson, Donna Anna
David Bižić, Leporello
Kristinn Sigmundsson, Il Commendatore
Saimir Pirgu, Don Ottavio
Aga Mikolaj, Donna Elvira
Ailyn Pérez, Zerlina
Yohan Yi, Masetto
David Lefkowich, Director

Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Highland Park

Don Giovanni 

Chicago Symphony Orchestra 

James Conlon, Conductor
Chicago Symphony Chorus (Duain Wolfe, Director)

Christopher Maltman, Don Giovanni
Tamara Wilson, Donna Anna
David Bižić, Leporello
Kristinn Sigmundsson, Il Commendatore
Saimir Pirgu, Don Ottavio
Aga Mikolaj, Donna Elvira
Ailyn Pérez, Zerlina
Yohan Yi, Masetto
David Lefkowich, Director

Houston Grand Opera, Houston

VERDI: Otello


Otello - Simon O'Neill
Desdemona - Ailyn Perez
Iago - Marco Vratogna
Cassio - Norman Reinhardt
Emilia - Victoria Livengood
Lodovico - Morris Robinson

Conductor - Patrick Summers
Director - John Cox

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Press

'Love Duets' CD

Warner Classics

Love is in the aria for opera's new It couple


If Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu were the Richard Burton and Liz Taylor of opera (on again, off again, divorce), husband and wife Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez are the Jay Z and Beyoncé. They’re modern, they’re hot and their marital status is taking them beyond opera’s heartland into Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, and YouTube ubiquity that includes the gushy mini-doc An Operatic Love Story.

Labelled opera’s reigning It couple and a power couple, in person “Pérello” are charmingly low-key. We meet in an Italian restaurant round the corner from the Royal Opera House. A squeaky dumbwaiter makes the place a bit Fawlty Towers but it’s a favourite post-show haunt of Covent Garden’s artists; signed photos of Pavarotti, Joseph Calleja and opera’s ultimate power couple, Bob and Ange (Alagna and Gheorghiu), line the walls. The opera-loving owner, Pino, has eyes for petite Pérez; Costello barely gets a look-in. The duo, both in their early thirties, don’t command attention from other diners, but you sense that’s only a matter of time.


Their album, Love Duets, is released today, full of beautiful singing and glossy pictures. Tomorrow they open in La traviata at the ROH. They have sung together on stage once before in London — in January 2012, Pérez jumped in for soprano Ermonela Jaho opposite Costello for one performance of Verdi’s opera — but this is an entire performance run. Not only that, the ROH has chosen it to be its first opera streamed free and globally online, and relayed live to BP Big Screens nationwide. The pair have also just announced a live concert of love duets at the Barbican, London, in January.

Under that kind of spotlight, what’s it like to bring opera’s greatest romances to life with your other half? Is it a cauldron of onstage chemistry? Unbridled passion?

“In something like Traviata it’s extremely difficult,” says Costello. “In our first scene it’s the first time the two characters meet. And it’s hard to recreate the first time you’ve met somebody when you’ve spent the past five years living together.” The pair met at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, brought together by music and trust as they navigated a tough business. They married in 2008.

“What makes it easy is that I know Ailyn as an artist. I’ve seen her sing Traviata a million times . . . I know what she likes to do where. It makes me more comfortable, especially in a duet.”

“What’s most exciting when I’m working with Stephen is there’s a part of me that relaxes a little,” says Pérez. “I know I can count him. He serves the music and the scene, and he’s not unfocused. Sometimes artists go crazy when press happens. It’s me, me, me . . . I don’t get that with him.”

Both say that on stage they sing to the character, not the partner, though Costello concedes he may indulge himself in a recital. “When you’re just doing sections of a piece you . . . have to bring something. And something comes out in me and says: ‘I’m proud to be here with my wife.’ I think the audience can see that.”

If anything, they have to operate as individual performers on stage. “You have to detach to personally do your very best,” says Pérez. “Like, I can’t be worried about how Stephen’s feeling that night, because I have to perform. We’ve learnt not to be so intense.”

If Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu were the Richard Burton and Liz Taylor of opera … husband and wife Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez are the Jay Z and Beyoncé

Pérez and Costello both have blossoming independent careers. Pérez is a Royal Opera favourite, wowing this year as Massenet’s coquettish Manon and in Puccini’s Turandot, with her “luscious, fruity timbre” (The Times). Costello had a phenomenal Metropolitan Opera debut aged 26 in 2007, promoted by maestro James Levine on the season-opening night of Lucia di Lammermoor from singing Arturo to the male lead, Edgardo. He spans from bel canto to contemporary opera and has a wonderful Italianate surety.

Accepting criticism from your nearest and dearest is always a challenge, and there is little room for it in this relationship. “In all honesty, you don’t ask questions if you want an honest answer,” says Costello.

“No, that’s not true,” counters Pérez. “I’m sorry . . . you want support. You want affirmation. We’ve been down that road and . . .”

“It’s not productive,” finishes Costello.

The bread and butter of the soprano and tenor is romantic tension, which brings another mind-bending challenge: watching your partner cavort onstage with another singer. “In Valencia, I watched Ailyn sing Manon with Vittorio Grigolo [an Italian tenor with Rat Pack good looks]. He’s reading the letter [of marriage] between her legs and she’s wearing this nightgown thing. I’m like: ‘I can’t watch this,’ ” says Costello.

He is equally uncomfortable when the tables are turned. “He’s kicked me out of the theatre before,” says Pérez, who seems to handle the eye candy more coolly.

The Mexican-American Pérez and Irish–American Costello both hail from large families and would like children. Now, however, is not the time to disrupt their career momentum. “We have a dog [called Tequila] and she’s really special, like a child,” says Costello.

“We’re young, we’re still proving ourselves and that’s the edge that we have in our shows,” says Pérez. “It’s not like we’ve arrived. We’re not in our Tosca days.”

For now, there’s the album to promote. Love Duets is an enjoyable listen; a mix of operatic favourites (La bohème, La traviata, Faust et al) and some musical theatre (Tony and Maria’s One Hand, One Heart from West Side Story, If I Loved You from Carousel) all accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The pair grew up loving musical theatre, and its inclusion is also a conscious nod to broadening opera’s appeal.

That’s a tough job made harder, Costello feels, by lack of support. If only Jay Z would go to the opera, he says, a generation would follow. In March he was singing in Moby-Dick at the Washington National Opera, “and the president didn’t come to the opera once”, he complains.

“And Moby-Dick was one of Obama’s favourite novels,” points out Pérez. “These people who are in the press all the time — the president or pop stars — they don’t support the other arts. How are we going to get young people interested?”

Essentially, Costello and Pérez are managing three careers: their individual work and the Pérello brand, which is increasingly centre stage. “At first it can bother you but it’s helping us get more jobs,” says Costello. The pair collect their joint production posters, framed at home in Chattanooga. “It’s always great to work together . . . and we’re getting paid twice!”

No, they don’t have a Bob and Ange rate (allegedly two for the price of three rather than an operatic BOGOF for joint appearances). They don’t believe the power-couple hype, either.

“It’s not really true. The Royal Opera aren’t going to hire us both to sing in the same cast just because we’re married,” says Costello. “If they didn’t like one of us, they’d only hire one of us.”

“And we’re not trying to be exclusive,” says Pérez.

“Demanding that we would only work together,” explains Costello. “That’s terrible. That causes a lot of problems. We wouldn’t do that.”

Who’s demanded that? “No comment,” they both reply.

Opera is eager to find another celebrated on-stage partnership with the chemistry of Callas and Di Stefano, Freni and Pavarotti, or Netrebko and Villazón. With their added offstage romance, Pérez and Costello are joining that elite, generating a tangible on-stage frisson. Do they feel it or is it just part of the job?

“Oh, I still feel it,” says Pérez.

“I hope there’s chemistry,” says Costello. “If there isn’t, that would suck. That would be a long night.”

 - Emma Pomfret

The Times, May 5, 2014, Emma Pomfret

'Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello sing Love Duets' Presto News, 5 May 2014

The Sunday Times review The Sunday Times
The Guardian review Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, 11 May 2014
Mail On Sunday - Album of the Week David Mellor, Mail on Sunday, 11 May 2014

Massenet

Manon

Royal Opera House Covent Garden

"her tone is brightly focused and winning...By the time she got to the gambling den of the Hotel de Transylvanie...she had found her stride, a glamorous demi-mondaine to the life, standing out of the crowd. And her waif-like appearance and plangent singing on the road to Le Havre were truly heart-rending. With Emmanuel Villaume bringing authentic French flavour to Massenet's score and coaxing idiomatic performances from his American principals, this was altogether a more satisfactory and enjoyable performance than the 'international' star-studded initial run two seasons ago" Hugh Canning, Opera, April 2014

Puccini

Turandot

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

"There’s a distinguished role debut from Ailyn Pérez as Liu: her luscious, fruity timbre is perfect for Puccini and you completely succumb as her voice tingles up the stave." Neil Fisher, The Times, February 19, 2014
"Ailyn Perez made a sensational role debut as the slave girl Liu. Using her diminutive physique to her advantage, she cut a tragic figure on stage and used her bright and agile soprano voice to telling effect. As is often the case with this role, she was awarded the biggest ovation of the evening." Keith McDonnell, What's on Stage, 18th February, 2014
"Yet, not for the first time, the show was stolen by the petite lyric soprano as the adorably self-sacrificing slave girl Liu. Ailyn Perez is currently a house favourite, and one could see why: she combines a limpid yet glowing voice with an attractive stage personality and aside from a tiny glitch at the end of “Signore, ascolta”, she floated pianissimi above the stave with spine-tingling ease." Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 18th February 2014
"Ailyn Pérez sings with caressing warmth and stylishness as the self-sacrificing slave girl Liù." Warwick Thompson, The Metro, February 18th 2014

Wall Street Journal article about Stephen and Ailyn

Ailyn and Stephen interview

New York

Wall Street Journal article Elisabeth Braw, 23 January 2014

Tucker Gala

Avery Fisher Hall

"The soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a tastefully restrained rendition of Charpentier’s “Depuis le jour,” from “Louise,” in which subtle changes in intensity created a watercolor-like effect. In a deliciously comic scene with her husband and fellow Tucker Prize recipient, Stephen Costello, she showed her sassy side, as Norina played hard to get in “Esulti pur la Barbara,” from “L’Elisir d’Amore.” Each revealed a perfect grasp of comic timing in acting and singing." Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, New York Times, 18 November 2013

Verdi

Falstaff - Alice Ford

Glyndebourne Festival Opera

"The American soprano Ailyn Pérez, who won the 2012 Richard Tucker prize, was making her Glyndebourne debut as Alice Ford, and her creamy, lustrous tone and confident stage presence were ideally suited to this part, as indeed they would be to any of Verdi’s great lyric soprano roles; expect to hear much more from this already very polished artist." OMH review, May 2013
"Ailyn Perez’s feisty Alice is a joy, and her voice combines beautifully with Lucia Cirillo’s Meg" The Arts Desk, May 2013
"Standing out from this fine ensemble, though, was the Alice Ford of Ailyn Pérez, a simply glorious Verdian soprano whose star quality at Glyndebourne proved mesmerising even in the moments when she sang from the wings. Pérez’s soaring, bejewelled lines will live long in the memory and the prospect of following her career in years to come is something to savour." Mark Valencia, Classical Souce, May 2013

CD: Poeme d'un jour (Opus Arte)

Rosenblatt Recital Series

Poème d’un jour
Ailyn Pérez, soprano; Iain Burnside, piano (Opus Arte)
 
"Countless women sing the repertoire that Ailyn Pérez performs in opera houses: Mimì in "La Bohème," Violetta in "La Traviata," the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro." But only a few who bring something extraordinary to those roles achieve recognition that goes far beyond the typical opera sphere. Pérez, who won the 2012 Richard Tucker Award, should be next on that list.

On a recording of French and Spanish music, Pérez displays a powerful, distinctive tone that is both deep and rosy. She can evoke the feeling of breathless spontaneity and then slip easily, magically up to a soft, exquisitely controlled high note. Two arias from Massenet’s "Manon" show a role to which she is well-suited. The lushness of her voice fits romantic songs by Reynaldo Hahn and the title set by Gabriel Fauré, which she sings sensitively. She also brings character, agility and rich colorings to songs by Joaquin Turina, Fernando Obradors and Manuel de Falla. Iain Burnside provides lively, proficient accompaniment throughout."

Ronni Reich, New Jersey News
International Record Review Mark Pullinger, June 2013
"There’s a hint of Victoria de los Angeles in the programming and the style of this lovely young American soprano, currently lighting up the stage as Alice Ford in Falstaff at Glyndebourne. Any singer who begins a recital with Hahn’s exquisite neo-baroque A Chloris gets my vote, especially when she sings it with such artless affection. Her Fauré group, Poème d’un jour, is delectably suggestive. Perez’s Spanish sounds entirely idiomatic in Obradors, Turina and Falla. In the Seven Popular Spanish Songs, she rivals de los Angeles with her alternately seductive and anguished manner. Better, though, to have tracked the delicious Manon excerpts as encores." 

Ailyn Perez (soprano), Iain Burnside (piano)
Opus Arte OACD9013D

HC, The Sunday Times, 2 June 2013

Verdi

Requiem

La Maison Symphonique de Montréal

"Soprano Ailyn Pérez (a replacement this evening) was given her chance to shine in the Libera me which brings this work to a close. When she sang alone with the chorus, it was absolutely captivating – such sweet, delicate expressiveness perfectly suited the close of this work. When the final notes died away Nézet-Séguin waited in hushed reverence – was it fifteen seconds or five minutes?"

Andrew Crust

Verdi

La Traviata - Violetta

Cincinnati Opera

"A strikingly beautiful woman, Perez is eminently suited to Violetta, not only physically but vocally. Her dark tinged voice conveys tragedy, and she has the flexibility to bring off "Sempre libera" which she capped with an E-flat on opening night. It was in the subsequent acts, though, that she particularly excelled, spinning out a thread of sound in "Dite alla giovine" and summoning powerful desparation in he pleas to Alfredo that he love her. Perez's voice took on a appropriate pallor in the final act, regaining vibrancy in the imagined recovery of her final movements"

 

Opera News, October 2012

Verdi

La Traviata - Violetta

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

"The latest cast change, heralding a run of performances over the Christmas period, is first-rate, with an ideal Violetta in Ailyn Perez. The bewitching young American soprano puts her heart into every twist of the drama, from the impetuousness of her love for Alfredo - the world-class Polish tenor Piotr Beczala..to the febrile emergency of her death...her performance was glorious, the quiet passages magical."

The Observer, November 2011
"Poplavskaya is a hard act to follow, but Pérez was tried and tested in the Royal Opera’s tour to Japan just over a year ago, and she has now made the part very much her own...The intense joy and the heavy grief of her music is embodied in a soprano that is supple and strong enough to sustain long passages in the most eloquent and perfectly controlled half-voice...Piotr Beczala, her personable and powerful Alfredo." The Times, November 2011

Placido Domingo Gala

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

"an entrancing Gilda (Ailyn Perez, in a deserved Covent Garden debut)." The Sunday Times, November 2011

Gounod

Romeo et Juliette - Juliette

Opera Company of Philadelphia

"But the chief attraction is the casting of America's fastest-rising husband-and-wife opera stars in the title roles: tenor Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Perez. Young, attractive singers who are proud alumnae of the Academy's training program, they made the performance a memorable one...
 
Perez's lyric soprano is pure and honeyed in tone, and she deploys it with elegance and tenderness...
 
In the four duets Gounod wrote for the star-crossed lovers, her voice blended together beautifully with Costello's.
 
Perez is also a natural actress, embodying both Juliette's girlish high spirits and her growing maturity under the influence of love."
Associated Press, February 2011

"Pérez captured the persona, with insouciance and glamor. Her voice has coloratura brightness (she was an excellent Lucia when she was a student at the Academy of Vocal Arts) and richer color than ever before."

Opera Critic, February 2011

Recordings

Poème d’un jour

Hot on the heels of winning the prestigious Richard Tucker Award, “huge star in the making” Ailyn Pérez releases her debut solo CD for Opus Arte. 

This debut solo CD for Opus Arte, Poème d’un jour, comprises a mixture of studio and live recordings from Ailyn Perez’s memorable London Rosenblatt Recital in March 2012. Accompanied by Iain Burnside at the piano, Ailyn presents Spanish and French art song (including music by Hahn, Obradors, De Falla and Faure) as well as arias from Massenet’s Manon, a role which she performs at Covent Garden next season. The CD goes on sale internationally on April 23 and in the U.S. on May 28.
Opus Arte