Ailyn Pérez is in the heart of an astonishing career. She comes to The Barns between her run of Mimìs in La bohème at the Met and an engagement for Violetta in La traviata at La Scala. She’s just as excited about her upcoming Wolf Trap performance as she is about its starry book-end engagements. (Tickets here.)
Wolf Trap Opera singers always joke about craving the mythical “3rd season.” We need to keep the revolving door of new talent always moving, so artists are limited to two summers on our roster. But they tell us they yearn for the mythical day when we will remove that restriction and they can just call the Trap their perennial summer home :)
Even though the two-year limit isn’t likely to go away, there are other ways for us to enjoy the artistry of our alumni – including the Filene Artist in Residence program, commissioned opera premieres, and song recitals at The Barns. And that last one is on my mind today as I sit down at the piano and prepare for the Ailyn’s return.
Why do opera singers love doing recitals? It’s not for the money, for sure; there’s a far better living to be made from singing in opera productions. And it can’t be because they’re easy; taking an audience on a musical journey without the trappings of sets, costumes or orchestra is pretty demanding stuff. Turns out that the reasons are quite personal.
People choose careers in the arts because they have something to say. They have an abundance of artistic curiosity, a desire to communicate, and a strong point of view. Although the business of big opera productions is undeniably exciting, the singers themselves are often cogs in a grand wheel – important and high profile, but sometimes of limited dimension. Having a chance to craft and deliver a personalized song program is a wonderful antidote, an opportunity to connect with some of the reasons they chose this career in the first place.
And doing a song program at Wolf Trap can be even more satisfying than usual. More than most, we value individuality over conformity, and we are happy to sacrifice traditional form in favor of artistically honest content. Ailyn is a proud first generation American of Mexican parents, and the fact that her program is heavily weighted toward songs of Spanish heritage is no accident. (And this Daughter-of-the-America-Revolution pianist is oh so happy to soak up some of Ailyn’s Central American passion!)
Previous WTO alumni recitals at The Barns have featured a world-renowned Wagnerian singing Don Quixote (Alan Held), an internationally acclaimed coloratura tenor performing Sammy Davis Jr. (Larry Brownlee) and the best contralto of her generation channeling Julia Child (Jamie Barton). We are privileged to give these compelling musicians a chance to sing from their hearts, to take us on musical journeys that come from the core of their beings.
Over our planning lunch in Manhattan last month, I was struck by Ailyn’s genuine affection for this music and for the art of storytelling through song. It gives me great pleasure that she’ll be able to share this with our Wolf Trap patrons. I hope you’ll be among them.