Alumna Gabriella Reyes's Swift Rise to a Metropolitan Opera Debut

October 11, 2018 Alison Arnett

Just two years ago, alumna Gabriella Reyes (B.M. '16, voice) was a Boston Conservatory at Berklee student, dreaming that someday she would sing opera professionally on a big stage. By late September this year, she had arrived, performing the High Priestess role in Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. After this dramatic ascendancy, her future is full of more Met appearances—including singing with opera titan Plácido Domingo in Giacomo Puccini’s Il Trittico in November and December.

The swift and steep trajectory is astonishing even to Reyes. “It’s been such a whirlwind,” she says, adding that she is “thankful for every moment, and for those who taught and critiqued” her along the way.

Reyes, who is 26 and from Meriden, Connecticut, grew up near the home of the late opera star Rosa Ponselle, but her only brush with opera in her childhood was her Nicaraguan grandmother singing along with recordings of Georges Bizet’s Carmen. After studying at Boston Conservatory and Boston University, Reyes was a finalist in the Met’s 2017 National Council Auditions and, later that year, was invited to join their renowned Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

Her career accelerated from there. Not only did she sing for Domingo in Los Angeles, she also worked with renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel, musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in a concert of music from The Magic Flute. “It’s been a dream come true,” Reyes says, adding that the Venezuelan Dudamel gave her a chance to “work with another Latino who’s killing it.”

Although her role in the Met’s Aida is offstage, the New York Classical Review commented that “Reyes was hair-raising, giving a manic invocation from offstage.” Reyes describes the “gorgeous, gorgeous section” of the opera with a huge set and chorus. The harp strums eight times, and then her voice is heard. “I’m not visible, but the audience totally can hear me,” she says.

Another high point of this dizzying year came in the spring when Reyes received an email from the Met’s publicity office asking her to be photographed for the New Yorker magazine. Reyes had been chosen to sing in the Met’s 2018 Summer Recital Series, and the series of concerts in parks from Harlem to Queens to the Bronx was to be previewed in the magazine. In their June 25 issue, she appeared in a full-page photo. It was “so surreal to see a full page of my face in the New Yorker,” notes Reyes.

The summer program brought out another side of Reyes, who is not only proud of her Latina heritage, but also believes that inspiring young people without financial advantages is part of her mission. The park series drew many families and children who, like her as a child, may not have had exposure to live opera performances. She believes that to see “someone who looks like you” can encourage young people to follow their dreams.

This fall and winter will bring more performance milestones for Reyes. On November 12, 2018 she will sing with the New York Choral Society in Tippett’s A Child of Our Time at Carnegie Hall. Then, from November 23 to December 15, 2018, she will appear on stage as Nella with Domingo in Gianni Schicchi, one of the one-act operas of Il Trittico. She will also appear as the First Lady in the Met’s The Magic Flute in December 2018 and January 2019.

The young singer does not take all this for granted. “I have to work triple hard to keep my feet on the ground,” she says. “Just because I’m the young one doesn’t mean I get excused.” But she appreciates the challenges she has every day in her blossoming career, which “make me grow.”

Learn about how Boston Conservatory’s voice/opera programs prepare young artists such as Gabriella Reyes for lifelong careers in music.