A Dream Come True: Alumna Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez Soars to the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Grand Finals

April 14, 2017 Alison Arnett

Advancing in the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions—where some of today’s greatest opera singers launched their careers—is a lofty goal for any aspiring opera singer. To alumna Gabriella Reyes de Ramírez (B.M. '16, voice), soprano, it seemed “so far away.” But on March 19, Reyes walked away with the distinction of being one of just nine finalists who performed at the Grand Finals Concert, hosted by opera star Renée Fleming.

“It was so huge,” says Reyes. She admits that the road to the National Council Auditions was long, with much hard work and doubts. But performing “Il est doux, il est bon” from Massenet’s Hérodiade and Florencia’s Act II aria from Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas on the Met stage in New York City made it all worthwhile.

“I always wanted to do it,” Reyes says. At 24, she had several more years of eligibility to enter the auditions, but decided that this was "my coming out year." Reyes went into the competition hoping for the “encouragement” citation (essentially an honorable mention) in the New England region audition in late January. She “was in complete shock” when she realized that she had instead advanced to the national level. Twenty-three singers advanced to the National Council Auditions this year. After two rounds in New York City, six were chosen winners at the grand finals, with three remaining finalists.

Reyes inherited her love of opera from her grandmother, who sang along to Carmen when Reyes was a child in Connecticut. Reyes, whose family has roots in Nicaragua, was intrigued, but had other musical interests. Then she heard a recording of Rosa Ponselle, who sang at the Metropolitan Opera with Enrico Caruso in the early 20th century, and learned that Ponselle had grown up only a few doors down from Reyes’s family home in Meriden, Connecticut.

“Wow,” she thought. “That is what I want to do.”

The path to Boston Conservatory involved years of study and work. Her teacher, Patty Thom, “prepared me not only for my career but also to be the woman I am,” Reyes says. “She is a gem of a person and has a wealth of knowledge.” She also credits Conservatory teachers with helping her learn every aspect of an opera career—from résumé writing, to acting, to how to work with a conductor.

Thom, chair of voice and opera at the Conservatory, says that Reyes’s accomplishment is “gratifying because she worked so hard” both at her studies and at the jobs she held to help pay for school. “She had the perseverance,” Thom says, “to really find what she could become as a performer, and the graciousness to acknowledge those who had helped her.” Thom explains that the Conservatory focuses on performance, giving Reyes and others—such as Matthew Grills (B.M. '10, voice), a Boston Conservatory alumnus who won the National Council Auditions in 2012—a “chance to go to the edge, and see what that feels like, then step back and try again.” The multitude of performance opportunities available to Conservatory students allows them to gain the confidence needed to command a stage such as the Metropolitan Opera. Grills is now with the Munich Opera.

Reyes, who is now pursuing a performance certificate at Boston University, hopes to find a place in a Young Artists Program at a major opera house upon graduation. “Gabriella is the real deal,” says Conservatory director of opera studies Johnathon Pape. “She is a world-class talent, vocally and dramatically, and has so much to offer as a performer. I feel confident that she will go on to a wonderful, international career in opera, and I'm so happy that the Conservatory had an important part in nurturing her formative years.”

Reyes is grateful to the faculty who helped her gain the confidence to pursue her dreams and helped her realize that “this is a journey and a path.” And she also thanks her inspirational grandmother, who was there to hear her sing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.