Everyone remembers their wedding day, but Lori Guilbeau has an extra reason to.
Not only did she get married to the love of her life last October in Baton Rouge, La., she also got some important news that day from the Metropolitan Opera. The call came when she was getting her bridal makeup done: Would she be willing to join the Metropolitan Opera Rising Stars Concert Series on tour?
She didn’t say “I do.” (At least not to that question.) But she still offered an enthusiastic yes.
When you’re an up-and-coming opera singer, getting plucked by the Met – one of the world’s great opera companies – for one of its young-artist tours is a major career boost.
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“I’m just so happy that the Met thought of me,” Guilbeau says in a phone interview from New York. “This is really a big honor.”
The current incarnation of the tour stops at Fresno’s Tower Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 4, offering audiences a chance to hear four singers with promising careers ahead of them. Guilbeau, a soprano, will be joined by mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko, soprano Simone Osborne and baritone Trevor Scheunemann, in a program accompanied by piano offering a selection of solo arias and duets.
Diane Mosier, executive director of the Lively Arts Foundation, the presenting organization, jumped at the chance to bring the Met tour to Fresno, figuring it would be a good way to connect opera fans with great singers in an intimate venue.
Columbia Artists Management, which represents the tour, notes that the Met presents the biggest names in the world but is also the launching pad for opera stars of the future.
The biggest break of Guilbeau’s career came when she was still a student at the Manhattan School of Music. She won the 2010 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
The tour website notes that some of today’s leading artists got their first big break by winning the company’s national auditions, as members of the young artist program, or by catching the attention of Met talent scouts. “Stephanie Blythe, Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Deborah Voigt, Thomas Hampson, and Mariusz Kwiecien are just a few of the major artists to have come through the Met ranks.”
For the 30-year-old Guilbeau, who joined the tour last week, being connected with the Met is nothing new. The biggest break of her career came when she was still a student at the Manhattan School of Music. She won the 2010 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in which she sang “Give me some music” from Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra” and “Toi qui sus le néant” from “Don Carlos.”
Another big break came when she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as the High Priestess in “Aida.” (It was an off-stage role, so she has yet to make her onstage debut with the company.)
Guilbeau, who hails from Louisiana, has been filling her resume with impressive regional credits, including her most recent stint as an ensemble member at Germany’s Theater Kiel. (She will sing Micaela in “Carmen” there in June.)
At the Fresno performance she will sing a variety of numbers, including arias from “Tannhauser” and “Madama Butterfly” and duets by Mozart and Strauss.
Even with the Met stamp of approval, she knows that her chosen career is tough. Competition for roles is fierce. “My teacher tells me, it only gets harder,” she says. “You have to be secure in yourself and have people you can trust.”
Her dream: to make it back to the Met in an onstage starring role. Which certainly seems within her grasp, especially considering her status as a “Rising Star.” With a busy touring schedule for a full month, she’ll certainly be giving her a voice a workout.
“The Met has been wonderful to me and has given me amazing opportunities. And I’m at my best when I’m singing a lot.”
Metropolitan Opera Rising Stars Concert Series
- 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4
- Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave.
- www.livelyarts.org, 559-485-9050