Opera singer Ryan Speedo Green proved a very important point during his performance at the Rady Shell in the opening concert on August 7th. Mr. Green has proven that opera, when done well, attracts a large audience.
Green may have received the biggest standing ovation of the evening. Why is this important? Believe it or not, there isn’t much of a cross between the symphonic crowd and the lyric crowd. There are a few who like both art forms, but most connoisseurs fall into either camp. Mr. Green wasn’t performing for what might be considered his audience, but he brought the house down nonetheless.
Make no mistake, Ryan Speedo Green is an opera singer. Her larynx is low, her mouth is open and the dark fury of the sound coming out of it is 100% opera singing.
When opera is done well, anyone can love it. Problem is, there are about 19 singers who can do it well. I have attended several productions at the Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera and San Francisco Opera. I can count on one hand the number of singers who could truly sing the opera in these venerable houses. In the 20+ years I spent at the San Diego Opera, there were hundreds of lead singers, but only a few brought the full opera experience. Let’s take a look at some of them.
During a production by Wagner The Flying Dutchman, we were all impressed by the voice of Daland, one of the supporting characters. Then Robert Hale showed up to sing the role of the Dutchman, and we realized right away that it was something completely different. Robert Hale was then seventy years old and still sang at an incredible level.
Stephanie Blythe sang the role of Ulrica in Verdi A masked balll in 2014. As soon as she opened her mouth it was clear that he was a force of nature. His voice engulfed the entire civic theater in San Diego and took no prisoners.
Ferruccio Furlanetto was the best singer in every production in which he appeared at the San Diego Opera. In some productions he was the only opera singer. In March 1993, a group of students went to see Don Giovanni at the San Diego Opera House. We were all in a choir, but neither of us knew lyric singing. However, it was clear to us that Furlanetto, as Don Giovanni, was amazing, while the rest of the cast were average.
Great opera singers are like great athletes. When you meet them in the real world, as opposed to on TV or on recordings, it’s obvious that they’re not like the rest of us.
This is what happened with Ryan Speedo Green. Audiences were presented with the reality of a full-fledged opera singer, and it was glorious. For opera to thrive, we need more Ryan Speedo Greens.