Richard Tucker Music Foundation Names Soprano Ailyn Pérez Winner of 2012 Richard Tucker Award

By: Apr. 12, 2012

The Richard Tucker Music Foundation today announced that lyric soprano Ailyn Pérez is the winner of the 2012 Richard Tucker Award. This prestigious prize, which has been referred to as “the Heisman Trophy of opera,” carries the foundation’s most substantial cash award, of $30,000, and is conferred annually on an American opera singer at the threshold of a major international career. Previous winners include such luminaries of the opera world as Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, David DanielsJoyce DiDonato, Lawrence Brownlee and Angela Meade. The 2009 Richard Tucker Award went to Pérez’s husband and frequent collaborator, tenor Stephen Costello, so her award renders the couple dubbed “America’s fastest-rising husband-and-wife opera stars” (Associated Press) the first to have two Richard Tucker Awards on the mantelpiece – one for each. Furthermore, Pérez is the first Hispanic singer to receive the award in its 34-year history. The foundation is also pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 Richard Tucker Career Grants and Sara Tucker Study Grants, who were selected by audition this week at New York’s 92nd Street Y. A complete list of recipients is provided below. 

Barry Tucker, President of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation and son of the great American tenor for whom it is named, stated: 

“We are thrilled to be giving the Richard Tucker Award to Ailyn Pérez, a wonderful young soprano who sings with incredible beauty and heart. I first heard Ailyn singing La traviata at our auditions and was really impressed and moved, and I got to know her much better when Stephen Costello, her husband, won the Richard Tucker Award three years ago. We are so happy to be able to recognize her talent today. I know she will make the Richard Tucker Foundation proud.”

Ailyn Pérez, speaking on the phone from Atlanta where she is making her debut with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra this week singing Poulenc's Gloria, commented: 

“The Richard Tucker Music Foundation is extraordinary: it enriches American operatic culture and promotes and connects young American artists. Watching the Richard Tucker gala performance when my husband was announced the winner, and seeing international opera stars come together to honor the memory of one of America's legendary artists at these galas are an incredible source of inspiration to me. I am truly grateful and thrilled to receive such an honor, and I am excited to be another voice to carry on his legacy.” 

Noted for her “inner radiance combined with vocal luster” (Philadelphia Inquirer), Ailyn Pérez was born in Chicago, Illinios to first-generation Mexican immigrants. She earned degrees in vocal performance from Indiana University (2001) and Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts (2006), where she met her now husband, Stephen Costello. The coming months see her star opposite Costello in three leading roles: Mimì in Puccini’s La bohème at Los Angeles Opera; Violetta – as whom she proved “ideal” (Observer) and “an unalloyed triumph” (Guardian) at London’s Royal Opera House – in Verdi’s La traviata at Cincinnati Opera; and Suzel in Mascagni’s L’amico Fritzat the Moscow State Philharmonic Society. Her recent highlights include debuts at the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Vienna State Opera, and Milan’s Teatro alla Scala; two Gounod heroines – the title role of Roméo et Juliette for Opera Company of Philadelphia opposite Costello, and Marguerite in Faust at San Diego Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and Hamburg State Opera; Zerlina in Don Giovanniwith the Dallas Opera, Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro at the Ravinia Festival, and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with the Deutsche Staatsoper; the title role in Massenet’s Manon for Palau de les Arts in Valencia; Puccini’s Mimì at Cincinnati Opera; and her role debut as Leila in Bizet’s Pearl Fishers with the Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile. The soprano’s high-profile gala appearances include collaborations with Plácido Domingo and Jose Carreras. More information is available on her official web site,

In addition to Pérez’s win, the foundation is pleased to announce that nine other young American artists have been awarded study and career grants following auditions held on April 9 and 10 at New York’s 92nd Street Y. 2012 Richard Tucker Career Grants of $10,000 each go to soprano Jennifer Rowley, mezzo-sopranos Jennifer Johnson Cano and Jamie Barton, and baritone Nicholas Pallesen, all of whom have already won recognition in their advancing careers. 2011 Sara Tucker Study Grants of $5,000 apiece go to five young singers displaying great promise at the start of their professional careers: mezzo-sopranos J’nai Bridges and Margaret Mezzacappa, bass-baritone Brandon Cedel, baritone Mark Diamond, and bass Scott Conner. The award-winners were chosen by opera professionals from leading companies including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and others. The Chairman of the Awards Committee is the distinguished American baritone Sherrill Milnes

Founded in 1975, the Richard Tucker Music Foundation is a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to perpetuating the artistic legacy of the great Brooklyn-born tenor by nurturing the careers of talented American opera singers and by bringing opera into the community. Through awards, grants for study, performance opportunities, and other activities, the foundation provides professional development for singers at various stages of their careers. It also offers free performances in the New York metropolitan area and supports music education enrichment programs. Further information about foundation’s work is available at


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