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Singing Sensation, Stephanie Blythe (Class of 1987) is a Superstar of the Metropolitan Opera

September 29, 2009

From Monticello High School's humble theater, where she was the lead in "Annie Get Your Gun" in 1987, to the role of noble Jocasta in Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Stephanie Blythe has certainly come a long way.

Blythe's passion for music started here at Monticello when she was 16, seeing her first live opera "La Boheme" at the Met with her Photo of Stephanie Blythe in high schoolhigh school music class. "I was completely blown away," Blythe recalled to reporters for thephoto of Stephanie Blythe New York Times.

In high school, Blythe played flute in the band and was later convinced to join choir as a sophomore. She was also involved in theater.

The first time high school choral director (and devoted fan, today) Martin Banner met Blythe, Banner was auditioning Chris Bradshaw (class of 1987, pictured below) at the middle school to sing with the high school choir the following Fall. After the audition, Bradshaw and his barbershop quartet, with Stephanie as the quartet's tenor, sang for Banner.

"She was a very quick learner, very good with foreign languages, and had a great flexibility in her style," Banner commented. "It was great to watch her vocal talents blossom."

After high school, Blythe attended SUNY Potsdam, where she studied music education. She felt her interest in music being stifled, until she took a writing course and became an English major. Through writing, Blythe was able to "break out of my restrictive learning pattern and discover the creature all over again," the New York Times reports, adding, "Music was no longer a technical exercise." A course in Theory of Rhetoric influenced Blythe to communicate through music, which is the foundation of her technique.

After graduating, Blythe competed against hundreds of singers nationally in district and regional competitions, which could ultimately lead to an invitation to join the Metropolitan Opera's Young Artists program. Having won her district and regional finals, Stephanie competed in the national finals against stiff competition from around the country. One of her two allowed guests at the finals was her choral director from Monticello High School, Martin Banner.

"After her performance, I sat with Stephanie backstage while we waited for the results," said Banner. "It was absolutely glorious to be there with her when she was announced as one of ten winners who would receive a contract to sing at the Metropolitan Opera as part of the Young Artists program."

Blythe's first break into theater came at the age of 24 when she finally sang at the Met, offstage, in "Parsifal," with Placidophoto of Stephanie Blythe in high school performance of "Annie Get Your Gun" Domingo. Although her part was exceedingly short, Domingo was obviously impressed. At the following cast party, Blythe said that Mr. Domingo told her, "Stephanie, when I hear how you sing at the end of the first act, I know how I must sing in the second."

"I felt knighted," Blythe said.

In 1996, Blythe's career was transformed, standing in for Marilyn Horne, one of Blythe's idols, at the Met as Mistress Quickly in "Falstaff." Her breakthrough performance came three years later when she sang Cornelia in Handel's "Guilio Cesare." That year she won the Richard Tucker Award, one of opera's most prestigious prizes.

Blythe has released a numerous CDs, including "Handel/J.S. Bach Arias" (Virgin Classics) with the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris.

Photos:

Stephanie Blythe, in her Monticello High School 1987 yearbook picture.

Stephanie Blythe in one her professional operatic performances.

Blythe in her High School performance of "Annie Get Your Gun," with Chris Bradshaw.

More Information

Stephanie Blythe performance on PBS website: http://video.pbs.org/video/2219486852/

Stephanie Blythe, 2009 Vocalist of the Year: http://www.musicalamerica.com/features/?fid=150&fyear=2009 (2009)

CLICK HERE for a NY Times music review of Stephanie Blythe. (1/12/2009)

New York Times article about Stephanie Blythe: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/09/arts/music/09SING.html (10/9/03)

Did you Know...

Chris Bradshaw is also an accomplished musician. He has completed doctoral coursework in accompaniment from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and is active in the Philadelphia area as both an accompanist and partner in the piano duo Bradshaw and Martin. Bradshaw and Blythe are still good friends today.