Ariel Bybee was a mezzo-soprano with the Metropolitan Opera for 18 seasons. She made her highly successful debut at the Washington, D.C. Opera in a new production of Menotti’s The Consul and her European opera debut as Melisande at the Sofia Music Weeks in Bulgaria. She made her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic (Lorin Maazel, conducting) in a concert performance of Elektra at Carnegie Hall (Wikipedia).
Ariel was a soloist with the Utah Philharmonic under Maurice Abravanel and later by Kurt Herbert Adler of the San Francisco Opera. She also participated as a soloist with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
She taught junior high school music for five years, first in Utah and then in California. Starting in 1993, she began teaching private students in her New York studio, as well as teaching both at the Lee Strasberg Institute and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. For ten years, she was Artist-in-Residence and Associate Professor of Voice at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, teaching voice and directing operatic productions. In 2007, her UNL production of Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella won the International Trophy (Grand Prize) in competition at the Waterford (Ireland) International Festival of Light Opera. When she became an emerita professor at UNL, the university endowed the Ariel Bybee Chair of Opera Performance in her honor. In 2008, she moved to the Salt Lake City area where she taught voice at the University of Utah.
Ariel Bybee passed away at the age of 75 on 20 March 2018, due to myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood disease. Referred to as “a queen of mezzo-sopranos,” the Deseret News reports, “Bybee was renowned for her 18 seasons and over 450 performances at the Metropolitan Opera as a principal artist. Recognized for singing roles such as Annio in “La clemenza di Tito” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Suzuki in “Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini, critics lauded Bybee for her technical finesse and commanding stage presence.” Deseret News also proclaims, “while Bybee sang on stages that most aspiring artists only dream of, it wasn’t her success that meant most to her colleagues, friends and family. For them, it was Bybee’s dedication to inspire, her natural empathy for others and her strong commitment to her craft that made her an artist in the truest sense of the word.”
In addition to her influence as a teacher, Bybee also helped start the group Friends of Opera at both the University of Utah and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to support opera productions in the schools.
Professor Robert Breault, voice and director of opera at the University of Utah and Bybee’s friend and colleague, said, “She was a beautiful woman with a beautiful heart. Her beauty will carry on in her students in the memory of her art. … The energy that goes out that is beautiful and positive — you can’t kill that. The mortality that we have as human beings is final, but there’s going to always be that beauty that will continue with her.”
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