What’s a teacher to do with a voice like mine that sticks out, especially when that voice is embedded in a larger-than-life actor’s personality? Some would try to subdue it, make it blend into the large choirs that every voice major is required to sing in. “Please hold it down a bit more, Miss Bybee,” some would—and did— say to me. But some others would have the insight to nurture a special sort of gift destined not for losing itself within a mass of singers but for principal roles on the operatic stage.
It’s impossible to choose just one favorite professor during my four challenging, successful, depressing, exhilarating years at BYU. I have to name at least four teachers who contributed to my musical education. Some teachers shook their heads at my outrageous sounds and demeanor and tried, without much success, to get me to fit in; but others encouraged and supported me, the young and undeveloped opera singer.
As I look back on those years, I remember fondly Professor Maughn McMurdy, who, during my freshman year, was the rst teacher to recognize my talent. He put me in the Madrigal Singers. We traveled around the West, and once in a while I sang a solo or duet. Dr. Brandt Curtis and Dr. Don Earl gave me chances to sing under their direction in Rigoletto and The Magic Flute—my very first opera roles. After these magical experiences on the old Joseph Smith Memorial Building stage, I was addicted to opera forever. Theater director Charles Metten came into my BYU life with an offer to sing the role of Dulce in the musical The Boy Friend. He gave me such insights into the special magic that is acting and singing on the stage that I never wanted to leave it. Each time I worked with Dr. Metten, my new home—the stage—became more exciting and my passion for opera exploded. My road to the Metropolitan Opera began with some gifted teachers at BYU.
In 18 seasons as a mezzo-soprano at the Metropolitan Opera, Ariel Bybee appeared in many roles, including title roles, in productions such as Carmen, La Bohème, and La Favorita. Her performances were received with national and international acclaim. Her professional talents were discovered by Maurice Abravanel, conductor of the Utah Symphony, and later by Kurt Herbert Adler of the San Francisco Opera.
Early in her career Ariel taught junior high school music. She believes that those years of teaching re ned her own performance skills.
Today Ariel is artist in residence at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln School of Music, where she teaches voice lessons, works with the opera program, and participates in outreach and recruiting activities.