Ariel Bybee:Mormon Singer
Ariel Bybee was a mezzo-soprano who was prominent at the Metropolitan Opera for eighteen seasons, from 1977 through 1995. She sang numerous leading roles, including Hansel in "Hansel and Gretel," Nichlausse in "Les contes d’Hoffmann," and Suzuki in "Madama Butterfly."
She was discovered by Maestro Maurice Abravanel of the Utah Symphony and by Kurt Herbert Adler of the San Francisco Opera Company. Adler invited Bybee to sing for several seasons. She appeared in many roles, including the title roles in "Carmen," Musetta in "La Boheme," and Inez in "La Favorita."
She made her debut at the Washington, D.C. Opera in a new production of Menotti’s "The Consul" and her European operatic debut as Melisande at the Sofia Music Weeks in Bulgaria. She debuted in a concert performance of "Elektra" with the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. She also debuted in Kuhmo, Finland, in Pergolesi’s "Stabat Mater" and Vivaldi’s "Gloria."
She was a featured soloist in several concerts with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and sang at the 2001 dedication of the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple. Bybee can be heard in Franco Zeffirelli's motion picture version of "La Traviata," singing the role of Flora. As well as appearing in principle roles on numerous Live at Lincoln Center telecasts (and several videos), she recorded two solo albums, entitled O Divine Redeemer and Eternal Day.
Bybee also had a career as a music teacher. She taught junior high school music for five years in Utah and then in California prior to her debut with the San Francisco Opera. She began teaching private students in her New York studio in 1993. She also taught at the Lee Strasberg Institute and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She taught voice and directed operatic productions as Artist-in-Residence and Associate Professor of Voice at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL). In 2007, her UNL production of "The Most Happy Fella" won the International Trophy (Grand Prize) at the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera competition. UNL endowed the Ariel Bybee Visiting Professorship Endowed Fund in her honor after she became professor emeritus in 2008.
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."
Ariel Bybee was an adjunct voice professor at the University of Utah. She had a daughter, Neylan McBaine, and was married to James Ford.