Honorees

October, 1994

Sarah Reese

Sarah Reese

Soprano

"She has it in her to be the supreme soprano of our day. There hasn't been a sound like this in 30 year, since Leontyne Price was starting out," said one music critic of opera singer Sarah Reese. Her superb soprano voice has enabled her to travel and perform throughout the world, but her fondest memory is the night she came home to sing in her native Greenville. "I wanted to sing there so badly, but I almost didn't make it," Reese recalls of the time in November 1990 when she was asked to be the guest artist at the gala opening concert of the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville.

"I was performing at the Metropolitan Opera playing the role of Clara in Porgy and Bess and the Met wouldn't let me miss a performance. But the sponsors of the Peace Center wanted me to perform, so they rented a Lear jet, picked me up in New York, and flew me to Greenville, where I sang at the Peace Center. Then, they flew me back to New York in time for my performance with the Met. It was a remarkable occasion." Since 1981, when Reese made her New York debut, there have been many memorable occasions for those who have had the good fortune to listen to her performances.

"A new soprano of high promise, with a gleaming voice," wrote the music critic for The New Yorker magazine while, more recently, The New York Times lauded her "Luscious voice... with disarmingly natural instincts and compelling stage presence." Reese started learning about stage presence as a child. "I grew up in the small town of Pelzer, and I loved to watch the "Ted Mack Amateur Hour," recalls Reese. "After watching the show I would go into the woods and sing nonsense and dream of being on 'Ted Mack'."

Thirteen years later, her dream came true. While she was working on her music education degree at Furman University, she auditioned on "Ted Mack" and won. "It takes a lot of dedication to be an opera singer. After winning on 'Ted Mack', I had to work hard and make many sacrifices," Reese said, "I still practice every day." Reese has performed with some of the most famous orchestras and conductors throughout the world. She has worked with conductors Andrew Davis, Leslie Dunner, David Zinman, Paul Dunke, Christian Badea, and Maestro Herbert von Karajan.

Some of the roles she has played includes the Priestress in Aida, Idomeneo, and Musetta in La Bohenne. Recently, Reese performed and recorded, on the Koch International Classics label, Barber's Prayers of Kirkegaard with the Chicago Symphony. In addition to performing various roles in Switzerland, England, France, Monte Carlo, Italy and Russia, Reese has traveled to Toulouse, Strasbourg. Dusseldorf and Cologne with the Festival Orchestra of Sofia, Bulgaria, as the soprano soloist in Verdi's Requiem and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

In Boston she participated in a history-making cultural exchange when she sang in the American premiere of Rodion Schedrin's opera, The Dead Souls, in joint performances with the Bolshoi and Kirov opera companies. Her most recent accomplishments include performing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London in Tippett's A Child of Our Time and with the American Composers Orchestra at New York's Carnegie Hall in the American premiere of The Leaden Echo, The Golden Echo.

"I never could have made it in the opera world without the lessons that my mother and grandmother taught me." Reese said. "They taught me to have strong values, such as honesty and integrity. Sometimes, especially when I am away from home, I hear them say 'You do what's right and God will make a way for you .' I am rooted in faith and in those values."