Here is the obituary of my friend..... (I am really too young to be saying something like that!)
Ryan Smith, 31, sang with Morehouse, Met
By KIRSTEN TAGAMI
Saturday, November 15, 2008
After years of setbacks and struggles, Ryan Smith fulfilled a dream this past spring. He sang on stage at the Metropolitan Opera, playing the minor role of Don Ricardo in the rarely performed Verdi opera “Ernani.”
Not long ago, Mr. Smith, formerly of Decatur, was working in a Lithonia video game store and had given up his unlikely goal of becoming an opera singer.
Friends prodded him to get back to singing and auditioning. He did, and was a national winner of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera Auditions — leading to stage roles, interest from talent agents, and a prominent part in an upcoming documentary about the Met auditions.
Mr. Smith, 31, died Wednesday of lymphoma at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where he was a first-year ensemble member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s prestigious artist development program. His family plans a private funeral in Los Angeles, where he grew up. There also will be a memorial service at 3 p.m. November 30 at First Presbyterian Church.
In the opera world, Mr. Smith was an up-and-coming talent to watch, said Dennis Hanthorn, general director of the Atlanta Opera, where Mr. Smith portrayed Camp Williams in “Cold Sassy Tree,” last February.
“He would have been one of the leading lyric tenors in the next five years,” Mr. Hanthorn predicted. “He would have been performing all over North America and Europe.”
Mr. Smith was from South-Central Los Angeles and sang in his church and school. A career in the opera never occurred to him until he won a scholarship to the Aspen Music Festival at age 17.
There, he was moved to tears by a performance of “Che Galida Manina,” a famous romantic aria from “La Boheme.” Mr. Smith went on to study music at Morehouse College and was featured in performances by the famous Morehouse Glee Club. He earned a master’s in music at Ohio University.
Mr. Smith returned to Atlanta but was stymied on the audition circuit. After being told at one tryout that he was “too fat,” he vowed to give up singing. He took the video store job and spent the next three years in a funk, he told the AJC.
It wasn’t until friends pressured him to return to singing that he began to practice for the Met auditions — opera’s version of “American Idol.” He made it to the regional finals in 2006 and won the nationals in 2007.
Chosen as an understudy for the Met’s production of “Ernani,” he won the role when the singer had to drop out. “It was great. It came out of the blue,” he told the AJC. “I started break dancing.”
Shortly before his Met debut in March, Mr. Smith began feeling extremely tired, said his father Paul Smith of Los Angeles. “He would perform and then go back to his apartment and sleep all day,” he said.
Doctors later confirmed the diagnosis of lymphoma, said his father, who described seeing his son on stage at the Met as one of the most rewarding moments of his life.
“Many opera singers can be heard to say, ‘My dream is to sing at the Metropolitan Opera.’ Ryan accomplished that goal in a very short time — through disappointment and joy, through hard work, and belief in his gifts,” said Walter Huff, chorus master for the Atlanta Opera and a voice coach to Mr. Smith.
“But just as important were his personal gifts of humility, kindness and a down-to-earth genuineness that made you root for him on stage, even before he began to sing,” he said.
Other survivors are his mother Renee Smith and sister Nya Assis, both of Los Angeles.
Ryan is featured in a documentary that was produced chronicling the 2007 Metropolitan Opera Auditions called "The Audition" by Susan Froemke, which premiered at the Tokyo Film Festival in October. The film is planned to be shown stateside in spring of 2009. Check out a link to a clip on the Met website.
Also see the press release issued by the Lyric Opera of Chicago.