Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My friend Ryan......

Here is the obituary of my friend..... (I am really too young to be saying something like that!)

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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.

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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.

19 comments:

gema said...

I don't understand, you said Ryan majored in voice (hope I got that right), then the article on the link you provided said "Ryan Smith who has had little or no formal training"
and trying to pursue his dreams!

I am so very sorry for the loss of your friends. Life sucks sucks sucks! We can only console ourselves that the only sure thing in life is death. No one escapes that one.

My younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29yrs too. She died 2yrs later. A horrible death. Her body rejected all forms of treatment in a wierd way. She didn't even have the damn cancer in her breast. She found a lump in her armpit and insisted on a biopsy after two negative mammograms. I think depression helped to kill her too. She just didn't want to live in that body anymore. It has been so difficult for us as a family. So very painful.
Make sure you get more than your share of vitamin D exposure or as a supplement. I think that although she lived in Jamaica, she didn't get enough sunshine....spent all day in an office and really wasn't a sun-worshipper as I am.

Three months after she died, I lost a close friend to Leukemia. She was 39 and a heavy smoker. Then the night before her funeral, a lovely lovely woman walks into my house to purchase a stationary bike that I had advertised. She told me she was really in her final stages of breast cancer and found it so strange that she came to me, chose me, out of all the Ads selling bikes, to purchase mine.

Cancer sucks, sucks, sucks!!!

Who looks after your dog when you work such long hours?

RedDredPrincess said...

Thanks for your kind words.... It is strange how things happen in clusters....

My dog goes to daycare a few days a week for fun and socialization --- she's been doing that for a couple years. I think it helps keep her happy, as opposed to sitting around the house by herself all the time. I also, make sure that she goes on the days when I have to work 2 jobs since daycare tires her out so much she pretty much just sleeps when she gets home and it less likely to be bothered by the fact that I am gone.

Brian said...

It's weird that I'm just finding this, as Ryan has been on my mind so much lately. I can't believe that he is gone, and that it has been close to a year. He was a great friend and I was glad that he was able to get the opportunity to follow his dreams.

Peter said...

Just found that blog by coincidence after watching the audition on TV here in the UK. As shocked as I was when reading the sad news at the end I felt like getting more to now about Ryan and here I am.....
I feel very sorry for the loss of your friend and for the loss of such a great talent. May he rest in peace.

Peter

Tamarra said...

I just saw your friend Ryan profiled on "The Audition" which aired on PBS. I was so moved by his personality and his talent. I felt pride on his behalf when he won. Then during the closing credits his picture came up with the words "In Loving Memory", I felt as though I had been punched in the gut. I had to find out more about this extraordinary talent. It is truly the world's loss. I'm sorry about the loss of your friend.

Rest in peace Ryan Smith. I'm glad I got to hear you sing.

Barbara said...

I, too, just finished watching the PBS show on the 2007 Metropolitan Opera Auditions. I was so thrilled when Ryan was one of the 6 finalists - especially after thousands tried out all over the country. I was glad a man of Color who had less training or opportunity than the rest was recognized for his ability and promise....then the credits rolled by and the In memory of Ryan Smith who died November 12, 2008- I burst into tears - don't even know him; never knew him; but was so touched by his enthusiasm and bubbly and humble personality - and I am devastated about his death from Lymphoma. Please let his family know that there are those of us who were touched by him and will think of him with loving thoughts. Barbara in Texas

Barbara said...

I, too, just finished watching the PBS show on the 2007 Metropolitan Opera Auditions. I was so thrilled when Ryan was one of the 6 finalists - especially after thousands tried out all over the country. I was glad a man of Color who had less training or opportunity than the rest was recognized for his ability and promise....then the credits rolled by and the In memory of Ryan Smith who died November 12, 2008- I burst into tears - don't even know him; never knew him; but was so touched by his enthusiasm and bubbly and humble personality - and I am devastated about his death from Lymphoma. Please let his family know that there are those of us who were touched by him and will think of him with loving thoughts. Barbara in Texas

Deb said...

Just finished watching the PBS "Auditions" Broadcast - and to see the final photo dedicating the program to Ryan ~ my heart sank...just sank such a beautiful voice quieted - but so thankful to hear it and bear witness to a man realizing his dream. We are all better for people such as Ryan and I thank you for sharing more information about our brief, yet shining star! Any ideas where I might be able to hear more of his work?

Kitty said...

I also just watched "The Audition" on PBS. Ryan was amazingly talented, his voice incredibly beautiful and his singing expressive with the power to touch people. I am an opera fan, but I think a lot of people who are new to opera would watch "The Audition", see Ryan and get interested in opera because of him.

I had read about Ryan and this movie before and was waiting for it to air on PBS, so I had known what happened. This made it so sad. Yet when I watched the movie, it was like he was still alive: his amazing talent, hope, sincerity. Then when he called his mother I felt like crying - he was so happy at this moment, yet I knew what would happen.

My mother has lung cancer and she watched it too. She was impressed by his singing and saddened by his death, said it's heartbreaking when someone so young and talented with so much to live for dies from cancer.

Thank you for sharing more information about Ryan. He was a great person and amazing talent.

jmj947 said...

My wife and I watched "The Audition" just last night. We were delighted to see that Ryan was recognized as one of the six winners. He certainly deserved it.

Just as suddenly, however, we were stunned to see the dedication to Ryanm noting his death. It was as if we were both kicked in the stomach. How absolutely heartbreaking. We grieve both for his family and friends, and for the millions who will not be able to enjoy his talents.

I, too, am a lymphoma survivor and know the importance of each day we are given. I take some (but little) solace in knowing that Mr. Smith took full advantage of each day that he was given.

lifesart said...

I'm weeping as I write this, having heard Ryan Smith for the first time just now on the PBS airing of "The Audition" and leaping to the internet to find out where he is now singing.

Is it stupid to take ironic comfort in the fact that I am old and some day soon, when I find out whether there is any afterlife at all, I might also find where Ryan is truly singing now?

Mysterious ways. What a terrible thing for the world, to have lost him, his spirit, his voice.

Dyanne said...

I too have just watched the PBS broadcast of "The Audition". Ryan's performance moved me to tears and I was so happy for him when he won, He seemed to have such a beautiful, genuine spirit.
I was speechless when I read the sad news at the end of the program. I belive the world has lost a true talent.

Fotunately, that program has allowed many of us to be introduced to Ryan. I am very thankful for that opportunity.

Dyan said...

I am so glad I saw your blog. I am so impressed by Ryan. Like so many others I saw him on the PBS broadcast. I cannot imagine how you and his family must feel watching him almost 2 years after his death. He achieved his dream and is an inspiration.

I am so glad I had the chance to hear Ryan perform. Please let his family know what a pleasure it is for opera lovers with a little color truly appreciate the talent he brought to the stage.

Craig Ash said...

I have just watched "Audition," and had been thrilled and moved by Ryan Smith's singing of one of my favorite arias. Like other commentators here, I was devastated to learn of his death and found myself weeping. That aria, called Frederic's Lament (from Cilea's "L'arlesianna")begins, "This is the lonely story of a shepherd," and next calls him, "poor lad." In the opera, the pathos of the story he tells is paralleled by his own story. Here life has given us a second, still sadder,ironic overlay. "L'arlesianna" is past due for a revival, and I shouted at the screen, before learning of Ryan's death, "Peter Gelb, hire that gorgeous voice, and let him sing the role." Ryan was also heard singing a bit of the great "La Boheme" aria, which, since I was 12 years old, has always moved me profoundly, and I was already seeing Ryan as a new Jussi Bjoerling (my first Rodolfo, in 1948). I only hope that Ryan died, if not happy, at least satisfied that he had achieved an important part of his dream.

Ptashka said...

I have watched "The Audition" and rooted for Ryan: he was so natural, it was a great jot to hear him singing. Yes , he did not have the looks of a movie star but his charisma was more than just looks:it seemed that he was singing with his soul. It was heartbreaking to learn about his passing. Such a tragedy, promising career and fulfilling life cut short. My deepest condolences to his family.Rest in peace, Ryan....

Janet said...

I just watched "The Audition" on DVD on my sister's recommendation. I picked Ryan as my favorite early on ... and also, like another poster, burst into tears and was inconsolable for awhile when I read the closing note about his death. Rest in peace, Ryan. I am brokenhearted that his dream was cut short but so thankful that he DID fulfill it, even for a short time.

Emlyn said...

Caught "The Audition" on PBS last night. Was thrilled by his performance and crushed when I saw the credits.

Ryan sounded like the cheerful, down-to-earth vocal majors I knew in music school--and what a voice he had!

Very sad, but I'm glad he got a taste of his dream.

Victoria Paulsen said...

I found Ryan in a roundabout way and was so excited I googled him, and found this with the unbelievable news of his early death.

What a loss for us all, and especially for his close friends. Thanks so much for sharing about him. I'm glad to have brushed up against your blog and his life.

Victoria Paulsen said...

I found Ryan in a roundabout way and was so excited I googled him, and found this with the unbelievable news of his early death.

What a loss for us all, and especially for his close friends. Thanks so much for sharing about him. I'm glad to have brushed up against your blog and his life.