Through her Pennsylvania home’s screen door, Jennifer Perroots heard a stream of “oohs” and “las” come from the deck while cooking dinner.
“My ears perked up,” she says. It was the first time Jennifer learned her daughter, Arianna, who was just 5 and was playing with bubbles outside, could sing.
She persuaded Arianna to sing again for her husband, Len, when he arrived home from work. A few days later, Jennifer introduced her daughter to “Phantom of the Opera.”
“By choice when she was little, she exclusively listened to ‘Phantom of the Opera’ 24/7,” Jennifer says. “She practiced singing it and tried to mirror their voices based on what she was hearing.”
Now 18 and a senior at Bishop Gorman High School, Arianna still sings every day, but she has developed a passion for a different sound — opera.
Her core group of friends are all artistic, Arianna says. Some of them draw, others play instruments. But her talent is a bit more unique, particularly at the high school level, where there isn’t a club to join and opera isn’t the kind of music that most of her friends and family listen to.
“We all do different types of art, but mine is by far the most out there,” Arianna says. “They probably have the most difficult time relating to me in that sense.”
Although she’s in the early stage of this career she’s chosen, many milestones await her this year, including college applications and conservatory auditions.
She practices almost every day and takes voice lessons once a week in addition to her school work. She isn’t nervous about committing to opera as a career.
“All of it is relatively challenging, but it’s easy for me to love it,” Arianna says.
When she first met vocal coach Lynn Fitzpatrick almost three years ago, she didn’t realize it would completely change her path.
Arianna and a friend from high school were practicing for a local thespian competition, their song of choice being from Arianna’s favorite musical, “Phantom.” A friend, Grant Gatsky, knew Fitzpatrick from training with her previously and introduced the two during practice.
“She opened her mouth, and I thought, ‘Holy cow,’ ” Fitzpatrick says.
Until that point, Arianna had her sights set on musical theater, auditioning for most of the musicals at school.
“(Grant) introduced me to his voice teacher who in turn basically told me I’m supposed to be doing opera,” Arianna says. “It just all made sense.”
A year later, she started training with Fitzpatrick, but she had to start from scratch.
Opera isn’t just about “singing pretty.” It involves learning about languages and diction, the composer, history and even acting.
“She’s so musical, and she’s such a hard worker that learning the notes and the composition comes very quickly,” Fitzpatrick says. “She’s moving through the things that hold her back.”
Jennifer and Len Perroots know their daughter is a gifted singer. It still made them nervous when Arianna decided to make opera a career goal.
“There was resistance from us in the years leading up to this,” Jennifer says. “We tried to push her into some kind of double major or find a backup profession.”
Then she started getting into prestigious summer programs, such as the Schmidt Vocal Institute at Miami University of Ohio and Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan.
She won awards and scholarships. She even worked with famous opera musicians.
Even with the professional recognition, Jennifer says it’s her daughter’s dedication to opera that reassures the family. Every day after school, Jennifer hears Arianna sing upstairs in her bedroom for at least an hour.
“It’s one thing being the mother and having those mother ears thinking my daughter has an awesome voice, but with the competitions and scholarships she’s been offered and awards she’s received, it confirms that it’s not just the mom ears,” Jennifer says.
With just several months of high school remaining, Arianna looks to move east. Her top choice program is the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio — 2,050 miles from home.
After that, her opportunities are infinite, she says.
She could teach music, work at a church or put on her own recitals or shows at community theaters. Her dream is to one day sing at a famed opera house, but Arianna is happy as long as she keeps singing.
“I know eventually I’ll get to be up on stage,” she says. “Even if my name isn’t in flashing lights, that’s fine. I just want to be able to sing opera.”
Arianna Perroots’ Spotify playlist
■ “Del cabello mas sutil,” Fernando Obradors
■ “Hebe,” Ernest Chausson
■ “L’heure Exquise,” Reynaldo Hahn
■ “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Modest Mussorgsky
■ “Nessun Dorma,” Giacomo Puccini
■ “Che Gelida Manina,” Giacomo Puccini
■ “Sure on this Shining Night,” Samuel Barber