Ryan Speedo Green is a 25-year-old rising bass baritone opera star who has received national acclaim after overcoming a life full of obstacles to pursue his dreams.
Green endured a rough life growing up. He grew up in a trailer park in Virginia. At age 12, he was put in juvenile detention for threatening his mother and brother.
However, to his surprise, opera changed the course of his life.
At first, opera did not not really appeal to Green: “I thought opera was a big fat Viking lady with a helmet, breaking windows, that’s what my image was as a child growing up,” Green said in a video by The New York Times.
Indeed, it took seeing a performance of “Carmen” in his teens, starring black opera singer Denyce Graves and Placido Domingo, that as Green said in the video, “changed my life.”
“After that I went to my voice teacher at school and told him that I wanted to be on stage at The Met someday,” he said. Last year, Green made that dream a reality, performing at the 2011 Metropolitan National Council Auditions, one of the most important operatic contests to discover young talent.
Despite growing up as a problem child, Green’s passion for opera has led him to receive great succeed. In fact, he went on to earn a master’s degree in music from Florida State University. He has become a formidable presence on stage.
Ryan Speedo Green is making history… as an opera singer who was among the five winners of the 2011 Metropolitan National Council Auditions.
What’s next for Ryan?
Green is a part of the Met’s prestigious Lindemann Young Artist Development
Program at the Metropolitan Opera. It is an intense training course designed to prepare those selected for careers in opera.
In his own words…
“The desire to better myself, to be above what was around me, what better art form to do that in than opera?” said Green, in explaining his love for the art form to The New York Times. “It was the challenge of singing in a language I didn’t speak. It was the prestige. It was coming from my neighborhood and walking into the Met…It was like being transported into another world.”
A little-known fact opera rates of attendance
Opera has the lowest rate of arts attendance records in the U.S. Just 0.7 percent of African American respondents reported attending an opera performance in 2008. Only 2.6 percent of whites reported the same, according to a 2008 survey from the National Endowment for The Arts.
THE GRIO’S Q & A WITH RYAN SPEEDO GREEN
Q: What’s next in this chapter of your life?
A: 2011 was a great year for me after being a National Winner of the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition and a recipient of the 2011 Sara Tucker grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation I was accepted into the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera. Some of my future engagements this year include the Verdi Requiem with Hartford Symphony and Chorale, Mozart Coronation Mass with Virginia Symphony, the role of Colline in La Bohemè by Puccini with Central City Opera, and the role of Jake in Porgy and Bess by Gershwin with Berlin Philharmonic with Sir Simon Rattle conducting.
Q: What’s a fact about you that many people don’t know?
A: Speedo is actually my middle name.
Q: What’s your favorite quote?
A: “Life without music would be a mistake.”
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: Music is such a unique art form because despite how old something is someone can always interpret it in their own way. With that said I get my inspiration from the generations of singers before me be they classical or not. Every time I perform I know that my interpretation is one of millions that have existed throughout time and I add one more version. That inspires me.
Q: Who are/were your mentors?
A: There are two people who stick out to me as pivotal influences in my path to realizing my dream of becoming a professional opera singer. The first being my elementary school special education teacher Mrs. Betty Hughes. She encouraged a boy who had everything stacked against him that there was no excuse to not reach for the stars and better ones self and that the sacrifices my forefathers made so I could have the rights and opportunities that every American enjoys today should not be taken in vain. The other was my first voice teacher Mr. Robert Brown who told a 14 year old boy who had no musical background and could not sing in pitch to save his life that his dream of singing at the Metropolitan Opera was something that could be achieved with hard work and passion. He regrettably never got to see me sing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, he passed away 2years prior.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to achieve their dreams?
A: You can’t know a dream is really a dream unless you try to achieve it.