After all, it's not every day that an aspiring vocalist auditions for legendary tenor and Los Angeles Opera director Placido Domingo. Rust, a graduating master's student at the University of Houston's Moores School of Music (MSM), knew what she had to do and impressed the veteran performer with her crisp soprano and charismatic delivery.
Domingo was so taken by her voice and stage presence, he offered her a residency in Los Angeles Opera's noted Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program. Adding to this exciting opportunity is the fact that Rust has been cast in three of the company's main stage productions including the U.S. premiere of "The Fly." This opera adaptation of the classic horror movie is a collaboration between Domingo and award-winning director David Cronenberg, who helmed the 1986 version of the film.
"My first reaction to this news was ‘Are you kidding me?'" Rust said. "This is such a wonderful opportunity, but I had a hard time believing that it was really happening. I have worked very hard to get to this point, so as incredible as it seems, I am very grateful for the chance to grow as an artist and work with some of the world's most prolific opera talents."
A native Texan, Rust has always enjoyed singing and music. Her natural talents led her to the Big Apple to pursue an undergraduate degree at the Manhattan School of Music. When it came time to enroll in a graduate program, she looked at a few institutions, and the UH Moores School of Music immediately caught her attention. With its acclaimed Edythe Bates Old Moores Opera Center, the school was a natural fit for Rust's talents.
"It was a no-brainer to come here," said Rust, who arrived at UH in 2006. "When searching for a graduate program, I only saw one that staged four operas a year, and that was the Moores Opera Center in MSM. That was enough to attract me to come here, but once I saw the gorgeous Moores Opera House, my mind was made up."
While pursuing her master's degree in vocal performance, Rust has performed in several Moores Opera Center productions including "Les Mamelles de Tirésias," "Ghosts of Versailles," "Street Scene," "Flavio" and the Houston premiere of "A Wedding."
Performing in these professional quality, lavish operas was excellent preparation for upcoming work with Los Angeles Opera, she said. Equally helpful was the guidance and direction provided by Moores Opera Center director Buck Ross and her mentor and voice teacher Cynthia Clayton-Vasquez.
"She's ready for this next chapter in her career," said Clayton-Vasquez, UH assistant professor of voice. "This will be a crucial learning experience, and one that will help her emerge as an even stronger performer."
Rust's road to Los Angeles Opera began with a screening process in which a panel reviewed her resume and an audio sample. She was then invited to a live audition in New York City, where she impressed the selection committee. Next up was a trip to Los Angeles for the last test - a live audition for Placido Domingo.
"I was nervous," Rust admitted. "Still, I was able to remain focused and perform to the best of my abilities. It was a thrilling moment, and I know I'm in for many more once I reach L.A."
In addition to "The Fly," Rust also has been cast in Los Angeles Opera productions of "Carmen" and "Die Zauberflöte." For additional details on Los Angeles Opera and the Young Artist Program, visit www.loasangelesopera.com.
Los Angeles Opera's Young Artist Program is a two- to three-year paid residency for singers and pianists of exceptional talent who are currently in transition from academic training to a professional career in opera.
The Moores Opera Center of the Moores School of Music at UH provides comprehensive operatic training as part of a voice program offering flexible baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral programs in voice performance, pedagogy and choral conducting. The center trains singers, vocal coaches and conductors aspiring to careers as stage performers and teachers. Degree programs combine sound vocal study, intensive language diction training, stage direction, career counseling and audition techniques. Graduates have gone on to distinguished professional careers, appearing with companies and in venues including the Met, Chicago Lyric, San Francisco, Houston, Washington, Seattle, New York City Opera, Carnegie Hall and various European houses. To learn more about the Moores Opera Center, visit www.music.uh.edu/mooresopera.
About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.
Note to Journalists: A photo of Ashlyn Rust can be accessed at http://www.uh.edu/news-events/archive/nr/2008/04april/a-rustph.html.