As It Happens

Hide your dogs: Soprano hits the highest note ever sung at NYC's Met Opera

Soprano Audrey Luna said she was surprised to learn she'd hit the highest note ever sung in the 137-year history of New York City's Metropolitan Opera.
Audrey Luna, centre, hit the highest note ever recorded at New York's Met Opera in her performance as Leticia in The Exterminating Angel. (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

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Soprano Audrey Luna said she was surprised to learn she'd hit the highest note ever sung in the 137-year history of New York City's Metropolitan Opera.

It comes at the very beginning of Thomas Adès's new opera, The Exterminating Angel, and is meant to be evocative of laughter.

"It's exciting," Luna told As It Happens host Carol Off. "All these sopranos back in the day, I thought that they hit those notes all the time."

Not so, according to Met archivists who spoke to the New York Times. The note is an A above High C, and it only lasts for a split second. 

The Times calls it "monumental, and unprecedented" and the product of "a combination of genetic gifts, rigorous training and psychological discipline over two fragile vocal cords."

"It's unlike anything I've ever heard or seen written. It took awhile for me to even understand how to sing it," Luna said. "It definitely pushes me to my limit."

The note is so high that As It Happens listeners say it frightened their dogs when it played over CBC Radio's airwaves on Thursday.

"I credit my voice teacher. I feel like she instilled a really solid technique, one where the voice is full from top to bottom. That's what I'm always striving for," Luna said.

"I think that's what every singer is always striving for is a very even sounding voice."

In fact, it's Luna's proven ability to maintain a rich fullness of voice while hitting the highs that drew Adès to her for the role of Leticia.

She had made waves with her high G above C — itself a rare feat — as the sprite Ariel in Adès's adaptation of The Tempest at the Met in 2012.

"I love that scene too because in that moment Prospero is telling me ... to go down there and buzz around and taunt this group of travellers that have just arrived on the island like a mosquito," Luna said. 

"I mean, I seriously do sound like a little mosquito there, don't I?"

In this Oct. 15, 2012, Luna performs the role of Ariel during a dress rehearsal of Thomas Adès's The Tempest. (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera/Associated Press)

But don't assume she's peaked already.

"I have sung a C above high C in practice. If someone writes it, I would try it. I like to see what my limits are," she said.

"I didn't really know that I had these notes in me. It was something that I was playing around with on my own and then when I actually had the chance to sing these notes and perform them on stage, I grabbed at the chance and it really made my career what it is today and I'm just so lucky that I have found some sort of niche."

From left to right, Sally Matthews, Iestyn Davies, Sophie Bevan, David Portillo, Joseph Kaiser, Audrey Luna, Amanda Echalaz, Frédéric Antoun and John Tomlinson star in The Exterminating Angel. (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

Canadians will get a chance to see and hear Luna's performance in movie theatres across the country as part of the Met's live broadcast on Nov. 18. 

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