Paul Corona: Opera Singer, Elk Grove Village

Paul Corona leads what he calls “the pampered life” of a successful opera singer.

 

Since graduating from Northwestern in 2006, he has performed in numerous operas with the Lyric, jet-setted to New York and Santa Fe to perform, and won several awards. This fall, the happy-go-lucky bass-baritone makes his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

But just because he’s taking a turn in the spotlight doesn’t mean Paul has forgotten his roots—in fact, quite the contrary.

“I’m a local homegrown,” says Paul, who is half Filipino and half Mexican. “I’m very normal, and I like that. I grew up in a family that was on the poorer side.” Growing up, Paul played football and wrestled in addition to studying music.

His down-to-earth nature is what drew Paul to “The Marriage of Figaro,” in which he’ll play the role of Antonio at Ravinia on August 6. He’s also played Figaro before: “He’s the peasant class. He’s not nobility, and he’s really smart, and he tricks everyone. That’s kind of like me.”

As a high schooler, Paul took voices lessons with opera buff Carl Lawrenz, who had him singing arias at age 14—much earlier than most singers. His parents never forced him to practice, “which made me not hate it,” he recalls.

At Northwestern, Paul found a musical family that he’s still close with and performed in an opera each year.

In 2006, Paul won Grand Finals of the Met’s National Council auditions, launching his career and putting $15,000 in his pocket. He admits that he was so nervous he threw up shortly before taking the stage.

He then began three years of intensive study at the Lyric’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, where he understudied major roles and performed in minor ones.

Even though he’s pretty busy rising to opera stardom, Paul still finds time to sing at St. Giles Episcopal Church in Northbrook—for very little pay—a gig he’s had since he was a “pimply 19-year-old.”

His goal is to keep his career rolling and avoid getting a day job as long as possible. “I only want to sing,” he says. “I get a million old ladies coming up to me in tears. I didn’t know that I had that power, to make people cry with music. It’s an unmatched feeling.”

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