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For the first time in more than a decade, a Bangor native and soprano with the Metropolitan Opera will perform this month in eastern Maine.
Ashley Emerson has spent the past 12 years performing with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, singing roles in everything from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and “The Magic Flute” to operas from contemporary composers such as Nico Muhly’s “Marnie.” She’s performed with companies all over the country, too, including in Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” in Seattle in 2016 and in Benjamin Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw” in Dallas in 2017.
But even this seasoned performer was left speechless when she first met the man who would become her husband: tenor Dominic Armstrong, a fellow opera singer she met at a party six years ago.
“It was definitely a ‘seeing unicorns and rainbows’ sort of thing,” said Emerson, a 2003 graduate of Bangor High School and an alumna of the University of Southern Maine. “We met because we were both in the opera world, but it was so much more than that.”
Their love — of each other and of the music they sing — is the basis for the couple’s first-ever duo concert set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18, at the Crosby Center in Belfast. The concert will feature the music of Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Robert and Clara Schumann.
Though Armstrong and Emerson first performed together in 2018 during a tour of Russia celebrating Bernstein’s 100th birthday, Sunday’s concert will be their first to feature just the two of them, and it will be Emerson’s first concert in eastern Maine since a 2008 performance with the Bangor Symphony Orchestra.
The love story of the Schumanns is their inspiration for the program, both musically and personally.
“Robert and Clara have one of the most famous love stories in music,” Emerson said of the famed German musical couple, who were both composers and musicians. “Their love story really just jumps off the page, so that’s really the inspiration for the program as a whole.”
Though Emerson and Armstrong are based in New York, and regularly perform at opera houses and concert halls all over the world, Maine is where they were engaged and married.
“It’s really appropriate that we do our first real concert together in Maine,” Emerson said. “We got engaged in Bangor. We got married in Freeport. And the Crosby Center had reached out to me several years ago about doing a concert there, and this was finally the summer it was going to work out.”
Though both singers have performed with countless other musicians over their course of their careers, singing together has proved to be a unique and rewarding effort — one that has deepened their relationship, Emerson said.
“Our personalities are absolutely a yin and yang kind of thing,” she said. “And Dominic is such a sensitive singer. Tenors have a reputation of just being a beautiful voice, but he is not just a pretty face. He’s got the goods to back it up. I want him to be proud of me, just like I’m proud of him, so I think that makes us strive to do our best, when we sing together.”
“Ashley Emerson and Dominic Armstrong Sing Love Songs,” with accompanist William Hobb, is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18, at the Crosby Center at 96 Church St. in Belfast. Tickets are $20 at the door.