Noted for his “clean, shiny top register” and “supple voice underneath,” young American Tenor Ai Ra (he/they) has proven himself to be a versatile and capable performer on concert, opera, and musical theatre stages.
Ai has emerged from the pandemic as a regular soloist throughout the northeastern United States, performing Gastone (La traviata) in both the immersive on-site production with MassOpera in October of 2021 as well as with Lighthouse Opera in summer 2022. An avid new music performer, Ai performed the Bishop of Puebla/Sor Filotea in the professional premiere of Carla Lucero’s Juana this past summer with dell’Arte Opera Ensemble. Simultaneously, they explored early music in Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria as the conniving suitor Pisandro. Ai looks forward to joining SAS Performing Arts Company as Don Basilio (Le nozze di Figaro) and in his role debut as Don Ramiro (La Cenerentola) this fall. He will also join City Lyric Opera in the professional premiere of Lori Laitman's Uncovered.
Prior to the pandemic, Ai was onstage with UMKC Conservatory Opera, Opera in the Ozarks, and is a founding member of the Landlocked Opera Inc. company, where he played the Defendant in their inaugural production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury followed shortly by Monostatos in their production of Die Zauberflöte.
While pursuing their Master of Music, Ai performed major roles in every opera staged at the UMKC Conservatory. In the fall of 2018, he performed the role of Don Anchise, the Podestà of Lagonero, in Mozart’s early comedy La finta giardiniera. Following that performance, they took on the role of Gabriel von Eisenstein in a new translation of Die Fledermaus by tenor Doug Jones and the title role in Dido and Aeneas directed by Kirsten Cairns.
In the summer of 2018, Ai made his role debut as Il Conte d'Almaviva in Rossini's beloved comedy Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Opera in the Ozarks, where OperaWire praised him as “an Almaviva in the making,” citing his “top register a la Juan Diego Florez” and “great comedic instincts.” In that same season, they also performed as Dr. Blind in Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus. In 2017, he was featured as the swindling curmudgeon Mynheer Vanderdendur in Florida State Opera's production of Bernstein's Candide and as 1st Armored Man in Quincy Music Theatre's production of The Magic Flute.
In the summer of 2017, Ai made his international debut as Mr. Splinters in the European premiere of Aaron Copland's The Tender Land at the Varna International Opera Academy in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. In Bulgaria, they also served as the tenor soloist in Mozart's Requiem. Other past performances include Male Swing, Fyedka, and the Russian Soloist in Fiddler on the Roof at Quincy Music Theatre, the Swing in Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar also at Quincy Music Theatre, and Giuseppe Zangara in New Stage TheatreWorks' production of Sondheim's Assassins.
Ai earned his Master of Music at the University of Missouri – Kansas City Conservatory, and he is a proud alumnus of the Florida State University.
In addition to their career in the arts, Ai Ra is an active member of the scientific community. He has completed a Master of Science in Bioinformatics and is experienced in generating and employing analytical pipelines in R and Python scripting languages for biological analysis and data interpretation. Ai is Proficient in the application of next-generation sequencing pipelines, Bioconductor, Genome Assembly, transcriptomics packages for investigating DNA, RNA, and Cellular Indexing of Transcriptomes and Epitopes by Sequencing (CITEseq) datasets.
Past projects have included comparison of human and pre-clinical models using hypergeometric analysis to identify similarities in biological function between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease(IBD) and mouse colitis models (aCD40, TCT, DSS and Citrobacter). He is a driven researcher with outstanding leadership and communication skills and an insatiable curiosity for the use of genetic data to further help the world at large.
Recognized by peers for collaborative and team based nature, they currently work for the Translational Immunology Center (TrIC) at New York University’s Langone Health Center. Ai is a founding member of this team dedicated to identifying cause, treatment, and prevention of infection. His interests include Cancer, Hematopoietic Stem Cells, and rare disorders. They have partnered with the Labs of Boris Reizis, PhD; Aristotelis Tsirigos, PhD; and many more.