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Rachele Gilmore in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, The Metropolitan Opera | © Ralph Daily/Flickr
Rachele Gilmore in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, The Metropolitan Opera | © Ralph Daily/Flickr
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The Highest Note Ever Sung at the Met Opera

Picture of Ryan Kristobak
Music Editor
Updated: 18 October 2017
If you’ve ever sung a high A flat on the stage of the Metropolitan in New York—the highest-known note in the opera house’s history—you are definitely Rachele Gilmore.

A recent Reddit post that went viral featured a video of Gilmore hitting the incredible note, although her identity wasn’t known until she came across the thread while late-night browsing the aggregation platform.

An understudy for the role of Olympia, a mechanical doll, in the French opera The Tales of Hoffmann (or Les contes d’Hoffmann), Gilmore was called into action last minute when the original actress, Kathleen Kim, fell ill. This meant that she had to perform one of the most “infamously difficult” arias, “Les oiseaux dans la charmille,” or, as it’s more commonly known, “The Doll Song.”

Gilmore took to the Reddit comments to clarify how it all went down:

“I was 28 at the time, living in Queens,” Gilmore wrote. “It was 2 days before Christmas and my parents were in town visiting. I really did only have 4 hours notice and we all took a ride across the Triboro bridge in rush hour traffic to get me into the makeup chair in time. My parents actually got to see the performance, which was my MET debut, and is still is really special to me. Also, the reactions of the people in the chorus behind me, as I was told by several of them personally afterwards backstage, were actually genuine. It was a terrifying and thrilling night!”

Watch Gilmore’s performance below:

While Gilmore had rehearsed the sequence a few times with other understudies in a room at the Met, that evening was the first time she had ever been on the stage. Asked by a commenter if she surprised herself hitting the high A flat (3:56), Gilmore explained that she had always planned the “embellishment.”

“No, I had been practicing it this way for quite some time,” Gilmore wrote. “In this particular aria, the first verse is sung as the composer originally wrote it, and then the second verse is done with embellishments that are usually chosen by the artist. These were ‘my embellishments’ and had been for quite some time, although a few people have adapted them since then.”

Gilmore also noted in the Reddit post that she still reprises the role of Olympia on a regular basis, most recently with Hawaii Opera Theatre in Honolulu. As for what she’s up to now, she’s currently working on Joseph Haydn’s The Creation and George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, both of which she will be perform with the Pittsburgh Symphony this fall.