A proposal in SFO's "Tosca"
Soloman Howard proposes to Ailyn Pérez on September 5, 2021, at the War Memorial Opera House after a performance of Puccini's Tosca | Credit: Daniel Illig

It was grand opera gorgeously staged, sung, and directed, but one of the ladies behind me at Sunday’s matinee had to ask, “Why do all these operas have to end so sadly?”

I couldn’t blame her. This was Tosca, whose doomed love story involves a rapacious authority, political torture and execution, and suicide. I turned around to my audience mate and proffered, “It’s just so you’ll feel how much better off your life is.” We both laughed through our pandemic masks. And despite the awesome gloom of Robert Innes Hopkins’s design for Act III’s setting of the Castel Sant’Angelo, there was no denying the joy offered up by the packed War Memorial Opera House crowd, in extended applause at the end of this particular performance, on the final day of this production, as each of the principals, freed from their fictitious fates, walked on for the curtain call.

When bass Soloman Howard, who had sung the role of Angelotti, an escaped prisoner and the Marchessa Attavanti's brother, stooped to retrieve from the front of the stage what looked like a small box, it provoked my curiosity, but I figured he was just picking up a dropped prop. Following the culminating acclamation of soprano Ailyn Pérez as Tosca, Howard stepped forward and announced to Pérez, “I got permission from your father, and I’m asking you to marry me!”

As thousands (including the orchestra) rose out of their seats and went loudly wild, Howard knelt and placed on the finger of his intended what he must have retrieved from the stage: a ring! Here was an unexpected, unforgettable real-life happy ending for everyone, on stage and off, to take out into the sunshine.

Soloman Howard proposes to Ailyn Pérez on September 5, 2021, at the War Memorial Opera House after a performance of Puccini's Tosca | Courtesy of San Francisco Opera

The next day, the couple responded to a query from SFCV with this: “We started dating in February of 2019, in New York City. Our wedding plans now include uniting our big families from coast to coast and around the globe, so please wish us luck in picking a venue! There is great peace and love that we feel in our hearts for each other. And we also feel called to continue to share our gifts and talents, and to serve and inspire, everywhere we go.”

Ailyn Pérez and Soloman Howard
Ailyn Pérez and Soloman Howard after the Tosca opening night performance on August 21, 2021 | Credit: Drew Altizer Photography

CORRECTION: As originally published, this article misidentified the role of Angelotti as Tosca's brother. He is the Marchessa Attavanti's brother.