Sherrill Milnes is universally acclaimed as the foremost operatic baritone of his generation. With his powerful voice, commanding stage presence, and rugged handsomeness, he received the kind of adulation that is usually reserved for tenors. He sang over 650 performances at the Met, where he was honored with sixteen new productions, seven opening nights, and ten national telecasts. As a leading artist in all of the world’s great opera houses, Mr. Milnes performed and recorded with the likes of Domingo, Pavarotti, Caballé, Sutherland, Sills, Horne, Price, and Tebaldi. He is the winner of three Grammy Awards, and the most recorded American singer of his time. In 2008 he received the Opera News Award for Distinguished Achievement.
Driven by his dedication to make the vocal arts vibrant, vital, and entertaining in today’s world, Mr. Milnes continues to give masterclasses, judge competitions, and mentor new generations of singers. With his wife, Maria Zouves, he co-founded and runs the Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs: VOICExperience Foundation and the Savannah VOICE Festival, which provides training for aspiring young artists while fostering new audiences for the arts.
It is fitting that the career of this artist was launched in his native land, belying the notion that singers must work their way through the small European opera houses before earning the respect of American critics and audiences. It was at the quintessential American house, the New York City Opera, that Mr. Milnes made his first important debut in 1964, as Valentin in Gounod’s Faust opposite Norman Treigle as Mephistopheles. It was again in the role of Valentin that Mr. Milnes made his critically acclaimed debut at the Metropolitan Opera on December 22, 1965, an auspicious night that also featured the Met debut of Montserrat Caballé. He was launched to stardom, however, in 1968, when his riveting performance as Miller in Verdi’s Luisa Miller literally stopped the show at the Met and immediately made him the dominant baritone of his time.
Mr. Milnes began his international career with a triumphant Macbeth at the Vienna Staatsoper, and in time would conquer all of the great opera capitals of the world, singing at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; La Scala in Milan; Berlin’s Deutsche Oper; the Paris Opera; the famed Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires; the Liceu in Barcelona; the Bavarian State Opera in Munich; the Salzburg Festival; the Hamburg Opera and Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. He also appeared with New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the opera companies of Pittsburgh, San Diego, Miami, and Denver, among others in the United States. At the Metropolitan Opera, he sang 652 performances from 1965 to 1997, including the Met’s 1991 gala celebrating its 25th anniversary at Lincoln Center, which was released by Deutsche Grammophon on DVD.
Throughout his remarkable career, Mr. Milnes showed an affinity for Verdi, whose works formed the cornerstone of a repertoire of some 70 roles. Those included the lead baritone roles in Otello, Don Carlo, Aida, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, La Forza del Destino, Luisa Miller, Ernani, and Un Ballo in Maschera, as well as the monumental title roles of Rigoletto, Simon Boccanegra, Macbeth, and Nabucco, all sung to overwhelming acclaim. He also triumphed as Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen, Figaro in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca and Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West, Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, Athanaël in Massenet’s Thaïs, and the title role of Henry VIII by Saint-Saëns, among many others. He continued to expand his vast operatic repertoire to include new roles, including the title role in Verdi’s Falstaff, Count Westmoreland in Wolf-Ferrari’s Sly, Judge Turpin in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, the title role in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Ajax in Georges Antheil’s Transatlantic (United States premiere).
Mr. Milnes appeared with the great orchestras of North America and Europe, sang on the world’s major recital stages, and performed for every U.S. President from Gerald Ford to George W. Bush. Conducting added another dimension to his multi-faceted career; highlights include the acclaimed recording Domingo Conducts Milnes! Milnes Conducts Domingo!, Mendelssohn’s Elijah at Carnegie Hall (which marked his New York conducting debut), and Aida with Opera Memphis (his operatic conducting debut).In 2000, with Maria Zouves, Mr. Milnes founded VOICExperience, a non-profit foundation designed to train and mentor young singers. Over the years thousands of aspiring artists in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and New York have benefitted from their dedicated work. As an outgrowth of VOICExperience, in 2013 Mr. Milnes and Ms. Zouves founded the Savannah VOICE Festival, bringing classical vocal excellence to the Savannah, Georgia area through concerts, fully staged operas, educational presentations, and community outreach. With programs ranging from classical music to musical theater and popular song, the Savannah VOICE Festival provides performance opportunities for VOICExperience participants as it builds audiences for the vocal arts.
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