Sherrill Milnes is universally acclaimed as the foremost operatic baritone of his generation. A superstar in every sense, the adulation he receives is the kind usually reserved for tenors. His remarkable voice, artistic integrity, commanding stage presence and rugged handsomeness have made him a favorite for all audiences. In 2008 he was honored with the receipt of the Opera NewsAward for Distinguished Achievement. In fall of 2013 he hosted El Paso Opera’s Anniversary Gala concert.
Mr. Milnes has conquered all of the great opera capitals of the world: the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; La Scala, Milan; Berlin's Deutsche Oper; the Paris Opera; Buenos Aires' famed Teatro Colon; the Liceu in Barcelona; the Bavarian State Opera in Munich; the Salzburg Festival; the Hamburg Opera and Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. He has also appeared with the 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 has been honored with 16 new productions, seven opening nights, and ten national telecasts, and he also performed at the 25th anniversary gala honoring James Levine.
In recent seasons, Sherrill Milnes expanded his vast operatic repertoire to include performances of new roles, including the title role in Falstaff (several productions including New York City Opera, Florida Grand Opera and Baltimore Opera); Count Westmoreland in Wolf-Ferrari's Sly (Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu, Washington Opera on tour in Japan); Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd (Ravinia Festival); the title role in Gianni Schicchi (Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, also with performances of Michele in Il Tabarro); and Ajax in Georges Antheil's Transatlantic (Minnesota Opera, United States premiere). However, Mr. Milnes continued to perform most of the roles which have brought him great acclaim, including Amonasro in Aida at the Metropolitan Opera; Scarpia in Tosca (Budapest and Torre del Lago); Iago in Otello (Budapest and Karlruhe); Mendelssohn's Elijah (performances throughout the United States); Gerard in Andrea Chenier (Pittsburgh Opera); Germont in La Traviata (L'Opéra de Montréal); and performances of Verdi and Puccini arias with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.
Mr. Milnes was also in great demand as a recitalist and in concert, appearing on the world's major recital stages and with the great orchestras of North America and Europe. He had the honor of performing for every United States president since Gerald Ford, and has appeared in recital at the White House at the request of Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush.
Conducting has become an integral part of Mr. Milnes' multi-faceted career. Two recent engagements include Elijah at Carnegie Hall (which marked his New York conducting debut), and Aida with Opera Memphis (his operatic conducting debut).
He has the distinction of being the most recorded American opera singer, with a discography encompassing his great opera roles, as well as lieder, oratorio, symphony and Broadway. His recordings of Così fan tutte, Aida, and La bohème had the distinction of receiving Grammy Awards, and his recordings of Brahms's Four Serious Songs (with Erich Leinsdorf at the piano) and the sacred recording Amazing Grace received Grammy Award nominations. In 1997, Video Arts International (VAI) released two of several live recital albums: There but for You Go I and Kingdom by the Sea. The baritone is also featured on three music videos: Homage to Verdi, Sherrill Milnes: All Star Gala, and Sherrill Milnes at Juilliard: An Opera Master Class, as well as on his Metropolitan Opera performances on current release. His autobiography, American Aria: From Farm Boy to Opera Star, was published by Schirmer Books.
Throughout his remarkable career, Mr. Milnes has shown an affinity for Verdi, whose works form the cornerstone of his repertoire which comprises some 70 roles, including 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 has also triumphed as Mozart's Don Giovanni, at the famed Salzburg Festival, as well as Bizet's Escamillo in Carmen, Rossini's Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Puccini's Scarpia in Tosca, Jack Rance in La Fanciulla del West, Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet, Athanael in Massenet's Thaïs, and the title role of Henry VIII by Saint-Saëns, among many others.
Mr. Milnes grew up on a dairy farm in Downers Grove, Illinois. Despite a childhood devoted to daily chores, he, in addition to taking voice lessons, studied piano, violin, viola, double bass, clarinet and tuba. But when it came time for college, he could see no future in music and pursued pre-medical studies. After a year and a half, however, during which he had banished music from his life, he realized that it was his true calling and enrolled at Drake University where he studied with Andrew White, earning his bachelor's and master's degrees in music in the hope of becoming a teacher. Additional graduate studies with Hermanus Baer followed at Northwestern University. During these years, the young baritone supported himself by playing in local jazz bands and singing wherever he could at women's clubs, with local opera groups, in churches and synagogues, and for television and radio commercials. A great opportunity came when the baritone won an audition with the Boris Goldovsky Opera Company, an event he has called the "luckiest possible beginning" for his career. He toured throughout the United States with the Goldovsky Opera Company - over 100,000 miles by bus - singing in over 300 performances of more than a dozen roles.
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. In fact, it was at the quintessential American house, the New York City Opera, that Mr. Milnes made his first important debut, Valentin in Gounod's Faust. It was in this same role that Sherrill Milnes made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera to great public and critical acclaim. Sherrill Milnes was launched to stardom, however, 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 our time. His international career began with a triumphant Macbeth at the Vienna Staatsoper.
The baritone has received numerous honors during his distinguished career, including seven honorary doctoral degrees. He is particularly proud of being named as a Commendatore of the Italian Republic for his long commitment to Italian opera. In 1987 he received New York City's Seal of Recognition for his rich contribution to the city's cultural life. Mr. Milnes was also chosen by the American Bible Society to receive the 25 millionth copy of its Good News Bible, and in 1993 he organized a benefit concert in Vienna's famed St. Stephen's Cathedral for the victims of the Bosnia-Herzegovina War. In September 1996, Mr. Milnes was honored by the French government with the distinguished Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and in 2003 he became a member of the Lincoln Academy, the highest honor awarded by the state of Illinois.
Sherrill Milnes has worked extensively with young singers throughout his career, including master classes and more extensive teaching during his concert and opera tours. He has led master classes at the Juilliard and Manhattan Schools in New York, at major universities throughout the country, and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. More extensive teaching has been done at the Yale University School of Music, Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, at the Northern Royal College of Music in Manchester, the Israel Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv, and the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Chiari, Italy. Mr. Milnes has judged several international competitions including the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. He is currently the John Evans Distinguished Professor of Music at Northwestern University.
In 2000, Mr. Milnes with his wife Maria Zouves, founded VOICExperience, a not for profit organization. VOICExperience helps young singers develop and pursue their careers with programming throughout the country. They bring the best coaches and teachers, as well as the stars, from both the operatic and theatrical world to interact with the singers.
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