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Legendary Baritone Sherrill Milnes Receives Honorary Doctorate from University of South Florida (May 2), Appears “In Conversation” at Cincinnati Opera (May 4)

The first week of May brings two new honors for Sherrill Milnes, the legendary baritone and the most recorded American opera singer of his generation. On May 2, he will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of South Florida in Tampa, in recognition of his artistry and extraordinary commitment to educating young singers. Two days later, Cincinnati Opera presents “Sherrill Milnes: In Conversation,” at which the three-time Grammy Award-winner shares stories from his distinguished life and career. Milnes celebrates twin milestones this year, which marks both his 80th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his Metropolitan Opera debut. He continues to make an invaluable contribution to opera through his acclaimed Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs©: VOICExperience Foundation and the Savannah VOICE Festival.

Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Florida
“We are delighted that the University of South Florida will be honoring Mr. Milnes in this way,” says Dr. Karen M. Bryan, Director of the School of Music at the University of South Florida. “His contributions to the world of opera merit the highest recognition, but we are also especially pleased that he is being acknowledged for his commitment to the education of future generations of singers, and his philanthropic support of artists in the early stages of their careers. Our singers have benefited from this generosity of spirit, and we are delighted to share in this celebration.”

Milnes will be presented with an Honorary Doctor of the Arts during commencement ceremonies at the University of South Florida on May 2. A resident of nearby Palm Harbor and one of the Tampa area’s most famous inhabitants, he plays an important part in the local community. It was in Florida that he and his wife, soprano Maria Zouves, founded the VOICExperience Foundation in 2000 to mentor and train aspiring singers and build audiences for opera. He has also given masterclasses at the University, of which Zouves is an alumna, and he served as artistic advisor to Opera Tampa, where he received the Anton Coppola Excellence in the Arts Award in February.

“Sherrill Milnes: In Conversation” at Cincinnati Opera
It was on July 1, 1964, that Milnes made his Cincinnati Opera debut, in his first appearances as Count di Luna in Verdi’s Il trovatore. After starring in numerous subsequent productions at the Ohio house, he reprised the same role for his final main stage appearance there 16 years later. Now, in anticipation of the company’s June production of Verdi’s masterpiece, Cincinnati welcomes him back as the guest of honor for “Sherrill Milnes: In Conversation,” hosted by artistic director Evans Mirageas (May 4). The baritone is a natural raconteur, as can be seen in this video, filmed when Opera America hosted “SherrillMilnes@80” in Opera America’s “Conversations” series at New York’s National Opera Center in February.

Reflecting on the genesis of his long association with Cincinnati Opera, Milnes explains:

“I have huge memories of Cincinnati and my first Trovatore, which came before my Met debut in 1965. I sang so many operas for the first time there. My debut resulted from a Ford Foundation contest where they picked multiple winners in each vocal category. The prize was that our fees would be paid for engagements with American regional companies. So in Cincinnati, Houston, Baltimore, Boston, Pittsburgh, San Antonio and elsewhere I became, in essence, a free singer. That was a great idea. Whatever your contract was with the company, Ford paid it.” 

Of his house and role debuts in Il trovatore, the great Verdi exponent recalls:

“In a way, my Cincinnati debut was my first ‘European’ experience because the conductor, Anton Guadagno, mostly spoke Italian, and the Americans in the cast worked in Italian for him. I was struggling to keep up, and it was a little scary, too!”

Evidently the challenge was one to which Milnes rose with aplomb, for he was invited back to star in more than a dozen Cincinnati productions, including La forza del destino, Madama Butterfly, Rigoletto, Carmen, and La traviata.

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Inspiring the next generation in Prague and Savannah this summer
Milnes looks forward to launching the summer season in the Czech Republic, where he and his wife, Maria Zouves, will direct Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the inaugural Young Artists Music Festival, held during the Prague Summer Nights festival. The baritone also will privately coach all the young singers in the program (July 1–4). The performances, under the baton of John Nardolillo, will take place at Prague’s historic Estates Theatre, where Mozart conducted the premiere of Don Giovanni in 1787, and where Milnes was the first American to sing the title role.

Next the indomitable octogenarian returns to the States for the third annual Savannah VOICE Festival (Aug 2–16), where he serves as Artistic Director. Milnes and Zouves founded the festival in 2013 and it has quickly emerged as the public face of the Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs. Actively and passionately committed to training young singers and developing new audiences for the vocal arts, Milnes explains:

“I love to teach. I love to see the improvement that my teaching brings. I’m passionate about the process. You smile when somebody gets to the next step, when all those myriad of details you worked on with them come together to make great music.”

About Sherrill Milnes
With his powerful voice and commanding stage presence, Sherrill Milnes achieved the kind of adulation that is usually reserved for tenors. The definitive Verdi baritone of his generation, he was one of the leading lights of the Metropolitan Opera for more than three decades. From his 1965 debut, when he sang Valentin opposite Montserrat Caballé in Gounod’s Faust, to his final appearance in 1997, Milnes gave 652 performances at the New York house, where he was honored with 16 new productions, seven opening nights, and ten national telecasts. In 2008 he was recognized with an Opera News Award for Distinguished Achievement. The magazine stated in its tribute feature, “Milnes was an American idol in the most admirable sense of the term – a ‘complete package’ long before the expression came into vogue – and for many of us he left an indelible mark on every role we heard him sing.” The peerless American baritone was the subject of a feature-length cover story in the January issue of Classical Singer magazine, which focused on his invaluable contribution to opera, and his dedicated work mentoring the next generation of opera singers and developing new audiences for the vocal arts.

About the Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs
The Savannah VOICE Festival is a non-profit arts organization that brings classical vocal excellence to the Savannah, Georgia area through a two-week celebration of concerts, events and educational presentations during the month of August and throughout the year. Its offerings encompass opera, musical theatre and popular song. The Festival and its sister organization, the educational non-profit VOICExperience Foundation, which helps young artists pursue their careers in the performing arts, were founded by opera legend Sherrill Milnes and soprano Maria Zouves. They work together to serve the community by providing the highest level of education and quality performances by talented artists for all to enjoy. Now under the umbrella of The Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs, both programs continue their dedication to the quality, integrity and perpetuation of the vocal arts through life-changing intensives, performances and community enriching outreach events in New York, Georgia, Florida and Illinois.

Highlights of Sherrill Milnes’s upcoming activities follows, and more information can be found on his website,, and official Facebook page. High-resolution promotional photos may be downloaded here.


Sherrill Milnes: selected upcoming events & activities  

May 2
Tampa, FL
University of South Florida
Sherrill Milnes Honorary Doctorate presentation at the Commencement ceremonies

May 3
Savannah, GA
Savannah VOICE Festival Prelude Event
Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa
Prelude to the Festival Brunch
Milnes VOICE Programs Festival Artists

May 4
Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati Opera
Corbett Opera Center, Music Hall
“An Evening with Sherrill Milnes: In Conversation”
With Evans Mirageas, Artistic Director

May 17
Savannah, GA
Levy Family Legacy Concert
Jewish Educational Alliance
Milnes VOICE Programs Festival Artists and Velvet Caravan

May 22
Savannah, GA
Savannah Friends of Music event
Parties a la Carte
Milnes VOICE Programs Festival Artists

July 1-4
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival
Estates Theatre
Mozart’s Don Giovanni
John Nardolillo, conductor
Sherrill Milnes & Maria Zouves, stage directors

Aug 2-16
Savannah, GA
Savannah VOICE Festival
Produced in collaboration with Milnes VOICE Program’s VOICExperience Foundation
(Concurrent training in the Apprentice Program; CAMP VOICE for Teens; Milnes VOICE Studio)

Festival events:
8/2: Death, by Aria I
8/3: Milnes Master Class
8/3: Death, by Aria II
8/4: Festival Recital: Amy Shoremount-Obra
8/6: VOICES in Sacred Song
8/7: Artist in Residence: David Friedman Masterclass
8/7: VOICES Around the World Salon Series for VOICE Society Members
8/7: Musical Moments at the AquaStar
8/8: Sherrill Milnes Master Class
8/8: Mission: Audition
8/9: Bizet’s Carmen (Jennifer Johnson Cano; mezzo-soprano)
8/10: Sherrill Milnes Master Class
8/10: Teen Workshop
8/11: Bizet’s Carmen (Jennifer Johnson Cano; mezzo-soprano)
8/13: Artist in Residence: Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano
8/13: American Music Concert
8/14: Artist in Residence: Fabrizio Melano
8/14: Salon Series for VOICE Society Members: Preview of Alice Ryley, a Savannah ghost opera
8/14: Musical Moments at the AquaStar
8/15: Sherrill Milnes VOICE Studio Showcases
8/16: Festival Finale

Aug 18–23
Tampa, FL
Milnes VOICE Programs: Florida VOICE Project

Aug 20
Tarpon Springs, FL
Heritage Museum
Sherrill Milnes Masterclass

Aug 22
Tarpon Springs, FL
Heritage Museum
Milnes VOICE Programs
Savannah Ghost Opera Workshop Preview
Alice Ryley: A Savannah Ghost Opera by Michael Ching

Oct 23
Savannah, GA
The Ford Plantation
“Songs to the Moon” concert
Milnes VOICE Programs Festival Artists

Oct 25
Savannah, GA
The Landings
Savannah VOICE Festival fall fundraiser
Milnes VOICE Programs Festival Artists and cast of Alice Ryley

Oct 30
Savannah, GA
Morris Center
Savannah VOICE Festival World Premiere:
Michael Ching’s Alice Ryley: A Savannah Ghost Opera
Milnes VOICE Programs co-commission:
VOICExperience Foundation & Savannah VOICE Festival

Dec 22
50th anniversary of 1965 Metropolitan Opera debut

Sherrill Milnes on YouTube

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© 21C Media Group, April 2015

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