Sherrill Milnes to Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Metropolitan Opera Debut

Sherrill Milnes to Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Metropolitan Opera Debut

After celebrating his 80th birthday earlier this year, now Sherrill Milnes - the definitive Verdi baritone of his generation - looks forward to commemorating the 50th anniversary of his Metropolitan Opera debut. It was on December 22, 1965, that he "handled himself with aplomb" (New York Times) in his first appearance at the house, singing Valentin in Faust during the company's final season at the "Old Met," its original midtown home. To mark this milestone, the 81st Annual Metropolitan Opera Guild Luncheon, "Golden Celebration" (Nov 13), honors the three-time Grammy Award-winner alongside his fellow Met legends Grace Bumbry, Mirella Freni, and Renata Scotto, all of whom, like him, celebrate the golden anniversaries of their debuts at the venerable New York opera house this year.

Fall also sees the peerless American baritone serve on the Artists Committee of theKennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC (Dec 6), and - as Vice President and Chairman of the Audition and Awards Committee of the Richard Tucker Music Foundation - receive recognition at Lincoln Center's 2015 Richard Tucker Gala (Nov 1).

Milnes continues to make invaluable contributions to opera, providing extensive education and mentoring to the next generation through his VOICExperience Foundation and annual Savannah VOICE Festival.

His two VOICE programs recently joined forces in one of their most ambitious ventures to date, when they commissioned a new opera from Michael Ching. The Hawaiian-born composer's many previous examples of the genre include A Midsummer Night's Dream(2011), of which the Wall Street Journal observes: "Mr. Ching's remarkably inventive opera is a celebration of what voices can do." The composer's new work, Alice Ryley: A Savannah Ghost Opera, not only makes a welcome addition to the repertoire, but pays tribute to Savannah's unique history. The composer drew inspiration from the tragic tale of Alice Ryley, the first woman to be hanged in the colony of Georgia. An Irish Catholic teen who came to the New World as an indentured servant to escape the famine at home, Ryley was bought by a plantation owner who abused both her and his butler, Richard White. She and Richard fell in love, and one night the two turned on their master and killed him. Both were imprisoned, and Ryley was held in jail until she gave birth to White's baby, whereupon she was hanged in Savannah's Wright Square; her lover was hanged shortly thereafter. According to local legend, her ghost continues to haunt the square, where she searches in vain for her baby, who died just 45 days after his mother met her fate.

A musical journey through Savannah's history by way of one of her most famous ghosts, Ching's new opera fittingly receives its world premiere performances on the eve ofHalloween, at Savannah's historic Charles H. Morris Center (Oct 30). Under the expert direction of Maria Zouves, Executive Director of the Savannah VOICE Festival, the all-professional cast features Jessica Best, Ashley Dannewitz, Ann Louise Glasser, James Wright and Cody Austin, with a speaking role written for Milnes himself.

Photo Credit: Dario Acosta

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