San Francisco Opera Awards Bass-Baritone Simon Estes with Opera Medal, the Company's Highest Honor

The medal was awarded at the Company’s Medallion Society luncheon in the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton on Wednesday, March 8.

By: Mar. 14, 2023
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San Francisco Opera Awards Bass-Baritone Simon Estes with Opera Medal, the Company's Highest Honor

Renowned bass-baritone, educator and humanitarian activist Simon Estes received the San Francisco Opera Medal at the Company's Medallion Society luncheon in the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton on Wednesday, March 8.

San Francisco Opera Tad and Dianne Taube General Director Matthew Shilvock presented the award, the Company's highest honor, to Estes who spoke to the gathering about his trailblazing career in American music and the importance of art in our time.

While in San Francisco, Estes also worked with the Company's Adler Fellows in a master class at the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera and revisited the War Memorial Opera House, the site of many past triumphs.

Estes said: "Opera is such an important form of art. It helps people all over the world because music is the international language that brings all of us together. I never dreamed I would go to Russia, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, but I have because of opera. You have a great opera company. I will always be grateful to [former general director] Mr. Adler for having invited me here."

Born in Centerville, Iowa, in 1938, Simon Estes is among the first African American artists to achieve worldwide success in opera, appearing in 85 opera houses and with 115 symphony orchestras across Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. His operatic repertoire of 104 roles includes many interpretations such as the Dutchman in Wagner's Der Fliegende Holländer and Porgy in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess where Estes set a standard for generations of artists and audiences.

Estes has sung for six American presidents and other global leaders including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Pope John Paul II. Along with his work on the stage and as an educator, he has set up foundations and raised millions at home and abroad to better the lives of children through scholarships, malaria protection and other humanitarian interventions. He holds 13 honorary doctorate degrees, including one from the Juilliard School, and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Last year, Estes was inducted into the Opera America Hall of Fame.

Estes' career began in Europe with victories at prestigious voice competitions in Munich and Moscow and successful opera debuts in Berlin, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Vienna and Lübeck. As one of the few American artists to win an award at the 1966 Tchaikovsky Competition, Estes was invited to a reception at the White House where he met San Francisco Opera General Director Kurt Herbert Adler.



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