Artists for Opera Orlando's 2nd Annual Gala
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 provide training for aspiring young artists while fostering new audiences for the arts.
Sherrill Milnes was born on January 10, 1935, and grew up on a dairy farm in Downers Grove, Illinois. Despite a childhood devoted to daily chores, he took voice lessons and studied piano, violin, viola, double bass, clarinet, and tuba. But when it came time for college, he pursued pre-medical studies. After a year and a half, he realized that music 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 during college 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 he auditioned and was accepted into the Boris Goldovsky Opera Company, an event he has called the “luckiest possible beginning” for his career. He toured throughout the United States with that 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. 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).
Sherrill Milnes 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. He 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.
Adam Diegel has established international notoriety for an impassioned dramatic sense, powerful voice, and for his classic leading looks in the lyric tenor repertoire. Mr. Diegel’s 2014-15 season includes significant debuts at Seattle Opera in Tosca under the baton of Julian Kovatchev and one of his signature roles Lieutenant Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly for Atlanta Opera led by musical director Arthur Fagen and Perth International Arts Festival led by David Parry. Performances of the past season includes a return to the Metropolitan Opera as BF Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly Opera Philadelphia in the Company’s new production of Nabucco and a debut at Vancouver Opera as Cavaradossi in Tosca. Adam Diegel’s Metropolitan Opera debut came in 2010 as Froh in the Robert Lepage new production of Das Rheingold conducted by James Levine, a role he repeated for the Met under the direction of Fabio Luisi, and other Metropolitan Opera roles have included Pinkerton conducted by Plácido Domingo and Ismaele in Nabucco led by Paolo Carignani. Highlights of recent seasons also include performances of Don Jose at Opera Australia's Handa Opera on Sydney Harour, Don Jose in Carmen at the English National Opera, Madama Butterfly with the Lithuanian National Opera, Tosca at the Glimmerglass Festival and Arizona Opera, Madama Butterfly at Fort Worth Opera, Arizona Opera, PORTOpera, and Kentucky Opera, Carmen with the Glimmerglass Festival, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Florida Grand Opera, and Madison Opera, as well as La bohème with Opera Omaha and Minnesota Opera. On European opera stages, he has bowed in Adriana Lecouvreur at the National Theatre of Hungary, followed by a re-engagement with the company in Tosca, Madama Butterfly at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, and David Alden’s new production of Luisa Miller for the Opéra de Lyon conducted by Kazushi Ono.
Baritone Craig Irvin brings a vibrant sound and commitment to character to each role he portrays. Craig recently made role and company debuts with Wolf Trap Opera as the Villains in The Tales of Hoffman and then returned to Wolf Trap in 2012 for Leporello in Don Giovanni. Additionally, he debuted with Minnesota Opera in the world premier of Kevin Puts’ new opera Silent Night, appeared with the Canadian Opera Company as Betto in Gianni Schicchi and covered the role of Simone in A Florentine Tragedy, and joined the cast of Simon Boccanegra with Los Angeles Opera covering the role of Paolo. The 2013-2014 season brought debuts with both Fort Worth Opera and Cincinnati Opera reprising his Lieutenant Horstmayer in Silent Night, his return to Minnesota Opera as Mandryka in Arabella, and his role debut as Dandini in Pensacola Opera’s La Cenerentola. During the 2014-2015 season, Craig returns to Minnesota Opera as Peter in Hänsel und Gretel, debuts at Utah Opera as Zurga in Les pêcheurs de perles, reprises the role of Lieutenant Horstmayer in Silent Night with Lyric Opera of Kansas City and joins Nashville Opera and Pensacola Opera as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance.
While in residence with Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center, Craig was seen as Zuniga in Carmen, Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sam in A Masked Ball, Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly, Doctor/Professor in Lulu, and Ashby in La fanciulla del West. Additionally, he covered the roles of Bottom, the title role in The Mikado, the title role in Hercules, and Escamillo in Carmen (a role he sang in the student matinee performance). In the 2009-2010 season, he returned for a second year with Lyric Opera of Chicago where his assignments included Angelotti in Tosca as well as covering the roles of Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro and Brander in Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust. Additionally, he was seen with the Knoxville Opera as Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia and as a soloist in Verdi’s Requiem with the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra.
Other recent engagements include his debut with Opera Company of Philadelphia as Lt. Horstmayer in Silent Night, Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Phoenix Symphony, and a return to Canadian Opera Company as 1st Nazarene and Jochanaan/cover in Strauss’ Salome, his debut with Opera Saratoga performing both Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore and Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Ramphis in Aida with Pensacola Opera, Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Intermountain Opera, Dulcamara in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore with Naples Opera, and Bottom in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Des Moines Metro Opera. A winner of the Heinz Rehfuss Singing Actor Award sponsored by Orlando Opera, Mr. Irvin spent a season with the company as a Resident Artist, and then stayed on with the company a second year as a main stage artist. During his tenure there he was featured as the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance, Abimelech in Samson et Dalilah, Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, Elder Ott in Susannah, and Angelotti in Tosca. While in Orlando, Mr. Irvin also sang the role of Gaston in over 700 performances of Beauty and the Beast at Walt Disney World, MGM.
Other role highlights include Private Willis in Iolanthe with Nashville Opera and Don Alhambra in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers with Opera North. In the course of his graduate work at The University of Tennessee, he performed with the Knoxville Opera as Pooh Bah in The Mikado, Der Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte, and Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, as well as Reverend Blitch in Susannah and the title role in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd with the Knoxville Opera Studio. A native of Iowa, Mr. Irvin completed his undergraduate study at the Simpson College in Indianola under the tutelage of Dr. Robert L. Larsen.
Rising-star mezzo-soprano Sarah Nordin is building an enviable reputation as an artist of brilliant technique and artistry, both as a singer and as an actress. Her "luscious" voice has been praised by Opera News, as has her ability to “hold her own with the big guns” as Lola CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA with Orlando Opera. Ms. Nordin’s warm, rich voice easily fills the largest opera and concert venues and she has received critical praise for her skills as a comedienne in numerous roles including Orlofsky DIE FLEDERMAUS and Isabella L’ITALIANA IN ALGERI. Recent Mozart roles include Dorabella COSI FAN TUTTE with Opera Tampa, Winter Opera of St Louis and Florida Opera Theatre, and Cherubino LE NOZZE DI FIGARO with both Opera del West and Long Island Opera, with the St. Louis Post enthusing that Ms. Nordin’s brought to the role of Dorabella“a rich mezzo-soprano that fit Mozart’s music like a glove.”
Other recent roles include the title-role CARMEN in concert with the Livingston Symphony Orchestra, Flora LA TRAVIATA with Opera Tampa, Tisbe LA CENERENTOLA and Third Lady DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE with Salt Marsh Opera, Angelina (cover) LA CENERENTOLA for Orlando Opera, Zita GIANNI SCHICCHI and Marcellina LE NOZZE DI FIGARO with Hubbard Hall Opera Theatre, Isabella L’ITALIANA IN ALGERI, Meg FALSTAFF with Taconic Opera, and Prince Orlofsky DIE FLEDERMAUS with Geneva Light Opera and St. Petersburg Opera. Sarah has worked with many of the most prestigious companies in the US including Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Central City Opera, Caramoor Opera and Opera North. Ms. Nordin has worked on the Metropolitan Opera’s productions of LES TROYENS, PARSIFAL, OTELLO, BORIS GODUNOV, NABUCCO and TURANDOT. She has been involved in three HD live broadcasts from the Met and joined them for their Japan tour in 2012. She has also traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States as a soloist with the American Spiritual Ensemble.
Ms. Nordin earned her Master of Music degree from the University of Tennessee and her Bachelor of Music degree from Lee University. She is also an accomplished French horn player and an award winning ballroom dancer
Soprano Angela Mortellaro captivates audiences wherever she performs. Observer said of her recent portrayals of Norina that she “dominated every scene she was in, from her opening scene and aria, beautifully sung with a lovely solid and secure sound and coloratura and high notes to burn….” In addition, Twin Cities Arts wrote “As Juliette, Angela Mortellaro’s crisp and agile soprano voice offers a fluttering girlishness to the role, and her energetic performance draws the eye throughout. In her sure-footed rendition of Act I aria “Je veux vivre,” Mortellaro shows a pleasing mix of delicacy and acrobatics in vocal interpretation, all while traversing tabletops and chairs…”
Engagements during the 2016-2017 season included two role debuts: Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette with the Minnesota Opera, and Norina in Don Pasquale with the Sarasota Opera. Ms. Mortellaro also reprises the role of Doris Parker in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird with both Madison Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited, and debuts as Micaela in Carmen with Central City Opera.
The summer of 2015 brought a memorable role debut as Adina in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore with the Dorset Opera Festival in Dorset, England. Additional engagements during the 2016-2017 season included both Musetta in La Boheme and Despina in Cosí fan tutte with Sarasota Opera, Fiorilla in Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia with Opera Southwest, and a double bill premiering Stella Sung’s opera The Book Collector, performed as a prequel to a fully-staged Carmina Burana with the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance. The soprano also completed two exciting World Premier productions during the season: performing the role of Doris Parker, wife of Charlie Parker, in Opera Philadelphia’s Charlie Parker’s Yardbird and Jocie in Minnesota Opera’s production of The Manchurian Candidate.
Recent performances of note include Gretel in Hansel and Gretel with the Minnesota Opera, Violetta in La Traviata for Opera North, Anna in Nabucco with Opera Philadelphia, Adele in Die Fledermaus with Sarasota Opera and Jean Acker in Dominic Argento’s Dream of Valentino with the Minnesota Opera. She sang Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor with Opera North and Dayton Opera, the title role of Thaïs for Florida Grand Opera, Galatea in Handel’s Acis and Galatea with Madison Opera, and Madeleine Audeaert in Kevin Puts’ opera Silent Night, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music, with Opera Philadelphia.
While a Resident Artist with the Minnesota Opera, Ms. Mortellaro sang a “saucy, hammy” and “foxy” Despina in Così fan tutti, garnering high praise for her portrayal as the sister’s maid. While there is also performed Madeleine Audebert and covered Anna Sorenson in the company’s World Premiere of Kevin Puts' Silent Night. She sang Sophie in Werther for Minnesota Opera’s first ever web broadcast portraying her character with a "welcoming lightness and physicality." Her debut as Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor proved to be the highlight of her experience as a Resident Artist with the company. Additionally, Ms. Mortellaro performed as Amore in Orfeo ed Eurydice alongside countertenor David Daniel and the renowned St. Paul Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Harry Bicket while in Minnesota. Among her first professional opera experiences, Ms. Mortellaro performed Gretel in Hansel and Gretel for both the Sarasota Opera and PORT Opera in Portland, Maine
Ms. Mortellaro is a proud graduate of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and now resides in Chicago, Illinois.
Pianist ROBIN STAMPER currently serves as Managing Director and Chorus Master for Opera Tampa. Robin originally grew up in Orlando and left to earn degrees in performance from the Eastman School of Music and the Juilliard School. He was Director of Music for the Kentucky Opera in Louisville for five years and then Music Director with the Nevada Opera for four years. In 2003, he returned to Orlando to serve as Music Director and Chorus Director with the Orlando Opera until the opera company closed in 2009. In 2011 he was named as Music Director for Florida Opera Theatre and remains as an artistic advisor to Opera Orlando. He has also performed as a soloist and is sought after as a recital accompanist.