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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER SHERRILL MILNES
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Opera superstar


"In a career of my size," says baritone Sherrill Milnes, "there is no off season. I try to hold myself to 60 performances a year — not including recordings or dress rehearsals or private studies. … In fact, I think I'm the most-recorded American opera singer ever, in any voice category."

We're talking in his spacious Westside apartment facing the Hudson River. I cannot help observing that Milnes, a handsome man who stands 6 foot 2 and weighs 220 pounds, with his dark hair combed straight back and wearing a blue flowered shirt, looks very much like a country and western singer. It is his chest that gives him away — a massive, powerful chest that hints at the huge voice it supports. To deliver notes that are clearly audible throughout the largest opera houses in the world, over the sound of a full orchestra, and without amplification, is one of the most physically demanding tasks in all the performing arts. And one of the best paying. Only a handful of singers take home, like Milnes, approximately $7,000 for each night's work.

At 44, he is in the peak of his career, and has been since he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in December, 1965. He has sung in virtually all of the world's leading opera houses, including the Paris Opera, the Hamburg State Opera, and La Scala in Milan. Asked what more he can accomplish, Milnes replies that "one hopes to become a better artist all the time. But you can only go so fast. If you make family a priority position — which is certainly true in this case — there are only so many hours in the day. I could be more famous, were I on television more. But it takes time. … I don't want to sound like: he's satisfied with his career, where he is, and he doesn't want to do any more. But I have to realize that my career can no longer continue at the same rate of ascendancy."

His current show with the Met, Verdi's Don Carlo, will continue until mid-March. "This is the first time New York has heard the five-act original version," notes Milnes. "We'll be doing it in Italian. People said, 'Why don't you do Don Carlo like the real original, in French?' The problem is, five years later, where do you find people who know it in French? There's a practical set of problems when, worldwide, everybody know it in Italian. I don't know............
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