Who’s Who

Sherrill Milnes, co-founder, artistic director

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, 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.

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Born on January 10, 1935 in Downers Grove, Illinois, Sherrill Milnes made his critically acclaimed debut at the Metropolitan Opera on December 22, 1965 as Valentin in Faust, 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. Throughout his remarkable career, Mr. Milnes showed an affinity for Verdi, whose works formed the cornerstone of a repertoire of some 70 roles. His autobiography, American Aria: Encore, is available from Amadeus Press.

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, which provide training and performance opportunities for aspiring young artists while fostering new audiences for the arts.

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Maria Zouves, co-founder, executive director

Maria Zouves is an educator, director, producer and writer. She is Executive Director of the Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs − VOICExperience Foundation and the Savannah VOICE Festival – which she co-founded with her husband, Sherrill Milnes, to provide training for aspiring young artists and foster new audiences for the vocal arts. The Greek-American soprano has sung leading roles in the regional U.S., made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1997, and has recorded under the VAI label. While Maria directs most of the concerts in the VOICE Programs and co-directed the new SVF opera commission, Ching’s Alice Ryley, a Savannah ghost story, she most recently directed Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Estates Theatre in Prague, where the work first premiered and co-directed Le Nozze de Figaro with Sherrill Milnes this summer in Prague and Salzburg with Prague Summer Nights. She was recently seen in the title role of the premiere of Ching’s Anna Hunter: The Spirit of Savannah.

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Ms. Zouves has directed, taught, and produced events all around the world, having worked with the International Vocal Arts Institute (IVAI) in Montreal and Puerto Rico, the International Institute of Vocal Arts (IIVA) in Chiari, Italy, and at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland. From 2007 to 2011, she served as Vice President and Associate General Director of Opera Tampa, the resident opera company of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. She has taught workshops at Southern Illinois University, Drake University and served as interim opera director at Northwestern University. A sought after clinician, particularly in career development, she has also aided young singers as a career liaison through her former feature, “A Conversation with…” in Classical Singer magazine.

Ms. Zouves has sung leading roles with the Baltimore Opera, Florentine Opera, Memphis Opera, New Jersey State Opera, Orlando Opera, and the Pittsburgh Opera. The Stuttgarter Zeitung praised her “beautiful, lyric voice” and “a not to be surpassed ‘piano’ in the high register.” Opera News has described her voice as “creamy.” This Greek-American soprano shows great versatility in opera, on concert stages, and in crossover repertoire, with a specialty in classical and popular Greek music.