On December 22, 1965, the greatest Baritone there ever was and ever will be walked onto the stage of the Metropolitan Opera (at the old Met) for the first time. Legend now has it that his debut was much anticipated, and well attended. The original Barihunk, Sherrill Milnes was yet another in the long line of Great American Baritones, literally the successor to the great Robert Merrill. We are currently watching Thomas Hampson, and wondering who will follow him, as the reigning Great American Baritone.
The thing about being the Great American Baritone is something that appears to have happened, quite by accident. We saw it with Robert Merrill in his work with the Richard Tucker Foundation, where Milnes is one of the leading lights. We see it with Thomas Hampson and his advocacy for American song. And with Milnes, we see it in the way he has trained an entire generation of young singers. Today, all you need to do is watch a young baritone and see his influence. In so many ways, Sherrill Milnes is to opera what Ted Williams was to baseball.
Unfortunately, I don’t think a video even exists of Milnes and Bubbles doing Thais.
I was there, at the Met, the night of the legendary Milnes-Domingo concert.
This is my mother’s favorite:
I don’t even know what my favorite is. There are so many!
Legend says there were tenors who refused to sing with him, because he could hit higher notes than they could, and constantly upstaged them.
Let’s be honest, he upstaged everyone. He dominated the stage. The beauty of it is he is still dominating opera.
In full disclosure, Sherrill Milnes eventually stopped signing photos for me. He said I had enough to wallpaper my guest bathroom with them. Trust me, when I do the new guest bathroom, I’m planning to do just that, along with the framed poster from the concert at the Met, with Domingo.