Ashraf Sewailam

Ashraf Sewailam

The New York Times hailed Ashraf Sewailam’s début at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall as a “stand out performance” and Opera News described his voice as “purring and velvety with an easily produced Ramfis-like top range with a majestic tone,” and his stage presence as “strong, mysterious and with mesmerizing intensity.”

This season, Sewailam will make his mainstage Metropolitan Opera debut in The Magic Flute, as well as join their production of Ariadne auf Naxos.  In addition, he will return to Seattle Opera as Colline in La bohéme, join Tulsa Opera for their production of Salome, take on the title role of Maometto II for Washington Concert Opera, and rejoin Opera Carolina as Commendatore in Don Giovanni. As a director, Sewailam will head Opera Louisiane’s production of Lucrezia. In concert he can be seen at the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, in their performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Choral Fantasy. Future seasons include returns to Pittsburgh Opera and a debut with New Orleans Opera.

 

Calendar

Event Date
May 25
to
May 26
Beethoven Celebration
Soloist
Denver Philharmonic Orchestra
Denver, CO
Event Date
Sep 30
to
Oct 2
The Barber of Seville
Bartolo
New Orleans Opera
New Orleans, LA
Event Date
Oct 28
to
Oct 30
The Italian Girl
Mustafa
Tulsa Opera
Tulsa, OK
Event Date
Feb 25
to
Mar 11
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Hakim/Driver
Seattle Opera
Seattle, WA

Artist Bio

The New York Times hailed Ashraf Sewailam’s début at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall as a “stand out performance” and Opera News described his voice as “purring and velvety with an easily produced Ramfis-like top range with a majestic tone,” and his stage presence as “strong, mysterious and with mesmerizing intensity.” 

Engagements in 2020 were to include both Carmen and Les Contes d’Hoffmann at the Metropolitan Opera as well as Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola with Minnesota Opera, and Ramfis in Aida with Virginia Opera. This summer he joined Opera Steamboat as Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Dr. P in The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat as well as directed Lucrezia for Opera Louisiane.

This season, Sewailam will make his mainstage Metropolitan Opera debut in The Magic Flute, as well as join their production of Ariadne auf Naxos.  In addition, he will return to Seattle Opera as Colline in La bohéme, join Tulsa Opera for their production of Salome, take on the title role of Maometto II for Washington Concert Opera, and rejoin Opera Carolina as Commendatore in Don Giovanni. As a director, Sewailam will head Opera Louisiane’s production of Lucrezia. In concert he can be seen at the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, in their performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Choral Fantasy. Future seasons include returns to Pittsburgh Opera and a debut with New Orleans Opera.

Previous engagements include the role of Osmin in Abduction from the Seraglio and Queequeg in Moby Dick with Opera San Jose, Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro with San Diego Opera, Colline in La Boheme with Austin Opera, Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia with New Zealand Opera, the title role in Ali Baba with Opera Southwest, the role of Capitán in Florencia en el Amazonas with Madison Opera, Monterone in Rigoletto with Opera Grand Rapids, Toledo Opera, and Opera Carolina, Lignieres in Cyrano with Opera Carolina, Ramfis in Aida with Opera Rockies in Colorado Springs, sang on a recording of The 13th Child, a new opera by Danish composer Poul Ruders, Die Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte with Central City Opera, and the pivotal role of Ferrando in Il trovatore, critics exclaiming, “ When you add bass Ashraf Sewailam to the mix, this becomes even more special…And it needs someone of Sewailam’s caliber.”

In his début with New Zealand Opera as the assassin Sparafucile in Rigoletto, he was described as “hard to better, both vocally and dramatically.” He subsequently returned to sing Alidoro in La Cenerentola, which he later performed for Queensland Opera. Ashraf made his United States début in 2004 with Opera Colorado performing the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni.  Quickly becoming a house favorite, he subsequently performed there as Count Ceprano in Rigoletto, Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and The King of Egypt in Aïda.

 

Mr. Sewailam made his New York City directorial debut directing a production of The Cunning Little Vixen with dell’Arte Opera Ensemble. Critics revered Mr. Sewailam’s direction as “thoughtful” (Voce di Meche), yet “straightforward” (New York Classical Review) and praised the production as being “intriguing” and “well-sung.” (Opera News).

Other engagements include appearances with The Boston Symphony as Leoporello in Don Giovanni; Colline in La bohème, Pistola in Falstaff, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, and The Narrator in Peter and the Wolf ; returns to San Diego Opera for Ramfis in Aïda, Leporello in Don Giovanni, and Pizzetti’s Assassinio nella cattedrale; the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance with Lyric Opera of San Diego; and an exciting co-production between Opera Carolina, Virginia Opera, Toledo Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, and Lyric Opera Baltimore of Roméo et Juliette as Capulet. Additional roles include Balthazar in Amahl and the Night Visitors at Central City Opera; Angelotti in Tosca with Lyric Opera Baltimore; Pooh-Bah in The Mikado with Opera Memphis; Escamillo in Carmen and Queeqweg in Moby Dick with Fargo-Moorhead Opera; Secret Police Agent in The Consul with Chautauqua Opera; Sparafucile in Rigoletto with Fresno Grand Opera; Ferrando in Il trovatore with Chautauqua Opera and Virginia Opera; Colline in La bohème with The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera; Dulcamara in Lelisir d’amore with Baton Rouge Opera; and a rousing performance as Beethoven/Commendatore in Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Steven Stucky’s opera The Classical Style at Carnegie Hall, a role he originally created at Ojai Music Festival.

Mr. Sewailam’s concert appearances include Orso Faledro in La nave, Uin-Sci in Leoni’s L’oracolo, and Salomone in Montemezzi’s L’incantesimo at Avery Fisher Hall; his Carnegie Hall début as the Bass soloist in Rutter’s Mass of the Children; Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with The Colorado Mahlerfest; and the bass solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Phoenix Symphony. Additional concert engagements include Brahm’s Requiem with Dubuque Symphony, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Händel’s Messiah with Cheyenne Symphony, a concert entitled Eternal Spirit with Boulder Bach Festival, and a recital with pianist Kenneth Osowski at York College. He also appeared numerous times with The Colorado Symphony, Boulder Bach Festival, and the Colorado Music Festival. His concert repertoire includes Bach’s Saint John’s Passion, Magnificat, Christmas Oratorio, and Lutheran Masses in F and A; Händel’s Messiah; Haydn’s The Creation and Lord Nelson’s Mass; Mozart’s Requiem and Vespers; and the Verdi Requiem. Mr. Sewailam also has a commercial recording on the Bridge label in which he performs Songs from the Hebrew by Stefan Wolpe.

Mr. Sewailam began his career as a Cairo Opera Company house soloist, where he performed many roles including Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore, Gaudenzio in Il signor Bruschino, Ramfis in Aïda, Palémon in Thaïs, and Sparafucile in Rigoletto. Mr. Sewailam was named a prize winner at the New Voices (Neue Stimmen) international competition in Gütersloh, Germany and was featured in the opening concert of the New Alexandria Library singing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in Arabic. In addition to his singing engagements, Mr. Sewailam has taught at the American University in Cairo, and served as music director for Disney Character Voice International (DCVI) dubbing Disney productions into Arabic, and performed several of the characters. He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Updated 4.25.22

Video

Excerpt from Lyric Opera San Diego’s Pirates of Penzance

Alidoro’s aria from Rossini’s La Cenerentola

“Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid, Arabic Translation

Count Capulet Aria from Roméo et Juliette

“Madamina” from Don Giovanni

“Du côté de la barbe” from Cendrillon

“Gia d’insolito adore” from L’Italiana in Algeri

“Vecchia zimarra” from La boheme

Press

"...effortlessly projected top Es and Fs... dominating the scene..." – Voix des Arts

Maometto II – "In WCO’s Maometto secondo, Egyptian bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam honored the legacies of both Galli and Mehmed II by portraying the legendary conqueror as a man whose severity was tempered by a lover’s vulnerability. Maometto makes as dashing an entrance as any character in opera, his aria ‘Sorgete: in sì bel giorno, o prodi miei guerrieri’ requiring ironclad bravura technique and indomitable security in the upper register. Sewailam dispatched the fiorature stirringly and effortlessly projected the top Es and Fs. Dominating Maometto’s scene with the chorus, the bass-baritone matched his colleagues’ urgent vocalism in the terzetto with Calbo and Erisso. Launching the Act One finale, Sewailam voiced ‘Guardie, olà’ robustly, invoking the might of the Ottoman empire. His singing often recalled that of the preeminent recent exponent of Maometto’s music, Samuel Ramey, the two singers sharing a prowess for evincing the dramatic impetus in Rossini’s intricate music. Sewailam partnered Crocetto brilliantly in Maometto’s duet with Anna in Act Two, voicing ‘Anna, tu piangi? Il pianto pur non è d’odio un segno’ with benevolence and concern. As Anna’s disdain for the false pretenses under which Maometto paid court to her became obvious, Sewailam’s vocalism grew more flinty, the velvet of his wooing transforming into the steel of vengeance. Sung with fury, the repeated top E♭s in the aria with chorus, ‘All’invito generoso riconosco i miei guerrieri,’ limned the sultan’s increasing exasperation. The blustering brawn of Sewailam’s voice reverberated in the terzetto with Calbo and Erisso, Maometto having reached the limit of his magnanimity. His love thwarted by Anna’s suicide, Maometto’s humanity reached its zenith in the opera’s final scene, which in Sewailam’s performance was an affecting lament for his beloved. Singing music as demanding as Maometto’s rarely comes naturally to lower voices, but Sewailam sang Maometto unflappably, finding in Rossini’s musical obstacles aspects of a fascinating character who is too often portrayed as an insipid villain."

"...exquisitely hilarious..." – Oregon ArtsWatch

L’Italiana in Algeri – “Sewailam has an exquisitely hilarious moment toward the end of the second act where he eats pizza and sings (at the same time) as he becomes a member of Isabella’s drummed-up ‘Pappataci’ order, whose members ‘eat, sleep and pay no attention’ (so Isabella and her lover can escape). Mustafa is honored with a red-and-white checked tablecloth, which replaced his gold satin ‘sweat suit’ befitting a rapper.”

"...brought so much vocal power and interpretive depth to his role..." – San Diego Story

La Cenerentola – “Bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam brought so much vocal power and interpretive depth to his role as Alidoro, he made me momentarily forget about the slender plot of Rossini’s comic opera.”

"...rich bass-baritone sent shock waves through the house whenever he sang..." – DC Metro Theater Arts

Roméo et Juliette – “Other notable performances include Ashram Sewailam as the mercurial Count Capulet, whose rich bass-baritone sent shock waves through the house whenever he sang, particularly during his introductory aria that welcomes his guests, ‘Allons! jeunes gens!’”

"...he was equally striking in his consistency throughout the challenging range of low to high notes in his current role..." – Opera Pulse

Aida – “Egyptian bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam, appropriately cast here as the Egyptian King, has matured impressively since his SDO debut in Salome last season. Vocally imposing as the Third Tempter in last month’s Murder In The Cathedral, he was equally striking in his consistency throughout the challenging range of low to high notes in his current role. One hopes to see more of him in future productions.”