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, Mr. Sewailam débuts with Lyric Opera of Chicago covering Sulpice in La fille du régiment and with Inland Northwest Opera singing Commendatore in Don Giovanni. He also returns to New Orleans Opera to sing Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, Opera San Jose to sing Sparafucile in Rigoletto, and Seattle Opera to sing Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia.
In addition to his success in the traditional lyric bass repertoire, he is recently being lauded by critics for his comedic timing and compelling performances in the difficult Rossini and buffo repertoire with role débuts as Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Mustafà in L'italiana in Algeri, and Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola. Of his performance in the title role of Rossini's rarely performed Maometto II, critics raved that he "blustered and raged with impressive force," singing “unflappably, finding in Rossini’s musical obstacles aspects of a fascinating character who is too often portrayed as an insipid villain."[read more...]
"...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.”