High achievement from the low register | SteamboatToday.com

High achievement from the low register

Bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam builds his resume while embracing opera

Margaret Hair

Bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam performs at 7 p.m. Thursday for the Outstanding Artist Recital Series, presented by Emerald City Opera.

Ashraf Sewailam was in high demand after his second opera appearance in Steamboat Springs, said Emerald City Opera Artistic Director Keri Rusthoi.

“He stole the show the second time he was here. Several people came up to me after the show and said, ‘We’ve just fallen in love with Ashraf, when is he coming back again?'” Rusthoi said.

Sewailam – who has appeared in Emerald City Opera, or ECO, productions of “La Boheme” and “Letters for Mozart” – will bring his resonant bass-baritone back through Steamboat on Thursday as part of the opera’s Outstanding Artist Recital Series.

Born and raised in Egypt, Sewailam started performing with the Cairo Opera in 1991. He completed a degree in architecture, but never practiced the trade.

“I’ve liked opera since I was in high school, but fell in love with it as a professional. I stuck with it and never looked back,” Sewailam said.

Since then, Sewailam has performed with the Seattle Opera, the Opera Theater of the Rockies and the Nevada Opera. He had his Lincoln Center debut recital in April 2007.

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“He’s just taken off like a rocket, and I personally think that his career is about to go sky-high,” Rusthoi said. “I think that Steamboaters are about to hear a voice that they will see on TV.”

For Thursday’s program, Sewailam said he had “kind of a big gamut of repertoire to choose from,” and selected pieces he thought would suit the audience. One of those works, a selection of songs from Robert Schumann’s “Dichterliebe,” was written for Sewailam.

“It’s about heartbreak, but I’m singing the more hopeful part of it. I stop at the heartbreak,” Sewailam said. Because his low voice is so well-suited for playing a king or a villain, Sewailam said he was interested to take on a romantic work.

He also will perform four arias, some Stephen Sondheim tunes and selections from Aaron Copland’s “Old American Songs.”

Rusthoi said the diversity of the program is a testament to Sewailam’s ability to light up a stage.

“You have to be born with a special instrument, an instrument that is so big and so resonant that it can capture any size audience. But you also have to be a really fabulous stage actor. He really brings each character to life,” she said.