Egyptian bass baritone Ashraf Sewailam concludes debut role at New York's Metropolitan Opera

Ati Metwaly , Thursday 13 Jan 2022

Renowned Egyptian bass baritone Ashraf Sewailam concluded the role of First Priest in Mozart's The Magic Flute staged at the famed Metropolitan Opera.


With conductors Jane Glover and Patrick Furrer, the English-language version of Mozart’s magical fairy tale was performed between 10 December 2021 and 5 January 2022. "The performance boasted a winning cast and glowing playing from the orchestra," a New York Times reviewer wrote. 

The New York Classical Review writer called the production "immensely (in every sense of the word) imaginative," adding that The Magic Flute opera is a "spectacle, and one trusts that viewers who are new to the art will come for the dragon and the bird and giant living statues."

In Sewailam's debut at the Metropolitan, in the role of First Priest, he stood on stage besides renowned singers such as sopranos Hera Hyeseng Park (Pamina), Kathryn Rewek (The Queen of the Night), and tenors Matthew Polenzani and Eric Ferring (Tamino).

Following the opening night, Sewailam posted on Facebook words of gratitude for having the opportunity to participate in such a renowned operatic performance. "So grateful for my agency people who are also personal friends," he wrote.

While The Magic Flute was Sewailam's Met debut, this is not his first calling to New York City. He made his directorial debut in New York in 2017, when he worked as a stage director on The Cunning Little Vixen, staged by dell’Arte Opera Ensemble. 
In fact, Sewailam's international debut was in New York when in 2007 he performed at the Lincoln Centre's Avery Fisher Hall. His performance was desrcibed by critics as "purring and velvety with an easily produced Ramfis-like top range with a majestic tone."

Over the past years, Sewailam has garnered a number of praises. Among his most recent successes is the role of Ali Baba with Opera Southwest. The Operawire reviewer described Sewailam's performance in those words: "The other big standout of the evening was Ashraf Sewailam in the title role. From the beginning of the work he was magnetic on stage and it was hard to take your eyes off of him as he relished each moment. His opening aria showed a flexible bass with a vibrant and even tone. He despatched the aria with ease as he danced and moved about the stage." This is followed by long paragraphs analysing Sewailam's outstanding artistry.

Seweilam graduated from Cairo University's Faculty of Engineering in 1990. He started taking voice lessons in late 1980 and studied privately with Raouf Zaidan. He continued his academic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder where he received his bachelors, masters, and finally doctorate degree in 2008. Between 1990 and 2003, Seweilam was a member of the Cairo Opera Company. 
Following the Lincoln Centre's debut, he embarked on a sparkling international career, taking roles in the Seattle Opera, Opera Southwest (New Mexico), Virginia Opera, and New Zealand Opera among a number of others.

Apart from his operatic commitments, Sewailam is known as the voice of Mickey Mouse in the Arabic version of the Disney cartoon character.

Sewailam is currently based in the US, but since he had left Egypt to the US he has been returning on a regular basis, participating in operas staged in Cairo and Alexandria.

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