Sherrill Eustace Milnes was born in Downer's Grove, Illinois, on January 10, 1935 to a dairy farmer and his wife. During his childhood, Milnes developed strong musical talents: in addition to possessing a remarkable voice, he was proficient on the piano, violin, viola, double bass, clarinet, and tuba. Although his interests did not always lean towards opera, he spent many hours singing to his father's cows, and once was found on a tractor practicing an operatic laugh.
While in high school, Milnes planned to be an anaethesiologist, but later returned to music, studying music education at Drake University and Northwestern University, in hopes of becoming a teacher. His career as an opera singer did not materialize for several more years. He joined the Boris Goldovsky Opera Company in 1960 (he calls it the "luckiest possible beginning" to his career), and made his first important operatic debut four years later at the New York City Opera as Valentin in Gounod's Faust (a role which also served for his Metropolitan Opera debut the same year).
His European debut occured later in 1964 at the Teatro Nuovo in Milan, Italy – he sang Figaro from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. However, it was his performance as Miller in Verdi's Louisa Miller in 1968 which catapulted him into international fame. Since then, he has been hailed as one of the greatest Verdian baritones of all time, and has been a favorite in New York, singing much of his repertoire exclusively at the Met.
In the early 1980s, he experience severe vocal problems, but he has since fully recovered from his ailments . He recently married the mezzo-soprano Maria Zouves, and currently divides his time between singing, conducting, and fathering his young son Theo.
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