An Evening with Sean Panikkar


For a refund of your tickets or for additional questions, please call the Opera Grand Rapids Box Office at 616–451–2741, ext 3.

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Accompanied by Rohan De Silva

February 7, 2019 | 7:30 PM | Betty Van Andel Opera Center
1320 Fulton St E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Hailed by Opera News as a performer who “employs [his voice] with maximum dramatic versatility,” American tenor of Sri Lankan Heritage, Sean Panikkar, has graced stages in both the United States and Europe. His most notable appearances at the Metropolitan Opera include performances under legendary conductors James Levine and Placido Domingo.

Following his riveting performance as a member of opera cross-over sensation, Forte, at Opera Grand Rapids’ 50th Anniversary Night with the Opera gala, Sean will be returning to Grand Rapids to perform a solo selection accompanied by world-renowned pianist, Rohan De Silva, in the intimate setting of the Betty Van Andel Opera Center.

Sean has previously performed as Don Ottavio in Opera Grand Rapids’ 2013 production of Don Giovanni and received both his Bachelors and Masters degrees in voice performance at the University of Michigan.


Tickets, $25, are available by calling the Opera Grand Rapids Box Office at 616.451.2741 ext. 3. Student tickets are just $5 (ID required). Seating is general admission.
Group discounts available for groups of 6 or more. Contact the box office for details.

Casting, repertoire and event details are subject to change without notice or refunds, but are specified in good faith as accurate and updated accordingly. Refunds not accepted.

Meet the Performers

Tenor | Sean Panikkar

Sean Panikkar continues “to position himself as one of the stars of his generation… His voice is unassailable—firm, sturdy and clear, and he employs it with maximum dramatic versatility” [Opera News].  The American tenor of Sri Lankan heritage made his Metropolitan Opera debut under the baton of James Levine in Manon Lescaut (commercially available on DVD on EMI), and his European operatic debut in Mozart’s Zaïde at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in a production directed by Peter Sellars and conducted by Louis Langrée (commercially available on DVD on Opus Arte).

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Sean Panikkar made his Salzburg Festival debut this past summer as Dionysus in a new production of Henze’s The Bassarids directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski; the title also served the tenor his Madrid debut in concert performances with the Spanish National Orchestra and Choir, both presentations under the baton of Kent Nagano. Highlights of the 2018-19 season include a Los Angeles Opera debut as Gandhi in the company’s new production of Philip Glass’ Satyagraha directed by Phelim McDermott led by Grant Gershon, and a return to the Festival d’Aix en Provence as Jakob Schmidt and Toby in Kurt Weill’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny directed by Ivo van Hove and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.  Core repertoire presentations include performances of La Bohème at Pittsburgh Opera, Carmen with North Carolina Opera, and Les Pêcheurs de Perles at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.  On the concert stage, the tenor is heard in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Seattle Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic.

Highly prized as an interpreter of contemporary music on leading international stages, Sean Panikkar created the roles of Adam in Giorgio Battistelli’s CO2 for a debut at Teatro alla Scala in a world premiere conducted by Cornelius Meister and directed by Robert Carsen, Wendell Smith in Daniel Sonenberg and Mark Campbell’s The Summer King in a co-production between Pittsburgh Opera and Michigan Opera Theatre, Agent Henry Rathbone in a co-production of David T. Little’s JFK at the Fort Worth Opera and Opéra de Montréal,and he garnered passionate acclaim in the title role of Jack Perla’s Shalimar the Clown for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.  Broadway World reported, “Sean Panikkar stands out above them all. This is truly his show… His pure, clear voice displays truly remarkable power. It shines like a beacon above the rest even when the entire cast are singing their hearts out. And his diction is superb. This is a longish opera and Shalimar is a tour de force role; Panikkar triumphs in it!”

Numerous engagements with the Metropolitan Opera feature the company premiere of The Death of Klinghoffer conducted by David Robertson in a powerful new production by director Tom Morris (War Horse), a new production of Guillaume Tell directed by Pierre Audi led by Gianandrea Noseda, Roméo et Juliette under the baton of Plácido Domingo, Lucia di Lammermoor conducted by Marco Armiliato, and Ariadne auf Naxos led by Kirill Petrenko. Highlights of past seasons also include a new production of Nabucco at Washington National Opera, La Bohème staged by Francesca Zambello at the Royal Albert Hall in London, at Cincinnati Opera conducted by Louis Langrée, and at Michigan Opera Theatre, Carmen with Madison Opera conducted by John DeMain, Jake Heggie’s Moby Dick at Pittsburgh Opera, and Silent Night at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.  He has sung Salome at Washington National Opera in the company’s new Francesca Zambello production and at the Saito Kinen Festival in performances conducted by Omer Meir Wellber, made a debut at the Santa Fe Opera in a new production of Menotti’s rarely produced The Last Savage directed by Ned Canty and conducted by George Manahan, bowed as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at Pittsburgh Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival, and has been praised for what has come to be one of his signature parts, Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles, for Fort Worth Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and Opera Colorado.

Symphonic performances have featured Sean Panikkar with Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, The Tristan Project with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mendelssohn’s Elijah with Michael Christie and the Phoenix Symphony, Handel’s Messiah with Ragnar Bohlin and the San Francisco Symphony, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Raymond Leppard and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Sean Panikkar is a member of Forte, the operatic tenor group combining voices from different cultures into one incredible sound.  The trio was created and debuted for the first time ever on America’s Got Talent and had never met until only days before their first audition. During the summer 2013 broadcasts of America’s Got Talent, Forte was seen and heard by tens of millions of television viewers in national broadcasts on NBC.  Their self-titled debut recording on Columbia Records was released in November 2013 and a follow-up recording, The Future Classics, was released in 2015.

An alumnus of San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship, Sean Panikkar holds Master’s and Bachelor degrees in Voice Performance from the University of Michigan.

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Accompanist | Rohan De Silva

Rohan De Silva’s partnerships with violin virtuosos Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Cho-Liang Lin, Midori, Joshua Bell, Benny Kim, Kyoko Takezawa, Vadim Repin, Gil Shaham, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Julian Rachlin, James Ehnes and Rodney Friend have led to highly acclaimed performances at recital venues all over the world. With these and other artists he has performed on the stages of Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall, the Kennedy Center, Library of Congress, Philadelphia Academy of Music, Ambassador Theater in Los Angeles, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Wigmore Hall in London, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, La Scala in Milan and in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Mr. De Silva’s festival appearances include Aspen, Ravinia, Interlochen, Seattle Chamber Music, Manchester, Schleswig-Holstein, Pacific Music Festival and the Wellington Arts Festival in New Zealand. He has performed chamber music in Beijing with the American String Quartet and has appeared in recital worldwide with Itzhak Perlman.

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Alongside Mr. Perlman, Mr. De Silva has performed multiple times at the White House, most recently in 2012 at the invitation of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Obama for Israeli President and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Shimon Peres; and at a State Dinner in 2007, hosted by President George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush for Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. A native of Sri Lanka, Mr. De Silva was invited in 2015 by the Prime Minister of his country to perform at a luncheon for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on his historic visit to Sri Lanka.

In the 2018-19 season, Mr. De Silva will perform recitals with Mr. Perlman across America including performances in New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois, Florida, California, Milwaukee and Washington. As an educator, Mr. De Silva will be teaching at Heifetz International Music Institiute in Virginia and the Liberec International Violin Academy in the Czech Republic. He will also be the official pianist at the Indianapolis International Violin Competition and the Hannover International Violin Competition.

In recent seasons, Mr. De Silva toured with Mr. Perlman in sold-out concerts throughout Asia, visiting Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and to Europe in their first appearances as a duo in London (Barbican Centre), Paris (Philharmonie de Paris) and Munich (Gasteig). In North America, he has performed with Mr. Perlman at notable venues including Los Angeles’ Disney Hall, San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, Chicago’s Lyric Opera, West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center. Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, D.C. at the Kennedy Center and in New York at Carnegie Hall, to name a few. Over the summer, at the invitation of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mr. De Silva performed for an exclusive guest list at the Supreme Court with Mr. Perlman in Washington D.C. Mr. De Silva also performed at Center Stage for Strings in Michigan, Innsbrook Institute in Missouri and Maui Music Festival in Hawaii.

Mr. De Silva began his piano studies with his mother, the late Primrose De Silva, and with the late Mary Billimoria. He spent six years at the Royal Academy of Music in London as a student of Hamish Milne, Sydney Griller and Wilfred Parry. While in London, he received many awards including the Grover Bennett Scholarship, the Christian Carpenter Prize, the Martin Music Scholarship, the Harold Craxton Award for advanced study in England, and, upon his graduation, the Chappell Gold Medal for best overall performance at the Royal Academy. Mr. De Silva was the first recipient of a special Scholarship in the arts from the President’s Fund of Sri Lanka. This enabled him to enter the Juilliard School, where he received both his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees, studying piano with Martin Canin, chamber music with Felix Galimir, and working closely with violin pedagogue Dorothy DeLay. He was awarded a special prize as Best Accompanist at the 1990 Ninth International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, and received the Samuel Sanders Collaborative Artist Award as presented to him by Itzhak Perlman at the 2005 Classical Recording Foundation Awards Ceremony at Carnegie Hall.

Mr. De Silva joined the collaborative arts and chamber music faculty of the Juilliard School in 1991, and in 1992 was awarded honorary Associate of the Royal Academy of Music. In 2015, he was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music. In 2001, he joined the faculty at the Ishikawa Music Academy in Japan, where he gives masterclasses in collaborative piano. Mr. De Silva additionally has served as a faculty member at the Great Wall International Music Academy in Beijing, China, and at the International String Academy in Cambridge, U.K. since 2011. He was on the faculty of the Perlman Music Program from 2000 to 2007. Radio and television credits include PBS’s Live from Lincoln Center and the Colbert Report with Itzhak Perlman, The Tonight Show with Midori, CNN’s “Showbiz Today”, NHK Television in Japan, National Public Radio, WQXR and WNYC in New York, Berlin Radio, and the 2000 Millennium Grammy Awards. Mr. De Silva has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, Universal, CBS/SONY Classical, Collins Classics in London and RCA Victor.

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