Ashley Milanese is making her New Orleans Opera debut in Hansel and Gretel as the Sandman. Her mother, Karen Milanese, is also a member of the New Orleans Opera family!
Lauded for her “soaring lyric soprano capable of heart-stopping soft effects” (Philadelphia Magazine), Italian-American and New Orleanian Ashley Milanese, is quickly emerging as an exciting young presence in the operatic world. Ashley graduated from the Academy of the Sacred Heart and the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts in 2010. She then studied voice and opera at The Juilliard School in New York City and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Proud mom, Karen Milanese is a member of the Women’s Guild and has served on the Executive Board of Governors for the past two years. She is currently the Recording Secretary and co-chair of the Guild Home Docent Tour Committee.
We are so excited for the entire Milanese family that Ashley will be singing in Hansel and Gretel and wanted to share a few of her and Karen’s personal insights. Please enjoy this interview, and don’t miss Ashley at the Mahalia Jackson Theater on November 18th and 20th!
There’s No Place Like Home.
NOOA: Ashley, how old were you when you knew you wanted to be a singer? What is your earliest memory of singing in front of a live audience?
ASHLEY: I would say that I’ve wanted to be a singer for as long as I can remember! I would always sing Aretha Franklin as a child, but my earliest memory of singing in front of a live audience was in 7th grade at Sacred Heart’s annual Christmas concert. Unbeknownst to my family or friends, I was given the opportunity to sing my first-ever solo piece, “O Holy Night.” Our choir teacher, Randell James, had noticed my talent and helped me prepare the music during lunchtime and free periods. This was the first time I had sung classical music in my entire life, and was the moment that started the rest of my musical career!
NOOA: Ashley and Karen – What are you most looking forward to in this production?
ASHLEY: I am most looking forward to getting to work with my hometown company, New Orleans Opera! I am so proud to be a New Orleanian, so it has been a dream of mine to perform on this stage from a very early age. This is where my love of opera began!
KAREN: I am very excited that Ashley will be making her debut at the New Orleans Opera. We’ve been fortunate to hear Ashley sing in so many venues across the United States and abroad, but New Orleans is our home, and this will be truly special for us because there’s no place like home!
NOOA: Karen, do you have a favorite memory of Ashley singing as a young child you’d like to share?
KAREN: My favorite memory of Ashley singing as a child was at a Middle School Christmas Concert at the Academy of the Sacred Heart. She sang “O Holy Night,” and it was the first time I heard her sing in an operatic style. It was so emotional, and it will always be a special memory for me.