The American tenor of Sri Lankan heritage is regularly hailed in the international press as one of the most important singers of his generation. Since making his Metropolitan Opera debut as Edmondo (Manon Lescaut), Sean Panikkar has been seen at the New York house as Molqi in John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, Rodolphe in a new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (conductor: Fabio Luisi), Tybalt in Roméo et Juliette (conductor: Plácido Domingo), Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor (conductor: Marco Armiliato), and Brighella in Ariadne auf Naxos (conductor: Kirill Petrenko).
He made his debut at the Salzburg Festival in 2018, enjoying great success as Dionysus in the new production of Hans Werner Henze’s The Bassarids. He also sang this role at the Komische Oper Berlin in a Barrie Kosky staging conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. Highlights of the last few years include Don José in a Calixto Bieito production of Carmen at the English National Opera, Jack and Tobby Higgins in Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny at the Festival d’Aix en Provence (conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen), Adam in the world premiere of Giorgio Battistelli’s CO2 at La Scala (conductor: Cornelius Meister), and Narraboth in Salome at both the Washington National Opera and the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival (conductor: Omer Meir Wellber).
In the upcoming season, he will sing Gandhi in Philip Glass’s Satyagraha at the English National Opera, the Drum Major in Wozzeck at the Vienna State Opera (conductor: Philippe Jordan), and the title role in Oedipus Rex with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen).
Other important productions in his career so far have included La bohème at the Pittsburgh Opera, Carmen at the North Carolina Opera in Raleigh, and Les Pêcheurs de perles at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. He has worked with directors such as Phelim McDermott, Ivo van Hove and Robert Carsen.
Sean Panikkar is in great demand as an interpreter of contemporary music. He sang Wendell Smith in Daniel Sonenberg’s The Summer King at the Pittsburgh Opera and the Michigan Opera Theatre, as well as Agent Henry Rathbone in David T. Little’s JFK at the Fort Worth Opera and the Opéra de Montréal. He also gave an acclaimed performance in the title role of Jack Perla’s Shalimar the Clown at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.