You can find him onstage at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, understudying Roderigo in Otello, at Lisner Auditorium, playing Don Gaspar in La Favorite for the Washington Concert Opera, or singing the National Anthem to open the playoffs for the Baltimore Orioles. Rolando Sanz is at home on concert stages across the country, but his heart is in Montgomery County.
Sanz, who studied voice at Catholic University of America before heading to Yale for his master’s degree in opera performance, was born and raised in Rockville. “There are no real ‘performers’ in my family, though my mother and grandmother were both ballerinas. But I’m first-generation American, grew up speaking Spanish with salsa music in the house—that may have put the polyrhythms in our brains!”
And like those polyrhythms, running counter but somehow blending, Sanz has managed to harmonize seemingly disparate elements of a career in music: teacher and performer, faraway stages and familiar hometown venues. He and his brother, conductor Kristofer Sanz, founded Young Artists of America, an arts non-profit that provides talented young musicians with mentoring, education, and performance opportunities. Staging large-scale works of opera and musical theater for YAA students provided a platform for his next endeavor—executive producer of the world premiere production I Am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk at Strathmore.
“The ‘producer’ side, for me, started with being a singer/voice teacher and trying to find a place for the kids to perform,” Sanz says. “That organically became a producer’s role. I call it ‘the other side of the table,’ and it’s a different side of the brain, for sure.”
After seeing composer-lyricist-performer Andrew Lippa’s production of Harvey Milk at New York’s Lincoln Center in 2014, he knew he had to bring it to Washington. “Andrew Lippa believes that world-class theater can be done not just on Broadway, but everywhere,” Sanz says. “When I approached him about doing the D.C. premiere at Strathmore, not only was that very intriguing to him, he said, ‘By the way, I have a companion piece.’”
Sanz calls it a concept opera, a hybrid opera-musical theater piece. Starring Lippa alongside Broadway icon Kristin Chenoweth, the production is scored by a symphonic orchestra and cast of 140. I Am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk focuses on two reluctant revolutionaries, born centuries apart, who fought for justice, freedom, and the undeniable human dignity Americans claim as a birthright. Everything about the production is big, bold, and out-of-the-box.
“This is cutting-edge,” Sanz confirms. “We have had to come up with a whole new genre for this—it broke the mold!”